|Queens Park Rangers 0 v 0 Stoke City|
Tuesday, 15th December 2020 Kick-off 19:45
QPR and Stoke grind out dire bore draw - Report
Wednesday, 16th Dec 2020 16:32 by Clive Whittingham
Potentially the last game with a crowd at Loftus Road this season sadly drained away into a real damp squib on Tuesday night as two obviously very tired teams struggled to put passes together or pose meaningful threat on the goal.
Regular readers, hello to both, may recall back in 2019 Queens Park Rangers and Stoke City serving up 90 minutes of such unadulterated dross that I spent the match report talking about the time I travelled alone to Prague in the midst of a post-break up meltdown and spent a week at the world’s most boring and pointless business conference being held in a concrete block from the Soviet era out near the airport, with occasional breaks to walk across that bridge into the old town, which is what you do when you’re in Prague. In fact, it’s all you do when you’re in Prague. Over the bridge. Into the old town.
Now, it would seem, that QPR and Stoke were quite offended by this. There were, at least, two red cards in that match. What more, exactly, did I want? Smart arsed little prick giving it the big ‘woe-is-me I’m so bored and hard-done-to’ routine because there was a bit of dried prostitute’s blood on the carpet of his airport hotel room and now he’s had to sit through QPR drawing nil nil with Stoke. How bloody terrible for you. There are kids starving in Africa you know. And the north of England. Get over yourself mate. You want boredom, you think that’s boredom, come here we’ll show you what fucking boredom looks like. QPR Nil Stoke Nil Part Deux – This Time It’s Terminal.
If you’re one of those happy sorts that likes to think the best of people, look on the bright side of life, try and see the positives in situations, then I guess a clean sheet is something. It was QPR’s first in nine games, but fifth of the season which is now just one shy of last year’s total. Seny Dieng was largely untroubled in goal, and there were steady performances back there from Yoann Barbet, Rob Dickie and Niko Hämäläinen. You also couldn’t fault the efforts of Ilias Chair, whose moment of first half brilliance looked to have put a goal on a plate for Lyndon Dykes only for Collins to take the ball off his toe right at the last second, and who might have scored a late winner from reasonably long range had it not hit team mate Macauley Bonne (in an offside position, because offside position is where Macauley Bonne lives) prior to reaching the goal.
But, overall, this was less football match, more assault on the senses. Don’t come at me about the ratings, nothing and nobody deserves more than a six for their part in this absolute tumour. Pay back for the league’s host broadcaster Sky Sports for moving one of the few matches with fans this season into working hours on a working weekday. I can’t imagine more than half a dozen neutrals managed to drag themselves through this at home, and thankfully there weren’t even the permitted 2,000 supporters inside Loftus Road to suffer it in person. Two obviously tired and exhausted teams, one of them with an injury list almost as long as its team sheet, trying to battle through a horrendously unforgiving fixture list, making basic errors of judgement and execution through fatigue, over 95 excruciating minutes of pure dreck. I don’t particularly blame them, this season’s schedule was always going to be unworkable, I’m just annoyed I had to sit through it.
QPR did at least start well, with Albert Adomah restored to the starting line-up seeing a lot of early ball down the right, forcing a succession of early corners. Rob Dickie was unfortunate to see a looping header from one of those cleared from the line, and when Chair got in behind with an immaculate touch and provided good, early service to Dykes the only question was whether it was a bad miss or great defending. That was all in the first 12 minutes and the next thing I’ve written down is a fairly vintage Yoann Barbet yellow card on 31 minutes for abandoning his defensive station to clatter right through the back of an opponent on halfway – advantage was played, but it was deemed reckless enough for a card in any case by friend of the site Keith Stroud, as per that increasingly complex and complicated new rule.
A man returning the ball to play from the front row of South Africa Road with an Alan McDonald-style no nonsense clearing header, executed to perfection without his flat cap shifting an inch, immediately put him in the running for man of the match. A minute of first half stoppage time was added in which Stroud (smaller than most of the stuff that’s come out of my advent calendar) erroneously awarded Stoke a corner, realised he’d fucked up, so abandoned the game before it could be taken.
So that’s the first half. Start of the second, Stoke moved up a couple of gears (you mean there’s a SECOND GEAR!?) in much the same way that QPR had at the beginning of the first, attacking with vague purpose down the flanks, and forcing a number of early set pieces. Todd Kane at one point decided to hit the inside of his own post, to get the blood pumping a bit, and at another took a full-on Arthur Fowler swing at a bouncing ball just because what’s the fucking point any more and skied it all the way over his own penalty box and out for a throw in on the other side. I’ve seen poppies get closer to James McClean than he did in the first 15 minutes of the second half but Dom Ball was soon introduced from the bench to stodge up the midfield area some more and abate the growing Stoke pressure and while that felt a bit of a strange change at the time it worked to the extent that the visitors only really created one more thing in the rest of the game, a header from close range on 70 minutes by Nick Powell which missed the target and should, if we’re being honest, have been scored. It was the first time I’d realised Powell was playing – like Tom Carroll and several others, a creative player suffocated by the game around him. This was a nil niler from a long, long way out.
Warbs Warburton also sent on Chrissy Willock for Albert Adomah, who faded hard and fast after that bright beginning, and he did some nice bits and pieces at times. A late shot well off target off a rare coherent, fluid passing move was perhaps a better chance than he made it look. The changes did at least make Rangers a bit better in this game, in contrast to the recent matches with Millwall and Rotherham, but their tactic, really from 15 minutes onwards, was simply to give the ball to Ilias Chair and see if he can beat three or four men by himself. Would you mind awfully just winning this game by yourself for us Illy, there’s a good hobbit. He wasn’t far off on a couple of occasions to be fair to him, but it made for a rather bleak and hopeless watch, particularly with the giant, imposing Harry Souttar lying in wait for him like some enormous, hulking troll whenever he got within looking distance of the goal.
Geoff Cameron might have got Dykes in midway through the second half having intercepted on halfway and moved into the Stoke half in a two against two situation but the ball he elected to play – lofted, hopelessly, out towards the corner flag and away from danger – couldn’t even be described as scraps for the Scotland international to feed off. When Glenn Hoddle talks about players having a “picture in their mind”, this one was drawn with a wax crayon. Not the first or last time Cameron, against his former club, had rather shambolically handed possession straight back to them. I don’t think I’ve seen him play as poorly as this for us in his two-and-a-bit years with Rangers. It was like watching an old dog trying to get up a steep set of stairs.
I’ll finish where we started the Huddersfield match report, with a QPR free kick just inside the opposition half, to the left of centre. A chance to put some ball in the penalty box. In this case a chance to pose some sort of threat with just four minutes of normal time remaining. Now, as then, Yoann Barbet dithered, delayed, shrugged, testiculated, clearly had no idea what he was meant to be doing with it (concerning), played a sloppy, nothing-pass to his left, and within one further touch the ball had been given away and possession lost. Again. A desperately poor end to a savagely awful spectacle. QPR have scored just once in four matches.
Let us never speak of it ever again.
QPR: Dieng 6; Kane 5, Dickie 6, Barbet 6, Hämäläinen 6; Cameron 4, Carroll 5 (Ball 57, 5); Adomah 5 (Willock 57, 6), Chair 6, Osayi-Samuel 5; Dykes 5 (Bonne 77, 5)
Subs not used: Thomas, Masterson, Bettache, Kelman, Kelly, De Silva
Bookings: Barbet 31 (foul), Hämäläinen 50 (foul)
Stoke: Bursik 6; Collins 6, Souttar 6, Chester 6, Fox 6; Cousins 5; Ince 5, Tymon 5 (Thompson 79, 5), Powell 5 (Oakley-Boothe 82, -), McClean 5 (Verlinden 82, -); Brown 5 (Fletcher 66, 5)
Subs not used: Batth, Vokes, Smith, Shawcross, Lonergan
Bookings: Souttar 86 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Ilias Chair 6 You, win this game for us.
Referee – Keith Stroud (Hampshire) 5 Perfect referee for a dreadful game, absorbed completely in his own pedantry and guesswork, and apparently thrilled to death about it.
Attendance – 1,300 approx Apathy, poor form, anti-social kick off time, Covid-19, third tiers… there certainly weren’t the permitted 2,000 fans in for this, one look at the Upper School End told you that. If I’m right, you have to wonder why the ticket ballot wasn’t opened up to non-season ticket holders, although it’s a fairly thankless task trying to organise this and maybe it was too difficult logistically at short notice. If you weren’t there you’re one of the lucky ones. A real shame for potentially the last game with fans this season to play out like this, it felt like everybody there could really have done with a boost.
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