QPR brimming with generosity in Wigan's hour of need - Report
Thursday, 9th Jul 2020 16:08 by Clive Whittingham
After the improved performance and positive result at Middlesbrough on Sunday, QPR returned to their abysmal lockdown levels at Wigan on Wednesday night, giving the home side a much-needed shot in the arm.
Here they come, sloping over the hill, racked with guilt and self loathing, desperate to feel better about themselves with a gift for those less fortunate. Prime soulful, mournful, generous target market for daytime television commercials begging for water, or medicine, or one of those dogs that helps you cross the road.
Can you spare just three points? Your three points could help a victim of shady businessmen get back on its feet. Every week another community asset falls victim to potless chancers from all over the globe who thought there was a fortune to be made with a Premier League promotion only to lose interest when it didn’t occur immediately. We found this Hull City, shivering by the side of the road, robbed of its dignity and health. This Coventry City was abandoned miles from home. Please, give just three points today to help a destitute football club start to get back on its feet. Text QPR to 1-0 1-0 1-0 to donate your three points now.
Can you spare a soft defensive goal? Your soft defensive goal could help a luckless striker who hasn’t scored in 85 games regain his self esteem…
Wigan Athletic have already escaped relegation once this season, winning eight out of 12 to move clear of the bottom three and up to the magical 50-point safety marker that at one point was the moon to them. For that, allegedly because of that, their Far Eastern owner has done a bunk, transferring the club from a legitimate company to an illegitimate one, clawing back his original investment through punitive loans the club cannot afford, plunging it into administration and having it docked 12 points. Now back on 38, they have to do it all over again, and they’ll be doing it without backroom staff, recruitment staff, scouts, canteen workers, coaches, support, medical and plenty else besides because they’ve all been sacked on the spot. Everyday people in everyday jobs with everyday salaries cast aside with no notice. Manager Paul Cook took time out from showing his qualities as a manager to show them as a human being, spending his game day ringing around 75 of them personally. This is the reality of life under the inept governance of the EFL.
Wigan can now only fulfil their remaining away fixtures because the local coach company has offered to take them for free and the players who had already deferred three months of money to assist the club through the Covid-19 crisis looked in their bank accounts last Friday to find it hadn’t been paid. They could just think ‘sod this’, few would blame them, but with games to come against hapless Barnsley, Charlton and Hull who are immediately above them in the table a second great escape in the same season is not beyond the realms of possibility, if the players are still interested, and if they could get another win on the board lickety-split.
Charity Park Rangers. One, two and three on the list of teams you want to see crawling into your car park if you’re in a tight spot. So gaping and willing you could probably get the balls in as well. Expect sitters from eight yards to by toed low and easy straight at your crusty, aging goalkeeper. Expect experienced former international footballers to nudge the ball away from their right foot with their left and then fall flat on their face in a dangerous area when they swing for it and it’s not there. Expect a player linked with many multiple million-pound moves to Tottenham and West Ham and Palace to go and park himself a full 80 yards away from where he can pose a danger to you and then spend the evening rolling safe passes backwards and sideways. Expect your midfielders to be allowed to run forty, fifty, sixty yards down the centre of the pitch unchallenged before feeding a striker in for a routine goal. Expect a lot of chances. Missed that one? Wouldn’t worry about it, we’ll treat you to another in a minute.
We've always been good for one of these timely no-shows. Wigan were unbeaten in five on this ground and hadn't conceded a goal in their last four. They never looked in any danger whatsoever of not sticking another notch on both those bedposts. In the first half they were as relentless as QPR were insipid. They could have scored on two, four, eight and ten minutes. First Jamal Lowe finished a counter attack with a low shot that Joe Lumley saved well with an outstretched right leg. Then Geoff Cameron messed up a clearance from a QPR throw allowing Lowe to square to Kal Naismith whose shot was deflected wide. Then Kieffer Moore got in behind and crossed low through the six-yard box with Naismith agonisingly out of reach. Finally, with overloads in behind QPR’s wing backs on both sides already threatening to engulf the visitors, Naismith set up Kieran Dowell, but his poor touch closed the chance down and his shot, too, went wide of the goal via a deflection.
Signs of life in the visitors took time to shine through. A pulse was detected on the quarter hour. First Aramide Oteh, given a first QPR start since Pompey in the FA Cup a year and a half ago and looking like a little boy lost, held onto the ball too long waiting for a shooting opportunity to open up when he could have slipped in Ilias Chair. Then a good ball out of defence by Ryan Manning set Bright Osayi-Samuel free and he picked out Ebere Eze who beat one on the edge of the box but probably should have tried to shoot before trying to beat a second man which he failed to do. That was it as far as threat went. In torrential rain Wigan were in greater danger of drowning than conceding a goal to this rabble.
Could they score themselves though? Dowell’s superb back post cross was begging for someone to answer that question in the affirmative but Moore fell over it five yards out. Osman Kakay was brave getting in ahead of Moore with a clearing header in the next attack. Maybe it wouldn’t be their day, like it hasn’t been their week?
This isn’t a team that gives up or feels sorry for itself easily though, urged on throughout by ceaseless boombox Paul Cook on the touchline - a man giving off big dad vibes, who almost certainly knows his way around an outdoor grill, and finds his ‘Kiss the Cook’ apron absolutely fucking hilarious every single time. The goal he desired, his players deserved, and this club craved actually wasn’t long in coming. QPR quite happy to wave captain Samy Morsy through from his deep lying midfield position. All the way, on and on, right through the middle, far as you like mate, to the point where you thought he might just Forest Gump the thing into Joe Lumley’s net himself and carry on straight through into the stand behind. Instead he caught QPR’s – frankly, on the night, atrocious – back three as flat as a shit carter’s hat and slipped in Moore for a powerful finish past Lumley and into the back of the net.
The response from QPR was the standard response from anybody who’s fast asleep – leave me alone, I’m quite happy like this.
Osman Kakay has played well the last two games, and came up with some brave defensive headers and thumping sliding tackles here, but perhaps showed more of his limitations than he had against Fulham and Middlesbrough, struggling with the ball on a slippery pitch. It was his turn for a bad mistake on 34, handing the ball to Lowe who was also then allowed to just carry on as he pleased, unchallenged, right to the heart of the danger zone. No goal from that, nor from Naismith’s 20 yarder on half time which Lumley palmed away well. But it was more through luck than judgement on QPR’s part. Geoff Cameron’s airshot by the corner flag was an embarrassment for a professional footballer of his experience in the game. I’ve often wondered at what exact age you go from falling over to “having a fall” and with another year contract in the bag I suspect we might be about to get our answer.
Somehow only one nil at half time, I’ve had more fun at funerals.
Warbs Warburton took action at half time, removing Dom Ball who’d protected the defence in the same way that little box asking if you’ve got a television licence protects the BBC iPlayer – click yes if you fancy a clear run through on goal. Sadly it was only Big Bad Luke Amos available by way of replacement, adding to both the inexperience and utterly powderpuff physicality of the QPR starting eleven.
Wigan had more muscle on their left back than QPR did in their entire team. Antonee Robinson, he of failed January move to AC Milan fame, looked like he’d stepped off the set of the Old Spice advert. Look at your left back, now back to me, now back at your left back, now back to me. An oyster containing two tickets to that thing you love – look again, the tickets are now a dangerous cross into your penalty box.
He actually started the second half with a strange incident, thrusting an arm high up into the air and seemingly, apparently, fairly blatantly, blocking Bright Osayi-Samuel’s cross with his hand. He immediately hit the deck clutching his face, but there was a touch of the Steven Taylor’s about it for me. Minimal appeals from the QPR players, but we’re nice boys like that, and a linesman looking straight at it seemed unmoved as well, though Championship linesmen are often incompetent like that. The division’s best referee Geoff Eltringham said no and our emotionally affected match director, mourning the dismal marks from his fine art degree and now left to scratch a living by stringing together abstract slow motion replays of nothing very much at all and lingering close ups of Championship footballers while THE FUCKING MATCH IS GOING ON OVER THERE, afforded us only one second look, taken from ground level, from the opposite corner flag, filmed through the goal net. So he could have caught the ball for all I know. Anyway, you fancy us to score a penalty playing like this?
I guess taking it might have at least moved Ebere Eze the sixty yards further up the field he desperately needed to be. His performances since the lockdown resumption have left him open to accusations of going through the motions, afraid of an injury that could jeopardise his much talked about close season transfer. Warbs says the suggestion any of his players aren’t fully committed and trying their hardest is “derogatory” and “ignorant”, but Eze spent far too much time far too deep in the QPR formation here, frequently playing harmless passes backwards and sideways rather than attempting more difficult forward balls that can actually hurt a team. Without the injured Jordan Hugill up front, and with a giant like Cedric Kipre ambling around at centre half in his club suit, slinging up crosses and long balls wouldn’t have got us very far. But when the final of umpteen QPR set piece situations was again taken quickly, sideways, and within three passes back to goalkeeper Joe Lumley, even the usually mild-mannered Andy Sinton couldn’t hold his tongue and hide his frustration on commentary.
It should have been 2-0 on 50 minutes, when Rangers’ wing back system was exposed in the channels again and Moore got into clear space in the penalty area. The Welsh international controlled the ball, got it onto his favoured foot, set himself for the shot, curled it around Joe Lumley, and missed the goal completely. Immediately more enterprising play down the right from Byrne ended in a low cross which he pumped over the bar. He may be a basic bitch, but he’s winning 1-0.
This nonsense could continue no more. Desperate times were desperate indeed. For the first time in lockdown Warbs summoned a scared, cold looking boy from his bench who my programme informs me is called Jack Clarke. On loan from Spurs apparently, so might be good. He came on down the left, Mide Shodipo joined the action down the right. Oteh was withdrawn, sadly looking a million miles away from a Championship striker, albeit in a lousy team performance with no service. Nothing nice to say about Todd Kane, who was also hooked, so I won’t say anything at all. The wing back system Wigan had exposed at will for an hour was abandoned, Kakay went to the right side of a back four. Off went Shodipo immediately, running with purpose and pace towards the opposition goal, qualifying him as a QPR Star Man candidate within 25 seconds of entering the fray. Having burned Robinson he pulled a low cross back into the area to put the equaliser on a plate for Ilias Chair, and he scuffed the shot straight at the keeper. Warburton was keen to make a big deal of this chance afterwards, saying it had lost his team the game, and was a momentum killer just as QPR were getting on top. Harsh and generous in equal measure. It was, and would remain, our only serious hot on target all night.
Spooked, Wigan made a tactical switch of their own, removing Kieran Dowell who’s an attacking midfielder, and adding Lee Evans, who’s more of a gags and physical comedy man.
Shodipo quickly drew a yellow card from Williams for a foul which interrupted another forceful run at the midway point of the half. Warburton can and will point out how difficult this all is for a young squad, now 11 months into their nine month season, robbed of several senior players through injury and financial realities, without both their 15-goal top scorers, with academy boys involved before they’re really ready for it, with a threadbare squad, in a difficult league, with two journeys to the other end of the country in four days and none of the overnight hotel accommodation that would usually entail. This is a QPR team of average age around 25, and it's only that high because of Old Father Slip and Slide at the back and Methuselah's Volvo on the bench, without them it's barely 22. You can feel and sense and smell the frustration coming off him in interviews when being asked about poor performances and bad results. He's desperate to just shout "why do you fucking think?" I’m a lot more receptive to that and understanding than many. Plenty of QPR fans would say they don’t look arsed, making token efforts knowing the season is over and already thinking about their next move. Whichever way it is, tired and drained, or lazy and half arsed, it’s difficult not to make a case for more minutes for both Shodipo and Clarke on this evidence. They at least looked fresh, and like they wanted to be there and have a go.
I’ve written three things down after the game’s second water break – absolutely necessary on a cold Wigan night in the pissing rain. One of them is a substitution, Faysal Bettache on for Chair to partner a rumour that Luke Amos was playing in central midfield. The others were both Wigan chances – Danny Fox beating Lumley to an eighty first minute corner and heading over when he should score, Kieffer Moore drawing a foul on the edge of the QPR penalty box in injury time when ideally the Londoners would have been pressing at the other end.
Quite how they didn’t make it 2-0 only God and Joe Lumley know. But with QPR playing like this, it was never likely to matter.
Wigan: Marshall 6; Byrne 7, Kipre 7, Fox 6, Robinson 7; Morsy 6, Williams 7; Naismith 6 (Massey 80, -), Dowell 7 (Evans 63, 6), Lowe 7; Moore 6
Subs not used: MacLeod, Pearce, Roberts, Jones, Dobre, Mlakar, Gelhardt
Goals: Moore 33 (assisted Morsy)
Bookings: Williams 63 (foul)
QPR: Lumley 6; Kakay 5, Cameron 3, Barbet 4; Kane 4 (Clarke 57, 6), Manning 4; Ball 4 (Amos 46, 4), Eze 5, Chair 5 (Bettache 80, -); Oteh 4 (Shodipo 57, 6), Osayi-Samuel 6
Subs not used: Rangel, Masterson, Kelly, Gubbins
QPR Star Man – Joe Lumley 6 Made three good first half saves to stop the score becoming a complete embarrassment. Helpless to do anything about the goal. On a day like this, and a performance like that, it’s enough to be classed as the best player in the team. The other candidate was Shodipo, who only played for half an hour.
Referee – Geoff Eltringham (Durham) 7 Usual calm, authoritative control of the game with minimal errors and few complaints other than the failure to clamp down on some pretty blatant time wasting in the second half – to be fair no Championship referee does this adequately, and QPR wouldn’t have scored if he’d added another ice age onto the end of the game so it didn’t really matter. The big incident was the Robinson handball, which looked absolutely nailed on to me at first glance but there were few appeals and the linesman was looking straight at it. Thanks to now being at the mercy of match streams, and with last night’s game overseen by a director with a fetish for long lingering close-ups on players and replays of nothing very much at all while the match is going on, I’ve barely seen it back so who knows?
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