QPR cut deep by Blades in FA Cup
Nigel Clough’s side take third Premier League scalp of the season at Loftus Road
Sheffield United’s Jamal Campbell-Ryce (2nd left) scores his sides second goal of the game against Queens Park Rangers. Photograph: Nigel French/PA Wire
QPR 0 Sheffield United 3
It is a pleasant conundrum that Nigel Clough is used to by now, having guided Sheffield United to a third Premier League scalp of the season. This latest victory over a dreadfully poor QPR ensures the League One side advance deservedly into the fourth round, following another fine cup performance that belied the Blades’ third tier status once again.
If United could produce this form in the league they would surely be candidates for automatic promotion rather than play-off hopefuls. Certainly they out-thought and out-fought their opponents here, with two goals from Jamal Campbell-Ryce and one from top scorer Marc McNulty assuring a comfortable win and a latest impressive upset.
Clough’s side have already beaten West Ham and Southampton en route to the League Cup semi-finals this season, and they reached the last four in the FA Cup last year. QPR, in reality, did not put up much of a fight. There was no late barrage or squandered chances, as Harry Redknapp’s men limped to a disappointing exit.
Redknapp made seven changes from the side that drew 1-1 with Swansea City in the Premier League, while United had not played since Boxing Day due to successive postponements.
With the exception of a Leroy Fer shot that Mark Howard tipped over in the seventh minute, QPR were lacklustre going forward and unable to defy an assured United defence. The young Terry Kennedy impressed at centre-half alongside the experienced Jay McEveley, with left-back Bob Harris regularly keeping Junior Hoilett at bay.
Hoilett and Armand Traoré were deployed in advanced wing-back roles by Redknapp, whose three-man defence of Rio Ferdinand, Steven Caulker and Nedum Onuoha often appeared uncomfortable in the face of the red and white counter-attack.
Campbell-Ryce was afforded oceans of space on the right flank and exploited it well, with Stefan Scougall firing a shot over inside the penalty area after 18 minutes. McNulty almost broke the deadlock after nicking the ball away from the dawdling Onuoha but could not get a shot away, yet the striker did not have to wait long for a goal.
It was a fine counterattack, executed brilliantly in the 36th minute. McNulty held the ball up and laid it off to his midfield before making a direct run through the middle of QPR’s defence. The 17-year-old United midfielder Louis Reed demonstrated composure to slip him in and McNulty fired the ball under Alex McCarthy in the Rangers goal.
It was no more than Clough’s men deserved and Redknapp responded by introducing Bobby Zamora at half-time, replacing Hoilett and with Matt Phillips dropping wide right. Soon, however, they were two behind, with QPR guilty of more dreadful defending.
Reed drifted a corner to the far post and the ball ricocheted off Jordan Mutch, dropping inside the six-yard box where Campbell-Ryce turned it home in front of the travelling United support four minutes into the second half.
Zamora then headed narrowly wide from a Phillips cross, as QPR finally woke up. Fer saw a header from a corner cleared off the line, shortly before McEveley almost steered a header inadvertently into his own goal.
Phillips sliced a shot well over in the 74th minute following a promising run from the substitute Mauricio Isla, but Rangers could not create any clear-cut chances in the dying minutes.
Indeed, Campbell-Ryce put the gloss on an excellent display after capitalising on a woeful throw-in by QPR in injury time, picking up the loose ball and waltzing through to fire past the desperate McCarthy.