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Queens Park Rangers 2 v 2 West Bromwich Albion
SkyBet Championship
Wednesday, 6th March 2024 Kick-off 20:00
Field's surprise double caps fitting footballing tribute to Bowles – Report
Thursday, 7th Mar 2024 21:21 by Clive Whittingham

On a night when we came together to remember Stan Bowles, QPR served up a classic and controversial cliffhanger that played to the finest entertainer traditions of the club and its greatest ever player.

If this was Queens Park Rangers, nobody would ever ask why you still bother, why you do it to yourself, what you’re doing with your life. They’d be here with you, begging for spares, or pressing their noses up against the glass trying to catch fleeting glimpses of the magic taking place inside.

This is what a QPR team should look like, play like, be like. Attractive football with purpose, attacking to win the game with width and pace, relentlessly high on the press and awkward to play against. There’s a classy continental ten cutting about with flaxen-hair spilling across his shoulders, dictating the play and never giving the ball away, at the same time as a giant Irish centre back is having a banterous time down the right wing, Cruyff turning around bemused opponents. It shouldn’t work, but it does. The sublime and the ridiculous. The island of misfit toys. Mavericks and mainstays, with an innovator in the dugout.

This is what Loftus Road should sound like, reverberate like, feel like. An absolute bear pit, putting opponents off their game, sucking the ball into the net at the home end. Referees harangued for their incompetence. Not a place for 3,000 fans from fucking Coventry City, Sunderland, Blackburn Rovers to come and have a lovely time, not a place where QPR win only one game in a year, not a place where Rangers only score five times at the Loft End across 12 months. A bloody tough place to come, press and pressure of the team backed by a wall of noise and support. Respect paid and memories shared of our history and greats of our past – the absolute greatest in the case of Wednesday night – but things to be proud of in our present as well, and a future we’re actually looking forward to rather than dreading. You should be able to hear this place from the river. You should wake up the following morning with a voice like Madge Bishop. You should still be feeling it 24 hours later – that you were part of something, last night, under the lights, at Loftus Road. On Wednesday night all of that was true, and we most certainly were.

Take out the terrifying context of a Championship league table doing things it’s never done before – QPR’s present total of 39 points with ten games still to play would already have been enough for safety in 21/22 – and this was an evening of football you don't mind paying to see. Throbbing from end to end at a relentless tempo that seemed entirely unsustainable and yet continued long into the night. Michy Frey, running on fumes, but still running. Sam Field taking no prisoners. A Steve Cook bicycle kick. The intensity of the thing was off the scale, the contest utterly absorbing. What happens if both the Spanish managers want to execute a high press? Let’s see what happens when we take away the puppy.

Add back in a division where the teams at the bottom are running on take-off power, eight of them separated by just two points, and you have to curse a missed opportunity. Rangers had a mad minute in the first half where they made the same mistake twice on opposite sides of the pitch with the same outcome. First, Paul Smyth and Jimmy Dunne successfully doubled up on Irish winger Mikey Johnston but then let him step inside regardless and unleash a ferocious drive into the top corner off the inside of the post. Anybody who’s been unfortunate enough to watch any of Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic this season must be wondering whether this little bastard might not be more use to them across their five separate fixtures with St Mirren rather than gliding about on loan in the West Midlands. Within 60 seconds a near mirror image situation down the other flank – Paal and Chair getting the double up right, and the tackling wrong - allowed a low Tom Fellows ball to find Grady Diangana in the area for another unsavable shot. The R’s also missed a penalty kick. A handball so obvious from stand-in left back Adam Reach that even referee Geoff Eltringham only needed minimal intervention from his assistant to award a spot kick; Michy Frey the man trusted with the task, shaping up to deliver a large Julian Dicks, into the top corner, sadly delivering more Julian Clary, too close to Alex Palmer, and comfortably saved.

I’d like to have just sat back and taken in the spectacle. Keep your financially doped Premier League, stick your shiny out-of-town mega bowls, fuck your fucking Beavertown Brewery they’ve got in their stadium you know, I want to exist here, feeling this place hum around me, and watch my team play like this. I could happily sit through football played like this for hours. And yet the league table turns it into an ordeal, to watch from between barely parted fingers. What should be a pleasure and a privilege, turned into a trauma and a trial, by context and over emotional investment. QPR have not played like this before this season and will struggle to maintain this level again. When they reach it, in the situation they’re in, they have to win the game. And they didn’t.

Make no mistake though, if Marti Cifuentes can extract performances anywhere close to this from his team again, they’ll be winning games. Games plural. Starting on Saturday. I asked a year ago, when Gareth Ainsworth rolled into town looking like dad had taken the divorce badly, whether this chat of a “QPR way” wasn’t a bit high and mighty given the catastrophe of our recent history. Eight months with him, cumulating in a pathetically insipid 2-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion, had me eating my words – you cannot inflict football like that on this club and these supporters. Four months with Cifuentes, culminating in this return fixture with West Brom, has me reversing my position entirely – there absolutely is, and it’s here in the room with us now.

Paul Smyth, afforded a rare start away from his impact sub role, tore away onto an early defensive slip but took too many touches and shot into the keeper’s arms. What looked certain to be the move of the match on the quarter hour, but actually turned out to just be something else QPR did well on the night, included Jimmy Dunne’s first elaborate drag back to sit an opponent down, and ended with a bundled effort deflected wide. In the highest of high presses the ball was won back first by Dunne, then by Chair. When his speculator was spilled by Palmer, Frey seized the rebound and collapsed looking for a penalty that never was. Andersen took a turn at following in, because this is what we do now, and the assists just keep coming for the classy Dane because his low cross was bundled in for a first goal this season by Sam Field against his former club.

Going behind didn’t damage Rangers as much as it could. The high press remained in situ. Jimmy Dunne was quickly stealing somebody else’s lunch money. The dreamy Andersen remained the best player on the pitch by a street. Twice he combined with Chair for an effort on goal by the Moroccan – one shot deflected wide, another back post header off target. The corners started to mount.

An emotional half time brought the great and the good of our greatest and best to the field. Dave Thomas and his beautiful guide dog always sends me. Frank McLintock still looks the absolute business, coat immaculate – we used to get to listen to people like that on Sky. Don Shanks spoke so warmly of his best mate, Stanley. Gerry Francis revved the crowd to such an extent I half wished he’d been in there delivering the half time team talk. I felt like I wanted to get out there and play myself. Luckily, Cifuentes was below decks making a similar address. QPR came out and moved up through several more gears still.

Dunne overlap loading, on a dial up connection. An Andersen cross, an arm cocked to the sky, a penalty, and a save. Shut the front door. Corners five, and six, and seven. Dunne rampaging down the other side now, a cross for the ages, this time with his left foot, what on earth is going on here? Sam Field’s looping header a goal for all money, palmed out from under the cross bar by handball clearance specialist Cedric Kipre. A linesman and a referee with two angles of the incident saw nothing. Corners eight, and nine, and ten. Steve Cook free enough in the six-yard box to do more than glance a header across goal and wide – he knew it too. Palmer, already, with half an hour to go, timewasting to such an extent a yellow card was brandished. Corner 11, corner 12, corner 13. And the band played. Come on you R's. Come on you R’s. Frey, in the area, turning, shooting, scoring, but of course a whistle, not for the offside it was, but for a foul it absolutely was not.

As well as being all too much for West Brom to cope with, it’s time to lament a game fast running away from referee Eltringham. Taken out into deep water by the relentlessness of the whole thing, this Championship veteran was starting to drown. By now almost certainly in the knowledge that he’d bollocksed the Kipre incident, he became trapped in a world of his own contrariness, torn between trying to even up his SNAFU and also deliberately making sure he wasn’t seen to be doing exactly that. Two West Brom substitutes were allowed to walk the full width of the pitch running the clock down but then a third, mainly due to Sam Field’s intervention, was not. Given he'd spent his post goal celebration mocking the heart of QPR’s core support, Micky Johnston was probably the one you actually should have foregone the pitch exit rules for, and he was duly pelted with bottles by morons in the midst. Cue much testiculating from the visiting players about the unfairness of it all, meaning all the time wasting they'd been trying to do was achieved anyway. Paul Smyth, shirt torn from his back, felled by the corner flag… West Brom throw. Morgan Fox, on from the bench, smashed to the ground with a forearm between the shoulder blades… West Brom throw. When Eltringham finally did award a throw in QPR’s favour it was only done on the proviso we take it really slowly – Michy Frey prevented from setting in motion a quick attack on an unset defence because… I didn’t know then and I don’t know now. For the referee to catch his breath, maybe? International year of the wally brain.

Rangers suffered a disallowed goal, a missed penalty, conceding two in a minute, giving up a lead, having a goalbound header punched off the line by a defender. Corner 14, corner 15, corner 16. Come on you R’s. Still they came, still they banged away. No heads down, no feeling sorry for themselves, no regrets and everything left out on the field. I wouldn’t have taken Andersen off, or Hayden, both excellent – Joe Hodge and Chris Willock came on, and the rhythm didn’t miss a beat. QPR haven’t played like this anywhere for years. Corner 17, and corner 18, and corner 19, and finally, finally, with the weight of all of West London leaning up against it, the Albion dam finally cracked. Look at the number of men we put in the penalty area now. Willock’s devilish, whipped ball to the back post; Steve Cook’s mountainous header just as the ball threatened to drift away into the night; Jimmy Dunne’s improvised finish flush off the crossbar (fuck my life); and Sam Field following in a second time for an equaliser that Brought. The. House. Down. Cum spillage, aisle five.

In the away end I’m sure there was plenty of ‘typical bloody Albion’ narrative around their former player scoring against them twice having not bagged at all in 34 appearances this season prior. It’s exactly what we’d be saying, and of course only Kipre’s flagrant act of cheating denied us the miracle of a Sam Field hat trick. A Sam Field hat trick – nothing in the manual for that, the pilots will have to work it out for themselves. Goals from him, and our central midfield in general, was always an obvious gain for Marti Cifuentes to extract from the squad he inherited – Andre Dozzell infamously with as many goals in two and a half years as Sam Field managed in an hour on Wednesday, and Lucas Andersen has double the number of assists that little waste managed in the whole time he was here. Field being in the area to get exactly the sort of goals he should be getting a lot more of typifies the improvements we’re seeing in previously unheralded and under performing players under this manager. Notice, also, Ilias Chair’s last four goals coming from inside the area (another thing he should have been adding to his game a long time ago) after just one of his previous 12.

No time to bask in that glory though, Field was already waving everybody back to halfway to push for a winner. It felt certain to come. West Brom, battered, were out on their feet. Eric Pieters, broad of arse and slow of thought, looked like a man regretting his career choice. Ajayi, a defender, was sent on for Fellows, a midfielder, by way of coagulant. The patient continued to bleed out. Corberan, going spare on the touchline, implored his men to vacate a penalty box they’d been pinned in for pretty much the entire evening. There was no escape. Triple subs or no triple subs, WBA were absolutely gassed, and only the final whistle could save from what would surely now be a knockout blow. When Steve Cook launched himself into the night sky and caught a bicycle kick (a bicycle kick) just so, it felt like we had our fitting climax and tribute. Notify the Crown & Sceptre, it’s a lock in. Given his affinity to the place, I wonder if Darnell Furlong deep down wishes he’d got there just a fraction too late to execute a second extraordinary and first legal goalline clearance of the night. Imagine. Just imagine. I'd still be there now, waiting for my erection to subside enough to fit through the exit gate.

The Baggies would, eventually, survive. Clinging on by their fingernails through six minutes of time added on. The team in fifth, running the clock and begging for time against a side that seemed destined for relegation even just a few short weeks ago. They knew they’d got away with one. I thought QPR were terrific. Really, really terrific. Couple of months ago I would, without question, have had this down as the worst version I've ever followed. At The Hawthorns in October, they’d been pathetic. Rangers had 29% of the ball, one shot off target, no shots on target, and two corners that night. Here they had 52% possession, 14 shots off target, six on, and 19 corners. Quite possibly, simultaneously, the best and worst team West Brom have played this season.

Reproducing this is now the challenge. Middlesbrough, an inferior side to the one we faced here, won’t be able to live with this if Rangers bring it again on Saturday, but after such exertions here and at Leicester what do QPR have left in the tank? The spectre of a three-game week looms large over this side again. It is not even a month since we were storming out of Stoke, having turned in a dreadful performance against dire opposition just when we thought we had this cracked last time. That’s now this team’s only defeat in nine to be fair to them, but the ridiculous situation on the league ladder means this season still hangs firmly in the balance. Beat Boro and we’re off and away, lose and we could be back in the bottom three and lamenting not making the performance of the season so far pay with three points. The excitement of what this manager could do with this team, a full summer and some money to spend, tempered by the horrible thought of a couple of injuries and results going the wrong way and us journeying to Stockport regardless and always wondering what might have been had we survived.

That’s all to come over the next 48 hours. For now, though, almost perfect. No notes.

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

QPR: Begovic 6; Dunne 8, Cook 7, Clarke-Salter 7 (Fox 80, -), Paal 6 (Dykes 80, -); Hayden 7 (Hodge 60, 6), Field 8; Smyth 6, Andersen 8 (Willock 71, 7), Chair 6; Frey 6

Subs Not Used: Dixon-Bonner, Cannon, Larkeche, Armstrong, Walsh

Goals: Field 17 (assisted Anderson), 81 (unassisted)

West Brom: Palmer 7; Furlong 6, Kipre 7, Pieters 5, Reach 6 (Gordon 60, 5); Yokuslu 6 (Chalobah 78, 5), Mowatt 6; Fellows 6 (Ajayi 54, 6), Diangana 7 (Swift 79, 5), Johnston 8 (Weimann 78, 5); Wallace 5

Subs Not Used: M’Vila, Marshall, Griffiths, Malcolm

Goals: Johnston 25 (assisted Mowatt), Diangana 27 (assisted Fellows)

Bookings: Palmer 54 (time wasting)

QPR Star Man – Sam Field 8 You can’t really look past him with two goals and a hat trick only denied by an illegal handball on the line – as we’ve said for a long time Sam Field is technically good enough, and strong enough in the air, to be contributing far more goals than he is and hopefully this can be the beginning of that. Jimmy Dunne’s revelatory arrival on the scene as our new attacking right back is worthy of mention though – the cross for the Field header was with his left foot as well. Personally, though, I thought Lucas Andersen was streets and streets away the best player on this pitch. We should shop in Denmark more often – anything else like that at the back of the shop Hans Christian?

Referee – Geoff Eltringham (Durham) 3 If you want to give him a free pass for the Kipre handball on account of the lack of appeals or whatever story you need to tell yourself then fine. Only gets one look at it, still rather this than VAR etc etc. What cannot be denied is he completely lost control of this in the second half. All too much for him.

Attendance – 16,818 (1,500 West Brom approx.) How it should be, how it should look, how it should feel.

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AgedR added 22:03 - Mar 7
What a fuxking marvellous night.

Thanks Clive.

NewYorkRanger added 22:15 - Mar 7
Julian Clary :)

Andersen looks a player. Frey was great all night. Dunne - compare with Kakay (who I thought was treated harshly on this site).


ChrisNW6 added 22:21 - Mar 7
Cheers Clive, now get yer head down, we go again Sat.

Myke added 22:57 - Mar 7
Top quality report, Clive. Captures the emotion and drama of the night perfectly. This one I sat through and enjoyed every pulsating second. I DO think you have to give the ref a pass on the handball goal because not a single QPR player protested - it was all hands on the heads in disbelief rather than hands in the air in outrage. But I also agree he got progressively worse, although again the disgraceful decisions against Smyth and Fox were surely more down to the lino than the ref?
Can Kipre be charged retrospectively for that? I know it won't change the result, but could he still not get a red card and a ban? This is exactly what VAR should be used for and was initially intended for, not to determine if somebody's left ass cheek was offside.
One little gripe for Marti, I thought the last ten minutes were tailor made for Armstrong's swashbuckling style. They had matched up our height advantage as best they could, but having someone -on a high after last Saturday - running at them with power and pace could have been fun!
One final question, I am hopeless at Maths, so does having so many teams separated by so little mean that we will likely need more or less than 50 points to survive


Myke added 22:58 - Mar 7
Looking at all those old men in the centre circle, is exactly why I became a QPR fan in the first place.

Northolt_Rs added 23:38 - Mar 7
I’ve waited all season…no, years….for this match report. Every bit as magnificent as the match. Brilliant both you, us supporters, the manager and the team. Can’t wait for Saturday! COYRs!!!!!

NewJerseyRanger added 00:10 - Mar 8
Great report Clive. Gerry Francis moved me to tears. He is Mr QPR. We were lucky to have him and are lucky to have Marti.

062259 added 04:10 - Mar 8
On the flip side of all that was good, 19 corners should have produced more goal threat than they did. Smyth looked a little lightweight and easily muscled off the ball. His long throws are not threatening. Agree with Myke that Armstrong was worth a try, but Marti is manager of the month and I’m not.

Northernr added 06:59 - Mar 8
Myke - On the referee and the linesman point... The lino was clearly under instruction to take his lead from the referee. Even fairly simple throw ins they were looking to the referee first before raising a flag. I was amazed he actually flagged for the penalty, that being so blatant I guess how could he not.

When I was refereeing this would happen from time to time. You'd get some old, experienced referee who'd been around, they'd come in and see how young I was, and immediately tell me to only do throw ins and offsides, do not flag for free kicks, and check with me first before raising your flag and I'll indicate what I think it is. Ostensibly the reason is to stop a situation where the lino gives one thing and the referee gives another. In reality it just renders the assistants useless. I used to take great delight in immediately and provocatively flagging for a free kick anyway and forcing the old twt to give something he didn't want to give.

On the points - 52 is usually the cut off. Peterborough were once relegated on 54 but it's never happened before or since. I think it'll need at least 52 this season.

snanker added 07:29 - Mar 8
A genuine match for the ages you could've scripted a tome on Clive. Very apt "Ainsworth rolled into town looking like dad had taken the divorce badly" How DID he keep us up last season ????? Magnificent performance on a special night and yes deserved all 3 pts somehow snatching only a point from the jaws of victory. 3 day turnaround will test the full starting side and trusting MC will work his magic shuffling the squad around. That damn hope dares in and dares out and maybe only Stan is privy to the script of the football gods ?!

francisbowles added 09:42 - Mar 8
Thanks Clive. It's great that you now have something worthy to include in your consistently excellent write ups.

As for Armstrong, I think Marti was wise not to bring him on. If he had come on and started throwing his weight around, Eltringham wouldn't have liked it and we would have more attacks break down as a result and a potential card as well.

terryb added 10:33 - Mar 8
Armstrong couldn't have come on for the last ten minutes as we had used our three "windows " of substitutions by then.

It was a case of either Dykes or Armstrong coming on with Fox. Unless we had brought both on & taken Frey off.

Marshy added 12:54 - Mar 8
That was a fantastic match and atmosphere. Best for a long time. Who knew that Jimmy Dunne was a skilful player with a great touch. Anderson - sheer class. Although Frey missed the penalty he never stopped running and pressing all night. 19 corners- astonishing. Must say well done to the Baggies supporters who clapped for Stan particularly at 10 minutes. Field back to his very best and 2 goals. All in all a great night, and a fitting tribute for Stan. Proud to be an R!

TacticalR added 21:17 - Mar 8
Thanks for your report.

As francisbowles pointed out, at last you have something to report on after all those awful games without a QPR goal. It's quite a turnaround.

It's great that Field has finally got a couple goals after having to soldier on on his own in defensive midfield last season when players around him were crumbling.

Andersen really brings a touch of class, and that was his third assist. I was also really impressed with his defensive performance against Leicester.

Wease1 added 12:24 - Mar 21
Massive thank you to for their incredible online personal statement help! I was stuck on mine for weeks, but their team of writers worked their magic and turned it into something amazing. Seriously, if you're in need of some expert assistance, look no further.

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