|Queens Park Rangers 2 v 3 West Bromwich Albion|
Tuesday, 19th February 2019 Kick-off 19:45
QPR haunted at the witching hour once more – Report
Wednesday, 20th Feb 2019 12:37 by Clive Whittingham
Another game, another defeat, another last minute heartbreak for Queens Park Rangers, this time going down 3-2 in injury time to West Brom at Loftus Road.
The cruelty knows no bounds. It continues its creep, like Japanese knotweed, into our conscious, our subconscious, our self-belief and our hip flexors. It drags down our talented players and turns our poor ones into raving liabilities. It dangles hope in front of us and then snatches it away in increasingly weird, wonderful and catastrophic ways. And it does it all in added time at the end of the game, when there is no comeback and there is no reprieve. It leaves you with nothing and it cares not one bit about it. It’s a remorseless bastard and, it seems, it’s here to stay for a while yet.
The stupid thing was, I wasn’t even that fussed about last night. Partly because I’m still not over the disappointment of Friday’s cup exit having foolishly allowed the idea that, faced with a home game with Watford and another one against Crystal Palace to get to an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, QPR might do something other than miss a catalogue of chances and lose 1-0 to a spawny goal off a corner. That you never know, that we might be due, that it might be our year, that this could be the one, that I’d be there for it, that we might get that bit of luck. Luck, yeh. The police have found decomposing bodies in bath tubs full of acid in squalid South London bedsits that were luckier than us at the moment.
But mainly because this was West Bromwich Albion. West Brom the relegated Premier League team actually making a good fist of getting straight back while Stoke and Swansea flounder. West Brom who made a conscious decision at the start of the season to just try and outgun the whole division, and have now scored a league-leading 67 goals as a result. West Brom who’d already won nine away matches prior to last night, again the best record in the Championship. West Brom who beat us 7-bloody-1 in August. No longer a West Brom of Harvey Barnes’ fleet-footed gait and terrifying wing play, nor a West Brom of Dwight Gayle after he managed to distract Lee Mason from the menu at Greggs long enough to trick him into awarding a match winning penalty against Nottingham Forest last week and was subsequently banned. But West Brom all the same. Jay Rodriguez and his big arse, Matt Phillips and his chipped shoulder, Jacob Murphy and his point to prove, three England internationals… West Brom. Last time we got in the ring with them we came out looking like we’d been a guest at one of Michael Barrymore’s pool parties. Arse like a clown’s pocket. Nah. This was not to be the one. I was comfortable with that.
To be honest, we very nearly stayed in the Crown, and after the first 30 minutes of play we wished we had. QPR lined up in a back three, with Joel Lynch returning on the left side of it in place of Grant Hall, and pumped long balls towards an isolated Matt Smith. It was like the very darkest days of Ian Holloway’s second stint in charge of the team. It offered all the space West Brom needed to run amok in attack, and made Ahmed Hegazi look like the greatest centre half ever to roam the earth. It was an embarrassing shambles and it was cut to ribbons after four minutes as Holgate fed a ball into a penalty area loaded with untracked runners and defenders chasing shadows and Jefferson Montero volleyed in unchallenged amidst a chaotic scene in the goal mouth caused by Murphy’s cross shot.
And that was the way of it. In front of a half full and almost completely silent Loftus Road - the faithful resigned to their fate - West Brom set about their hapless hosts with vim and vigour. Long raking switch balls had Murphy in behind Bidwell and Montero in behind Wszolek time and time again. A fifth minute cross was punched clear by Joe Lumley at full stretch, a seventh minute through ball was just out of Montero’s reach, a twenty-sixth minute fresh air shot from the young keeper had hearts in mouths but he recovered well and then, when Rodriguez was played through and onside but miscontrolled, Lumley rolled the ball out to Lynch who casually presented it straight back to West Brom on the edge of the area. The faint strains of circus music drifted down through the night air.
Then a couple of odd things happened. Firstly, Nahki Wells took a bit of a whack to the face which referee John Brooks seemed quite ok with – we know from experience he’s not adverse to allowing players to rip each other’s faces off of course. Secondly, West Brom treated this stoppage as a bit of a networking opportunity - ambling over to the touchline, getting a round of drinks in, having a bit of a conflab between themselves, business cards passed around, ball boys carrying trays of canapes… Loftus Road, where connections get made and deals get done. Sorry to interrupt lads but there’s a football game going on here. Not much of one, admittedly, but if we could just fucking well get on with it then I can get home and get the heating on and contemplate how much of my life I’ve wasted on this shit.
Perhaps it had all been a little bit too easy and relaxed because no sooner had play restarted than Luongo was snapping into a firm tackle on a loose touch on halfway, Wells was seizing the ball and threading it through, and Luke Freeman was waddling in stage left to slam in an equaliser at the near post. Just like that. Loftus Road snorted itself awake.
There were further scares before half time. Wells, as he had done so damagingly against Birmingham, gave a very slack pass away in his own half and despite chasing the resulting counter attack all the way down to his own area could only watch as Murphy crossed low and Wszolek just about got the ball over his own bar. When it’s not your night it’s not your night and it certainly seemed that way when Montero bundled through one challenge and then saw a cross shot bounce straight into the path of Gibbs off Furlong’s arse to give him a clear run on goal but Joe Lumley made a super save.
Maybe that luck was finally turning. A distant second best all half, not so much a shower of shite as a hurricane of piss at the back, all the attacking cutting edge of a wooden spoon, and yet 1-1 at half time and still in the game. Still in the game and about to come out in a much better shape and a much more purposeful mood. Ebere Eze came on at the break for Smith who’d been ineffective and possibly still affected by the head wound he picked up against Watford. The team slipped back to the 4-2-3-1 formation, with Freeman and Wszolek either side of Eze behind Wells, and immediately looked better for it. Eze looked brighter, more dangerous, more effective than he has for several weeks. Wszolek got going down the right flank. Rangers started to play and the crowd started to be drawn in once more. Maybe. Maybe.
Wells curled the ball wide of Sam Johnstone, but also the post, after bundling his way through on 49 minutes. Wszolek shot wide from 20 yards. Wells found himself clean through on goal, slightly right of the target, and well onside, but strangely dallied seemingly thinking the flag was going to go up, and by the time he realised it wasn’t going to the chance had slipped away. Frustrating but better. Frustrating but entertaining. Frustrating but getting there. The contest was even now, QPR were competitive, there was something here for us. Fools, letting ourselves believe again.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the field, Joel Lynch was asking somebody to hold his beer, taking out his gun, and aiming it squarely at his own foot. He’d been way too casual all night, swanning around the place at half speed, casually ignoring the basics of the game. He got away with one aberration on the edge of his own box at the end of the first half and he’d escaped a horror show at the start of the second when he miscontrolled the ball as last man but recovered the situation with a combination of his face and hand. And then there was this. Long ball forward, nobody around, could go out for a goal kick, could go back to Lumley, could go anywhere really it’s not like there was a bloody rush on or anything. He rose, majestically, completely unchallenged, and headed a ball he didn’t need to head straight to Jacob Murphy who marched into the penalty area and finished crisply into the far corner. Joe Lumley had a fucking baby.
You can talk about bad luck, and by God are we getting our fair wedge of that at the moment, but if you’re going to shit the bed like that under no pressure whatsoever against teams of West Brom’s quality then really and truly what on earth do you expect? Another defensive howler with another bouncing ball drew Lumley from his area for a pretty obvious deliberate handball missed by the referee. How are those contract talks progressing Joel?
Back came the competent QPR players again. Good on them for that. Dumped back at the bottom of the same hole they’d been in before by one of their own, they stuck a collective chin out and began the long climb back to salvation once more. Freeman was mesmeric. Wonderful work on 68 ended with a stood up cross to the back post with nobody around to convert. McClaren acted, bringing on Tomer Hemed and Bright Osayi-Samuel for Wells and Wszolek. The choice of players to leave the field displeased the locals, but Samuel drew a foul with his first touch tight to the byline and Freeman’s free kick was scrambled just wide at the far post. Momentum was building once more.
With a quarter of an hour to go, Rangers were awarded a soft penalty. Turning back into the area after retrieving a deep cross from Eze, Hemed bent down to head a bouncing ball just as Jake Livermore kicked upward looking for the same thing. A generous call of high foot, one you never see given in the penalty box, but a spot kick all the same and with Hemed now on the field one QPR were likely to convert. Johnstone sat down. Two two it was.
Two two and flying all over the show now. Championship football at its nonsense best. Murphy thought he’d scored with a low shot off a Gibbs cross – QPR still horribly vulnerable out wide despite a switch to a back four – but Lumley made an unorthodox and brilliant save with his legs. Eze delicately sent Osayi-Samuel screaming through on goal but his shot was struck too purely and went straight at Johnson. Frustrated, Jake Livermore embarked on a wild, rash, late sliding tackle on Eze over by the dugouts which was a red card all day long but only received a yellow. West Brom will call that one each from John Brooks after the soft penalty, but Livermore would have more to say later. Eze recovered, spun, unloaded a shot at the near post, Johnstone fortunate not to be caught out. Good to see Eze back at this sort of level. We’re better in this shape, with him in it.
Pick something you don’t want to happen next. An injury having already made three subs? Yeh, that’d be up there. An injury to Luke Freeman, talismanic once again here, grabbing his team by the bollocks and physically dragging them back into a game they were miles out of? Yeh, not ideal. Down he went with five minutes to go, and apparently no hope of continuing. It’s a hip flexor apparently, which means he won’t be available on Saturday but could be back for Leeds. Spoiler alert – he passes away peacefully in his sleep.
From looking to win the game, Rangers were now trying to see it out with ten. They looked tired, nervous, and way, way, way too deep. Murphy nearly scored immediately, his shot flicking off Furlong past Lumley and missing the bottom corner by fractions. The problems of defending wide areas became chronic, with Bidwell and Furlong outnumbered, overwhelmed, and way too keen to back off right to the heart of their own box. Balls were zipping this way and that through the penalty area – one was scrambled wide amidst a biblical goal mouth scramble, another was forced over his own bar by Leistner. You could have watched the entire Eldorado boxset in the time it took that last five minutes to pass and it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as painful as this. Then Brooks decided to add five more. Because who didn’t want five more minutes of watching a family member be tortured?
It was coming of course. You can’t go that deep. You can’t concede that much space. You can’t just keep belting the ball back to them and hoping to hang in there. You can’t defend like that. You have to get up the pitch. But you do just think after the last minute penalty that wasn’t at Wigan, after the last minute penalty that we missed against Birmingham, after the last minute scandal at Bristol City, after the eighty sixth minute missed sitter against Watford… after so many repeated kicks to the groin in such a short period of time… you do just think that having wound it down to the final 120 seconds that somebody might, might, just throw you a fucking bone.
And then Livermore, who shouldn’t have even been on the pitch, slammed in Murphy’s cross from the right. And we all just stood there and listened to Jess Glynne.
Match Gallery: 23 photos
QPR: Lumley 6; Furlong 5, Leistner 6, Lynch 4; Wszolek 6 (Osayi-Samuel 71, 7), Bidwell 5; Cousins 6, Luongo 7, Freeman 8; Smith 5 (Eze 46, 7), Wells 5 (Hemed 71, 7)
Subs not used: Ingram, Scowen, Manning, Kakay
Goals: Freeman 35 (assisted Wells), Hemed 75 (penalty, won Hemed)
West Brom: Johnstone 6; Holgate 7, Hegazi 8, Dawson 6, Gibbs 7; Livermore 7, Johansen 6 (Barry 65, 6); Montero 7 (Harper 57, 6), Field 6 (Phillips 81, -), Murphy 8; Rodriguez 7
Subs not used: Bartley, Edwards, Bond, Adarabioyo
Goals: Montero 4 (assisted Murphy), Murphy 61 (assisted Lynch), Livermore 90+3 (assisted Holgate)
Bookings: Livermore 74 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Luke Freeman 8 I thought Luongo was particularly good last night, a performance typified by the crunching tackle that led to the first goal. But the scorer of that goal, QPR’s driving force all night, the one who never gave in and left it all out there and crucially couldn’t be replaced when his body finally caved in on him was, as usual, once again, Luke Freeman.
Referee – John Brooks (Leicestershire) 5 Much like his last visit here his overall control of the game and refereeing style is very good – calm, unfussy, unobtrusive – but he’s not good on the big decisions. Livermore was late, reckless, with studs up. It was a red card. Lumley definitely handled the ball outside the area. The QPR penalty was very debateable. Linesman on the Ellerslie Road side had an odd night as well.
Attendance – 12,257 (1,800 Baggies approx.) Don’t cry for me, I’m already dead.
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Pictures – Action Images
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