|Peterborough United 2 v 1 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 23rd October 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Oh, Siriki Dembele - Report
Sunday, 24th Oct 2021 16:54 by Clive Whittingham
QPR missed a terrific opportunity to cement a place in the top six with a thoroughly deserved last minute defeat at lowly Peterborough on Saturday.
I’ve seen some stupid things. I’ve seen some frustrating things. I’ve seen some stupid, frustrating things. And now I’ve seen this, mind-blowingly dumb pile of slop from Queens Park Rangers.
As outlined in the preview, large travelling QPR followings from West London usually spells disaster for the team. For every Hillsborough in 2004 or Villa Park in 1968 there are half a dozen ‘Paul Ince is a wanker’ cup defeat at Old Trafford or Carl Griffiths cupping his ear at Vale Park. Already this season a takeover of Reading’s Madejski Stadium caused by a ticketing foul up quickly turned into a matinee performance of The John Swift Show (one star, “unpleasant” – Evening Standard). As Siriki Dembele streaked away from a leaden-footed defence one final time in the first minute of stoppage time, once again exposing a chronic lack of pace in this QPR team, anybody who’d been there before with Rangers knew what was coming, and sure enough his finish nestled in the far corner of the net to decide the match in Peterborough’s favour.
This is the sort of fatalistic stuff that football supporters live by. QPR never win at Nottingham Forest, Grimsby never win at Blackburn, two decades without an Everton win at Anfield, Burton Albion never lose when there’s a full moon and three in the date, we always win there, we never do well here, this always happens when that factor is present. It’s lucky boxer shorts stuff – it comforts us, helps our minds to process the random nature of the sport, fills match previews and pre-match pub chat. But it’s completely irrelevant. QPR will do whatever QPR do against Sunderland on Tuesday, regardless of what fucking socks you’ve got on, or what they did against that opponent through the 1950s and 60s.
Yes, a big away following. Yes, another QPR performance and result to let them all down. Yes another humbling at London Road – a frequent graveyard for our teams – but this was a result born out of far more pressing matters than simply ‘typical QPR’.
The first was a simple lack of intensity, and a careless approach to our work. On three occasions in the first half Rangers were extremely lucky to escape without conceding. In the opening moments Dieng pushed a shot from Burrows over the bar and when Posh scored from the resulting corner only an offside flag stood between the R’s and an early deficit. Szmodics, who I always thought deserved more of a chance at Bristol City than he was ever given, hooked over a presentable opportunity on 18 minutes when the home team worked an overlap on Sam McCallum. And then on the half hour referee Jarred Gillett ruled that Rob Dickie’s trip on Jorge Grant was just outside rather than just inside the penalty box.
At the other end the theme of the half quickly became QPR wasting opportunities to deliver quality service into the box for Lyndon Dykes and Charlie Austin, who’d been paired together in attack with a surprise benching for Chris Willock. A big Barbet Diag™ got Albert Adomah in from his second consecutive start at right wing back but he was flagged offside, and then soon after from the same spot a near post cross was cleared before it could reach Austin. Ilias Chair, Adomah, and McCallum all took turns at crossing high, wide and hopelessly onto the roof of the stand behind the goal. Carefree, slapdash. Chair’s long range shot spilled by goalkeeper Cornell should have been absolutely buried on the rebound by first Dykes, and especially Austin who somehow skied it miles away from an open net. Don’t worry lads it’s only Peterborough, don’t worry lads there’ll be another chance along in a minute.
Newly promoted Posh have struggled back at this level, but their league position and results overall mask a hidden danger at home. They came into this with a 2-2-2 record at London Road, they’ve taken points from league leaders Bournemouth here, while fellow promotion favourites West Brom only won 1-0 with an injury time goal from a set piece. Only Dom Ball and Ilias Chair, for me, seemed to garsp that and play with the tempo and urgency required to force points on the road in this division. Ball was livid with his team mates at full time, remonstrating angrily with Barbet and others, and he was absolutely right. Adomah got up and down his wing well, showing the defensive intelligence that perhaps had the manager doubting he could play the right wing back role, but even his normally reliable final ball was caught up in the plague.
Only a superb Ball interception on the quarter hour prevented half the population of Peterborough getting in on the QPR defence after Johansen had overcommitted to a fool’s errand closing down the home goalkeeper and taking himself out of the game. Chair, meanwhile, did indeed give QPR the lead five minutes after half time when his well flighted corner sailed all the way in at the far post, from exactly the same blade of grass that Richard Langley had done exactly the same thing the last time QPR won here New Year’s Day 2003.
And had that been enough to win the game, or started us on the way to a victory that could and should have been sealed first by Dykes on the half volley after a great move through Johansen and Adomah to the near post, or then by Dunne who planted a firm header straight at the goalkeeper from a corner on the opposite side of the field, then all would be well in the world this morning. But the other problem, and again this isn’t anything new, was how outnumbered QPR were through the midfield. The formation, and back three element of it, is starting to come into sharp focus, and Sefan Johansen is beginning to attract criticism. But the defence lacks pace and is exposed because teams are able to walk through huge gaps and spaces in midfield and get in on the three of them in dangerous areas. Johansen, meanwhile, is trying to do the job of at least two men if not three. You don’t win many matches allowing yourself to be outnumbered and outplayed through midfield, and just as at Fulham a week ago Peterborough were able to cut through and get in at the three centre backs way too easily in transition. I thought we were crying out for Luke Amos to join Ball and Stef in there, and the removal of the sadly ineffective Charlie Austin from the attack, even before young Harrison Burrows was played into that vacant acreage and scored the equaliser into the far corner.
I always feel the need to sling a disclaimer in at this point and hold my hands up to my complete lack of knowledge about what I’m talking about. Never played to any level, never coached above kids football, never held an adults training session, never stood on a touchline with all those potential decisions buzzing around my mind – don’t know what I’m talking about. This website is one person’s view, from a fan in the stand. You and I also have no clue on these players’ medical status, fitness, state of mind etc. With all that said, however, I still didn’t think getting an extra Amos-shaped body into the midfield instead of Austin would have been a bad idea at 1-1. I love Mark Warburton, I think he’s done and continues to do a terrific job here, and I think it’s great, as I said post Blackburn, that we always go to try and win the game. Had a couple of Andre Gray’s shots on the turn flown in instead of getting blocked by stubborn defenders then, again, we’d be lording his introduction up front alongside Dykes. But that straight swap, Amos for Ball, and then even more adventurously Willock for McCallum did nothing to stem the bleed through midfield. If we're going to play a three, and wing backs, we need to accept that needs three midfielders and one striker - particularly when Austin and Gray are contributing as little as they are presently as the second forward.
One nonsense header up in the air to nobody from Yoann Barbet had sent Jack Taylor screaming through for a shot brilliantly saved by Dieng and a rebound thrashed over by Dembele. It felt like a big moment, and a huge let off, but it didn’t come as a huge surprise when the first minute of stoppage time found Barbet charging off into the left wing space Willock had oddly vacated to try and create an overlap, leaving us horribly short at the back if the ball was given away – which it duly was, and this time Dembele’s speed and finish were enough to make the latest collapse in transition pay. Problem three, exacerbated by Willock’s benching, exposed by Dembele’s brilliance, is this is a very, very, very slow QPR team since Bright Osayi-Samuel departed. There is not only nobody with the speed to go past opponents in attack, but when we’re defending there’s nobody with the legs to get back on recovery either – once you’re past a QPR player, that player is out of the game.
Cue the usual meltdown across social media. Managers to be sacked, players to be dropped, exactly the same accounts that spent all summer haranguing the club daily to #announceAustin and “this isn’t Johansen” now bitching and moaning about both of them. QPR are seventh, one of a clutch of teams level on 21 points, despite not yet fielding what most would consider to be their strongest team, or turning in a performance at their full potential for 90 minutes. This was admittedly very poor, problems around lack of pace and numbers in midfield will recur against better teams if not addressed, and we need to snap ourselves out of the pedestrian backwards-and-sideways style we sometimes allow ourselves to slump into in games. But it’s one game in a long season, and if we take the obvious lessons from it and apply them to future games then it could at least be a learning exercise.
Overall, very QPR indeed.
Peterborough: Cornell 6; Thompson 7, Edwards 6, Beevers 6; Ward 6 (Kanu 54, 6), Norburn 8, Taylor 6 (Butler 89, -), Burrows 7; Grant 6 (Coventry 67, 6), Dembele 7, Szmodics 7
Subs not used: Kent, Knight, Tomlinson, Blackmore
Goals: Burrows 56, Dembele 90+1 (assisted Norburn)
QPR: Dieng 6; Adomah 6, Dickie 5, Dunne 5, Barbet 5, McCallum 5 (Willock 82, -); Ball 6 (Amos 59, 6), Johansen 5, Chair 7; Dykes 5, Austin 4 (Gray 67, 5)
Subs not used: Kakay, De Wijs, Archer, Dozzell
Goals: Chair 50 (unassisted)
QPR Star Man – Ilias Chair 7 One of the few QPR players to play with the intensity and threat required to get a result away from home, crowned with a flukey goal.
Referee – Jarred Gillett (Queensland) 7 I’ve seen and heard plenty of criticism, a potential penalty for a foul on McCallum perhaps, Dickie maybe fortunate his first half trip was judged to be just outside the area than in, but overall I thought he was good and well in control of the game. No cards, minimal fuss.
Attendance – 12,035 (3,737 QPR) Great to see and hear QPR getting this backing on the road, but as always seems to be the case when we travel in large numbers some of the shine is taken off it by the behaviour of a small minority. I'm sure we can all debate whether getting off a train at midday already too off-your-face to stand up, pretty flagrant drug use throughout the away end concourse, QPR fans trying to fight other QPR fans, puking, toilets so rammed with people snorting and smoking that parents with kids can’t get in there for a piss, dozens of people spending the whole game shovelling beer and gear into themselves downstairs rather than watching the match they’ve paid to get in for... is all just football fans having a good time and if you don't like that then go to the fucking theatre, sheltered, middle class etc. etc. I get to the pub earlier, drink more, shout more, than many people would think acceptable at football. But, again, another potentially lethal missile (a bottle this time, rather than the can at Fulham) launched into the air after a goal and on this occasion apparently striking a young lad just below the eye, and somebody old enough to know better deciding to storm the pitch and give all the footballers a cuddle after we’ve scored before then kicking off and trying to fight with the stewards. I don’t know why it’s like this at the moment, but I personally find it pretty grim to be a part of at times. Way beyond simply your idea of a good time being different to mine. Somebody is going to get very seriously hurt at one of our away games in the next few weeks if this carries on - the kid who got hit yesterday had a very lucky escape. We should be better than some of the shit that went on yesterday, in my opinion.
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