|Coventry City 3 v 2 Queens Park Rangers|
Friday, 18th September 2020 Kick-off 19:45
Riches to rags, beauty to beast, QPR crash at Cov - Report
Saturday, 19th Sep 2020 16:40 by Clive Whittingham
QPR turned a promising first half performance and 1-0 lead into a defensively shambolic defeat at Coventry City on Friday night, with a growing public relations storm thrown into the bargain by the host broadcaster.
Warmth, contentment, happiness, joy. It comes into my life so seldom that its arrival can often startle and alarm. Like somebody ringing your mum’s house phone after 8pm – oooh what’s that? Who’s that? What on earth? It’s QPR playing well Clive, away from home, on a Friday night, on Sky Television. Don’t worry, I don’t blame you if you don’t remember.
There they were though, in a proper away kit, out of the traps like a frog up a pump. Ilias Chair with a half-hearted penalty appeal after 15 seconds of play. Bright Osayi-Samuel allowed to go too far unchallenged and unloading a powerful shot straight at goalkeeper Marko Marosi. Lyndon Dykes clearly and obviously fouled while streaking away in a two v two situation but somehow penalised for handball during the fall.
What few problems Coventry posed were mostly inflicted on QPR by themselves. Possession conceded on ten minutes resulting in a two on two that Rob Dickie rescued. A slack first touch by Tom Carroll allowing Ryan Giles to feed Matt Godden before Dickie and Osman Kakay, ink still drying on a four year contract, swooped to kill. Dickie giving the ball away to expose us three against two but Yoann Barbet mopped up.
Mostly though, it was about Queens Park Rangers. Mostly. They pressed high and fast, they controlled possession and field position, they hassled and harried Coventry’s back three and wing backs into mistakes and give aways in potentially dangerous areas. The Sky Blues hadn’t lost in 14 league games when the lockdown came in March and were streaking away at the top of League One with an attractive, progressive style of play. QPR’s early dominance here had wise sages exchanging knowing Tweets about a broadening gap between the second and third tiers. When Lee Wallace ambitiously tried to meet a corner at the far post with a first time volley and sent it skewing high into the night sky in entirely the opposite direction – captain of Glasgow Shankers – it landed plum on Osayi-Samuel’s toe and we built again from there. It was the sort of thing that makes it feel like your night.
There wasn’t enough goal threat to go with it. The balance in the three behind Lyndon Dykes isn’t right, with Amos employed at ‘ten’ more for his pressing ability without the ball than anything he does in attack, meaning Dykes is at times isolated without support, with Ilias Chair struggling to influence the game as much as he can and should from wide left. But you don’t see a team this superior in a game without making it pay with a goal too often and sure enough when Chair took a quick free kick and Osayi-Samuel read the intention it was all too much for a slow and leaden footed Kyle McFadzean, who struggled at this level previously with Burton Albion, and his clumsy tackle drew a penalty from Three Amigos star Steve Martin after some considerable period of thought. Lyndon Dykes reloaded the flamethrower and Marosi very sensibly got out of the way.
To be honest, 1-0 was a bit of a disappointment. Nil nil would have been a travesty and what came next was heading out to the garage with a length of hose stuff. With two minutes to play until half time QPR contrived to concede an equaliser of staggering defensive incompetence. Count with me the problems and errors as first Amos makes a token effort to get back at his man, then Barbet comes haring out of position for no good reason at all and clatters into the back of Jamie Allen taking them both out of the game, then Kakay far too passively stands off Giles and allows a cross to come in, then Wallace for reasons known only to himself leaves Matt Godden unmarked at the far post to come across and cover space at the near, then Joe Lumley fails to sort his feet out quickly enough to keep out a downward header.
Even after three consecutive seasons of conceding 70+ goals, even after watching us let in 76 in 2019/20, I’m pretty speechless at this one. I always hold my hands up and say I’ve never played or coached football, I’m just some gobshite with a website saying what I see while following a football team around, but I would love somebody who has played left full back at any kind of level to talk me through the thought process of leaving the only striker Coventry had in the penalty box unmarked at the far, left, stick so you can trundle across and try and cover some space at the near, right, post. Sadly, with Ryan Manning apparently on his way to Blackburn Rovers, Wallace’s performance descended from these poor beginnings into the sort of thing you shake hands with a glass of whiskey over, talk about the good times in the past and wish each other well in the future.
It didn’t necessarily have to be a disaster though. QPR turned it into that with a start to the second half every bit as insipid as the first half had been proactive. You’ll rarely see a team for from being as superior as Rangers were in the first 45, to as inferior as they were after half time. Coventry, who had appeared a little scared and timid initially, clearly realised there was nothing to be afraid of and started to play. With new signing Gustavo Hamer pulling strings in midfield and Ryan Giles, Callum O’Hare and Fankaty Dabo impressing most in a collection of promising young players, they took the game over.
Within five minutes they were two one up. Dabo escaped from the clutches of three QPR players without a glove being laid on him, Barbet and Dickie both horribly caught out by a low cross, O’Hare beautifully teeing himself up for a firm finish past Lumely, strangely rooted to his goal line. Like the first goal, a catalogue of ineptitude.
Now QPR were behind and things only looked like they were going to get worse from here. Lumley and Dickie got themselves in a horrible mess while pisballing about at the back in the fifty sixth minute presenting Godden with a chance to chip into the empty net from the thick end of 50 yards away. Mercifully, he snatched at the chance. Hamer had a sighter from long range himself after Allen had given Cameron something of a roasting. Then with Kakay all at sea against the excellent Giles once more a low cut back found the defence hopelessly sucked into its six-yard-box and Dabo had time to set himself and stride onto a rolling ball but a fierce strike just missed the top corner. Should have scored really. When Dabo then crashed through the back of Dykes and gave QPR a promising free kick on the corner of the Cov penalty area Ilias Chair made a mess of the set piece and then had to take a yellow card for fouling O’Hare and preventing the counter attack.
That rather summed up QPR’s second half. Several players – Lumely, Kakay, Dickie, Barbet – looked a bag of nerves. A couple of others – Wallace, Cameron – miles off the pace of the game. Some who’d shone in the bright initial opening disappeared from proceedings altogether when their team needed them to strap a pair on and start mucking in – Carroll, Amos, Chair, Osayi-Samuel. Dykes cut a forlorn, isolated figure up front, and stopped running. Too often attacks and attacking opportunities were interrupted, ended and wasted by players turning back inside and playing an easy, safe ball backwards. Chair was guiltier than most, particularly an incident where a counter attack with six Coventry players the wrong side of the ball was turned into possession on the halfway line with 11-men back in position in one swift pivot and pass in the opposite direction from that we were meant to be heading.
How we’d gone from that to this in half an hour was really quite something. But an escape route did open up. Just when all seemed lost, with the walls closing in, a crack of light appeared just like it does in the movies. There’d been a warning from an earlier Chair corner when Cameron headed down at the far post and Dykes was flagged offside amidst a tangle with keeper Marosi. Then, with 15 minutes to go, two Cov players went to head the same corner clear and got in each other’s way, allowing an unmarked Yoann Barbet to spectacularly volley into the roof of the net for his first goal for the club. Hell of a strike. Maybe we should have him on free kicks?
Warbs Warburton had slung on Paul Smyth by this point to chase the game and we settled in for the push for a winner. If we could get it, Rangers would be six points from six, with an early away win secured, and all thoughts of a weird half hour or so banished as one of those things.
But no. Of course no. Obviously no. Because what QPR decided to do instead was run a series of attack v defence set piece drills, without the defence. Coventry had three corners, on 77, 79 and 84. All from the same side. All outswung by Hamer. All delivered into an area populated by more QPR players than Coventry. All aimed at the same clutch of three v three around the penalty spot. All of them, all of them, all of them, ended up the same way – with a completely unmarked Coventry City player being allowed a free header at the QPR goal. The science is strong, but the test is only as good as the men carrying it out. The first time they tried, they failed. The second time they tried, they failed. The third time they tried, was the eighteenth of September, 2020.
You’re never going to get away with letting a Championship team, even a newly promoted one, have three goes at a simple task like that. Barbet, not for the first time, too busy flapping around and appealing to the referee for a foul as somebody steams in over the top of him. Still, he’s had a busy Saturday of publishing Instagram posts about the goal he scored in a defeat.
Mark Warburton was somewhere between prickly and angry when we pushed him on QPR’s woeful record of conceding goals from set pieces recently, railing back against fans who wonder whether we bother to practice them in training, “don’t be an arse”, and coming up with a myriad of reasons and excuses, some more reasonable than others, about sacrificing physical height and strength for a better ball playing team, sometimes falling victim to an undefendable delivery, sometimes having to mark a 6ft 4in player with a 5ft 11in one, and sometimes having to mark a £45k a week £8m centre forward with a kid starting out his career fresh from a youth set up. None of that, but none of that, applies to letting Kyle chuffin McFadzean have three cracks at a free header on our goal, and fans continuing to stand by the club and funnel money into it with no real return to normality in sight, have every right to be frustrated and angry about shit like that going on.
A game that could have been won and should have been drawn was now lost, although sub Dom Ball’s late effort from the edge of the area looked goalbound before it inadvertently struck Dykes as he was passing through.
You could have filled two hours of broadcast television analysing the utterly shambolic efforts of the QPR defence. What the host broadcaster decided to do instead was focus on the fact that neither team “took the knee” in support of the Black Lives Matters movement before the kick off. Cov boss Mark Robins helpfully chucked QPR under the bus saying it had been our idea. Now, neither team took the knee prior to the first match either. QPR, in fact, haven’t been doing so since Wigan away last season I believe, bar West Brom on the final night. Several rugby league teams and players have chosen not to, or done so originally and now stopped, or done alternative gestures of respect. Quite why it’s suddenly a story now, in this game, I’m not sure, and you really could not have picked a worse club than Queens Park Rangers to come after for it.
This society, this country, and this sport, loves a grand gesture to make itself feel better about its vile failings. What people who work for the NHS want is proper pay, proper levels of staffing, proper PPE. What they get is ministers who vote against all of that clapping outside their house for a minute or so on a Thursday night. Modern football engorges itself on this sort of crap to try and cover what a despicable cesspit of greed and dirty money it has become. The players spit at each other, dive over each other and try to con penalties out of referees, bitch and moan demanding other players are shown cards, cheat to get other players sent off, but don’t worry because they line up before the game to shake hands in the name of fair play while the official Premier League theme tune blasts out. Football works hand in hand with the gambling industry, plastering marketing all over stadiums, shirts, television coverage, pushing more and more young people towards “mental accas” and online roulette. The biggest sports news channel in this country spills out rumour after rumour after rumour, literally thousands of which don’t happen, while Sky Bet runs books on which might be true and which are lies. But it’s ok, because every now and again "Jeff and the boys" will do an ad where they tell you to “gamble responsibly” and “when the fun stops, stop”. Equal opportunities for black coaches remain a pipe dream, black managers in the professional leagues are like fucking unicorns, players are routinely racially abused on social media, black players are routinely set upon by white pundits and fans for classic dog whistle tropes like “laziness”, but don’t worry because we’re taking a knee before the matches now. There were points in lockdown where we had to have a line up of the teams, then we had to stand and have a bit of a clap for the NHS, then we had to take the knee, and then we could kick off.
These gestures are fine, important in their moment, but they should not be indefinite, they’re not a cure, quite often they’re just done to make the sport feel better and look like it’s doing something, and they shouldn’t in anyway take the place of some actual tangible action. Leeds United have been taking the knee, but they’ve also been making goalkeeper Kiko Cassilla their captain, just months after he served a ban for racially abusing Charlton Jonathan Leko on the pitch, something for which he’s yet to apologise for. Liverpool have been taking the knee, having previously printed t-shirts in support of Luis Suarez after he’d racially abused Patrice Evra. Chelsea have been taking a knee, while at the same time committing millions of pounds to mount a robust legal defence against scores of complaints of systematic racial abuse of youth team players by their coaches at the club in the 1980s and 1990s. Aston Villa have been taking the knee while employing John Terry as assistant manager – somebody who while England captain served a four match ban for calling a QPR player a “fucking black cunt” on the field of play. Terry's even been seen taking a knee himself. I mean the absolute brass fanny of it.
QPR did take the knee, as was right and proper, but have now decided the moment for that gesture has passed. Meanwhile, in tangible action, QPR employ more black coaches than the rest of the EFL put together – no exaggeration. They have a black director of football. They have a black director of their academy. Two of their last five managers have been black. They have been giving first team opportunities to black teenagers, often black teenagers who’ve been turned away from multiple other clubs. They have a best in class community department working a diverse corner of West London. They've handed the naming rights to their stadium over to a charity set up in the name of a murdered black teenager, promoting and supporting his dad's fight to tackle knife crime among the capital's youth. They did immediate, beneficial things for the residents of Grenfell Tower while powerful white people were busy wiping their laptops and voting against laws that would prevent tower blocks being clad in solidified lighter fuel in the future. There have issues, like every club, particularly on social media, and they bubbled to the surface during Ebere Eze’s early struggles, as we’ve written about previously. But a more diverse and accepting fanbase you’d struggle to find.
The club need to get out ahead of this story less they become a poster child for exactly the sort of “all lives matter” troglodytes they deplore, and hopefully if he’s minded to do so then Les Ferdinand will be front and centre Monday morning with a big fat “errrr, excuse me…” interview. But being hectored to by Sky Television, a broadcaster without a black executive among its management team, a broadcaster without a senior black commissioning editor, a broadcaster that has frequently sought out John Terry’s input as a pundit? Nah. Not a chance mate. Into the fucking sea with you.
A miserable, embittered end to a night that had promised so much.
Coventry: Marosi 6; Ostigard 6, McFadzean 6, Hyam 6; Dabo 7, Shipley 6 (Sheaf 90, -), Giles 7, Allen 7, Hamer 7; Godden 7, O’Hare 7
Subs not used: Mason, Rose, Pask, Walker, Bakayoko, Billson
Goals: Godden 44 (assisted Giles), O’Hare 50, McFadzean 84 (assisted Hamer)
Bookings: Shipley 60 (foul)
QPR: Lumley 5; Kakay 5, Dickie 5, Barbet 5, Wallace 3; Carroll 5 (Smyth 71, 5), Cameron 5; Osayi-Samuel 6, Amos 5 (Ball 82, -), Chair 5 (Thomas 82, -); Dykes 5
Subs not used: Kane, Oteh, Masterson, Kelly
Goals: Dykes 41 (penalty, won Osayi-Samuel), Barbet 75 (assisted Chair)
Bookings: Chair 65 (foul), Wallace 88 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Bright Osayi-Samuel 6 Best of a pretty mediocre bunch.
Referee – Steve Martin (Beverley Hills) 7 There’s one angle of the QPR penalty where it looks like McFadzean has got a good toe on the ball, but first look at normal speed and from most replay angles it looks a penalty. Very poor call to penalise Dykes for handball in the first half when he was running clear and had obviously been fouled himself. Not too bad overall though.
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Letters from Wiltshire #12 by wessex_exile
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