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It's that time again - Report
Tuesday, 19th Apr 2022 16:51 by Clive Whittingham

QPR kept faint play-off hopes alive, and ended Derby's spirited resistance against Championship relegation once and for all, with their traditional last minute winner against the Rams at Loftus Road on Easter Monday.

During the war, Sunday nights after the roast dinner meant Dream Team on Sky One. I don’t know what it was — the distinctive purple shirts, the character arcs of Luis Amor Rodriguez and hometown boy Karl Fletcher, picking out which Premier League game they’d superimposed the images over, Georgia Zaris getting her norks out on a semi-regular basis — can’t put my finger on it, but there I would be at 20.00 perched on the sofa each week.

Now, the problems the producers of Dream Team had were twofold. Firstly, if you’re scripting a soap set in a football club, having that club run sustainably and sensibly, attaining comfortable midtable finishes against sides with bigger budgets, doth butter no parsnips. Certainly not ten seasons totalling 419 episodes of parsnips in any case. Therefore, ever-increasingly outlandish storylines had to be cooked up. Secondly, once Ricky Whittle has taken his top off and paraded around in a small towel often enough it is inevitably time for him to take the next step up the acting ladder — taking his top off and parading around in a small towel on Hollyoaks instead — and so each season had to build to a climax in which all the actors who weren’t returning for the following year could be written out in one fell swoop. Soon this low-budget soap opera about an unremarkable midtable football club was racking up a body count to rival the Final Destination movie franchise and the plausibility that had been one of the show’s more attractive qualities in the early years drained away into the ridiculous notion that a team wiped out in a plane crash one year could be rebuilt and wiped out in a bus crash the next and rebuilt and taken out by a sniper at the cup final soon after that. A lot, even at QPR.

In the business we call this ‘jumping the shark’, after the infamous incident in season of five of Happy Days where the Fonz literally jumps over a shark while water skiing. See, also, Bobby Ewing stepping out of the shower and writing off the previous year of Dallas as “just a dream”. Like creative writing in GCSE year ten English sometimes it needs a more experienced head to place an editor’s hand on the shoulder of a frantic writer and say “enough”. And so we turn to what I can only presume is the Nottingham Forest fan currently showrunning Derby and say, really? You’re running the QPR in the last-minute thing again? Isn’t this a little on the nose?

Bobby Zamora’s ninetieth-minute winner for QPR at Wembley in 2014 is generally reflected upon as the moment that ‘started’ this ruinous period of Derby’s history. Since then they have repeatedly had everything they’ve wanted dangled tantalisingly in front of them, and snatched away in ever more convoluted ways. Steve McClaren’s team storming towards the title in 2014/15 only to inexplicably collapse to the point they needed a result on the final day just to make the play-offs then losing 3-0 at home to Reading. Making the end of season knock-out a year later and absolutely shitting the bed in the first leg of the semi-final against Hull City — another 3-0 home loss. Typically they immediately went 2-0 up in the second leg and then spent a full hour looking for an equaliser without success. Leading the 2017/18 semi-final 1-0 against Fulham after the first leg, and losing the second 2-0. Taking a team topped up with Harry Wilson, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori all the way to Wembley through a spectacular second leg semi-final victory over Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds, and then skilled, big-name manager Frank Lampard cementing his suitability to walk straight into the Chelsea job by getting the team selection hopelessly wrong for a meek final loss to Aston Villa. Even this year, docked 21 points and given no hope, salvation seemed possible mid-winter, until a run of nine successive away defeats intervened.

A running theme in all of this has been last minute QPR goals. Rangers are really very, very good indeed against Derby, but only specifically between 88.30 and 90.00. Zamora, of course; Mass Luongo, stealing a 1-1 in March 2018; Macauley Bonne, powering home a Pride Park winner at the death in November 2020; Andre Gray’s outlandish swivel and smash in the final seconds of the corresponding fixture this season, one of only three home defeats suffered by Wayne Rooney’s side; Gabrielle Angella’s eighty-sixth minute header in 2016 counts as something of an early strike in this company; Patrick Agyemang and Jamie Mackie further back still and now, added to the honours board, Big Bad Luke Amos.

In the context of this latest meeting alone you could hardly have said it was coming. QPR six without a win and seven defeats from nine as their season threatens to collapse around them, but marginally improved in defeat at Preston a week ago and markedly better in a 2-2 that could and should have been won at Huddersfield on Good Friday. The back three system has been ditched, the leggy senior pros have been sidelined, and in its and their place has come a simpler, younger team focused on moving the ball forwards more often and offering more support in attack to our beleaguered forwards. It’s clunky as hell, often wide open at the back, with confidence as fragile as fine porcelain, but it can at least run about a bit and get around the pitch, which is more than Rangers looked capable of a fortnight ago.

In the Easter sunshine in West 12, Rangers started a home game brighter than they have for a number of weeks. Ilias Chair, the star of Friday’s trip north and suddenly way more effective coming in from the left than he has been since the turn of the year, combined nicely with Sam McCallum for an early cut back. Lyndon Dykes’ flick had Amos screaming through for an opening goal denied by a marginal, and correct, offside decision — again, the value of now having a midfielder capable of getting up to and beyond the main striker shining through. I liked the terrific ball from Moses Odubajo which won a twelfth minute corner, and the routine that followed it, but visiting keeper Allsop thrust out an arm and Chair was denied. The high press, another recent re-addition to Rangers’ approach, worked the tireless George Thomas into a shooting spot on the half hour but he chose to pass instead. He’s been good, pace and energy most welcome, I just wonder where the boost of an actual goal might be able to take him. Derby’s threat in return was sporadic, though Luke Plange should surely have scored at the back post off Tom Lawrence’s free kick very harshly awarded against Moses Odubajo for an alleged foul on Lee Buchanan. This week’s goalkeeper Kieren Westwood later came for a corner and dropped it presenting Krystian Bielik with a decent chance which he hooked wildly over the bar - £8m the St John’s Ambulance paid for that.

Second half, much the same as the first to begin with. QPR getting joy firstly from their high press, which gave Chair a chance to air one out from 30 yards and draw a save that Allsop will be hoping somebody caught on camera (our photo agency might have done so had it stopped snapping the visiting manager for a moment); and playing something resembling the sort of attractive, purposeful passing football that defined our 2021 team, Chair again the man on the end of the move with a shot wide from 20 yards. Sam McCallum’s master-blaster hit Bielik square in the face and killed him to death. Lyndon Dykes bundled through two challenges and tried his own luck from distance only to find it out. It was better. And it was good to watch. So much of the pain of watching QPR tumble out of the play-offs that looked an absolute certainty for so long is just how dreadfully boring we’ve been to watch while doing it. It’s not like we’re Keegan’s Newcastle, blowing a league title with a flat front five losing 4-3 at Liverpool - we’ve gone from being one of the most aesthetically pleasing teams in the league to an unimaginative, boring slop you’d draw curtains to avoid watching if they were kicking around in the back garden. Here, and at Huddersfield, much more like it. Not exactly like it - still a bit laboured, still one pass too many, still a bit slow, probably best summed up by Moses Odubajo following a moment of brilliant defending with an immediate boob of a first touch presenting the ball straight back the Rams — but a closer resemblance than the unrecognisable horrors served against Peterborough and Cardiff. I can live with the poor results if they come despite performances like this.

A poor result increasingly felt like what might come our way. At one point Derby seemed to be playing for time at nil nil — a bold strategy for a team requiring snookers four games out from the end of the season — but as their witching hour approached so they came out of their shell and started to pose problems, as they obviously had to do. Malcolm Ebiowei, implausibly still only 18 and surely near the top of page one in every scout’s summer wish list in the country, got going down the right and started to give Sam McCallum an absolute grilling. Tom Lawrence fumed when he picked the wrong option after bursting through and having a brain freeze on the hour. Dion Sanderson, in for injured Yoann Barbet, saved one counter on 68. Ebiowei was flying at us again within a minute and 30 seconds. Bloody terrifying. What a prospect he looks. Sub Ravel Morrison, talk to me again about narrative, slipped Nathan Byrne into the same channel but his low shot was weak and easily saved by Westwood. There were multiple corners in which the Rams’ player of the season Curtis Davies led a queue of unmarked players at the far post, only for the ball to disappoint. Derby were coming on seriously strong, each substitution making them better, while QPR wilted, once again removing players with legs for players without. For it all, though, serious shots on Westwood’s goal numbered zero. Jimmy Dunne, a fourth captain in as many games, returning to form after a poor few weeks with a dominant centre back display. A first clean sheet in 17 goes, since January.

When QPR are playing Derby, it’s always coming. With the game stretched to breaking point, space opening up all over the park, shapes and systems dissolving, it was indeed that time again. QPR against Derby, eighty ninth minute, stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Don’t miss Osman Kakay, on for the injured Odubajo and doing really quite well, killing another Derby counter with an important tackle and clearance. Nor Charlie Austin taking a man away intelligently and directing the traffic behind him. Chair enjoying himself down the left again fed Dykes, and as he turned around to face the rest of the pitch the opposition rather melted away in front of him allowing a simple ball through to Luke Amos who remained cool and calm with a slipped finish into the bottom corner. Two in two, five in 13, six for the season, value of midfielders who can run beyond strikers etc etc. Only the second time all season (Birmingham A, January 2) Amos has made it this deep into a game he’s started. Might be worth trying a bit more often.

One of those beautiful footballing goals you can see all laid out across the pitch in front of you from the main stand before it happens, and a rare example of QPR actually successfully executing and doing exactly what you all said they should do. Give it to Dykes. GIVE IT TO AMOS. Scoooooooooorrrrrreeeeeeeeeee-and there's that feeling again, at last, after weeks of disappointment. Bottle that and sell it for your fortune.

A chunky eight minutes of stoppage time only enough for sub subs Cybulksi to meet a free kick at the back post but head down into the ground allowing Westwood to comfortably save. Sam Field was booked for a seventh match in a row, and thirteenth time in 23 appearances this season, now perilously close to a three-match ban. Designated driver Tom Lawrence exemplified his value as captain by getting himself sent off, fouling Charlie Austin in the final seconds while already on a yellow card to earn himself a nice rest for the remaining dead rubbers — Reading’s remarkable comeback against Swansea up the M4 sealing Derby’s fate.

The narrative is that this is cruel and unusual punishment to a ‘famous and historic football club’, and for it to be QPR yet again hammering the final nail into the coffin with yet another last minute winner was certainly that. At Wembley it was Rangers cast, rightly, as the financially-doped cheaters, ignoring every FFP rule in the book to bully their way back to the Premier League against more wholesome, likeable, and more to the point legally-put-together outfits like Steve McClaren’s Rams. The home and away match-going Derby fans who just want to turn up each week to support their team and have a few drinks with their mates have since seen their beloved club torched by an arrogant and destructive megalomaniac. Its very existence is now at risk and much hangs on a takeover by American crypto-bro Chris Kirchner, the source and size of whose wealth is uncertain. Such is the EFL's pathetic governance of its competitions and utterly inadequate rules, clubs like Bolton have often found themselves leaping out of of a Mel Morris frying pan, and straight into another "fit and proper" fire. Wayne Rooney and Liam Rosenior have put together a team with remarkable spirit, resistance and no little talent — Buchanan and Ebiowei particularly good here I thought. On paper this lot should have been bottom even without the points deduction, so to have run it so close with so much going against them is to their enormous credit. Again, for your everyday Derby fan, how heartbreaking to know that it will be other clubs that will surely benefit from all this work in the future — Luke Plange already picked off by Palace, Festy Ebosele really rather tragically hoovered up by the Pozzo family puppy farm at Udinese.

They are, however, for now, only going to League One. When QPR collapsed into financial freefall in 2001 they spent three years in that division which turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to them — expensive dead wood swept away and a brilliantly likeable team full of characters, talent and Rangers fans rebuilt under Ian Holloway’s inspirational management all while we had had fun ticking off new grounds and trawling the Football League’s backwaters. Derby have been in the Premier League once in the last 20 years, and won one game while they were there - they’re not by any means the first mid-sized club with decent support to find themselves in that league. Forest and Leeds both spent time there, Sunderland, Portsmouth and Ipswich are waiting there for them now. I don’t see many journalists wagging their finger about how many people will lose their jobs in the back office at Peterborough and Barnsley. Nor do I really remember this much sympathy flowing forth when Luton had repeated, punitive points deductions forced on them over so many seasons it took them from Championship to Conference. Clubs have to deal with relegations all the time, it's part of sport. I'm not sure I quite get the outpouring for one that was brought on by its own prolonged and prolific rule breaking.

There’s an awful lot of pearl clutching going on about however this could have happened. This happened because Derby cheated. They cheated repeatedly, and on top of that constantly tried to find short cuts and work arounds to continue spending more money, and accountancy cover ups for what they were doing. Rooney, himself, only here because they were able to bring in a world class player no Championship club should ever possibly have been able to afford because of a sponsorship deal with a bookmaker — resulting in the unedifying spectacle of a reformed gambling addict running around in the 32 shirt to promote a predatory online casino. Bielik, playing here, and Jozwiak, recently departed, both bought for collectively more than £10m at the point it was clearly starting to unravel, very little of that money ever paid - players the law-abiding teams that are trying to compete with them couldn't have had. This was all called out repeatedly - Middlesbrough’s Steve Gibson taking the unusual step of berating a rival club publicly - and each time football tribalism took over. Memes about Morris’ ‘Melnomics’ having us ‘on strings’ were drawn up; the EFL repeatedly accused of having a vendetta against the club, and a flag flown from the away end at this game to that effect; mental gymnastics that would impress Simone Biles performed to explain why, on this occasion, the chairman buying the stadium from the club at a ridiculous mark-up was absolutely fine with no possible bad consequences. It is one of the worst elements of football social media, and Derby are by no means alone in suffering from it.

There’s plenty of whataboutery to be played — Birmingham, Sheff Wed, Bournemouth, Leicester, Reading and, of course, QPR at Derby’s direct expense, have all cheated too, often prospered, and rarely faced consequences as severe as those the Rams have been dealing with this season. And nor would I want my equivalent at another club to judge all QPR fans by the sort of online mega-bantz merchants for whom ‘on strings’ memes are the height of sophisticated comedy and absolutely won’t ever come back to bite anybody on the arse. There was plenty of alarm about Morris, particularly from the contributors we use on this site, which started in earnest after his daft sacking of Paul Clement for not doing things "the Derby way". There is, as ever, a risk of judging a majority by the actions of a minority. This is all on Morris, everybody else is just left to clear up his mess, and you wouldn’t wish the destruction of a football club on any fan (well, Chelsea maybe). But there’s also a prevailing sense this is all terribly unjust, and it’s not. Besides, they’re going to Port Vale guys, it's not the end of the world.

Where QPR are going, who knows? We thought we knew, we think we still know, but as all the trendy Sheffield United and Middlesbrough types we were assured by the xG evangelists were going to roar off into the distance have started to suffer engine trouble, so a door has been left cracked enough to give hope to anybody capable of slinging a few results together over the next fortnight. Millwall, incredibly, coming home with a wet sail, and I bet didn’t see that one coming did it? It’s highly likely we’re going to spend a long, lonely summer reflecting on how different things might have been had we been able to win just one of four league games against Peterborough and Barnsley. But with Sheffield United still to come at Loftus Road and a gap of just three points to the Blades in sixth, it’s not as beyond the realms of possibility as it really should be considering this was just victory number three of the last 16 matches.

For QPR, last minute winners against Derby have a habit of opening up all kinds of interesting possibilities.

Links >>> Photo Gallery >>> Ratings and Reports >>> Message Board Match Thread

QPR: Westwood 6; Odubajo 7 (Kakay 58, 6), Dunne 7, Sanderson 6, McCallum 6; Field 7, Dozzell 6 (Johansen 75, 5), Amos 6, Chair 7; Thomas 7 (Austin 71, 6), Dykes 6

Subs not used: Ball, Gray, Adomah, Mahoney

Goals: Amos 89 (assisted Dykes)

Bookings: Dozzell 59 (foul), Field 72 (foul)

Derby: Allsop 7; Byrne 6, Davies 7, Cashin 6, Buchanan 7 (Cybulksi 85, -); Bielik 6 (Morrison 64, 6), Thompson 6; Ebiowei 8, Lawrence 5, Knight 6 (Sibley 75, 6); Plange 6

Red Cards: Lawrence 90+8 (two yellows)

Bookings: Lawrence 56 (foul), Lawrence 90+8 (foul)

QPR Star Man — Ilias Chair 7 Between him and Jimmy Dunne, I just think over the last two matches Chair has been back to something approaching his best after a long lean spell, looking so good coming in from the left side and posing a significant and sustained attacking threat that we had been lacking.

Referee — Josh Smith (Lincs) 6 Rooney was absolutely fuming for most of the last half hour, engaged in the sort of constant berating of a fourth official that’s tolerated for reasons that are beyond me, even if it is Chuckles Woolmer on the receiving end. I’m not reeeeeeally sure why. Smith is an inexperienced referee, and that shows sometimes when he allows himself to be conned into awarding a free kick by an obvious dive, or issuing a card to assert authority when a little word on the run would suffice. But was he that bad here? Did he get that much wrong? Not for me.

Attendance 15,298 (2,200 Derby approx.) An away support every bit as impressive as the resistance and performance of their team against the odds this season. For those thousands of everyday Derby fans who didn’t troll along while Mel Morris’ was destroying their club, take comfort in our 2001-2004 spell in tier three which was actually the making of our club and team at that time. You can comeback much, much stronger than you go, if you get this right. Chris Kirchner being a real and genuine ‘fit and proper’ owner is the first step on that long road back.

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Antti_Heinola added 18:26 - Apr 19
Loved this - this was exactly me!
Give it to Dykes. GIVE IT TO AMOS.

Surely all these last minute goals started With Jamie Mackie though?

Northernr added 18:36 - Apr 19
I shall add it in, though it's outside of the timeframe.

Paddyhoops added 19:08 - Apr 19
Was looking at the Gaurdian comments section regarding the game. We had a Qpr fan who was reasonably gracious about Derby's demise while giving our lads a decent big up.
This prompted a tirade of Anti Qpr abuse from a derby fan.
Pointed out our discretions however what he failed to address was the amount still owed to us, the tax payer and various local business in Derby.
I could be wrong but I'm certain we left nobody out of pocket and at least had the funds to sort out our problems which Derby and Morris certainly didn't.
Correct me if I'm wrong.
On the Plange chance. From where I was sitting thought it was a bit of a dumb challenge from odabaju.
Certainly needless!!

Myke added 19:32 - Apr 19
Cheers Clive.

Marshy added 22:33 - Apr 19
Great report as always Clive. I must say that when we scored the very late goal I found the “it’s happened again” chant from our fans most amusing. However, I can well understand the frustration that Derby supporters must be feeling. The club will no doubt eventually get themselves out of this mire, but their fans are going to have to be very patient.

Warbs said In his after match chat, it was an ugly win. I would certainly take another 3 ugly wins. Play like we have in the last 2 matches, then the 9 points is certainly possible. Realistically though, it’s most likely that other results out of our control, will determine that we unfortunately miss out on our play off ambitious.

royinaus added 03:23 - Apr 20
They've done just enough to keep hope alive........

snanker added 07:03 - Apr 20
Informative write up as always thanks Clive. Just when my gut was settling down they reel you back in to tempt fate again and make you crawl outa bed at crazy hours 12k the other side of the planet to endure less kip and more angst ! It's worse now than ever after nearly 50 years of trying my patience !! Little sympathy for Rams. Will any FFA fine and penalty quids be as much as ours I wonder ?

thehat added 13:47 - Apr 20

Thanks Clive - Perfectly captured, really enjoyed the game and of course the late winner.

I think we are going to fall just short and our goal difference wont help either.

Dreadful run but I won't be too disappointed with another season in the Championship under Warburton's leadership.

Move a few on and and hopefully have the next Dieng, Dunne, Willock, Field lined up to replace.......

Andybrat added 14:04 - Apr 20
Love the legs comments. Thomas was a glorious pain. Basically need a legs 11 for the final 3 games.

toboboly added 14:52 - Apr 20
You can also add Southampton, Norwich and Blackburn into that League 1 recent past whom are all bigger than Derby in terms of recent success.

Good write up Clive, they can't possibly come good now, can they...?

W7Ranger added 16:29 - Apr 20
Man City were also in the 3rd tier not so long ago. Needed an extra time win in the play offs v Gillingham to go up. What ever happened to them?

TacticalR added 13:25 - Apr 23
Thanks for your report (and at last there is something positive to report).

Some things to cling to. Chair is back. Dykes is winning some headers and helped make the goal with his assist. Amos kept a cool head for his goal and nearly scored another goal early on.

Even though the win was much needed, perhaps we shouldn't read too much into it. We had enough to beat Derby, but the play-offs are a different matter.

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