|Cardiff City 0 v 1 Queens Park Rangers|
Wednesday, 3rd November 2021 Kick-off 19:45
Gray's finish from Dozzell's assist lights up Cardiff grind - Report
Thursday, 4th Nov 2021 14:15 by Clive Whittingham
Not a game that will live long in the memory, but find a QPR supporter who cares much about that this morning as Rangers return from Cardiff with a hard fought 1-0 victory.
Result. This one really does begin and end there. One team struggling with injuries and mounting self-doubt, the other glancing around wondering where all this graphite came from. Between them they produced a brutally unwatchable game - that none of the pour souls rattling around this silent and half empty cave of mediocrity will ever be able, nor want, to remember - settled by the only moment of quality within it.
Andre Dozzell’s first league start for Queens Park Rangers ended just half an hour into the home game with Barnsley, when he and George Thomas were subbed out of a tactical bust with Rangers already two goals down. An inauspicious start, but the 2-2 we salvaged there means he’s only lost once in his 13 appearances for the club so far. Partly that’s because if he’s playing then we’ve got at least two men in midfield, and as we keep saying you’re more likely to win games of Championship football when you’re not trying to play a lone man in the middle of the park, but he’s also been the definition of quietly effective in more recent weeks, pass completion knocking on the door of 100% in the home victory against Birmingham for example.
Here, ten minutes prior to half time, he produced a no-look chop pass for the ages that gutted the Cardiff team like a fish, removing half a dozen of their players from the picture and getting Andre Gray into clear space right in the centre of the penalty area. A crisp touch and finish did the rest and the goal would eventually prove enough to win QPR the match. It all looked and felt so simple and easy, such was the quality of the pass, and the paucity of the defence. When we make it look that easy, you do wonder why we don’t do it more often.
The rest of it was a bracing watch. Cardiff got Ryan Giles in behind makeshift right wing back Albert Adomah after four minutes and he cut the ball back for Big Dick Ng on the edge of the area whose low, first time shot fizzed a foot wide of the bottom corner with Seny Dieng not even in the picture. That promised big things for the home team and their caretaker manager Steve Morison, who’d overseen a remarkable comeback from 3-0 down to steal a point at Stoke at the weekend, but would prove to be the first and indeed last move of any note they put together all night.
There are talented players here – Colwill, Giles, Ng, Will Vaulks, Kieffer Moore. But Cardiff have been managed by Neil Warnock, Neil Harris and then Mick McCarthy. Then the large women. Then the petite women. THEN THE LARGE WOMEN AGAIN. Theirs is a none dimensional side whose plan A, B, C, D, E, F and G is corners, long throws and free kicks. A zombie team, reliant wholly on dead balls. Each long, painfully drawn-out towelling routine performed prior to every heaved throw slows the game down still further, removing tempo and urgency, keeping the ball out of play way longer than it needs to be, and with it goes the life and hope from the game. When you’re losing - and Cardiff have now lost nine of their last ten matches - perhaps a little less towelling down a little more action please. QPR’s time wasting through the second half was shamefully blatant, and completely ignored by referee Andy Woolmer, but when every throw-in you get takes you a minute to get away you’re rather doing it to yourself. Have they perhaps considered practising throwing a wet ball?
To beat them, first of all you have to stand up to this tiresome aerial bombardment. Yoann Barbet seemed rather unnerved, giving the ball away more here than he has in the rest of the games this season put together, but Rob Dickie was back to something approaching his best while Jimmy Dunne was clearly aroused by the prospect of his mega monster crossover franchise battle. Alien vs Predator, Godzilla vs Thatcher, now Dunne vs Moore. The two biggest, hardest nutters from rival schools, now face to face on the high street at last. High noon showdown outside the Romford Wimpey. They had a big, fuck off, aerial smash up for the first time after 13 minutes, and did so again repeatedly over the next 80 minutes. A lot of blood and teeth. It was borderline erotic. Sitts you’re too intense.
Want some other stuff that happened? Yeh. Me too. Tales from my first half notes: “16 mins, finally some controlled QPR possession and Gray glances wide from Adomah’s cross”; “Dickie blocks a low shot from Pack to briefly rouse the home crowd”; “another long throw, another Moore header, a big whistle from Chuckles… no penalty”; “is Yoann Barbet drunk?” I did, however, enjoy Ilias Chair flicking the ball into the air and collecting it on the other side of Vaulks, removing him from the game entirely – like bringing a 2002 Brunello di Montalcino to the Christmas party at Feltham Young Offender’s Institute.
Second half then, immediately Dickie caught on one his forays forward and forced to cynically foul and accept the yellow card to prevent a counter in behind. Then a mad minute in which Chair stole possession from Morrison deep in the red zone, almost got Stefan Johansen screaming through on goal, and the ball broke to Dykes whose shot was beaten away by our former dreamboat Alex Smithies. Beaten away to such good effect that Cardiff then launched an enormous overload at the other end of the pitch that looked a certain goal but for a brave and decisive intervention by the revitalised Moses Odubajo – easily his best game for the club this one. At least the flurry of activity and excitement reduced the risk of a mass DVT incident overwhelming Vale of Glamorgan NHS Trust.
Cardiff’s comeback at Stoke was sparked by the introduction of Mark Harris but he never looked like having the same impact from the bench here. In fact Rangers should really have sealed their victory when Odubajo crossed deep to their own substitute, Charlie Austin, who chested the ball down into the path of Dykes for a really splendid chance for a second goal, but his finish was wayward even before it hit Morrison and deflected over the bar. Austin on for Gray, apparently the latest victim of this blast of seven games in 21 days and now surely missing for the weekend trip to the seaside.
That should have been game, set and match. Instead Rangers were left to face a barrage of late corners and free kicks with a single goal lead and the trepidation that comes with conceding last minute goals in the last ten fixtures. When Seny Dieng purposefully strode from his line into a crowd scene to try and introduce some command to the chaos but didn’t get a thick enough connection on the punch the game looked to be up, but he was back on his line just in the nick of time to prevent Giles’ improvised effort from range finding the unguarded net. In the end, even allowing for Dickie and Dunne’s heroics, it felt like perhaps the only reason we ended up hanging on here is because we hadn’t before – law of averages and luck says you’re not going to keep conceding goals in the ninetieth minute forever. But then this was the home team’s only significant shot on target all night, and for all the concerns about our defence it has now kept four clean sheets in seven matches.
I’ll be honest, it wasn’t a game I derived a great deal of pleasure from. I’d rather take Maxine Carr home to meet my parents than watch the brutalist, painfully slow football Cardiff play and they were biblically awful here. When your wide players are repeatedly doing that Paul Konchesky trick of going to trap the ball only to carelessly let it run under their foot and into touch it’s time to start making sure your affairs in order and they’re going to be in very serious trouble this season if they cannot improve this performance level by a magnitude of several million percent. With this squad constructed in the image of its three previous managers, and this style so deeply ingrained, I don’t envy the next guy coming in here. Do you try and change it up mid-season, with these players? Or continue down this path with Tony Pulis or his non-union Mexican equivalent? Either looks fraught with peril. A classic LFW pre-season prediction in the making here – one of the sides we tipped for the top six could very easily slide into League One. Now one point from ten games, and a failure to score at all in eight of those.
For QPR to feel the need to resort to exactly the sort of gamesmanship and timewasting we’ve been bitching and moaning about all season was, for me, slightly disappointing. Great schadenfreude, of course, having had it done to us so many times, and the 700 travelling faithful from W12 revelled in the shithousing. But we’ll wait a long time to play a team as poor as this again, and it would have been nice to see the Dykes chance go in and Rangers pull off into the distance with the three or four nil win the home team was so obviously gagging to have inflicted upon them. But, like I said in the preview, with players missing (Chris Willock absent for personal reasons here), a very taxing fixture list, and a long way shy of our best the trick at the moment is to just stay in touch with that promotion picture and this third away win of the season moves Rangers back up into fifth – not bad for a team apparently beset with problems.
We’ll need to be far better than this at Blackpool on Saturday but, for now, a win is indeed a win.
Cardiff: Smithies 6; Ng 6, McGuinness 5, Morrison 5, Nelson 5, Giles 6; Vaulks 6 (Ralls 80, -), Pack 5, Evans 5 (Harris 63, 5); Colwill 6, Moore 6
Subs not used: Phillips, Flint, Bacuna, Zimba
QPR: Dieng 6; Adomah 6, Dickie 7, Dunne 7, Barbet 5, Odubajo 7; Johansen 6, Dozzell 7 (Amos 83, -), Chair 6 (Ball 78, 6); Dykes 6, Gray 6 (Austin 54, 6)
Subs not used: Kakay, Archer, Thomas, Duke-Mckenna
Goals: Gray 37 (assisted Dozzell)
Bookings: Dickie 47 (foul), Adomah 85 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Moses Odubajo 7 Nudged ahead of the excellent Dunne and Dickie by the scale of improvement from a few of his other recent showings, a big clearance preventing an equaliser at the start of the second half, and an 80-yard carry down the line to win a free kick and kill a dangerous period of stoppage time.
Referee – Andy Woolmer (Northants) 6 I can’t recall QPR every getting this much from him, nor one of his games passing by with quite so little controversy, but as usual with Championship referees he allowed some absolutely flagrant time wasting to go on all second half and then added a paltry four minutes to the end. I’d have been fuming if we’d been the team behind and they’d been behaving as we did, so points off in the name of consistency.
Attendance 16,882 (700 QPR) Morgue.
Pictures – Action Images
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