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QPR fail another exposure to Coventry’s sky-blue light – Report
Sunday, 1st Oct 2023 23:23 by Clive Whittingham

QPR have now won only one of 20 matches at Loftus Road, and for the second time in that run Coventry City and Mark Robins were able to comfortably expose the yawning gaps in the Rangers team and their wishful thinking.

I am, by my very nature, a pessimist.

This, needless to say, was not the case when I was a little boy, bouncing around one of the nicer bits of West London with my stack of blond hair, but then the worst thing that had ever happened to me was my hamster dying. Even QPR were fifth in the Premier League at that point, capable of popping up to Old Trafford or Anfield or St James’ Park and handing the local their own arse of an afternoon.

What lay beyond in my teenage years – which I’ve recounted on countless occasions before and so won’t bore you with again now because we’ve got a lot of Coventry goals to get through – taught me very quickly and harshly how brutal this world can be. If the best case scenario is me going onto a stage and delivering a witty and reasoned speech to a captive and appreciative audience, and the worst case scenario is me going up and bombing to a silently non-plussed crowd of several hundred people, what I've come to understand is life will somehow find secret option number three for me to have an attack of explosive diarrhoea right there at the lectern. Explosive diarrhoea so explosive and diarrhoea that it cannot be restrained or contained by my will, rectum, or suit trousers, and eventually comes hencing forth in horrifically toxic gushes, spurting through the sewn seems in a vile brown fountain, dramatically covering first few rows of the audience, like the sort of stenchy discharge the current government thinks is ok to pour into our freshwater streams. If it can go wrong, it will. Badly.

QPR have done nothing to dissuade me of this notion. From my first year as a season ticket holder they finished in a progressively lower league position every year for more than a decade, bar one blip (1999/00) during Gerry Francis’ second tenure, dropping two divisions in the process. I’ve always said it was because they stopped running out to Tina Turner, but perhaps it’s my presence.

Partly my pessimism is driven by a form of protection – preparing myself for the scenario underneath the worst case scenario so it doesn’t sting quite as much when we inevitably end up there. I read this Andre Aciman quote over the summer and it stuck to me like glue: “I had rehearsed losing him not just to ward off suffering by taking it in small doses beforehand; but, as all superstitious people do, to see if my willingness to accept the very worst might induce fate to soften its blow. Like soldiers trained to fight by night, I lived in the dark so as not to be blinded when darkness came.” I stick us down for a defeat in the match preview even when I fancy us because I hope a better result will present itself purely because I said it wouldn’t. But it’s also based in fact. QPR are crap. They’ve been crap for a long time now. Since returning to the Championship in 2015, initially with parachute payments, they’ve finished 12th, 18th, 16th, 19th, 13th, 9th, 11th and 20th.

A few of our message board posters prefer to try and see the positives and find optimism for the future. Fair play, I kind of envy them, but do wonder how they deal with the frequent morale beatings this team doles out to its nearest and dearest. I wouldn’t want to be stuck with these people on a long-haul red-eye flight, but then I suspect they wouldn’t want to be sitting with me. This summer my general outlook on life, and QPR, set me at odds with a few of them and the phrase I kept coming back to is “you cannot optimism this into being”. You can think it’s true, you can wish it was true, you can put your case forward for why it’s true, and you can get down on your knees every night and pray it comes true, but none of that will make it so. If QPR are shit, as every possible indication they could have given you suggests is the case, then you can talk about “Gaz” and “Doboo” and Steve Cook and Asmir Begovic as much as you like, they’re still going to be shit. It’s looking like a duck, it’s quacking like a duck.

Sadly, this also applies to the manager. Gareth Ainsworth says the club have had “a hell of a transfer window”. He says things have changed here: something’s growing, something’s building, something’s coming. He says it’s a different place from last season. He’s hung his hat on experienced heads. Of those, Asmir Begovic has already conceded a crucial goal at Southampton you’d have saved yourself, Jack Colback has already been sent off and banned for three matches for a challenge you’d have bollocked a youth teamer for. He’s put a lot of stock in Ben Williams the fitness guru to keep his tiny squad fitter than it was last year, and yet here Morgan Fox crunched something in the first aerial challenge of the game and had to be replaced after a minute by Jake Clarke-Salter. Talk is cheap. Sooner or later it has to stop, and some walking of walks has to begin. The truth will soon become clear when all this chat is exposed to actual football matches and, of those, QPR had won one home game from 19 played prior to Saturday, and that’s now one in 20. Coventry, like Sunderland before them, have now won more games at Loftus Road in 2023 than QPR have – and it’s our home ground. If Blackburn win here in similar fashion next Saturday you can add them to a list of three, and if Bristol City do likewise two games later then it will become four.

On Saturday, at home to Coventry, Gareth Ainsworth’s positivity shtick rather crashed down around his ears.

General Consensus in the Crown after the game was Rangers had done quite well in the first half. Gareth Ainsworth says we were the better team, with more aggression, and more intent. Chris Willock was back from the start, rewarded for his new-found buy-in, and Sinclair Armstrong was relegated back to impact sub after a couple of indifferent displays. Let’s examine how that “quite well”, “better team”, “greater aggression” and so on manifested itself in goalscoring opportunities shall we? After a quarter of an hour of play an advantage played through a foul on Ilias Chair gave our best player on the day the chance to attempt, and successfully execute, an enormous switch across field right onto the toe of Paul Smyth without him breaking stride. It’s incredible to me that Chair is still here, by the way. In the move that followed, Chris Willock had a cross cleared and Ken Paal returned with interest for Lyndon Dykes to angle himself much in the same way he’d done to score against Swansea, except this time visiting keeper Ben Wilson was equal to the header at full stretch. Nice football, stretching the opposition, good to watch, well-crafted attempt, decent save.

That was it.

Comments are open, correct me if I’m wrong. That was it. Willock, given another chance, was insipid. We can talk the talk until the cow’s come home, but there are no goals in this team. We’ve scored eight – only Sheff Wed and Millwall have scored fewer. Since Ainsworth took over we’ve scored 18 times in 23 games. We are fast rattling up on the year anniversary of both the last time we scored three goals in a game anywhere, and the last time we scored twice in a home game. There are no goals in this team. There are no goals in this team. You concede once, the most you’re getting is a point.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the pitch, a Coventry side that has won one of its first nine games, against a QPR team supposedly playing quite well, chalked up the following… After five minutes Ellis Simms ran clear of the home defence, apparently offside but not flagged, and shot hopelessly over. On the half hour Sam Field was desperately unlucky to inadvertently deflect a ball into the path of Simms again, and Clarke-Salter recovered the situation with a brilliant covering tackle in his own area – the best moment of a rusty and ropey return to action for the physio botherer. Eight minutes later Simms was in again and this time Cook headed out into the waves for the rescue mission. Then, to begin the second half, Simms was in again within two minutes - Clarke-Salter standing vacantly with his hand in the air for a flag that never came – but his weak finish was easily saved by Begovic. Within three minutes the former Everton junior, who’d scored against us a year ago while on loan at Sunderland, was in once a-fucking-gain, but his shot from a tight angle was saved.

This is all jolly japes up to now – look at the giant £8m striker, no goals in nine games, spaffing chances up the wall, it’s Ade Akinbiyi all over again, bloody cart horse – but are you going to… keep… letting him in like this? Do you expect this to keep going well if you do? Is this going to be quite so comedic if we keep doing this? Yes, yes we are. Yes, yes apparently we did. No, no it wasn’t. Simms was, when he did eventually score, so far offside you wouldn’t have been able to adjudicate with VAR because you’d never have got a screenshot wide enough to include him and the last defender for one of Stockley Park's lobotomised gibbons to draw their crayon lines over the top. But this was, conservatively, the fifth time QPR had tried to play the most massively conspicuous man on the pitch offside and ended up giving him a free sight of the goal. You couldn’t possibly keep doing that and rely on both him missing and Championship officials getting decisions right. Something had to give, and inevitably it did. It gave right into the QPR net.

The second followed immediately, and if you think you’ve seen something like it before then go and treat yourself to a re-run of Coventry’s 3-0 win on this ground last season. A clunky QPR attack gave way to a swift counter the other way, with leggy and desperate defenders committing themselves into Hail Mary tackles and blocks until the ball broke to unmarked Josh Eccles and he took aim with a shot Osman Kakay deflected past his goalkeeper. Shambolic. Utterly shambolic. One would presume/hope Steve Cook doesn’t feel the need to take to social media and start picking fights with legitimate criticism this week?

A third wasn’t long in coming. The back three exposed. The spaces open and wide. The ease at which a goal could be scored embarrassing. Mark Robins now has seven wins, one draw and no defeats in eight matches against Gareth Ainsworth and, if you want to know why that is, well, just look at the fucking state of Allen freely rampaging forward from midfield to cross for unmarked Simms to stick a third and personal second into the roof of the net. It’s not acceptable this stuff. Not acceptable. And it’s been going on for far, far too long.

Nor, frankly, is playing goal music when Kenneth Paal sticks in an injury time consolation from Sinclair Armstrong’s assist in front of the 10% of the home crowd who’d stayed that long. Read the room lads, embarrassing.

Our left back is now our top scorer, and I don’t see that changing any time soon – in fact I think he might finish up as that with something like six. Gareth, again, has given it big chat, about both Dykes and Sinclair reaching double figures. He’s spoken about getting more crosses in, servicing our Scotsralian the way his national team does. He’s talked about the value of Paul Smyth, playing the opposite side to the one from which he scored ten times for Leyton Orient in 22/23. And the way Smyth has been playing, and the way Dykes headed the equaliser against Swansea, you think… maybe. But then you sit here for nigh on 100 minutes watching us, time after time after time after time after time after time after time after time, work the ball into a crossing position, look up, see a penalty box of a nicely set and organised Coventry back five, and one QPR striker, and sling a half arsed cross in anyway. They seem to wonder why that’s not bringing a positive outcome, and while they’re doing that I in turn wonder what the fuck we’re wasting our lives on this shit for. Immediately before Coventry’s second goal we’d “launched” a long throw – spoiler, we do not have a player that possesses a long throw – into a penalty box populated by four QPR players facing eight Coventry defenders and their goalkeeper. Some of this is just year four maths. Utterly bloody abject and, let’s also be honest here, pigheadedly stupid as well. Even Sam Field, who can usually be relied upon, was poor – he’s earned his free pass but three late giveaways would have had the locals turning over parked cars and looting shops had Dozzell done the same.

There was, of course, another incident among that minute-by-minute that I have declined to mention to this point.

At 2-0 down Sinclair Armstrong was brought on from the bench. You and I can only speculate on why it took until the game had left the building for the change to be made. One of the reasons we’ve been so easy to play against and beat over the last 18 months is the team is slow as rust, and one of the reasons we got wins at Cardiff and Middlesbrough is because Armstrong and Smyth played well and scared the opposition with their speed. Whatever you say – and you’d be right – about Armstrong’s fitness, temperament, fundamental level of skill, first touch… he’s one of the few we’ve got who frightens opponents. Within 60 seconds of coming on he’d piled straight through the side of Kyle McFadzean’s skull – the Coventry defender to this point could have played in a dinner jacket – and then continued on into the penalty box on the line of which he was unceremoniously and blatantly chopped down by the Coventry goalkeeper Ben Wilson. I’ve been racking my brains all day for a more blatant penalty, and I’m still racking. Short of pulling out a gun and shooting the guy, I’m not really sure what else the referee wanted to award a spot kick. It was, if we weren’t so invested, laughable. So obvious it’s funny.

QPR, and Sinclair Armstrong, did not get their penalty. Referee Tom Nield, in just his fourth Championship match, had run past Armstrong’s aerial battle with McFadzean but, crucially, then turned back to check on the Coventry man on the ground. While he did so Wilson cleaned Armstrong out at the ankles. So, now you had a new referee, faced with a player on the floor, a home team and crowd appealing, with no idea how he got there or what had happened. What Nield needed at that point was help from his assistant, Staffordshire’s Craig Taylor, on the Ellerslie Road side of the ground. Sadly - and it is sadly because on a human level you cannot help but feel for a young referee drowning in the manner Nield did here on what is a big career moment for him – you could have taken a rabid goose down the Crown and Sceptre, plied the horrid creature with rum for the afternoon, then sent it out to flap around gormlessly on the line, and it would have got more decisions correct by accident than the apparently terminally, chronically useless Mr Taylor managed. Sent out as a more experienced member of a team to help out a naïve, newbie referee, he should be embarrassed at his part in the farce that ensued. This is the second home game in a row we’ve had a rookie referee making a Championship bow, which you’d think would be accompanied by the best and most experienced assistants they could muster to nurse him through the big day, and on both occasions they’ve been badly hamstrung by a remedial idiot on the line. Taylor looked straight across at the penalty of all penalties, spoke to Nield in his earpiece, and came up with a goal kick. A goal kick. A goal kick. I cannot speyk. It was a lot of things before it was a goal kick. It was a moon landing before it was a goal kick.

The only thing Gareth Ainsworth got right on Saturday was in his post-match where he said the officiating was not at the standard required for this level of football. If you dropped Warwick Davis in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with a Vauxhall Cavalier tied to his leg, he wouldn’t have been as out of his depth as Tom Nield was in this fixture. He spent the first half letting everybody away with everything. There was a foul by Liam Kelly on Ilias Chair after 21 minutes that was a card yellower than the sun. Referee awarded just a free kick. Kelly took this as an invitation to do as he pleased: tactical fouls galore, and referee the game into the bargain. Don’t mistake this for bitterness in defeat Coventry fans, I was jealous, I wish we were as street smart. Kelly’s foul on 21 was followed by Bobby Thomas doing the same on 24, Louis Binks on 26, Kelly again on 27, Kelly again on 33, match reporter’s nightmare Latibeaudiere on 44 (consonant please Carol)… Game management. Tactical fouling. A smart manager. A superior team. But you expect, at some point, a referee to get involved in this. When he finally, finally, finally, had to pull on his big boy’s pants and book Jay Dasilva for deliberately hauling down Chris Willock, the panick it induced saw him immediately show one the other way to Smyth for… dissent? Maybe? Relative to what Kelly had been up to… I’m just man shouting at cloud now but fuck me dead.

Post Armstrong penalty catastrophe Nield lost what non-existent control he’d had of the game to that point entirely. Armstrong, as we’ve come to expect, steamed into his next tackle and kicked somebody up in the air. He’s now one card away from a ban, and has been booked in nine of his last 19 games. I actually didn’t mind it. The game had gone, we’re getting done at home again, the referee’s lost the plot, fuck it let’s take a few with us. Steve Cook was booked for dissent as things descended still further. Kelly was eventually booked for delaying a free kick being taken, and that was the correct decision, but it was also the sixth, seventh, eighth time that had happened and it had continued to happen because the referee allowed it to continue to happen.

Nield is a product of the system that has generated him. The sport in this country is awash with cash. Refereeing in the Premier League should draw a salary running into the several million a year, basic. It should be a hugely desirable and sought after role: a chance to be involved in professional football, travel the world, be a part of the Premier League. The training should be the best in the world. Teenage boys and girls not quite good enough to play professionally, but keen to be involved in the sport, should be recruited into this en masse with the realistic prospect of walking out at Arsenal v Tottenham, live on Sky, on a seven figure salary. The entire sport should be focused on increasing the refereeing talent pool to drive up standards. The money is there to do it. But they don’t. We still have referees and assistants at our level who are part time – and do you feel like coming and running the line on the Ellerslie Road side of our ground after a week in your day job? The training is sub-standard. The management is jobs for the boys (when the VAR ballsed up at Man Utd v Wolves it was Jon Moss sent waddling out to do the press!!). The pay is pathetic. The abuse and criticism is chronic and over the top. And, so, who do you attract to do the job? Weirdoes and wankers.

A collection of largely mediocre, and incredibly smug, Premier League referees were allowed to grow old together when they should have been pensioned off many years ago – Friend, Dean, Moss, Mason – and into that void they’ve had to suck up whatever halfway acceptable EFL officials they could find, which is why you’ve now got Darren England up there torching the laws of the game and all common sense. Into those vacancies we’re now having to fast track kids like Nield who are miles and miles off the level, and have all the feel for the game that I did my first pair of tits round the back of the Grimsby Wimpey. The least you could do is send him out there with an assistant who could win a couple of rounds of find your own arse with both hands, but Nield is a product of the system that created him, and games like this, with decisions like that Armstrong nonsense, are the result. A result we’ll continue to see. Over and over again.

The reason I left it until the end, though, is because otherwise it simply allows him to become this week’s useful idiot. Gareth can say we lost this week because the first goal was offside and we should have had a penalty. It will allow him to distract and obfuscate through to Wednesday at Leeds, where of course their parachute payments and squad depth will mean we’re simply privileged to just be on the same pitch as them. Every week it’s a new excuse. While I continue to set everything Ainsworth is currently grappling with in the context of the catastrofuck he inherited and his lack of resources to do anything about it, you can’t keep saying we’ve had a terrific transfer window, the whole thing is different now, good times are coming, Sinclair and Lyndon are going to get double figures, without posting the occasional result. Ellis Simms is offside for the first goal, but you’d already waved him through on Begovic four times before that and got away with it. Sinclair Armstrong should have been awarded a penalty, but you were already 2-0 down by that point.

You can be as positive and optimistic, or as negative and pessimistic, as you like. The truth catches up with you eventually. QPR were beaten by the better team. At home. Again.

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

QPR: Begovic 4; Kakay 4, Cook 4, Fox – (Clarke-Salter 2, 4); Smyth 5, Dozzell 5, Field 4, Paal 6; Willock 4 (Armstrong 61, 6), Chair 6, Dykes 4

Subs not used: Archer, Dixon-Bonner, Larkeche, Kelman, Duke-McKenna, Adomah, Kolli

Goals: Paal 90 (assisted Armstrong)

Bookings: Smyth 53 (dissent), Armstrong 63 (foul), Cook 65 (dissent), Dozzell 77 (foul)

Coventry: Wilson 6: Thomas 6, MacFadzean 7, Binks 6; Latibeaudiere 6, Eccles 7, Kelly 7, Dasilva 6; Allen 7 (Ayari 69, 6); Simms 7 (Wright 69, 6), Godden 6

Subs not used: Sakamoto, Kitching, Bidwell, Collins, Rus, Stretton, Obikwu

Goals: Simms 56 (assisted Binks), 68 (assisted Allen), Eccles 60 (assisted Latibeaudiere)

Bookings: Dasilva (foul), Allen 77 (delaying the restart)

QPR Star Man – Ilias Chair 6 You, win this game for us.

Referee – Tom Nield (West Yorkshire) 3 A little boy lost at sea. Assistants who should have been helping him stay afloat instead chucking him lead weights. A product of the system that created him and really quite sad to watch. This officiating team of three, performing like this, has absolutely no business whatsoever at this level of football at this point in their careers.

Attendance 16,293 – (2,800 Coventry approx.) The Coventry golf clubbers in the posh seats losing a round of fuck around and find out did at least pass a few minutes.

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062259 added 04:22 - Oct 2
Depressing. Despite his admirable and consistent endeavour, Chair has regressed creatively. And after him there’s basically nobody. Huff and puff gets you only so far (though without pace, that isn’t far at all). All that’s left is hope and hype, which Ainsworth eats for breakfast.

baz_qpr added 09:09 - Oct 2
Time and time again Chair had the ball, surrounded by 3 coventry defenders and bar Paal the rest of the team was static. Dykes having got all moody about Armstrong playing 9 was utter tosh bar his attempt on goal, dont think he laid off, held the ball or flicked on to our man once

tsbains64 added 10:12 - Oct 2
At last a recognition that GA is way out of his depth in this league .
Great to see young officials but these chaps were lost at see-none of them tried to correct the situation in the second half
Why do so many applaud GA at the end of the game - mass delusion!

Marshy added 11:15 - Oct 2
Even if the Coventry goal would have been ruled offside, and the Sinclair foul was awarded a penalty, we would still have lost. With all the all the good work often created up front, we just never look like scoring, and very rarely do. On that basis surely Dykes and Armstrong have to play from the start. Arguably that’s the biggest error Gareth made. I look forward to the return of Colback and the debut of Cannon, but whether that can shore up a sinking ship, I don’t know.

qprninja added 12:51 - Oct 2
You just know we'll win at Leeds now.

extratimeR added 14:37 - Oct 2
I guess as things have deteriated over the last 12 months we have sort of accepted the appalling standard of Officials, but Saturday was the last straw for me, ironic it should happen on the same day as the Spurs v Liverpool fiasco, ( maybe legal action might concentrate minds? Liverpool not us).

One of your best Clive, it needs to be said.

LazyFan added 16:59 - Oct 2
Armstrong should be on 7; he came on and got a Pen (not his fault the ref is blind) and then set up the only goal.

He came on when the rest of the team was pish. A youngster carrying the line. Getting that yellow was silly, but it showed Cov he was there to mean business.

I say again, play him from the start and stop pishing about. If Willock wants to get in the team, he can come off the bench and destroy the oppo or stay there till Jan.

Northernr added 17:02 - Oct 2
I'm not sure how many times I need to explain the rationale behind this but here we go again... if you lose 3-1 at home to Coventry City, nobody is getting a fcking 7.

QPRski added 07:09 - Oct 3
An honest but thoroughly depressing read.

“Coventry, like Sunderland before them, have now won more games at Loftus Road in 2023 than QPR have – and it’s our home ground. If Blackburn win here in similar fashion next Saturday you can add them to a list of three, and if Bristol City do likewise two games later then it will become four.”

This quote sums up our current predicament and is hard to believe.

Quite a reality check of a report.

TacticalR added 19:08 - Oct 4
Thanks for your report.

'There are no goals in this team'. Absolutely true. It's what makes us so boring to watch.

Coventry won because they played more simple attacking football. There always seem to be a number of teams in the Championship like this. Huddersfield used to do it a couple of years ago.

Like Marshy I am hoping that the return of Colback will get us going. He's got a bit of nous and he's scored a couple of goals.

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