|West Bromwich Albion 7 v 1 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 18th August 2018 Kick-off 15:00
West Brom wallop seven through hapless QPR - Report
Sunday, 19th Aug 2018 15:54 by Clive Whittingham
For the fifth time in seven years, QPR conceded six goals or more in a game on Saturday - going down to a 7-1 loss at newly relegated West Brom. It was Rangers' worst defeat since May 1987.
A scoreline so extreme it would have required clarification in brackets on the old Grandstand Vidiprinter. A second half performance so dismal it would have shamed a pub team. A football team completely out of its depth and a manager hindering rather than helping their non-existent resistance to a rising tide. West Bromwich Albion 7 (seven), Queens Park Rangers 1.
It’s Rangers’ worst defeat since Jim Smith’s team lost by the same scoreline in a meaningless end of season match at Sheffield Wednesday in May 1987. But it’s the fifth time that six goals or more have been shipped by a QPR team under its present ownership (Fulham 6-0 October 2011, Chelsea 6-1 April 2012, Man City 6-0 May 2015, Newcastle 6-0 September 2016 and now this). These should be once in a generation, “do you remember that freaky day when…” sort of occurrences, not a fucking biennial event to look forward to. QPR have taken a hell of a lot of medicine over the last few years, but they’re still a very poorly football club on the evidence of Saturday’s debacle at The Hawthorns.
Professional footballers playing lethal square passes across the back four when last man. Professional footballers executing brutal sliding tackles on their own team mates, clearing the way for opponents to run through on goal. Professional footballers making challenges in their own penalty area of such boneheaded stupidity you struggle to imagine there’s a thicker person alive anywhere else in the world. Even before we begin dissecting/eviscerating this shambles, the simple maths of the thing make it - particularly the second half - one of the worst performances in the history of the football club. Not so much errant child this time as embarrassing parent, publicly shaming its long suffering kids in front of their friends.
Most ludicrously of all, it was 1-1 at half time. Rangers had done a lot of the hard work. They’d come to a newly relegated Premier League team, one able to select a front two of Dwight Gayle and Jay Rodriguez supported by our former charge Matt Phillips and Leicester’s Harvey Barnes on loan, and got a proper foothold in the game. That despite a barrage of early pressure and corners, repelled often in last ditch fashion by centre backs Toni Leistner and Joel Lynch as Rodrguez and others frequently got to the byline and cut dangerous balls back into the red zone. It took QPR until 23 minutes to have an attack of any sorts – Massimo Luongo shooting straight at home keeper Sam Johnstone from the edge of the area – and they conceded the first goal just before the half hour. Leistner, having seemed to have got his team out of trouble immediately played them back into it with a bad pass on halfway that freed Barnes to tee up Gayle for a shot saved by Ingram and a rebound dispatched under the keeper by Phillips.
But Rangers equalised almost immediately. Luke Freeman’s high free kick, Matt Smith’s back post header, Joel Lynch at the head of a queue in the penalty box to smash in a leveller. Scores tied, home crowd quietened, half a job done, maybe more than that.
What happened next was a cataclysmic collapse and it started, as ever, with two more goals through that pleasure window immediately before and after half time which QPR love so dearly. First, in the 53rd minute, Barnes skipped round Scowen way too easily, stood Lynch up and unloaded a shot off the base of the far post. Left back Kieran Gibbs slammed in the rebound despite flailing attempts on the line from Osman Kakay and Matt Ingram. Then, two minutes later, Lynch was caught trying to be too clever for his own good in possession on halfway by Phillips who freed Gayle and Scowen deliberately and senselessly tripped him in the penalty box – Rodriguez stuck away the spot kick.
Goals on 53 and 55 to go with the goal conceded to Sheff Utd after 44 last week and the one conceded after 47 minutes at Preston the week before. They go with the 28 (out of 70 in total) that we conceded between 35 and 55 last season (35, 36, 37, 38, 38, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 45, 45, 45, 45, 45, 45, 47, 47, 48, 48, 50, 50, 51, 52, 52, 54, 55, 55). Almost all goals change games whenever they’re scored, but goals conceded immediately before and after the break can have a particularly profound effect, completely changing the mindset and approach to the second half, or totally tearing up whatever the half time team talk was. QPR are conceding these game-changing goals at crucial times on a weekly basis now. Not one of them has the fucking brains, or the fucking balls, or the fucking initiative or the fucking instruction from management to look at the clock, assess the situation, manage the game and say ‘right, for the next ten minutes we’re stopping here, going right back to basics, standing our ground, and you’re not fucking coming past, and anybody that does come past is going to get fucking hurt’. There’s no shutting up shop, no disruption of the game, no control of the tempo, no game intelligence, no game management. There’s no shape or line or rigidity to the back four and there’s no protection for it from the midfield. Nobody further up the pitch is ever thinking, ‘I’ll just maybe drop a bit deeper here and give the lads back there a bit more protection for five minutes, get us through to halftime/a foothold in the second half’. There’s no determination, no pride in our goal. We’re wide open, way too easy to play against. Time and time and time and time and time again we’re conceding these soft as shit goals at the same point of every chuffing game.
If the game wasn’t over at 3-1, and the hunched shoulders of the QPR players told you it definitely was, then 4-1 ended the debate. Kakay and Leistner deciding that as they hadn’t been able to get near a West Brom man all afternoon they’d helpfully start tackling each other, allowing the ball to run free into the penalty area with Gibbs who squared it for Gayle to score from close range.
In a division of stark financial differences, West Bromwich Albion with Premier League TV and parachute money are the haves, and QPR are rapidly becoming the have nots. You only need compare the respective options up front – Darren Moore’s side have scored 13 goals in four league games so far. A 4-1 loss for a team and club in QPR’s situation at one in the Baggies’ scenario wouldn’t have been that surprising or disastrous, although Moore’s team is far from infallible as Bolton Wanderers showed here on day one. Hold your hands up, put it down to a bad day at the office, pull the shutters down and limit the damage. Even a tactical dunce like Harry Redknapp recognised this when Liverpool were running a hot knife through our buttery defence at Christmas 2012, putting on two defensive midfielders at half time to prevent a 3-0 deficit getting any worse. A 4-1 away loss for a team that loses away from home as religiously as QPR would barely be remembered in a month’s time. Anything beyond that and it starts becoming season defining. Anything really far beyond that and you’re talking about lasting affects on the mental state of the players and the team and irreparable undermining of the manager’s authority and position. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, to my mind, never recovered from that Newcastle game.
QPR went so far beyond it that 4-1 started to feel like a bit of a dream scenario.
Three more goals followed, in increasingly embarrassing, humiliating and soul-destroying fashion. Leistner dallying over a loose ball in the penalty area hoping his goalkeeper might come and help, Ingram arriving late on the scene with a wild lunge that sent Rodriguez tumbling for a second penalty from referee Tony Harrington. One of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen. Rodriguez converted and is now the league’s early pace setter with four goals – three of them penalties. Hal Robson Kanu, on from the bench, nodding down for Phillips to score a sixth untouched and unchallenged. Another sub, James Morrison, running off the back of a static Luke Freeman to square for Robson Kanu himself to add a seventh. The body language spoke volumes. To a man, they’d given up long before the end.
And all the while, we’re throwing bloody attackers on. Conor Washington introduced as a winger at 3-1 for Ebere Eze, who’d played wider than his all action display against Sheffield United and had far less impact. Freeman, selected in his place at ten, again guilty of holding onto the ball too long at times. Washington, to my recollection, barely touched the ball in half an hour, though I was in a state of shock and grief by this point. Pawel Wszolek then on for Matt Smith at 5-1. What on earth are we doing here? What’s this meant to achieve? The horse may have bolted but close the stable door anyway McClaren for goodness sake, this team’s got to pick itself up and go again against Bristol City on Tuesday and some of us have got to face work colleagues on Monday morning. You don’t let yourself get done six or seven.
A third sub had to be burned when – and I want you to brace yourself here, swallow any hot drinks, make sure you’re nice and secure in your seat because this is going to shock you like nothing you’ve ever seen before or will again – Joel Lynch decided he was injured again and fucked off early, plunging Alex Baptiste into the circle of hell that the second half had become.
Afterwards the beleaguered QPR manager was against talking about “this young team” and “these young players”. But the fact is, these players aren’t young, and neither is this team. When we beat Birmingham 3-1 last season with Chair, Osayi-Samuel, Eze, Kakay and Furlong in the starting 11, that was a young team. This was a team of senior players with Eze a peripheral figure out of position on the wing and Kakay exposed at right back. Nine of the players have made 124 senior starts or more.
McClaren was brought here to work with the young players and coach them, we were told. A more consistent message and approach to team selection, a better standard of training ground work, to improve them and make them sellable assets. Well, apart from Eze, where is that? Ryan Manning, who can cover ground and put a tackle in which might have been useful alongside Josh Scowen here, has already been booted out on loan to Rotherham United while Jordan Cousins turns in anonymous performances in his position. Holloway liked Manning because he covered more ground than anybody else – how we could have done with some of that here. I’d honestly totally forgotten Cousins had played until I checked the team sheet afterwards.
Bright Osayi-Samuel (absent here for personal reasons apparently, all the best to him) has had one start and been hooked at half time. Paul Smyth likewise. Ilias Chair’s appearance as an unused sub here at least confirmed he hasn’t vanished off the face of the earth, but he hasn’t had a single minute of football yet. We’ve signed 35-year-old Angel Rangel who will play instead of Kakay if he’s selected and the latest scuttlebutt around the away end on Saturday was that Little Smyth, too, may be playing his football out on loan in the coming months while a season long loan deal for 33-year-old Wayne Routledge is in advanced stages of agreement. What are we doing here? Holloway would have been crucified for some of this. Was all that stuff about the kids just PR and spin, designed to quell dissatisfaction at a change of manager, departure of senior players and arrival of a new man with a dodgy recent record? It’s starting to look that way.
I mean quite apart from this not being what we were promised in the brochure, you can’t be talking about a young, naïve, inexperienced team when you’re not picking any of the young, naïve, inexperienced players. A team of kids getting turned over by a powerful ex-Premier League team would have been more forgivable, but that’s not what this was.
The manager is also, patently, asking players to do things they’re not capable of doing. Trying to play out from the back through Ingram, Leistner, Lynch and Scowen is like trying to launch the first manned mission to Mars in a Ford Fiesta Zetec. Ingram, in particular, is dying a thousand deaths trying to distribute the ball to his manager’s satisfaction. Replacing Alex Smithies, playing at Championship level for the first time, becoming a number one after two years of inaction, settling in, making the position your own, getting match sharp, building confidence – all of this was going to be difficult enough as it was in a struggling team, without sticking a ten on his back and asking him to be the playmaker as well. At the moment he can’t do it, and we shouldn’t be asking him to, it’s visibly destroying his self belief before our eyes.
We do not, at the moment, have a striker with a good enough back-to-goal game to play this style and system either. It doesn’t stick with Smith, Sylla or Washington, and they can’t bring Freeman, Eze and the other attacking midfielders into the game because of that. It’s why McClaren wants Tomer Hemed from Brighton or Chris Martin from Derby, but until they arrive you need to adapt and play the hand of cards you’ve been dealt. Play to the strengths of the players you do have, not the ones you wish you did. You can’t take a half decent flat racing mare steeplechasing just because you prefer the jump courses.
Unless you’ve got a blank cheque to just go out and buy the world class players you need, like Pep Guardiola at Man City, the most pragmatic and successful managers pick the style that works for the players they have – Neil Warnock’s fire and brimstone Cardiff team looks very different from his swashbuckling QPR side, for instance. That's what Ian Holloway was doing last year, when people were accusing him unfairly of playing long ball football. Steve McClaren would do well to adapt, quickly, and find a style that suits the players at his disposal better than this.
And all while wearing bright pink.
A total fucking embarrassment.
West Brom: Johnston 6; Adarabioyo 6, Bartley 5, Hegazi 6, Gibbs 7; Livermore 7, Brunt 7 (Barry 73, 6); Phillips 8, Barnes 8 (Morrison 86, -), Rodriguez 8; Gayle 8 (Robson Kanu 83, -)
Subs not used: Myhill, Townsend, Burke, Field
Goals: Phillips 28 (assisted Barnes/Gayle), Gibbs 53 (assisted Barnes), Rodriquez 55 (penalty, won Gayle), 82 (penalty, won Rodriguez), Gayle 67 (assisted Gibbs), Phillips 88 (assisted Robson Kanu), Robson Kanu 90+1 (assisted Morrison)
Bookings: Brunt 18 (foul), Bartley 45+3 (foul)
QPR: Ingram 2; Kakay 3, Leistner 2, Lynch 3 (Baptiste 77, 4), Bidwell 3; Scowen 3, Cousins 2; Eze 4 (Washington 58, 3), Freeman 3, Luongo 3; Smith 3 (Wszolek 81, -)
Subs not used: Lumley, Chair, Smyth, Sylla
Goals: Lynch 35 (assisted Freeman/Smith)
Bookings: Scowen 54 (foul)
QPR Star Man – N/A
Referee – Tony Harrington (Cleveland) 8 Very decent, few errors, all major decisions correct, both penalties and all three bookings blatant.
Attendance – 22, 753 (1,000 QPR approx) See you all at Birmingham?
The Twitter/Instagram @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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