Brilliant Smithies finally beaten by nonsense late penalty - Report
Sunday, 24th Dec 2017 16:33 by Clive Whittingham
QPR weathered a second half onslaught from an impressive Bristol City side on Saturday only to have a 1-0 win snatched away by a dreadful piece of refereeing by Andy Madley.
For Queens Park Rangers, a good point against an excellent team, but a sense of injustice that having survived a second half barrage from Bristol City they were robbed of two more late on by one of the worst refereeing decisions you’ll see this season. Manager Ian Holloway was still speaking with match official Andy Madley an hour after the full time whistle.
For Lee Johnson’s men, another point added to their total with a late goal. They’ve now scored 11 times in the last ten minutes of games this season, seven of those in injury time, and they richly deserved their leveller here even if the manner of it was rather dubious. Only bad luck, committed defending and yet another inspired goalkeeping display by QPR’s Alex Smithies had prevented them scoring earlier and going on to win the game.
City have been the story of the Championship so far this season, shrugging off last season’s relegation worries and the summer loss of their 2016/17 top scorer Tammy Abraham to rise to third in the table with a squad assembled without parachute payments through sound scouting, shrewd transfer market activity and promotion of youth prospects. Bobby Reid, scorer of the controversial equaliser here, being moved from midfield to attack and scoring ten goals already this season as a more than adequate Abraham replacement a prime example of how you can work to improve what you have rather than always seek another signing.
They’ve also advanced to the semi-finals of the League Cup, knocking four Premier League teams out along the way. They arrived at Loftus Road fresh from a midweek 2-1 home win against Manchester United proving once more that the lamentable attitude towards knock out football from QPR and many other clubs is a load of absolute bollocks. The momentum and confidence wins against Watford, Palace, Stoke and Man Utd is driving City on and if they are promoted this season it will be the fifth year in a row that a team has reached at least the quarter finals of the League Cup and also gone on to win a place in the Premier League.
QPR, whose disgusting neglect of cups dates back many years and managers, have a far bigger squad than City but fielded a weakened team in the second round and lost 4-1 at home to Brentford – the first team players, all the better for their rest, conceded two defensively shambolic goals and lost 2-1 at Cardiff in the league that Saturday regardless. By their theory, City should have been knackered after their midweek exploits, where the team effort to overcome Jose Mourinho’s men was prodigious.
If there was a hangover it didn’t show immediately. Smithies had to be sharp of mind and strong of wrist to dive low to his left and repel a first minute effort from midweek hero Corey Smith. Soon the excellent Joe Bryan was crossing low from the left forcing a clearance from Nedum Onuoha deep in his own penalty area.
But Rangers were very decent on Saturday for the first hour at least., They’d snapped a six match winless run with a 2-1 success at Birmingham the previous week and the difference in the team and the atmosphere because of it was obvious – notably more positive and loud in the stands, obviously more relaxed on the pitch.
The win at St Andrew’s wasn’t enough for Ian Holloway to keep an unchanged team (shock) and Bright Osayi-Samuel was this week’s surprise witness (each more surprising than the last), suddenly thrown in up front from the start for the first time since September 26 alongside Idrissa Sylla – Matt Smith and Conor Washington dropped out. Holloway’s wildly oscillating, and often entirely unfathomable, team selections are a big part of the reason QPR struggle to put a string of good performances together consistently, but you could see the logic here. At Ashton Gate at Easter, Rangers had gone too long, too early, too often to Matt Smith and City’s impressive captain Aden Flint could have played in his club suit. With Nathan Baker from Aston Villa and Bailey Wright from Preston now forming an uncompromising trio of bruising centre backs either side of Flint it didn’t feel like a day for Smith and the extra mobility and pace provided by Samuel and Sylla was worth a try and worked reasonably well – the young Nigerian winger, signed from Blackpool on deadline day, forced a save from Frankie Fielding in the City goal after six minutes after going clean through in the left channel of the penalty box.
In fact, the introduction of Smith for Sylla, and particularly Conor Washington – who looks absolutely bereft of confidence – for Samuel just after the hour that killed QPR’s hopes of winning the game. Those changes, and the late withdrawal of the excellent Luke Freeman so Grant Hall could be added to the backline, made QPR incrementally worse, while Johnson affected his team positively with his own changes.
A shame, because Rangers enjoyed the better of the first half and went in ahead at the break. Sylla had narrowly failed to convert a great cross from Alex Baptiste before more good quality from wide – this time from Freeman after Bryan had been booked for fouling Wszolek – forced an own goal from Flint under heavy pressure from Robinson. It was initially announced as the Scouser’s third goal of the week having never scored before in his professional career but replays clearly showed it was Flint’s goal, not that he could do much about it with the pace and purpose on the delivery from Freeman who extends his lead at the top of the division’s assist chart with nine now.
A very entertaining half played in a good atmosphere then, but City would come on strong in the second half. Having had little joy trying to out pass and outrun Josh Scowen, Massimo Luongo and Luke Freeman through midfield, City stuck Flint up front and went much more direct. Once they’d removed West Brom loanee Jonathan Leko – a lazy and heavy legged presence wide in midfield who’d become a walking red card after a booking and several other stupid fouls – they really started to click into gear. Flint headed a corner just over; Josh Brownhill nutmegged Jake Bidwell then beat Smithies with a shot that hit the inside of the post, bounced all the way back through the goal mouth and somehow stayed out; then Bidwell cleared Matty Taylor’s header off the line from the resulting corner in one terrifying two minute spell.
QPR strung together a good move with Freeman and Bidwell impressing – Sylla’s first time shot was blocked – but the withdrawal of him and Samuel for Smith and Washington hampered QPR. City by contrast brought on Hordur Magnusson - more boyband than Championship but sporting a long throw akin to a cannon - Marlon Pack and Cauley Woodrow and really came home with a wet sail.
Smithies turned a Magnusson free kick aside, then adjusted his body brilliantly to claim a shot that deflected late and looked a goal for all money, then flung himself into the air to turn away a header by Reid and rode his luck as Woodrow missed the rebound from point blank range. Jack Robinson’s header out of danger under pressure under his own cross bar was as vital as it was impressive. Flint’s header from a corner missed by inches.
It felt like a matter of time, especially once Freeman had been removed which ended what little possession QPR were managing to hold onto by that stage completely. A shame really that the goal, when it did arrive, came in the manner it did – a perplexing decision from referee Andy Madley to award a penalty for Flint and Baker crashing into each other in the Rangers penalty area. It was the second of three occasions Madley had seemed to make his mind up what decision he was going to give underneath a set piece before the ball had even been delivered – moments earlier he’d penalised Matt Smith for a non-existent foul trying to attack a QPR free kick almost before the ball had been kicked. The penalty was hot nonsense, but duly converted down the middle by Reid.
Madley then committed that cardinal sin of refereeing, turning his back on the action. As he sprinted off back to halfway a melee developed in the back of the net caused by Flint, who’d earlier been booked for a foul on Baptiste, slamming into the back of Nedum Onuoha sending him sprawling across the floor and into the back of the net. I like Flint, he’s player I’ve been watching since I was writing Alfreton Town stuff for the prestigious Ripley and Heanor News, I wish we’d signed him when we had the chance from Swindon, he’s a great player – but this was daft, and a definite second yellow. Madley had a prolonged conversation with the linesman, to which he could presumably contribute fuck all having turned his back on it all, after which he decided to take no action against anybody and just kick off as if nothing had happened.
City had two more chances to win. Woodrow poked wide with Smithies beaten off Flint’s knock down, then Brownhill volleyed high and wide off another Magnusson long throw. Rangers were a spent force, incapable of keeping the ball or posing an attacking threat. They were lucky to survive five minutes of added time, in which a speculative long ranger from Reid looped just wide of the top corner off a deflection that had Smithies panicking and scrambling.
It was, just about, a fair result, achieved through unfair means. A result both teams will be weirdly happy and disappointed with in equal measure.
QPR: Smithies 9; Baptiste 7, Onuoha 6, Robinson 7; Wszolek 6, Bidwell 7; Scowen 6, Luongo 6, Freeman 8 (Hall 79, 5); Sylla 5 (Smith 68, 5), Samuel 6 (Washington 64, 5)
Subs not used: Cousins, Lumley, Wheeler, Oteh
Goals: Flint own goal 37 (assisted Freeman)
Yellow cards: Bidwell 80 (foul)
Bristol City: Fielding 6; Wright 6, Flint 8, Baker 7; Kelly 6 (Magnusson 64, 7), Leko 5 (Pack 63, 7); Bornwhill 7, Smith 7, Bryan 8; Taylor 6 (Woodrow 72, 6), Reid 7
Subs not used: Steele, Eliasson, Vyner, Andrews
Goals: Reid 82 (penalty, won Flint/Baker)
Yellow cards: Bryan 36 (foul), Leko 56 (foul), Flint 76 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Alex Smithies 9 Brilliant. Won his team a point. Needed a penalty to beat him. Big recovery after last week’s howler at Birmingham.
Referee – Andy Madley (Yorkshire) 4 In a season of generally high-quality refereeing performances in QPR games, this was the worst performance by a country mile. The penalty was an absolute load of bollocks, and was the second of three occasions where he seemed to have made his mind up what decision he was going to give under a throw or corner before the thing had actually been taken – an earlier free kick awarded against Matt Smith at the other end was blown for so quickly I’m not sure that ball had even been delivered before it was awarded. Having conjured a spot kick from two Bristol City players running into each other, he then committed the cardinal refereeing sin of turning his back on the action after the ball had gone in – facing the other way down the pitch as Aden Flint, on a booking, smashed into the back of Nedum Onuoha sending him sprawling into net. An obvious second yellow card but after a prolonged conversation with the linesman, which Madley would have been able to contribute nothing to as he wasn’t even looking, no further action was taken. A good game with two teams flying at each other, sadly let down by incompetence from the referee.
Attendance – 13,683 (1,800 Bristol City approx) Very good atmosphere, encouraged by an entertaining game that blossomed into a bit of a cliffhanger. Amazing how one spawney win at Birmingham and a half decent first half here relaxed everybody. One Jack Robinson goal fewer at St Andrew’s and it would have been poisonous.
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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