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Well, it is that time of year — Report
Tuesday, 11th Apr 2023 19:50 by Clive Whittingham

QPR breathed new life into their survival bid with a comeback nobody saw coming at West Brom on Monday, recovering from two goals down to draw and go close to winning on several occasions right at the death.

For a few horrifying moments there it looked like the footballing disaster that is QPR’s 2022/23 season could, implausibly, get worse.

Two wins in 25 games, nine defeats from ten, top of the league to the very cusp of the relegation zone… sooner or later you think things might turn in your favour just because they surely must at some point. No football team just loses and loses, game after game, forever and ever. At some point you win a one by accident. Don’t you? Hello? Is this thing on?

That demon hope and lack of anything better to do with their time drew more than 1,200 QPR fans across the broken infrastructure of the UK to West Bromwich, to watch a team currently conceding goals at a rate greater than two a game and scoring them at a pace of one per monarch take their latest swing. Beleaguered cult hero Gareth Ainsworth kept the team in for an 11-hour Saturday detention after Friday’s home debacle against Preston that culminated in the faithful telling the players in no uncertain terms they no longer considered them fit to represent us on the field. The formation was changed to four-four-fucking-two, three 36-year-olds played from the start, Luke Amos started for the first time since the last game against West Brom on November 5, Jimmy Dunne played at right full back, Chris Willock was dropped, and for the first time all season long there was not a single loan signing in the line-up to begin the game. Whether the loan thing, in particular, was the manager making a point, he certainly couldn’t be accused of not trying everything.

It collapsed on him completely, instantly, again, regardless.

Rangers gave away a corner after 25 seconds. Never a shrewd idea when you defend corners as hopelessly as we do — this one flashed right the way through the penalty box without a touch. Amos turfed QPR’s first chance halfway back to Digbeth and then it was straight back down the other end for a Marc Albrighton sighter of the top corner. Having conceded in the first, second and fifth minute of recent disasters, QPR did at least make it to eight before starting their Easter Monday nonsense in earnest. A ball down the Baggies’ left channel might have been intercepted by right winger Albert Adomah, had he been facing the right way or looking at the ball as it was played, but as he was neither we move on to Rob Dickie striding across to commit the dumbest of dumb unnecessary fouls on Conor Townsend right on the corner of the penalty box. John Swift has been the scourge of far better Rangers outfits than this one, and his whipped inswinging free kick tempted Seny Dieng from his line for an attempted double-fisted punch clearance which he missed entirely — perhaps we can borrow that ball with a bell in it we had to buy in for Rob Green in the end? That left Brandon Thomas-Asante the task of putting the ball into the empty net from a yard out, which he did using his arm. Goal allowed. In defence of referee Matt Donohue I only notice this handball on the TV replay, at the time (which is what he gets to see) it looked absolutely fair enough.

That’s it lads, keep it tight early, quieten the crowd.

Conceding first shouldn’t be terminal for a football team, but it is for this one. They have conceded the first goal in 18 of 25 and recovered just a single point from a losing position in that run (2-2 Reading A). Over the whole season Rangers have recovered just six points from losing positions, having retrieved 21, 13 and 20 during Mark Warburton’s three campaigns as gaffer.

If 1-0 wasn’t game, 2-0 certainly would be. West Brom were unbeaten in 11 games at The Hawthorns, winning ten, and conceding a solitary goal in the process. Four minutes after the defensively shambolic first, they came back for an even more horrendous second. Count off the running themes with me: the stupidly needless free kick, wide on our left by Balogun this time; the ridiculous amount of time it takes us to get set up and switched on, allowing the home side a quick take which immediately created four v Chair and Amos out wide; the free and unchallenged run to the byline for a low cross to the free and unmarked player at the near post; the slow reactions to a rebound after Dieng finally managed to make a save; and the goal for Semi Ajayi who hadn’t scored this season, or in fact at all for 50 games.

The cataclysmic run of awfulness included a recent 6-1 loss at Blackpool, one of the few teams left below us in the table who sacked Mick McCarthy this week for managing just two victories in charge — that pumping of our hapless lot being one of them. This, now, at this point, on a ground where we have conceded seven in relatively recent history, was starting to feel like it might, somehow, improbably be even worse than everything that had gone before, including that. In the away end, the mood was quickly turning. The players were booed and abused, chants about director of football Les Ferdinand were in full swing. You were one more goal away from a revolt, two from a riot, and three from us being back in The Old Joint Stock by half time. If the Bloomfield Road experience, and first 12 minutes here, were anything to go by, none of that would take very long.

And then something odd happened: QPR started to play.

The partisans captured behind the goal, choosing humour over violence for now, started singing the ‘we’ve got the ball’ mockery of their own team. The punchline in this is it switches to ‘we’ve lost the ball’ when QPR, inevitably, quickly, do just that. Except, this time, ‘we’ve got the ball’ continued. It continued for some time. It actually became the beat of what turned into a reasonable performance. The Londoners had calmed down, settled into a shape, got themselves up the field and began to pass the football around between themselves. Get me the press hall, Eddie how are you, how were you, it’s a stop.

Ilias Chair’s cross from the right was well delivered, low and with pace. Lyndon Dykes’ header that met it on arrival was sensational. Ajayi, no longer the hero, on his heels shy of his man. The ball arced over and away from Josh Griffiths in the home goal and into the far corner of the net. Unsaveable. More to the point, it had come from a period of considered possession and pressure building the likes of which we haven’t seen from this team in weeks. Rangers weren’t simply lumping the ball down the field, hooking it on to nothingness, or whacking the thing into the stand every time they had it. They were playing. They were playing football. And they were back in business.

The defence was still like something Rudy Giuliani would present in the car park of some landscaping business. The aversion to defending throw ins correctly/at all continued as Amos, Adomah and Dunne made an absolute mess of dealing with Thomas-Asante and he cut a ball back to Dickie and Balogun who promptly crashed into each other leaving a free striker for Albrighton which he dragged across the face of goal. Easter Bank Holiday circus in town.

But, generally, QPR were discovering once more that the Championship really isn’t all that. If you compete for first and second balls, complete passes to team mates, play forwards, play in shape, play with some semblance of plan, you get a long way very quickly. The deficit would have been wiped out entirely on the stroke of half time had Jimmy Dunne’s back post header from an Adomah corner been a foot or two to the left.

One of the stark problems against Preston on Friday had been the numbers, quality and athleticism of their midfield three, led by the brilliant Ben Whiteman, against our two, weighted down by whatever remains of Stefan Johansen. Here, Luke Amos provided the legs. He didn’t provide many accurate passes — 64% accuracy easily the lowest of the four midfielders — and he missed tackles in the way that he does, but just having someone in there with a bit of athleticism, speed, drive and press made an enormous difference. Sam Field, returning to his former club alongside him, was a different man with that sort of support. Rangers were able to play on the front foot, and affect the game, and when the third West Brom keeper of the season so far, young Josh Griffiths, badly miscontrolled a back pass outside his area they were able to play on the front foot and affect the game all the way into the back of the empty net in front of a group of fans who simply couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Chris Martin’s close down and outstretched leg sent Griffith’s panicked clearance spinning perfectly 30 yards back the other way for 2-2.

After winning nine of Carlos Corberan’s first ten games to turn a relegation scrap into a play-off push, West Brom have been on a bit of a slide recently and suffered exactly the same former player curse at Jordan Hugill’s hands on Friday as we had at Rotherham last month. The finances demand a promotion immediately, and the game was preceded by fan protests. Whether it was this, whether they thought the job was done, whether they took QPR likely (you could certainly forgive them that), or a combination of all this and more, they were very weirdly poor here, completely belying their imperious home record. The atmosphere on three sides of the ground was non-existent bar one lone danger with a drum, even at 2-0 up, and they quickly turned furious once Rangers had drawn level and home passes started to go awry. Nathaniel Chalobah copped it big time when he was removed early from a personally retched midfield display — if you’re getting bossed about by Sam Field and Luke Amos you’re lucky it’s only a substitution coming your way, that’s a paddlin. Jed Wallace and John Swift, who’ve made careers out of making QPR look stupid, disappeared from the fray entirely after that nightmarish opening quarter hour for the visitors. One monumental scramble from the latest amateurishly defended corner, which referee Donahue did a quick risk assessment on and decided to bail out with a free kick to the defending team, was all they had to show despite Karlan Grant and Daryl Dike stepping into the fray from the bench. There was even an intelligent, cynical, tactical foul from Rob Dickie to stop the American bursting away from us late on. Little Suzy’s all grown up.

Now then, might QPR complete the Easter resurrection with a miraculous winner? Jamal Lowe, Andre Dozzell, and the lesser spotted Taylor Richards came on for the visitors. It was, unbelievably, all there and ours for the taking.

First Luke Amos, with a favourable bounce of the ball carrying him beyond his opposite numbers, in on the defence, right down the middle of the field, whites of the keeper’s eyes piercing the April showers, Lowe and other cast members in support. The shot was on, he tried the pass, cooked the thing to fuck, and the chance was gone.

No matter, here go Rangers down their left. The cross is good, Dykes is crawling all over his man again, the chest down is perfect, Martin’s standing right there, but his shot is pulled and dragged and all kinds of mishit and wide.

Time ticking, home fans revolting, Corberan’s defence exposed, Rangers growing in confidence, it’s Lowe in round the back to the byline, flighting the cross back towards the penalty spot, and fucking Richards striding onto the ball, what a story this is going to be, with his first bloody touch of the game, a diving header, up, past Griffiths, towards the top corner, and wide of the post by an inch. Are you actually fucking kidding me now?

The team with the sound check shot on target totals - 1, 2, 2, 2, 4, 4, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 4, 2, 2, 3, 1 — had suddenly gone all original Ronaldo on us. Would one more chance come their way? Would they take it? Well, yes it would. Martin strong to the byline. Richards determined in the box. Dozzell waiting for the loose chip on the edge of the area. The chest, the control, the set, the left foot drawing back, the collective holding of breath in the away end, the outside nof the boot, the ball on its way, the time standing still, the season on the line, the keeper beaten… an inch in it. In all the way, from the moment it left his boot, right until the moment it wasn’t. Have a day off will you, fuck me.

This is, as fans, all we want. The effort levels were there, we competed, we attacked, we looked like we might score the odd goal, we played bits and pieces of football, we won tackles and headers. The results from doing these simple things in this dog league can be extraordinary, and having looked like we’d never win a game again it quickly carried us into a place where a team with West Brom’s extraordinary recent home record should have been knocked over with Rangers scoring three or four goals. As a result, no ugly scenes at full time, as the away end applauded the team from the pitch, sang their support, and went home relatively happy. Gareth Ainsworth quickly across to point at the players and ask for them to be thanked for finally finding it within themselves to do the basics of the sport.

Play like we did for the final 70 minutes here, we won’t have a problem. It’ll be more than enough. But I am wary, weary and cynical. I remember thinking we’d finally got somewhere after the Watford home game, that we’d go up to Blackpool and be stubborn against a relegation rival, kick on from there and show a bit of backbone. We lost 6-1, and quickly put another four defeats together on the spin, with some really winnable fixtures among them as well. We still, in this match, defended like absolute twats. A much better, in form, play-off chasing Coventry side awaits next week, with the best player we’ve faced this season Viktor Gyokeres in their attack. You fuck around like this against them and him, you will most definitely find out. Reading’s latest last-minute heartbreak at Preston was heaven-sent, but it’s spelled the end for Paul Ince is a Wanker which is less than ideal.

This performance, this result, this time, has to be a genuine turning point. It has to be the platform to go on and get at least one win, probably/possibly two. Do what we did last time, and there aren’t the fixtures left to recover the situation. We’ll be down, and the frustration will be then, as it has been for most of the last six months, that QPR were capable of better when they put their minds to it.

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

West Brom: Griffiths 4; Furlong 6, Ajayi 5, Pieters 4, Townsend 5; Chalobah 4 (Molumby 76, 5), Gardner-Hickman 4 (Rogic 61, 5); Wallace 5, Albrighton 5 (Grant 62, 5), Swift 5; Thomas-Asante 7 (Dike 76, 6)

Subs not used: Palmer, Ingram, Andrews

Goals: Thomas-Asante 10 (assisted Swift), Ajayi 13 (unassisted)

QPR: Dieng 4; Dunne 5, Dickie 5, Balogun 5, Paal 5; Adomah 5 (Lowe 71, 6), Amos 6 (Dozzell 82, -), Field 7, Chair 6 (Richards 83, -); Dykes 7, Martin 6

Subs not used: Johansen, Willock, Archer, Laird

Goals: Dykes 22 (assisted Chair), Martin 49 (unassisted)

Bookings: Lowe 81 (foul)

QPR Star Man — Lyndon Dykes 7 Actually nice to have some people to pick from for a change. I thought Sam Field in the middle, not only compared to Chalobah, but also relative to what he produced on Friday and in other games lately, was just chalk and cheese — clearly a point to prove on his return. But Lyndon’s leading of the line, closing down to stop them playing out, which continued right down and into the stoppage time despite all his recent health problems, was key to the success and the goal he scored was a brilliant finish to just nudge him ahead.

Referee — Matt Donohue (Manchester) 6 Very odd one this. I came away from the game thinking he’d done very well, and I prefer games to be refereed like this. Very lenient at times — how Dickie wasn’t booked for deliberately pulling Dike down and preventing a counter attack at the end I don’t know — but better than a ‘look-at-me’ intrusive performance the likes of which we get from some others at this level. I’ll also give him a bit of the benefit of the doubt for the first goal because from where we were, very close, I never once thought it was handball but, on the replay )which they don’t get) that is pretty blatant and you’d hope/expect one of the two officials looking at it to see it.

Attendance 23,969 (1,200 QPR) It was definitely on the turn at one point, but great support behind the goal for the team all things considered.

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A40Bosh added 20:37 - Apr 11
Thanks Clive, glad that came online just before I had to turn the lights out here in Paphos ahead of a flight home tomorrow. Easter holidays abroad with the Mrs for r the first time in 25 years nearly totally ruined by Bad Friday and then the first 20 mins of Easter Monday but God, just 70 mins of getting the basics right and suddenly the last hours in the sun are enjoyed without the current impending feeling of doom - at least until I walk up SAR next Saturday.

FYI Mrs B did find the one goal per monarch line very funny when she digged me in the ribs to ask what I was as chortling about in bed beside her.

Thanks as always for putting yourself through the this

RsinWales added 20:58 - Apr 11
I commented last week that the Preston performance had drained the last little bit of hope from me. But now I detect a small candle flickering in the darkness...

Let's hope it takes more than a gentle draught to extinguish it.

Anyone got a balaclava and unmarked van with a willingness to kidnap Gyokeres for the weekend?

gavster31 added 21:17 - Apr 11
Love, love, love The Old Joint Stock.. that being said glad you didn’t end up there before the final whistle. I’ve had Cov at LR in my diary since fixture release day being that I live and work here (there for most reading). Have obviously been consigned to defeat for a long time. 13 minutes into the WBA game I was contemplating drinking from Friday evening through to eliminate my awareness of what might be happening on Saturday.. It’s the hope that kills you.. please lads, don’t make us suffer those first 15 mins of pain before playing football this weekend.

timcocking added 01:02 - Apr 12
‘Scoring at a rate of one per monarch”

They should literally have you on Have I Got News

snanker added 01:27 - Apr 12
Cheers Clive and finally a sign of life but oh my god the "defending" just goes from bad to worse then back again ! 10/10 "the defence was still like something Rudy Giuliani would present in the car park of some landscaping business". The test of course will be to see who turns up on Saturday for a repeat dose of yes we do give a toss by going flat chat again for 90+ minutes of hard graft. Surely we can't give up another goal within the first 15 min ? Likely to leave that until injury time this week then ?! Tis the hope indeed that gut you ! Come on you R'sssssssss

LazyFan added 16:56 - Apr 12
While their first was handball, I think I saw a reply that showed in the build-up to our first goal Dykes handled the ball. So, all square then.

I am not sure Dozzells would have gone in, it was on target as the Keeper was diving for it and was close.

TacticalR added 14:11 - Apr 15
Thanks for your report (at last you've got something positive to report).

You are right, the defending is brainless and horrible:
First goal from unnecessary free kick (Dickie, mistimed tackle) and Dieng misses the ball.
Second goal from unnecessary free kick (tackle from behind by Balogun), and we got caught out by the speed of the West Brom attack.

After that terrible start, well done to the team for staying in game. Brilliant goal from Dykes, and Dykes' and Martin's pressing got us the second goal. At the end of the game we were making good choices in the opposition half and creating good chances.

The really sad thing is that the game has shown that Johansen, previously our saviour, has become a passenger.

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