|Queens Park Rangers 0 v 1 AFC Bournemouth|
Monday, 27th December 2021 Kick-off 17:30
Familiar refereeing complaints struggle to mask QPR shortcomings – Report
Tuesday, 28th Dec 2021 19:23 by Clive Whittingham
A game that once again had controversial Championship referee Keith Stroud at the centre of the action at Loftus Road, but one that QPR lost far more comfortably to promotion chasing Bournemouth than the scoreline suggests – and not because of the officials either.
Five minutes before half time, an incident tight to the touchline on the South Africa Road side of the ground. It could, if you want to be charitable, be described as a debatable decision, given that alleged aggressor Sam Field looked like he’d been fouled himself initially, and then while off-balance took a big chunk of the ball and not a lot of Jefferson Lerma, who went down like somebody had napalmed his town. Queens Park Rangers are more likely to find a golden ticket for a tour of Willy Wonka’s fucking Chocolate Factory than come out the right side of a debatable call from Keith Stroud and so, inevitably, a free kick it was, and a yellow card thrown in for good measure - because fuck you that’s why. The delivery, wicked and inswinging, from Junior Stanislas, was so exceptional it didn’t need anybody particularly brilliant on the end of it, and certainly 18-goals-in-25-appearances Dominic Solanke was more than good enough to head home the only goal of the game. Bournemouth, previously winless in six, back on the horse, and the top the league; QPR, now two home defeats to nil in a row and outside the play off places as their weird aversion to victories in December (none from 14 attempts) continues.
When you’re writing north of 50 match reports on Championship football across nine months sometimes you have to scrabble around for an angle, a hook, an in, or anything to talk about at all. No need for a microcosm here though, the whole game was summed up neatly by the goal that won it. A diabolical refereeing display, as we suffered from the same official in the corresponding fixture at Dean Court – of course, we’ve come to expect nothing less from the dwarf Disney forgot to draw. But we’ve banged away on Bournemouth for the best part of 200 minutes now this season and while you can’t help but wonder whether things might have been different with another official, curse Mark Travers’ second half heroics in the away game, agonise over loose balls that could have dropped this way or that, lament the timing of just a third goal conceded from a set piece this season (what a difference Jimmy Dunne has made to a previous weak spot in this team), when it all boils down Bournemouth have been better than us twice. We were in both games, we lost each by just a single goal, but for the most part it’s felt like we’re windmilling into an assault while the Cherries stand calmly with their hand on our forehead, keeping us at arm’s length. Just that little bit better, just those one or two high quality players more than we’ve got, another couple of gears to go through when necessary.
Perhaps I’m going to disappoint you here with my rather forlorn pragmatism. If you were there yesterday, you’ll have left talking about the referee, which is never a good sign. If you were unfortunate enough to be sitting near me yesterday you’ll know exactly what I thought of Mr Stroud’s display – my apologies to anybody within earshot, at one point I felt like reporting myself to the club’s new anti-social behaviour hotline. This guy boils my piss like few others. From quiet beginnings it journeyed down through all the circles of hell that every Keith Stroud match descends through sooner or later – the contrariness, the fundamental mistakes, the inconsistencies, the delays, the long drawn out discussions that could just be a word on the run, the random yellow cards, the hand puppet theatre, the abysmal game management, the targeting of certain players while others are given a free reign, the patronising and infuriating mannerisms, body language and management of the players, and so on and on and on and on and on.
Five minutes of stoppage time at the end became ten because, as happened in the away game with this referee, as happens in an ridiculously large amount of games left in his incapable hands, frustrated and angry players, some previously punished for nothing very much at all, others allowed to get away with whatever they pleased, came together in the sort of fight and melee that only happens when a referee has either allowed too much shit to go on for too long, or more likely missed a lot of the shit entirely, and lost complete control. The away game finished in exactly the same manner. Sooner or later somebody, somewhere, has to ask why so many of Stroud’s fixtures feature incidents like this. On this occasion Solanke went down trying to get Yoann Barbet sent off, Barbet rather inadvisably picking him up by the shirt collar, Andre Dozzell ran in from nowhere to get involved needlessly, Ben Pearson ran in from an even further nether region to kick it all off because he’s Ben Pearson, and all the while Jefferson Lerma was running away down the field with the ball and deliberately booting it into the far corner of the pitch to delay the restart. All of this time wasting, ‘shithousing’, play-acting and gamesmanship had been going on for half an hour, unchecked by the official, and this was his reward for that incompetence and inaction. He subsequently did a tour of the W12 postcode booking, I think, Barbet, Pearson, Chris Mepham and, eventually, on the say so of the fourth official, Dozzell for a second time – he’s the one that had the guy by the throat, right in front of your fucking eyes Keith. Not, however, Solanke, who had started the thing. Nor Lerma, who it seemed was operating with diplomatic immunity all afternoon.
High farce. Exactly what you get more often than not when you leave the Championship’s worst referee in charge of big games in this league, which the EFL and the PGMOL do a worrisome amount of the time. This was not a sensible appointment to begin with. Keith Stroud has refereed QPR more than any other club, and our win percentage across those appointments is just 15%. Over the last decade we have had 20 fixtures with him, more than any other referee, resulting in 13 defeats, five draws and three wins. We have had six penalties awarded against us, and none for – Stefan Johansen’s appeals for a late one here rightly waved away, but frankly I’d have expected that outcome if somebody had plunged an ice pick into the back of the midfielder’s skull. We have now had five red cards to just one opponent – the swift and decisive punishment metered out to Dozzell, and Sam Field in the first half, in horribly stark contrast to the complete blind spot when it came to Lerma, whose antics had become so ridiculous by the end that even Gary Cahill, to his immense credit given the grief he takes here for his Chelsea connections, went across, picked his team mate up off the floor, and told him to pack it in. There can be few more damning indictments of his handling of proceedings than Lerma coming out of this 100 minutes without a card at all when even his team mates seemed to have grown tired of him by the end. It's all very well waggling three fingers at Sam Field to justify a yellow card, but if you don't do that equally for both sides that's where the frustration and anger with this prick comes from.
Stroud is a Luton fan, but is from Bournemouth, and his record with them, in amazing contrast to his one with us, is now W11 D1 L0. Given all of this, given the pig’s ear he made of the first meeting, given he’s already had three QPR games in the first half of the season alone, given that the most recent of those here against Sunderland ended in a controversial disallowed goal for which the EFL and PGMOL wrote to QPR to apologise… this was, I repeat, not a sensible appointment. QPR, like all clubs, are invited to submit assessments of the referees game by game, and for Stroud to be back here this quickly after that Sunderland debacle shows what a complete waste of time that is. May as well post them a copy of fucking Big Jugs Monthly for all the notice they’re taking. There are literally dozens of other referees who could have done this game, in Tim Robinson there was a far better one stuck on the bench as fourth official (it needed him to point out that Dozzell had gone all Tommy Doherty at the end and should be sent off), and somebody somewhere should really be clocking that this was a very bad idea indeed. It invited trouble, and trouble it got.
So I guess what I could do, what you’ve probably come here expecting me to do, what perhaps you’d like me to do, is go full Malcolm Tucker and say by way of introductory remarks that I'm extremely miffed about yesterday’s events and in my quest to try to make you understand the level of my unhappiness, use an awful lot of - what we would call - violent sexual imagery. But let’s park the clown car to one side for the moment, and be real about the actual football. Bournemouth were the better team, deserved their win, and really should have won by more. Both Solanke and Jaidon Anthony, either side of half time, missed what were tantamount to open goals from close range, which really ought to have nudged the score up towards a fairer outcome of three nil. Stanislas warmed Dieng’s hands first with a low shot in open play as part of a huge overload behind right wing back Osman Kakay, then up high with a free kick from the corner of the penalty box. When Kakay passed up the chance for a tactical foul on the half hour another well populated counter attack ended with Christie banging one too close to the goalkeeper. Dozzell’s first card was for one of those cynical pull backs to interrupt another dangerous break, and all too frequently the red and black shirts were streaming forwards onto an exposed Rangers defence – Yoann Barbet and particularly Jimmy Dunne were to the fore in repelling as much as they could, Dunne’s fifty-second minute monstering of Stanislas was particularly satisfying and brought the coroner onto the field. Anthony had only been off the bench 60 seconds when he spaffed his gilt-edged chance from Jack Stacey’s diverted cross, and no more than a minute later Dieng was saving one on one from Solanke.
With 15 shots to Rangers’ eight, eight of those on target and two of the others goals on any other day, nobody could argue that Bournemouth weren’t value for the victory, nor that Rangers had lost because of the officials. Their dominance was such that all the late dark arts, which we’re told to celebrate as ‘shithousing’ and some sort of wonderful part of the modern game but is actually cheating, were all the more unnecessary and irritating. At one point, as Travers claimed a wayward cross in his area, the visiting players had forgotten whose turn it was to pretend to be injured and three of them all farcically flopped onto the ground at once, giving the physio quite the quandary of who to go and play ‘let’s pretend’ with first.
QPR, for their part, registered two shots on target, and neither of them were very good. Travers showed at Dean Court how brilliant he can be on his day, and he needn’t have really changed for this one. There was much frustration that Kakay, whose limitations we’re all aware of and who had a torrid time in the reverse fixture as well, was left on for as long as he was. Rangers improved immediately and immeasurably when Albert Adomah replaced him with 20 minutes to go but it’s a fanciful stretch to think Warbs Warburton is standing down there with a fully fit Albert Adomah on the bench, watching Kakay play like that and thinking ‘I’ll give ten more minutes and see’. The medics and sports science people will have told the manager Adomah had 20 minutes in him, and 20 minutes he was given. Paul Hart isn’t in charge here any more chaps, the manager knows what he’s doing.
It’s probably a good time to the obligatory run through of Bournemouth’s midfield – Lewis Cook £7m, Philip Billing £15m, Jefferson Lerma £25m – versus ours – Stefan Johansen free, Sam Field nominal fee, Ilias Chair free. Solanke scored, should have scored at least one other, and was a persistent threat when compared to the relatively anonymous Lyndon Dykes – but then one cost £20m from Liverpool and the other about a twentieth of that from Livingston. And worth pointing out that Chair was clearly injured from a bang to the calf after a quarter of an hour and was withdrawn at half time, which as we know from past experience allows teams to them double and triple up on Chris Willock – Bournemouth did that superbly, Lewis Cook all action in the middle of the park, and the former Arsenal trainee he cut an isolated, frustrated, and quite mardy figure in the second half. A lot of testiculating and bitching about the situation, not many solutions. Rangers, for the second home game in a row, toiled badly, rarely threatened, and lost to nil. If you look at how our games have panned out with Fulham, Bournemouth, West Brom and perhaps arguably Stoke as well (five defeats, 11 conceded, three scored) it feels like this team has a very defined and clear ceiling. It was hoped that having got three of those teams away from home out the way early in the season that Loftus Road may help bridge the gap on the turn for home, but not on the evidence of the last two games. A concern, certainly, if your ambitions for 2022 stretch beyond us merely qualifying for the play-offs, but competing in them as well.
Given the resources and the teams on paper, I guess we shouldn’t really expect anything different. A first Cherries win here in 16 attempts going back to 1959. And yet, particularly with the form of Scott Parker’s team coming into the match, it was still so bitterly frustrating and intensely annoying to watch it play out the way it did, with Rangers posing quite so little threat. Savage amusement.
QPR: Dieng 7; Kakay 4 (Adomah 70, 7), Dickie 6, Dunne 7, Barbet 7, Wallace 6 (Gray 70, 6); Johansen 6, Field 5, Chair 5 (Dozzell 46, 5); Willock 5, Dykes 5
Subs not used: Amos, Austin, Archer, Thomas
Red Cards: Dozzell 90+5 (two yellows)
Bookings: Field 40 (repetitive fouling), Dozzell 58 (foul), Barbet 90+7 (fighting), Dozzell 90+7 (fighting)
Bournemouth: Travers 6; Stacey 7, Mepham 7, Cahill 8, Zemura 7; Cook 7 (Pearson 90+1, -), Lerma 7; Christie 7 (Lowe 82, -), Billing 8, Stanislas 7 (Anthony 60, 6); Solanke 7
Subs not used: Nyland, Marcondes, Brady, Kilkenny
Goals: Solanke 41 (assisted Stanislas)
Bookings: Christie 57 (foul), Billing 76 (foul), Mepham 90+7 (fighting, very harsh) Pearson 90+7 (being Ben Pearson)
QPR Star Man – Jimmy Dunne 7 Outstanding effort to hold back the tide, nudged ahead of Yoann Barbet by that second half conquering of Stanislas.
Referee – Keith Stroud (Hampshire) 4 My left bollock with a smiley face drawn on it would do a better job than this danger.
Attendance – 16, 308 (3,000 Bournemouth approx.) A remarkable crowd really, given everything that’s going on at the moment, and an impressive travelling support in number and noise. It featured among it the actual man of the match…
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