|West Bromwich Albion 2 v 1 Queens Park Rangers|
Friday, 24th September 2021 Kick-off 20:00
Glaring errors cost QPR third straight 2-1 loss - Report
Sunday, 26th Sep 2021 12:48 by Clive Whittingham
Plenty of recurring themes at The Hawthorns on Friday as QPR lost 2-1 for the third league match in a row despite taking the lead in the first minute through Andre Gray.
Two one defeats, of which Queens Park Rangers have now suffered three on the bounce in the Mercantile Credit Trophy, are not the only running themes in their difficult second month of the season.
The defence has now conceded 14 times in nine league games, the same as second bottom Hull and one worse than third bottom Nottingham Forest. Those goals, as we saw at Bournemouth against Bristol City and again here at West Bromwich Albion, are frequently scored when Rangers are overawed in transition having given the ball away and been unable to recover with sufficient numbers or a tactical foul. Once Ilias Chair has conceded possession in a lethal area at just the wrong point of the game West Brom were able to sweep forward with their only significant passing move of a brutally attritional performance and slam in a well taken last minute winner through Karlan Grant.
But just as frequently they’re being scored off individual mistakes from players the team had previously been able to come to rely on. Moses Odubajo against Bristol City and Chair here both cost their team by losing the ball at crucial times in the game doing things they should never have attempted in the first place. More glaringly still, after Rob Dickie’s uncharacteristic aberration at Bournemouth came Seny Dieng’s nadir at The Hawthorns, somehow allowing the tamest of shots from Grant to squirm through his grasp and into the bottom corner. Having conceded suspect goals at his near post against Barnsley and Everton, here was one for the critics to really sink their teeth into, and all after he’d made a spectacular save from Adam Reach’s header in the first half as well.
Where I felt this game differed from the ones before it is QPR didn’t really deserve much better. At Bournemouth they were singularly unfortunate not to take a point at least, and against Bristol City they win the same game 4-0 on a different day. When QPR lose playing like that it’s a much easier pill to swallow, because you know similar performances will yield better results down the track. When you keep giving the ball back to the opponent and just try to Geoffrey Boycott straight bat your way through 89 minutes of football, with all the Championship shithousery that’s usually done to us thrown in for good measure, you run the risk of exactly this happening and you deserve little sympathy when it does. It was almost like Andre Gray’s dramatic opener, scored after just a minute when he bust the offside trap down the QPR right and found Sam Johnstone inexplicably having a walkabout far out of his goal offering an empty net, was the worst thing that could have happened. It gave QPR something to hang onto and protect, and for much of the game that followed it felt like that was the limit of their ambition.
Now, this does come with caveats, the first of which is always the same on LFW – I freely admit I don’t know what I’m talking about. Never played, never coached, never managed to any kind of level, these are as always just the thoughts and feelings of some idiot in the stand who can write prose despite liver pulping alcohol intake. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that had Rangers seen through this 1-0 win away from home to a team just relegated from the Premier League, and with far greater playing and financial resources than us, that this match report would be a typically flowery 3,000 words about the agonising ecstasy of seeing your team grind out such a success. There’d have been comparisons to the 1-0 at Barnsley during the Neil Warnock promotion season, when Adel Taarabt scored after 30 seconds and Rangers then sat on their goalline and withstood an absolute barrage for an hour and a half to post three crucial points in the race for the title. There would almost certainly have been some crowing about how Mark Warburton had once again sucked it to those who say he’s got no so-called plan B, and how well it bodes for the rest of the season that Rangers can win games in different ways. We were one Seny Dieng mistake away from all of that because what few ideas the Baggies had in the first place – essentially charge around at a million miles an hour screaming AAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHH and firing guns into the air in the hope the opposition gets scared and runs away – had long since run out by the point that one went in.
Similarly, had we come here and tried to play all the pretty, progressive football we’ve come to expect from this manager and team and lost the game anyway, I’m sure there’d have been a lot of teeth sucking and airing of the oft-misattributed ‘repeating the same action and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity’. Valerian Ismael’s unique ‘football under a grill’ style completely overawed Rangers twice last season when he was at Barnsley – two defeats and six goals conceded – and teams that have been able to execute an energetic, well-populated, high midfield press onto Stefan Johansen have enjoyed strong results against the R’s for a while now – it seemed strange that having won 15 of their 23 games through the second half of last season Rangers should fall in a hole against lowly Derby, Huddersfield and Forest but that was the reason for it. The idea to switch the style to try and avoid a repeat is perfectly reasonable, it brought a goal after a minute and might have been more successful had Gray been able to replicate that chance more often, and make the ball stick up front more than he did, rather than so frequently taking himself out of the play by running offside too early. For it all, Moses Odubajo had a long range shot tipped over by Johnstone and Ilias Chair burst through two tackles and could have squared a tap in for Lyndon Dykes but took on a daft shot on his weaker side – both of those chances would have made it 2-0 and killed the match.
Nevertheless, shoot me, I came away disappointed in us. I felt we were uncharacteristically shy on the ball, far too often taking the easy and lazy option to go back to Dieng whose succession of long clearances down field were tantamount to handing the ball back to West Brom every time with Bartley in dominant form. That it stayed 1-0 as long as it did was more down to the fairly dismal performance of the home team rather than anything QPR contributed on what was, again just my opinion, our worst performance of the season. Darnell Furlong’s first long throw of the game after three minutes was scrambled wide of the post with Grady Diangana loitering. Diangana then got going down the left side but rather spaffed his shot at goal. Alex Mowatt, who’d earlier cracked into Gray and been very fortunate referee James Linington didn’t iussue a yellow card, had a free kick from exactly the spot he’d scored against us for Barnsley last season but for some reason this time tried to go low under the wall and it was blocked. Straight after Dieng’s brilliant save from Reach was a prolonged period of pressure caused once again by the keeper turning down a short throw out to Odubajo in favour of a long heave down the field which West Brom seized back immediately, and this concluded with masked man Furlong heading a corner over and wide at the far stick. Repeatedly in the notes I’ve written ‘stressful’, ‘can’t keep doing this’ and ‘can’t continue’.
West Brom may be unbeaten this season but have been frustrated recently by Millwall, Preston and Derby and you could see why and how. Even while QPR were struggling to put two passes together, and failing to solve the problem of the ball not sticking up front despite Dykes coming on for the strangely anonymous Chris Willock, the home side’s threat was laboured. The natives booed Ismael’s decision to replace Diangana with our former loan charge My Chemical Hugill. That made the gifted equaliser a real sickener. QPR were baggage thereafter, Stefan Johansen had struggled all night and left the field injured, quickly followed by the oddly fragile Jordi De Wijs. With the absence of Lee Wallace and Sam McCallum already necessitating a reshuffle with Yoann Barbet to left wing back and De Wijs’ natural replacement Jimmy Dunne into the back three from the start, this does not bode well for two increasingly important home games to come this week. Rangers couldn’t get out, and when they did another sub Osman Kakay committed a yellow card foul for another free kick and another cross and another clearance and another shot and another deflection and another corner and another cross and another shot and another deflection and another corner. At some point somebody, somewhere, had to get hold of the ball, and keep hold of it for longer than five seconds otherwise it felt like a matter of time. The dam burst with a minute to go, although, again, only through a poor piece of play by one individual.
A pair of 2-1 away defeats to richer, stronger teams in the thick of the promotion picture, both of which could easily have been more positive results but for the odd mistake here or there, sandwiching a the sort of Danny Coyne game against Bristol City that comes along once every 20 years or so, is certainly not the end of the world the nuclear meltdown on QPR socials would suggest. As suspected, introducing expectation back into this fanbase could easily have toxic consequences, online at least rather than in the stands. But for the first time this season I came away disappointed. More because it wasn’t us, than because of the result.
West Brom: Johnstone 5; Furlong 6, Ajayi 6, Bartley 7, Townsend 6, Reach 6; Livermore 6, Mowatt 6; Diangana 6 (Hugill 55, 5), Phillips 5 (Robinson 54, 7), Grant 7 (Bryan 90, -)
Subs not used: Molumby, Kipre, Snodgrass, Button
Goals: Grant 75 (assisted Robinson), 88 (assisted Robinson)
Bookings: Hugill 90+3 (time wasting)
QPR: Dieng 4; Odubajo 5, Dickie 6, De Wijs 6 (Kakay 77, 5), Dunne 6, Barbet 6; Ball 6, Johansen 5 (Dozzell 77, 5), Chair 5; Gray 5, Willock 5 (Dykes 66, 6)
Subs not used: Austin, Thomas, Walsh, Adomah
Goals: Gray 1 (assisted Odubajo)
Bookings: Kakay 86 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Jordy De Wijs 6 Star man with a six tells you a lot, and I’ve got to be honest I’ve just abdicated responsibility here and gone for whoever had the best mark in the interactive ratings that you guys voted for. You could make a very comprehensive list of who it wasn’t, and that would probably leave you with just the centre backs to pick from.
Referee – James Linington (Isle of Wight) 8 Very generous with Alex Mowatt and his foul on Gray in the first half which looked a booking to me but, as usual, very good overall and in calm, authoritative control of the game without involving himself unduly. Absolutely right to book Hugill for that rather pathetic rolling around on the floor clutching his face routine at the end. That sort of stuff should embarrass players regardless of circumstance but to do it against a club that picked you up from a dead end move to West Ham and gave you a showcase which has led to two very lucrative moves since I thought was particularly poor form.
Attendance – TBC (1,800 QPR approx.) Some following from W12 for a Friday night televised game, and as is so often the case the response towards the team was markedly more supportive and philosophical at the end from the fans who were there in the stand than the reaction it received online from those who weren’t.
Pictures – Action Images
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