The boredom before the storm - Report
Thursday, 29th Sep 2016 20:27 by Clive Whittingham
For what it's worth now, here’s LFW's summary of QPR's Tuesday night draw at Burton. A game we were never going to remember for long anyway, even before today's developments.
This hardly seems to matter much now but you'd have to go a long old way and watch a lot of Championship football to find a game at this level with less quality in it than this.
Ostensibly two Championship teams, Burton Albion and Queens Park Rangers had resorted to simply whacking the ball at each other as high, long and hard as they could long before the end. Rangers' approach to the final third of the game, in particular, would have made John Beck blush. I can't ever recall a match where the ball flew all the way from one goalkeeper right through to the one at the other end untouched quite so often.
Overseen by the most bog standard of bog standard referees, assisted by two linesmen who were as much use as a loose butt plug, an advert for the newly rebranded English Football League's main competition it most certainly was not. One beautiful sunset, and a home mascot that looked a bit like Gary Penrice, apart this was a game we would scarcely have remembered by the middle of next week regardless of today's Telegraph revelations.
QPR came in on a run of five matches without a victory and would be well glad to see the back of September if October didn't start with a trip to near neighbours Fulham, who love nothing more than twisting the knife in such circumstances.
The visitors had their first half chances to snap that. An early corner flashed right through the penalty box, then a clever turn into the channel by Conor Washington gave him space to move into and cross for Polish winger Pawel Wzsolek to nod back across the face of goal and hand Massimo Luongo what looked like a tap in. Luongo, who scores in his sleep for Australia but awaits a first QPR goal getting on for a year and a half since he arrived, took a needless first touch allowing keeper McLaughlin to come out and smother the ball.
Wzsolek, who picked up where he left off against Birmingham with a series of dangerous balls from wide areas, sparked a goal mouth scramble with another cross to the back post. Then later his fellow countryman Ariel Borysiuk fashioned a bouncing bomb-type effort when a corner was cleared out to him on the edge of the area and a goal line clearance was required. When Ben Turner was booked for a foul on Washington just before half time, Tjaronn Chery found a mixture of keeper and post in his way from the free kick.
Burton struggled to threaten in return – Taylor flagged offside when played through, Smithies' fingertips equal to Jamie Ward's curling free kick through a crowded area after Washington had been booked for a daft tackle. They were basic and functional, clearly spotting QPR's issues at full back in their pre-match prep and pinging balls out to their wingers, particularly Lloyd Dyer, who stayed tight to both touchlines and tried to stretch Rangers widthways whenever possible to decent effect but no great threat.
But QPR soon ran out of ideas on how they were going to beat them. Not only that, but they contrived to fall behind on the counter attack from one of their own second half corners. An element of good fortune about it certainly, as a shot deflected perfectly past Smithies for Ward to pop up and head into the empty net from a yard – but rank bad defending, and from our own set piece as well.
That prompted changes. Seb Polter came on from the bench and added a much needed physical presence to the attack. Conor Washington, who really did work like a dog and couldn't have done any more but isn't suited to the role QPR keep using him in, finally started to see good ball rather than high ball after being moved to a wide area. A cross from him aimed at Luongo was an inch away from perfection.
Rangers looked better, if a little agricultural, and after a purposeful Washington run and glorious cross from Luongo with the outside of his boot, Polter plundered an equaliser. Nice goal, great assist, but Washington's contribution was key – he is improving.
The German could have won it late on as well, heading powerfully wide after meeting a left wing cross from Chery on the run.
You couldn't help but feel a little déjà vu. After all, Polter had come on towards the end of the Birmingham game as well, adding support to a lone striker as QPR finished much the stronger of the two sides and were perhaps unlucky not to win. That was the case here but it's getting frustrating coming away from matches thinking "it felt like we'd turned a bit of a corner there at the end" only to arrive at the next one and find the same sort of starting 11 and approach being employed.
Despite the improvements by offering Idrissa Sylla (ill here apparently) some support against Birmingham, despite Conor Washington finally looking something like a Championship player when utilised wide against Sunderland, despite Borysiuk and Luongo looking excellent together in the centre of midfield against Birmingham… here we were again, with Karl Henry holding, and Washington flogging himself to death as a lone striker fielding punts down the field against two giant centre backs.
I may be wrong, but it feels like our teams for the midweek games are picked by the sports science guys as much as the manager and coaching staff. They look at who's got the most in the tank after the weekend game and select accordingly. That's not an outrageous thing to hang your hat on in this relentless league of 46 fixtures, but if it is indeed our strategy for the three game weeks or not it's clearly not working.
Rangers have had six weeknight games this season and won only one – and that was against lowly Rochdale. Last season after the change in manager the R's played seven matches during the week, beating only Derby. If the idea is to rest tired players then we really need to be performing better in the weekend games. If it's to try and gain an advantage on our midweek opponents by fielding fresher players than theirs that's obviously not working – two wins from 13 fixtures.
In the end this match, which had descended into a sort of giant tennis match by the end with the ball flying backwards and forwards over the halfway line, ran to the best part of 100 minutes. Jake Bidwell, attempting to chase back and interrupt another counter attack, fell awkwardly and dislocated his shoulder, necessitating lengthy treatment and an ambulance. Lynch came on for him, and had a late cross shot poked wide – nice to see him, but the fear we're now to have centre backs in both full back positions with Perch and Bidwell injured lingers.
Referee Scott Duncan, in his wisdom, allowed play to continue around Bidwell as Burton pushed for a winner, despite the player being in obvious pain. When play did eventually restart with a Burton corner, Taylor hit the deck in the six yard box as Smithies claimed the ball in the air. This time, despite there being nothing much wrong with the guy – he was up and about within ten seconds of the physio arriving, and ran off the pitch and back on again in order to return to the action promptly – play was suspended just as QPR launched a counter attack downfield.
That rather summed Duncan and his rag tag team of officials up. An early booking for Jamie Ward, for what barely seemed like a foul, set the ball rolling. Then later Ben Turner, already on a card, was allowed to brutally cut through the back of Luongo without being spoken to. Nigel Clough rightly fumed when Nedum Onuoha dumped Turner on the gravel track in the second half – no free kick awarded. The linesman in front of the away end got a series of very obvious decisions wrong from only a short distance away – possibly distracted by the guy standing in front of us who enthusiastically abused him throughout the first half using an array of swearwords and a running theme of him being "bald" and "northern" despite him having a full head of hair and coming from Somerset.
There had been 24 separate free kicks awarded by full time, to go with 11 corners. A match of almost 100 minutes, and the ball was in play for no more than a third of it, and on the ground even less than that. It was that sort of night. Two teams playing poorly, overseen by three bad officials. Any neutrals present in a tiny crowd probably needed their shoe laces and sharp objects taking away by the end.
I saw a comment earlier that football is meant to be "attritional". God I hope they're not right.
Burton: McLaughlin 6; Mousinho 6, McFadzean 6, Turner 6; Williamson 5 (Myers-Harness 45, 5), Naylor 5, Palmer 6, Irvine 5, Dyer 6; Akins 5, Ward 6
Subs not used: Beavon, Bywater, Miller, Choudhury, Fox, Barker
Goals: Ward 58
Bookings: Ward 25 (not much), Turner 38 (foul)
QPR: Smithies 6; Onuoha 5, Caulker 6, Hall 5, Bidwell 6 (Lynch 81, -); Henry 5; Luongo 6, Borysiuk 6 (Polter 64, 6), Chery 5, Wszolek 6; Washington 6
Subs not used: Ingram, El Khayati, Shodipo, Sandro, Kakay
Goals: Polter 70 (assisted Luongo)
Bookings: Washington 27 (foul), Bidwell 51 (foul in back play)
QPR Star Man – Pawel Wszolek 6 I was actually tempted to give it to Washington for working as hard as he did for as long as he did with so little to go on. But Wszolek, as he did against Birmingham, looked half decent and delivered reasonably well from wide and that's enough for Star Man in a game like this.
Referee – Scott Duncan (Northumberland) 4 Booked for things that weren't a booking, didn't book for things that were; ignored obvious fouls in certain instances, while penalising in others for hardly anything at all which eventually led players on both teams embarrassingly throwing themselves around trying to trick him; didn't stop play for Bidwell's serious injury, then did for Naylor's knock. Depressingly bad, ruined an already awful game further.
Attendance – 3,725 (800 QPR approx) A League Two-sized crowd for a League Two-standard football match, mostly either bored to tears or frustrated with the officials by the way. The lowest attendance at a QPR league game anyway since the 1960s apparently – a further indication of how remarkable it is that Burton have climbed this far, and what a tough ask it is for them to stay here.
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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