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Fleetwood cack — Report
Sunday, 8th Jan 2023 20:09 by Clive Whittingham

QPR cemented their record for the most FA Cup Third Round exits of any team in the country, bringing up the big 51 with a sadly typical abdication of professional standards on a first ever visit to Fleetwood Town on Saturday.

Disgusting, disgraceful, shameful, pathetic, embarrassing… it was all of those things and more. We’ve become so accustomed to it from our team in the FA Cup even most of the fans are numb and no longer care about what happens to us in this competition, parroting the line that it’s much better to get back to the important business of finishing sixteenth in a league we hate being in. Problem is, it’s not the first game recently it's been like this. As I called at the time, there was nothing here we didn’t also see from these players in the Championship against Luton Town, or Cardiff City. I am running out of room in the English language to describe how bad Queens Park Rangers are at the moment, regardless of the competition. And nobody with any power to do anything about it seems to know how.

The Crown and Sceptre regulars have often raised the possibility of a one-line match report. A game and performance so egregious I just go “lads, if that’s your best effort, then here’s mine…”, do the player ratings and drop the mic. If ever there was a game that qualified for that treatment it was Saturday’s long trek up to our inaugural game with Fleetwood Town. From a selection as thick as the Argos catalogue, this was one of the worst yet. Nevertheless, I’m of the mind I probably only get to do that once and, sadly, I don’t think this was this group of players bottoming out. I think there’s even less still to come from them. So, I’ll keep that one in my top pocket for later, firstly because I think I’m going to need it, and secondly, after ten hours battling biblical rain on the M6, I’ve got some things to say and some judgements to pass and I think I’ve earned that right.

The whole thing was actually summed up, weirdly, by QPR’s goal. Ilias Chair chipped a free kick up midway through the first half, Lyndon Dykes won the first contact in the air (Lord, it’s a miracle), Sam Field mishit his shot, the goalkeeper bundled it back into him a yard out, and that was 1-0. It genuinely could have been that easy had we put our minds to it, but we never did. More typical was the three minutes that immediately followed it. Centre backs Rob Dickie and Jimmy Dunne were so busy twiddling Field’s dick over his sizzling one-yarder against a reserve League One goalkeeper that they weren’t back in position and set in time for the kick off, so Fleetwood simply punted the ball over them into the space they should have been occupying. Seny Dieng went on a weird walkabout, and the brilliantly named Promise Omochere was able to lob him from the corner of the box. Thankfully, on that occasion, he didn’t get enough on the shot and Rangers recovered the ball from the goal line. However, as they did all afternoon, the R’s cheaply gave the ball straight back to their opponent and so, within a minute of that near miss, Lewis Warrington was whipping a 20 yarder around a defensive screen and forcing a good save from Dieng. Two warnings issued, neither heeded, I’m starting to think some of this lot could sleep through their own house burning down. From that corner a simple, rudimentary blocking move on Dunne left Toto Nsiala - not an inconspicuous gentleman - in ten square yards of space at the back post from where he could barely miss with his free header for 1-1.

There are football cliches that lean heavily on terms like “schoolboy”, “pub team” and “park side”. If I conceded a goal like that at school, I got a fierce bollocking. I have way more respect for everybody I drink with in pubs than to behave and perform like that if I’m playing for their team. And if my Monday night sevens side conceded a goal of such staggering ineptitude as this I’d walk off in embarrassment. What’s the point? If you’re not going to play properly, what’s the point?

You’re not playing well, the home team are after you, you’ve got the league’s worst record for Third Round exits, but you have scored first, and that should be half the job done — unfortunately, QPR behaved like it was the whole job done. As Nsiala celebrated the most we got from anybody in Hoops was a shrug and the odd point. This is a team without leadership, without a voice, and without any professional pride. Very good when things are going their way, dissolving like Pleasure Beach candy floss at the mere mention of rain.

Fleetwood would later score from another corner - because we’re back to defending opposition corners so shambolically they may as well be opposition penalties. Nsiala making first contact, QPR defence slopped about hither and thither like a collection of used condoms fished from a blocked drain, Omochere apparently handling on his way to sweeping the ball past Dieng, Dunne chasing referee Steve Martin down the field faster than any QPR player had moved all afternoon.

I’ve watched it through a few times and I’m not sure I understand Dunne’s outrage. What I’m more concerned about is these were just two of the multiple, multiple chances Fleetwood created against us on Saturday and could/should have scored. It was the spectre of a development that had been lurking, by this point, for a good hour. In fact, it’s been lurking for weeks. This is us at this moment. This wasn’t just a ‘QPR in the cup’ thing. Only poor finishing and Seny Dieng kept this from being 3-1, 4-1, perhaps worse, and for the respective inputs of the two teams that would have been a much fairer reflection on things. Fleetwood, remember, a team in the bottom half of League One, that have struggled with goalscoring so much this season they’ve ended up drawing more games than anybody else among the 92 clubs.

It needed a really good, last ditch Jimmy Dunne clearance in his own six-yard box to prevent the hosts taking the lead after just two minutes. Amber warning light. From that corner (stop me if any of this sounds familiar) the ball was flicked on to an unmarked player at the back post — Cian Hayes, same height as Ilias Chair but distinguishable by actually showing an interest in this match — and he controlled, turned, saw the whites of the goal posts, and somehow slotted wide. Red warning light. On ten minutes Seny Dieng set off to catch a routine cross and then, rather terrifyingly, changed his mind mid-flight and retreated to the goal line, leaving Luton loanee Carlos Mendes Gomes to shoot wide. Flashing red warning light. QPR had gone with Osman Kakay and Nico Trävelmän as the full backs with predictable results we’ve all seen many times before — specifically, Fleetwood having lots and lots of fun in the wide areas. A little later on Hayes’ low cross through the six-yard box was agonisingly out of reach for Omochere. Flashing red warning light with a loud klaxon: “TOO LOW, TERRAIN. TOO LOW, TERRAIN.” This, seemingly, the unseen episode of Air Crash Investigation where the pilots are out back having a drink with the stewardess with the big boobies while the plane drifts steadfastly down towards a huge cliff with Scott Brown’s smiley face on it.

There was a little flurry of QPR chances before they opened the scoring which at least suggested the presence of a pulse. Chair, from long range, deflected wide. Adomah, from longer range, saved in the goalkeeper’s sleep. Willock, in broken play, cutting into the area and seeing a shot blocked. Nice to see you Chris. A bit better, but all three of those players should be far too good for the level of opponent they faced here, and between them overall contributed the square root of fuck all. Sometimes a player just isn’t very good, and you can’t do a lot about that — getting irate is like shouting at a wall. Ale Faurlin dictating your direction from midfield is always going to be 1986 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, George Kulscar trying to do it is always going to be half a bottle of Blue Nun — that’s just the way it is. But these are good players, and therefore this is an attitude problem.

The midfield was comprehensively dominated by the hosts. Andre Dozzell should have been charged an admission fee. From a long menu of embarrassing slop served up by QPR on Saturday, his was perhaps the most insipid of all. At one point, in the second half, a duffed clearance dropped his way 30 yards from goal and he just stuck a lazy leg out and bashed the ball straight back to the centre half who’d given it him in the first place off the flat of his shin pad. What was that? I mean, what was that? You talk about ball-playing central midfield players having a “picture in their mind”, well he’s drawing his with a wax crayon. May as well not have been there. It was like playing with ten. A dog of a performance — I wondered whether Bob Carolgees was free to head up the coast, stick his hand up his arse and try animate him a bit. It’s as close to a 1/10 as I’ve come for a long time.

Fleetwood wanted it more, they had greater physicality, they had more numbers, they had better shape, they passed the ball better and they tackled harder. James Nesbitt must have been very proud of his team, but it wasn’t difficult. We went sideways and sideways and sideways and backwards and sideways and sideways and sideways and backwards. Just - and I want to hammer this point today for “well QPR are always crap in the cup” apologists - as we do in the league. We did it all at a pace that would shame the local Arthritis Care group.

There are Leonard Cohen songs shorter than the time it takes QPR’s centre backs and central midfielders to manipulate the ball into a position from which they think they might possibly be able to go forwards. There’s trying to ‘draw an opponent out’, and then there’s this, which is just a boring, ineffective and frankly offensive waste of my time, performed entirely in front of the opponent in an area it cannot hurt them, while they file back into shape and then stand there wondering what on earth we’re doing and why. We are painfully easy to play against. It’s football from the JRR Tolkein school of the game - every attempt to get the ball from Seny Dieng to somebody wearing the same clothes on the other side of the halfway line an interminable journey and saga. I’d genuinely back myself to pick eleven people out of the crowd who could keep this QPR team at bay for hours at a time when we play like this, simply by standing there in a deep, tight, narrow, low block shape, and watching us shuffle it back and forth between the centre backs and defensive midfielders at the speed it takes to mature whiskey. I want us to play at a tempo other teams can’t live with, too often at the moment we play at a tempo you could build a literal house in front of. Get - I cannot emphasise this enough - a fucking move on.

Any hope a half time team talk may have improved things floundered on the rocks by the Irish Sea within minutes of setting sail. A footballing Zebrugge: lots of good intentions, but you’ve left the fucking door open. Fleetwood should have scored after a minute of the second half when Rob Dickie took a turn in hopelessly giving the ball away and Dieng was called into action to save from Hayes. Giving the ball away. Giving the ball away time after time after time. Dieng is the only QPR player who should be able to look in the shaving mirror this morning. But then, just when you thought our international goalkeeper might be the one to bail us out of a deepening hole filling with ever increasing amounts of icy water, he almost got caught out of position at his near post, had to concoct a weird and unorthodox save on the line, the rebound fell to Admiral Muskwe, enjoying his shore leave, and he took a swing at an entirely open goal and somehow missed the ball completely. That, certainly, should have been the chance that made it at least 3-1. Battered, Cod Army, etc. Fleetwood were everything but the goal for much of the game, QPR were nothing of anything.

The belated response to the mess, and Fleetwood scoring a second, was a string of substitutions. Send for the big guns from the bench, see how the idiot League One scum cower. Actually, such was their impact, I suspect there’s a few Fleetwood players wondering why on earth they’re not earning a better living higher up the divisions. There are plastic pistols that fire ‘bang’ flags into the air available to purchase very affordably in this resort town with more firepower than this. The hosts stood by and watched, fairly bemused, as Tyler Roberts came on and fell over — a lot. It had rained heavily since the first half, and his boots weren’t taking the turf, something he might have noticed had he run around a bit and tried a few shots during the half time interval, instead of ambling around pissing about. The man, the myth, the legend that is Taylor Richards emerged - ten points for a full sighting in your LFW I Spy handbook - and was able to affect the game against third tier opposition as much as I did from the back corner of the terrace. This a player we’re apparently about to spend what little money we have making a move permanent. Kenneth Paal — et tu Brute? — drew a boot back on a cross and landed it plum in the centre of the QPR fans behind the goal. It was the first time any visiting player had found anybody in QPR colours with a cross all afternoon. Ethan Laird didn’t go past his man on the other side once — thanks for saving us the time Ethan. I’d be absolutely astonished if Sinclair Armstrong touched the ball at all. Impact subs, in the same way LFW match previews impact policy decisions at the United Nations.

Fleetwood were able to see off half an hour of football by, one at a time, sitting down and demanding treatment for nothing at all, then trooping off for a long, drawn-out substitution. They were safe in the knowledge Three Amigos star Steve Martin, like all Championship referees, would only add five minutes regardless (duly obliged), and even if he added 25 this QPR team weren’t scoring another goal as long as they had a hole in their arse. Lyndon Dykes epitomising the frustration - with the team as a whole and him in particular - by taking his all-action, man-of-the-match display against Sheffield United on Monday and turning it into an ineffective, non-league-standard non-performance here. He followed that with a good laugh and a joke with home manager Scott Brown on the touchline on the way off afterwards, in lieu of coming across to the away end to applaud the support and/or apologise. At the final whistle just three players bothered to acknowledge a thousand QPR fans who came here on a train strike day, and he wasn’t one of them (Dickie, Dieng, Dunne, let the record show). Too busy something something Flower of Scotland, something something Old Firm, something something Sunshine on Leith, ha ha ha you’re so funny Scott. Are you arsed about playing for us or not arsed? It’s time to pick a team. That goes for a few of them.

As E17 from our message board says, the culture of an organisation is the poorest standard of behaviour which is accepted in an organisation. The standards at this club are in the bin. You can see it in everything they do. Having a good laugh and a joke with the manager of a League One team after he’s punted you out of the FA Cup while a thousand people stand dumbfounded behind the goal, midway through a ten-hour round trip, is just one example.

I watched the strikers warming up yesterday, doing the touch off the assistant coach and a shot at the second-choice keeper, and, as when I’ve had this dubious pleasure previously, they're pissing about with it. They’re trying chips and lobs. They're missing and missing and missing and it doesn't matter. You're in more danger standing and watching than keeping goal - please rise for today's first hymn, For Those In Peril Behind The Goal. The whole thing is a big joke and a laugh. Ooooh Albert's chipped the youth team goalkeeper look, what jolly japes, well done Albert. He had enough goalkeepers to chip, we brought two for the bench here just in case — fuck me sideways.

Our subs come out at half time and mooch about in a couple of little disparate groups, chatting, toeing a ball between them a bit. There's no warm up, no stretching, no focus, no organisation, no sort of preparation for potentially entering a professional sporting arena in the next 45 minutes. It's just tin kicking until it's time to go sit down again. Pointing out people in the crowd and having a giggle about it, like the twatty kids disrupting GCSE maths from the back of the class, going nowhere with their lives and thrilled to death about it.

We got a corner first half. Chair and Willock, in theory our two best players, go over and take a short one, piss about with it, fuck it up with a penalty box full of players waiting. Luckily for them it goes behind for another corner, they go over again, take it short again, piss about again, and it ends up back on the halfway line with Trävelmän trying, and failing, to trap it. Perhaps we could start using a ball with a bell in it? Neil Critchley on the touchline, barely a fortnight in and already exasperated, holds his hands out wide and unleashes a frustrated string of expletives.

We score a genuine, bona fide goal - no makeup - and they're so delighted with themselves Fleetwood are able to restart and knock the ball over the head of our centre back, and nearly score an equaliser immediately, because he's gone to get involved in celebrating Sam Field's goal of the season and hasn't got his fucking arse back in position in time for the bastard kick off. Is it just me? Please tell me if so, because I'm at the end of a long tether here.

And it's all just fine at QPR now, apparently. They didn't even get that much abuse at full time. At one point we'd have been ripping that stand apart.

Those in our travelling party felt it something of a relief to get back to the car and listen to Neil Critchley say exactly what we all thought, rather than try to dress anything up as he had done after the Luton debacle. He says he’s not here to be part of mediocrity, and at this point mediocrity would be a significant improvement. In his anger he let slip that as Blackpool manager, watching from afar, he, and the rest of the division, had seen QPR’s collapse last season and formed an opinion of this group. It is not, as we keep saying, the dire Ray Harford team of the late 1990s, or the destitute mess Ian Holloway inherited first time around, or that shambolic John Curtis-Stefan Moore-Zesh Rehman horror show Gary Waddock and John Gregory tried to get a tune out of for Gianni Paladini. These are not poor players that you just have to accept aren’t good enough, no matter how far you’ve travelled to support them or how much it cost. It is a reasonably capable team, and when the going is good and the sun is shining and the praise is forthcoming then it’s all flicks and tricks and flamboyant victories and funny YouTube videos from Heston (not you Nico). The second there is a single moment of adversity to face - when the going gets ever so slightly tougher, when an injury happens or a decision doesn’t go their way - they don’t want to know. They don’t want to know. I’m sick of hearing “at least we know these players are trying” or “at least we know they care” because how do you explain going from playing like they did against Sheff Utd to playing like this other than they’re not and they don’t? This can be a good team, we’ve seen it at Watford and Millwall and Sheff Utd and Bristol City already, just in the away games, just from the first half of the season. But this group of players is soft as shit. It was nice to hear the manager agree, so I’m not just angry internet twat howling at the moon for once.

QPR now have 51 FA Cup third round exits to their name, more than any other club. You may be of the view that the cups don’t matter, we don’t need the extra fixtures, we’re not going to win them anyway, what’s the point, concentrate on the really important business of finishing sixteenth in the Championship. Personally, I enjoy the excitement of a cup run, playing somebody that isn’t Preston North fucking End in the league every now and again. And even if you don’t want to get all romantic and nostalgic about it, then a club pleading poverty shouldn’t be so willing to pass up prize money and potential money-spinning, ticket-selling, televised games against Premier League clubs as often as we are in the knock-out competitions — we’ve been beaten by a League One side at least once in each of our last six seasons. Like keeping people like Trävelmän, Shodipo, Dillon Barnes, around here on ever-extended contracts despite never being close to good enough to play for the team, you can’t go around saying 'we can’t clean the stadium properly, fix the toilets, put on a second coach to an away game, afford a signing, have a player of the year dinner', while at the same time making it so painfully clear that you’re not bothered about prize money, TV games and ticket selling opportunities provided by the cups. You’re either skint or you’re not, and in games like this we behave like one of the five richest kings of Europe and this is all beneath us.

More to the point for the rest of this season, this wasn’t just a “oh typical bloody QPR in the FA Cup” eye roll. This was typical bloody QPR full stop. A group of players that can do better, a group of players that has done better, a group of players that should do better, have now won one game out of the last 11. They’ve failed to score in seven of those, failed to score in 11 of their 28 matches, scored just three times at the home end of their ground this season (two of them penalties). They’ve recently lost four consecutive home games, including a pair of 3-0 defeats, for the first time since the 1940s. Only one of those games was a cup match.

Perhaps they’ll come out at Reading next week and turn it on, win the game, climb back into the top half of the table, delight a full away end with a goal or two. And we’ll all be happy, because we’re happy when QPR win regardless. But it’ll only go to show once more that they can do it when they put their mind to it. As I said on the QPR Podcast at Christmas - when they went from that performance against Burnley to that performance against Preston, and I’ll repeat again now we’ve gone from that performance against Luton to that performance against Sheff Utd and all the way back again here - I do not trust this group of players anymore. There are footballers here who aren’t good enough, there are problems with the standard of our strikers, there are obvious issues with the ability of the players we’re relying on for cover, sure, I accept, fine. But when they go from that on Monday, to this on Saturday, and it’s not only not the first time this season they’ve done it, but not even the first time in the last couple of weeks, then that’s a mentality issue. And ours fucking stinks.

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

Fleetwood: Stolarczyk 5; Johnston 6, Nsiala 7, Wiredu 6, Andrew 7; Vela 7, Warrington 7, Hayes 8 (Patterson 76, 6); Omochere 8 (Batty 82, -), Muskwe 5 (Morton 82, -), Mendes-Gomes 6 (Garner 60, 6)

Subs not used: McMullan, Devlin, Lane, Holgate, Baggley

Goals: Nsiala 40 (assisted Andrew), Omochere 67 (assisted Nsiala)

Bookings: Vela 73 (foul)

QPR: Dieng 6; Kakay 2 (Laird 81, -), Dickie 2, Dunne 2, Trävelmän 2 (Paal 81, -); Field 3, Dozzell 2 (Armstrong 81, -); Adomah 2 (Richards 70, 2), Chair 2, Willock 2 (Roberts 70, 2); Dykes 2

Subs not used: Mahoney, Archer, Iroegbunam, Masterson

Goals: Field 37 (assisted Dykes)

Bookings: Kakay 65 (foul)

QPR Star Man — Seny Dieng 6 Kept the score ‘respectable’, and was one of the only ones with the personality, the bollocks and the humility to come and stand in front of the away end at the full time whistle and thank the support for travelling. Yes you’re going to get abuse, but I think if the away fans have travelled that far to support you, and you’ve played like that, it’s your obligation to go and stand in front of them as a group, thank them for the support, offer a hand of apology, and take the abuse you get back. Dieng, Dickie and Dunne were the only three with the stones to do it, and took it in the teeth for their teammates. Critchley, for all his words afterwards which I agreed with 100%, gave an apologetic wave from halfway and scarpered. For some of them, the trip down the tunnel was as fast and as far as they’d moved all afternoon.

Referee — Steve Martin (Beverly Hills) 6 Five minutes at the end of this second half was obviously a joke, but we’ve now come to expect and accept, particularly in the wake of the World Cup, that referees in this country are happy to make themselves look like complete idiots by not being able to keep time. Still, if he’d added half an hour it would have made no difference. As I said about Jimmy Dunne chasing him around after the second goal, you cannot play like this, defend like this, and then go around complaining and blaming referees for anything. He was fine, we were not.

Attendance 3,151 (979 QPR) I’ll do an awayday at some point because, as ever, this really was golf’s ‘good walk spoiled’ as the football ruined a lovely day out on the Fylde Coast. It would be remiss not to finish the rant with a word for Fleetwood, who were not only far superior to us on the pitch, but off it as well. You can only congratulate them and wish them luck in the next round. The welcome, the beer selection, the absence of plastic glasses, the screens with the football on, the music, the very funny MC, the two sets of fans mixing, in the bar underneath the home terrace before the game, much like what went on in the game, put anything we do at Loftus Road to shame. All apparently possible for a League One club with a 5,000 capacity ground. It was an afternoon to despair on so many levels.

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Monkey_Roots added 20:57 - Jan 8
“It was the first time any visiting player had found anybody in QPR colours with a cross all afternoon.”

Just great.

simmo added 21:11 - Jan 8
You, the other 978 fans that made the trip and this report - the only things that deserve any credit.

What an absolute shit show.

MancR added 21:58 - Jan 8
I can't believe how kind your report is Clive. This bunch deserve far more nastiness and abuse after that. We probably have played as bad before but against a team like Fleetwood, I'm not sure.
As usual , an enjoyable( you know what I mean) read but not fun to relive an appalling effort by our team. We stayed in Blackpool after the game, which was the only decision we got right.

062259 added 22:01 - Jan 8
Interesting to hear Crichley post-match allude to his awareness before accepting the job of the now glaringly obvious squad fragility and shortcomings. This, and his tone in the interview, suggest he’s not that surprised by what is happening and yet he still took the job. Was he desperate, or is he so confident in his ability to fix it over time that none of it was a deterrent? And if the latter, then you have to believe that the club hierarchy and ownership are and have been fully aware of the fix/rebuild required, and it only us poor fans who are finally catching up to their reality.

monkeymagic added 22:20 - Jan 8
I’m an Ipswich Fan and saw this match report on TWTD : it was posted there as many Town fans like to keep an eye on how Andre D is getting on. Having read it in full, I felt compelled to comment as it is easily the funniest article I have ever seen, just brilliantly written and far too many highlights to pick out only one. Hope your form (and that of Andre’s) soon picks up and good luck for the rest of the season.

snanker added 22:55 - Jan 8
Where do you start with this lot ? No shrink worth their salt would want to get involved with this lot of "players" they perform in a backhander style and should be swabbed prior too, at half time and after every game !! Critchley must be fighting the Magilton like urge in response ? FFS a little consistent professionalism would be start.

AlanEnfield added 23:15 - Jan 8
I think this should be read out in full to the players first thing on Monday. Excellent report as always Clive. Many thanks.

jtuck added 23:44 - Jan 8

Clive, your report was a Tour de Force of indignation and I agreed with every word of it. I, like many other older Rangers fans reading LFW, was on the North Bank at Highbury in 1982 in the game won by Clive Allen's shin. Rarely had I been prouder of my team and that was what Rangers and the FA Cup should be all about. That was then...appalled to hear most of team ignored fans at the end. The kind of thing you don't see on the stream.

royinaus added 02:45 - Jan 9
Brilliant as always Clive - your exasperation really comes across and as AlanEnfield says, Critchley could do a lot worse than read this report out to them.
As Jtuck reminds us - I was at Highbury in 82 and it really does highlight a difference in attitude from that team to this.

thehat added 07:55 - Jan 9

Thanks Clive - The players should take turns in reading this out aloud at training today.

Sounds very close the the 4 v 1 Manor Ground Oxford shambles from all those years ago in the rain.

Bunch of pathetic wimps.

Marshy67 added 09:56 - Jan 9
Pride in the team reaching the Final in 82 in yes, but the hurt felt now was felt 3 years running-all at the 3rd round stage- in 1984 Huddersfield (2nd division) away 1-2,Doncaster (3rd Division) away 0-1 and Carlisle (2nd Division) away-on a Monday night- 0-1.(Left home 11.00am Monday got home 8.00am Tuesday).
The players rightly got pelters(we were in the 1st Division then) but come the next day it was all forgotten. No social media back then and barely mentioned in the following home programmes.
It's been said before but results like this are in the club's DNA.

ShrivHoop added 13:23 - Jan 9
Clive, thanks again for first class report, pity we don't have a first class team. I wasn't at Fleetwood but love, respect and thanks to all who made it. I am going to comment despite not being there as I have hardly missed a home game since about 1960. Last season, I felt the effort in the first half of the season overwhelmed us. We were winning games by single goals after desperately hanging on so I felt we just ran out of steam for the later stage of the season. This season, I am not so sure that I was right as similar collapses have happened with three perfectly decent managers. I have in recent times certainly felt we needed a rough tough captain preferably in midfield - someone who the players are a bit frightened of and plays every week. . I don't believe you have to be that great a team to get to sixth; nine big, strong average ability outplayers who are regularly fit plus a slightly (only slightly) better than average striker should do the trick. Having said that, I really believe the current squad have the talent to finish sixth even if they played without a recognised striker, which might be worth a try. The Beale episode was unfortunate but he may well not have left if he saw promotion for us was possible. Unfortunately, he probably saw that having "led QPR to 17th" wasn t good for his cv! What is going on as I don't think this is just down to players or managers? Well, I obviously don't know but I am going to guess that it is something to do with the general culture within the club because people are being too honest (you too, Clive!). Les and Lee are to keen to say that we are a selling club with enormous budget problems (all true). Unfortunately, I think this may come across as showing a lack of ambition. A bit more of "this club is going places and we do not intend to sell our best players" may improve the culture within the club and may make our average players feel less of the view that Ilias or Chris or Seny will be off soon and our promotion chances will be gone. That's it: just the opinion of an average fan who rarely comments in public.

scheza added 14:16 - Jan 9
Many thanks Clive, as ever, for the effort and the superlative report.

With the proviso that I know nothing about running a professional football team, I offer the following observation as a microcosm of our broader malaise:

We have, for many years and in line with the norm for most football teams, had a coach take players through a mini-warm-up when they come out after half-time. Never anything major, typically just 20-30 seconds of sprints/dynamic stretches. I suspect, in addition to reactivating muscles, this has the effect of helping the player switch back on mentally: we are back into matchday playing mode.

Since Beale's departure, this seems to have gone and players just amble out and shuffle into position (if it went sooner than that I apologise, but I certainly noticed it against Luton and subsequently Sheff Utd, where our opponents did have a warm up). In two of the post-Beale games, we have conceded very soon after half-time (and I remember Cardiff having a decent chance too). This suggests, albeit from a small sample size, it is a potentially small but important detail being overlooked.

I don't blame Critchley for this per se - I am sure he has bigger problems on his to-do list to tackle. But we have a Director of Football, continuity in coaching staff, and supposedly a consistent philosophy running through the club. So I would have really hoped that when a new Head Coach comes in, he doesn't have to worry about small matchday details like this immediately, someone is already responsible for it. But no-one seems to be (or thought to have taken charge).

All of the above might be completely wrong, and it is a very small issue. But it instinctively feels like a symptom of a system where things aren't working as they should: there is a fundamental lack of responsibility/accountability. And this has a direct impact on our results.

NewBee added 14:44 - Jan 9
Mention of Andre Dozzell reminds me of the time I saw his father Jason training on his own in a park in Ealing, when he was between contracts.

Let's just say that the cones beat him comfortably.

qprninja added 15:45 - Jan 9
Worrying times. As you say, it's the lackadaisical half arsed attitude and approach that seems entrenched that is most worrying. I've only been able to get up to the West Brom home game so far this season, but you could see the difference in the preparation and motivation of the teams before kick off and at halftime. This was reflected in the performances of both teams and the result. Sounds like we need to ship some out and get some new ones in, but who will want any of this lot? Bloody hell.

Sittingbournehoop added 21:52 - Jan 9
A great match report and very worrying times, unprofessional at times and the defeat was quite predictable. I even turned down a lift and a ticket as a mate dropped out due to illness, but just couldn’t face going. Its going to get worse before it hopefully gets better but the club feels stale with no vision and only changes at board level are really going to improve matters. Critchley should have waited for better offers and must regret taking the role. The fans deserve much better than this, just how much worse can it get?

Twineyboy added 23:57 - Jan 9
Great report Clive. I too was one of the 979 and ever word you write resonates with me. Fortunately my therapist was able to see me at short notice today.

TacticalR added 09:47 - Jan 10
Thanks for your report.

As danehoop said in the forum, I think I am pretty numb to these defeats now. Having said that, your report has shown just how terrible a performance this really was.

On his best days Dozzell can disappear for long periods, and in this one he finally disappeared completely.

I agree we are missing leaders and a sense of drive in the team. It feels like we have too many players who have haven't really graduated from academy football.

It is beginning to look like without Johansen (who was the key to our previous resurrection) we are going to be staggering through the rest of this season.

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