|Norwich City 1 v 1 Queens Park Rangers|
Tuesday, 29th December 2020 Kick-off 19:45
Improved QPR within whisker of shocking Norwich - Report
Wednesday, 30th Dec 2020 18:55 by Clive Whittingham
QPR backed their under fire manager Mark Warburton with a stubborn performance and excellent point at league leaders Norwich on Tuesday night - missing a great chance to take all three points at the death.
Trips to Norwich City have been like mainlining Dulcolax for Queens Park Rangers in recent seasons.
They were here on the final day of the 2016/17 season when a run of six defeats in the previous seven matches had pushed the R’s perilously close to relegation, and with safety only just about secured by a 2-0 home win against Nottingham Forest the week before they promptly lost the match 4-0. Hoolahan, Pritchard, one or other of the Murphys, Chris Sutton, Darren Eadie, Jeremy Goss and Michael Wynn-Jones with the goals.
Then in 2018/19 a run of no wins in seven and one victory in 13 brought an end to Steve ‘Schteve’ McClaren’s reign of banality leaving John Eustace carrying the caretaker can for another shambolic four goal defeat – 3-0 by half time that one as Buendia, Stiepermann, Pukki, Stephen Fry, Lynn Benfield, the Rt Hon Ed Balls MP and Captain Canary took turns with the rubber fist.
Fast forward to 2020/21 and here came QPR again, a bin on fire rattling up the A11, no wins in eight, manager on the brink because of course, accelerating towards another public shitting of the bed in front of the Holiday Inn Corner Flag.
When things are going badly for Rangers, they tend to coincide with a trip to Norfolk, and you can usually read what comes next like a book – and not a very good book either, certainly not Bravo Two Zero by Andy McNab, which actually improves with every read. Norwich - everything QPR aspire to be with their financial security, new training ground, canny sporting director, talented team of well scouted gems, progressive manager and immaculately modernised stadium – are usually top of the league (stupid Flanders), and like to profit from QPR’s self-immolation by cracking open their collective skull and feasting on the goo within. Everybody scores: the top scorer, the second top scorer, the useless prick who hasn’t scored for years, retired players, dead players, players that aren’t players at all, goalkeepers, tea ladies, Delia if she’s feeling particularly spiteful on the table wine…
Playing the role of Anatoly Dyatlov this year, Mark ‘Warbs’ Warburton, still around to discuss the importance of first contact and demand water be moved through the core despite the weekend home defeat to Swansea City, after which director of football Les Ferdinand and CEO Lee Hoos pointedly remained in the director’s box, querying a strange metallic taste in the air, and discussing whether they could stomach Tim Sherwood’s unique brand of banterous testiculation on a daily basis. The conclusion, much to QPR Twitter’s angry disgust though not unreasonably when that’s your alternative, was that Warbs should be given further opportunities to turn this around. He would, however, surely struggle to cling to employment were Norwich to open up another can of jalfrezi enema on his beleaguered troops.
Off we set then, back three of Rob Dickie, Rudy Giuliani and Pepé Le Pew still in situ, with umlaut enthusiast Niko Hämäläinen still at left wing back pending a police welfare check at Captain of Glasgow Rangers Lee Wallace’s country estate, and somebody completely new to the sport wearing a Todd Kane mask down the right. Little Tom Carroll was allowed to stay up late and start in the midfield with Dom Ball and Ilias Chair milling around and making a nuisance of themselves. Bright Osayi-Samuel contract renewal chess moved bishop to knight two allowing a recall as a de facto second striker alongside Field Marshal Douglas Haig. Seny Dieng was the custodian behind the chaos, hopefully so dosed up on Weetabix it risked a descent into Coeliac disease. Norwich started with a load of players you’ve actually heard of.
Five minutes, Zulus, thousands of ‘em. Todd Cantwell - he was a boy, she was a girl, can I make it any more obvious? - invaded a crowd scene on the edge of the area and got Buendia into space down the right channel from where he scorched Dieng’s hands with a firm shot to the near post. Geoff Cameron enjoyed it so much he directed a defensive header straight back into the traffic on 11 minutes allowing Cantwell - he was a punk, she did ballet, what more can I say? - to pull some strings again. This time Vrancic got a clear sight of goal, swiftly closed down by the advancing Dieng. His attempt to recycle the play would have drifted out for a goal kick, but nobody from the Shepherd’s Bush School for Deaf Mutes thought to tell Rob Dickie, so he headed it straight up in the air and eventually the move came to a close with another Buendia shot and Dieng save. A feast for the senses. Strong consideration was given to sticking Silent Witness on instead.
Slowly but surely though, the game began to drift off script. Having spent the first quarter of an hour remorselessly giving the ball back to Norwich as if our faith and religion demanded it, QPR actually put together something you could reasonably define as ‘a move’ on 17 minutes with Carroll at its heart. Osayi-Samuel would have been in on goal with a better pass three later and although Norwich broke immediately and drew a panicked yellow card from whoever that is in the Todd Kane costume the play was soon back at the Coach and Horses end of the ground once more with Chair crossing to the near post and Carroll toeing wide with thick contact.
Occasionally Norwich would look like Norwich. A long distance one-two executed immaculately by the impressive Aarons and Vrancic is the sort of stuff Dom Ball has only read about in books, and really should have yielded a more dangerous effort on goal from the edge of the area. Buendia got in one on one with Dieng just after the halfhour and with the Barbinger of Doom honing into view with one of his all-or-nothing Hail Mary attempts a penalty and red card seemed certain, only for the tackle to be executed with uncharacteristic deftness and accuracy. Landed on his wheels, pulled over next to us and said “What you worried about?”
But, mostly, the home team started to behave rather oddly. Top of the league, 13 wins, Vrancic, Cantwell and Pukki against Moe, Larry and Curly? This should have been a cakewalk. Todd Kane was playing like a man who had Norwich on his coupon and Buendia and Aarons double teaming Hämäläinen was a meat raffle waiting to happen. And yet, somehow, not. Frustration with a clunky performance soon manifested itself in a series of screeched appeals to referee Oliver Langford for nothing very much at all. Pukki fumed at a thirtieth minute penalty appeal for an alleged foul by Geoff Cameron, but it was nothing of the sort and even Rob Styles would have waved it away. Afterwards Daniel Farke, while insisting he wouldn’t be speaking about the officials and brushing off ongoing questions about the whereabouts of the painting of The Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies, claimed his side should have had four (four) penalty kicks at least, but jumping up in the air and screaming the place down doth not a penalty kick make. Actually, that’s not true, but more on that later.
Dare I say, by half time, QPR were playing rather reasonably. I mean, still prone to just belting the ball into touch under no pressure and for no reason - Cameron Diags™ as much of a public health and safety issue as Barbet Diags™ as it turns out - but in behind the home defence a couple of times in the closing stages with first Bright riding a deliberate attempt to chop him down by Cantwell only to then pick the wrong pass, and then Chair dribbling wide of the goal to keep the ball on his right foot when more faith in his left would have taken him clean through on home keeper Michael McGovern and highly likely to be fouled by last man Zimmermann.
Nil nil at half time then, like turning up to unblock the drains at John Prescott’s gaff and walking away with a soapy tit wank from Liz Hurley instead. Which is more, Norwich, already without first choice keeper Tim Krul, also lost his replacement McGovern amidst the tea and oranges and were therefore forced to introduce 11-year-old Daniel Barden between the sticks for a league debut fresh from his recent appearance as Henry in HBO drama The Undoing alongside Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman. Is this… here for the taking? Is this… one of those nights? Is this… typical bloody QPR, throwing a bit of chum in the water to help reel you back in just as you’d finally decided associating with them is a complete brain-rotting waste of your existence?
Well, no. Actually, it was onslaught time. Farke had ignited the candle with the handle on the gâteau from the château. All the shots, all the crosses, all the high pitched screams at the referee, all at once. With Niles Crane and Kenny McClean stylishly anchoring the midfield and nothing but talent ahead of them there was to be no more pissing around. Stop waving it around and start fucking.
Dieng saved first from Pukki one on one amidst more enormous appeals for trivial bits of fluff, then Grant Hanley headed wide of the top bins after being left unmarked at a corner (shocked, I am shocked I tell you). Hämäläinen drowning in deep water, Buendia stealing his lunch money, Dieng to the rescue once more. Cantwell - he wanted her, she’d never tell, secretly she wanted him as well - an actual full goal from close range off a Pukki assist through a busted backline, very generously disallowed by the retired investigating officer from the original Ripper inquiry on the line. For all the squealing about penalties, this was the one worth losing shit over and Langford was forced to come across to the touchline and demand to know if Farke continues to harbour the two stranded British airmen under his mother in law’s bed. The knobs were flashing, the knobs. Pukki in again, Dieng big and strong. This one goes up to 11. Well, eight.
Rangers, somehow, rode out the storm. They had Methuselah’s father-in-law running the line to thank for it, but they were also defending well, with great strength and discipline, led by the latest in a growing number of excellent Rob Dickie displays, and the best performances for a good long while from much maligned pair Cameron and Barbet. Chair might have got a shot off sooner when played in between Zimmermann and Hanley on the hour, his dalliance allowed the latter to come back and kill him to death. Norwich, as they had in the first half, started to get frustrated and do silly things. Cantwell - all of her friends, stuck up their nose, they had a problem with his baggy clothes (Jesus Avers, really?) - charged into the back of Kane, chucked himself up in the air, screamed a scream they’d have heard in Cromer, and curled up on the floor. Brilliant on the ball, the game’s outstanding player, but I haven’t seen a footballer spend this much time wallowing on the ground since Jack Wilshere was cognizant.
Quite what Rob Dickie was doing loitering around on the goal line on 67 minutes only he knows, but it proved very useful as Sorensen’s low shot zipped past the keeper towards the bottom corner. QPR desperately needed to keep possession of the ball better, rather than handing it back to their opposition quite so readily, but once back in shape the back three at least looked solid. Sadly, a seed planted earlier was about to germinate. All of the constant, ongoing, incessant appeals, all of the haranguing of the match officials, all of the abuse from the bench, the almost certainly incorrectly disallowed goal, proved too much to resist. Skater boi said see you later boi (fuck me) and hurled himself to the floor one more time. Dom Ball had actually pulled out. It made no difference. A penalty kick. Pukki to his right and Dieng’s left. One nil. Does that Eyeball Paul thing with the vodka actually work?
QPR are, without a question, a quiet team of nice young boys. We suspected this anyway, and it’s been confirmed by taking the crowds away. They don’t talk to each other, they don’t talk to the referee, they don’t drive narrative and they don’t drive the mystery. Norwich, like Reading and Swansea before them in our recent past, never shut up. You could hear them all over the ball park. Whether or not you could stomach Rangers behaving like this is a separate debate, we desperately need a voice or two in this team. Whatever you think of the way Norwich went about this, it got them the desired result in the end with an intimidated and harassed official finally caving and awarding a penalty kick which probably wasn’t. Rob Dickie was actually booked for dissent in the aftermath, which was pretty astounding given what had been allowed to slide prior, and was almost certainly the first time QPR had spoken to Oliver Langford since the coin toss.
Another defeat then. Nine without a win for the first time since the 2012/13 relegation season. Stare into the abyss long enough and eventually you’ll find it staring back at you.
Or… not. QPR responded by coming up with a new fangled idea of attempting to score from corners, rather than punting them straight to the defender at the near post. Little Tom Carroll can take them it turns out. Feels like this might have been worth a mensh a bit earlier if I’m being truthful, Thomas. Dom Ball’s firm header from one on 78 minutes was a foot either side away from being an equaliser. Don’t worry about it, let’s get on with the quiz. Here goes Osayi-Samuel, screaming into the penalty area, hitting the deck under duress from Zimmermann. Langford, for whom penalty controversies have already been a bit of a thing this season in games between QPR and Rotherham, Sheff Wed and Reading, had rather painted himself into a corner now. If Cantwell’s best Jack Laugher impression was a penalty kick, then this had to be as well, as I very forcefully put to him while throwing empty Peroni bottles, creative swear words and graphic sexual imagery at my television set. Dykes, who’d taken and scored QPR’s previous four spot kicks this season, had been replaced by Macauley Bonne by this point so Bright took on the responsibility himself and smashed it home.
One one then. Still nine without a win for the first time since the 2012/13 relegation season, but a superb result given the relative league positions, teams on paper and balance of play. Warburton, oft-criticised for lack of alternate plans, rewarded for his switch to a back three. More importantly, in the wider context of QPR’s situation, this was absolutely not the performance of a team that has given up on its manager. It would have been very easy for them to chuck Warbs under the bus here, bidding him adieu with exactly the sort of 4-0 tonking we’d all gone into the game expecting. But instead they fought, they battled, they gave it everything they had, they left everything out there, and now they had their point. Fuck me sideways they even started laying some gamesmanship on their opponents in the closing stages - a myriad of tactical fouls, time wasting and Preston cramp reducing the contest to a farcical flurry of yellow cards in which the ball was never in play. Proper adult shit boys, I’m proud of you. Little Suzie’s growing up.
Little Suzie should have fucking won. Five minutes of five added played and suddenly, off a good flicked header from Bonne, here was fellow substitute Albert Adomah, with nobody around him, nothing but grass and goalkeeper in front of him, and support outnumbering defenders alongside. We’re going to fucking win. I don’t believe this. We’re going to fucking win. I’ve made it with a woman Kif, inform the men. When Adomah Goldilocksed the ball just right, taking the last remaining defender and goalkeeper out of the game, we were, indeed, going to fucking win. Look at this. Agggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhnd then, from the last part of the football pitch you can be on without standing in the pissing net, Bright Osayi-Samuel somehow Dean Coneyed it up and over the cross bar. It looked harder to miss. A full Hugill – no make-up.
For once, there are no words.
Norwich: McGovern 6 (Barden 46, 6); Aarons 7, Zimmerman 6, Hanley 7, Sorensen 5 (Hugill 89, -); Crane 7, McLean 6; Buendia 6, Vrancic 6, Cantwell 7 (Dowell 89, -); Pukki 6
Subs not used: Quintilla, Martin, Tettey, Omobamidele, Gibson, Omotoye
Goals: Pukki 75 (penalty, won Cantwell)
Bookings: Zimmermann 84 (foul), McClean 87 (foul), Skipp 90 (foul)
QPR: Dieng 8; Dickie 8, Cameron 7, Barbet 7; Kane 5, Ball 6, Carroll 6, Chair 6 (Adomah 71, 6), Hämäläinen 5; Dykes 5 (Bonne 71, 6), Osayi-Samuel 6
Subs not used: Thomas, Willock, Masterson, Bettache, Kelman, Kelly, Duke-McKenna
Goals: Osayi-Samuel 84 (penalty, won Osayi-Samuel)
Bookings: Kane 22 (foul), Ball 73 (foul), Dickie 75 (dissent), Carroll 88 (time wasting), Osayi-Samuel 90+1 (foul) Bonne 90+4 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Rob Dickie 8 Commanding performance in a backs-to-the-wall effort, including a point-preserving goal line clearance in the second half. Potentially a really exciting signing this one. Yoann Barbet and Geoff Cameron also gave their best performances for a while in the back three, while Seny Dieng was excellent in goal.
Referee – Oliver Langford (West Midlands) 5 A difficult game to referee, with Norwich screaming blue murder over every decision. That ratcheted up the pressure which eventually told when he incorrectly awarded them a penalty for the Cantwell dive, having earlier wrongly disallowed a goal by the same player on the linesman’s say so. I’m not overly convinced he would have awarded Bright’s at the end were it not for the nagging doubt that he’d got the earlier one wrong. Big decisions wrong – never a high mark in those circs.
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Pictures – Action Images
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