|Derby County 0 v 1 Queens Park Rangers|
Wednesday, 4th November 2020 Kick-off 19:45
Bonne bags late as QPR go back-to-back - Report
Thursday, 5th Nov 2020 15:48 by Clive Whittingham
Macauley Bonne scored late with his head on the road for a second time in his fledgling QPR career as Rangers made it back-to-back victories with a 1-0 success at Derby on Wednesday night.
Game won, game lost, game pulled out of the fire in injury time. The victory against Cardiff City at Loftus Road on Saturday was not only Queens Park Rangers’ first in eight attempts, but an enormous weight lifted from their shoulders as pressure and criticism grew over their dire lockdown form.
Dom Ball, as I live and breathe, had done the heavy lifting there, but QPR aren’t going to break out of their sixteenth-in-the-Championship malaise winning once every eight games or so. Well, they are, but not in the right direction. What’s needed is consecutive victories, unbeaten runs, rather than six weeks of teeth grinding relieved by the odd cliff-hanger that falls our way. As we pointed out in our preview, Rangers have managed to win consecutive league games on only ten occasions across the last four and a bit seasons – some 194 matches. Even in last year’s improved finish of thirteenth in the Championship, Mark Warburton’s men only won and then won again in the next game three times - beating Blackburn 4-2 and Hull 3-2 in a week, Sheff Wed (2-1), Luton (3-2) and Millwall (2-1) in September, Preston and Birmingham (both 2-0).
For the pessimists, this season is about finding three teams worse than QPR and getting the hell out of here. As a side that so seldom wins away, we’ve missed the beered up masses at Loftus Road more than most teams have suffered for lack of a home crowd. The Cardiff win was only the fourth in 20 games without fans so far. Despite Ball’s heroics, it’s not been a good week in that regard, with the supposed banker whipping boys Wycombe suddenly winning twice on the spin, and Sheffield Wednesday getting six of their twelve points back despite their flagrant FFP breaches and accountancy malpractice being, once again, proven in the latest appeal. Sustainability, future security of the club, not having our whole existence hanging on a rich foreign owner writing a cheque each month… we get all that… but it is rather galling to watch our club go through five painful years of cleaning house, having been levied with one of the biggest fines ever issued in world sport, only to now see others repeatedly dodging laws and, when caught, metered out such meagre and meaningless punishments as to make the rules hardly worth bothering about at all.
Oh, and look who it is. Derby County, once denied a promotion by a QPR side so far over the FFP line the line was a dot to them, now themselves plugging away on the most expensive patch of out-of-town retail park anywhere in the known universe, relying on an ever-expanding 35-year-old striker no longer fit enough to play as a striker, whose wages are being subbed by an online casino in exchange for him wearing a certain squad number to help persuade the easily influenced that online roulette may be an answer to the horrors of their existence.
In theory, on paper, absolutely perfect for Rangers to go chasing that elusive consecutive win. They’d finished last season with four defeats in the last five games, with only a victory against Birmingham on the final day to stem the bleeding and, frankly, I could put together a team from the Crown and Sceptre that would have beaten Birmingham in the final dozen games of 2019/20. They needed penalties to beat Football League new-comers Barrow in their first competitive game of the new campaign, and that’s been a relative high point. Just one win from 11 games so far; no wins, and just two draws, including that Barrow game, from six home matches; only five Championship goals to show for nine matches of graft, and three of those were moments of individual brilliance from direct free kicks. Of the two goals they had bagged in ‘open play’, one was from Jack Marriott at Luton who they’ve since bombed out to Sheff Wed and replaced with 34-year-old Colin Kazim-Richards, and the other, at the weekend at Bournemouth, was turned in after a scramble from another Rooney free kick. They played well, and were only a poor refereeing decision away from winning, at near neighbours Nottingham Forest, but the jungle drums beat louder with each passing day that Phillip Cocu will shortly be out of a job, with Rooney the likely replacement. The cracks in another FFP façade, that Rooney is actually at Derby as a player coach, widened further here, subbed with ten minutes to go he sat alone in the stand, leaving Cocu and the actual coaches to toil alone.
But these are games QPR struggle with. Away from home, bit cold, backing up in midweek from a Saturday game, against a team in need with a manager under pressure. The Charity Park Rangers routine is as old as the club itself. Could they not only take the confidence from the Cardiff game, but also find within them the belief and the needle to travel away from home, force the issue, and pick up three points there for the taking?
Well, not to put too-fine-a-point on it, fuck yes.
The game initially started like any other QPR fixture. First, a farce around the Black Lives Matter kneel down. Are we kneeling this week? Are we not? Are they kneeling? Oh God, and Sky Sports are here again, it’s going to be on the fucking news isn’t it? Jesus Christ. What are we going to do Eddie? What are we going to do? In the end, we covered all bases, with some kneeling, some kneeling and raising a fist, some standing around chatting, and some believing the game had started and kicking off. Wonderful. Can’t come for us now can they? Bit of everything. When we did eventually kick off for real, Barbet’s Diags™ sailed straight over everybody and into touch. And it’s live.
From then on though, all QPR. Good link up between Osayi-Samuel and Chair won the first corner, and the pair combined again with Albert Adomah from that set piece to create a shooting chance over the bar. Next Adomah produced an impudent bit of skill to put Tom Lawrence into a different postal code and then delivered a perfect back post cross for Lyndon Dykes. David Marshall’s improvised one-handed save was good, but he shouldn’t have been in the equation. Dykes had to score. On the opposite flank Bright was giving Nathan Byrne a tough time, and after torching him down the outside had a shot deflected into the side netting. Faster, stronger, more alert, first to the ball – soon Todd Kane was winning possession high up the field and immediately feeding Ilias Chair in through the middle. Only his dalliance, and an all-or-nothing recovery from Matt Clarke, prevented an opener. Kane’s fine start also included a blocked volley from a corner, and a cross from a cleared set piece that looked like it had Adomah clean through eight yards from goal only for an offside flag to be raised. Kane, much maligned, building well on a good weekend showing. Chair had a diving header deflected away, Kane volleyed wide from the edge of the box, Marshall had to spring from his area to tackle Osayi-Samuel in open field after he’d skinned Curtis Davies. Rangers dominant. Little Tom Carroll, another nobody had much time for not so long ago, dictating things in midfield while Shinnie and Knight found themselves outnumbered and overwhelmed.
There were occasional Derby chances, and let’s be absolutely fair only two bits of excellent goalkeeping stopped them taking the lead. Their plan A, B and C seemed to revolve around switched crossfield passes from the left trying to get Polish winger Kamil Jozwiak isolated against Niko Hämäläinen and give him a one on one run at a narrowed back four. That could have paid dividends on three minutes when a slightly loose Dykes pass quickly turned into a shooting chance for the Pole, but Seny Dieng made a brilliant save off to his right. Or on the half hour when Derby broke the QPR press, freed Jozwiak and he fed in Rooney for a similar chance which Dieng, again, did superbly to lay a hand on the ball firm enough to get it round the far post. Dieng’s introduction to first team life at QPR so seamless it feels like he’s been playing there for years and, frankly, given what went before and how's he's playing now, I’m starting to wish he had.
We gently, lovingly, mock Warbs Warburton for various things, not least his tendency to focus on a missed half chance to score in a game where we’ve conceded three shambolic goals ourselves and the defence has done everything but set the team bus alight. But this was exactly what he bangs on about - the quintessential Mark Warburton’s QPR half of football. We’d been the better team, with more of the ball, the majority of the chances, all of the ideas, and a superior passing game… and hadn’t scored. What usually happens here, we’re all well aware of, and when Rooney drew a boot back from 25 yards and struck the outside of the post at the start of the second you feared the Sky commentary team may wank itself into a state of dangerous dehydration. Referee Gavin Ward awarded a corner, for reasons known only to himself.
Another one of those nights? Well, perhaps. Osayi-Samuel scorched Byrne again, saw the ball out for a corner, and a goal kick was awarded. When he did so again ten minutes later Byrne hauled him down for an obvious yellow, but only a free kick was forthcoming, and worse still the Rangers winger signalled good and early that his night was done owing to a groin complaint. With Albert Adomah and Lyndon Dykes both also unable to go past the hour Warbs had to burn through three subs in double quick time, and remove three of his most influential players from the game. On came Dom Ball and Macauley Bonne (a goalscorer… and Macauley Bonne, here all week, try the fish) quickly followed by Chris Willock. It’s the wrong Willock, Gromit.
Todd Kane’s deliberate attempt to haul Jozwiak to the ground, also not carded, betrayed a little tiredness in the QPR ranks, and when Lawrence ran away and fed Jozwiak in the area it needed a thunderous clearance from Dickie to deny a sub of their own, Colin Kazim-Richards, a tap in at the back post. Dickie an absolute monster at the back all night, repeatedly heading corners clear at the near post, looking absolutely determined to make up for his Barnsley aberration a week prior. Rangers though, starting to flag, with Ilias Chair paying for running his blood to water in the first two thirds of the game with a testing final half hour operating on fumes.
But, let’s have it right here, with a 35-year-old goalkeeper comfortably their best player on the night, Derby were gash. Their appalling start to the season had been arrested slightly by a run of three straight draws prior to this match, achieved with a switch to a 3-4-3 formation. That, however, was stumbled upon only because first Rooney and then Jozwiak were unavailable. Now both fit again – well, Rooney’s version of fit – Cocu reverted back to a 4-2-3-1 that had not worked for them earlier in the season, and didn’t function at all here, purely in order to accommodate his four ‘name’ attacking players. This is Derby under Mel Morris and has been for some time: always likely to prefer a name to a system, always looking for an expensive quick fix to a structural problem. For all last season’s talk, mainly from Sky, about an undoubtedly promising crop of youngsters emerging in the East Midlands and how after years of spending, things are different now at Pride Park, they took to the field here with one academy graduate among their starting line-up, and he spent more of the evening on the floor looking for free kicks than he did on his feet. Five of the starting eleven were aged thirty or older, three of them were 35. Louie Sibley, saviour in waiting, was afforded ten minutes at the end when Wayne nipped out for a cigarette break.
Even when they have played well under Cocu, it’s been a slow, ponderous, granular watch, and now they’re not it just looks like they’re deliberately waiting and allowing the opposition to get back in their shape before launching an attack because they enjoy the challenge. Repeated theatrical falls to ground by Jozwiak - including an obvious dive in the penalty area - and Knight counted as an offensive tactic. Bonne would match him dive for dive later in the game to be fair, referee Gavin Ward did well to be conned by neither and probably should have carded both. The night drifted by with the hosts trying to get at Hämäläinen first with Jozwiak’s pace, then with Waghorn’s physicality, both to no avail. Hämäläinen, from a typically nervous and timid start, grew quickly in confidence and had a great second half. Waghorn, Rooney, Jozwiak and Kazim-Richards all had a go down the middle at various points – none troubled Yoann Barbet, or particularly Rob Dickie who was superb. Lawrence’s run to create the Kazim-Richards chance was the first positive thing he’d contributed to the game, and proved to be the last. This myth of a player, bought at considerable expense, kept on through his drunken rampage and court case a year ago, happy to blame a bereavement for a potentially lethal drunk driving episode, still stealing a living with one good performance and an occasional eye-catching goal in amongst weeks and weeks and weeks of phoned in, anonymous, half-arsed, half-hearted rubbish. Get him on one of his good days and you've had it, but if Adomah hadn’t humiliated him so comprehensively in the first half here I’m not sure I’d have clocked he was even playing at all. Rooney, bless him, chugging painfully from one deep, neutral, unthreatening position to the next. When he actually got as far as the penalty area, he drew a save and hit the post, two of Derby’s three best efforts, but he spent much of his time in the centre circle, and at one stage I thought we’d accidentally stumbled into a UKTV Gold repeat of that Vicar of Dibley episode where Dawn French eats four Christmas dinners.
Could Rangers find a second wind and win the game? Willock, best performance so far, bundled through Byrne and escaped into the area with more options than he knew what to do with, and somehow missed all of them. Chair mishit a wide free kick, but it fell to Dickie anyway, and he shinned a great chance wide. A sweeping move from left to right got Kane in, and the way he’s been playing you’d have fancied him, but he volleyed his attempt at a third goal in five appearances wide. Geoff Cameron, as he had against Sheff Wed at Hillsborough, freed himself of markers at the near post for a Chair corner, but made a bit of a dad-dance of his attempt to hook a volley home. Come on Geoff, we’ve all had a drink.
This is what we’re like isn’t it? This is what we do? Actually, no. It’s not. Not last night. Having played well for 20 minutes at Barnsley, and 45 at Cardiff, here was a long-awaited 90-minute effort from a team without a weak link on the day. With time ticking down QPR were still here to win. Chair, blowing, crunched into a sliding tackle on halfway. His work rate on the night was fearsome, little fat legs spinning around like a cartoon. Another promising move as a result, another agonising breakdown on the edge of the area. No matter, another reducer incoming, this time from Dickie, best player on the pitch, and with Jozwiak once more choosing to roll around on the floor rather than retrieve the situation the centre back was able to stride forward into acres of space unchecked, and deliver a lovely cross to the far post for Bonne to power in with his head. Two goals for QPR now, both headed, both late, both off assists from the centre backs. It’s the side of Warbsball we can all get on board with and it was richly, thoroughly deserved. Living room scenes.
QPR now up to… sixteenth.
Derby: Marshall 7; Byrne 5, Davies 5, Clarke 6, Forsyth 5; Knight 5 (Holmes 72, 5), Shinnie 5; Lawrence 4, Rooney 5 (Sibley 81, -), Jozwiak 6; Waghorn 5 (Kazim-Richards 72, 5)
Subs not used: Wisdom, te Wierik, Bird, Roos
Bookings: Kazim-Richards 90+4 (dissent)
QPR: Dieng 7; Kane 7, Dickie 8, Barbet 7, Hämäläinen 7; Cameron 6, Carroll 7; Adomah 7 (Ball 59, 7), Chair 7, Osayi-Samuel 7 (Willock 65, 7); Dykes 6 (Bonne 59, 7)
Subs not used: Masterson, Kakay, Bettache, Kelly
Goals: Bonne 87 (assisted Dickie)
QPR Star Man - Rob Dickie 8 A superb recovery from the Barnsley debacle. Looked absolutely determined to make up for that, winning every head and tackle, clearing all danger, crunching into tackles, and eventually setting up the winning goal. He's got issues in his game, as we know, but I still think we could have quite a find on our hands here.
Referee - Gavin Ward (Surrey) 7 Went through a little contrary period in the second half, awarding free kicks for some ridiculously soft stuff while waving proper fouls away, not booking Byrne when Osayi-Samuel had skinned him and been pulled back, nor Kane when Jozwiak did likewise. But overall he gave the game every chance, stayed out of the way, and got the two big decisions - penalty appeals by Jozwiak and Bonne off obvious dives - correct.
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