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Queens Park Rangers 2 v 0 Luton Town
SkyBet Championship
Friday, 19th November 2021 Kick-off 19:45
Austin back to form, Sluga stays true to his - Report
Sunday, 21st Nov 2021 15:19 by Clive Whittingham

Chris Willock, aided and abetted by accident-prone keeper Simon Sluga, and Charlie Austin (at last) were the goalscorers as QPR recorded their annual home win against Luton at Loftus Road on Friday night.

In many ways, another interesting 90-minute microcosm of Queens Park Rangers’ season so far. Could you really say Rangers played particularly well? Certainly a long way shy of what they’re capable of, and yet another positive result. Did the defence ever look particularly secure? Luton missed a plethora of chances, and yet a fifth clean sheet in ten games. Were Mark Warburton’s team that superior to Nathan Jones’ outfit in any department other than finishing? Arguably not, although it did always feel like we had the more comfortable ball players when in possession. Regardless, the R’s remain ensconced in the play-off positions, inconsistent Town stay eleventh.

Partly that was down to Luton’s complete aversion to playing football games in this corner of London. They were the first team to beat Queens Park Rangers here on the infamous plastic pitch in 1981 and won twice more on the Omniturf immediately after that, but there have been no victories in 17 visits since across 37 years and QPR have won ten of those including the last three. Twice, in 1991/92 and 2006/07 the Hatters have lost crucial matches here on Easter Monday to all but confirm their relegation. They find ways to lose games at Loftus Road, regardless of circumstance, and did so again here despite creating a whole host of very presentable opportunities in front of goal.

Seny Dieng remained in goal despite missing Senegal’s games last week with a positive Covid test, and Rangers were calling on their out-of-form keeper early. In a chaotic start to proceedings more akin to an under 8’s game, Jimmy Dunne got caught below the pace of the game dallying on a throw from Yoann Barbet and was robbed by Elijah Adebayo. Dieng sprang from his line and executed an excellent sliding save at the striker’s feet, with Rob Dickie and Dunne massing behind him to then see away the rebound. On the quarter hour Harry Cornick drew another big save from Dieng at his near post, and soon Yoann Barbet was having to chuck himself into one of those Hail Mary tackles he loves so much to deny Adebayo another clean sight of goal in that right hand Luton channel. Onyedimna lifted another chance over the bar midway through the first half when the visitors breached a creaking offside trap and this pattern of exposing the QPR defence, working the ball into a dangerous area, and then spaffing the chance continued in the second half.

Luton found every seat in the School End through a second stanza that began, five minutes in, with Lee Wallace charging back to brilliantly neuter a dangerous counter attack, Albert Adomah clearing a header from the first delivery from the line, and then Kal Naismith planting a gift headed chance the wrong side of the post into the side netting when it seemed easier to score – most of the travelling faithful thought he had, which is never not funny. A rare mistake from the otherwise excellent Barbet, caught trying to shepherd a ball out which was never going, gave substitute Admiral Muskwe a sight of the goal – he can expect a court martial for his finish. Another inviting bouncing ball on the edge of the area was dispatched high and wide by Pelly Ruddock-Mpanzu. Adebayo crawled all over Rangers all night, looking fiercely impressive until the goal posts honed into view, at which point he became a quivering, wasted piece of jelly. Luton had 16 shots on the goal, twice as many as QPR, but found the target with only four of them. Dieng was improved, certainly a lot better than his shaky show at Blackpool prior to the international break, but for the most part he didn’t really need to be. The poor schmucks behind the goal were in more danger from Town’s finishing than he was.

QPR, by comparison, found scoring goals relatively easy. The Hatters, like Cardiff and Millwall, though not at all like Huddersfield we should say ahead of Wednesday night, are a team Rangers seem to enjoy playing against in Mark Warburton’s preferred style – three wins and a draw from four games since they returned to this level in 2019/20. Occasional Croatian international Simon Sluga had, in fairness, saved quite well with one hand when Ilias Chair went searching for the roof of the net after five minutes, but it does help that the brain of the Hatters’ club record signing does rather turn to soup whenever he takes the field against Rangers. A corner at the Loft End during a period of heavy pressure from the visiting side found it’s way to Ilias Chair off a wayward header by Sonny Bradley and although I’ve seen what came next described simply as a long-ball, angles of the goal that resulted from either end of the pitch tell a different story. Beautifully flighted and angled to arc away from the two covering defenders into space, the pass of this or any other season got Chris Willock bursting into space in the right channel and when Sluga inexplicably decided to come haring out to the corner of the box the decision was made for Willock about what was to come next. As long Willock’s lob had requisite height to clear the clown car, and accuracy to bounce into the unguarded net, then the home team were ahead and, well, when it comes to Chris Willock, this certainly isn’t fucking amateur hour.

Given the dozen points given up from winning positions this season, and the five goals conceded in the last minute of matches, a second QPR goal was very welcome indeed. It came before the hour, and at last from the head of Charlie Austin – first in ten league appearances. Andre Dozzell’s calm control and awareness from a cleared corner was worthy of note, Willock’s approach work in a wide area dazzling, Jimmy Dunne’s aerial threat from attacking set pieces a key factor again, and after all that Austin was left to expertly guide and angle a header back across the movement of the goalkeeper and into the far top corner for two nil. After a difficult start to his permanent return to Loftus Road, and the Sunderland scandal in October, the emotion of that moment was etched all over his face. Bar Albert Adomah, whose usually faultless final ball went oddly wayward across this 90 minutes, the difference between the two teams was the ability of their respective players in the final third of the field – QPR’s always that bit crisper and more efficient in their passing, control and finishing than Luton’s.

The game finished much as it had began – a frantic chaos flashing from one end of the pitch to the other. Carnage at the back post in the School End penalty box two minutes into injury time quickly morphed into a dangerous counter attack with Willock not far off adding a third, and that rather summed it all up. Substitute Luke Amos was only brought on to run the clock, but within seconds he really should have been in on goal only to rather foolishly try another pass rather than a shot which broke the whole attack in half and sent Luton screaming away down the field looking for a goal of their own – Rob Dickie’s professional foul brought a fifth booking of the season, but contrary to what I’d said in the match preview this doesn’t mean he’s banned for Huddersfield on Wednesday because this season League Cup yellows don’t count in the Championship and one of his bookings was against Everton. Apologies. Austin couldn’t last the 90 and with Lyndon Dykes and Andre Gray both out injured Willock and Chair were left to form a makeshift striking pair for the closing moments – stand Ilias on Chris’ shoulders and get them a big coat. Luton rolled back the years by introducing Cameron Jerome, who’s spent the best part of 20 years on and off lumbering around this pitch to no great effect, much of it offside – get him a senior railcard and a priority seat.

QPR, more Friday in their life than Robinson Crusoe at the moment, finally had a win on this day of the week after just two in the previous 24 attempts. For a long time it felt like it might go the way of one of the previous failures at West Brom, where an early Andre Gray goal rather belied a below par performance from Warbs’ troops and ultimately manifested itself in two late goals conceded and a demoralising defeat. The second goal rather took the venom out of that potential threat and it would probably be unfair to come away from the game pretending there weren’t plenty of other positives from a hooped point of view.

Lee Wallace, now four defeats and 15 wins from his 22 appearances in 21, returned to the left side in some style, completing 90 minutes and making a palpable difference to the balance and effectiveness of the team down that side. Yoann Barbet, after struggles in the away games before the break, was superb here, with some monstrous covering tackles out of possession and good use of the ball within it – hopefully Twitter chat about him wanting to return to France at the end of the season is every it as reliable as the usual bile that streams from that media source, though it would explain the lack of a contract renewal for one of our most important players. He’d be very difficult to replace in this system, and can talk to clubs abroad in six weeks’ time. Andre Dozzell, now one defeat from 15 appearances as a Ranger, impresses me more with each game he plays, calmly and effectively moving the ball with imagination and accuracy. Willock and Chair are now a genuine Championship class act as a pairing. At last, there was time on the pitch for Sam Field, and a goal for QPR from Charlie Austin. Perhaps, in the end, it was one of those games I shredded my nerves through simply because it’s QPR and I’m too emotionally invested in it, rather than through any genuine peril we ever might have been in.

Huddersfield are the opposite of Luton – Rangers have lost three and drawn one of the four meetings under Warburton and failed to score in any of the last three. The 1-0 loss to the Terriers here in March, 29 games ago, was the last time we failed to score in a league match. There’s a point and a place between the teams ahead of what promises to be a fairly fascinating Wednesday night, under the candelights, at Loftus Road.

Links >>> Photo Gallery >>> Ratings and Reports >>> Message Board Match Thread

QPR: Dieng 7; Adomah 6 (Kakay 80, -), Dickie 7, Dunne 6, Barbet 8, Wallace 7; Johansen 6, Dozzell 7, Chair 7 (Amos 89, -); Willock 8, Austin 6 (Field 79, 6)

Subs not used: Ball, Archer, Thomas, Duke-McKenna

Goals: Willock 10 (assisted Chair), Austin 55 (assisted Dunne)

Bookings; Dozzell 59 (foul), Austin 75 (foul), Dickie 90 (foul)

Luton: Sluga 5; Bree 6, Lockyer 6, Bradley 5, Naismith 6, Onyedinma 6; Campbell 6 (Jerome 79, 5), Mpanzu 6, Lansbury 6; Cornick 6 (Muskwe 68, 5), Adebayo 7

Subs not used: Shea, Hylton, Clark, Bell, Osho

Bookings: Lansbury 13 (foul), Bradley 53 (foul), Adebayo 57 (foul)

QPR Star Man – Chris Willock 8 With a nicely taken first goal, and a big hand in the second, it’s a pretty obvious choice, and having a player of this ability in attack was probably the difference between the two teams. That said, I was very close to giving it to Yoann Barbet, who was on really top form here after a couple of iffy games at Cardiff and Blackpool. Blotted his copy book slightly near the end with one of those incidents where he faffs around trying to shepherd a ball somewhere it’s obviously not going to go rather than just sticking it in the stand, and with better finishing that would have set up a nervous finish, but otherwise thought he was great.

Referee – Matt Donohue (Manchester) 7 Not a referee we have particularly fond memories of but I thought he refereed this well. Quite a lot of yellow cards, but I’m not sure you could argue with any of them. Luton have had a bit of a bitch and moan about the free kick awarded against Sonny Bradley in the build up to the second goal when it looked like Willock doing most of the shirt pulling, but he did rather needlessly push him in the back when the ball first arrived so I’m not sure it’s the cut and dried scandal the ever chippy Nathan Jones would like to have everybody believe. Overall, pretty good.

Attendance – 15,063 (2,400 Luton approx.) More depressing, eye-rolling scenes around the Bush before and after the game as the post-pandemic trend for selfish, aggressive, over-the-top, extreme behaviour reached new lows. Aggro all around the Green, up and down Uxbridge Road, one fan now laid up in hospital, and much of it being perpetuated by blokes in their 40s and 50s – dads and grandads, old enough to have surely grown out of this by now. I think it’s time to admit that the policing tactics for games like this aren’t working. Every season we’re forced to spend 45 minutes in a cage outside Millwall’s ground after the match so they can bang on about their low number of arrests and incidents at home games, and yet when Millwall, Luton and others come down to Loftus Road it’s QPR fans being held, blocked off and inconvenienced while the police try (and twice now fail) to release away fans at the same time as the home and then kettle them to where they want them to go without trouble breaking out. An enormous police presence around the two exits from the away end quickly thins out at the Uxbridge Road, where the trouble keeps breaking out. Allowing Sky to move the game to a Friday night was obviously a fucking stupid idea, as was allowing Luton to have both tiers and therefore two separate exits to police – particularly as when we go there we now get a poxy 700 tickets in half that stand behind the goal. That fixture now looms large on the calendar. There’ll be all sorts of fucking talk about “revenge” and given that pathetic allocation and the loyalty points system it’ll mostly be us “scarfers” who just go to the football for a couple of beers and the match who bear the brunt of whatever draconian restrictions the police impose, and whatever violence Luton are able to penetrate that with, all because a bunch of fucking meathead knuckle draggers can’t let opportunities like this pass without punching somebody.

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Myke added 16:10 - Nov 21
Excellent report Clive, spot on with the match summary. No point in me commenting on the crowd situation as I simply don't understand it either literally or figuratively.
I took some stick on the match thread for suggesting that Luton dominated the game and the real difference was our ability to finish. You didn't go that far here but certainly alluded to the fact that the game was far from as comfortable as some claimed. In the end, as much to diffuse the criticism coming my direction (honesty not appreciated after a Friday night victory) I blamed it on being cold sober. But your second last paragraph before the links is probably more accurate, too much emotion invested .Cheers!

Paddyhoops added 17:49 - Nov 21
Good summary of the game. Don't think we are anywhere near our best but a win against Huddersfield will put us over the 30 point mark with December not even upon us.
Willock has benefited from the international break and Wallace just makes us look a better side.
As for the trouble, I'm lucky that living in Watford I'm parked up near Wormwood scrubs and have no need to go near the Uxbridge road or Shepards bush.
Sadly it always the same clubs Causing grief and some of our Sad bell ends are only to happy to join in!

HastingsRanger added 10:05 - Nov 22
Great report as always.
I thought this was a very enjoyable match to watch and can see why Luton are doing well. Luton had ample chances to get something from this and were let down by wayward finishing. Also, that early save from Dieng was quite outstanding. Then, our opening goal was against the run of play and gifted (though the finish had to be good). I thought it was close but, as said, we were not at our best, which always bodes well when you win.

Marshy added 14:20 - Nov 22
Good to see Lee Wallace and Sam Field finally back, and hope they can find their best form soon. I was also impressed with Andre Dozzell, who now looks an excellent signing with great potential. We may not have been at our best, but we did produce some good football nevertheless. We were a bit lucky that Luton's finishing was so poor, with so many of their shots sailing over the bar. They probably would have won, had this been a Rugby match. Overall though, our superior class prevailed. A satisfying win.

TacticalR added 22:30 - Nov 22
Thanks for your report.

Although it could have gone another way, and Luton put together some decent counter-attacks, I never felt that we were that under that much threat from Luton. Maybe it's just hindsight.

On top of that we scored two great goals, and put together some good passing moves when in possession. Wonderful pass from Chair for the first goal, and Willock read the situation perfectly. Dozzell is no longer afraid of making a bad pass and now doesn't look out of place alongside Willock, Chair and Johansen. Great to see Wallace back too.

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