|Queens Park Rangers 1 v 1 Rotherham United|
Saturday, 8th January 2022 Kick-off 15:00
Archer save moves QPR into fourth round... and a keeper crisis - Report
Sunday, 9th Jan 2022 20:02 by Clive Whittingham
QPR laboured through to the fourth round of the FA Cup with a long, drawn out penalty shoot out victory over League One highflyers Rotherham at Loftus Road on Saturday, but lost another senior goalkeeper with Jordan Archer injured making the winning save.
Ten, nine, eight, eight, eight, eight…
I think, in a way, there’ll now always be a part of me left behind watching Queens Park Rangers v Rotherham United. A game that drifted on for hours, from day to night, through several seasons’ worth of weather, producing very little of any note as it went. Fifth in the Championship against first in League One, the theory these two teams have got higher priorities and could probably do without this added distraction permeated much of the ‘action’. Cursed with another half an hour of festivities by a nil nil draw, somebody somewhere decided to remove the game clock from the scoreboard altogether. Time, by that point, no longer a valid concept – like a Las Vegas casino, and we’ve got a tiger here too. It was just QPR, and Rotherham, forever and ever, like some sort of everlasting life. I’ve been scared to open the curtains at mine today, fearful they might still be out there, on my back lawn, taking bloody penalties.
QPR may have been scandalously robbed of their League Cup quarter final place in a controversial encounter with Sunderland before Christmas, but the defeat continued their record of exiting cup competitions to League One opposition five times in as many seasons under three different managers. What few fans still bother with these early round cup ties at Loftus Road don’t do so labouring under any misapprehension that it’s going to be worth their time and money – ours is a club with more FA Cup exits at the third round stage than any other and there’s a ‘typical bloody QPR’ narrative around these games almost as boring as the ties we keep being handed in the draw. It took just eight seconds of this one for a succession of back passes from Rangers’ kick off to almost create a farcical opener with stand-in goalkeeper Jordan Archer lucky not to be closed down all the way into his own net by the rampaging Michael Smith. That would have been very typical bloody QPR indeed. Soon after Albert Adomah was lucky not to be pulled up for an obviously foul throw, and then panicked and booted the resulting loose ball straight into somebody’s arse. And it’s live.
Warbs Warburton pays the cup more credence than many of his predecessors, in team selections at least. There were changes here – George Thomas in for the rested Chris Willock the most obvious nod to league challenges to come – but not only was the first choice back three still in situ, continuing Yoann Barbet’s miraculous appearance record, but there were starts too for senior statesmen Lee Wallace, Adomah and Stefan Johansen who’ve all had injury and fitness issues and you would have tended to think might have been placed in cotton wool here with West Brom up next week. That nearly backfired as early as the sixteenth minute when Johansen put a horrible tackle in on Dan Barlaser which was surely the thickest of thick yellow cards – much like Ivan Sunjic on Barbet at Birmingham last week I thought it could easily have been a red.
It did, however, mean that Rangers had enough experience and quality on the field to produce a steady stream of chances through the first half. Wallace’s low cross on 20 minutes seemed to present Thomas with an absolute sitter, but he missed the ball entirely dead centre of the goal. First team chances are few and far between for the Welsh midfielder, and he's rarely impressed when he has goton the field, but sometimes it feels like that’s through trying too hard to press his case. He had a much more positive involvement a couple of minutes later in a move that ended with Andre Gray having a volley saved, and Charlie Austin bagging the rebound but from an offside position.
Those two did not have a happy afternoon up front. Gray’s touch and control was, at times, laughably awful. He played like somebody had tied his fucking boots together, and given the amount of time he spent waggling his arms around in exasperation at everybody else but himself I wouldn’t be surprised if a team mate or two perhaps wishes they had done in hindsight. He would miss the best chance of the game in the second half when Rotherham keeper Josh Vickers – far from their first choice but really rather excellent here – palmed a cross his way but he snatched at and skied the empty netter. Austin got a much firmer connection to a late first half corner and was surprised to see Vickers save with his legs – frustration that it was him removed, and not the hapless Gray, midway through the second half was fairly palpable when Austin went off on the far side of the ground, heaved his boots away, and took in the match from the empty Ellerslie Road stand. Problem is, once you’ve gone and sat over there, how and when do you make your way back to the dressing room without looking a bit sulky and petulant? Eventually, maybe a little sheepishly, or perhaps just because the rain had finally let up, he did make his way back around to our side and only Warbs Warburton will know where this all scores on his notoriously sensitive respect-o-meter.
Lucky escapes were the theme in the moments before and after half time. A big scramble on 38 narrowly eluded Ihiekwe loitering in the Loft End penalty box, then Lee Wallace defended a subsequent cross brilliantly at the back post. Straight after drinks Archer came for a cross and got nowhere near it and Smith headed over the open goal and onto the roof of the net. Done all ends up by the same player, Yoann Barbet deliberately pulled him out of the attack on halfway and remarkably escaped yellow card censor by Dean Whitestone – booking every day of the week.
QPR tried Dykes for Austin, Dozzell for Thomas, Amos for Ball, Odubajo for the gassed Wallace, and young Aaron Drewe for Odubajo. Nice of you to stop by Moses. Vickers, growing into his day, saved simply from each of Gray and Dykes, and then much more adeptly from Dykes late on after Dozzell had freed Adomah for a great cross. None of it could much shake the feeling that Rangers were drifting out of the game, just as Rotherham were expanding into it. As you'd expect of a team that recently went 21 games unbeaten, they looked really rather good, and pretty confident in themselves, in a way they simply struggle to replicate when they actually get promoted into this division. Maintaining that belief will be a big part of their task next season, if they are to make another immediate return.
Barbet’s big block in front of Archer averted danger from Ihiekwe, then the keeper dropped another cross and survival amidst more panic was achieved only with the help of the goal post. A very strong handed save from Hakeem Odoffin redeemed the keeper somewhat. I didn’t think Odubajo’s fall in the penalty box in the final moments warranted a penalty, but when you see Michael Smith then immediately dribble the ball towards his own corner flag, realise he’s working himself into a tricky situation late in the game, throw himself to the ground under no contact at all, and get the free kick, it really does starkly highlight the inconsistency of the refereeing. The difference between what counts as a foul inside the penalty box and outside is getting a bit ridiculous. Ogbene had an even more egregious one waved away at the other end in the final seconds of extra time - I'd have wanted that.
Another half an hour then. Honest to God Marge, plays. There were, at least, this time, goals – one for each team. I thought there was a very strong possibility that Undr The Cosh guest in waiting Richard Wood was offside when Wes Harding pumped a long ball forward in the first period of extra time but having not been flagged he was free to screen Adomah away from Ihiekwe behind him and he finished neatly into the far corner off the post. Something they’d worked on, clearly, isolating and blocking QPR’s makeshift right-wing back, but also something I felt could and perhaps should have been flagged off. Adomah was otherwise one of the few with the energy and threat to maintain QPR’s interest in the tie and, sure enough, with five to go, his brilliant run and cross was headed just about over the line, despite the outlandish attempt at a save from Vickers, by Lyndon Dykes. Any momentary confusion waiting for the goal line technology verdict rather ended by Dykes picking the ball up and running off with it before the goal had been awarded - now that would have been quite the handball decision.
A fourth penalty shoot out of the season then, and like the Orient and Everton ones before it (but not the Sunderland one sadly) QPR’s calmness with spot kicks combined with the goalkeepers’ collective failure to get anywhere near any we ever face ourselves made for a long drawn out affair. Dykes, Johansen and Gray were successful for Rangers – the latter really rather tempting fate after a dreadful personal performance with a two-step Trevor Francis run up, but converting all the same – before Wes Harding missed first for the visitors. Sadly, so did Andre Dozzell, easily telegraphed by Vickers. And so off we went again through Adomah, Amos, Barbet, Dunne (eat that one and tell me you're still hungry) and Rob Dickie. It was now a straight choice between Archer taking one himself, or the frankly rather cruel and unfair prospect of young Aaron Drewe potentially costing us a fourth round place on his full debut. Archer, though, intervened in a more conventional way, diving low and left to palm aside Ogbene’s weak effort. Celebrations tempered by Archer apparently doing some serious damage to his shoulder in the process, leaving the field on gas and air and straight into an ambulance on South Africa Road in full kit. With Seny Dieng away, and seemingly set to start now for Senegal in the African Cup of Nations, Rangers are now suddenly without a senior goalkeeper for that big West Brom game in a week’s time. Very, very QPR indeed.
Sevensixfivefourthreetwoone – Peterborough away. Hooray.
QPR: Archer 6; Adomah 7, Dickie 6, Dunne 7, Barbet 6, Wallace 7 (Odubajo 59, 6)(Drewe 90, 6); Ball 6 (Amos 70, 6), Johansen 6, Thomas 6 (Dozzell 71, 6); Austin 5 (Dykes 59, 6), Gray 4
Subs not used: Field, Walsh, Duke-McKenna, Armstrong
Goals: Dykes 115 (assisted Adomah)
Bookings: Johansen 16 (foul)
Rotherham: Vickers 8; Harding 6, Edmonds-Green 6 (Ogbene 58, 6), Wood 6, Ihiekwe 7 Ferguson 6 (Bola 79, 6); Barlaser 7 (Odoffin 79, 6), Rathbone 7, Sadlier 7 (Lindsay 58, 6); Smith 7, Grigg 5 (Kayode 65, 6)
Subs not used: Johansson, Mattock, Ladapo, MacDonald
Goals: Ihiekwe 98 (assisted Harding)
Bookings: Lindsay 99 (time wasting), Harding 110 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Jimmy Dunne 7 Probably the only Ranger who was near his usual level consistently across the whole game and extra time. Adomah finished the game very strongly, but had a bit of a nightmare first half, and maybe could do better for their goal albeit caught in a clever block. Wallace had a good hour but looked gassed after a huge overlap right before he went off. Archer saved two penalties, and strongly from Odoffin late on, but looked incredibly uncomfortable under any sort of cross, and more troublingly given the way we play also with the ball at feet.
Referee – Dean Whitestone (Northants) 5 Too much basic stuff wrong, and inconsistently wrong at that. You’ll have to go a long way to see a worse example of this than him waving away Moses Odubajo’s penalty appeal for a trip and then not ten yards away and a minute later awarding a free kick instead of a corner when Smith had obviously worked himself into a tough spot and dived to try and buy a free kick out of it. Won’t moan too loudly though, I’d definitely have wanted that late Rotherham penalty at the other end, Johansen got away with what I thought looked a horrible tackle early and how Barbet didn’t get booked for the deliberate pull back on Smith I don’t know. I quite like him usually, but I thought he was a bit ropey here, much like most of the players.
Attendance 7,157 (700 Rotherham approx.)
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