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Illy and Willy take strictly business on the road — Report
Sunday, 28th Aug 2022 18:38 by Clive Whittingham

QPR produced their best performance for many a long month, shaking off the prevailing negativity of 2022 and winning a pulsating game at Watford 3-2 with their two star boys putting on a show and Albert Adomah giving the travelling 2,000 the encore they craved.

The best, and worst, bits of the various lockdowns we endured together, were the Big Goals.

Macauley Bonne in the last minute at Derby, Charlie Austin’s first back in our colours at Luton, the comeback victory at home to Brentford. Nick London and Andy Sinton, our eyes and ears and presence, on their shoulders. Some of them we did experience as a group. When Bonne honed in on a Yoann Barbet cross and headed in a last minute leveller against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough we were in that utterly preposterous point of the pandemic where you could congregate together in a pub as long as there weren’t more than six of you at a table and you all had a Scotch egg —Taxi Joe scaled the supporting pillar in the middle of the Crown and Sceptre in celebration like a hairy pole dancer and had to be chased down from the ceiling by Jake the Barman, with a broom. When Dom Ball drew his left boot back against Cardiff City, Covid had decided it would leave you alone if there were no more than six at your table, and you had a toasted sandwich, and the table was outside. The Crown’s garden dissolved into a carnage of airborne beer, grilled cheese and flailing limbs to the disgust of Catherine the Landlady (“I hate you all as individuals, but thanks for the business”) and the twat who lives next door who’s one of those Move Next To Heathrow Airport and Complain About The Planes sorts.

They were, in their own way, little magical moments in our grim lives, much needed relief in a bleak time, sugar for your Shredded Wheat. But with them came the immediate downer that we couldn’t actually be there. That we couldn’t see Ball’s ridiculous 30 yarder arcing through the air towards the top corner, that we couldn’t be crammed in behind that goal at Kenilworth Road watching Bonne’s game-sealer come travelling towards us, that we didn’t have that long boozy train ride back from Swansea after Lyndon Dykes won it with the last kick. Bitter sweet memories are all I'm taking with me, and one of the bitterest and sweetest moments among them was Albert Adomah’s first ever QPR goal, scored in the very final minute of a Monday Night Football game, off the end of an immaculate first touch, right in front of what is usually the away end, at Vicarage Road in Watford. Oh to have been part of that seething, heaving mass behind the goal, to have suffered those bruised shins, to have contributed to that noise, to have raced back to Mabel’s for last orders, running for the last High Barnet tube singing the name of the local boy finally scoring in our colours. Delighted he scored, ecstatic we won, mood improved ten thousand percent, but ten minutes afterwards it was time to switch the television off, and then it was just us, alone, in the dark, in the living room again. Day after day after day.

That desperation to get back to the thing we love the most has dissipated somewhat through 2022. Prior to Saturday QPR had won just five of 25 matches. Following them around a broken country with a collapsing infrastructure and transport network has, once again, become a chore. There is so much wrong with QPR on and off the pitch again at the moment and combined with living in the sordid, dirty, backward, small-minded shithole this country has become, it has put me in a terrible, embittered headspace as I tried very poorly to explain in the preview-ish on Friday. But one thing this club has always done is have a bit of a sixth sense for when they’ve pushed even the die-hards right to the edge, and it’s time to go no further, take a step back, and throw the loyalists a bone. On Saturday afternoon, back at Vicarage Road, they threw us a bone from a brontosaurus.

In a league of haves and have nots, Watford and QPR are now at opposite ends of that divide. On Monday Watford ‘sold’ Hassane Kamara to their owner’s other club Udinese, but kept him on loan — the Pozzos effectively passing £16m from their right hand to their left, creating a chunk of FFP headspace in the process. This a club already in receipt of handsome parachute payments as reward for nine months of Premier League football in which they worked through three more managers and won two home games. After much speculation and talk of injuries, headline grabber Ismaila Sarr, and for me the far more talented Joao Pedro, both started in attack along with Nicki Manaj. The Hornets, effectively, starting with £50m-worth of striker, and Manaj. QPR went with a back four anchored by Rob Dickie and Jimmy Dunne in the centre — like turning up to a party at Elton John’s house with half a bottle of Blue Nun.

What QPR do have, however, is some seriously talented players of their own. Not enough of them, and not in any kind of depth, but Ilias Chair and Chris Willock get in any other team in this league, and a big part of the struggles of this calendar year so far has been getting these two little mates out on the pitch at the same time often enough. New manager Mick Beale doesn’t count days, he counts training sessions, and as of last week he’d had 33 of those with his new team in which he estimated that Illy and Willy have both participated at the same time on three occasions. It’s much more fun in the sandpit when these two are playing together rather than separately, and on Saturday they delivered something approaching a masterclass which, with a week of transfer window left, will surely have alerted clubs with money to spend. If it hasn’t, they’re looking for the wrong things in the wrong places. Sound the Eze alarm, I think we've got at least one live one here.

Having failed to beat either Blackpool or Rotherham at home last week, the 2,000 faithful from Shepherd’s Bush made the short hop to Watford with about as much hope of a positive outcome as you have from a call with the Inland Revenue. Rangers, though, settled to their task really well. Field and Johansen had been swapped back over in midfield to great effect, and Lyndon was in one of his Scotland moods. It was nice to see us playing proper football, and looking like we’d been practising a bit. Johansen’s firm, low drive from the edge of the box on the quarter hour would have made for a lovely goal had it nestled in the bottom corner rather than flashing wide — Denenenenenener Bachmann could only watch it and pray. That made me feel a little less guilty when, three minutes later, Ilias Chair ended another stylish move with a frankly rather ridiculous speculator from three quarters of a mile away from the goal, which struck Sierralta on his back with just the right amount of pace and spin to send it careering off in the opposite direction and with Bachmann already committed to his right, and the whole away end at the far end of the ground blowing on it, the ball skipped and skidded off the lush playing surface just enough to beat the keeper heading back the other way and nestle very satisfyingly in the side netting for 1-0. Mega, mega white thing indeed.

One of the more dispiriting aspects of playing the ‘haves’ in this league is just how hard QPR have to try, and well they have to play, to get anything at all from them — points, goals, corners — and just how easy it looks and feels for them. Look at Bournemouth, beaten 9-0 yesterday, promoted from this league last season — did they ever play really well? Can you recall being impressed by them? Were they that good in either win against us? When they got in the shit in January they just went out and bought six more players, most of whom they’re now trying to get rid of again. Were Watford really that good when they finished second in this division the year before? It doesn’t seem to matter. When you can pay these sorts of salaries to these sorts of players, third gear football is often more than adequate. Sure enough, after a start from the visitors that you really couldn’t fault at all, Pedro got on the ball, got Ken Sema through via a suspicion of handball, and he stood Seny Dieng up before slipping it into the far corner. One one, and for all the obvious positives and encouragement the R’s had provided to this point, it was only level because Dieng had made a special save a moment or two before from Manaj in one of his rare forays into an onside position.

Next test then — adversity. There’s been more body to church hall orange squash than QPR in the early games, how would they cope with this latest setback? Brilliantly. Fucking brilliantly. The goal they retook the lead with after the half hour was a real one, like actual football teams score. Rangers managed somehow to pip Watford to the loan of Ethan Laird and watching him here monstering his side of the field while home full back Gaspar tarted about like a League One player in waiting I think they might be regretting not trying a bit harder. He surged onto Chair’s ball at the byline and cut the crucial assist back perfectly for Chris Willock to stride onto and make it three goals in three starts (there's a better player in this league at the moment?), but there was so much that went on before that in a move that actually began with Watford loading up a four v three attack and looking like they were going to score themselves before some super defending from Jimmy Dunne turned the tide in the opposite direction. The full backs have been weirdly reticent to go forwards in Beale’s early games, here they were both flying, and Laird was knocking on the door of man of the match.

Like I say though, it doesn’t take much when there’s players like Joao Pedro around. Watford’s tactics all afternoon were to get the ball wide, and then knock it in behind QPR’s defensive line for a late arriver coming through, often with a distracting early runner going first into a deliberately offside position to trick the defence into stopping and stepping out. When Dieng sprang from his area to head away one such attack it looked like he’d done the right thing but Pedro just calmly lofted the ball back over him and towards the empty net. A first positive to come from climate change — the ball bounced enough off the parched ground to climb up, onto the cross bar, and out for a goal kick. Sometimes it’s your day.

If it was going to be QPR’s day you felt the first ten minutes of the second half might be an important thing to see out with the lead intact. Rangers lasted barely five. If you’ve come for my triannual Arthur Fowlering of the sitting room about the dwarf Disney forgot to draw then I’m afraid I’m here to disappoint you — Rangers, and Rob Dickie in particular, wanted a free kick for the contact on him, but I didn’t think it was a foul, he had to be stronger, and Keith Stroud was right to play on through to Pedro sliding in a second equaliser. Fine time for that goblin to start getting things right.

Start again.

Start again Rangers did. This felt to me, really for the first time, like the team Mick Beale wants QPR to be. We looked a lot more comfortable, confident and threatening in this shape than we have so far. Sam Field, it felt to me, had been returned to the deeper, sitting role he’s better suited to rather than trying to become a box-to-box man he’s just not. That meant Johansen played slightly further forward than he has been doing, and he turned in his best performance since his loan because permanent. There were good displays from players who have underperformed consistently for a long time, and are now being threatened with replacement: Andre Dozzell much more purposeful, forceful and aggressive with and without the ball; Lyndon Dykes leading the line with all the effort and blunt force trauma we know he can bring to the table and get so frustrated when he doesn’t. The lack of attacking from the full backs, given everything we’ve heard about Ethan Laird, Kenneth Paal and how Beale likes to set his teams up and play, has been weird to this point, but here both were off the leash. Laird was superb throughout, Paal started very nervously and got bullied a couple of times in the first 25 minutes but improved immeasurably after that.

Backed magnificently by the throngs behind the goal, and plenty in the home ends too by the looks of things at the end, with none of the toxicity that came with expectation last season, the Hoops kept at it, kept playing their football, kept going to win. Dare I draw Middlesbrough comparisons from a year ago? They weren’t, on this occasion, cowed by the opposition, demoralised by the setbacks, or devoid of belief in themselves. Yes, Watford have financial advantages. Yes, you’ll struggle to see a better player at this level of football than Pedro as long as you watch the division. But get beyond him, Sarr and Choudhury and start looking at what else they’ve got on the menu here and it’s closer to the Romford Wimpey than Le Deuxième. It was only Bachmann, who’s had an excellent start to the season, saving well from Willock through a crowd of people, and one on one with Chair as he bore down on the goal beneath our feet, that kept QPR from going to Vicarage Road, playing a team fresh out of the Premier League and scoring four or five times. Chair received a standing ovation when he was substituted - talk to me again about how he's overrated.

I thought the Hornets were a bit of an odd watch truth be told — Sierralta, a lot to say for himself for a bloke with a man bun, far too busy and involved in acting the big man on campus, not enough attention paid to the messy business of actually defending his goal, led a merry dance by Illy and Willy all afternoon. I loved how QPR, for once, stood up to all that faux tough-man posturing and preening. There was a lot of, shall we say, overcompensating, in Kabasele’s school-yard bully routine on Chris Willock midway through the second half, and there was some serious big dick energy in Willock sticking his chin straight back in the other direction and flicking the home captain’s armband off his arm and into the away end. Too fucking funny. Round of a-fucking-pplause. As if being systematically destroyed by him for the previous hour or so hadn’t been humiliating enough.

I did wonder whether we might be a bit light when Dykes went off for Adomah — Willock played more centrally after that. I thought Dykes had gone well, and we lost a bit of the grunt, until Sinclair Armstrong came on for the final ten and gave a game-management performance belying his tender years and lack of experience. Were we trying to hold what we had? A big risk, as shown two minutes from time when a cross partially cleared from the QPR box was bastarded back with interest straight into the net by Kayembe, but Sarr was offside from the initial cross and had rightly, mercifully been flagged by assistant referee Akil Howson who after this, and his treat for us at Blackpool last season, I would personally like to have quite a long and sordid love affair with. Two weeks in the Cyclades work for you mate? I can be a very tender lover.

I’d just finished telling Kath how I could probably take an equaliser, but not losing the game. When that ball flew into the net it became very crystal clear that this was complete bollocks. I honestly thought Simmo had died. I had to go and find him on the floor to tell him the flag was up. He was just sort of crouched there. I could not take an equaliser. None of us could.

Bachmann forgetting to check for a flag before coming to dick swing in front of the away end was better than most of the stuff they’ve got hanging in the Tate.

Repeat. Sometimes, it’s your day. It's your day.

Equaliser? Yes, equaliser. Excuse the clunky chronology but we could only finish in one place, and reflect that as shit as life might be at the moment, it does have a habit of brushing little scraps of narrative like this from the table to give you some hope that everything might be alright in the end— and if it’s not alright, then it’s not the end.

Dykes had been replaced by Albert Adomah. Can you see where this is going? Surely not. But who knows because here goes Paal, finally living up to the lyrics of his song, winning a flick on initially and then driving on beyond the exceptional Chair down the left side. At the back of the away end we all switch our weight from right foot to left and lean forward, over the heads in front, to see where he’s going, and what he might have planned for us when he gets there. What he’s got planned is the perfect cut back. Like I say, it’s like we’ve fucking practised — witchcraft, prepare the wicker man. Watford haven’t got wise, bit slow on the uptake this lot, and suddenly the whole thing is blown wide open. There’s the goal, and Bachmann, and nobody else in yellow. There’s everybody that has ever played for Queens Park Rangers back to - but thankfully not including - Dean Coney who'd have no doubt stuck the fucking thing in the tea bar. They’re all here — Kevin Gallen, Paul Furlong, Peter Crouch, Richard Langley, Fernando De Ornelas. Ludek Miklosko is here. There’s a queue the likes of which I haven’t seen since Dr Karl Kennedy played the Sheffield WalkAbout doing Men At Work covers. They’re all here to score the winning goal, and the ball is rolling invitingly towards them. The intake of breath from the 2,000 inmates is so pronounced I’m surprised it didn’t suck the ball into the net untouched. The red display ticks over, the bell rings, it’s 06. Stefan Johansen steps forward with a slip of paper. It wouldn’t, it’s fair to say, have been my choice. And he falls over immediately. My heart turns to lead, and drops straight out of my arse. Why are we doing this to ourselves? The display ticks over again, the bell rings once more, 37. It’s Albert Adomah. I look into his eyes and see a paradise. There’s a bloke off to our left, I see him at Rangers a lot, he's more tattoo than man, he looks like Ray Winstone if Ray Winstone slept at the railway station. He’s got hold of the geezer next to him and is just shouting “AGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH”. Adomah takes a touch. The away end, as one, leans forwards about four and a half feet. This is going to be a big one. The key changes in the Titanic theme. It is time. Albert is ready to shoot. Same spot of the same pitch in the same stadium. Spookily so. What are you waiting fooooooooooooooooor-same outcome — off the underside of the bar and into the net for the winner. Sounded like an explosion at the old Simpson place… looks like there’s beer coming out of the chimney. The utter, utter pandemonium at the back of that stand had to be participated in to be believed. Serious injuries are inflicted and sustained. Later friends and loved ones will wait out on the street to welcome us back from the frontline, and we will tell them what we saw.

We got our Albert Adomah moment in the end. A lot of us really, really needed it.

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

Watford: Bachmann 7; Gaspar 5 (Bayo 82, -), Sierralta 5, Kabasele 5, Kamara 6; Kayembe 5, Choudhury 6; Sarr 7, Pedro 8, Sema 7; Manaj 4 (Asprilla 31, 6)

Subs not used: Cathcart, Gosling, Hamer, Hause, Hungbo (show-off)

Goals: Sema 27 (assisted Pedro), Pedro 50 (assisted Sarr)

Bookings: Pedro 40 (foul), Kayembe 45+4 (foul), Kamara 85 (foul), Kabasele 90 (foul)

QPR: Dieng 6; Laird 8, Dickie 5, Dunne 6, Paal 7; Field 7, Dozzell 7, Johansen 8 (Masterson 88, -); Chair 8 (Armstrong 80, 7), Willock 8 (Kakay 88, -), Dykes 7 (Adomah 61, 7)

Subs not used: Archer, Bonne, Shodipo

Goals: Chair 18 (assisted Johansen), Willock 34 (assisted Laird), Adomah 70 (assisted Paal)

Bookings: Johansen 44 (foul), Dieng 81 (time wasting), Dozzell 86 (foul)

QPR Star Man — Ilias Chair 8 Quite a few to choose from here with Willock excellent as always, Johansen and Dozzell having their best games for the club, Laird superb from right wing back, but Chair’s work rate, creativity and involvement in just about everything good QPR did nudges him just ahead for me.

Referee — Keith Stroud (Hampshire) 6 You’ve got to give credit where it’s due, otherwise the criticism becomes personal and illegitimate. There was plenty here to debate and disagree with — I’m not sure why Bachmann is allowed to delay a QPR corner for 30 seconds while he screams in the referee’s face without getting a card, I’m not sure why we’re stopping the play with QPR on the attack for a Watford injury that doesn’t require treatment and then handing them the ball back at the restart, I know Seny Dieng was taking the piss for sometime but to book him when you’ve stopped the game for a substitution is just pure Stroud, Watford surrounded him at half time and I don’t quite know what their problem was there. But the big decisions here were correct — I don’t think it is handball for the first Watford goal, I don’t think Dickie is fouled for the second, and the third was correctly ruled out for offside. Relative to his previous performances in QPR games, and the standard of refereeing we’ve had so far this season, this was pretty decent.

Attendance — 19,977 (1,996 QPR) The lower expectations this season have brought with them a removal of some of the angry, aggressive toxicity from the stands. The crowd are now staying with this team through moments of adversity rather than getting aggy with them. Fantastic noise and support throughout here, a real pleasure to be a part of again.

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062259 added 19:27 - Aug 28
It’s pretty easy to characterize this team, at least so far. A win, a draw and a loss at home. A win, a draw and a loss on the road. 9 scored, 9 conceded. The question is, is there more upside than downside? I’m inclined to think so, injuries permitting.

Scarecrow added 19:40 - Aug 28
10/10 Clive Superb write up

Paddyhoops added 19:41 - Aug 28
Gutted I couldn’t get to this one . A few days in the Lake District with Mrs Paddy put paid to that!
Being a Watford resident it’s one in I never miss.
I feel your pain about the state of the country and your spot on there.
Still, fantastic report and a barnstorming performance!!

FrankRightguard added 20:06 - Aug 28
Beautiful Cliveo

WokingR added 20:29 - Aug 28
Great to hear you sounding more like the Old Clive again.
Was getting worried for you for a while

ibnumber10 added 20:40 - Aug 28
Fantastic Clive, back to your best, this club can take you to places you don’t want to go but just at the event horizon you experience some kind of nirvana moment. Pleased you got to experience that, happy days!

thehat added 22:33 - Aug 28

It really is incredible Clive how you capture the moment in the away end yesterday in words.

Its only a Championship match in August but to us mere mortals nothing and I mean nothing will ever get close to the ball arriving at Alberts feet and him taking what seemed to be an eternity to strike the ball of the underside of the bar into the net.

The scenes that followed will never be understood by those that are not one of us.

I’m still buzzing now - This bloody football club.

Looking forward to Tuesday and next Saturday’s trip to Wales…….

karlski added 01:55 - Aug 29
This brought tears. Of laughter, and of overwhelming emotion. Thank you.

royinaus added 04:00 - Aug 29
Living here in Aus, alone in the living room is where I find myself after each match, at 2am - or 3am when the clocks go back!
My missus who tries so hard is asleep around the 30 minute mark so I send her to bed for fear of giving her a heart attack should we score. That's why your reports mean so much, capturing that elation that non football fans - or the spoilt ones who only know success, struggle to understand. Hugging & bouncing in unison with total strangers, albeit, kindred spirits on one huge level - even I don't understand it until it's happening. Bed was not an option this week so I indulged myself & watched Jimmy finish off the Boks - it was the weekend after all.

stneotsbloke added 08:21 - Aug 29
A joyous result. One swallow doesn't make a Summer but this new team are beginning to move solidly in the right direction.
Illy and Will were superb but, as you say, so were many others.
Ily is such a clever player, even the great Stanley Bowles wouldn't have seen the keeper on one side of the goal and aimed for Sieralta's back.

Ad99 added 09:59 - Aug 29
Another brilliant write-up. Please compile some of the best from over the years and make a book!

hopekillsyou added 13:06 - Aug 29
Brilliant report. Half a bottle of Blue Nun indeed…
The most promising thing about this was the decent performance of both fullbacks after both Laird and Paal ( especially) being underwhelming in the last 2 home games. Stef too..Christ I was beginning to despair….
Complete mood change after this result. Typical of this team and this league.

Andybrat added 14:20 - Aug 29
Fantastic report Clive and amazing how the weekend is better after such a win. I couldn’t go so literally viewing in the “thread” on the forum, the BBC website ( always a couple of minutes behind) and just Google which has the latest twitter feeds. Add the best bits of all and u get nowhere near the above report. I am a cup half full and do believe if we keep scraping points while the rest get fit we have a team. Interesting about Dykes, we have goals in this team, so his role is yes score goals but I think his pain in the assness generates space and then opportunities Illy, Willi, Roberts and co. Tough one again Tuesday after such a short break

Northernr added 14:36 - Aug 29
Andy - If Dykes is a pain in the ars, I don't have a problem with him. The times I get annoyed with him is when he's not putting himself about, as we know he can, as he did on Saturday. You don't need to be a good player to do that, and it makes it very annoying when he doesn't even contribute that. He's never going to be a 20 goal striker, but he can do that role, as he showed well on Saturday for me.

Andybrat added 18:11 - Aug 29
Agree Clive 100% . Makes me wonder what flicks his switch and whether not scoring goals makes him try harder and then be a bigger pain in the ars. He did give his all against Rotherham also ( I felt). Ever feel him and our injury list could be the most recurring topics this season? Need the noise only Loftus Road can make tomorrow.

NayDaze added 18:50 - Aug 29
The tw@t next to Heathrow -quality 😆😆
I know.. Let’s move to the city centre coz it’s cool & then I can complain about the nightclub across the road same old same old👍

Marshy added 21:10 - Aug 29
An all round solid performance, and we fully deserved the win. So glad I was there to witness, and be a part of all the mayhem when Albert struck the ball into the net. What made it all the more satisfying, was that we even won away with Keith Stroud in charge. Miracles do happen. We clearly have the nucleus of a very good team, and hopefully more to come if we can get the injury struck players back, and who knows one or two more in before the window closes. Lets take this positivity with us to the Hull game, and hopefully get another good result.

TacticalR added 23:14 - Aug 29
Thanks for your report.

Great (and unexpected) win, although it could easily have gone another way if João Pedro's shot had gone in instead of hitting the bar, or that Kayembe shot at the end had been allowed. Watford played round the edge of us, and used that curling ball over the top very effectively. We did look suspect defensively. For the first Watford goal, why did Laird not follow Sema? For the second Watford goal, if it wasn't a foul, did Dickie just trip himself up?

On the positive side, we played some very effective counter-attacking football. Field and Johansen looked more comfortable. There is no point Johansen trying to do everything - much better to use him going forward if possible. Dozell was better too. It was his pass that got Willock away for our second goal.

Agree with Chair as MoM. Against Rotherham he ran himself into the ground, and he did the same thing here, plus he had a hand in all three goals.

The away support looked and sounded great on TV.

Northernr added 13:31 - Aug 30
Tactical - on the first goal, do you think Laird thinks he’s given handball? He stopped weirdly abruptly.

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