|Queens Park Rangers 3 v 2 Preston North End|
Saturday, 2nd October 2021 Kick-off 15:00
All the time in the world - Report
Sunday, 3rd Oct 2021 23:06 by Clive Whittingham
One nil up, two one down, Queens Park Rangers came roaring back through the rain on Saturday afternoon to swamp the Preston North End routine we've become so resigned to and win 3-2.
“The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” – Jack London. No relation of Nick.
This is Queens Park Rangers’ seventh consecutive year of Championship football. Since they were relegated from the fledgling Premier League in 1996, QPR have lived at this level almost exclusively for 25 years, bar a drunken stumble into the second tier from 2001 to 2004, and a giddy elevation back to the big time for three seasons in four between 2011 and 2015. You want a pub in Middlesbrough? We’ve got one. You want a bar with a late license for a midweeker in Sheffield? We know one. Parking at Coventry that doesn’t trap you until the second reading the classified football results? Got a spot. Train ticket to Huddersfield for less than the debt of a third world country? Try our workaround. Lunch in Hull? Got a place. Curry house in Blackburn? We’ll sort you out mate. We’ve been here before. We know this room. We’ve walked this floor.
And Preston. Oh yes, we know all about Preston. We know that every free kick will be delayed, likely by the ball being booted off to a vacant part of the pitch, while a crowd scene forms around the referee to debate the decision at length. We know that arguments will be started, and the ball withheld, to deliberately rile and provoke, and whether it elicits the desired reaction or not somebody will soon be on the floor, hands to face, as if attacked by Drederick Tatum. We know that merely being in the vague vicinity of a PNE player can cause him to collapse to the turf clutching a random part of the body, rolling around as if kicked by a wild horse. We know the referee is going to be pressured, constantly, throughout the match, to act as a trained medical professional forced to make judgements on whether North End players are truly screaming their final scream at death’s door after falling victim to a ferocious attack, or acting on a level not seen in this country since Eldorado left our screens. We know we’re going to pay north of 30 notes to be at a football match where the ball is out of play more than it’s in. We know the Preston fans get very chippy about mention of any of this, believing that every team in the league engages in this level of “shithousery” and “game management” and that it’s simply part and parcel of the loathsome modern sporting spectacle. We know that’s not true. This bitter, unwatchable, infuriating dirge is to be endured twice a year under obligation to the league’s fixture list. This is Championship football’s visit from the mother-in-law.
We also know QPR are unlikely to win the game. That’s not entirely because of the so-called dark arts. For many years now Preston have had a better team. While we’ve been twisting and turning through managers of wildly fluctuating styles and recruitment strategies of varying instruction, spraying money this way and that on nothing of any real successful note whatsoever, a succession of younger, more talented and better scouted players have been breezing into Deepdale at a fraction of the cost of our own – Daniel Johnson, Alan Browne, Sean Maguire, Jordan Hugill, Callum Robinson, Patrick Bauer, Ben Davies, Ben Pearson. Combine that potency with the less palatable strengths of their squad, and it’s a lethal cocktail for a QPR side that has tended to be too quiet, too nice, too naïve, and reliant on a decent tempo of game to stand a chance of winning it. Warbs Warburton’s side failed to score in both games against this opponent last season, have won only three of the last 13 meetings, and lost four and drawn one of the previous six games in W12. The only olive branch this mother-in-law is bringing is one to shove straight up your arse.
The split-your-ticket-at-Newark-Northgate workaround to all of this is to take the lead in the game. It’s remarkable how quickly the cuntery evaporates and the speed returns to the match once Preston go behind so just… make sure you do that. For once, Rangers had read the cheat sheet. Their start to the game was steady rather than electric, but Lyndon Dykes had already had a chance nicked off his toe and Ilias Chair a shot blocked by the time they went in front just after the quarter hour. Seny Dieng with a big claim and quick release, Chair afforded the time and space to carry the ball 50 yards down the middle of the pitch unchallenged, Andre Gray with the cross and Dykes with an improvised, stabbed finish after Greg Cunningham had got the ball caught under his legs in the six-yard box. Shame.
Perfect. Frankie McAvoy’s (or so it says here anyway) side had drawn five in a row in the league and with all 11 players dragged back to within ten yards of their own goal to defend the early corners the ambition clearly didn’t stretch much further than a sixth. With the possibility of a nil nil removed, now we’d see wouldn’t we? Chris Willock, again improvising at left wing back due to injuries, was first to make the most of the extra space, and Daniel Iversen saved smartly. Dom Ball, very good piece of skill, deliberately and cynically fouled by Ali McCann to enable his own substitution after struggling for a while. Alan Browne replaced him, rather than former QPR transfer target Ben Whiteman, which I was pleased about. Stefan Johansen, a beautiful ball into Chair, and the Moroccan back on the reverse to Gray who was just crowded out.
It was all going so bloody well. And then, a disaster of so many fathers it requires a paternity test. Moses Odubajo, wild all afternoon, drawn out too far, too wide, and taken out of the game by a slipped ball to Maguire. Rob Dickie, also high and right, taken out of the game by the pass. Jimmy Dunne, wrong side of Riis and slow. Seny Dieng, seemed to change his mind about coming for the through ball (I still think that Boro sending off weighs on his mind in these circumstances) and then wasn’t set for the resulting shot which he should save. Another questionable near post goal for the young keeper. We are, starkly put, too easy to score against.
Shaken, Rangers were lucky to escape in the 33rd minute when caught sleeping at a throw in – Odubajo just about recovered the situation at the far post. Gray rather hopelessly missed a headed chance from a Willock cross but had been flagged offside anyway (because offside is where Gray lives) and more pressingly Willock signalled to the bench that he had a problem with, I think, his knee which restricted his influence in the game until he was removed half an hour later. The problem of having an injured, attack-minded novice in his position, and an ongoing problem this season with allowing runners to burst from midfield unchecked and unmarked (John Swift) manifested a minute after half time when Maguire got in round the back and squared for Josh Earl to give the visitors’ the lead.
Oh God Rangers, what have you done? Opened the fucking Ark of the Covenant is what. Lid off, ghouls everywhere. And yet no matter how much I stared at it, there was no melty faced escape. This was us now, getting Prestoned again, in the teeming rain. Stay or leave. Those were the choices. At one point an incredibly soft award of a free kick on the edge of the QPR box saw Daniel Johnson sit in judgement on a three day trial about something or other before spaffing the thing wide. A chunk of four minutes added time at the end of the first half was taken up by somebody doing their shoelaces up – because apparently the Championship is just Monday night 6s in Kentish fucking Town and we stop for things like that now. Maguire decided he was injured first of all after 48 minutes – Johnson furious again, pointing and yelling. Maguire decided he was injured second of all after 56 minutes – already down for a free kick, and now suddenly writhing around on the ground, clutching a leg, screaming the place down. One of the most pathetic things I’ve ever seen on a football field – I include Sammy Koejoe trying to run in this.
I’ve got to wonder, in video review on Monday, when that bit comes on, and all the elite, professional, adult sportsmen are sitting in the room at Preston’s training ground, watching him carry on like that, before getting up and playing on, will there be laughter? Will there be piss taking? Will he be proud? Will anybody wonder, either aloud or to themselves, just how utterly ridiculous that looks?
The really, really stupid thing about it all is when the ball was in play, and Preston wanted to play with it, they’ve got good players, Maguire and Johnson chief among them. In round the back of injured and out of position Willock again soon after the doctor had reattached his severed leg, Maguire cut another ball back that was absolutely crying out to be scored. The Preston fans may get aggy about criticism of their team’s approach, they may throw their toys out of the pram at Nick London’s commentary, they may rejoice in their “take your time, take your time Preston North End” chant, like turkeys gleefully revelling in their own Christmas evisceration, but having paid our extortionate away end ticket price, and God only knows what Avanti West Coast deem acceptable for two hours of rail travel these days, is there not a little bit of them that wishes players that are more than capable at this level would just get up, shut up, and show exactly that? Is this in any way a pleasurable watch?
Blame Maguire, blame Johnson, blame referee Jeremy Simpson for not being firmer with it all… but it was QPR’s fault. They were the home team, in front, in the ascendency, and they were the ones who’d conceded two defensively shambolic goals again. Only three teams in the league have conceded more than our 16, and an enormous chunk of those are preventable goals from daft errors. You can’t defend like this and hope to go anywhere over a league season, and you certainly can’t concede goals like these two and then whine and gripe about how the opposition conducted themselves. This was on us. Called out to the police station in the middle of the night to bail out the errant child you cannot help but love. Why do you do this to us? The question, once again, for the team with more points recovered from a losing position than any other, was whether they had they had the wherewithal and time to retrieve the situation.
Dom Ball had a long ranger palmed away by Leicester loanee Iversen. Dykes looked to have a huge claim for a penalty having been smacked by Cunningham with the ball ages gone. The R’s first really good, fluent, fluid, progressive move of the half was within a whisker of getting Rob Dickie in for a fifth of the season. That was on 58 and ten minutes later Dickie was arcing a beautiful cross into the back post for Lyndon Dykes to brilliantly, accurately and powerfully angle a header back across and over Iversen and into the far corner of the net. Disallowed for a marginal offside. Marginal as in the right back was obviously playing him on.
The chances of QPR being flagged offside were reduced substantially by Gray going off for Charlie Austin. Luke Amos added purpose and drive for the flagging Johansen. With 20 minutes for play Rangers were locked and loaded for the big push. A foul by Browne. Another enormous woe-is-me whinge. A beautifully flighted Chair free kick to the back post. A scramble. A poke. A goal. Jimmy Dunne anytime goalscorer paying out north of 12s. In the back of the net, Cunningham clutching his face. It was getting to the point it might just have been worth giving him something to clutch it for. At the other end, Sean Maguire walked quietly, freely and unaided to the halfway line, sat down, and got his bum out. Injured again apparently. He’ll be lucky to live through the night. I’ve been to wheelchair basketball games where players spent less time sitting down than this prick.
Never fucking mind. Not three minutes later Rob Dickie curled a ball down the line – whether it was out or not every bit as marginal as the earlier call against Dykes for the offside. Now Preston were in real trouble. Liam Lindsay, on for Patrick Bauer at half time and slower than rust, was facing the wrong way, with a bouncing ball between him and his goalkeeper, Lyndon Dykes breathing down his neck, and no team mates offering support. His airplane was taking him somewhere he didn’t want to go. What he really needed was a foul, which nine times out of ten in this league, with this league’s referees, you’ll see given whether one takes place or not. One did not take place. Dykes, brilliant intelligence and awareness of the situation, stayed hot on the heels, but a yard shy of the contact, stretching his great long rugby league prop arms into the air to exaggerate the fact. Lindsay is still waiting for the contact now. None came. He hit the deck anyway. Because of course. The ball spurted away from him across the wet turf. Lyndon, on his way to terra firma, stuck a face among the boots and headed it along the ground. Big Taye Taiwo energy. Austin sniffed a barrel of boobs and came up sucking a thumb – Iversen a tremendous leg save. Dykes, man possessed, already up on his feet, chucked himself at Browne’s clearance and blocked the ball down to Chair. A touch to set. A clean and crisp strike. A bottom corner. A noise like no other. A feeling unrivalled. The best place in the world. Shut the front door. Get out of my pub. Dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria.
Draw your own conclusion on which team is living and which is merely existing.
Watching Johnson et al suddenly in a hurry was more chef’s snog than kiss. Problem is, as discussed, when they’re not resorting to their hateful default, Preston have some useful players. QPR should have made more of a couple of overloaded late counter attacks but they took just a single goal lead into the closing stages and with PNE now playing ball, and Moses Odubajo apparently even drunker than I was, late heartbreak was still a distinct possibility. Yoann Barbet, 72 consecutive league appearances, put in a couple of monstrous sliding tackles on the slaked turf to rouse the crowd and see his team home. When the ball broke to Johnson on the edge of the area regardless the game looked to be up. Exactly the player they would want, in exactly the position we dreaded most. The block to prevent a certain goal was magnificent. Somehow, for some reason, deep in his own penalty box, it was Lyndon Dykes with it. Match winner. Father a child with me.
It took Charlie Austin, concluding an impressive and effective late cameo, to come across for an injury time corner and calm the devil children down. Preston complained bitterly as he ran off what remained of the clock.
Now it was Queens Park Rangers, who had all, the time, in the world.
QPR: Dieng 5; Odubajo 5, Dickie 7, Dunne 7, Barbet 6, Willock 6 (De Wijs 80, 6); Ball 6, Johansen 6 (Amos 69, 7), Chair 8; Dykes 8, Gray 5 (Austin 69, 7)
Subs not used: Kakay, Archer, Dozzell, Adomah
Goals: Dykes 17 (assisted Gray), Dunne 71 (assisted Chair), Chair 74 (assisted Dykes)
Bookings: Amos 90+5 (foul)
PNE: Iversen 6; van den Berg 6, Storey 6, Bauer 6 (Lindsay 45, 4), Cunningham 5, Earl 7; McCann 5 (Browne 25, 6), Ledson 7, Johnson 7; Riis 6, Maguire 7 (Potts 73, 4)
Subs not used: Rudd, Whiteman, Sinclair, Murphy
Goals: Riis 27 (assisted Maguire), Earl 46 (assisted Maguire)
QPR Star Man – Lyndon Dykes 8 His best performance for the club so far, culminating in and summed up by his magnificent contribution to the winning goal. A brilliant goal very harshly disallowed as well.
Referee – Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire) 5 Not a referee whose pernickety style I usually enjoy, and there was some pretty obvious stuff he missed in this game, particularly the Dykes penalty claim in the second half, defenders being allowed to just wrap their arms around strikers and hold them down under high balls which apparently is now fine, and all the usual gripes about kicking the ball away and time wasting that is ubiquitous at this level and ignored completely by the officials. Preston have gone away complaining that it wasn’t a foul for the free kick that led to the second goal (it was) and that the ball had gone out of play prior to the third. Lyndon Dykes' disallowed goal is not offside. But in the referee’s support I would say their style is to turn everything into problem. Every free kick, every throw, every corner, every goal kick is to be bitched and moaned about at length. Every knock, every niggle, every shoulder push, every brush is to be treated like a knife attack. They put the referee under enormous pressure – Maguire writhing around on the floor like he’d been shot, Cunningham doing likewise in the goal after the equaliser just two examples – to make a judgement call when actually very little has happened at all. Of course, the answer is to start bookings players for it - Browne, Maguire and Johnson prime candidates - and that PNE came out of the game without a card at all is a joke. But it makes it an incredibly difficult game to referee when literally every tackle within it is treated like Gavin Maguire v Danny Thomas by one of the teams.
Attendance 13,624 (1,000 Preston approx.)
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When Saturday Comes #5 by wessex_exile
“Well, I can tell u my son was stood nearer the back of the Holker Street end and although he couldn't see who was responsible, he was disgusted and was very clear in telling me that the 'N' word was used by someone stood directly behind the goal nearer the front. I'm sick of hearing this, no one but the player being abused heard anything so maybe he was mistaken crap. This shite still exists despite everything that the authorities try to do because unfortunately there are still racists in every, city, town, village and hamlet in this country. [SwearFilter] scum of the earth.”
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