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Insipid QPR, out with barely a whimper — Report
Sunday, 24th Apr 2022 16:50 by Lee McAlpine

Out-of-form QPR crushed any lingering hopes they had of making the play-offs with a pathetically listless performance and defeat against a Stoke side with nothing to play for on Saturday. Lee McAlpine makes his LFW return with this week’s report.

I know it’s been a while since I’ve had the pleasure of writing one of these reports. It was actually the pre-lockdown, Eze-led triumph at Preston back in 2020. The way this season has panned out for me, it actually feels like that was the last time I saw Rangers win. If we’ve been utterly crap, you can be pretty sure I have been present; If we’ve taken the points with a dramatic late winner, you can be 100% sure I’d been nowhere near the fun. I should have been at the Huddersfield game, but the kick-off was rudely changed by Sky and I had to choose between a Paul Weller gig in Manchester or a likely humiliating going over from the Terriers. No choice really, so it meant I again missed an encouraging Rangers’ effort. Unfortunately, I could come up with no alternative plans this week and was very much in the stadium for this very predictable, timid toothless surrender.

Much has been written already about our horrible collapse from the play-off positions, but from what I’ve witnessed this season, I couldn’t actually believe we should have ever been in those lofty positions in the first place. Fulham apart, the Championship has been severely lacking in quality this season and it is unlikely to be this poor, ever again. To find teams like Luton, Huddersfield, Millwall, Blackburn and us ranked so highly, while surviving on such tiny budgets, really does emphasize this point. Whichever two teams do join the Ruperts in the top flight are going to be in for torrid ride and maybe we should feel slightly fortunate that Rangers won’t suffer that fate.

I have actually been up north for 25 years and have seen us play in most grounds beyond Watford. Stoke, while never feeling a welcoming place for the fans, does seem to have been a good location for the team. Winners from Peacock and Gallen, the most powerful header in the history of football from the Iceman and that glorious power glide from Eze, all made the Stoke fans even grumpier than usual and generally vacating the stadium in huge numbers. With their budget and playing staff, Stoke should be higher in the table than us, but until recently we have been in a different league. Of course that didn’t stop them beating us at home when all the form pointers said the game would be a Rangers banker. The Bet365 stadium was certainly far less intimidating than in the past, with huge banks of empty red seats and those that were occupied produced very little noise.

Following the results or performances in the last two games, the numbers in the away end were swelled, with just a tiny glimmer of hope that a play-off position could stay within our grasp, and the mood was generally light-hearted before kick off. I’m not sure that players actually realised the season wasn’t over already as they produced another dismal, non-threatening performance. Yet another away game when any of the ball boys could’ve played in goal for Stoke, without the result being affected. How can any professional team, in our position, conjure up such slow, negative display? What was the game plan? It felt like we just wanted to grind out the game until the last ten minutes and then somehow fluke a late winner. Of course that plan fell to pieces once we conceded, because once we did, the season’s efforts disappeared down the plughole, as we could still be playing now and the score line would read QPR 0, just like at Barnsley, Blackburn or Sheffield United. That’s four recent away days where we have failed to have a meaningful effort on target. That’s not relegation form, that’s some kind of footballing impossibility.

We lined up with in a kind of 4-5-1 (or 4-4-2). Barbet and Dunne in the centre of the back four, with Sanderson and McCallum as full backs. Dozzell, Field, Amos, Chair and Thomas in the midfield, Thomas and Chair being the ones trying to get into the same postcode as the very isolated Dykes. Westwood somehow has kept the QPR goalkeeper’s curse at bay for another week, although there were worries that he had succumbed, when he remained motionless on the floor after Stoke scored. Our ancient stopper ended up being part of a very small group coming out of this game with any credit.

The game began with the home side very much on the front foot, but without really troubling our goal. Mistakes and slow ponderous play were in huge supply, especially from us. Most of the half was spent with our defence passing the ball between themselves with increasing panic, before it was launched up field. The ball simply didn’t stick anywhere for us and any slight openings we created, were quickly surrendered by a bad touch or terrible pass. Stoke had far more positive possession without creating any great chances. Westwood saved one deflective effort, smartly with his legs, while the nearest we came to anything positive had absolutely nothing to do with us. A routine pass across the home box from a Stoke player nearly resulted in a ridiculous own goal, when the left sided defender miss controlled the ball and it bobbled passed the wrong side of the post, as far as we were concerned. One good forward pass (the only one) nearly set Dykes up for an opening, but his control was awful and the chance was gone. Dunne was booked, quite early on, for a late foul and did well later in the game to avoid a second one, when he pulled out of what looked likely to be another clumsy challenge.

Only one team looked likely to score and the inevitable happened just before half time. A dangerous inswinging corner was flicked goalwards. Westwood saved smartly but the ball fell to Wilmot, whose shot was blocked, before the ball landed invitingly to Brown who crashed it into the roof of the net from close range. The goal was very much deserved. The home side had not been great, but they didn’t need to be, to be far superior to us. It had been a terrible opening half for us and part of a familiar pattern that has occurred far too often this season. Why do we start game like we have just woken up? What’s the point of all those orchestrated pre match warm up routines when they clearly don’t work? Maybe we should just wait on the bus until ten to the 3 because I’ve never seen a team look as poor as this lot in the opening period of games. The manager’s comments about us starting games slowly are also getting boring and predictable. Stop bleating about it and sort it out. Anyway we couldn’t be as bad in the second half could we? Yes we bloody well could. We may have improved slightly, a D- to a D maybe. But still a D and so far below what was required and absolutely infuriating and humiliating to watch.
No changes were made at half time, when they were clearly needed. The midfield was a shambles and creating nothing. But looking at the bench, options were severely limited in that area. I’m glad for all concerned that Jeff Hendricks didn’t come on. Not that I think he couldn’t have improved matters, but you know damn well he would’ve been the scapegoat for all the team’s deficiencies. There were so many candidates to be replaced. Sanderson was not having much fun at right back as the ball became like a grenade to him and you could see his confidence evaporating as the game went on. I bet he can’t wait to get back to Wolves. I think he might have actually had our only shot on target late in the game, but I’m not sure it counted as it was blocked outside the box. I know I’m clutching at tiny straws.

Stoke should have scored a second when Harewood-Bellis had a free header from a corner well saved by Westwood and the highly-rated (or over-rated) Maja also was thwarted by our keeper. Amos was replaced by Adomah and Dykes by Austin, in a double substitution on 57 mins. Adomah certainly gave the team a better shape and an outlet on the right and Austin set up Thomas with a great flicked header. The diminutive midfielder raced onto this ball into a great position on the right side of the box but smashed his shot very high and very wide. A few minutes later, Thomas also nearly equalised with a header which hit the woodwork. Not sure if the keeper had it covered but at least we were having some possession more than 20 yards from our own goal. Anyway Thomas was immediately rewarded for his efforts by being replaced by Gray.

From this point nothing really happened. We huffed and puffed but never laid a glove on Stoke. The home side’s back three, including the aged Jagielka, won’t have had an easier afternoon than today. It was another frustrating game for Chair, who is another whose confidence took a battering today. Our deliveries from both sides were generally rubbish, which was hugely disappointing when McCallum and Adomah both got in advanced positions. We are brilliant at hitting the first defender or giving gentle catching practise for the goalkeeper. It was obvious a long time before the end that we were a shadow of our earlier season team. Just like at those earlier mentioned away games, we never looked like we were going to score. But to not make the keeper actually touch the ball in any meaningful way is unbelievable. The referee added four minutes onto the 90, which seemed a little mean. But I think he was just putting us out of misery because it wouldn’t have mattered if he’d added 40.

At the final whistle the team were greeted by a few boos but mostly by empty spaces as many headed quickly for the exits. We knew the chances of keeping the season going for another week were pretty slim but you really couldn’t have expected such a terrifyingly dire and depressing display. (Well I could with my record this season) This campaign apart, 2022/23 now becomes a huge worry. If we carry on in this way next year, well you can finish this sentence yourself. The confidence has gone and so has the bravery and any kind of self-belief. No matter what platitudes the manager comes out with, you can only believe what your own eyes see and we have become a horrible spectacle.
Best part of the day for me was after the game and huge thank you goes to the Staffordshire constabulary for organising an amazing escorted journey back to the station. We felt like the US president (well apart from being in a tatty old bus) as large numbers of motorcycle outriders and other vehicles, stopped all the traffic and allowed our speedy, safe exit back to the train station.

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

Stoke: Bursik N/A; Wilmot 7, Jagielka 7, Harewood-Bellis 7; Allen 6, Smith 6,
Baker 7, Sawyers 6 (Clucas 82), Tymon 7; Maja 6 (Fletcher 76), Brown 7 (Campbell 90)

Subs not used: Philogence-Bidace, Chester, Vrancic, Bonham

Goals: Brown 45+1 (unassisted)

QPR: Westwood 7; Sanderson 4, Dunne 6, Barbet 6, McCallum 5; Field 5, Amos 5 (Adomah 57, 5), Dozzell 4, Thomas 5 (Gray 70, 5); Chair 5, Dykes 4 (Austin 57, 5)

Subs not used: Mahoney, Kakay, Hendricks, Ball,

Bookings: Dunne (foul)

QPR Star Man — Keiren Westwood 7 Made three good saves to stop the score line from reflecting the game more accurately. His distribution is too slow, but did all that was asked of him.

Referee: Andy Woolmer (Northants) 7 Not sure this game really needed a referee. Dunne’s booking looked a yellow and only decision that looked harsh was foul against Sanderson for a fair 50:50 shoulder to shoulder challenge. Special mention to assistant nearest us, for failing to spot the ball had gone out play from about ten yards away.

Attendance 19,251 (860 QPR approx.

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stneotsbloke added 18:48 - Apr 24
OK, I didn't attend the game but after well over 1000 games in 55 years I feel I've seen plenty of situations to give me a feeling for where we are now.
In the s..t just about sums it up.
To be so ineffective and clueless as we were at the 365 when there was the outside chance of a play-off - God forbid. The failure to get even one shot on target is simply abysmal. the players and Warbs should be ashamed of their performances over the past couple of months.
Warbs keeps warbling on about fine margins, youngsters (what youngsters ?) small squad, injuries blah blah but absolutely nothing changes. We got lucky against Blackpool and Derby and it only papered over the very obvious cracks.
I really, honestly, want Warbs to succeed but if he stays then what is going to change ?. We clearly can't splash big cash.
The forward line doesn't get much service but no-one will convince me that Dykes, Austin and Gray are anywhere near good enough for Championship level. It's painful to watch them. And don't get me started on Kendrick and Sanderson.
Sadly I am fast running out of patience with Warbs and many of the players turning up these days. Even when we were being hammered in our three season in the Prem we weren't as pathetic as we are now.
This season is thankfully nearly over, just start premature worrying about next season !!.


TacticalR added 21:21 - Apr 24
Thanks for your report. I know these aren't easy to do at the moment since there is very little to report.

'I couldn’t actually believe we should have ever been in those lofty positions in the first place'. I suppose it's a sign of how bad things have got that the question of whether our good form was the blip is getting asked.

A longstanding problem has been the lack of creativity. Some posters noticed this a far back as the home game against Bournemouth in December. The quality of our passing was poor. At times the quality of our touch was terrible (particularly Thomas).

Perhaps one thing that has been forgotten is that this is the B team, as so many of our first choice players are out. For what it's worth I think the result was academic as I just couldn't see us getting past some of the other teams in the play-offs in our current depleted state.

francisbowles added 10:05 - Apr 25
Thanks Lee. Unfortunately, I have to agree with all of it.

Northern the wedding was a blessing in disguise.

extratimeR added 12:18 - Apr 25
Thanks Lee, very accurate report, liked the "Ball boys could have played in goal".

I know we have had an awful run with injuries to key players, ( with a small squad), but as you say nobody in the pitch was putting in a " play offs shift".

It just really feels like a dressing room thing, something is wrong , it's a shame because this team has provided some wonderful entertainment and effort over the last 18 months.

Oh well two to go.

Thanks Lee

Loft1979 added 15:54 - Apr 25
Thanks for the commentary. I admit, I also have the attitude of ambivalence and at the same time gratitude that this season is over.

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