McClaren proud of QPR players despite Birmingham defeat
QPR manager Steve McClaren applauded his players after they almost pulled off an incredible comeback in their Sky Bet Championship match against Birmingham.
Rangers eventually lost 4-3 after storming back from four goals down at Loftus Road, where their former goalkeeper Lee Camp saved Nahki Wells’ stoppage-time penalty to deny them a point. It came after Che Adams’ first-half hat-trick and Harlee Dean’s header had put the visitors in control.
Rangers clawed their way back into the game, with Matt Smith scoring just before and after half-time and Jordan Cousins further reducing the deficit before Craig Gardner was adjudged to have fouled Luke Freeman. Camp kept out the resulting spot-kick by Wells, but McClaren nevertheless took great satisfaction from his team’s stirring second-half performance.
McClaren said: ‘I’m proud of the players and proud of the fans for staying with the team. We could have scored eight goals in that second half. ‘It was a great performance in the second half and we were a penalty away from 4-4 from an impossible position.
‘It was a great reaction at half-time and we need to take that forward.’ McClaren was less impressed with Rangers’ defending during what was a one-sided first half until Smith headed in Freeman’s corner just before the interval.
The former England manager switched to three central defenders, sending on midfielder Cousins and centre-back Toni Leistner, after the hosts had been torn to shreds by Adams, who has now scored in six consecutive Championship matches. McClaren said: ‘The aim when you play Birmingham is to contain (Lukas) Jutkiewicz and Adams.
We did not handle them at all. It was not good. ‘There were three things we had to change; attitude, personnel and we had to change shape.
‘We changed shape. With the personnel I thought Jordan Cousins came on and did a great job and Toni Leistner tightened us up at the back a lot. ‘I couldn’t describe the first half in words, but the second half was pure joy and magnificent. The whole second half was just total domination.
‘What do we want to create here? We want to create a team that the fans are proud of. The ovation the players got at the end was deserved.’ Birmingham manager Garry Monk admitted his team lost their way after Smith’s first goal.
‘It was brilliant to be 4-0 up. To be four up and playing the way we were was fantastic,’ Monk said. ‘I think the changing point was the goal just before half-time for them. ‘You can be as fantastic as you want to be but momentum can change in football very quickly.
It only takes a split second. ‘We made a couple of mistakes in the build-up to that goal and that gave them the bit of belief they needed. ‘As fantastic as we were in the first half, that first goal showed how momentum can change.
‘You knew that in the second half QPR were going to come out and throw everything at it, and they did. ‘They had nothing to lose, they threw everything at it and we had to put bodies on the line. ‘The most important thing is the three points. To come away with those I think is a fantastic result for us.’