|Queens Park Rangers 0 v 2 Preston North End|
Wednesday, 21st October 2020 Kick-off 19:00
Insipid QPR twice pay PNE penalty - Report
Thursday, 22nd Oct 2020 17:10 by Clive Whittingham
QPR looked a different team from the one that dominated at Bournemouth in the weekend, slipping to a comfortable 2-0 loss at home to a dominant Preston team at Loftus Road on Wednesday.
At one point in post-match Warbs Warburton seemed to suggest Albert Adomah’s injury time strike against the post would have made it 1-1 and enabled QPR to escape from a poor performance with a point. You could forgive him for being discombobulated – both Preston’s goal for their 2-0 lead at that point had come from penalties conceded by Lee Wallace, perhaps he’d subconsciously moulded them back into one blob of horror, and Rangers’ performance was so unbelievably different from Saturday’s bright showing at Bournemouth it was rather difficult to get one’s head around.
Having been fulsome in praise for Warburton’s set up and approach at Dean Court at the weekend, I’m going to be the opposite here even though it was essentially the same team with only Little Tom Carroll introduced for the unfortunately stricken Luke Amos. Do I know what I’m talking about? No. Have I ever coached or picked a professional football team? No. Do I have any real in depth knowledge of who’s available, unavailable, carrying a knock, under the weather, performing or not performing in training? No. Do I think I could do Mark Warburton’s job better than him? No. Am I talking with a great deal of hindsight? Yes. Could he drink me under the table in football knowledge, tactics, analysis of opposition? Absolutely. But purely as the frustrated fan in the stand – or, in this case, fan paying a tenner for an out-of-focus feed filmed from the International Space Station – it would seem pretty self-evident that an away game against a minted and recently Premier League Bournemouth, and a home match against Preston North End, are manifestly different challenges, and trying to approach them in much the same way doesn’t make a great deal of sense. These were different courses, requiring different horses, and they turned QPR from Kauto Star to Blackpool Donkey in the space of four days.
Bournemouth played with two strikers, including £19m Dominic Solanke, and wing backs. They were the home team and under pressure to go out and win the game. QPR countered well, with a tight man-marking game from Rob Dickie, and a central three of Dom Ball, Geoff Cameron and Amos to smother the home team’s midfield three of Jefferson Lerma, Dan Gosling and especially Lewis Cook. None of that, none of it, applied to Preston, who gave a first start to their one summer signing Emil Ris Jakobsen as a lone striker, and frequently put everybody else behind the ball, including a flat back four as opposed to Bournemouth’s three. Their style of sitting in and breaking is so suited to playing away that it’s led to a stark set of results to begin their season – wins already at Derby, Brentford and now QPR to go with a 2-2 at Norwich, with four successive defeats to nil at home. QPR did not need two defensive central midfielders and Tom Carroll here. The bodies, and ball, on the occasions Rangers had it, were entirely in front of Preston in neutral areas, exactly where they wanted us, and they were able to execute the gameplan in third gear, relatively untroubled and obscenely comfortable winners by the end.
Could it have been different? Of course. Ilias Chair, initially, seemed to revel in finally being given a shot at ‘ten’ behind Bonne, with Carroll used wider than Amos had been. That, at least, was different, and his chipped pass in behind North End on seven minutes was gorgeous, and Bright Osayi-Samuel should probably have made more of the one on one with Declan Rudd which the keeper won with a firm foot on the ball as he streaked through. More great feet from Chair on ten minutes was finished with a lovely ball into the channel for Bonne who cut a cross back just out of Bright’s reach. When Chair spun through two would-be tacklers on halfway Ryan Ledson had no choice but to deliberately trip him and take a yellow card from Premier League referee Kevin Friend. Little Tom’s twenty-first minute cross from deep seemed to only require a flick from Bonne for a goal but he missed the ball altogether. Get in front, as QPR probably deserved at this point, despite an enterprising first few minutes from the visitors, and it’s a different ball game.
And is it Warburton’s fault that a goal against the run of play on 24 minutes sucked all life, desire, hope, effort, momentum, commitment and confidence out of QPR to the extent that it did? No, once you’re over that white line it’s on you, not the manager, and Rangers’ total collapse after what only needed to be a minor setback was bizarre and deeply concerning. They’d done similar after a decent start to the game at Coventry last month but this was even worse, not so much the air going out of a balloon as the fucking Hindenburg coming down all over again.
But it was Warbs' boy - Captain of Glasgow Rangers - Lee Wallace’s fault we conceded, not for the first time in his QPR career looking slow, cumbersome, clumsy, and off Championship pace with a clear and obvious trip on Scott Sinclair in the penalty box. Friend initially gave a free kick outside, offering Wallace an escape route, but the linesman, quite rightly, overruled and after one of the longest, most drawn out, eccentric preparations for a penalty you’re likely to see from Daniel Johnson, it was 1-0 thanks to a smooth, confident finish. Wallace protested long and loud, before, during and after the kick, to the point he was called together with captain Geoff Cameron and given a final warning. I’d have booked him. Not only for the foul, but for whinging on about it. It was a penalty man, clear as day, shut the fuck up. He, and his team mates, played like a bunch of sulky teenagers from there on in.
The worst thing you can do with this Preston team is go a goal down to them, and sure enough all the clock running and dark arts were rolled out immediately, even with an hour of the game left. Why take a throw in with this ball when there’s a perfectly good one just 35 yards away which we could walk and fetch? Can I interest you in a PowerPoint presentation on this free kick ten yards inside our own half before I take it? Am I really the man for this corner, or would it actually be better off if that guy, 50 yards away on the other side of the pitch, strolled across to take it? What’s that gaffer? I haven’t quite caught what you said there? Hold on a minute while I walk over with the ball in my hands to make sure I understand, before I walk back and restart the game. Been there, seen it, suffered it, year after year, with Friend the latest in a long line of referees apparently happy to let it go on, with only very occasional token gestures towards his watch.
But it was QPR’s fault they were a goal down, and this was by no means a 1-0 smash and grab by a team that countered once, won a penalty, and then sat in for an hour. When they did get the ball in play Preston were superior in every department – stronger, faster, better organised, better set up, tighter in defence and more threatening in attack. They dominated the game from this point onwards and could, should, have won by many more than the 2-0 they eventually got. With Daniel Johnson back for his first league appearance of the season after a botched summer move to Rangers and dictating play, with Ryan Ledson a commanding presence on his shoulder and Jakobsen having a whale of a time on his first start, the only surprise is it wasn’t two before half time. Yoann Barbet did his fucking best for them, launching into a ludicrous sliding tackle on Jakobsen tight to the byline on the Ellerslie Road side of the ground and allowing the Danish striker to skip round him, into the area, and provoke 90 seconds of panic in which the ball flashed this way and that through the six yard box and eventually led to another half-hearted penalty appeal. I want to like Barbet, but he does some rash, dumb stuff.
Potts’ low, instinctive, first time shot on the run drew a save from Dieng as QPR, physically dominated and unable to string two passes together, limped into half time.
Managers often like to give it five or ten minutes at the start of a second half before making a change. This was not an occasion for that. Action was required. It was obvious to all watching. Preston, as discussed, are absolute masters of burning away huge chunks of football games, and emerging from the sheds with the same broken system in place gave them a free swing at doing exactly that to the first ten minutes of the second half. That’s exactly what they did. Jakobsen seized on a flick on and cut a ball back that could easily have brought a second goal, then Barbet (a-fucking-gain) cracked into the back of Brad Potts turning a player with his back to goal going nowhere into a dangerous free kick on the corner of the penalty box. Browne’s deep delivery was, somehow, kneed wide by Jakobsen when it felt easier to score. Browne then had a long ranger of his own over the bar and before you knew it there we were on 56 minutes, still unable to get a foot on the ball and pass it, still being held comfortably at arm's length, still without a meaningful effort on goal, still with two defensive central midfielders contributing nothing but constant, ongoing possession concession. Nothing had changed, because nothing had changed, and now there were ten fewer minutes to do anything about it. Again, do I know what I’m talking about? No. But as a layman, football people have some strange, illogical customs and behaviours to me.
Just our luck that no sooner had superfluous and leaden footed Dom Ball been removed for Albert Adomah that Rob Dickie allowed a high, long, straight ball to bounce when he should have headed it back down the field, and that was all the invitation that Captain of Glasgow Rangers needed to shove out another bone idle leg and trip Jakobsen for PNE’s second penalty of the night. It’s going to be a long winter if we’re relying on this guy. He’s done. Sinclair converted this one, Seny Dieng emerging from the same training as Joe Lumley and Liam Kelly with the same penalty saving technique of diving good, early and obviously out of the way to make up the taker’s mind for him. QPR have given away 13 penalties since the start of last season and conceded 12 of them, 23 since the start of 2018/19 conceding 21, higher totals than any other team in the league.
Rangers thought they might have a penalty of their own when Wallace cut a ball back to Little Tom at the near post and the excellent Patrick Bauer cracked through the side of him, but he clearly took the ball and Friend was right on the spot. Barbet launched a 30-yarder into the Upper Loft, then decided a free kick on the edge of the penalty area miles across to the left – patently favouring a right footer – should be his as well. I don’t know who’s told him he can shoot, and take free kicks, but can they ring him back please.
What little good QPR did contribute to this game came with a theme. When they played the ball quickly, and stretched Preston widthways, there was some limited joy. Adomah improved things, as did Chris Willock when he replaced Ilias Chair who’d gone from the game’s best player to almost as anonymous as Macauley Bonne with one first half swing of Daniel Johnson’s boot. Adomah’s delicate cross drawing Rudd and tempting Rafferty at his far post was delicious, and should have been gobbled up. Kakay, on 83, likewise, and he then sat a man down having received the clearance back before hitting a defender with a shot. Rudd, however, would finish the evening without making a serious save, and when Jakobsen and Johnson combined wonderfully to get Scott Sinclair in on goal only for the offside flag to be raised it was just one of several occasions when North End could and should have picked their hapless hosts off for a third.
This was a million miles away from being good enough. Had Adomah’s “equaliser” gone in instead of rolling against the base of the post in stoppage time it would have been far more than QPR deserved, and incredibly harsh on a vastly superior Preston team. If Saturday’s trip to Bournemouth had been a two nil away win in all but name, then this was a three nil defeat. The response to going one nil down was alarming, and QPR’s insipid, slow, ineffective gameplan was an unwelcome harbinger of doom ahead of Saturday’s visit of Aitor Karanka’s tight, deep and narrow 9-0-1 formation. Everything needs to change for that game, as it probably should have done for this one, or we risk a 90 minute re-run, and I wouldn’t wish sitting through this on the worst Conservative backbencher.
When there are nice things to say, we’ll say them. But I’m not dressing this up. Uncompetitive, unintelligent, unwatchable, drivel.
QPR: Dieng 6; Kakay 5, Dickie 5, Barbet 4, Wallace 3; Cameron 4, Ball 4 (Adomah 57, 6); Osayi-Samuel 5, Chair 5 (Willock 71, 6), Carroll 5; Bonne 5
Subs not used: Kane, Masterson, Hamalainen, Bettache, Kelly
PNE: Rudd 6; Rafferty 6, Bauer 7, Storey 7, Hughes 7; Browne 7, Ledson 8; Sinclair 7 (Stockley 90+1, -), Johnson 8 (Barkhuizen 73, 6), Potts 7; Jakobsen 8 (Maguire 84, -)
Subs not used: Harrup, Gallagher, Huntington, Ripley
Goals: Johnson 24 (penalty, won Sinclair), Sinclair 60 (penalty, won Jakobsen)
Bookings: Ledson 15 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Albert Adomah 6 Was going to go N/A, but he at least came on and looked a bit purposeful and threatening, culminating in our only serious effort on goal all night in injury time.
Referee – Kevin Friend (Leicestershire) 6 I thought they were given some soft bits and pieces which we weren’t – we seemed to be asked to play-on through a lot of niggly little bits and pieces which they were awarded free kicks for. As usual, zero attempt made to crack down on some pretty blatant and obvious clock running, including a two minutes+ second half break because Danile Johnson had cramp, with Preston quite happily camped around their dug out having a new team talk, which absolutely should not have been allowed to be a thing. But the two penalties were clear, obvious and spot on, and quite what Lee Wallace’s histrionics were all about for the first one I don’t know. I’d have probably booked him for the foul anyway but certainly would have carded for him having the temerity to complain about something that fucking obvious.
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