|Queens Park Rangers 0 v 1 Reading|
Saturday, 12th December 2020 Kick-off 15:00
Olise's late strike ruins return of crowd to Loftus Road - Report
Sunday, 13th Dec 2020 19:56 by Clive Whittingham
Fans back in the stadium, but the same old story for QPR who lost at Loftus Road for the third time this season following Michael Olise's late strike for Reading.
One team flying high but increasingly beset by injuries, the other scraping the bottom of the form team but buoyed by the return of a home crowd for the first time in eight months. For a long time it looked like these two sides known for their hoops would cancel each other out.
The first half was watchable enough for 2,000 hardy souls spaced out around South Africa Road and the School End, back in their spiritual home for the first time since February, though chances were few and far between. Reading should have scored after 13 minutes when QPR’s ongoing aversion to defending corners properly saw Geoff Cameron caught under a ball at the back post and Michael Morrison heading wide from a couple of yards out. They could have scored after 20 minutes when one time QPR starlet Josh Laurent got Ovie Ejaria away down the left and his low cross slid narrowly passed Sam Baldock’s outstretched leg at the near post. The visitors looked good, marshalled superbly from the middle of defence by Liam Moore, physically and skillfully dominant in midfield with Ejaria and Laurent to the fore, though neither Baldock nor Sone Aluko looked or played like much of a replacement for absent injured duo Lucas Joao and Yakou Meite who have 20 goals between them this season already – two more than QPR have managed collectively.
For their part, Mark Warburton’s men threatened sporadically, with Little Tom Carroll metronomic in driving his team around the field during the first half. An Ilias Chair swerver from similar range to that he scored against at Millwall during the week was beaten back by Rafael Cabral. Bright Osayi-Samuel twice span his full back into dangerous waters, almost forcing a near post own goal out of Morrison in the first instance, and then singly unfortunate not to see Osman Kakay bundle in his service from close range in the second. Carroll tormented Moore first with a speculative shot that deflected off the keeper and dropped wide with the keeper committed, then with a delightful cross to the far post that he had to make an attempt at dealing with and managed, rather brilliantly, to get over the bar when an own goal seemed likely. It would have been nice to see where Niko Hämäläinen’s long ranger from 40 minutes ended up, but it struck a defender on route.
Overall though, a bit clunky, Reading missing key men, and robbed of Omar Richards by an obvious hamstring pull midway through the first half. QPR repeatedly swapping Chris Willock and Bright Osayi-Samuel over between left and right wings trying to get change out of 18-year-old right back Tomas Esteves and Richards’ similarly inexperienced replacement Lewis Gibson, a 20-year-old loaned centre back pressganged into out of position service with only 14 senior appearances to his name so far, the majority of those with Fleetwood in League One. In truth, while most would recognise Bright and Willock as Rangers biggest threats, neither child looked unduly troubled. Lyndon Dykes’ elaborately attempted twisting back header on the stroke of half time summed up his isolation and service starvation.
A farcical passage of play where Ilias Chair and referee Tony Harrington had a needlessly drawn out argument over the exact placing of a pretty neutral free kick, only for Chair to then pass it straight to the end of Reading’s two man wall, rather summed it up. Rangers really must stop making shit free kicks the microcosm of their afternoon’s endeavour.
Second half, with Carroll’s influence waning, and Reading apparently increasingly happy with their point on the road, quickly turned into the most obvious 0-0 waiting to happen you’ll see. Moore was imperious at the back for Reading, a huge barrel chested wall around which Rangers just could not negotiate a path. He never shut up, directing the traffic around him. Rob Dickie was just as commanding as him in the air at the other end, untroubled and impressive for the most part, if, like most of his team mates, noticeable and substantially quieter than the opposition.
A procession of substitutions added further flour to a thick mix. Osayi-Samuel, injured, Osman Kakay, injured, Chris Willock, tired, were replaced to little positive effect whatsoever by Albert Adomah, Todd Kane and Macauley Bonne. Rangers remaining static, or even regressing, for substitutions made while opposition managers alter the game in their favour has been a theme in recent weeks and when Reading added Michael Olise to what already looked and felt like a substantially better midfield mix you could feel that happening again. Him, Ejaria and Laurent with Rinomhota as a guardian is so much better than what we have across the middle of the park it’s a wonder this game was as close as it was – mainly thanks to the heavy lifting being done by diminutive pair Chair and Carroll. Neither goalkeeper had a serious save to make. Chair’s reaction to the withdrawal of Willock and Osayi-Samuel did not scream consensus.
It was a game that swung on two almost identical shots from outside the area in the final quarter of an hour. QPR went first with theirs, Chair finally breaking through the midfield traffic into space after a sloppy give away by Gibson, curling an almost perfect shot around a comprehensively beaten Cabral, off the inside of the post, across the face of the goal, and out to safety. Nine times out of ten that kisses the post on its way into the net. Chair thought it had done exactly that, wheeling away in celebration as it travelled.
When it’s not your day, it’s not your day, and with a minute left for play Macauley Bonne’s appeals that the ball had gone out for a throw in on the South Africa Road side of the ground fell on deaf ears allowing Olise similar amounts of time and space from 25 yards out. His shot beat Seny Dieng every bit as comprehensively as Chair’s had Cabral, but it beat the post as well, to win the match for the visitors amidst deathly silence at Loftus Road. Reading flagrantly pissed the five minutes of stoppage time away with timewasting unchecked by referee Harrington, but QPR were gone regardless. Could have played all night at that point.
It was interesting, at times rather alarming, and occasionally quite depressing to see our side up close and in the flesh for the first time since February.
There was some good; Carroll, in the first half in particular, looked such a good player, creative and forward-focused, constantly showing for a pass and demanding the ball, completely the opposite to the safe, sideways waif I remembered from his first spell; Chair was tireless, charging around and trying to create, tiptoeing through a land of relative giants in Reading colours; and Rob Dickie barely missed a beat defensively in the air, while occasionally letting himself down with passing in the second half.
The midfield, as we’ve suspected for sometime, is defective. That was always likely to be shown up given what Reading have across their middle, but standing there and watching it for the first time was a bleak experience. Geoff Cameron looked every day of his age, even routinely and frequently beaten in the air which you would think might be one of the benefits of having a former defender from Tony Pulis’ Stoke outfit in midfield. Carroll and Chair’s efforts all the more impressive for the wasteland they had around them by way of support.
I don’t particularly want to crack into two youngish kids learning their game, but I thought it was noticeable how limited our full backs are going forwards. Warburton’s system made a hero, going forwards at least, of Ryan Manning last season, but neither Osman Kakay nor Niko Hämäläinen have his ability, quality of cross or decision making in the final third, and too many times promising moves into wide areas ended with a poor cross, or players checking back inside out of crossing positions and choosing more passes in a heavily trafficked area. One of several contributary factors behind Dykes complete, absolute and total isolation in attack. This certainly wasn’t in the Player Development brochure that he, and we, were sold when he moved south during the summer. It didn’t improve for Bonne’s introduction either, contrary to the “why don’t we just play two up front?” quick fix mantra that, predictably, is starting to proliferate as winless games stack up.
But the biggest difference for me was the noise. Reading were loud. Moore never shut up once and Laurent wasn’t far behind him. There was constant, ongoing communication about who should be where and what they might like to do when they get there. Their system was clear, and they talked each other through it for 95 minutes. QPR, by contrast, barely a peep. There’d be fairly regular instruction for Dickie to go an attack the first ball, which he would do and win more often than not, but other than that you rarely heard them.
Look, Chair’s shot goes in, QPR win 1-0, completely different feelings and emotions from exactly the same game. The well worn, tired cliché about fine margins applied fully to the climax of this game. But there was plenty to be concerned about as well, and the question now being asked with increasing urgency across QPR internet land is how much of that is Mark Warburton responsible for, and how much of it would genuinely change for the better if he was to leave given the standard of replacement we’d likely be able to attract.
2020, the year that keeps on giving.
QPR: Dieng 6; Kakay 5 (Kane 72, 6), Dickie 7, Barbet 6, Hämäläinen 5; Cameron 5, Carroll 7; Willock 6 (Adomah 57, 5), Chair 7, Osayi-Samuel 6 (Bonne 79, 5); Dykes 5
Subs not used: Ball, Bettache, Masterson, Thomas, Kelman, Kelly
Bookings: Carroll 67 (foul)
Reading: Cabral 6; Esteves 7 (Holmes 65, 6), Morrison 6, Moore 8, Richards 6 (Gibson 27, 7); Rinomhota 6; Aluko 5 (Olise 65, 8), Lauren 7, Ejaria 7, Semedo 6; Baldock 5 (McIntyre 87, -)
Subs not used: Southwood, Melvin-Lambert, Watson, East, Onen
Goals: Olise 89 (unassisted)
QPR Star Man – Tom Carroll 7 Influence waned in the second half, but a lone quality presence in QPR’s wasteland midfield.
Referee – Tony Harrington (Cleveland) 6 Couple of dodgy calls over minor free kicks. In general a difficult referee to like with his ongoing fussiness and pickiness about the placement of everything, which immediately lapses into a carefree, do-nothing attitude when it comes to time wasting late in the game, but this wasn’t a particularly hard game to get through and he did it without and serious major incident.
Attendance – 2,000 Well, it’s a start.
The Twitter/Instagram @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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