QPR vs Southampton match report: Sadio Mane pounces late to deepen Rangers' gloom

QPR 0 Southampton 1: Sherwood set for further talks with Londoners after their fifth defeat in a row

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Tim Sherwood, a short-priced favourite to become the next manager of Queens Park Rangers, is expected to have further discussions today and remains in a strong position. He is clearly the man Rangers want after failing to attract any interest from either Steve McClaren and Paul Clement, and his ability to nurture young players is a perfect fit with what is now required. 

Beaten for the fifth time in succession, the club does at least have a strategy for the long-term, which seems quite a sensible idea for a multi-million pound business. “Our recruitment policy is changing,” the principal owner Tony Fernandes told supporters in the match programme. “We want to develop a philosophy of buying young, hungry players.”

Given the number of players out of contract in the next 18 months, they will need to, whether still in the Premier League or back down in the Championship, where there would be a knock-on effect with severe penalties for falling foul of the Football League’s financial fair play regulations.

 “We made a number of mistakes in the transfer market over the last few years,” Fernandes added and Harry Redknapp, who departed on Tuesday, must take his share of responsibility.

 As part of a revamp even before the new manager arrives, Les Ferdinand has been promoted from “head of football operations” to “director of football”, which is apparently different and will give him a more-hands-on role at all levels. Yesterday he sat in the stand next to Roy Hodgson, while Kevin Bond – one of the fleet of coaches employed under Redknapp – and Chris Ramsey did duty in the technical area. “Myself and Kevin will take the team on Tuesday [at Sunderland] and after that we’ll re-evaluate,” Ramsey said. “I socialise with Tim but I don’t know if he’s coming in.”

Clint Hill jostles with Sadio Mane

As ever in football there is a short-term to consider and the effect of this last-minute defeat is that on Tuesday Rangers will be more desperate than ever to earn a first point on the road this season at the 12th attempt.

 Holding on for a draw against opponents who again sit third in the table this morning would have been considered a psychological as well as mathematical boost. It was denied to them in a dramatic last period when Fraser Forster kept out Charlie Austin’s jab from close in, the outstanding Sadio Mané drove in a goal and Matt Phillips’s even later effort was ruled out.

The blow to Rangers must have felt as painful as the one Eljero Elia took when the hefty Richard Dunne booted him between the legs.  

 The new regime made four changes, giving Adel Taarabt only his second start since August, after which he was insufficiently fit according to Redknapp. Exciting and frustrating in the usual measure he was unable to influence a game in which Southampton’s tactics were clear and successful from the start: use the pace of wide players Mané and Elia to run away from a ponderous Rangers back-line. Even Forster’s arrowed clearances were part of that.

Southampton defender Matt Targett is carried from the field

 In their very first attack, Elia sped on to Mané’s pass only to shoot wide of the goal as Rob Green charged outside his penalty area. In the 33rd minute Mané beat Clint Hill for a shot that Green turned for a corner, from which Jose Fonte volleyed against the bar.

 Southampton were not discomfited by a nasty looking injury to Matt Targett, who had to be taken to hospital for a precautionary X-ray on his neck after crashing to the ground. That led to seven minutes of added time before the interval, during which Elia’s speed again took him clear for a shot straight at the goalkeeper.

There was little change early in the second half except that Mané was wrongly given offside as he was sent through by Graziano Pellè’s flick. Hill had to hold Elia back to prevent him getting away again but towards the end Rangers improved, which made the eventual outcome seem a little more unjust than it really was.

England manager Roy Hodgson alongside QPR director of football Les Ferdinand

In the 74th minute Joey Barton’s shot was diverted by Austin six yards out and was brilliantly saved by Forster. Substitute Mauro Zarate then drove a good effort over the bar, but in added time Mané held off Nedum Onuoha and slashed a high shot across Green into the top of the net.There was still time for Phillips to put the ball past Forster but Southampton were awarded a free-kick.

Most worrying of all for Rangers was the news that Austin, their only genuine goalscorer, left the ground on crutches. However it was revealed today that the striker will only miss one game. While the 13-goal top scorer is only set to miss the midweek encounter with Sunderland with bruising to his right foot, the club confirmed on Sunday afternoon that Dunne will be out for up to three months having suffered a medial cruciate ligament injury in his right knee.

Onuoha also sustained a hamstring problem which will keep him out for three to four weeks.

QPR (4-4-1-1): Green; Onuoha, Dunne (Vargas, 83), Caulker, Hill; Phillips, Barton, Fer, Traore (Isla, 73); Taarabt; (Zarate, 63) Austin.

Southampton (4-1-4-1): Forster; Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Targett (Gardos, 26); Wanyama (Schneiderlin, 61); Mané, Ward-Prowse, Davis,  Elia (Tadic, 80); Pelle.

Referee: Roger East.

Match rating: 6/10.

Man of match: Mané.