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QPR make their Carrow Road point — Report
Thursday, 3rd Nov 2022 20:25 by Clive Whittingham

After the sloppiness of Luton and Birmingham, QPR were back to something like their well-drilled best at Norwich on Wednesday in a lesser-spotted entertaining 0-0 draw.

The scorers of Queens Park Rangers’ last two winning goals at Carrow Road were Martin Rowlands and Devon White, which gives you some idea of the frequency of their victories in this corner of the country.

Fourteen years between them, and 14 more years since Rowly’s thrice-taken free kick, the scale of the latest challenge was laid bare an hour before kick off by the benches named on the team sheet. QPR, as we know, have a good starting 11 and not a lot beyond that; Norwich, meanwhile, have parachute payments coming out the wazoo.

With Stefan Johansen, Jimmy Dunne, Tyler Roberts and Jake Clarke-Salter all now sidelined, Rangers were able to welcome Chris Willock back in reserve but otherwise wouldn’t be scaring many trick or treat goodies out of anybody with Jordan Archer, Osman Kakay, Albert Adomah, Nico Trävelmän, Mide Shodipo and Macauley Bonne’s Offside. Sinclair Armstrong, a six foot tall teenager, mysteriously unaccounted for.

Norwich were backed up by Tim Krul, 15 full caps for the Netherlands; England U21 star and multi-million-pound-transfer-target for several Premier League clubs, Max Aarons; My Chemical Hugill, who QPR would very much like to have had back from West Ham before the wages you can earn to sit on the bench here torpedoed us clean out of the water; Kieran Dowell, who has torched us previously in Nottingham Forest colours; Kenny McLean, 28 full caps for Scotland; Onel Hernandez; and Marcelino Nunez who cost more than QPR’s entire summer intake put together. Eyes down, look in for a long night at the office.

Rangers would certainly need to play a good deal better than they had at Birmingham on Friday to hang onto Canary tailfeathers. Even allowing for the refereeing, the flukey goal, and the injuries at St Andrew’s, after eight wins and just two defeats in 11 games Rangers just felt and looked a little smug with themselves in that game for me, like they thought they could just turn up and win, and that saw them caught cold by an aggressive Brum side. Here they made it to first base in the first minute. Tim Iroegbunam steaming into Sam Byram with mere seconds on the clock and picking up a thick yellow card from referee Andy Davies, a late replacement for Bobby Madley. Get that into you.

Iroegbunam would be absolutely key to a lot of the good that followed for Rangers. I’m lost in the way he moves, the way he feels. He played 89 minutes, in the middle of midfield, on a yellow card, and did it almost faultlessly. QPR’s plan, not for the first time this season, was to ban an opponent from the middle strip of the pitch, while deliberately conceding space and letting them attack wide. Iroegbunam gave his best performance for the club in dominating that middle, but without Stefan Johansen there were also disciplined and effective efforts from Andre Dozzell and Luke Amos without the ball — with it, and we say this with these two a lot, I wanted a bit more going forwards, a bit more intent, a bit more strength, but defensively they formed a part of a very effective trio.

One such wide attack from our former loanee Sam McCallum ended with a low cross for Gabriel Sara to strike, but Seny Dieng had seen it and read it in advance and was down sharply to make a good save. Within seconds, McCallum was peddling the other way as Ethan Laird got going for the first time, worked space intelligently, and then fed Ilias Chair in the box who drew a save from Angus Gunn every bit as impressive as Dieng’s. This would soon become a tale of two excellent goalkeepers.

Norwich may have been without top scorer Todd Flanders, but still had cheat sheet Teemu Pukki in attack. When the press failed and Norwich did get going through the middle, albeit having been allowed to pinch the best part of 20 yards from the throw in that started it all, the Fin let go from ten yards and Dieng tipped over. He was somewhat closer in, and seemingly destined to score, soon after when the ball fortunately rebounded back to him through a tackle with Rob Dickie leaving him one on one with Dieng but his shot hit the inside of the far post and bounced straight back into play. He’d score that 999 times out of a thousand, perhaps our 14 year due date was going to be here after all.

Thereafter it was technical, it was tactical, it was intricate, interesting and intriguing, but there was more chance of scoring on the concourse at half time than out on the field of play. Gunn’s outstretched leg intercepted Laird’s low cross into the six-yard box before further damage could come — Laird back to something a bit more like it here after a couple of off games in which the opposition played him well. Falling in love with him. Paal, on the other side, as usual, a cut above most others on the pitch, what a signing he might turn out to be. Possibilities.

Some bits and pieces for you to pick the bones out of. QPR won a corner at the end of first half stoppage time, but spent so long over it referee Davies lost patience and blew for half time before it could be taken. Fine. I agree with him. I wish more referees would do that, because much like I don’t really understand why you’re allowed to spend a minute over every throw in if you’ve got somebody who can chuck it a moderately long way as long as they towel it off first, I’ve also never grasped football’s received logic that if time is up but there’s a corner you let them take it and see what happens before blowing the whistle. Typical, though, the first time a referee doesn’t allow it, it’s against us.

From Norwich’s corners, Lyndon Dykes seemed to win every header. It was remarkable, like a bloody magnet. So effective that I thought it quite a risk to take him off late in the game for Bonne’s Offside and a night of very creditable work indeed was almost undone with the last kick of the game (Norwich allowed to squeeze their last corner in before full time, because of course) when Grant Hanley’s snap shot kissed the outside of the post on its way out. There was a lot of it about.

Dieng is a strange keeper in that the shot stopping often feels like the weakest part of his game. I’d actually back this guy to play central midfield at this level if it came to it, and given our striking options I wonder if his goal at Sunderland has triggered any David James-style, Stuart Pearce thoughts in Mick Beale’s brainy brain. Here, the saves were brilliant, capped off three minutes from time when the defence finally caved and Hernandez was onto the chance like a thirsty cougar - Dieng appeared to slip, but regained his footing and spread himself superbly to make a spectacular stop and preserve a point. Still, it’s hard to forget his tenderly caressed half-volley release first thing in the second half that spliced Norwich apart diagonally, took almost their entire team out of the game, and probably should have been used more effectively by Ilias Chair. I’m desperate to give Tim man of the match, because to give it to the keeper suggests we were under the pump and lucky to get a point which isn’t the case, but it’s hard to overlook Dieng for his overall contribution and it’s a performance that will have gone in several scouts’ black books.

But what I want to focus in on for a moment is an incident right at the end of the first half where QPR got sprung big time on the counterattack from their own corner, leaving Todd Cantwell to sprint into the Rangers half with the ball and really only Dieng for company. Ilias Chair, brilliantly, worked his arse off to get back, make the tackle, win the ball back and nullify the danger. Cantwell wanted a free kick, and a red card, and got neither. Referee Davies did really rather well all night, for my money, to ignore the diving, play-acting, histrionics and shithousing. But once you did ignore the diving, play-acting, histrionics and shithousing it was really quite difficult to see what else Cantwell was bringing to the table. He spent more time on his back last night than… no, I’m sorry, I can’t do it, let’s all grow up a bit shall we? Goodness me.

The Chair incident was a classic example — rather than having eyes on the goal, the chance, the shot, the deadlock breaker, the opportunity to win the game, Cantwell was reaching across feeling for the contact from Chair and hitting the deck the moment it came to try and bleed a red card out of the referee. We got screwed like that in this fixture here two seasons back where, behind closed doors, his repeated chucks to the floor and screams punctuated the night, until a weaker referee than this (Oli Langford) gave him a penalty just to shut him up. That night it worked, here, it really didn’t. Already struggling to play through the middle of Beale’s set up, Norwich persistently failed to build any momentum, pressure, tempo, atmosphere, threat or belief because so much of their play went through Cantwell, and every time he got the ball he hit the deck. His job, much like Grealish in Smith’s Villa team, seemed to be to get the ball deep in the shape, and hit the floor to win a free kick as soon as possible. All this did was slow the game down, take all the flow out of Norwich’s attack, and let QPR file back into shape behind the ball ready for Dykes, Balogun or Rob Dickie (returning to the team and to form) to head away. It was like an NFL approach to football — just constantly aiming to get ten yards further up the pitch for a fresh set of downs, rather than maybe running past somebody, having a shot, getting the crowd into the game. It was only really when the much more purposeful, strong and upright Hernandez came on that I started to worry about Norwich, and of course we’re one great Dieng save from losing the game to his goal. One miss is all it takes. Stop it.

Norwich, for all their financial advantages over idiot scum like us, have not been that good this season despite sitting fifth in the table. The weekend win over a lousy Stoke side snapped a six-match winless streak, and their performance at Burnley this time last week — for the players they had out on the pitch — was just plain odd. Dean Smith, who’s always been a whinger anyway, took this job a week after getting sacked from Villa and both manager and club constantly give the outward impression that they’re not really that keen on each other. As ever, five-times Justice League winner Smith reckoned Norwich should have had a penalty for Sam Field’s grappling with Gibson under one of the corners Lyndon Dykes cleared — Field needlessly gave the referee a decision to make, but not for the first time with Smith I wonder whether it might be better asking why his players could find Dykes with their corners every time rather than somebody in yellow. He’s the opposite of a ‘no excuses culture’ modernist this guy — his team either wins, or it wins really if you look at the game as a whole, the chances, the refereeing, the xG, the phases of the moon, the direction of the wind, or whatever the fuck it is he’s banging on about this week. It is, as you can tell, not for me Clive, and I’m pleased I don’t have to watch his team or listen to his woe-is-me routine more than twice a season. Sadly though, this whole set up here strikes me a bit of Harry Redknapp’s 2013/14 QPR — boring, half-arsed manager phoning it in, but so many advantages over the rest of the league they can’t help but finish top six regardless.

All of this tore me slightly between thinking that QPR had played really well and that this was a good result (which is where I’ve just about landed), and wondering whether a win wasn’t here for the taking with just a little bit more bravery and caution thrown to a biblical autumn wind that blew sheets of water across the place throughout the second half. Chris Willock, back from his latest hamstring injury, did the two things we expect of him: carried our biggest goal threat; freed up Illy. The big chance to win the game followed his introduction immediately, as he collected play in the centre circle, saw a wonderland in his eyes, and strode off into the sort of space any opposition scout worth his salt must have underlined in red ink on any report on this Beale QPR side. His shot was typically low, true and accurate, fingered onto the post by Gunn who was then up and about to dive the opposite way and keep out Dykes’ well-planted header on a follow up cross from Paal. With most Championship keepers that’s 1-0 and game.

QPR have now played seven of the top ten away from home — only Burnley and Preston remain unvisited. For that, they’ve won four road trips, nobody in the division has managed more. They’re fourth in the league, and remain above Norwich — again, look at those two benches. They haven’t scored in two away games (on the pitch at least), and only have one goal in their last three — that a consolation OG at the end of the Luton defeat. But this was a fifth clean sheet in ten games, after two in the previous 28, a great result on paper and a really disciplined execution of a sound tactical plan.

Rangers now play three of the bottom five going into the World Cup break and it’s there, as much as how you compete in games like this, that usually separates good QPR teams from bad.

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

Norwich: Gunn 8; Byram 6 (Dowell 84, -), Hanley 6, Gibson 6, McCallum 7 (McLean 70, 6); Hayden 6 (Aarons 84, -), Gibbs 6; Gomes 6 (Hernandez 66, 7), Ramsey 6, Cantwell 5 (Nunez 70, 6); Pukki 6

Subs not used: Krul, Hugill

Bookings: Byram 35 (foul)

QPR: Dieng 8; Laird 7, Dickie 7, Balogun 7, Paal 7; Dozzell 6 (Willock 57, 7), Iroegbunam 8, Field 7; Amos 6 (Shodipo 85, -), Chair 7 (Adomah 85, -), Dykes 7 (Bonne 85, -)

Subs not used: Archer, Trävelmän, Kakay

Bookings: Iroegbunam 1 (foul), Field 48 (foul), Dykes 75 (foul)

QPR Star Man — Seny Dieng 8 As said in the report, I don’t want to give him man of the match, because it makes it seem like we were second best and hung on because of our goalkeeper, and I want to really ham up how well Tim Ireogbunam played last night on a booking for the whole game. But you can’t deny the three saves he’s made have secured the point, and his overall performance was almost entirely without fault.

Referee — Andy Davies (Hampshire) 8 Always going to be quibbles, but I thought he did really well with this and contributed to the game as best he could. Didn’t buy into the ‘every bit of contact is a free kick’ Premier League mantra, wasn’t having any of Cantwell’s bullshit, very good overall. Made a nice change.

Attendance — 23,458 (1,322 QPR) I’m going to have to start spending more time on the concourse.

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NottsQPR added 20:51 - Nov 3
I was baffled watching Sky last night that Dieng wasn’t MOTM.

I liked Tim’s performance more because of the early yellow, but he didn’t have the impact on the game that seny did.

We are so close this year, closer than last and yet it is - as you point out in the report - the depth of our squad that is the issue. If we remain there or thereabouts in Jan, it will be really interesting to see if there is any kind of further gamble by the board, especially after the issues of last January.

Ironically, I feel that the one person that could have made a difference to this years team is Andre Gray and his ability to finish. His absence has allowed Armstrong time, but when you see Bonne come on rather than Gray the chances of a late winner seem much slimmer

FrankRightguard added 20:54 - Nov 3
For the penalty appeal, Gibson also had Field in a headlock as much as Field was holding him. Six and two threes. Play on!

GroveR added 21:07 - Nov 3
Cantwell tracked back twice and that made him the compete box-to-box midfielder for the Sky commentary team.

On the other hand, if Tim Ireogbunam continues to develop over the next three years as he has in the last three months, that's an England box-to-box midfielder. Like Pogba without the hurty-fanny-stropitude.

Paddyhoops added 21:36 - Nov 3
Tim remind of Viera in his pomp. Shame he’s not ours!!

davman added 21:47 - Nov 3
@NottsQPR - please no. Gambling to get to that cesspit where we've already won more games this season than we would there with the risk that failure means a firesale to get back on track which would set us back 5 years; no thanks.

Stick with it, see if we can offload Thomas, Masterson, Nico, Owens and maybe Bonne to fund a striker of some kind and a back up left back, but NO MORE.

If we get up with this team intact, great. If Eze gets to play for England and then gets sold for £40m in the summer and we just have to sell one asset, pay the others to extend THEN go again if we do fail this season.

Agree with Clive's assessment of Narch there - individually they should be streets ahead, collectively they aren't, but just like Watford, their ££s mean they do not have to try very hard to get into the playoffs or even better.

Burnley and their cash have just started to motor, so there is probably just 1 auto spot to go for...

gavster31 added 07:13 - Nov 4
Fantastic report as ever! Combination of astute assessment and tongue-in-cheek humour. Prior to this game, perhaps scarred by Birmingham, I thought we were in for a roasting from the well-financed Norwich. But we stood up well, performed well as a unit and even threatened. Have some faith that similar performances over the next few games will yield a decent points return.

thehat added 07:58 - Nov 4
Thanks Clive spot on - Agree with the referee blowing for half time before our corner but why didn't he do the same for the Norwich corner - I was screaming at the TV.

Talking of that corner, you mentioned Dykes contribution in defending our corners because when he went off that job fell to Bonne and look at his pathetic effort at the near post, got completely brushed aside to let the ball travel into our six yard box and nearly cost us the game.

I really want Bonne to be a good back up to Dykes but this cameo was shocking.

3 massive games and if we can get 7 points that would be a decent return and keep us right in the mix at the top with Burnley at home to follow.
Coventry tickets arrived this week also - Come on you R'rrs

MrSheen added 08:50 - Nov 4
At least we know what 6-foot teenager Sinclair Armstrong was up to on Wednesday.

gazza1 added 09:36 - Nov 4
You made the correct call re the MOM Norf, tough call but right - well done!!

I also thought our two weakest players were Amos and Dozzell. Overall a 'proper' team performance. Next 3 games are important imho.

TacticalR added 14:52 - Nov 4
Thanks for your report.

Although Norwich are less than the sum of their parts, I did feel they had the upper hand in the first half, and created some good chances. I felt we needed more of a threat up front to give them something to worry about. When Willock came on suddenly they did have something to worry about, and as the game wore on you could hear the crowd getting frustrated with Norwich when they tried to hang on to the ball and weren't getting the ball forward quickly enough.

So, even if in theory we could have grabbed a win, I don't think we can complain about getting a draw, especially given the context of Norwich's resources and our terrible recent record there.

Nothing wrong with giving Dieng man of the match - he made a number of point blank saves.

Lils1977 added 06:28 - Nov 24
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