Willock’s moment of clarity shines through the chaos – Report
Wednesday, 10th Mar 2021 14:34 by Clive Whittingham
A moment of first half quality from Chris Willock, the midfield style of Stefan Johansen, and QPR’s new found defensive solidity were all to the fore in Tuesday night’s dog fight with Wycombe at Loftus Road, which Rangers won 1-0.
Queens Park Rangers v Wycombe Wanderers. Big step-dad energy.
Roguish Gareth, trapped betwixt and between a trio of midlife crises, back in the house he once called his own for a designated visit. Gareth who encouraged you to be in bands, and draw, and used to sneak you a sip of his Sailor Jerry’s, but now brings his horrible new mate David Stockdale to the pub with him, who chucks coppers into your Sprite to make you down it, and rants on about all the “auto-tuned shite” you and your mates listen to. Leave off David, he’s finding his own path, yeh?
And Mark. Mum’s new boyfriend after she sorted her life out Mark. Honest, reliable, unflappable Mark, with the semi in Arnos Grove, who teaches you to drive, and thinks you should be in the sea cadets, and stresses the importance of starting your pension early. Handshake you can take to the bank.
Is there a bigger insult in Championship football than Warbs Warburton saying a team is “good at what they do”? “Good at what they do” in Warbs World means they are, in fact, all that is wrong with the game, producing unwatchable bilge, that they actually should take a long look in the mirror and be rather ashamed about. Mark says Gareth’s team is “good at what they do”. And now it’s tense. Loftus Road, less a football ground, more a glass case of emotion. Eyes down look in for a fight for three points, and a son’s love.
And it’s live. Never mind the quality feel the width. Wycombe, like some sort of Argos Barnsley, playing a back four so high you’re offside as soon as you step over the halfway line. Chair and Austin could have bust that early with quicker balls from Lee Wallace. Then Wallace, Chair and Stefan Johansen all threatened to break through on the goal with better decision making over the final ball. Press press press. Kick, rush, dive to the floor, scream. A team that has taken Grandpa Simpson’s “you should have fired into the air, she would have run off” and turned it into a life philosophy.
Samuel improvised a scorpion kicked attempt which Dieng saved easily. Joe Jacobson’s free kick off a daft Wallace foul might have found the far bottom corner but for Barbet’s decisive intervention – and if you enjoyed that, can I interest you in this formidable robot hoover? Admiral Muskwe, enjoying his shore leave, turned another chance wide at the near post off a low cross from Samuel. We shall call the baby… Admiral.
My kingdom for somebody who knows what they’re doing to just put a foot on the ball and calm everything the fuck down. This was rapidly in danger of descending into a repeat of last midweek, with Rangers too easily dragged out of their own preferred style into that of the opposition and then beaten with experience. Taking it personally, Stefan Johansen, whose first half passing was incisive and accurate and whose eighteenth minute long ranger was just about saved by Stockdale right at the moment it seemed certain to nestle in the bottom corner. Whenever the Norwegian had the ball, there was just that extra bit of finesse about proceedings, and lo and behold QPR would put four or five passes together, finding players in space, which is really all it needed.
Inspired, Chrissy Willock, brilliantly around Jacobson and through Thompson with a flick and a trick, then all the way along the byline to the point where a shot was on – off the post and into the path of Ilias Chair to score from range even Dean Coney might have been ok with. One nil, Willock again showing his immense future promise, Chair now clear as top scorer with seven, Stockdale beaten on his near post and left to mull whether turning down the chance to go to the Premier League with Brighton because of his daughter’s SATs/a Harry Redknapp contract was really such a swish career move after all. That Rolls Royce will look banging in the car park at Forest Green Rovers next season.
After that, though, QPR went back to being rather their own worst enemy. Chair guilty of trying to do too much with a shot wide on the half hour when a furious Charlie Austin was in a much better position one more pass to his right. Then Austin himself guilty of giving a ball away setting a counter attack in motion at the end of which Wanderers’ outstanding player Anis Mehmeti drew a brilliant snap save from Seny Dieng. Daryl Horgan, who’s ability to choose the wrong option with his final ball knew know bounds, volleyed over on the stroke of halftime after Yoann Barbet had been caught being too casual over a ball he thought he could shepherd out for a goal kick.
This was very much the pattern for the second half as well. When QPR got it down, calmly, and played their game, they went through Wycombe with relative ease. Charlie Austin fired just over of the top corner; Ilias Chair hit the base of the post after Rob Dickie’s forceful forward charge sent the villagers scattering; Willock had a low cross desperately intercepted at the end of the move of the match just before the hour; Sam Field got in down the left but botched the cross. It was there for us, you felt a second goal might bring the roof caving in on the visitors, but there were also periods of immense scrappiness. Wycombe, oddly bell-bottomed in what looked like girls’ PE shorts, hung around in the game, with Mehmeti having another shot from the edge of the box deflected over the bar.
What affinity there does exist between the clubs built up over Ainsworth’s nine-year stint and dozens of player swaps was tested to the limit by a series of outlandish second half penalty appeals. Captain Birdseye went first under precious little contact from Jordy De Wijs, then Alex Samuel – who spent more time on the ground than he did upright last night – tried his luck with the Dutchman, adding a dramatic scream for effect. Referee Simon Hooper couldn’t help but laugh. Come on lads, we’ve all had a drink.
De Wijs was impressive here, as he had been at Ashton Gate at the weekend. An uruk-hai, hidden underground for months, fed on the slime of lesser orcs, now released on unsuspecting strikers, perfect for the occasion as Wycombe brought on first Bayo Akinfenwa and then Uche Ikpeazu. You will snu snued by the large women. I guess, in truth, the only time I really fretted was when the Dutchman went off to be replaced by Osman Kakay, such as his dominance had been, but Rob Dickie is a reliable sort and Seny Dieng’s come-for-everything attitude is such a fillip to his team in situations like this – marauding through crowd scenes and cleanly claiming problems high in the sky before they manifest. What a find he’s turning out to be.
A second goal, and with it the sort of relaxed enjoyment our ventricles so crave, remained predictably elusive. Geoff Cameron, brought on to solidify the midfield and add height, actually produced an outstanding pass with the outside of his boot to free Chris Willock but, tiring, he got the cross all wrong. The former Arsenal trainee was singularly unfortunate to find the post in the way of his low shot on the end of a great move and Lee Wallace cross. That would have finished the game, and probably pushed him over the top into man of the match territory. Lyndon Dykes was sent on for Charlie Austin but when Todd Kane pulled a perfect low ball back for him to finish the game he fell over it and smashed his ankle into a thousand pieces, such is his life at the moment.
For a while it closely resembled the game at Adams Park in December, right down to the style and timing of QPR’s opening goal. Mehmeti equalised late that afternoon and, in a way, I’m surprised Wycombe haven’t got more points, being this awkward and obstinate. They could easily have taken one here, but this is a limited team, understandably given what it cost to assemble, and the difference players like Johansen and Willock, in particular, make was there for all to see. This time, QPR had enough about them to see it out.
The bizarre insistence that Dominic Gape couldn’t be moved all of three yards to the side of the pitch to treat a nosebleed added a hefty six minutes to the end of the game which became a re-run of recurring themes: Ikpeazu took a turn for a dive in the box looking for a penalty, Sam Field climbed between Wycombe’s giant strikers to win one of several big clearing headers that made up for occasional lapses in composure in possession, and Seny Dieng marched from his line to confidently claim the final set piece of the game with the penalty box packed to the rafters. Stand up Seny, everybody look at Seny.
QPR now eight wins from 12, in which they’ve kept as many clean sheets as they did in the whole of last season. Ebere Eze, Bright Osayi-Samuel, Nahki Wells, Jordan Hugill, Ryan Manning, Jason Isringhausen, Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon all gone, and here Rangers are three points better off than they were after 34 games the previous season. Imagine their disappointment to discover, having finally breached twelfth, that there’s another half to this league, with another dozen teams. I was expecting some sort of a pot. At the current rate of travel, we can expect to be top of it six years from now.
Lot of history here in the Greek Islands.
QPR: Dieng 7; Dickie 7, De Wijs 7 (Kakay 76, 6), Barbet 6; Kane 6, Johansen 7, Field 6, Chair 6 (Cameron 65, 6), Wallace 6; Austin 5 (Dykes 65, 5), Willock 7 (Adomah 88, -)
Subs not used: Lumley, Bonne, Ball, Thomas, Hämäläinen
Goals: Chair 23 (assisted Willock)
Wycombe: Stockdale 5; McCarthy 6, Knight 6, Tafazolli 6, Jacobson 6; Thompson 5 (Ikpeazu 76, 5), Gape 6 (Oforbohr 83, -); Samuel 5 (Kashket 83, -), Mehmeti 7, Horgan 5; Muske 5 (Akinfenwa 69, 5)
Subs not used: Allsop, Grimmer, Stewart, McCleary, Onyedimna
QPR Star Man – Rob Dickie 7 Really struggled with this. Johansen was the best player on the pitch for an hour, but did fade in the latter part of the game. Chris Willock produced the outstanding moment to win the game, and was very threatening before tiring. Wycombe’s style, and QPR’s clean sheet, makes me feel like it should be one of the centre backs, and I was impressed with De Wijs, but then the amount of crosses they stuck in the stand, and the limited ability of their forwards, has me doubting myself. In the end the defensive stoutness, coupled with the ability to carry the ball forward and start attacks, makes me go with Rob Dickie. Don’t @ me.
Referee – Simon Hooper (Wiltshire) 7 There are quibbles – at least one of those ridiculous Wycombe dives in the penalty area second half should have been a yellow – but I’ve a lot of time for games refereed like this, calmly, with few cards, and the histrionics, play acting and screaming not just ignored but also laughed at. Basically refereed this in first gear, needn’t really have changed out of his suit.
The Twitter/Instagram @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.
You need to login in order to post your comments
Blogs 31 bloggers
Letters from Wiltshire #48 by wessex_exile
“And now the end is near, and so we face the final curtain…regrets, we’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention”. Not quite right Paul Anka, probably more than a few, but otherwise a fair assessment of where the U’s are today. It’ll be interesting to see how we perform with the relegation monkey finally off their back – I’m not expecting miracles, particularly with Tranmere needing at least a point to guarantee making the play-offs, but they’ll certainly be more nervous than we will be, so can we make that count? This will be my last blog of the season, and not yet sure what I may or may not do for next season, but suggestions are always welcome.
Letters from Wiltshire #47 by wessex_exile
Here we are, at the penultimate game of the season, and our last game in front of the cardboard U’s faithful at the JobServe. It has been a long, difficult, and definitely strange season, which frankly I’ll be glad to see the back of. That’ll we’ll be here again in August is definitely going to be something to celebrate, but I suspect we’re facing a summer of significant rebuilding both on the pitch, and possibly off it too. I won’t be the only one, but the biggest oddity for me has been being able to watch every single game – not always easy viewing, but something I’ve never done before, and probably never will again. But it doesn’t really make up for not being there in person, the long train journey away-days, meeting fellow U’s and other supporters, and of course sharing a beer or three. Fingers-crossed we can return to the terraces in 2021/22.
Letters from Wiltshire #46 by wessex_exile
That was quite a week for us all then. In the space of four short but remarkably tense days we have gone from having to take shoes and socks off to check how many more points we need to guarantee survival, or whether we would even achieve it, to breathing a huge sigh of relief knowing we’re almost there. But close of play this afternoon, whether by our own actions or the failure of others, I am sure survival will be confirmed. Of course, Tuesday night not only all but guaranteed it, it also virtually condemned local rivals Southend United to non-league football for the foreseeable. Looking at the host of fully professional former football league sides currently battling it out for the two promotion slots out of the National league (including Hartlepool, Torquay, Stockport, Wrexham, Chesterfield and Notts County), it is not going to be a walk in the park for Southend to return any day soon.
Letters from Wiltshire #45 by wessex_exile
Tonight, Colchester United face Southend United in what may not necessarily be the most important game of our respective histories (though it’s certainly very close), but is almost certainly the most important Essex derby ever. However this season pans out, by the end of it there’ll either be only one team in Essex, or worst case scenario, none at all. If the U’s win, then Southend will be 9pts behind with just three games to go, and a minimum of a -12 goal difference to overturn if they want to overtake us. Certainly mathematically possible, but that would rely on a remarkable turnaround in their form, form that they’ve shown precious little sign of achieving so far this season. The stalking horse is Grimsby, with their game in hand, who have rather belatedly shown an improvement in form, so their match against automatic promotion chasing Morecambe tonight is equally important, particularly if we want to avoid the unthinkable, with both Essex clubs dropping out of the league.
Letters from Wiltshire #44 by wessex_exile
So here we are, as the nation mourns the passing of His Royal Highness, Duke of Edinburgh, the U’s face the first of two season-defining moments, with our late kick-off match at home to Walsall. Before then, no doubt many will have been focused on events elsewhere, not least the early kick-offs for Grimsby (at home to promotion-chasing Bolton Wanderers), and particularly Essex rivals Southend United, who faced a tricky visit to Exeter City – still very much in the hunt for at least a play-off spot. As I finalise this blog, I know that Grimsby have beaten Bolton 2-1, and Southend earned a credible 0-0 draw in the West Country. More to the point, the U’s will know this too. Whilst I can’t help but feel that will ought to be to our advantage, it surely must also put additional pressure on a squad whose confidence is paper-thin. We must hope that Hayden Mullins, assisted by Paul Tisdale, get their heads right, and send the lads out this evening fired up with self-belief.
Queens Park Rangers Polls