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Queens Park Rangers 4 v 2 Stoke City
SkyBet Championship
Tuesday, 28th November 2023 Kick-off 19:45
A Ben Pearson own goal – Report
Thursday, 30th Nov 2023 10:16 by Clive Whittingham

QPR tore up the form book and ticked off each of their chronic problems in turn against Stoke on Tuesday, retrieving what felt at one point like a complete disaster in the making and creating a 4-2 victory out of nothing to bring the house down at Loftus Road.

In April 1986, storied Catalans giants Barcelona went 3-0 down in the first leg of a European Cup semi-final in Gothenburg. This was something of a surprise, not least to the people of Gothenburg.

Barca had, 18 months prior, lost their damn minds. Falling behind bitter capital city rivals Real Madrid in the same way Gail Platt has fallen behind Laura Woods, they were without a domestic league title in a decade – a veritable, relative, famine. They wanted, and would very eventually land, Bobby Robson to hand hold them back to competence. They got, instead, on Robson’s recommendation, the manager of Queens Park Rangers. You R’s.

Tipped to not make it three months in Spanish football, Terry Venables did three years. The world-leading tactical acumen and needle-shifting approach to training - which had led QPR to an FA Cup final, promotion, and European football - immediately carried Barcelona to a first La Liga title in 11 years. A young Pep Guardiola watched on as ball boy. The revolutionary technical methods and heralded man-management personality lifted his side to ever more unprecedented heights the year after as they went in pursuit of the club’s first ever European crown. Sparta Prague, Porto and Juventus were dispatched back in the days when this was a proper knock-out cup competition and not a bloated cash cow.

Now, though, they were 3-0 down in Sweden, of all places. Looking along his bench Venables cast his glance beyond striker, and obvious choice, Pichi Alonso, to a centre half Esteve Fradera. The forward was less than impressed. The manager reasoned he’d done it to stem the bleeding, and keep the second leg within reach. “I’m pissing myself,” said Alonso on the prospects of a comeback. He started and scored three in the next meeting to take the game to penalties, and the tie to victory.

There were no Barcelonas shivering in the Shepherd’s Bush cold on Tuesday night. There were no Goteberg’s either: 80s version, present-day outfit, or anything in between. There were precious few people who seemed to know what they were doing at all. Certainly, no Terry Venables. He departed our mortal coil this week, at the end of a life magnificently lived, and will spin like a top in his grave when he gets there and finds a copy of this 90+ minutes of hot nonsense waiting for him.

There has been a flood of media coverage this week on Terry the Tottenham manager, Terry the England manager, Terry the nightclub owner, Terry the wheeler, Terry the dealer, but rarely Terry the QPR player who won promotion back to the top flight as de facto player-coach of a side that would revolutionise 70s football in this country, nor Terry the QPR manager who took this club to Wembley, Europe, and looked all on for a league title assault prior to departure. In a country where clubs in the sixth and seventh tiers of the game draw thousands in crowds, we’re cursed with a sports media that can’t see beyond the end of its six-club micro-penis. Ignored and airbrushed, the club where Venables did some of his very best work on and off the field came together to mourn in private on Tuesday night. Two thirds of the way through the wake, trailing 2-1 despite an unlikely sequence of events exclusively falling in his favour, an acolyte looked along his bench and selected a new centre half.

The tale of how we even got to that point takes some telling. Michael Gove has spent less time filibustering public inquiries into his role in the deaths of thousands of people than we require here.

For QPR had taken the lead. A team without a home win in eight attempts this season, and a club record 13 going back to March, actually went in front. Steve Cook could have – would have, should have – scored it himself, having trundled forward to attack Ilias Chair’s cross at the far post until he was, fairly obviously, pulled back from doing so by Enda Stevens. Stoke manager Alex Neil plunged, Rod Stewart-style, elbow-deep into the cliché bucket and emerged with an away tie against “if that’s a penalty you’d get a penalty every time a ball comes into the box”. This is incorrect. Stevens was wrong side, knew it, tried to short cut his way out, prevented Cook scoring a goal that looked certain, and was rightly penalised for all of this by referee James Linington, who had a clear view of the incident. Note the lack of Stoke complaints, bar Stevens’. Lyndon Dykes put the penalty in the bottom corner of Jack Bonham’s net and that was one nil.

That was no mean feat, given Dykes had scored one goal in 18 appearances this season, and QPR have only been in the lead in a game 11 times in 40 matches. Without a win anywhere in 12 swings, if you thought this might give them confidence and belief you were in for a disappointment. Everybody involved looked absolutely terrified by what they’d done.

Stoke loved working the ball wide, to Vidigard and Tyrese Campbell mainly, feeding it back inside and then continuing the run behind stricken full backs Osman Kakay and Kenneth Paal to receive the return. They ran this play repeatedly, with ever greater degrees of success. Asmir Begovic’s low save from Campbell’s header at the end of a nice move on 22 minutes was the only significant stop the keeper had to make early doors, but that was mainly due to all sorts of fortunate bounces our way, and some robust last-ditch heroics from man-on-a-mission Steve Cook. At one point Paul Smyth gave the ball away in a shitty area sparking yet another raid on the Loft End penalty area and Cook’s rebuke was unequivocal – hell, I took half a step towards the exit before I realised he was talking to his winger. Stoke were without a goal in three matches prior, and only the idiot section at the bottom of the table had a worst for column from their first 17 games, but they were only scoreless here through pure dumb luck. Sometimes you win a game by accident, because it’s just your night.

Chances of it being so would have increased exponentially by the hiring of a second footman. Look at this Jack Colback pass away from regional disputes to Ilias Chair in the clear blue water, and the Moroccan’s lesser-spotted early release with the outside of the boot to try and free Elijah Dixon-Bonner. That shouldn’t have reached but Ciaran Clark, playing only a second game this year at the age of 34, took a wildly inept swing and a miss allowing the young QPR midfielder to tee up Paul Smyth for a chance that, while brilliantly saved, had to be scored. Rangers hadn’t scored two goals on this ground for a year.

Worse was to come. Clark’s Gus Caeser tribute act enthralled the gaggled masses into a call for an encore. “I’ll do one more song” he slurred, and then laid a pass back up so short even Matthew Rose was sucking his teeth and thinking it a “bit of a push”. So, now here we were at the dinner table with Big Lyndon again. Duck broken, monkey shed from shoulders, confidence buoyed, leading the game, scored already, all the time in the world to pick his spot, all the time in the world to think about what he was going to do… All the time in the world to think about what he was going to do. And there’s your problem. If you want to be generous you’d say he didn’t sort his feet out. More accurately, I’m not convinced he knows his left from his right.

A chance you’d have scored yourself, turned into a save your mate’s Nanna Pat would have made, and that’s not all. Straight away down to the other end we went, because of course. Jimmy Dunne was called to the chip pan fire, and turned it into the Piper Alpha disaster. Asmir Begovic played Red Adair at the feet of Tyrese Campbell. Then conceded from the corner regardless. That’s a team that gets relegated. That’s a team that gets relegated right there. One nil up, half time imminent, through on goal, and within a minute and a half it’s one all, and two of your players have made mistakes you’d beat a youth teamer to death for. How do these boys get around town? How do they go to the shops? Thick as a whale sandwich. At the front of F Block, even the people who never lose it were losing it. No more I love you’s.

Can we have another clue? As it turns out, yes we can. Paul Smyth, right side of the Stoke left back, miscontrolled a ball into touch, knew it, and dived, horribly and obviously. Linington whistled immediately, awarded the free kick and, having already been booked over the penalty incident, that was the Enda Stevens. Rangers would now get to test their prowess against ten, and immediately limbered up for that with a cut back to impressive Dixon-Bonner for a shot camera saved by Bonham.

Neil was very keen to point ten fingers and one mole in the direction of referee James Linington at full time. I’d have done the same. Had I been in that away end last night, writing this report for The Oatcake, I’d have marked the referee in decimal points. I’d have fumed and raged over paragraph after paragraph. The fires of hell would have burned and only been stoked further when I inevitably clocked at some point that QPR have won two games at Loftus Road in 2023 and Linington is one of only five people to have been on the pitch for both of them. FIX, I’d have cried, because these match reports don’t write themselves.

Let’s have it right though. Neil walked away from an apparently upwardly mobile Sunderland to come to a club that has finished in the bottom half of the Championship five seasons running, and has only managed that because it's propped up by a gambling company prone to blanket advertising campaigns designed to suck the last of the blood from the poor and hard of thinking. Afforded an enormous intake of new players this summer he is still seventeenth in the table, and so it suits his narrative that somebody else is to blame – in this case, the match officials. Was it James Linington who put a team on the field that couldn’t score a goal against Coventry or Cardiff? Was it Linington who lost 3-0 at home to Blackburn? Is it Linington’s fault that Stoke spent a summer recruiting 19 (nineteen) new players and have still ended up with a back four of Sunderland’s released winger Lynden Gooch, loanee Luke McNally defending by himself, Ciaran Clark stumbling about his secure accommodation trying to remember where he left his teeth, and 33-year-old free transfer left back Stevens, in front of turnstile goalkeeper Jack Bonham? How do you sign 19 players and end up with that defence? Is that Linington’s fault? If you don’t want free kicks, penalties, yellow cards and red cards given against you for pulling the shirts of opposition players then don’t pull the shirts of opposition players. Don’t spend your summer ringing left backs all set for retirement and telling them you’ll give em another year of 46 Championship starts. Stop complaining and put together a better back four. It’s not even a fucking city, it’s a federation of smaller towns, with no definable centre.

Neil’s next trip to the cliché bucket was to complain about the number of yellow cards in a game where he “couldn’t remember one bad tackle”. Well, two of those were for Stevens reaching out to grab hold of the younger, faster boys, and four of the others were for dissent, which one might venture to suggest could be a product of a manager shunning the modern ‘no excuses culture’ for one where you can play, and defend, like this against a team that cannot find its own arse with both hands and then blame the referee for the consequences.

Then Stoke scored again. Despite it all. The penalty, the red card, the apparent egregious bias of the referee, the momentum behind QPR, the narrative, the new manager bounce… none of it mattered a jot. We don’t even gain confidence accidentally. Stevens had been so turgidly awful Stoke improved for him going off. You couldn’t tell who was a man light without counting them up. Jack Colback, leggy and miles off it. Steve Cook, hitherto superb but now hanging back. Wouter Burger and fries curling in from range. Asmir Begovic should have been able to throw his fucking cap on it. They’ll either not be teaching that one at the Soccer School, or won’t be charging much by way of tuition fees. I thought the Generals were due.

From a flimsy base, things began to disintegrate. What few good things QPR were doing started to wilt in the heated embarrassment of just how on earth they’d messed this one up. They couldn’t pass the ball to each other, even once, even by accident. While retrieving the ball for a corner Jimmy Dunne, attempting to get it out to Ilias Chair for a quick take, accidentally spaffed it in completely the opposite direction into the family stand, belting some Make A Wish kid in the side of the head. We forced 13 corners on the night, including this one, and planted each on the forehead of the defender at the near post – Paal particularly guilty. Venables would not have approved of the set pieces. Or anything else much that was going on by this point. We were done.

No goals, no pace, no options from the bench. So said a wise man after the weekend 1-0 at Norwich. Marti Cifuentes somehow conjured all three.

The Spaniard added width and forwards until the team was nothing but width and forwards. Having said previously he didn't like his team to empty the midfield, he promptly took them all off. Elijah Dixon-Bonner would have been a long way down my list of exit candidates, and Chris Willock got injured immediately in his stead. Reggie Cannon, however, was a stark improvement on Osman Kakay and was in for a chance at the back post almost before he’d got his tracksuit top off. Ziyad Larkeche joined proceedings on the opposite side. Charlie Kelman’s energy and press helped clear the stodge of a labouring central midfield that seemed to be constantly outnumbered despite having more numbers – Colback and Field repeatedly beasted by Burger, by himself. And Jake Clarke-Salter. Easier, I guess, to make that change once Sinclair Armstrong had withdrawn in the warm up. Easier, certainly, to play centre half against a team sitting back and trying to hold what it had. But certainly a colossal upgrade on the haplessly out of form Jimmy Dunne. Rangers were on the front foot from the moment of his introduction, and the panic in possession subsided for his influence.

The attacks started to role and recycle in waves. Chair’s free kick flicked off the wall and wide. Willock’s low shot deflected past the post. Dykes’ improvised effort struck and opponent and went out. Each corner wasted in turn, Stoke yellow cards mounting at the same rate as their near post clearances. When Chair drew a boot back from his favourite spot Bonham could only watch the resulting shot strike the base of the post and fly straight back out into play. Motherfucker.

The equaliser was all class. Willock’s cross deflected high into the air, Dykes pulling it out of the night sky on his chest then swivelling and striking it into the bottom corner before it hit the ground in one fluid movement. Pure brilliance. How can you walk through on the goal with nobody around, sit the goalkeeper down and pass him the ball one minute, and then score a goal of this technical prowess the next? Freakshow.

Stoke starting to wobble, beginning to waver, bowing and ready to break. QPR getting up the field, starting to believe, putting the ball into an area. Loftus Road, previously silent but for massed quiet weeping into gloved hands, now rocking and rolling. Cifuentes appealed for calm. Good luck with hat mate. Hoever taking liberties by the corner flag, trying to Danny Shittu a goal kick from a ball that was never going to reach. Ziyad Larkeche having none of it, getting under his man and beginning the scrap. Twice they fell over, each, ball bobbling between feet and shins. Twice play looked certain to stop, ball out of play, or perhaps a foul. A goat rodeo in full swing, and from the chaos a cross to the near post.

Stoke couldn’t really have done any more for us on Tuesday night. They’d given us a daft penalty, got a man stupidly sent off, played our centre forward clean through on their goal, conceded 13 corners, given away countless free kicks on the edge of the box. Even with an extra man Rangers looked highly likely to concede further goals on the counter attack, and so Stoke decided to sportingly introduce a striker so enormously fat and slow even our defence could keep up with him. The whole thing was like watching a prison guard trying to force feed a hunger striker. Just fucking eat, what is wrong with you? In the end, they had to score the goal for us.

We needed a saviour and we needed it quickly. We prayed for an angel, and they delivered us a goblin. Ben Pearson, at whose hands we have suffered for years. How many times we’ve sat here and watched that little shit stain take our midfields to school, harangue linesmen, roll around on the floor as if mortally wounded, argue the toss over every free kick, follow referees around in their ear, and waste hours and hour and hours of our lives, hours and hours and hours and hours, with his insufferable fucking brand of dark arts and game smarts and whatever else we’re calling cheating this week. We hated and hate him. Hate him for all of the above, hate him for the miserable sulky expression, hate him for the ankle breaking tackles, hate him for getting away with it all, and hate him because every team needs one like this and we don’t have it. Part rage, part jealousy. How wonderfully, exquisitely beautiful to see him, through the crowd and amidst the panic, stretch a leg that didn’t need to be stretched into a place it didn’t need to be placed, diverting the ball past Bonham and into the net. His team mates stared at him incredulously. Dumpy little twat, laid on the floor, holding his head in his hands. Three sides of Loftus Road dissolved in an instant. Hello Dragons, I’m looking for £20,000 for a 10% slice of my enormous erection.

Somewhere behind the scenes, a panicked discussion. Has anybody seen the Silver Lining vinyl? No, I thought you had it. Me? Why would I have it? Well, when did we last see it? I don’t know, haven’t needed that thing for ages. Well, where does it usually live? I don’t know I’ve only worked here six months this has never come up. Ring Gary.

QPR had taken the copy and paste paragraph from our match previews and ticked off each box in turn. They’d won. A first victory in 13 games, a win at home for the first time in 14 attempts going back to March. They’d scored twice at Loftus Road for the first time since October 22 last year, and scored three for the first time anywhere since October 18. Goals, goals at the Loft End. There was still time to fuck it all up of course, seven added minutes in fact, but thanks to Charlie Kelman’s pugnacious efforts on halfway the play was flooding the right way once more. That paragraph starts where this two years of footballing nightmare began, with the last time we scored four goals, here against Reading in January 2022. Although Chris Willock didn’t look altogether sure of himself, or his decision-making process, Stoke’s shambolic backline ultimately gave him no choice but to strike the ball low into the bottom corner. Simon Barker, have a shot… what a goal. The victory is here. The home victory is here.

Sweet dreams are made of this.

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

QPR: Begovic 5; Kakay 5 (Cannon 62, 7), Cook 7, Dunne 4 (Clarke-Salter 73, 7), Paal 5; Field 5 (Kelman 73, 6), Colback 5 (Larkeche 88, -), Dixon-Bonner 6 (Willock 62, 6); Chair 7, Dykes 6, Smyth 6

Subs not used: Archer, Richards, Duke-McKenna, Drewe

Goals: Dykes penalty 11 (won Cook), 79 (assisted Willock), Pearson og 89 (assisted Larkeche), Willock 90 (assisted Kelman)

Bookings: Colback 86 (foul), Begovic 90+6 (time wasting)

Stoke: Bonham 5; Gooch 4, McNally 6, Clark 2, Stevens 3; Burger 7 (Laurent 82, -), Pearson 4; Campbell 6 (Leris 70, 5), Vidigal 6 (Hoever 58, 5), Bae 6 (Johnson 70, 5); Mmaee 6 (Wesley 80, -)

Sub not used: Rose, Gayle, Thompson, Simkin

Goals: Mmaee 45 (assisted Bae), Burger 59 (assisted Mmaee)

Red Cards: Stevens 53 (two yellows)

Bookings: Stevens 10 (foul), Burger 19 (foul), Stevens 53 (foul), Campbell 56 (dissent), Mmaee 56 (dissent), Gooch 74 (delaying restart), Johnson 81 (dissent)

QPR Star Man – Steve Cook 7 Looked in the mood for a captain’s knock, with a big clearance behind to interrupt a lethal counter attack on 15, strong words with Smyth for putting his team in trouble which Cook bailed us out of with another monster tackle, and oh so many recovery jobs as Jimmy Dunne played opponents onside for fun. With the way some of his team mates defended around him he was doing the work of at least two men at times.

Referee – James Linington (Isle of Wight) 7 I came away with a lot of sympathy for Stoke and their fans who’d travelled so far on a Tuesday night to see their side ostensibly get screwed out of the game. But let’s look at the key decisions… The penalty is a penalty. Stevens lets Cook get the wrong side of him and pulls him back from what was a very good goalscoring opportunity. It’s a penalty, seen clearly, and if anything he might have been lucky to only get booked for that. The Smyth dive for the red card is ridiculous, and Smyth pulls that bullshit too often, I’d be absolutely furious to be on the end of that one especially as he’d clearly toed the ball out and knew it, but… Stevens does pull his shirt. It’s a daft thing to do on a yellow card. You could potentially have let him off with a final warning, but if you don’t want sending off then don’t run that risk, there was no need to do it. If you sign 33-year-old Enda Stevens to be your first choice left back in the Championship in 2023, and play him alongside Ciaran Clark, you get what you deserve. The cards they picked up thereafter were almost all for dissent after they lost their heads – Gooch refusing to let a free kick be taken, moving the ball and moving the ball again from where the referee had already said the free kick would be taken from, is just mindless stupidity. What do you expect the referee to do there? Where Stoke really do have a point, however, is a second half incident where Sam Field very clearly pulled a shirt in the QPR box in much the same way Stevens had in the first half. It was on the linesman, and fourth official, side of the pitch, we saw it clearly from F Block, that should have been seen and given. That apart though, Stoke brought almost all of this on themselves and then went looking for somebody to blame. Of course, we would say that, wouldn’t we?

Attendance 16,901 (1,100 Stoke) Bit fanciful.

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Esox_Lucius added 11:00 - Nov 30
Excellent report! one of your finest.

M40R added 11:05 - Nov 30
A brilliantly entertaining match and a brilliantly entertaining match. Both well worth the wait.

M40R added 11:21 - Nov 30
Of course I meant to say brilliantly entertaining "report"

HastingsRanger added 12:21 - Nov 30
A very memorable night for so many things!
With all the highs and lows, timing of the equaliser, a goal from the 10-men, Chair's strike against the post, a corner that didn't even get to the first defender. Bleak.

And yet, Dykes redeeming himself and Larkeche's incredible persistence and fight that deserved a goal. And even Willock with a trademark finish.

We all know that this is a long old season, with the obvious spectre of relegation but there is certainly improvement in style of play and understanding on the pitch. Cifuentes substitutions paid off. Interesting listening to him in the post match interview.

Stay up, I don't know but a team with a manager and some interesting players in development does actually bode well. But of course, Huddersfield win away!

Thanks Clive, great seeing you and great report as always.

NorwayRanger16 added 12:37 - Nov 30
Larkeche deserves a 10 :)

francisbowles added 13:12 - Nov 30
That is absolutely hysterically funny. I could hardly read the end, after the silver lining vinyl comment. It's also entirely accurate in virtually all respects.

Been waiting a long time for that, I was away for Watford, so I think it's been over a year since I was in the ground for a win. Thanks for putting the icing on the cake, supplying the candles and lighting them too.

DannyPaddox added 13:24 - Nov 30
Agree with Norway. Larkeche only on for 2 minutes + added on but that never-say-die moment by the left hand corner flag winning 3 lost causes in quick succession - battling like a Tasmanian Devil with a fig of ginger up his jacksie was the moment of the night for me. Taking nothing away from the brilliant cameos from Dykes, Willock, and Linington, of course.

pedrosqpr added 16:06 - Nov 30
I hear Ainsworth has added hi ho silver lining to his set list but couldn’t remember it , seriously I thought our new manager was honest when he said everyone starts with a clean sheet , you could see clearly that the manager has a plan b etc , I watch a lot la Liga football and notice that most matches la liga managers use the entire squad (5subs) this was the game changer last night for me .

switchingcode added 18:03 - Nov 30
Very impressive crowd considering if Stoke had sold out would have been nearly a full house

Marshy added 20:33 - Nov 30
Finally we get the win and scoring 4 goals in the process, but ironically in typical Rangers fashion, this was not a great overall performance. However, most importantly this should instil a huge confidence boost going forward. It shows that we don’t have to be at our best to be able to win games, and potentially when we do play better we should be a lot more competitive. I’m impressed with what Marti has been able to achieve in such a short time. As far as the squad is concerned I’m starting to think that we might just have more strength in depth than I thought, but the key will be fitness and keeping injury free, with Clarke-Salter and Willock as 2 key examples.

Loft1979 added 22:26 - Nov 30
This Texas expat thanks you for your amazing report! Its only four games but my heartfelt opinion is that QPR could easily be winners of all four games. But for poor execution in and around the box plus injuries thinks could be quite rosy. As it is...and as WELL chronicled here, the potential evolution of Jake could be a huge difference maker, as could the availability of Reggie Cannon. Add to that the growing emergence of Elijah and return of Chris and I look forward to seeing what QPR can put together. No mention of Colback here, but if he does have to sit out, could Paal or Lakareche be tried in midfield?

johann28 added 22:32 - Nov 30
'Ben Pearson, at whose hands we have suffered for years. How many times we’ve sat here and watched that little shit stain take our midfields to school, harangue linesmen, roll around on the floor as if mortally wounded, argue the toss over every free kick, follow referees around in their ear, and waste hours and hour and hours of our lives, hours and hours and hours and hours, with his insufferable fking brand of dark arts and game smarts and whatever else we’re calling cheating this week. We hated and hate him. Hate him for all of the above, hate him for the miserable sulky expression, hate him for the ankle breaking tackles, hate him for getting away with it all, and hate him because every team needs one like this and we don’t have it. Part rage, part jealousy. How wonderfully, exquisitely beautiful to see him, through the crowd and amidst the panic, stretch a leg that didn’t need to be stretched into a place it didn’t need to be placed, diverting the ball past Bonham and into the net.'

Pure Gold.

kingfisher6404 added 11:01 - Dec 1
Thanks Clive! Loved the 'we’re cursed with a sports media that can’t see beyond the end of its six-club micro-penis ' - so true and especially in the 'London' papers!! El Tel was a great player and even better manager for us. Huge respect.
Do please try to be kinder though to Alex Neil as he obviously struggles to see the game through his rose-tinted spectacles....
This win is either a bump on the road to a relegation battle or the start of a long awaited recovery. I think the latter, but whatever happens we are playing GREAT football.

PaulGutirrez added 11:48 - Apr 5
A Ben Pearson own goal can be a devastating moment for any team. It not only affects the scoreline but also impacts morale and momentum. Such occurrences often serve as stark reminders of the unpredictable nature of football. Just like in the game, life can throw unexpected twists. Embracing resilience and learning from mistakes is key. For more unexpected moments, check out

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