|Sheffield Wednesday 1 v 1 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 3rd October 2020 Kick-off 15:00
Bonne makes dream start with late rescue act - Report
Sunday, 4th Oct 2020 15:50 by Clive Whittingham
Macauley Bonne scored with the last kick of the game on his QPR debut to rescue a point for his new team from a sodden encounter with Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday.
Time was a trip to Sheffield Wednesday in Queens Park Rangers colours was akin to a day out in the tyrannosaur paddock for the goat on the rope. The Owls’ cup enthusiasts of the late 1980s and early 1990s had an Indian sign over QPR so enormous it blocked out all natural light, and through the gloom came a string of consecutive defeats by such scorelines as 7-1, 4-0, and a memorable afternoon where Carlton Palmer scored a first half hat trick – as a good a reason as any to wind a club up and give up trying.
But in more recent times Rangers have enjoyed their visits to S6 more than most away grounds. Jim Magilton, John Eustace and Mark Warburton have all managed hooped sides to 2-1 wins here while Ian Holloway (twice) and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink secured a trio of 1-1 draws. There was, of course, a once in a lifetime promotion experience in front of 8,000 travelling hordes, manager carried aloft from the field by his triumphant players, and more recently as Wednesday have turned a ruinously expensive push for promotion into a predictable financial farce QPR have been able to win their last two visits 2-1.
The quest for a third consecutive maximum from this storied old stadium ran headlong into Wednesday’s attempts to extricate themselves from a financial fair play mess entirely of their own making. Having spent big and failed in two play-off attempts, the blue half of this city now finds itself rooted to the foot of the fledgling Championship table courtesy of a 12-point deduction. Had it have been applied last season, when it surely should have been, Wednesday would have been relegated already and they’ll have all on to escape this time around, even allowing for the poor quality of half a dozen other teams in this league. Their lavish excess once had them trying to pick two strikers from a collection including Jordan Rhodes, Fernando Forestieri, Atdhe Nuhiu, Lucas Joao, Sam Winnall and Gary Hooper – now they rejoice at the arrival of Cardiff City’s long throw enthusiast Callum Paterson. The deduction masks a 1-1-1 league record, identical to QPR’s, and good results with clean sheets already secured against Cardiff and Watford, but they were beaten by Bristol City without troubling the scorers last time out and a long, gruelling winter lies ahead.
Fans of either team looking for hope, analysts checking in to gain clues on how either will shape up, or neutral fans sticking their head around the streaming door for want of something better to do with their Saturday afternoon, would all have been disappointed in turn by a fairly turgid encounter. It was one of those where actual, tangible things that happened could be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Mitigation for both teams came in the form of the playing conditions. The latest wheeze from the calendar year that just keeps on giving was to collect every molecule of water that has ever existed in the earth’s atmosphere and dump it on Western Europe over the course of 72 hours, washing away most of France and making the playing of coherent, joined up, watchable football rather difficult. I’ve been at drier water polo fixtures.
Wednesday could also point to a rapidly mounting list of absentees from a first team squad that has, for whatever reason, been persistently unable to keep the majority of its players fit and healthy for the last few seasons. Dominic Iorfa, who scored in Wednesday’s embarrassingly comfortable win at Loftus Road during the summer lockdown, was a surprise omission from the starting eleven and his replacement to the right of the back three, 19-year-old Liam Shaw, lasted all of five minutes and one attempt to go physically toe to toe with Bright Osayi-Samuel before he had to be withdrawn. Bright’s look of disdain as he walked back past his stricken opponent spoke volumes – that’s not a knife, THAT’S a knife. He was replaced by Scotland international Liam Palmer but he too only made it as far as half time before being replaced by Moses Odubajo. This early burning of substitutions would be a key part of accident investigators’ report into the catastrophe to come.
But theirs was, nevertheless, a rather strange performance. They scored from the only serious move of note they put together. Barry Bannan, best of a very mediocre collection of midfielders on the day, chipped a nice ball behind the QPR defence just before the hour for Adam Reach to cut back a devilish cross and Yoann Barbet carried it home into his own goal. Later when Reach met a back post cross with a firm volley Rangers goalkeeper Seny Dieng produced an unorthodox but effective save away to his right. Other than that, and another near post Dieng save after a free kick was taken quickly, threat from the home team was minimal. Perhaps they believed they’d simply be able to score off set pieces at will regardless of performance levels, as Coventry, Middlesbrough and so many others have done against QPR in the last year or so, but under a stead flow of corners and Paterson long throws Rangers actually coped surprisingly well, with Dieng commanding his box with a confidence long absent in Rangers goalkeepers, and Rob Dickie putting in his best performance since a summer move from Oxford.
If you ever had to be deducted 12 points, this is probably the season and division you’d want it to happen in. The Championship has already descended into such an over-hyped sloppy mess that Huddersfield survived last year with points, places and games to spare despite taking just two points from their first ten league fixtures. Throw into that all the problems posed by Covid-19, and a trio of wholly underequipped promoted teams, and the task facing Gary Monk’s side doesn’t feel nearly as insurmountable as it might. Nevertheless, that deficit isn’t just going to surmount itself. Wednesday are not going to play their way safe this year by grinding through a load of draws with Watford and Queens Park Rangers. This is a problem to be met and attacked, this is a moment for action, there isn’t time to waste here, and I found their performance in what really is as close to a must-win game as you’ll ever get at this early part of a campaign rather strange and insipid.
It might still have been enough to get the 1-0 win they craved. QPR added Macauley Bonne from Charlton on Friday morning and he began on the bench here. At least two more additions will follow before this week’s transfer deadline with Albert Adomah’s arrival now an open secret and Benfica’s Chris Willock apparently already packing a bag.
Strengthening the attack of a team that conceded 76 times last season and has looked porous again this has brought wry smiles from critics of Warbsball but this, like the Boro game before it, was a prime example of why it’s being done. The five-man set up in between the back four and lone striker Lyndon Dykes looks like an incomplete Rubik’s cube – nearly there but not quite, still a few tiles in the wrong position, certainly in need of another turn or three. Playing Luke Amos at ‘ten’ in the 4-2-3-1 for his pressing game detracts so much from our attack that Lyndon Dykes cuts an isolated, frustrated figure up top, completely devoid of service or support. One first half header he had to contort his spine to reach bounced straight through to Cameron Dawson in the home goal and that was the sum total of his chances to score on Saturday – though Bright Osayi-Samuel had good reason to ask questions and look bemused when a brilliant run and perfect cross flashed through the goalmouth untouched on 40 minutes.
Though the stats say differently (four successful crosses, five chances created, second best in the whole division this weekend) Ilias Chair isn’t really working as the wide left option for me either, which in turn causes problems for Bright as teams can double up on him knowing there isn’t a great deal of threat coming from the opposite flank. His best football last season was played when he played tight to the right touchline and Ebere Eze came in from the left, stretching overworked defenders across the pitch. Adomah may be a romantic signing solving a problem on the right that doesn’t exist, but Willock, right footed but presumably being brough to play down the left, is a different kettle of fish. Could be a good one, and you only had to sit through this 90 minutes of disjointed attack to see why.
Little Tom Carroll wasn’t as good here as he had been in earlier appearances, and while Geoff Cameron was fine - and incredibly unlucky not to score in the first half when one of a number of creatively worked QPR corners flicked off his boot, hit the inside of the post, and came back out into play – we looked better for the forceful energy of Dom Ball being introduced midway through the second half, and with debutant Bonne coming in to provide much needed company and kinship for the fairly anonymous Dykes.
Those subs reinvigorated Rangers to a certain extent, but the second half was mostly rather scrappy and lifeless - a procession of misplaced passes, endless free kicks from a rather pernickety referee, and throw ins or all shapes and sizes. Paterson was booked for taking out Osayi-Samuel, and Luongo for cracking into Chair high and late, but both would probably point to an earlier foul by Chair himself as worthy of greater punishment. That was one of four free kicks QPR conceded in little more than 90 seconds, and it quickly descended into exactly that sort of game. A nil nil in all but name. Wednesday rarely troubled as long as Tom Lees was still in the middle of their back three – dominating Dykes and clearing strongly at his near post whenever Rangers did attempt to get dangerous service in from wide.
Mass Luongo turning and firing a shot against the bar a minute from time rather masked the fact that moments earlier Lees had gone down injured and was unable to continue. With all substitutions made Monk’s side were forced to try and see out an extended period of stoppage time with ten men and without the best defender on the pitch. It was a task that would prove beyond them. After a wildly erratic performance with and without the ball, Barbet finally executed one of Barbet’s Diags™ to perfection, planting the ball perfectly into an area of uncertainty between the recently weakened home defence and goalkeeper Dawson. Rising between them all to head in a first goal for the club was Bonne. Butter my arse. In the Crown and Sceptre, Joe Hylton was ordered down from the ceiling by bar staff after attempting to scale a supporting pillar. Just for one, brief, glorious moment, we all felt alive again, the reality of life, this game, and this performance washed away in noisy attempts to fit Macauley Bonne into 90s dance records.
Sheff Wed with some skates to get on. QPR with plenty of work to do, though somehow sitting eighth after just one win. Affinity Water in need of a long, hard look at themselves before sending me another letter about my hosepipe overuse.
Sheff Wed: Dawson 6; Shaw – (Palmer 5, 5 (Odubajo 46, 6)), Lees 7, Van Aken 5; Harris 5, Luongo 6, Bannan 7, Reach 6, Dele-Bashiru 6 (Pelupessy 69, 5); Windass 5, Paterson 6
Subs not used: Rhodes, Wildsmith, Kachunga, Waldock
Goals: Barbet own goal 54 (assisted Reach)
Bookings: Paterson 52 (foul), Luongo 63 (foul)
QPR: Dieng 7; Kakay 6, Dickie 7, Barbet 5, Wallace 5; Cameron 6, Carroll 5 (Bonne 64, 7); Osayi-Samuel 6, Amos 5 (Ball 73, 6), Chair 5; Dykes 5
Subs not used: Kane, Bettache, Hamalainen, Kelly, Smyth
Goals: Bonne 90+6 (assisted Barbet)
Bookings: Barbet 77 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Rob Dickie 7 The signing of Paterson from Cardiff in the week had me worried, with his ability to attack corners and launch long throws posing a big threat to our defence and its phobia of set pieces. But by and large we dealt with it all far better than we have in other recent games, and that was partly down to Dieng’s confident command of his area and also Rob Dickie’s best performance for us so far.
Referee – Michael Salisbury (Lancashire) 5 A poor game for the neutrals not helped by the difficult conditions and a pernickety, fussy, over-involved performance from the referee. Twenty four free kicks to go with a dozen corners – the ball was out of play more than it was in.
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