|Queens Park Rangers 1 v 3 Barnsley|
Wednesday, 3rd March 2021 Kick-off 19:00
Rangers run ragged by rampant Tykes – Report
Thursday, 4th Mar 2021 15:46 by Clive Whittingham
QPR were well beaten at Loftus Road on Wednesday night, run off the park comprehensively by a uniquely energetic Barnsley side on a six game winning streak.
Sometimes you just have to hold your hands up. Maybe if we’d put them up and kept them there Barnsley might have agreed to leave us the fuck alone for two minutes.
In this dirgiest of Championship dirges, with two thirds of the league locked in the 52-points-and-out Mykonos slog, here, at last, came something a little bit different. Barnsley, five wins in a row, 15 wins in 25 league games. Barnsley, oldest player 26, average age a shade under 23. Barnsley, apparently missing the memo we all get around our tenth birthday about not all crowding around the football, collectively tearing about the pitch in a giant dustcloud. Barnsley whose players can apparently not only cope with more than two games a week, and with more than an hour at a time within those games, but cope with it at the speed and ferocity of a category five hurricane. Barnsley. Chastening. Eye-opening. I couldn’t believe it either.
Ball in the opposition penalty area? They’ll dispatch eight men there immediately to chase it. Ball given away on halfway? Coming straight back at you, pursued by three forwards and three attacking midfielders. Halfway line and offside line? Same thing mate. Anything within 45 yards of the goal expect to be attacked by the goalkeeper – his vision is based on movement. You think you’ve seen high line, high press? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.
They were a ceaseless, tireless, incessant, rabid pain in the arse from start to finish. It wasn’t unusual for all ten outfield players to be in the opposition half. Super high risk, mega high reward. There was no hiding place, for the ball or any of the QPR players. Tempo off the scale. Two touches without being killed to death was a rare, luxuriant treat. It was like watching a game played on x2.5 speed. The whole thing was migraine inducing. I thought they were absolutely fucking fantastic. I was exhausted watching them. Exhausted and jealous.
How do you beat them? Well, take gilt edged chances when they come along for a start. QPR had two of those early doors as great vision from first Stefan Johansen got Charlie Austin in for a shot off the top of the bar that by his standards was a great chance, then from Todd Kane to set up Lyndon Dykes for what looked an absolute sitter spurned under pressure from Collins in goal. It was to be another confidence draining, hapless night of toil for the Scottish international against the other Championship side that tried to buy him last summer.
Opportunities to score weren’t that hard to come by. This was certainly no re-run of QPR’s complete Christmas outclassing by Swansea, where a Rangers goal still wouldn’t have been scored if we were playing the bloody thing now. The Tykes were suspect from set plays, and Charlie Austin was able to make amends for his earlier miss with a close range finish after Collins had parried Yoann Barbet’s volley from Ilias Chair’s free kick. Another wide delivery from the recalled Moroccan was met firmly at the back post by Cameron whose header hit a team mate, beat Collins, and bounced back into play off the inside of the post. Buoyed by this apparent weak spot, Rangers launched a series of long throws, which apparently Lyndon Dykes has – like Little Tom’s ability to take corners, can’t help but think this might have been worth a mensh a few months ago mate. Austin had a shot deflected over from one of these five before half time.
Later in the evening substitute Sam Field received a ball 40 yards from goal with Collins on one of his frequent walkabouts, but it fell to his unfavoured right foot and a Ray Wilkins-style lob was butchered. Field was a good deal more adept in his work five from time when a perfectly executed through ball dissected the Barnsley back three but Mac Bonne’s attempt to control and finish was park standard. Austin snatched at a very presentable chance at the far post when Collins flapped at a cross from another substitute, Albert Adomah. Collins then saved pretty spectacularly in injury time from both Johansen and Field at close range. When you start adding all these chances up you’re not far off Jackett’s Law – ten shots on target usually means a win.
Second tip, don’t be giving up soft goals through shambolic defending. Rangers didn’t seem to know, or care, whether we were playing on or not when Mads Anderson injured himself making a tackle on 21, but Callum Brittain knew exactly what he was going to do and swiftly launched another Barnsley attack regardless. Defence flatfooted, Dike touched his low cross back into the path of Palmer for a low shot which Seny Dieng made an uncharacteristic meal of and had to flap behind at the second attempt under heavy pressure. From that corner Lee Wallace’s attempt to mark Dike at the near post was shamefully inadequate, neither a challenge nor a hold, and the striker punished both that and the lack of a man on the near post with the opening goal.
Austin’s equaliser was immediately followed by Johansen getting caught the wrong side of Palmer and bringing him down for an obvious free kick just where Alex Mowatt likes them, and there was no saving his brilliant left footed shot into the top corner. Mowatt is always the best player on the pitch whenever QPR play Barnsley, and this game was no exception. At the merest hint of a slackening in the Red's ferocious work rate manager Valerian Ismael hooked all three of his strikers for three more and one of the new comers, Carlton Morris, was able to stride through an embarrassingly busted offside trap and make it 3-1 after being found by Mowatt with a through ball. One goal, two assists, a clear man of the match, a thousand country miles better than anything QPR had out there… but I don’t know what I’m talking about.
So then, take the very presentable chances we had, defend as we have been doing in recent weeks, win the game? Here comes Warbs Warburton, with the ‘fine margins’ post match Warbleton we’re so familiar with. Theoretically, yes. Realistically, no.
There have been times this season when QPR have lost out in a game that could have gone either way – a chance here, a mistake there, a refereeing call – and Warbs’ fine margins rhetoric has been entirely justified and often unfairly criticised. This was not one of those. Barnsley were better than QPR collectively, and individually, winning the game deservedly and comfortably. Rangers unwittingly cast as the alcoholic thirty-somethings, left alone to care for a friend’s brood of kids to see if belatedly starting a family might be for them, despairing as the little horrors tear their house apart around them, legs whirling, screams screaming. Not now Cauley, uncle Geoff is tired.
Rob Dickie needed to step across and deal with Dike after Yoann Barbet had been caught in the high press on nine minutes. Barbet did better to hold out Chaplin on 13 after his immaculate first touch had killed a long ball in the penalty area, but he still got a cross away and Cameron and Wallace did well at the back post to prevent Dike scoring. Dickie blocked Woodrow’s shot on 19 minutes after he’d been caught in the relentless red onslaught. All of these incidents led to Mowatt corners, all of which threatened goals before the first was, inevitably, scored by Dike.
Brittain and Palmer both shot wide from long range. Styles saw a shot deflect up and change direction, fortunately Dieng hadn’t committed himself and was able to save. In the second half Dieng punched another corner out from under the bar as it threatened to go straight in, then newcomer Adeboyejo hooked wide at the near post amidst slack marking at a flicked on throw in. His fellow sub Frieser was inches away from finding the top corner with a curled speculator on 83 minutes – Dieng beaten all ends up. The keeper was alert and strong to Mowatt charging through himself on 87 minutes, saving well at his feet. Morris quickly drew a foul from Dickie for Mowatt to curl a free kick just over from similar range to that he’d scored. Count these chances, note the different names, without the ball they were ravenous, with it the threat came from everywhere. Less a half time break, more a ceasefire; less a full time whistle, more a truce requiring a peace accord. Barnsley head north on the bus, Rangers head home in an iron lung. The actual best team we’ve played this season, now four for four against Mark Warburton’s QPR, scoring 12 and conceding three. They’ve scored three goals in a game on two occasions this season, both against the hoops. This, in particular, was an absolute monstering.
Debates have raged since, about team selections, substitutions, what QPR could have done differently. The Lyndon Dykes criticism online is now a crescendo, though Macauley Bonne is hardly pressing the case. On the visitors, some have wondered whether this thousand-miles-an-hour approach is only made possible by the new five substitutions rule, which they utilised fully. There’s been the standard snippiness about the refereeing of Andy Woolmer, who bought a horrible dive by Mowatt over Cameron in the first half, and did the square route of fuck all about some egregious second half time wasting including a prolonged farce where Collins travelled backwards and forwards from edge of penalty area to goalline feigning some confusion over a water bottle. But Barnsley have history with Chuckles too, he was agenda neutral here, and had nothing to do with the outcome of the game.
There’s also been some sniffiness about Barnsley in general. Accusations of hoofball, high and mighty claims about not being able to watch their style of play every week, the old purist classic about not wanting to win at all if this is what it takes to succeed at this level. Not for me Clive, needless to say. Direct, sure, and it’s all a matter of taste and preference. But for me when I think about the worst kind of dog football, played by a Tony Pulis or Aidy Boothroyd, I think of a team of cloggers, in a very rigid and set shape, spending long afternoons punting balls into channels to turn full backs around and win throws. The only team doing that here was us, out of necessity having been harangued and hassled out of a passing rhythm. Barnsley were completely fluid, perpetual motion, going where the ball went en masse. They didn’t mess around when the ball was at the back, it went forward quickly, turning the QPR defence around then pinning it in. But when in the final third, the football they played was excellent. Not just Mowatt, but Callum Styles, Conor Chaplin, Daryl Dike, Romal Palmer, Morris when he came on… these are good footballers, certainly better than anything QPR had in their colours last night. They were no more a one-dimensional long ball team than Neil Warnock’s 2010/11 QPR side, which could mix it when required with the likes of Derry and Hill, and didn’t do a lot of messing about at the back with Gorkss and Connolly, but when in the right areas had skilled technicians. I found them quite exhilarating to be honest, and certainly a good deal better to watch and more fun than the current modern trend towards pisballing about in your own penalty area from your own goal kick, racking up 70% possession all of it entirely in neutral areas, and sneering at anybody who doesn’t do the same as if they’re some sort of luddite. I couldn’t watch that any more than I could watch Pulisball, and this was miles away from either.
The real quiz is why another team is now apparently accelerating past QPR, launching a play-off challenge, on a small budget with no parachute payments. This a squad signed from MK Dons, Bury, AFC Wimbledon, Darlington, Orlando. There’s absolutely nothing to stop us doing the same, I’ve been banging on about Mowatt for literally years. I will defend QPR, Les Ferdinand, Lee Hoos, Mark Warburton and everybody else to the hilt when people criticise them for baulking at a three-and-a-half-year contract and £5m fee for Nahki Wells, or wonder why we’re not able to compete for the top six in a league stacked with parachute payments while we’re trying to halve our wage budget and then halve it again. Warburton was forced to sell the best players from an already poor team when he took over, then having rebuilt he lost the five best players from his team after year one and has had to go again this year with the expectation that we improve in the league regardless. I’ll bang that drum for him all night. But when you see one of the clubs that has the same budget constraints as we do recruiting better, scouting better, making shrewder managerial appointments, handing us our own arse and going off and competing for the top six in this division while we are, once again, heavily indebted to ageing loan players even to keep us kicking around sixteenth, then it’s legitimate to ask questions.
Barnsley didn’t so much ask as blow torch us with them.
QPR: Dieng 5; Dickie 6, Cameron 5, Barbet 5; Kane 6 (Adomah 66, 6), Ball 5 (Field 66, 6), Johansen 6, Chair 5 (Kelman 87, -), Wallace 5; Dykes 4 (Willock 66, 6), Austin 6 (Bonne 86, -)
Subs not used: Lumley, Thomas, Kakay, Hämäläinen
Goals: Austin 26 (assisted Barbet)
Bookings: Dickie 89 (foul)
Barnsley: Collins 7; Sibbick 7, Helik 7, Anderson 7; Brittain 7, Palmer 8 (Halme 70, 7), Mowatt 9, Styles 7 (Williams 89, -); Chaplin 7 (Frieser 56, 7), Dike 8 (Adeboyejo 56, 6), Woodrow 6 (Morris 56, 7)
Subs not used: Walton, Kane, Oduor, Sollbauer
Goals: Dike 23 (assisted Mowatt), Mowatt 29 (direct free kick, won Palmer), Morris 57 (assisted Mowatt)
QPR Star Man – Stefan Johansen 6 Faded badly, got frustrated and was lucky not to be booked, but he was competitive and creative for a while in a midfield area well ablaze. I’ll take other suggestions to be honest, it’s not a competitive market.
Referee – Chuckles Woolmer (Northants) 7 I suspect this is about as good as it’s going to get for him and us. Conned by a Mowatt dive in the first half, incredibly generous to let a frustrated Johansen off with a thick yellow card tackle in the second, and his “policing” of the flagrant time wasting that went on in the second half was laughable, but nobody was killed and overall he handled a frenetic, high tempo game rather well.
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