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Queens Park Rangers 1 v 2 Cardiff City
SkyBet Championship
Monday, 1st January 2024 Kick-off 15:00
The season of evil begins with the birth of a new year – Report
Tuesday, 2nd Jan 2024 18:21 by Clive Whittingham

Any hope QPR could leave a dire 2023 behind and start afresh in 2024 faded fast on New Year’s Day at Loftus Road, with a dreadful display and deserved 2-1 defeat to Cardiff plunging Rangers ever deeper into the relegation mire.

While I try and conjure some words that are not all of the swearing words, all at once, let’s return to our conclusion from the improved performance and creditable result against Ipswich at Portman Road on Friday night.

“We have an uncanny, unbearably frustrating ability to raise and drop our level to just shy of whoever we’re playing against. Southampton and Leicester were probably both a good 8/10 at Loftus Road, so we played at a seven. Ipswich are around a seven, we’ve played them twice at a six. Millwall are a three, we went there and belched out a two. Same at Sheff Wed. Cardiff will be around a six in two days’ time, and I suspect we’ll knock out something around a five.

“If we’d played like this on Boxing Day, we’d have won. If we’d played like this at Hillsborough, we’d have won. If we play like this on New Year’s Day, we will win. We won’t though, and that’s the frustration with this group.”

Now, I’m not putting that there to fill space – believe me, I’ve got lots to say today. Nor to be some smarmy, jumped up, told-you-so little twat – because I speak more bollocks than most. I’m just saying anybody could see this one coming three days ago from the other end of the A12. I bumped into another couple of the home-and-awayers and, rather than happy, relieved and pleased at the improved performance and result, they were annoyed – as I was. Annoyed because the players had once again shown they are vaguely capable, when their mindset is in the right place, but had done it in a game they were never likely to win regardless, as opposed to when it actually mattered against Plymouth, Sheff Wed or Millwall. Everybody I spoke to walking away from Ipswich said the same thing: if we play like that on Monday we’ll be fine, but we won’t. Anybody and everybody who has watched this group over the last two years knew it. They keep showing you who they are, and what they’re about.

It is a year since I was driving down the Fylde coast, away from Fleetwood, listening to Neil Critchley’s reaction to our latest FA Cup debacle. He said the players had trained dreadfully for the match, been warned that attitude would see them lose the game if they took it onto the pitch, and ignored it. He said the mentality of the group was in the bin, had been for some time, and he had no interest in being part of mediocrity. He said in his previous job everybody at Blackpool, and everybody else in the Championship, saw QPR as a soft touch, with a weak underbelly. Highly gettable. Whatever the rights and wrongs, strengths and weaknesses, of Neil Critchley as a manager, he was exactly right then, and precious little has changed.

Gareth Ainsworth spent the last of our money trying to correct that with some of his much-vaunted Wycombe-style culture guardians. Jack Colback, 34-years-old, was given a two-year contract with an option for a third and has spent the first six months of that injured, suspended, or trying to get injured and suspended. He’s the latest in a whole string of players over the past couple of years to drop out of the team with an injury described as a “pull/knock/strain” with a diagnosis of “not too serious, back in training, outside chance for next week” and then disappear off the face of the fucking earth – almost always over Christmas. Steve Cook improves the team immeasurably when he plays, but hasn’t been able to do more than four consecutive appearances since September. This week is very typical – back in the team at Ipswich, plays really well, limps off after 70 minutes, unavailable again. Morgan Fox hasn’t been seen since September – he returned here, gave the ball away immediately, then fouled the Cardiff player on the way back and got booked. Cheers Morgs. The one who is playing, part time captain and part time market trader Asmir Begovic, decided to have a little walkabout for himself on 76 minutes allowing Big Dick Ng to head the winning goal into an empty net. Lord give me strength.

Other than that, it’s much the same players doing much the same things. Jimmy Dunne’s return from the start, in his current form, about as welcome as a Young Conservatives float at the Notting Hill Carnival. He began the day, under no pressure at all, by walloping a loose pass from a Cardiff forward firmly back behind his the goal for a corner. Never mind the quality, feel the width. Another running theme, despite all the hype around summer appointments to the sport science department, and even praise for the medical department from Marti Cifuentes in the last week, is the poor physical condition of our squad. Cifuentes simply cannot get our best team, in as much as we have a best team, on the pitch often enough. We all looked at the selection and performance against Hull and thought that was about as good as we’ve got – that team hasn’t played together since. By the end of the Ipswich game Cook, Ilias Chair and Chris Willock were all dead – Willock, farcically, turning his ankle being hit by a bloody football while stretching every sinew he could not to block a cross into the box. By the end of this one, Jake Clarke-Salter had done his waving and limping off thing again. Thank you grandad, thank you for fighting the war. Rayan Kolli lasted half an hour as a sub. This group are porcelain fragile, physically and mentally.

If you thought Taylor Richards might like to be involved, given this was the fourth game in nine days and every key player in his alleged position was unavailable, you’d be wrong. That transfer, which sucked up the last of our non-existent summer budget, really does sum up what a leaderless, rudderless, incompetent club Queens Park Rangers really are at the moment. If Brighton, one of the smartest clubs in the world, are willing to loan you a player they spent £2m on from Manchester City, and fix a fee for the end of the deal substantially less than that, this should ring an alarm bell. That tells you they know full well he’s not going to do anything during that loan deal to make them look daft or regret the decision. His references from Birmingham, a club where he infamously got injured during his medical, were abysmal. Of the many failings that have led us here, the complete collapse in seemingly any due diligence at all on players’ personalities and character last summer in favour of just letting Honest Mick get all his top boys together, saddling us with some of the biggest twats we’ve ever had play for us, is right up there.

And that’s the ones who weren’t playing. Let’s start getting stuck into the ones who did. Andre Dozzell, come out, come out wherever you are, World Hide and Seek Championship trophy waiting for you to collect from the front desk. Sam Field, every ball played to him in midfield banged straight back at whichever defender gave him it in the first place. I felt like fucking Bonnie Tyler sitting there watching – turrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrn around. Those two were so, so much better at Ipswich, and then here they play like this.

Again, entirely predictable. Enjoyed Ipswich didn’t they? Nice pitch, low expectations, weakened opposition not pressing too high, stick a few passes together, try a few flicks and tricks, tackle a few people, milk the applause at the end. Treat a draw with Ipswich Reserves like some form of fucking cup win. Home to Cardiff, pressure on, must win game, expectant home crowd, don’t want know. Don’t want to know. We’ve got a centre forward who looks like he should be bareknuckle boxing on oil rigs, and plays like he should be judging on RuPaul’s Drag Race. People who were making runs on Friday, weren’t doing so here. People who wanted the ball and were showing for it on Friday, didn’t do so here. People willing to take a risk with a forward pass on Friday, back to the safe and benign abdication of responsibility provided by a lazy, aimless pass backwards and sideways. We were very, very quickly back to the shrugging. Back to the exasperated arm waving. Back to the diving around trying to win cheap free kicks rather than playing the game. Back to the ‘everybody else’s fault but mine’. Best players missing or not, the first half was disgusting.

We must be absolutely infuriating to manage. Cifuentes brings Ziyad Larkeche on in a few games, and he has some decent impact as a substitute. Oooh, that’s nice, bit of potential there, I’ll give that a go next week. Next week rolls around, exact opposite happens. Larkeche was hooked at half time. Cifuentes, bleary eyed and fuming through his post-match interview, already looks like he’s been thoroughly QPR’d. He could help himself by not doing things like moving Paul Smyth away from the two Cardiff players he’d already tricked into yellow cards, just in case he gets one of them sent off and gives us an unfair advantage. Or not taking off Elijah Dixon-Bonner, one of the few in this team with a full size pair of stones, and sticking 87-year-old Albert Adomah in the centre of midfield. Fuck me, from the people who brought you Karl Henry The Creative Ten. Buster Merryfield should have been on his way to the glue factory at the end of his first year here, that we’re somehow now still suffering him into year three is absolutely laughable. “Oooh but he can still cross a ball” – no fucking use when it takes him longer than a Leonard Cohen song to get into a crossing position is it? I’ve got a more mobile fireplace.

And that’s all before we get onto QPR’s defending from set pieces which would by hysterically funny if we weren’t so emotionally invested in it. The technique of stationing Jimmy Dunne and Jake Clarke-Salter, ostensibly your two best players in the air, at the front and back post marking zones rather than players is as secure as a hymen in a South London comprehensive school. It leaves smaller players hopelessly outgunned by the bigger boys in the opposition ranks, and neither Dunne nor Clarke-Salter attack the space they’re supposed to be guarding. The only time Dunne attacks the ball is when it’s dropping 15 yards in front of him, at which point he likes to charge towards it so it can bounce over him into the space behind. He was arguably chiefly at fault for the first, headed in by Dimitrious Goutas Greek God of Free Headers who beasted Larkeche on the way through. Clarke-Salter repeated the dose for the second, scored by Ng as the QPR centre back stood and watched him pile in over the top of Rayan Kolli – though that one wouldn’t have happened had Begovic not popped out for a bit, fulfilling Amazon orders for his fucking baseball caps. The youngest and most inexperienced members of the team being asked to man mark much more established, physically larger Championship players, while our seniors flit around marking “their zone”. Into the sea with it, and them. Absolute clown car, both goals.

QPR’s set pieces, by contrast, were booted straight at the first defender we could find each time. Lot of talk about concussion in sport these days – Kenneth Paal is a public health hazard. Bloke's an absolute menace. Maybe it might be worth counting to ten and actually having a good look for Dozzell. One thing he can do is deliver a half decent dead ball – probably because the opposition are forced to stand ten yards away from him so there’s no possibility of him getting hurt.

Begovic did save well from Ruben Colwill and sub Josh Bowler to prevent it getting worse, but if you’re labouring under the misapprehension Cardiff were any good then consider that, despite all of the above, QPR could, should, have got at least a point.

Things were improved immeasurably by the half time introduction of Rayan Kolli. A flag in the Lower Loft said “all we expect of you is everything”. Here just something would have been nice, anything at all. Kolli did at least provide that. There’s a goal over there, feel free to go towards it if you like. Those guys in the maroon shirts are your opposition, they’re not your friends – feel free to tackle them every now and again, feel free to give them a bit in the air. When you get the ball it doesn’t have to go backwards, the name of the game isn’t to find Asmir Begovic from wherever you are on the field, it can go forwards on occasion. It can even go in the box if you like. No need to flick and trick and backheel and pose, just get it out of your feet and get the bugger in there. You never know what might happen. Kolli’s cross on 52 minutes was sumptuous. Even Paul Smyth couldn’t miss. All I could do was stand and applaud the boy with the big hair. Light through the gloom. Stendhal Syndrome – struck dumb by extreme beauty having been surrounded by the completely banal.

Smyth drilled a fraction wide a minute later as a ball broke to him and QPR tried to ride an unexpected wave of positivity to victory. Things sadly regressed again when Kolli got injured. Cardiff went back in front in farcical circumstances. Five minutes of added on time were spent mostly pisballing about, first with Begovic going through his sodding routine for kicking the bloody ball, and then with him and Dunne deciding to get involved in some pushing and shoving while waiting to attack a late free kick – exactly what Cardiff wanted you to do, another minute and a half pissed away. Dumb as rocks. Honest to God, thick as shit.

And still, and still, QPR could have salvaged a point. Under absolutely no pressure or provocation whatsoever, Cardiff began to panic. Ng was booked for timewasting, manager Erol Bulut likewise for losing his rag, Ebou Adams and Jonathan Panzo both carded in stoppage time for giving away needless fouls. This was not a talented opposition, nor a particularly smart one. Missing key players through injury, they’ve been poor results and performance wise since the end of November. Sinclair Armstrong - three clubs in the bag and it’s all the same club – was on from the bench by now and when a late long throw from Smyth accidentally hit him on the back of the head it required the save of the game from Alnwick to stop it inadvertently equalising. It would have been a goal entirely undeserved by QPR, but totally in keeping with a desperately poor quality game of football.

Rangers have now dipped below even Sheffield Wednesday on the Championship league table – a club we were ten points ahead of with four minutes of our game at Hillsborough remaining just a couple of weeks back. Far from looking up, with this group playing like this, with this attitude, it won’t be long before we’re below Rotherham too.

£25 cup ticket anyone?

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

QPR: Begovic 5; Cannon 4, Dunne 3, Clarke-Salter 4 (Fox 81, -), Paal 4; Dixon-Bonner 5 (Adomah 67, 3), Field 4, Dozzell 3; Smyth 6, Dykes 4, Larkeche 4 (Kolli 46, 7 (Armstrong 81, -))

Subs not used: Kakay, Archer, Talla, Drewe, Pedder

Goals: Smyth 51 (assisted Kolli)

Bookings: Fox 85 (foul), Dykes 90+2 (foul)

Cardiff: Alnwick 6; Ng 7, Goutas 7, McGuinness 6, Collins 5 (Panzo 87, -); Wintle 6, Siopis 7 (Adams 87, -), Ralls 6; Meite 5, Etete 5 (Bowler 60, 6), Colwill 7 (Tanner 74, 6)

Subs not used: Ugbo, Evans, Turner, Robinson

Goals: Goutas 16 (assisted Ralls), Ng 74 (assisted Wintle)

Bookings: McGuinness 58 (foul), Collins 63 (foul), Ng 89 (time wasting),Adams 90+1 (foul) Panzo 90+6 (foul)

QPR Star Man – Rayan Kolli 7 On the pitch for 31 minutes, injured for the last ten of those, man of the match by a street.

Referee – Andrew Kitchen (Sheffield) 6 Not too bad, occasionally a little naïve around the ‘dark arts’ of time wasting and such like. Five minutes was very skinny at the end of this game. Looks and feels like a new referee finding his feet at a higher level, which is exactly what he is.

Attendance – 16,849 (1,305 Cardiff) If you’ve been affected by any of the issues in today’s broadcast, the Samaritans is a registered charity aimed at providing support to anyone in emotional distress. Their free and confidential phoneline is available 24-hours a day on 116 123.

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ParkRoyalR added 19:31 - Jan 2
In the photo above Clarke Salter's body language defending the 2nd goal is very telling, probably knows he's physically fragile + not suited to the rigours of Championship football.

UPPERLOFTNZ added 20:12 - Jan 2
I wonder why no football club has ever got a legal team in to challenge a footballers contract. Richards clearly fit, just wont play, in any other profession you'd just get your contract terminated

Marshy added 20:54 - Jan 2
Looking at the team sheet before the game it was obvious that we would lose. No Chair, Willock and Cook, and with Dozzell that’s effectively starting the match with 10 men in a much weaker team. Marti talks about how good his previous teams were in defending set pieces, well it’s probably because he had better players than he has now, who are at best League One standard. I do fear that relegation is staring us in the face, unless by some miracle we can take advantage of the January transfer window, but who would want to loan us players with our credibility in developing anyone being so low. Why would any decent player even want to sign for us on a permanent contract. Where can we get a decent striker from? Maybe the QPR women’s team - can’t be any worse than the ones we have in the men’s.

qprninja added 11:03 - Jan 3
Concerning to hear talk of the players sulking around the training ground because of being made to train and play games on successive days. This group of disfunctional individuals needs breaking up and a fresh start is required with players who actually want to be at qpr. Sadly, it may take relegation to facilitate this. Relegation may also hopefully see a change of ownership.

Myke added 13:38 - Jan 3
Ironically, with all the oldies we signed, the one we dithered around and ultimately didn't might have been the most beneficial. Chris Martin may be old (just turned 35) and 'fat' (11 st 3 pds) but he has 8 goals this season already albeit at League 1 level (are we not playing at L1 standard most of the time?) he knows this division inside out and is always committed - surely he had to be more potent than Dykes?
Anyway for players who are out there who we may be able to loan in; I see Collins is back at Liverpool, a very decent CB at this level, might even clear a few corners. I thought Scott Hogan might be a decent shout before Rooney got sacked, but he might be hoping to get a look in with whoever takes over

Northernr added 14:17 - Jan 3
The biggest positive contribution from Martin, other than the Burnley goal, was him publicly stating that standards weren't high enough among the playing squad, that we aren't dedicated enough to what we're doing. A year on, nothing has changed. He was dead right.

Jules4367 added 18:58 - Jan 3
Marti is reported as saying he wants us to boo- because that is exactly how he feels and shows we care. Problem is the players cannot hear it, they are too busy listening to the voices in their heads telling them that they are good players.
We will go down, they will disappear and we shall be stuck in League 1 - but they just don't care!
I'm way past frustration, irritation and am up to the level of seething anger at the frauds claiming salaries they are no way entitled to.

Sittingbournehoop added 20:00 - Jan 3
The years of sheer incompetent management at the top have been leading to this, we should have gone down last season. Ainsworth was a disastrous appointment and we have so many injury prone and ill disciplined players. It will take years to recover but we just need to trust Marti and accept the relegation and the re-building of the club. He’s making plenty of mistakes with his tactics and substitutions and set-plays are woeful, but let’s be honest, if he was a quality manager he wouldn’t be with us. He needs time and patience and we just have to accept the situation, it will get a lot worse before it gets better!

Loft1979 added 15:03 - Jan 5
My contribution. I harken back several years ago to the first season. He could only score penalties, then Charlie came back. Confidence and belief and discipline are critical. We just have to look at Shef Wed who hired a new manager and instantly improved.

Lauding Marti: in a short snapshot I believe 7 /11 goals conceded are all set-pieces. If Jake and Cook are together we are water tight. Reggie Cannon and Paal are a great CB set. So where is the liability. Definitely Field is amongst our best. Elijah has biblical potential.. and is improving. Liability…goal scoring!! I think everything has been weighted to this window, and the 3 most desired players we have are actually players we can replace..


TacticalR added 21:46 - Jan 13
Thanks for your report.

As ever we need something inspirational to score (normally from Chair or Willock): our goals tend to be hand-crafted. Cardiff's goals came off the production line.

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