|Queens Park Rangers 4 v 2 Stoke City|
Saturday, 15th February 2020 Kick-off 15:00
QPR's comeback kids stick four through Stoke - Report
Sunday, 16th Feb 2020 17:57 by Clive Whittingham
From two nil down and circling the drain, QPR roared back to beat Stoke City 4-2 at Loftus Road on Saturday and end a run of five matches without a victory.
For a while there, this did not look like the one. Playing into the teeth of a gale, with water pouring from the sky in sheets, without a win in five matches and without a goal in more than five hours of play, Queens Park Rangers were in trouble.
They climbed into the shit and started splashing about in it almost straight from the kick off. Visitors Stoke City, with Nick Powell to the fore as a withdrawn striker, had two shots blocked in the first 60 seconds and a volley wide from young hotshot Tyrese Campbell very soon after that. Liam Kelly saved nervously from the son of former Arsenal and Everton striker Kevin after Yoann Barbet had rustily given the ball away.
A good clearance from Barbet’s centre back partner Grant Hall was required on ten minutes, Sam Clucas had a volley blocked on 11, Tom Ince shot straight at Liam Kelly then drew the game’s first (very harsh) yellow card for a 50/50 challenge by Bright Osayi-Samuel after QPR had wasted a corner of their own. When QPR’s lone striker Jordan Hugill got in and hit the deck a penalty appeal was waved away, when Marc Pugh did likewise off glorious approach work by Ryan Manning and Ebere Eze his finish was weak, and when QPR finally did put a superb move together for the first time and got Manning into a crossing position from left back his centre put it on a plate for Hugill only for him to add another sitter to his growing collection.
Stoke were in no mood to be as profligate. Clucas, whose promising early years have given way to several poor career moves and who was sent off eight minutes into this fixture last year, rolled back the years with a touch and turn that took him beyond Yoann Barbet and into space down the Stoke right. Having drawn Hall and tempted him into a sliding tackle on the wet surface he checked back a final time and rolled a slick finish into the far corner. Within four minutes it was 2-0 as Campbell sought out the opposite side of the goal with an accurate shot that goes on the pile with the others you wonder whether a better goalkeeper may have saved.
Maybe that improved performance and draw at Swansea in the week hadn’t been a rot stopper after all, more a brief and unstable respite on the continued journey off the side of the cliff. At one point twenty fourth-placed Barnsley were winning at Fulham, twenty-third placed Luton were winning at Middlesbrough, twenty-second placed Wigan were winning at Cardiff and here were QPR allowing twenty-first placed Stoke to narrow the gap too. The sort of rampant dangers who can barely keep their tiny willies in their trousers long enough to get the computer on and tell the whole online world we’re sliding into trouble, probably never going to win again, almost certain to be relegated just as we were last season and the season before and the season before and the season before when they said the same, were oozing pre-cum. The rain came in horizontally, whipping into your face wherever you sat in the stadium. The Stoke fans celebrated, Tyrese Campbell cupped his ears to the stunned silence, the game looked lost and the warmth of the pub was calling long, long before half time.
It was half past three, and honest to God I’d rather have been anywhere else than sitting there suffering through this.
Then Ryan Manning ventured in off his left wing and played the sort of defence splitting through ball we’d previously only read about in books. Hugill strode onto it and smashed in a twelfth goal of the season from the corner of the six-yard box. Within moments Bright Osayi-Samuel had used his trademark strength, persistency and skill to get a ball out of the air on the edge of the box and down to the feet of Pugh who cutely fed it on one more to Ebere Eze - finally running on beyond the centre forward again – and he drew Butland before coolly firing in an equaliser. The two who’d done for Stoke in the first game of the season at their place had struck a quickfire pair between them again, and set QPR up for their first double of the season.
From there on, both teams reverted to type. QPR became the QPR that had stuck six through Cardiff, five through Swansea, four through Blackburn, three through Luton in half an hour and so on. Geoff Cameron looked like a man on a mission against the club he served for eight years and Dominic Ball was covering serious yardage alongside him to lay a platform. Jordan Hugill, buoyed by the goal, was giving a fairly hapless looking centre back pairing of Danny Batth and the newly acquired James Chester a torrid afternoon, taking them both on physically and winning every battle, caked in mud from an old school afternoon of centre forward play. In the space between the two engine rooms, Ebere Eze started to seriously look the part, playing much further forward than he had been a fortnight ago to great effect, building on the good showings at Huddersfield and Swansea with a masterclass here. Osayi-Samuel slowly started getting the better of Bruno Martins Indi, although a big penalty appeal just before half time looked like a theatrical fall and referee Oliver Langford was right to wave it away. Ryan Manning steamed into attacks from the left side like it was August again, and even coal-fired Marc Pugh was chugging along nicely and effectively.
Stoke meanwhile regressed to the overpaid, underworked slop they’ve been for the last three years. Powell, so mesmerising in the first third of the game, started throwing his arms around and sulking with team mates. Clucas, scorer of the brilliant first, was booked for bitching at the referee. Joe Allen, so ruddy bloody brave, was bossed by the makeshift Cameron and Ball partnership. Tom Ince was, frankly, a complete joke. Chester and Batth looked big, and slow, and out of their depth against a mobile attack. The dangerous Campbell vanished from the game minus any sort of support.
You never would have seen it coming after half an hour but it should have been 3-2 to QPR before half time. Grant Hall this time taking a turn at missing, essentially, an open goal from a yard out from a corner in first half stoppage time. Undeterred, Rangers set about the second half with real purpose. Pugh claimed he’d been clipped when played in behind two minutes after the restart but the fall looked like a theatrical, belated afterthought and I could see why the referee waved it away, though I know not many agree. Fifty one minutes, great move, the sort of football you don’t mind paying to see, Jordan Hugill seeking the far corner out with a curling shot that Butland parried away. Sixty two minutes, Ilias Chair fresh from the bench, immediately to the byline and delivering some teasing service, Butland off his line to punch away from Hugill. When Wee Joe tried a brave shot from the edge of the area Manning and Ball won it from him and Rangers countered straight back - Ebere Eze’s powerful drive was tipped over as it threatened to crash in off the underside of the bar.
There was the odd scare. When Osayi-Samuel lost the ball and Geoff Cameron, on a booking, pulled out of a tackle just before the hour Rangers did well to get a great cross behind and then from the corner Kelly and Campbell tussled over a loose ball by the near post. Kelly later, inexplicably, let an apparently harmless cross squirm through his arms, between his legs and almost over the line for the biggest disaster yet in a season of goalkeeping howlers.
But QPR looked seriously good in the last hour of this game. Yoann Barbet’s return may not have tightened the defence much, but his distribution from back there makes such a difference, as does Ryan Manning’s attacking from left back alongside him. The football was clever, creative, and ceaselessly attacking. A blatant haul back on Eze by Tommy Smith brought a yellow card and devilish Manning free kick which cried out for a killer touch. Hall got the wrong side of a static Batth, apparently thinking about other things, at a corner and was clearly and obviously hauled down for a penalty but referee Langford, ridiculously, waved it away.
There was one of those deliberate, cynical, taking one for the team fouls by Manning on Ince to stop a counter attack and gladden the hearts of those who feel we’re a bit too nice and passive for our own good. And there was a goal. A beautiful goal. Scored by Osayi-Samuel, on the end of a lofted through ball from Barbet, sent screaming into the far corner of the net when there seemed to be no angle for a shot, after a chop back onto the right foot so severe it sent Danny Batth skidding so far beyond the Loft End byline that he had to pay to get back in. From two nil down QPR were now three two up and absolutely motoring. Is it still raining? I hadn’t noticed.
QPR don’t do early closing, the shop stays open late regardless, and rather than rest on their lead and start taking the ball to the corner they soon had Geoff Cameron rampaging away down the field past multiple tackle attempts to feed the ball into Eze who moved it on one more for Bright who drew a big, strong save from Jack Butland to prevent it going 4-2. Come on Geoff, we’ve all had a drink. An identical move with Hugill in the Cameron role and Eze playing the part of God moments later got the seriously impressive Angel Rangel screaming into the penalty area on his shop mobility and he put the fourth on an absolute plate for Osayi-Samuel who took his turn in missing an open goal from half a yard out.
Three goals scored, three empty netters missed, three penalty appeals waved away, and in four minutes of injury time a poor spill straight back out into the danger area from Butland off a Manning cross that he really needed to either catch or shovel wide of his goal allowed Ilias Chair to sweep home number bloody four. Ebere Eze, Bright Osayi-Samuel and Ilias Chair. If I hadn’t seen such riches.
It was ten to five, and there was nowhere in the world I’d rather have been.
QPR: Kelly 6; Rangel 7, Hall 5, Barbet 6, Manning 8; Ball 8, Cameron 8; Osayi-Samuel 8, Eze 8, Pugh 7 (Chair 61, 7); Hugill 7 (Oteh 90+4, -)
Subs not used: Lumley, Kane, Amos, Masterson, Clarke
Goals: Hugill 34 (assisted Manning), Eze 38 (assisted Pugh), Osayi-Samuel 71 (assisted Barbet), Chair 90+1 (assisted Manning)
Yellows: Osayi-Samuel 24 (foul), Cameron 41 (foul), Manning 80 (foul), Rangel 88 (foul)
Stoke: Butland 5; Smith 5, Batth 4, Chester 5, Martins Indi 6; Allen 5 (Ngoy 79, -), Clucas 6; Ince 4, Powell 7, Thompson 5 (Cousins 66, 5); Campbell 7 (Vokes 79, -)
Subs not used: Davies, Gregory, Oakley-Boothe, Collins
Goals: Clucas 27 (unassisted), Campbell 31 (assisted Powell)
Yellows: Clucas 55 (dissent), Smith 74 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Ebere Eze 8 Loads of candidates this week. Manning influence on the attack from full back can be transformative; Cameron and Ball were completely dominant, playing the game and celebrating the victory like it was the last of their careers; Bright Osayi-Samuel initially seemed to struggle with Martins Indi but eventually climbed well on top in that one one battle against a player who has 34 full Netherlands caps; Hugill’s old-school centre forward display was finally rewarded with a goal and he absolutely bossed the two Stoke centre halves around all afternoon. But we’re at risk, as I’ve said before, of taking performances like this from Ebere Eze somewhat for granted, like the time we accidentally voted Paddy Kenny as our Player of the Season ahead of Adel Taarabt – he’s just so good, it’s sort of taken as read, and we look elsewhere for the credit. He pulled the strings all afternoon here, creating half a dozen really presentable scoring chances for others, and finally after several weeks of playing a bit too deep for my liking he got beyond the centre forward into an area he can hurt teams and score goals. Superb.
Referee – Oliver Langford (West Mids) 6 I’ve seen a bit of stick kicking around for him today and don’t get me wrong there were mistakes – I thought Bright’s yellow was harsh, and the pull back on Hall is the most blatant penalty I’ve seen not given for a while and took place right in front of him. But I thought most of the other penalty claims, and the Pugh trip, he actually called right, and the yellow cards were tough to argue with as well. Not his best, but as I’ve said before I like his style and he got more right than wrong in a difficult game to oversee.
Attendance 13,125 (1,600 Stoke approx.)
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