|Brentford 3 v 0 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 2nd March 2019 Kick-off 15:00
The annual meek surrender at Griffin Park - Report
Sunday, 3rd Mar 2019 18:50 by Clive Whittingham
QPR suffered a second half collapse and standard comfortable defeat to neighbours Brentford at Griffin Park on Saturday, making it eight defeats from their last nine league games.
From a dog-eared, well-thumbed book of footballing clichés used by meat-headed “football people” to show “not football people” how much more they know about this sport I proffer “it’s a good side that wins when playing badly”.
Neil Warnock’s Queens Park Rangers team scorched the earth under the feet of Sheffield United (twice), Middlesbrough (twice), Barnsley at home, Swansea at home, Cardiff at home. But away at Coventry, and Barnsley, and most crucially Watford, when the going was tough and the performance levels weren’t there, wins were dug out anyway through a moment of individual brilliance, a bit of good fortune or sheer bloody mindedness and persistence. That was the last QPR team you could say was a good side.
This QPR team is not a good side. We knew that anyway, even before the latest humbling at the hands of Spartak Hounslow on Saturday. But that phrase sprung to mind anyway as we sloped away from a celebratory Griffin Park because if you did need further confirmation then this week has been it. To win a game takes an almost super-human effort from this team, as we saw against Leeds on Tuesday when Luke Freeman was in flying broomstick form and the likes of Mass Luongo, Jordan Cousins, Grant Hall, Toni Leistner and Joe Lumley were all right there on his shoulder. Drop from that extreme level, even ever so slightly, and this team loses. To reverse the cliché slightly, it’s a bad side that only wins when it plays brilliantly.
QPR’s wins have to be toiled for at the coal face, chiselled out with our bare hands, sweated over, clung to. Defeats just slip out like the sloppy aftermath of a night on the house red in a suburban Indian restaurant. Bar the two games with Ipswich - and frankly I think I could put a team together from the regulars in the Crown and Sceptre that could beat Ipswich this season - every single one of ten other league wins has been from a performance that was either excellent, dogged, or both. Even then only two of those (Sheff Wed and Millwall at home) have been by more than a single goal. The defeats? Well there’s been a 7-1, a 4-1, a couple of 3-0s, eight when we’ve failed to score a goal… You could make Liam Neeson films out of our wins this season: they’ve felt like epic, dramatic voyages of achievement in the face of adversity. You could make Andrex adverts out of our defeats: easy, quick, expendable, soft, instantly forgettable, minimal resistance. This team has to be at its best to win and when it’s not, well, you get what happened on Saturday.
QPR had stopped the rot of seven straight league defeats with that super victory against the Champions of Europe at Loftus Road on Tuesday night so could at least travel down the Westway without the weight of the world on their shoulders. Just as well really, Brentford travel about as well as Shamima Begum this season (one win from 16 league games) but at home their record of 11 wins, three draws and four defeats is the same as third-placed Sheff Utd and better than league leaders Norwich. They may only have beaten Big Racist John and the Boys 1-0 when I watched them recently but there hasn’t been a victory as comprehensive as that anywhere since Custer thought he’d be alright turning out a second string side for the tricky cup tie at Little Big Horn. They’d since beaten the Allam Tigers here 5-1.
Picnic rugs not required for this one then. But that, and the geography and history that surrounds this fixture, rather masked the bare fact that at the start of play this was a nothing match between sixteenth and seventeenth in a dog league. It was, on paper at least, Blackburn v Stoke, or Wigan v Millwall, and I wouldn’t even wish complimentary tickets to either of those on Katie Hopkins. Sure enough, the first half played out like Monday morning, second period, double maths. I have had experiences with BT Openreach I got more out of than the first 45 minutes of this game, and my last experience with BT Openreach had me running a warm bath and sharpening the good kitchen knife because really what is the fucking point of living any more when those cunts are roaming the earth?
Speaking of which, Keith Stroud was our referee.
Look, there have been moments, I’ll grant you that, when I haven’t been the best person I could have been. Moments I’ve regretted, things I’ve said, people I’ve upset, no-context dick pics. But I’m a good person. I’ve volunteered, I’ve given to charity, I’ve been a good son, I’ve bought fucking dinner for Shaun the homeless guy at Old Street tube station. And I don’t deserve Keith Stroud. I really don’t. I just don’t. It’s not right that he is still inflicted on me, or you, or us. There are people like Levi Bellfield still alive you know. And Ian Huntley. Send Stroud there with a book trolley and let him do his little patronising face scrunch and calm down gesture to them. We’ve done our time, we’ve served it well, we’ve enjoyed it. But we’ve had enough now. Please. Please. Mercy now. Mercy.
More on that poison dwarf later. First, the first half, in which precisely nothing of any note happened at all. Let me run you down the notes quickly, because we’ve all got homes to go to and you all know how this one goes anyway so there’s no point really. You’re only here for the graphic sexual imagery and to see how close we’ve gone to the line this week and that’s fine. So, first half, QPR in the 4-2-3-1 that suits them best, turning out the same team that did for Leeds on Tuesday, but without either Tomer Hemed or Matt Smith up front against a team that does struggle to defend set pieces. Poor homework. Brentford: trendy wing backs that have served them well since they turned their season around with a scrappy single goal win here against Bolton; Mokotjo in the Ryan Woods role; in-form three man attack of Neal Maupay, Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahama backed expertly from midfield by the superb Romaine Sawyers who they used to abuse here for being lazy. Cough.
QPR kicked off and, as only QPR could, conceded a free kick within two and a half seconds when Jake Bidwell accidentally walloped Maupay as he came to close the first pass down. It was by far and away the most interesting thing that happened in the first half and other than saying I felt like it encapsulated the last 25 years of my life following this shit I have no further comment to make. And we’re off.
In the first 20 minutes Freeman crossed one ball through an empty area, tried to curl the first corner of the game straight in but Dan Bentley was alert to the danger, and Wells had a shot deflected over after Cousins won the ball back high up the field. Within 20 minutes of the game beginning we were into the territory of Toni Leistner trying his luck from 25 yards. When he succeeds with one of those I’ll pay the goal bonus myself.
Brentford started slowly but grew, their first move cutting Maupay through the middle but Joe Lumley sprang from his line diligently and slid under him with a clean take. Two minutes later a gorgeous Sawyers through ball had Benrahma screaming through in similar circs but despite six goals in his last nine games he could only poke wide, again under good pressure from Lumley who looked revitalised after his midweek second half heroics. He was more hesitant ten minutes before half time when Brentford sprung the offside trap down their left but Pawel Wszolek, easily the best QPR player before half time, charged back and rescued the situation well. An enthusiastic, well-oiled gent behind us began a noisy one-man campaign for the Pole’s Ballon D’Or nomination.
You’ve got to pass the time somehow I guess and although Barbet’s terrific volleyed effort at the far post was just about cleared in his own six-yard box by Wells back to defend the previous corner that really was about it. A great cross from Wells looked like it might get either Freeman or Luongo in on goal until they tackled each other.
And do you know what, that was fine. Nil nil, great result, four points from a difficult week, rot stopped. I was happy being bored. I watch episodes of Frasier I’ve seen a million times before, I am certainly not adverse to prolonged, numbing experiences which I get nothing from and never remember once they’re over in order to just mark off time waiting for death. This was certainly that and I was absolutely loving it in the way I imagine I’d enjoy a medically induced coma rather than another 65-hour working week. Oooooh, lovely, lovely numbness. I’m thinking of taking up spice, I’ve heard good things.
Anyway, Keith Stroud was bored too, and that’s more problematic. Out he strode for the second half, like some testicular cancer charity had dressed up a bloke as a chode to waddle around the field and remind you to check your bollocks in the shower - as if we don’t do enough of that already thank you very much indeed. Brentford, the swines, had clocked after 45 minutes that our two centre backs are as quick as the queue at the Post Office and started knocking balls in behind them for their three forwards to chase. The first of these had Ollie Watkins, who you may remember for his recent Jack Laugher effort at Barnet in the FA Cup, the wrong side of Grant Hall and tumbling to earth in a coming together. Never a penalty in a thousand fucking years. Maupay went to the keeper’s left with the kick, which was an odd choice given that Joe Lumley has meekly flopped down to his left for every penalty he’s faced so far, and the keeper really should have saved it but didn’t. It was the fifth penalty Stroud has awarded against QPR in his last ten games with us.
The remaining 40 minutes was a heady mixture of QPR being very QPR, and Chode of Chode Hall being a diseased vagina. My personal favourite, overruling a correct decision from the linesman with an incorrect one of his own, which he did three times.
As ever, when behind away from home, we made the same substitutions in the same order. First, Bright Osayi-Samuel, who was booked immediately after coming on for a trip similar to ones that had previously merited only a warning. He did, however, manage our only serious shot on target, deep into injury time, which Bentley saved well with his legs. Then, later, Matt Smith, on for Pawel Wszolek, thereby introducing our striker who likes to attack crosses in the air the most for our winger that can cross the ball in the air the best. Never mind the spice, I’m going straight for the smack. Later, Tomer Hemed, who went through the motions, planted a diving header wide from the corner resulting from Samuel’s shot when it seemed easier to score, but otherwise contributed as much to this game as I did but presumably got a nice appearance bonus while I’m light £27.50.
Brentford scored twice more. QPR were so open at the back I swear it’s harder to get a table at Nandos than it was to waltz through the yawning gaps in the defence second half. On 71 Brentford attacked and within two passes had Maupay clean through with a whole half of the field to himself bar Benrahma who he very benevolently squared the ball to for an empty net second after Lumley had over committed himself. They’d already threatened to do that twice before, drawing two brilliant saves in a one-on-one situation from Lumley to deny Benrahma on 51 and then finishing weakly in an identical situation on 58.
The Joe Lumley vs The World theme festered as the young goalkeeper clawed a header from the excellent Dalsgaard out of the top corner from a Benrahma free kick. Later Sergi Canos came on - fuck me Sergi Canos only on the bench, we’d crown him king if we had him - and added a deflected third. QPR weak as church hall orange squash, Brentford now running amok in third gear. Sawyers was booked for kicking the ball away, the most needless card ever issued – QPR wouldn’t have scored if we were still there now, time wasting was wholly unnecessary.
It’s becoming a regular point of the QPR cycle of despair this. Go to Griffin Park, phone in a non-performance, have a new arse torn, go home again. New manager comes, new players come, hints of progress, then the decline, then the defeat at Brentford, and then we finish sixteenth in the league again. We’ve lost our last four visits here, and basically been sixteenth for four years now. Steve McClaren’s record is almost identical to Ian Holloway’s at this point last season – presently two points better off, despite suffering more defeats. We are where we are and what we are and the telling thing is how expectations and standards are falling away with it. Chris Ramsey suffered vile, disgusting, hideous abuse when walking across in front of that away end after losing here 1-0. Ian Holloway got it in the neck severely, though to a lesser extent, after going down 3-1 here last year. And now, after a 3-0, Steve McClaren gets a bit of a meh. Few comments, few shouts. People are just resigned to it now, beset by the knowledge that it only gets tougher next season, we never get significantly better or worse for changing the manager, and even if he did leave the chances of us making a successful left field appointment that galvanises the club, a la Huddersfield and Norwich, are hamstrung by the owners' thirst for a name that would lumber us with another old soak from the merry-go-round or another former QPR player who would PR well. There is a helpless, demoralised, resignation to us all. Punch drunk and turning up through blind loyalty.
There is, rightly, empathy and sympathy with the situation the club is in and what the people who run it day to day are trying to do to drag it out of the hole it dug for itself. But when you look at a set of accounts that is again showing 174 employees (we went up to the Premier League first time with 114) and a wage bill around the £30m mark, while Preston are mounting a play-off push despite having all of their best players injured for the first half of the season and committing only £13m to salaries each season it is not unfair to say that we should be expecting, and indeed demanding, better than this. We certainly won’t be winning many football games without it.
Brentford: Bentley 6; Barbet 7, Konsa 7, Jeanvier 7; Dalsgaard 8, Mokotojo 8, Sawyers 8, Odubajo 7; Watkins 7 (Marcondes 81, -), Maupay 8, Benrahma 8 (Canos 82, -)
Subs not used: McEachran, Gunnarsson, Da Silva, Ogbene
Goals: Maupay 50 (penalty, won Watkins), Benrahma 71 (assisted Maupay), Canos 90+5 (assisted Mokotjo)
Bookings: Dalsgaard 67 (foul), Sawyers 77 (kicking ball away)
QPR: Lumley 7; Furlong 5, Hall 5, Leistner 5, Bidwell 5; Luongo 6, Cousins 5; Freeman 5, Eze 5 (Osayi-Samuel 63, 5), Wszolek 6 (Smith 77, 5); Wells 5 (Hemed 73, 4)
Subs not used: Ingram, Scowen, Manning, Lynch
Bookings: Hall 49 (foul), Osayi-Samuel 64 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Joe Lumley 7 Back to some of the dark days Alex Smithies endured at Rangers, keeping the score down behind a broken defence with a string of saves and still losing 3-0. Should have saved the penalty though.
Referee – Keith Stroud (Hampshire) 3 A referee 15 years on the job and at least five years past his sell-by date. When he was removed from the list two seasons ago for thinking encroachment at a penalty was a free kick to the defending team rather than a retake at Newcastle v Burton that should have been it. Thanks for the long service Keith, carriage clock, now fuck off. But still he’s here, still refereeing Championship games, still overruling correct decisions from linesmen and replacing them with incorrect ones, still penalising tiny little indiscretions while waving play on through players being elbowed in the back of the head, still awarding nonsense penalties, still treating each of his escalating disasters with that same patronising grimace and ‘calm down’ hand gesture to anybody who complains about them. The personification of short man syndrome – a tiny man with a tiny penis and a chip on both shoulders. An absolute liability. Little short of a scandal that he’s still officiating at this level despite mounting evidence that he’s simply not up to it. Refereeing’s Chris Grayling.
Attendance 11,771 (1,200 QPR approx.) Steve McClaren the third QPR manager in recent times to run the gauntlet in front of that away end and, in all truth, the reaction was very mild compared to what Chris Ramsey and then Ian Holloway had to endure after defeats here. Eight defeats in nine games a worse record than either of those two managed, and yet the fans just seem sort of resigned to it.
The Twitter/Instagram @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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