Trotters begin the new season with a bang, smashing four goals past Premier League new boys who also see Clint Hill sent off, on a day to forget for the hosts at Loftus Road
After a 15-year hiatus from English football’s top flight, it may be forgiven that QPR fail to instantaneously display the rigidity required at the back to win matches, but the ease with which Bolton found themselves three goals up will need urgent addressing from Warnock.
Warnock had triumphed before the season opener that no side will be fitter than his come the opening day but physical endurance can only carry a team so far in such a competitive division, and at some stage, organisation and discipline, particularly at home, is what is required to secure survival come the end of May.
Gary Cahill’s superb curled effort on the stroke of half-time gave Bolton an undeserved lead after all of QPR’s possession but Warnock’s men found themselves three behind after 70 minutes, all through the fault of granting their opponents too much space in and around the box.
What Warnock is heavily relying on this year is the performances of Adel Taarabt, whose 19 goals and 16 assists guided QPR to the Championship trophy last season. In the curtain raiser at Loftus Road, the Moroccan began on a positive note, busily securing possession and dribbling with purpose but after 30 minutes, shades of the forward’s alternative side crept through as a series of failed tricks was greeted with groans from the home support. Consistency is still elusive for the former Tottenham man in the top flight.
Top of the pile | Bolton celebrate Cahill’s opener as Trotters start in styleQPR started brightly and after two minutes the Loftus Road PA system was blaring as new signing DJ Campbell swept the ball in the back of the net but celebrations were rightly short-lived as the former Blackpool man was three yards offside.
Another of Warnock’s summer arrivals, Kieron Dyer, was handed a surprise start at right-back but lasted all of three minutes of his debut after a challenge by Martin Petrov left him with a broken metatarsal and yet another spell out due to injury.
The hosts continued their strong start and as Bolton struggled for creativity in midfield with the absence of Chung-Yong Lee and Stuart Holden, QPR were able to bring their front three of Campbell, Jay Bothroyd and Tarrabt frequently into play, with the Morocco international in particular influencing in a free role behind the former Cardiff City striker.
The hosts’ possession paid off as the first opening came for Campbell, who after a strong piece of attacking play by right-back Bradley Orr, saw his deflected shot whistle over Jussi Jaaskelainen’s crossbar.
Bolton continued to look lost for ideas, and with Owen Coyle looking to improve his side’s away record, which was the worst in the Premier League last season, the Scot’s challenge looked a difficult one as a series of long balls were pumped long for Kevin Davies to chase and hold up.
But shades of defensive naivety from QPR presented Bolton with the lead in the five minutes of added time before the break. Chris Eagles who had for the majority of the match been restricted in his advances forward, jinked inside from the right flank and found Cahill, who coolly bent his effort high past Paddy Kenny into the top-left corner.
Much like the start of the first half, QPR resumed the match with promise, but defensive negligence soon took over and Warnock’s men subsequently fell further behind.
The first of Bolton’s three goals in the second half came through another debutant, Danny Gabbidon, as Eagles’s low drive of a free-kick crept through a sea of players before reaching the former West Ham defender, who did little other than prod the ball into his own net.
Two minutes later Bolton were three up. This time Ivan Klasnic, who had been quiet in linking up with Davies throughout the match, was granted too much space in the penalty area, and his effort with help from a Orr deflection made it a mountain to climb for QPR.
The hosts’ misery was further compounded by another negligent display at the back which allowed Klasnic to turn provider, who slipped in Fabrice Muamba to effortlessly slot home. And Clint Hill, who saw red before the final whistle for swipe at Petrov.
It wasn’t billed as a baptism of fire for Warnock’s men but the ease of Bolton’s goals are an alarming sight for all concerned. Fabio Briatore was booed 10 minutes before the end as he hurried for an exit, but without heavy investment over the summer, QPR will have a difficult task in securing safety this season.