|Bristol City 2 v 1 Queens Park Rangers|
Tuesday, 12th February 2019 Kick-off 19:45
More late penalty heartbreak for luckless QPR – Report
Wednesday, 13th Feb 2019 19:42 by Clive Whittingham
QPR were left to rue an injury time penalty for the third Championship match in a row on Tuesday night as a scandalous piece of refereeing cost them a 1-1 draw at red hot Bristol City.
Queens Park Rangers, football’s own Bad Luck Brian, continue to find new and creative ways to trip over their own feet. Not so much the guy who fell into a barrel of boobs and came up sucking his thumb, more the one who fell into a room of naked page three models, came out with hepatitis C and found his car had been clamped while he was in there.
Our loveable, accident-prone, don’t-leave-them-unsupervised, panic-when-they-go-quiet football club has found itself a new vice. As if life wasn’t difficult enough, they’ve started dabbling in the fine arts of last-minute penalty kick disasters. Which is just absolutely, kick-me-in-the-face, shoot-me-in-the-head-with-a-massive-gun, fan-fucking-tastic. I’m delighted with this. I mean it makes a refreshing change from our phobia of the Premier League’s television money, or our rabid determination to bring about the financial destruction of our own club, or our ruinous transfer policy based on old Merlin sticker books Tony Fernandes found in his loft doesn’t it? I can’t wait to see what we come up with next – uncover the next £25m footballer only for him to develop a penchant for burning down old folks’ homes perhaps?
At Wigan ten days ago QPR should have been given a chance to extricate themselves from a 2-0 deficit with an injury time spot kick when Michael Jacobs chucked himself in front of Ryan Manning’s goalbound shot and saved it brilliantly with two hands. Michael Jacobs is not the Wigan goalkeeper, but referee Scott Duncan didn’t care anyway. Duncan a man who’d awarded a nonsense penalty to Sheffield United against Rangers back in August.
Then, against Birmingham City at Loftus Road on Saturday, Rangers did get their 12-yarder in time added on at the end of the game to tie a match they’d trailed four nil just before half time. Nahki Wells missed it.
And now, at Bristol City on Tuesday, having fought hard for a deserved point, the R’s managed to have one awarded against them in the ninety-second minute for an offence they didn’t commit by a referee who seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time concocting an infraction through the power of his own imagination. Even City boss Lee Johnson was happy to admit afterwards the decision was a crock of shit. Famara Diedhiou did not miss.
It sealed a 2-1 loss that was, judged without context, not a great surprise. A number of factors are currently combining at Loftus Road to drag QPR through the ringer a little bit. Too many players were asked to play too many minutes in the first half of the season, particularly over Christmas, and are now looking tired. Several important players, particularly Geoff Cameron who protects our nervy defence so well, have been injured at the same time. Several others who were key to the good form of the autumn – Joe Lumley, Ebere Eze, Nahki Wells, Tony Leistner – have lost form. This has coincided with a ridiculously hectic fixture list that has brought Rangers face to face with a succession of the division’s best teams all at once – four of the top six inside a fortnight. Amongst it, there has been some rank bad luck.
Bristol City, meanwhile, may never lose again. This was a fifteenth match without defeat and ninth straight win for a team with the league’s second best defence, now firmly ensconced in the play-off picture as the division’s form team. That they’ve done it despite losing their three best players from last season – Joe Bryan went to Fulham, Bobby Reid to Cardiff, Aden Flint to the Royal Air Force 617 Squadron – only furthers the reputation of coach Lee Johnson, a cross between David Brent and Fievel Mousekewitz whose reputation oddly seems to be better outside Bristol than in. That will equal out if City keep pulling up trees like this.
Steve McClaren approached the task by switching to three at the back, with Jake Bidwell and Pawel Wszolek used as wing backs, Luke Freeman tucked inside to a three-man midfield, and Matt Smith up front to attack crosses/hopeful punts. Well I never. This was exactly the system and style Ian Holloway was pilloried for through the dark days of last season: the one that was supposedly holding us back, the one that supposedly suited none of our players, the one no manager worth his salt would ever use, the one that was terribly boring and horribly long ball, the one that wasted Pav and ruined Bidwell, the one that was suppressing a squad that was really far better than its league position if only Holloway and his three at the back bullshit would fuck off. And yet here, a year after it was abandoned under growing supporter unrest, it was back. To quote Johnny Vegas, they all come back to butter.
Whether this latest switch works or not (I suspect not), the reason QPR managers of various shapes, sizes, levels of experience, ability and actual interest in the job keep coming back to an extra man in defence or midfield was there for all to see in the first half of the Birmingham game. You open this team, these players, this back line, up into a 4-4-2 formation at your peril. Holloway did it because it got Freeman, Scowen and Luongo together as a midfield three, and added an extra centre back to the middle. McClaren, looking to arrest exactly the sort of bottomless losing run that punctuated Holloway’s reign and gave his critics such fodder, abandoned the wide and went looking for similar assurances down the middle of the field.
Initially, he found them. Five minutes in, Big Posh Matt chested one down for Little Waddling Luke but he delayed a shot too long and the ball ran away. Freeman later dragged a shot past the post from the edge of the box after being forced slightly wider of the target than he’d have liked by Jordan Cousins’ pass. No much goal threat, but equally not much from Bristol City. They looked nice, and used the width of a huge looking pitch by switching the ball left and right with big raking passes at every opportunity, but whenever they came infield looking for the killer moment they found an impenetrable crowd scene. That despite the best efforts of Josh Brownhill and Jamie Paterson who always impress.
Cousins, much maligned, picked up where he’d left off against Birmingham with an energetic and physical protection of the defence behind him. Pawel Wszolek took to his task well, tracking back and making key interventions. Mass Luongo gave away a succession of cynical, tactical fouls without seeing a yellow card – when Marlon Pack was later booked for similar we thought we were getting a lot out of referee Tony Harrington. Oh how we’d laugh at that notion later. With the three of Furlong, Leistner and Hall looking relatively untroubled, bar one fumble from an increasingly nervous Joe Lumley for which he was awarded a generous free kick, it all seemed set for a stalemate.
And then QPR started posing a goal threat. One of those delicious Freeman inswingers was glanced on by Smith and Fielding saved brilliantly down in the bottom corner. Joy started to be found down the left through Jake Bidwell who crossed once for Smith to head over, again for him to head straight at Fielding when he should have done better, and then finally for Wells to angle a brilliant header onto the foot of the post and out into the path of Smith who scored from four yards with a left footed header. That was 1-0 at half time. So far, so surprising.
There would, inevitably, be a Bristol City response. Leading the charge, Swedish-Brazilian (nationality not pubic hair formation) Niclas Eliasson. All had seemed to be coming up Millhouse when Andi Weimann had to leave the field early with a back injury – Weimann has five goals and three assists in eight career appearances against QPR for Villa, Derby and City – but that brought Eliasson into the fray wide right and Rangers never once coped with him all night. He would finish as man of the match by a street.
His first big threat of the half had Diedhiou steaming in for a free header six yards out that seemed certain to be an equaliser until Joe Lumley somehow got it round the post. Four minutes later same source, same recipient, same result – more comfortably this time. Three crosses in quick succession after the hour had Toni Leistner in imperious form repelling all borders but QPR simply weren’t doing enough to stop the service from wide areas, standing off and letting the deliveries come.
When Smith flicked on for Wells to nudge his man out of the way a second killer goal seemed likely but he smashed the ball over the bar.
That would have been against the run of play. QPR will blame the referee for this, and they’ve got a great case, but having started the half trying to kill the game in the right way by maintaining possession, they finished it by making all the same mistakes we’ve seen before. The withdrawal of Smith, arguably man of the match for a fourth game running, killed Rangers not only as a threat but also as any kind of presence in the Bristol City half of the field whatsoever. Rangers kept playing balls as if he was there, rather than adapting to his replacement Tomer Hemed who was utterly anonymous as a result. Ebere Eze soon followed him in place of Wells but again, bar one outstanding moment where he tricked his way past three at the corner flag and raced into the area for a weak penalty appeal, this made us worse as well. I wondered whether Ryan Manning might have been called on to help Bidwell with Eliasson but instead it was Eze asked to drop back wide left and help out defensively. Not his forte. Johnson, meanwhile, summoned Matt Taylor from his bench to add to the attack.
Having passed up several opportunities to clear their lines (hold that thought for later) Rangers were punished on 73 when Eliasson curled in the goal he’d been threatening all night from exactly the place he’d been causing all the problems unchecked. Paterson’s ball out to him, and the finish, both exquisite.
Now it really was all hands to the pump but, again, it was a mixture of Bristol City doing good things and QPR really not helping themselves. A stupid foul by Furlong on a man not going anywhere followed an identical earlier brain fart from Pawel Wszolek and set up free kick which led to a corner that was headed in but disallowed for pushing in the six-yard box. Difficult to pick out exactly what the offence was, but then as it turns out Tony Harrington isn’t above just making something up to suit. Eliasson, still roaming around free as a bird, crossed for Lumley to spill and Taylor to sniff a chance but the keeper recovered. Lumley saved when Taylor got in from a narrow angle after City had bundled through desperate edge of the box efforts from Luongo.
The controversial moment to win the game was just around the corner, but it is worth saying that QPR had basically given up any ambition in this game from the moment Smith went off, engaging in exactly the sort of blatant, flagrant time wasting we’ve seen plague this division this season. Every throw in was turned into a long drawn out affair by Jake Bidwell and Darnell Furlong relentlessly cleaning and polishing the ball. How about throw it to a team mate and complete five or six passes, run the time off much more effectively that way? We don’t seem to grasp that possession of the ball is a far more effective clock runner, far more effective way of demoralising and tiring opponents, than this pretty amateur attempt at cheating. Every one of these throw ins was subsequently hoiked down the line for Hemed to lose the header and Bristol City to come back at us. Our attitude to possession of the ball was criminally bad.
Yeh, in the end we were cheated out of it, but we played incredibly dumb football for the final third of this match, if indeed you can call it football at all. When you start trying to shield one point like that there's always a chance you'll end up with none, even if the referee isn't a wrong 'un.
The penalty, awarded for a foul on Furlong by Diedhiou, was the biggest load of horseshit you’ll see from a referee for quite some time. It was the second Bristol City penalty Harrington has awarded them in as many appointments, and the third he’s given against QPR in two matches this season. Diedhiou’s lousy touch, Furlong in exactly the right position, ball safely back with Lumley, QPR man fouled. Somehow, from somewhere, after a huge delay, a penalty kick. In amongst it all Furlong was booked for being fouled and Joe Lumley, Toni Leistner, Grant Hall, Jake Bidwell and Pawel Wszolek all saw yellow for dissent at the time or after the final whistle.
Their fury was justified, but in the lead up to it Rangers had turned down three opportunities to clear the ball and then given away a dangerous free kick – albeit for an alleged foul by Freeman almost as soft as the penalty itself and then taken with a moving ball. Not the referee’s finest hour – just to put the tin hat on it he waved away a very presentable shout for a foul in the other box on Cousins in the remaining injury time – but equally not Rangers’ either. Braindead play all round.
Match Gallery: 24 photos
I’m working under the assumption that one of you bastards has a black cat tired up somewhere that you’re torturing with bits of a broken mirror for your own sick perversion. If you could just pack it in and let the poor thing go that would be tremendous, because with five consecutive league defeats and games against the sides lying fourth, sixth and second in the table to come next week after a visit from Premier League Watford a full on QPR-style panic feels like it’s only just around the corner.
City: Fielding 6; Pisano 6, Kalas 6, Webster 6, Kelly 5 (Dasilva 45, 7); Pack 6 (Taylor 66, 6), Brownhill 7; Paterson 7, Weimann – (Eliasson 18, 8), O’Dowda 6; Diedhiou 6
Subs not used: Wright, Baker, O’Leary, Palmer
Goals: Eliasson 73 (assisted Paterson), Diedhiou 90 (penalty, won Diedhiou)
Bookings: Pack 62 (foul), Pisano 69 (foul)
QPR: Lumley 5; Furlong 6 (Osayi-Samuel 90+4, -), Leistner 6, Hall 6; Wszolek 6, Bidwell 5; Luongo 6, Cousins 7, Freeman 6; Smith 7 (Hemed 72, 4), Wells 5 (Eze 78, 5)
Subs not used: Ingram, Scowen, Manning, Kakay
Goals: Smith 45 (assisted Bidwell/Wells)
Bookings: Furlong 90+2 (alleged foul), Leistner 90+2 (dissent), Hall 90+2 (dissent), Bidwell 90+7 (foul), Wszolek after final whistle (dissent), Lumley after final whistle (dissent)
QPR Star Man – Matt Smith 7 Biggest attacking threat, several near misses before he did actually score. Rangers never the same team once he’d gone off, Hemed woefully inadequate as his replacement. I liked Cousins’ performance as well, though that will probably get me into trouble.
Referee – Tony Harrington (Durham) 3 Third completely inept refereeing performance in a row in the league. He’d already been thoroughly odd all the way through the game: letting Luongo off with five fouls including a couple of really cynical trips and one into the groin of an opponent only to then book Pack for his first one; giving a foul against Matt Smith for standing still while an airborne defender smashed into the back of his neck; disallowing a Bristol City goal almost before the corner had even been taken for an offence far less than many he ignored before and after. And then there was the penalty, which much like the handball at Wigan and the failure to send of Maghoma at the weekend was not only plain wrong, it also wasn’t that hard to get right. Given that nothing happened to warrant its award, you can only conclude that the decision – made after an inordinate delay – was crowd influenced. To then flash around six yellow cards in stoppage time to players complaining about it smacked of jumped up small man syndrome. You know when you’ve made a mistake, we all know that horrible hot feeling, just suck it up, get the penalty taken, get full time blown and fuck off home you little scrote, don’t be booking six players for pointing it out to you.
Attendance 19,183 (639 QPR supporters) I’m amazed it was even half that number from West London given the late notice of the date change, once again at the behest of a broadcaster that loves to trumpet about how the fans are the game but never misses a chance to shaft them. Credit to QPR for refunding the train tickets, but you simply should not be allowed to move a match at less than a fortnight’s notice.
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Pictures – Action Images
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