|Queens Park Rangers 3 v 2 Rotherham United|
Tuesday, 24th November 2020 Kick-off 19:00
Richmond Oiler ball – Report
Wednesday, 25th Nov 2020 17:41 by Clive Whittingham
A proverbial game of two halves at Loftus Road as Queens Park Rangers build up a 3-1 half time lead playing their way, then almost blow it entirely in the second playing Rotherham’s.
There were four minutes added on to the end of this game, and it only took two of those. A high cross to the back post. Havoc wrought once more by the bastard love child of Thierry Henry and Les Ferdinand, who tonight will be played by Freddie Ladapo. A ball loose at the base of the frame of the goal. Bodies flailing. Seny Dieng throwing himself in harm’s way. It was - it seemed agonisingly certain, for an eternity of artery-hardening time - a Rotherham United equaliser. A Rotherham United equaliser Rotherham United probably deserved. A sixth game-swinging stoppage time goal of their fledgling season. A rusty blade in the heart of a Queens Park Rangers side staring up at a December fixture list put together by somebody who doesn’t like them very much. It’s up for grabs now. Thomas.
How ever did it come to this?
After Saturday’s draw with Watford, which Rangers could consider themselves unfortunate not to take more from, now Warbs Warburton wanted an actual full win. A real one. Rotherham, newly promoted, making a better fist of the league than they did the season before last when the only won once away in 23 attempts (shut up), but still eminently gettable. This a rare occasion when Rangers found themselves playing against a squad built on a budget even stingier than our own. Happy hats all round as Chris Willock got a first start for the club after a number of enterprising interventions from the bench, Ilias Chair moved into the ‘ten’ and Bright Osayi-Samuel completed the three behind William Wallace.
Off we set at exactly the sort of intention you need for these sorts of home games, exactly the sort of intention QPR so frequently fail miserably to raise themselves to in matches where they’re expected to win. We are pedal to the metal. We run the ball. We pressure the ball. And most importantly, we control the tempo of the game.
It took all of 45 seconds for Willock to receive possession, turn a man out of the borough, then spread a super ball across field to isolate Bright with Joe Mattock, who Rotherham had rushed back from six weeks out especially for the occasion and soon regretted. Mattock, this time, got the better of the one on one. Cherish it, it wouldn’t happen again for the rest of the game.
Two minutes, Dykes a lovely touch and turn, feeds Ilias Chair into the left channel, shot into the side netting. Quarter hour, Osayi-Samuel intercepts on halfway, marauds to the penalty area at a speed HS2 could only dream of, hits the top of the post trying to search out the top corner. Four minutes after that - and actually while down to ten men with Conor Masterson picking the remains of his nose out of the grass after physical contact with lone visiting striker Michael Smith - Willock crosses deep, Bright retrieves with a trick, Chair finds the roof of the net from 15 yards via two deflections. Those three playing together, those three playing well, already all too much for the visiting side. Put something nice on, we’re going out.
There was no let up after taking the lead – another important box ticked. Within two minutes Willock and Osayi-Samuel had combined again brilliantly and stood a cross up to the back post where Osman Kakay was to be found cursing himself for getting caught on his heals. Two minutes later still, lovely football – genuinely – ended with Chair crossing for Dom Ball whose improvised back-header might have posed keeper Jamal Blackman problems had it not been blocked by a defender. On the half hour Willock had an advantage waved through on obvious shirt pull and used the opportunity to feed Chair who couldn’t resist a curler towards the far corner as it opened up for him while he tracked in off the left flank.
Rotherham did equalise. Because of course. The Hoops caught having a bit of a mad five minutes, with Dieng at his best to tip over a shot from Dan Barlaser, whose nose can be seen from the International Space Station. The resulting corner caused a fair amount of needless panic - a lot of diving around, desperate blocks and rope swinging. When Cameron missed a tackle and Willock fluffed a clearance on the edge of the area Harding was able to cross for Smith to head home. Smith was a problem all night, dominating in the air, dropping deep to receive to feet and chest, and he was always going to devour service like that. The striker’s first goal in 18 appearances (shut up).
But Warburton’s team got straight back on it. They were in again literally from the kick-off as Kakay and Osayi-Samuel got into the penalty area down the right and a deflected near post cross was headed fractionally wide by Willock. Then incredible work from Chair presented Osayi-Samuel with an absolute sitter right in front of goal but a combination of what seemed to be Angus MacDonald’s outstretched arm, and the foot of the post, diverted the ball away. No penalty from referee Oliver Langford, and no appeals either, so presumably the picture quality and frame rate of the stream was playing tricks on me. To be honest, it’s a miracle we saw it at all, given the match director’s obsession with long, lingering shots of visiting manager Paul Warne while play was in progress. I’d have no trouble picking him out of an identity line-up after this farce, I’ve seen more of him than I have my mum in the last nine months.
If Rotherham had got in level at half time I think a few of theirs might have had a religious epiphany in the converted Blue and White Bar during the break. Either that or set sail on one of the kegs in celebration. Instead, they trailed. By two.
There were less traumatic experiences to be had on board Piper Alpha than Mattock had at the hands of Bright Osayi-Samuel in the first 45, and though the former Blackpool man’s end product wasn’t always the best, one final torture session did yield a goal, thumped into the far top corner after another purposeful 45 yard lightning burst down the field.
More to come too, as Rotherham desperately tried to see out the remainder of the half committing tactical fouls, but only succeeded in giving Rangers a chance to put another ball into the box where Barlaser, weighed down by the Samba Diakite Memorial Millstone of being our opposition one-to-watch in the pre-match, senselessly reached around with an arm and punched the ball away from Dykes. Flamethrower loaded, penalty dispatched in the usual manner, 3-1 a much fairer reflection of proceedings.
“They torched us” admitted Warne afterwards. Warne. You know, the one in the hat. Do you want another look at him? Here you go, nice long look at Paul Warne for you, long and lingering, smouldering even, under that hat, and above that puffer jacket, over there on the touchline, standing there watching the game, the game that you’ve paid £10 to see yourself, the game that you’re currently missing while we look at Paul Warne. Never you mind what's happening. Ooooh, Warney. Look at him. Look at him. Not like you’ve got much of a fucking choice is it? Warne.
The visitors spent an awful lot of time at the start of the half simply kicking the ball into the stand. Given QPR concede possession within two touches of every throw in they’re ever awarded perhaps it wasn’t a bad idea – get your throw in card stamped six times and we’ll give you a free corner, and we can’t defend those fucking things either – but it still contributed to the impression the R’s were a fourth goal away from filling their boots and having whatever they liked out of this. We’ll dip us bread now. Diiiiiiiiiiip itttttttttt.
But Rotherham had already changed things. Barlaser and Clarke, who’d enjoyed some early success against an out of sorts Osman Kakay but wilted as the game got away from his team, were removed at half time. A much more physical midfield presence – Matt Crooks, once with Warbs at Glasgow Rangers and impressive here in the cup for Northampton a couple of years back – had been added. Jamie Lindsay came on at the tip of what was now a midfield diamond with Vassell pushed up alongside Smith in a front two. If you thought they were a bit direct before, the approach to the second half would have had Neil Harris clutching his pearl necklace.
QPR, meanwhile, removed Willock, and immediately stopped passing the football. To rectify this, Saturday’s star man Little Tom Carroll (game brought forward to 19.00 so he could make his designated bed time) was introduced for the tiring Geoff Cameron, to get a foot on the ball and start moving us around the pitch again as Willock had done before and Carroll himself had done so well against Watford.
Unlike Saturday, where each change made QPR incrementally better, here every roll of the dice made us worse. Macauley Bonne, on for Willock, did not read the script at all, constantly running in behind a ridiculously high Rotherham defensive line, when the defence and deep lying midfielders were pleading, begging, sometimes very vocally and demonstrably, for somebody to drop off, receive and hold a ball to feet so we could get up the pitch. Instead they had Bonne, living offside so permanently Hammersmith and Fulham Council should check on his planning permission. And with each flag or giveaway came another ball launched straight back at them towards a big, physical forward line, just as Geoff Cameron had gone off to be replaced by Tom Thumb.
When Ladapo climbed off the bench to join Smith, and David Hirst’s son George soon joined them to make a front three, Rotherham took the game over. Ladapo almost scored with his first touch within ten seconds off a Smith flick on, but shot straight at Dieng. Two minutes after that Dom Ball forgot he’d moved clubs and played a lovely ball to get Ladapo into clear blue space in the penalty area – the Barbinger of Doom honed into view and we awaited the inevitable penalty and red card but he timed the sliding tackle magnificently. Would have been Ball’s first Rotherham assist.
Kakay had been poor all game but Niko Hämäläinen, after a splendid first hour with Willock in front of him, now suddenly couldn’t find his own arse with both hands. Time after time after time possession was conceded down his side, and he was fortunate twice in two minutes with sliding tackles that went wrong. The former was generously waved away as a goal kick, the latter, on latest big impact Rotherham substitute Olosunde, could easily have been a penalty had he not just about withdrawn his legs in time. You’d have wanted it. Ihiekwe was booked for dissent in the aftermath. The Millers will tell you they have history with this referee.
Paul Warne again there look.
Whenever QPR completed passes they got in on Rotherham fairly easily. Adomah, on for Bright, in down the right after Carroll strung a couple together – Chair’s resulting shot flew straight at the keeper. But, panicked, nervous, tiring, lacking experience, and under a ferocious aerial bombardment, it was Rangers’ turn to now try and play the opposition at their own game. Knocking long slop down the field while Rotherham were winning every first, second and third ball was only ever likely to lead to one thing and when Smith headed against the inside of the post and Ladapo converted the rebound with six minutes left to play it felt like six minutes too long.
The only unflappable one among the home ranks was Seny Dieng, flawlessly piling through crowds to claim the crosses as they arrived, making an enormous difference. Could catch a fart in a hurricane. If the game had gone on ten minutes longer than it did Rangers probably wouldn’t have even held on for a point. If Dieng hadn’t been in goal, it wouldn’t have even taken that long. Smashed into the net by Crooks as he claimed a corner, a free kick was clear and the danger averted, but Hirst had initially been completely unmarked at the far post from that set piece and should have done better.
The substitutions had made sense in their own right. Willock was only fit for an hour of play, something rarely ever taken into account by fans playing the Monday morning quarterback. If he’s got to go off you could put Adomah on like-for-like, but is he going to do a lot of charging around and closing on a high press? Probably not, so you bring Bonne on to do that, at the same time adding a second striker to push for a killer fourth just as they’re removing defenders and opening up space. Sadly Bonne, who’s obviously quite raw and has been up and down for us so far, didn’t read the memo at all, and played the role terribly. Much of the possession giveaway from the defenders was due to lack of options showing ahead. Bringing Tom Carroll on to rectify that, get a foot on the ball, start passing again, once more, isn’t a bad move per se given how he’d played at the weekend, and Cameron was another who was clearly running on fumes. Sadly Carroll had no influence with the ball, and without it wasn’t able to help in what was a game increasingly about brawn over brains. Rangers lost control of the game after the sixtieth minute, and got sucked into exactly the style of play Rotherham were always going to beast them at.
Gentlemen, you told me you deserved to be here. Well, you're not playing like it. All season long, we played our game. Right now, you're playing theirs.
When Blackman took leave of his senses and tried to play an injury time free kick from the back short – Chair read it, intercepted, and was hacked down by Crooks for a thick yellow – it looked like we’d survived regardless. But then there it all was, at the back post again, Ladapo a man possessed, ball loose mere blades of grass away from the line. And here we were, rocking backwards and forwards in the corner of a darkened room. Why do they do it to us? Why do we do it to ourselves?
Ninety five minutes and two and a half thousand words later… a win.
QPR: Dieng 7; Kakay 5, Masterson 6, Barbet 6, Hämäläinen 6; Ball 6, Cameron 6 (Carroll 66, 5); Osayi-Samuel 8 (Adomah 79, 5), Chair 7, Willock 8 (Bonne 60, 4); Dykes 6
Subs not used: Kane, Wallace, Bettache, Kelman, Kelly, Alfa
Goals: Chair 20 (assisted Osayi-Samuel), Osayi-Samuel 45+1 (assisted Cameron), Dykes 45+3 (penalty, handball)
Rotherham: Blackman 5; Harding 6 (Hirst 84, -), Ihiekwe 6, MacDonald 6, Mattock 5; Jozefzoon 6 (Olosunde 59, 7), Wiles 6, Barlaser 5 (Crooks 45, 6), Clarke 5 (Lindsay 45, 6); Vassell 6 (Ladapo 74, 8); Smith 7
Subs not used: Johansson, Jones, Wood, Miller
Goals: Smith 38 (assisted Harding), Ladapo 84 (unassisted)
Bookings: Wiles 45+3 (foul), Ihiekwe 79 (dissent), Crooks 90+1 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Bright Osayi-Samuel 8 I actually thought Willock was our best player, as you can probably tell, and we were never the same team once he’d gone off. But Bright was a constant threat to Rotherham, even allowing for slightly errant end product, and an assist and brilliant goal push him over the top for me.
Referee – Oliver Langford (West Midlands) 6 A man Rotherham have history with by all accounts, and they were very unhappy about a second half penalty appeal against Hämäläinen which you’d have certainly have wanted at the other end but I thought he just about managed to pull out of enough. I would say that wouldn’t I, I suppose, and he was daft to go to ground and give the referee a decision to make. Unusually pedantic about the placement of everything, which he isn’t usually.
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