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Naïve QPR caught in Cardiff trap – Report
Friday, 4th Oct 2019 01:15 by Clive Whittingham

QPR dominated the ball, the chances and the shots on goal at Cardiff on Wednesday night but still lost 3-0 – as you will do when you defend like they did.

Holding 72% of the possession and losing 3-0 to three of the four shots on target the opposition mustered is really quite something. Typical QPR, shows why they shouldn’t be allowed out of the house unsupervised.

You could regard it as some sort of freak, as highly unusual, as somehow unjust. I’ve seen and heard QPR described as unlucky to lose, by far the better team, and winners on any other day. The club’s own official Twitter feed described the R’s as “dominant” in its full time announcement that we had in fact been beaten by three clear goals. And to all of this I say no. No, no, no.

This is exactly the sort of ‘Justice League’ bullshit we’ve been laughing at Dean Smith and/or Brentford about for years. This idea that there’s one true way to play football that must never be deviated from, even for ten pragmatic minutes at the end of a game to stop you consistently topping the ‘points lost from winning positions’ table. The idea that somehow a 3-0 win counts for less if it was achieved with only four shots, only 28% possession, and in an aesthetically bracing manner. That somehow there are moral victories, points awarded for artistic merit, and alternate league tables that reflect all of this. Sneering over more physical, direct, cynical teams that have beaten you for their method, rather than addressing your weaknesses that let them do it, is a slippery slope to get on and we must resist it at all costs.

If you keep playing the ball from the goalkeeper to Josh Scowen, back to Toni Leistner, out to Angel Rangel, back to Leistner, up to Scowen, out to Rangel, up to Ilias Chair, back inside to Dom Ball, back to Rangel, back to Leistner, back to Scowen, back to Ball, back to Chair, into Ebere Eze, back out to Scowen, across to Ball, back to Leistner, across to Cameron, out to Manning, back in to Ball, out to Chair, into Eze, up to Hugill, off to Eze, back out to Chair, back to Rangel, across to Leistner, back to Kelly, out to Manning and so on and on and on and on then yes… yes… you’re going to have 72% of the possession. It’ll be 72% of round and round and round and round, twirling and rotating around the centre circle, but it’ll be 72% all the same. You’ll figure very highly in all the fancy new ‘xG’ and ‘pass completion’ and ‘key passes made’ stats that people like to put in spider graphs they can wank themselves to death over. But if you’re playing Cardiff City, who stand Aden Flint, Marlon Pack and Sean Morrison across the edge of their on area and watch you do it, it’ll make very little impact on the only stat that matters which is the one in the top left corner of the screen and printed in the morning papers the day after. If you also, during the 28% of the possession you don’t have, defend like a bunch of fucking clowns, you’ll lose the game. You’ll lose the game comfortably. And you’ll deserve it. Which is exactly what QPR did on Wednesday, whatever the stats say.

Now these may well be the bitter and angry rantings of a beaten football fan at the end of an intensely frustrating night spent mostly watching Morrison search for a towel to dry the ball with. It may be incredibly harsh on a brand new, pretty young, team that has started the season brilliantly, is performing above expectations, has looked very good at times and has come a very long way in a very short space of time. Particularly as they were playing a well-financed team, with an excellent manager, fresh out of the Premier League, away from home. I accept all of this, and will provide further mitigation for Rangers in a moment. But the arrogance and lack of pragmatism of the modern day football purist boils my piss almost as much as the unwatchable opposite end of the scale from Neil Harris, Tony Pulis, Sam Allardyce and others. I found QPR breathtakingly naïve on Wednesday and it needs calling out because we cannot become that team that thinks it’s ok to lose 3-0 away from home as long as we played ‘properly’ and they didn’t.

That further mitigation came in the form of three very clear moments in the game which could easily have landed another way and made it a different match entirely. All could very well have been goals and had they been so we’d have been frothing at the mouth in excitement this morning at just how brilliant QPR had been. If you want to point to those and say that actually we were very unlucky, that it would have been a completely different story if even one of them had gone an inch the other way, and that it was simply one of those nights you sometimes have in football, then go right ahead. You’d be well within your rights, and you’d probably be closer to the truth than I am, bitter and frustrated at this game and weighed down by the baggage of finding it absolutely fucking hilarious when Dean Smith, whose team have won once all season and are in the relegation zone, says they’ve been better than every opponent they’ve faced bar Spurs.

The first moment was literally the first action in the game. Mark Warburton had recalled Bright Osayi-Samuel to the team on the right of an attacking trio behind lone striker Jordan Hugill, and with Joe Bennett struggling in the early rounds of the season for Cardiff it was clearly a tactic to get the two of them isolated together one on one as often as possible. Ilias Chair, one of the other three, gave the game away in the second minute with a glorious, instinctive first-time swivel and diagonal crossfield pass played so instantaneously and with so little forethought that it simply must have been a pre-match instruction. Left alone with Bennett, Osayi-Samuel monstered him, cut into the penalty area and fired a shot that looked a goal for all money until a brilliant save from Alex Smithies intervened. We know all about what a heartbreaker Smithies can be, and many other Championship goalkeepers wouldn’t have got close, but Osayi-Samuel’s finishing is a persistent concern and if I’m, again, being ultra-harsh the height on the shot gave him a chance that wouldn’t have existed had it been low to the corners. Easy to say from up here.

This was compounded on ten minutes when a stupid, needless foul on Lee Tomlin – I thought by Rangel, but the BBC site has it down as Dom Ball – allowed Cardiff exactly the sort of set piece we’d have specifically been trying to keep them away from. If you’re going to give them things like that cheaply, win the first header when it comes in. In fact, Aden Flint met it at the back post. If you’re going to give them things like that cheaply, and lose the first header, then make sure to Christ you win the second one. In fact, Sean Morrison did that and opened the scoring with a looped effort over the top of Liam Kelly who’d been brought into the side to try and stem the tide of goals conceded through errors by his predecessor Joe Lumley.

Rangers responded well and did indeed dominate for long periods thereafter. One lovely passing move ended with a delicious cross from Ryan Manning that looked for all money like having recalled right back Angel Rangel in for a headed equaliser but he overran the cross at the far post. A helped-on ball over the last Cardiff man by Jordan Hugill would have had Osayi-Samuel clean through for another Smithies save had his control not let him down.

Then came big moment number two. Ebere Eze, controlling the pace of the game and the pattern of the play superbly, conducting his team like a fine rugby league half back, thought for all the world he’d got the equaliser he and his team deserved with a perfectly struck shot from 20 yards that whipped around a stationary Alex Smithies and then agonisingly bounced back into play after striking the top of the goal post.

This was massive. In Cardiff’s last home game they beat Middlesbrough 1-0 here with a goal scored just two minutes into the game. Neil Warnock isn’t the hang ‘em, flog ‘em, long ball merchant he’s often made out to be. When QPR manager the team he assembled, with Ale Faurlin in midfield and Adel Taarabt ahead of him flanked by the likes of Tommy Smith and Wayne Routledge, played some of the best football we’ve seen at Rangers in the modern era. He’s a pragmatic, horse for a course manager who works with what he’s got. What he’s got at Cardiff is great big, massive centre backs and a lump up front. They play for set pieces and in the meantime are quite capable of strong-arming their way through hours upon hours of football just killing a game.

The time wasting in this one started after little more than a quarter of an hour. Every time the ball went out for a throw in, a farcical routine would kick into gear whereby a Cardiff player would set off at walking pace looking for the ball, then having located it set off at walking pace in the other direction to find a towel to dry it with on the first day for three fucking weeks where there’d been no rain, then walk back to roughly where the throw in should be taken, then walk very, very slowly away from that spot down the line, and finally chuck the ball. Every free kick awarded was followed immediately by the ball being nudged ten or 15 yards away from where it needed to be by a player who would then stand on the spot and refuse to move back without a prolonged argument about whether the offence had actually been committed very slightly further back. Goal kicks were taken in the sort of time a half decent artist might be able to complete an oil on canvas of Smithies lining the thing up.

All of this was passively overseen by referee Matt Donohue, in his first season on the Championship list and completely and utterly out of his depth here in dealing with experienced, professional, cynical footballers. He refereed like he was scared to say anything to the players under his charge, twice in the first half playing advantages through bad fouls and failing to return to the offender later for even so much as a word. He happily let Morrison pull that towel trick all night, only very occasionally blowing his whistle for a second time and making a hand gesture that I think was supposed to signal that perhaps a minute and a half is long enough to prepare for a throw in and the ball should probably be back in play by now. He did go and speak to Smithies at one point, delaying the game further, to make it clear that he absolutely wouldn’t stand for very much more of this stuff for very much longer. And then did. Dust the sand out of your vagina and do something about it for goodness sake. Despite it all, the standard two minutes was added to the first half and four to the second. It didn’t matter, QPR would have lost regardless, but two minutes was a bold call given what had gone in that half and four at the end of the second was, frankly, a total fucking shambolic embarrassment that should see him spending some time back down the divisions for a few weeks.

I’ve said this a fair bit, usually after losing to Preston, but QPR are horribly naïve in this sort of situation. Do I want us to go full Ben Pearson on the situation? No. But when the referee is standing there scratching his pubics while Sean Morrison ambles off down the touchline looking for a towel to wipe the ball for a routine throw in on a dry night, it’s not beneath us or unbecoming to get in the referee’s ear and ask what in the name of fuck is going on. On Saturday Jake Livermore spoke to the referee so much in the first half I thought it might be his dealer - asking why every QPR offence wasn’t a yellow card, and downplaying everything West Brom did. We just sort of kick around and let it happen, timid lads in the playground, bullied by the bigger boys.

The easiest way to stop it all would have been that Eze equaliser, which he deserved more than anybody. Instead, QPR contrived to go in at half time 2-0 down thanks to a goal even softer defensively than the first. A corner in the last minute of the first time was worked low to Gavin Whyte, who’d been allowed to stand unmarked in the penalty area for an age before actually receiving the ball, and his low cross shot was tapped into an empty net from no range at all by a similarly unattended Marlon Pack. That one was pathetic. Zonal or man? How about no marking at all?

There was a free header at the near post for Glatzel at the start of the second half which was the first shot Cardiff had attempted that didn’t find the net but QPR soon set off as they had in the first. Manning tried to catch Smithies out with a low free kick and missed the target on the blind side, then later stormed onto a fantastic ball from Eze and did beat the keeper at the near post only to see the ball rebound back into play off the woodwork again. Oh for the days when our only goalkeeping concern was Smithies’ slight tendency to let the odd one in on his near side that he shouldn’t.

That was big moment number three. Had that gone in it would have buoyed QPR, sent Cardiff even further into a defensive mode, got the crowd nervous, and potentially set up a comeback. To try and force the issue, Warburton removed Dom Ball from a two-man midfield with the recalled Josh Scowen and sent on Nahki Wells. Ball had been poor, but the lack of protection of a makeshift back four missing both Yoann Barbet and Grant Hall was soon exploited by a swift counter attack from Leandro Bakuna whose low cross was swept spectacularly into the net first time by Callum Patterson who himself had just stepped off the bench. At least you could say it was a proper goal, rather than one we’d basically thrown in ourselves.

Todd Kane came on for Rangel, whose recall at right back had seen a return to conceding goals that looked, and really should have been, offside. Kane immediately drew a great leg save from Smithies, and a further block at the near post. Marc Pugh came on for Ilias Chair, and he too spurned a presentable chance when it all opened up in front of him in the area but he delayed his shot. A scuffle between Ryan Manning, play acting, and Callum Patterson, objecting, was allowed to rumble on for a couple of minutes with Leistner, Flint, Morrison and several others all jogging across for a bit of a spat. Donohue did nothing to intervene, eventually booked Manning and Patterson, and still deemed four minutes adequate for the end of the game.

Like I say, that had no bearing on the final result, much like QPR’s possession stats.

I’m not advocating a switch in style, and nor will we get one from this manager with this squad of player. I’ve been thrilled and exhilarated by much of what has gone on this season, and we’ve seen against Wigan, Luton and Sheff Wed just how brilliant this can be when it clicks. The theory is if you keep doing the right things, and stick to the process, it will come good in the end, and that has been the case more often than not so far. Hell, with a worse opposition goalkeeper and a thinner post it might even have come good for us here.

But football is won in the penalty boxes, and QPR are too soft in both. There’s nothing to stop this style of play being combined with defending that’s even moderately competent. If you, kindly, exclude the third goal here as a good counter attack just after QPR had removed a defensive midfielder to push on, then I think the seven goals we’ve conceded in the league before it have all been off horrendous defensive mistakes. Poor marking at corners, goalkeeping ricks, split walls, stupid challenges for penalties.

You get nowhere defending like this. However pretty you look with the other stuff.

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Cardiff: Smithies 7; Peltier 6, Morrison 7, Flint 7, Bennett 5; Bacuna 5, Pack 6; Whyte 5 (Hoilett 87, -), Tomlin 6 (Paterson 65, 6), Murphy 5; Glatzel 5 (Ward 81, -)

Subs not used: Etheridge, Nelson, Mendez-Laing, Coxe

Goals: Morrison 11 (assisted Flint), Pack 45+1 (assisted Whyte), Paterson 72 (assisted Bacuna)

Bookings: Whyte 87 (foul), Paterson 80 (unsporting)

QPR: Kelly 5; Rangel 5 (Kane 66, 6), Cameron 4, Leistner 5, Manning 6; Ball 5 (Wells 63, 5), Scowen 6; Osayi-Samuel 6, Chair 6 (Pugh 80, -), Eze 7; Hugill 5

Subs not used: Lumley, Wallace, Mlakar, Masterson

Bookings: Manning 80 (unsporting)

QPR Star Man – Ebere Eze 7 Cut above most others on the pitch for both teams, cruelly denied a deserved goal by the inside of the post.

Referee – Matt Donohue (Manchester) 4 Out of his depth. Taken for a fool by more experienced players who knew what they were doing. Allowed the game to descend to a pace so slow it was literally stationary for long periods. You could drink eight pints of Carling and produce a piss stronger than this bloke.

Attendance – 21,387 (500 QPR approx..)

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062259 added 02:00 - Oct 4
30 points from safety
10 points above the drop zone

isawqpratwcity added 02:38 - Oct 4
It wasn't BOS's finishing that got me, it was that Scowen and Hugill were unmarked five yards in front of goal centre and left post respectively while BOS was coming at Smithies from a narrow angle and attracting defenders like picnic wasps to an open pot of jam. A gentle tap sideways had a 95% chance of resulting in a goal.

Ok, there's a lot of issues, but Holy Cheeses, we're still so, so far ahead of last January to May.

ozexile added 03:09 - Oct 4
I was gonna post in the forum on thursday that we're beginning to sound like Brentford witb all our possession stats. Good report Clive.

jtuck added 05:41 - Oct 4
Nailed the report: you get nothing for style points. Now see why there was desperation to spend millions we don't have on an Aberdeen centre-half during the transfer window. The fact we did not play too badly is not the point here. The fact we were an embarrassing pushover is. Never thought Cardiff would lose from the moment they got their first goal. Lots still to be cheerful about and Warburton has been a revelation but let's not kid ourselves.

QPRski added 05:49 - Oct 4
Another great report that perfectly analyses and diagnoses what we felt in this very frustrating and almost surrealistic game. Let’s hope that it is a lesson learned!

VancouverHoop added 05:50 - Oct 4
Absolutely spot on.

YorkRanger added 07:17 - Oct 4
Interesting Clive. Some well made points and agree that defensively we need to be better and more ruthless in the final third.

That said I do think we have come a million miles. All the misery of the past 2 seasons almost being forgotten, playing our (very good) youngsters at last, winning away from home (at last), having a good hard working squad (that seems United rather than divided) and playing some really good football.

Yes stuff still to do but cup more than half full for me and by some margin.

A win tomorrow would be nice

HastingsRanger added 07:54 - Oct 4
As always, thanks for a very accurate report. i watched on TV so did not have the pain travelling supporters endured but am more positive about this game. A much better performance than at home to West Brom.

The opening two goals were poor, the second one especially, and cost us the game. But after these and indeed the 3rd, the heads did not drop. The team kept at it and Cardiff had to work hard and keep shape.

Possession stats are meaningless guides but the way R's played the ball around I felt was excellent and some great opportunities were made. A less organised (this is a Warnock side after all) team would have been pulled apart by this.

For me, the game was reminiscent of a Bournemouth side that did just this at Loftus Road a few seasons back. We won 3-0 on that night but Bournemouth was the team developing and going onwards and upwards.

I like the style of play that Warburton is producing. We will not be promoted this season but that was never on the cards. I think mid-table is likely but playing so much better than last season.

Had the woodwork been kinder and BOS squared that ball to unmarked players, we might have been looking at 3-3. Defending has to improve wthout a doubt but I believe we should continue with Plan A. With the squad we have, I think we are doing so much better than last season. Indeed, with the squad we have we will never be free scoring and the opportunities being created bode well.

Had this been McClarron, we would have set up defensively and finally capitulated to a goal and then a second, without ever looking like scoring. I prefer plan A - just get the basic defending right.

Northernr added 08:00 - Oct 4
Agree with all of that Hastings mate.

smegma added 09:06 - Oct 4
Dust the sand out of your vagina............never thought I'd read that in a match report !!!

cornwallmike added 09:46 - Oct 4
Brilliant and absolutely accurate summary of Rangers' part in this match, Clive. So on the nail I hurt my thumb reading it.

onlyrinmoray added 11:38 - Oct 4
Agree with everything Clive so frustrating , personally the second goal had me tearing what hair I have out,no marking at all Whyte all on his own loads of time to put the ball in the box,again all on his own to tap it in How why ...these guys are professional footballers

Nov77 added 13:14 - Oct 4
The fifth paragraph may be one of the best you’ve written.
Mincing around in your own half and around the centre circle is nothing to be proud of, opposition centre halves must be laughing, thinking ‘we are getting paid to watch this?’


Myke added 13:19 - Oct 4
Excellent summary and analysis Clive, cheers. All the tippy tappy stuff is pointless without and end product. A couple of weeks ago I likened our forward line as the mini-version of the masters of tippy tappy - Barcelona. More worrying for me than the concession of the last 5 goals (which has been consistent of our season so far) is that they have suddenly dried up at the other end. Fine margins as you point out with the woodwork and Smithies being in the way (we have also being undone by our best ex-players in the last 2 games) but nevertheless, Hugill hasn't scored for 5, Eze for 4 and Wells for 3 and the rest.. not at all

Antti_Heinola added 13:33 - Oct 4
Great report Clive.
Still not quite sure what you, and others are railing about though? I saw the odd comment that we were a bit unlucky, because we played well and hit the post, but I think everyone agreed Cardiff were worthy winners. I don't think anyone at all has said anything about a moral victory either have they? And I didn't see anyone sneering about Cardiff's style. I think it's legitimate to point to things we're doing right - the passing was much improved on Wed compared to Sat, for example. And you can do that without going all Justice League. and I said this on the match thread, but I absolutely can't agree we were naive. Naive is letting us off the hook. We defended very badly. Naive is *not knowing* it's a bad idea to leave a player completely unmarked at the near post on a corner. They all *know* that is a bad idea, they just didn't act on it. That's poor, and, althoguh I hate to use the term, lazy defending. It was near half time and they collectively thought - 'fk it, we should be ok'. We understood the dangers - we didn't act on them. That's not naivety. We didn't lose because of our style of play, either - we lost because we at least twice, as you say, defended abysmally.

Myke added 14:05 - Oct 4
Antti., I have to disagree with you over your interpretation of the meaning of naive. Naivety is not a lack of knowledge which is ignorance but rather a lack of wisdom or good judgement. So in that sense we were certainly guilty of poor judgement and making unwise decisions when it came to the first two goals. Also for the Official Site to describe us as dominant is extremely unwise and poorly judged as it gives the very mis-leading impression that we were somehow unlucky to lose the game just because we had the ball a lot.

Antti_Heinola added 15:27 - Oct 4
Well, it's semantics, but naivety is a lack of experience, wisdom or judgement or more simply just being innocent. Naivety is a general thing, and these players have all been playing football for years - it wasn't naive to leave someone unmarked at a corner. It was stupidity, or, as i said, laziness. You cannot claim by any means that a back four with Leistner, Rangel and Cameron in it is by any stretch lacking wisdom or experience!
But anyway, as I said, semantics. I don't think we played with naivety, we defended a couple of times very badly, to me that's different, but it doesn't matter too much.
I don't mind the offish saying we were dominant either, because we were. Most of the first half was played in their half. We 'dominated' the ball - and the attacking areas. I think that's fine. you can dominate a game, but still be worthy losers. Besides, the official site by its nature will always be on the positive side of things, to think it wouldn't be is, well, naive.

Myke added 17:54 - Oct 4
Antti not only are you confusing naivety with ignorance (ie a lack of knowledge) but you are also confusing wisdom with experience. Being experienced doesn't automatically make you wise - if it did I would be brimming with wisdom! Experience only makes you wise if you learn from it, otherwise it's just simply a mistake. QPR's defence, for all their so-called experience, repeatedly make the same errors over and over again; poor positional sense, lack of concentration, failure to pick opposing players up, giving away silly penalties etc etc. Now you may call these errors laziness - and some of them may well be - but the fact is to keep repeating the same mistakes over and over is simply naive . Or as my late mother use to say, lacking a bit of cop on.
Furthermore, I have no issue with the official site being a little biased, what I'm saying is, is that it is naive to assume that having more possession than your opponent makes you dominant. If you're Man City or Barcelona yeah sure because they make their dominance hurt the opposition, but not when it's possession for possession sake. If the game finished 3-3 then we would be having a different discussion, but you can only talk about what you see in front of you. I think it's safe to say that a wily old fox like Warnock didn't lose any sleep over the possession stats on Wednesday night. I'm sure he would much rather be a real winner than a 'worthy' one - whatever that even means.

TacticalR added 18:08 - Oct 4
Thanks for your report.

Very well said sir. I have found the last two games hugely frustrating. West Brom and Cardiff know how to squeeze the space on the pitch and are not going to let Eze and Chair run around and do what they want. Cardiff don't care about possession and let us pass it around as long it was in front of them. They packed their box and we didn't have the nous to play through them, instead resorting to blasting shots from tight angles or from too far out. Maybe if Eze had got that goal it would changed the game, but I didn't think Cardiff were too troubled by us, happy to keep us at arm's length and let us run out of steam.

MartyMortyMilker added 19:36 - Oct 4
Good read, Clive - thanks as always

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