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Swansea City 0 v 1 Queens Park Rangers
SkyBet Championship
Monday, 1st April 2024 Kick-off 15:00
Risen indeed – Report
Tuesday, 2nd Apr 2024 20:52 by Clive Whittingham

QPR made it a perfect Easter weekend of two victories, and two Steve Cook goals, with a gritty, grimy 1-0 away at Swansea on Monday.

Football team save themselves from relegation in broadly two ways.

The first is what happened to Queens Park Rangers on Good Friday, when Jimmy Dunne decided to take matters into his own hands and ordered a 24-inch Chicago Town deep dicking for Birmingham City.

These are the big moments that every escape bid requires, and the bits you remember of the season when you look back in the following years. Dunne’s remarkable injury time winner at the Loft End gave nostalgic twats like me, with angles for 48 match previews and reports to find, the chance to talk about the remarkable Marc Nygaard, Dexter Blackstock and Paul Furlong goals that defined the late run to salvation under John Gregory in 2007, or the Jamie Mackie comeback sealer against Liverpool and Samba Diakite dog-having-a-day goal against Arsenal on the way to an unlikely Premier League recovery in 2012.

The other, running concurrently, are the tense, gritty, grimy wins you force over the line more by luck then judgement, and more by collective will than skill. Here we are, nearly two decades on, still talking about Blackstock drawing his boot back from 30 yards in that game in hand against Preston, and Furs stooping low to guide the last action of the Easter Monday game with Luton into the bottom corner. What’s mentioned far less is the game in between those – Chelsea loanee Jimmy Smith scrambling in a goal ten minutes after half time away to Coventry, and Rangers hanging on for grim death through the final half an hour for a 1-0 win. Yes, in 2012, we improbably beat Spurs, Arsenal, Liverpool and Stoke. Those are the games and goals we talk about. We also polished off Swansea, 3-0, in a game I doubt either regular reader could remember the scorers (Barton, Mackie, Buzsaky), and Wigan 3-1 despite a rare Heidar Helguson penalty miss.

You’ve got to be able to do both. On Easter Monday, in South Wales, QPR followed the high drama of Friday by getting a bit down and dirty.

The change in mentality was writ large across Marti Cifuentes’ team sheet. Kenneth Paal was poorly– still blowing after that roadrunner-style sprint down the touchline to get involved in Jimmy Dunne’s goal celebrations, perhaps – but Morgan Fox’s first start in the league since September’s home loss to Coventry was apparently planned. Swansea, under new boss Luke Williams, like to set a record for the most crosses into the box one week, and then try to break that record. In response, Cifuentes fielded a back four made up entirely of centre halves – not since Ian Holloway used to field Danny Shittu, Ian Evatt, Georges Santos and Mauro Milanese all at the same time has there been a back four with quite so much brawn to it as Dunne, Cook, Clarke-Salter and Fox. QPR were expecting to be doing some heading, and heading they did. You want to cross balls at that? Be our guest.

Similar vibes further forwards where Lucas Andersen, a dream to every housewife in Chiswick and nightmare for every shower plughole, was left to be all wistful and mysterious on the bench. Joe Hodge was charged with crabbing widthways across the pitch to cut the passing lane Swansea love to use from Darling/Wood/Grimes into Ronald/Cooper/Lowe and then out to the constantly overlapping Key/Tymon. Chris Willock and Michy Frey also dropped out from Friday’s win for Paul Smyth and Lyndon Dykes, while Isaac Hayden’s knock v Brum saw him replaced by Jack Colback. Legs and energy. Energy and legs. On a pitch beaten black and blue by rain and rugby, QPR were clearly also expecting to be doing some running. And run they did.

Initially that was mostly in a positive direction: Smyth, inadvertently around his man, cross-shot repelled by Rushworth at the near post; Chair, away into space, teeing up Hodge for a shot he should have taken on much earlier; Dunne, in behind to the byline, cut back towards Dykes but deflected wide; Chair, again, sprung by Hodge on the counter from a Swansea corner, two v two as the penalty area approached, taking too long and producing a bit of nothing; Colback, in a super high press, winning back and working Chair in for one of those cut-in-and-shoot numbers he likes so much, this time denied by a desperate block. If you thought Chair was going to score then, you must have already been celebrating when he calmly beat Rushworth from eight yards out with the whole goal at his mercy, only to somehow hit Darling on the line. We didn’t put 0-0 as our match preview prediction by accident – this was beginning to feel a lot like Sunderland. Dykes, after a marauding run that included a brilliant nutmeg, skied his shot into the river.

As chances came and went so QPR’s threat waned and Swansea’s presence in the game grew. They were better for Joe Allen (so ruddy, bloody brave) limping off and being replaced by Jay Fulton. With more legs in midfield, Tymon and Key overlapping to good effect, Cooper was able to start picking those balls up between the lines and causing problems - thankfully, though, most of the finishing was woefully inadequate, and straight at the goalkeeper.

One that wasn't, shortly before half time, should have been the opening goal. A deep cross from Lowe eluded everybody and looked a simple tap in for Ronald (as the perma-tanned Saudi Arabian shill, not the beefburger pushing clown) at the far post but for a terrific save from the much-maligned Asmir Begovic. That one required some footwork and skill from the keeper and, although the one to repel Tymon’s shot through a crowd moments later was more routine, it was just nice to see him making a few saves again. His command of the penalty box seemed to improve with the confidence those stops brought him as well – several dangerous second half situations neutralised by big keeper claims through heavy traffic. It’s felt for a while like his form was either building up to a big redemption performance or an enormous mistake that costs us, this was a lean firmly towards the former.

To start the second half Cifuentes experimented with removing a midfielder and adding a second striker in Sinclair Armstrong. Well, we’ve all put a Mento in a bottle of Coke when we were young I suppose. The resulting geyser spewed out a cross for Jerry Yates at the back post (put off just enough by a robust airborne challenge from Fox which I was surprised didn't yield louder penalty appeals to excellent referee Sam Allison), an inopportune slip by Jack Colback and enormous recovery challenge by the excellent Jake Clarke-Salter, and a free kick lifted over the top of the wall and off the face of the crossbar by Matt Grimes.

Putting the lid back on said bottle is altogether more difficult but, with Hayden added back to the midfield and Andersen’s calmness and composure on the ball reinstated, a degree of QPR control was restored. Swansea’s territory and chances faded away, and the game became a running battle between Armstrong and Nathan Wood who, to be fair, went up against the youngster for pace and strength better than most who’ve faced him this season – albeit with Armstrong heavily strapped up on one side and apparently labouring a little.

Nil nil it is then? Well, not so. Among the catalogue of improvements wrought by Marti Cifuentes upon this apparently lost cause of a football team, even the set pieces are starting to pick up a bit. Previously the worst in the league for scoring and conceding from dead balls, there was another clean sheet in the offing at the back and moving forwards that presence of Jimmy Dunne at the back post piling in over the top of smaller full backs was about to pay dividends again. His knock down from Andersen’s lofted delivery fairly well lashed into the net by Steve Cook in front of a jubilant away end. From no goals in four-and-a-half years and 131 appearances to two in two in one weekend. Certainly the signing of the season, and likely heading towards player of the year honours as well.

Swansea, technically still in relegation trouble but only really one more win away from the Mkyonos Highway, looked pretty spent after that. QPR, tails up, moved up another level of physical at the back – a couple of monstrous blocks from shots and follow-up shots demoralised the hosts further. Up front there was little threat of a second goal – a mixture of players dithering in shooting positions and substitute Michy Frey looking like he could do with a few generous applications of WD40 – but the back four was in no mood to compromise and Asmir Begovic was, finally, playing well.

With Stoke and Huddersfield cancelling each other out, Millwall contriving a defeat at Rotherham, Plymouth and Sheff Wed both beaten again, you could almost start to relax, enjoy the game and, you know, have a nice time at what is meant to be something we do for pleasure on weekends. FOOLS. Swansea brought on Football Manager Regen for his home debut down the wing, and very soon he was drawing his tiny little leg back and launching the ball high into the sky. High into the sky, and over the top of the penalty box. High into the sky, over the top of the penalty box, and down towards the goal. Down towards the goal, and the back-pedalling goalkeeper. Down towards the goal and past the back-pedalling goalkeeper. Do not, I plead, fucking do this to me now. In a terrifying flash it dropped out of the air, beat Begovic, cracked off the inside of the post, bounced all the way back across the face of the gaping goal, and was eventually hacked away to safety as the entire world dropped out of my arse.

Swansea’s growth over the last couple of decades from a team in a derelict ground threatening to dip out of the league entirely (while still capable of beating us 4-0 in the FA Cup, naturally) to the forward-thinking modern club, winning League Cups and playing European football in a new stadium, has been very much based around the so-called ‘Swansea Way’ of playing. Managerial appointments from Roberto Martinez, Brendan Rodgers and Michael Laudrup, to Garry Monk, Graham Potter and Steve Cooper have been carefully curated here to foster that ethos and style. Just lately the club has been rather hobbled by incompetent ownership and lousy player recruitment, but when it really goes wrong here it does so when they deviate from the overall image with a managerial appointment like Bob Bradley or Michael Duff. This has meant, over the years, we’ve spent/wasted a lot of time on this site comparing and contrasting the Swans with our frequently more haphazard and directionless MORE BLOOD approach to club and squad building. From Neil Warnock to Mark Hughes, Harry Redknapp to Chris Ramsey, Ian Holloway to Steve McClaren, usually that’s been critique of the “why can’t we be more like…” variety. More recently (and particularly when Russell Martin was here) it’s been weighing the merits of idealism versus pragmatism.

Every team in the modern game needs to have a very clear idea of how it wants to set up and play in an ideal world, into which style and system it can recruit its managers and players. That’s how you become Swansea City 2007-2015 rather than… well, rather than QPR 2007-2015. Martin is, undoubtedly now, a very decent manager to have if you want to build your team and club in a progressive, modern manner. But, isn’t it interesting (shut up, it is), that despite managing a parachute payment club with myriad financial advantages over the rest of us, a squad we could only dream of these days, goalscorers all over the park, it is, as it always has done before, coming unstuck for Martin at the business end of the season. He would rather stick to his ideal and refuse to shake hands with Millwall and Middlesbrough because they dared to equalise in the last minute playing another way, he would rather lose 3-2 at Ipswich and do pissy post-match interviews about who deserved and didn’t deserve to win and who scored the more aesthetically pleasing goal, than just suck up 20 minutes of backs-to-the-wall grubbiness. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out over the next two months.

I bring that up because Marti Cifuentes is impressive anyway – he’s taken over one of the worst QPR teams we’ve ever seen, without a decent goalkeeper and with a couple of centre forwards who (in the case of Dykes and Frey here) are really quite laughable at times, without any finances to do anything about it, and he’s got them winning regardless. What’s perhaps been the highlight within the overall incredible job is his ability to be pragmatic, accept the limitations of what he has got to work with here, and instead of forcing things upon them that they can’t do, finding things about them that they can. If you think Marti Cifuentes wants to play a back four entirely of centre backs, scraping a 1-0 win from a corner, with Frey creaking about like somebody who won his place in the game in a raffle, I suspect you'd be mistaken. We saw how he wants to play when he first got here, with all the terrifying Martin-style passing around in our penalty area, but he's adapted to work with the tools (and some of them are) he's been given. It hasn’t always worked in individual games – Plymouth at home a good example of where he tried to pick a horse for a course only to find the going a lot tougher on the day – but it’s working overall. This was a classic Neil Warnock win late in a season, not an archetypal Cifuentes one, but you don’t get extra points for aesthetics and QPR need points at the moment in whatever form they can get them.

On a day when QPR moved six points clear of Huddersfield Town in the final relegation spot, it made me think back to Kenneth Paal’s wholly underserved injury time equaliser against them back in January. Hang on for ten more seconds there and the Terriers would have been six points ahead of Rangers, and instead the gap remained at a more manageable three and they sacked Darren Moore straight afterwards. Everybody remembers that QPR were dreadful that day, but they didn’t lose.

If the plan ain’t working, find a new plan. If you can’t win nicely, win ugly. Just find a way to get the job done. Find a way to win.

QPR, are winning. Alleluia.

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

Swansea: Rushworth 6; Key 7, Darling 6, Wood 7, Tymon 7; Grimes 6, Allen 5 (Fulton 35, 6); Ronald 6 (Govea 84, -), Cooper 5 (Walsh 68, 5), Lowe 5 (Paterson 67, 5); Yates 4 (Cullen 67, 5)

Subs not used: Fisher, Cabango, Patino, Abdulai

QPR: Begovic 7; Dunne 7, Cook 8, Clarke-Salter 8, Fox 7; Colback 6 (Hayden 58, 6), Field 7; Smyth 6 (Frey 81, -), Hodge 5 (Armstrong 46, 6), Chair 6 (Willock 74, 6); Dykes 5 (Andersen 58, 7)

Subs not used: Dixon-Bonner, Cannon, Larkeche, Walsh

Goals: Cook 71 (assisted Dunne)

QPR Star Man – Steve Cook 8 The goal probably nudges him ahead in a close race between the whole back four and goalkeeper, but I have to say I was minded to give it to Jake Clarke-Salter. He’s been absolutely immense just lately and probably worthy of more Star Man love than we’ve given him.

Referee – Sam Allison (Trowbridge) 8 How to referee a football match.

Attendance 19,704 (QPR 1,374) That’s the number of tickets QPR sold, whether that many were there after the chaos on the railways in the morning isn’t even a debate. We were fortunate to have travelled down the day before and stayed over, but what a sad indictment of this country’s infrastructure at the moment that we were able to telegraph three months ago, word-for-word in the Crown & Sceptre, “three-hour train journey on a Bank Holiday Monday? Probably best to go Sunday…” because we’re in such a state you know you just can’t trust it to get you anywhere of any distance reliably.

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Ian Randall Photography



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100percent added 21:33 - Apr 2


"Similar vibes further forwards where Lucas Andersen, a dream to every housewife in Chiswick and nightmare for every shower plughole"
This is exactly why I come here. Superb.
Excellent as usual North - That back four with a couple of additions next season will make us play off material.... Now, about those strikers.....
1

Myke added 21:55 - Apr 2
Excellent report Clive - cheers. After the Norwich game I (as objectively as possible) estimated we would collect 44 points this season. That we have exceeded that target with 6 games left is remarkable. Speaking of that Norwich game - you had high praise for Frey's movement and well taken goal. He seems to have regressed significantly since then?
On a completely different (and largely irrelevant) note, I wonder if things would have panned out differently if Warburton had got Cook's signing over the line in Jan 2022?
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Loft1979 added 23:09 - Apr 2
Great work. As many have noted out on the forum, it IS great to be able to breathe a bit after dropping egregious points to Brom (unfairly). With 6 to play, and momentum, I would like to see us nail a midtable finish.

Alot of typing spent on Begovic. Is Viktor Johanson, someone you have extolled virtues about, one to watch?

0

bob566 added 01:04 - Apr 3
Thanks Clive. Always appreciate the reports
1

stowmarketrange added 08:37 - Apr 3
I’m glad that we made the effort to get there,despite all the travel problems.I also thought the ref was excellent,but I saw on the Swansea blog that they thought he was one of the worst that they’ve had all season.
Very good report again Clive.
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Marshy67 added 11:10 - Apr 3
...but he's adapted to work with the tools (and some of them are) he's been given.
That had me chuckling so much my other half asked what I was laughing at.
"Oh nothing."
I see that nearly 91% predict a home win on Saturday.
Let's hope so.
Being an old timer I can remember the R's putting 8 past Sheff Wed in a league cup game here at The Bush back in 1973.
A scrappy 1-0 would do just fine this weekend.
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nightwish added 13:57 - Apr 3
In the late 70s and early 80s i used to travel by train from my home in Eastbourne to all the home games and many away games.Never once did i get delayed on the trains.It never crossed my mind that i wouldnt get to a match because of rail problems it just never happened.I remember going to Swansea away in September 1979. Eastbourne to London then on the football special train to Swansea and back great days oh how society is now so crap
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extratimeR added 22:10 - Apr 3
Wonderful Clive!

"Down towards the goal" I must admit I just stopped breathing, surely not today, I'm sorry I said those things about GWR!

Great report Clive, yes, Clarke Salter or Cook, MOM.

Day destroyed by GWR, well done Marti and the R'ss

Cheers Clive!
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TacticalR added 12:55 - Apr 6
Thanks for your report.

Fortunately for us Swansea did not take their chances (and hit the bar twice).

Cifuentes seems to have turned set pieces, our greatest weakness, into a strength. Once again it was defenders to the rescue with Dunne heading back across the goal, and a brilliant strike from Cook.
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