|AFC Bournemouth 2 v 1 Queens Park Rangers|
Tuesday, 14th September 2021 Kick-off 19:45
QPR's latest comeback falls just short at Bournemouth - Report
Wednesday, 15th Sep 2021 18:02 by Clive Whittingham
QPR finally left themselves with just too much to do in trying to retrieve another two goal deficit against an accomplished Bournemouth team at Dean Court on Tuesday night.
Not this time. Not quite. Queens Park Rangers, comeback kings of the Championship for the last two and a half years, two goals down once more but undaunted by the prospect of hauling that back for the third time already this season. Six points recovered from a deficit in seven games already and Bournemouth lined up in the crosshairs as victim number five.
Sam McCallum, vastly improved from a poor show at Reading at the weekend, got proceedings underway with time well on Rangers’ side. Both sets of players had stopped, and begun setting up for a penalty, after Adam Smith’s Peter Schmeichel-like stretched block of McCallum’s initial cross with his forearm. Never assume anything when Keith Stroud’s been left in charge, he’d actually waved play on, and so McCallum was able to burst into space in the area and improvise a finish past Mark Travers. It dug the league’s worst referee out of an enormous hole, but he was soon heading off down others.
A climb into the night sky from Lyndon Dykes, a powerful header, but too close to the keeper. A corner from Ilias Chair, a towering header from Jordy De Wijs, a goal for all money, a superb Travers save to his left. Ball immediately returned with interest, Rob Dickie taking a turn, Travers springing high to save up by the crossbar. A Yoann Barbet Diag™, an Albert Adomah retrieval, a bouncing bomb from fellow sub George Thomas, but not enough purchase to loop it over the goalkeeper. De Wijs attacks another cross from the left, but gets too much neck on it, as will happen when you’ve got a neck so thick Fred Dibnah would be coming to scale it for BBC2 were he still alive, and the ball sails over. A cross from Rob Dickie, a tangle of feet at the near post by Lloyd Kelly, and another Travers save away from an own goal. Dom Ball’s overhit cross is clawed out of the top corner by the brilliant home keeper. When Seny Dieng joins the throng for a late corner his opposite number had probably earned the luck that saw a loose ball land straight in his bred basket. Albert Adomah thinks he’s scored in four minutes of injury time. He hasn’t. The QPR fans massed in the side stand all think Andre Gray has scored with the last kick. He, also, hasn’t. Travers again.
Not this time. Not quite.
Of course the obvious takeaway from this is it would improve Rangers’ promotion prospects considerably if they didn’t get themselves into these situations in the first place. Millwall was standard Mercantile Credit Trophy fare, the tactical turnaround after that first half hour against Barnsley was a credit to the manager, the victory with ten men after an early blitz at Middlesbrough was exhilarating and the late rally against Reading at the weekend was the most fun I’ve had anywhere since the Metropolitan Police told me I was too old to be playing in the Wacky Warehouse. QPR are the division’s top scorers, but again the obvious caveat to it all is you’ll struggle to compete at the top end of any league conceding goals of this standard and quantity.
Unlike the games with Wawll, Boro and Grimley Miners’ Welfare the start to the game absolutely wasn’t the problem here. Facing a fellow promotion fancy for the first time, away from home, live on Sky Sports Brentford, Rangers seemed keen to make an impression. Sam McCallum was fouled and Ilias Chair whipped a free kick wide of the top corner after two minutes. The first corner of the game was powered towards goal by Rob Dickie prompting a desperate block, mini-scramble, and shot on the turn by Chris Willock that was also repelled. Bournemouth were resorting to tactical fouls with the time still in single digits leading to a rather harsh looking yellow card for Jordan Zemura followed almost immediately by a much worse tackle from Philip Billing on Osman Kakay that didn’t draw a card at all because, again, The International Year of the Wally Brain judging committee had decreed Keith Stroud’s reward for royally fucking up Swansea v Hull at the weekend should be another appointment immediately in the division’s game of the night.
Bournemouth’s first goal, completely against the run of play, with their first attack of any sort, was a gift. Rob Dickie announced his arrival as a QPR player and Championship defender of note with a monstering of Dominic Solanke on this ground last year, but he was caught dallying in possession by Jaidon Anthony allowing the impressive youngster to advance on goal unchallenged and finish into the far corner.
The online chat about how QPR seize initiative and leads in games rather than always trying to come from behind (stop it) tends to focus on the team selection. Albert Adomah’s impact as a substitute wasn’t quite as dramatic as it had been on junction 11 of the M4 at the weekend, but he still brought an enormous improvement to the team down the right where Osman Kakay had been recalled for injured Moses Odubajo and struggled badly with David Brooks and co all night. Andre Gray was a significant improvement on Lyndon Dykes, with the mitigation that the Scostralian had been starved of decent service and was probably frustrated to be removed just as Adomah was coming on, as was the case for Charlie Austin at the weekend, though I suspect fitness played a role in that change. It’s easy to conclude that some of the subs should really be starting the game but to my untrained eye the problem lies more in what happened to Dickie for this first Bournemouth goal.
When QPR are chasing games, firstly, the opposition are sitting back and lacking their own ambition to score, which isn’t the case earlier in the game – Millwall, Bournemouth, Barnsley, Reading all obviously more on the front foot earlier in the game than later. It means QPR can attack with impunity, whenever and wherever they like, with nothing to lose, and they do that at a high tempo, with pace and threat in wide areas, and quick and purposeful passing. It’s a tempo opponents can’t live with and, perhaps, one QPR would be unable to keep up for a full game but, for me, the build up is often a little too slow and staid without that desperation element. Dieng’s going to pass it to Dickie, and he’s going to pass it to Kakay or Ball, who is then going to either look down the line for Willock, or back in field to De Wijs to try and begin the same move down the left with Barbet looking for McCallum or Johansen and then onto Chair or back to De Wijs again. You can see it from the stand, and it needs to be done quickly and incisively to not be closed out by the opposition. When the tempo is high, when we’re chasing games, teams can’t live with it. When it’s slower, without the ‘now or never’ jeopardy of a scoreboard deficit and ticking clock, it is occasionally a little bit ‘half back passes to the centre, back to the wing, back to the centre, centre holds it, holds it, holds it’ and it caught us out here. The pace and purpose needs to be there before the situation becomes desperate.
Rangers rocked and rolled for a while. Ryan Christie making the most of McCallum twice giving the ball away to curl wide from the edge of the box. But there had been a couple of nice Chair and Willock combinations down the left, with Chair having one shot blocked and another wide, before the second goal which revisited an old theme of QPR being a little bit too nice and naïve for this cynical slog of a league. Multiple opportunities for a move-interrupting tactical foul were passed up as Bournemouth strung a very attractive series of passes and runs together across the field from right to left before a low cross from Anthony to the near post was poked in first time by Solanke. Kakay’s positioning will take some explaining to me but in general it cannot be that easy to score against you. Lose the midfield, lose the game, and although it’s perfectly understandable that a free transfer from Rotherham will not be as good as a £25m Colombian international, the lack of Sam Field was once again felt acutely through that middle area of the pitch last night.
When Kakay compounded a bad night with a hopeless giveaway shortly before being mercy killed in the Adomah sub Bournemouth worked an enormous overload in the penalty area and Billing looked like he’d scored a third goal for all money only for the ball to return to play off the inside of the post. Last ditch blocks from Dickie and De Wijs ten from time kept QPR in touch and Dieng saved at the near post to deny the superb Jordan Zemura a goal his performance deserved. QPR were lucky and unlucky, could easily have taken a point, could easily have lost by three or four. Bournemouth were the better team, with the better players, and a much cannier approach to the dark arts. They committed 21 fouls to QPR’s seven, interrupting flow, ending dangerous attacks, allowing their defence to regroup and not be exposed.
Which brings us back, as is so often the case, to Keith Stroud. Centre of attention as always. As I said in the preview, the PGMOL and EFL seem to love him. When Newcastle score a penalty with encroachment he gives Burton Albion an indirect free kick instead of ordering a retake, but instead of sacking him they sit him out for a couple of months and then bring him back. When he almost costs Brentford a play-off semi-final against Swansea with the nonsense sending off of Rico Henry in one of the league’s highest profile games of the season, they simply overturn the red card and give him another play-off semi-final the following year. Two horrendous non-penalty calls at Swansea at the weekend, straight back on the circuit in the game of the night on Tuesday. He’s that mate in every group, who jumps on your back when you’re not expecting it, or dips his ballbag in your pint while you’re in the toilet and thinks it’s hilarious when you get a pube caught in your teeth, and is allowed to hang around because “he’s a bit of a character” when actually, the real truth is, he’s an absolute weapon. Bournemouth players batting the ball down in the penalty area with their arms without a penalty being awarded is just sort of accepted as Keith’s amazing levels of banter because the television companies like to clip that fucking egotistical pitch entrance he insists on doing where he blows the ball a kiss for their socials. Oh Keith. He’s such a card.
It's maddening. And there are few better words to describe his handling of this latest shambling nonsense. The early booking of Zemura, and then generosity towards Billing moments later, is one great example – with Keith Stroud identical offences switch from being a foul worthy of a yellow card to not even getting a free kick, not only within the same game, but often within the same couple of minutes. In the second half Ben Pearson The Goblin Boy was brought on and very quickly, and correctly, booked for booting the ball away after the whistle and preventing a quick restart. But when Zemura later grabbed the ball and tossed it in the stand to prevent a quick throw in, nothing was done. Likewise Gary Cahill toeing a ball off towards his own corner flag long after the whistle had been blown for a foul at the other end, and Mark Travers allowing a ball to sit five yards in front of him in the penalty area, refusing to return it for a free kick on halfway. In fact, having been booked, Pearson gave Stroud a gobful, then grabbed hold of the ball and ran off with it to delay the restart for a second time, so in that instance it was an example of something that’s a yellow card on 87 minutes and 15 seconds no longer being one on 87 minutes and 20 seconds.
Let’s rattle through some of the others in vaguely chronological order… David Brooks deliberately, tactically, pulls back Chris Willock on 25 minutes as he accelerates away into dangerous space down the left – no yellow card. McCallum is fouled down the left on the stroke of half time, but it’s ok because the ball has run through to Willock and the attack is continuing – except it’s not, we’re coming back for the free kick, and players who would have been chasing to get involved in the move are now fighting, resulting in yellows for Brooks and Johansen entirely of the referee’s making. Andre Gray brings the ball down on his chest on the edge of the box, but isn’t then allowed to reach it because Kelly has got hold of his shirt with two hands – no free kick, assistant referee not doing a lot of assisting there looking straight across at it. Chris Willock is fouled, but then in going to retrieve the ball kicks out at Smith for a pretty obvious red card – yellow. The handball in the build up to the McCallum goal is a laughably terrible decision. Adam Smith, a succession of tactical fouls, injury feigning, time wasting and aggro, including the Willock incident, all the way through the final 20 minutes, but enjoying the sort of immunity we usually reserve in this country for the dipshit wives of American diplomats. Then he eventually got booked in stoppage time for some nonsense or other with Yoann Barbet, which was the absolute least of his many offences. Mark Travers blatantly clock running for all of the final half an hour, repeatedly warned with a typically big, dramatic, flouncy wave of the hands and point at the watch, but no card, and therefore no change. Why is Geoff Eltringham the only referee in this league who’s realised you can replace 30 minutes of this pointless fucking performative charade with one yellow card?
Every game he referees is like this. The constant interference, the incessent whistle, the ceaseless need to be involved - everything about his approach to the job just winds everybody involved with the game the fuck up until the whole thing inevitably spirals out of control. How many square ups, fights and stand offs do you see in the average game of Championship football, and how many did you see last night? How many times in a standard match do you see a free kick brought back because it’s not been taken in quite the right place, and how many times did that happen last night? Everything just takes So. Fucking. Long. Everything has to come with a chat, and a reposition of the ball, and a dramatic hand gesture, and a lot of pacing around, and a lot of posing, and a lot of completely needless, time-taking, strength-sapping, teeth-grinding pisballing around. Get on with it. GET. ON. WITH. IT. We are not here to see you. We are not here to see you. I’ve said it before, if you just wrote a load of decisions down on scraps of paper, and drew them out of a fucking drum once every 45 seconds for 90 minutes the game would flow better, be stopped less, and more of the calls would be correct, than if you left Keith Stroud in charge of it. If the ball was in play for 15 minutes of that second half I’d be astonished, and for it all Stroud awarded zero yellow cards for time wasting and added just four minutes to the end. A horrific referee, without a single redeeming feature, long since past the point that somebody should have called him aside for a handshake and a carriage clock, and now a complete liability. It’s getting to the point where we just shouldn’t go to the games he’s in charge of, so ruinous will his influence inevitably be on proceedings. I hate being at games he referees, actively hate it, I resent paying money to be there, I’d rather be at work, and going to football is usually the thing I enjoy most in the whole world.
Not, though, I hasten to add, the reason that QPR lost for the first time since April. With West Brom and Fulham to come on the road, Saturday’s game at home to Bristol City feels like a very timely moment to produce our first complete 90 minutes of 2021/22. I didn’t come away downhearted though. Bournemouth are a good team, they’ll go close, and QPR could easily have won the game with less inspired home goalkeeping and a couple fewer individual errors. Fundamentally, we won’t go far wrong with this level of performance and effort, and a standing ovation from the away fans for the team at full time tells you everything you need to know.
Bournemouth: Travers 8; Smith 6, Cahill 6, Kelly 6, Zemura 8; Christie 7 (Mepham 86, -), Lerma 6, Billing 6; Brooks 7 (Pearson 61, 6), Solanke 7, Anthony 8 (Rogers 77, 6)
Subs not used: Nyland, Marcondes, Stacey, Lowe
Goals: Anthony 11 (unassisted), Solanke 37 (assisted Anthony)
Yellow cards: Zemura 9 (foul), Brooks 45 (refereeing error), Pearson 87 (kicking ball away), Biling 90+2 (foul), Smith 90+5 (your guess as good as mine)
QPR: Dieng 6; Kakay 5 (Adomah 55, 7), Dickie 5, De Wijs 7, Barbet 6, McCallum 7; Johansen 6, Ball 5, Chair 6 (Thomas 82, -); Willock 7, Dykes 5 (Gray 55, 6)
Subs not used: Amos, Archer, Dozzell, Dunne
Goals: McCallum 57 (unassisted)
Yellow cards: Johansen 45 (refereeing error), Willock 72 (refereeing error), Barbet 90+5 (some sort of fucking nonsense)
QPR Star Man – Sam McCallum 7 Huge improvement from the weekend, and a goal to nudge him ahead of a couple of others.
Referee – Keith Stroud (Hampshire) 3 Makes you wish you were anywhere else but here.
Attendance – 10,495 (1,500 QPR) Another brilliant away following from W12, great noise from the away end and a superb reaction to give the team a standing ovation at full time despite the result. Hopefully that will drive us onto a big win at the weekend. Strongly suspect, and hope, the head steward’s needlessly petty, aggressive, jobsworth attempt to take a child down at the knees for running to the side of the pitch at full time to get Albert Adomah’s shirt will result in her getting a collar felt by her superiors/the local constabulary. Stupid, needless and spiteful.
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