Queens Park Rangers squandered a perfect opportunity to close the gap on Aston Villa and pull clear of the relegation zone by losing twice in a week to Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.
Spirit, endeavour and commitment were no match for quality in either encounter, with bright opening periods giving way to defensive lapses that helped the away sides take control.
Pundits agreed that the Rs had the better of the first half against Arsenal, despite creating few clear-cut chances, but sloppy defending allowed Olivier Giroud to open the scoring.
His strike was followed by a rather cruel lesson for Rangers right-back Darnell Furlong, who coped admirably overall but was turned inside and out by Alexis Sanchez for the second.
Meanwhile, against Spurs, a mix-up between defender Nedum Onuoha and goalkeeper Robert Green led to Harry Kane heading in Andros Townsend’s cross in front of the Loft.
Kane netted his second on the break as QPR went in search of an equaliser, before Sandro reduced the arrears with a slick finish after Bobby Zamora redirected Charlie Austin’s cross.
It meant that Villa maintained their three-point cushion over the Superhoops, and gave the man once tipped as Harry Redknapp’s successor at Loftus Road, Tim Sherwood, breathing space.
As for Chris Ramsey, who has been handed a contract until the end of the season and tasked, presumably, with keeping the Rs in the Premier League, he will be learning many a lesson.
Despite winning just one league match out of the last 11, Ramsey has created an atmosphere that, if not feel-good, is markedly better than the funereal ambience left by Redknapp.
Bobby Zamora looks increasingly like a beloved yet stricken family pet
He almost brought the new manager bounce, too, with an unprecedented, at least this season, victory up at Sunderland, after his predecessor’s spectacular failures on the road.
Indeed, had Ramsey, who honed his craft as first-team coach at White Hart Lane, been in charge in September, it would surely not have taken until February for Rangers to win away.
As it is, the trapdoor appears to beckon, with a Financial Fair Play fine, mass clearout of the playing staff and the Championship, a league that gets tougher by the year, awaiting.
Defeat against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Saturday would be another hammer blow in the relegation battle, while losing to Everton the following weekend is absolutely unthinkable.
So what is to be done to turn a team more prone to switching off than an X Factor viewer? Perhaps a tweak at the back, where Rio Ferdinand and Steven Caulker are too error-prone.
The midfield is hardly faring much better, with the creative loss of the temperamental Leroy Fer causing Ramsey to turn to the ineffectual Junior Hoilett and Niko Kranjcar, among others.
It was surprising that the manager chose to snub Eduardo Vargas and Mauro Zarate, both of whom could have provided some impetus from the substitutes’ bench against Spurs.
Charlie Austin still has the ability to produce goals almost from nothing, which he often has to, given the paucity of opportunities created by the rest of the team, but he cannot do it alone.
His demeanour oozes frustration, a feeling of superiority and annoyance, perhaps understandably, that he even has to take to the field with such a bunch of also-rans.
Austin is the Sunday league player head and shoulders above his mates, who still cares about them but has already decided to leave for pastures new, more talented, and better paid.
Creaking alongside him is Bobby Zamora, who will go down in Rangers folklore for his goal at Wembley in the play-off final, but is looking increasingly like a beloved yet stricken family pet.
Given the options at his disposal, it is no wonder that Ramsey is turning to young talents such as Furlong and Reece Grego-Cox, who was only given a professional contract in December.
This, more than anything else, marks him out as a manager with a vision for the future, the complete opposite of Redknapp and his fondness for living in the moment, no matter the cost.
However, it is the present in which Ramsey is operating and learning his trade, and expecting him to defy the odds to maintain QPR’s top-flight status is both unfair and unrealistic.
It is high time the Rs abandoned quick fixes, transfer deadline day fudges and reckless spending, and looked to embrace long-term planning in the mould of Southampton.
Unfortunately, that means acknowledging a few home truths regarding the current playing squad and the scope of our ambitions, and probably facing Charlton Athletic next season.
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Originally published on TEAMtalk on Wednesday March 11 2015.