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Queens Park Rangers 1 v 1 Swansea City
SkyBet Championship
Tuesday, 19th September 2023 Kick-off 19:45
Clunky QPR left to settle for Swans stalemate - Report
Wednesday, 20th Sep 2023 22:41 by Clive Whittingham

Lyndon Dykes scored a spectacular late header for a rare goal at the Loft End, but it was only enough for a point in an eminently winnable home match against a poor Swansea side on Tuesday night.

When Queens Park Rangers finished ninth in the Championship in 2020/21 it was seen as a success and cause for immense optimism going into the following campaign. When they finished eleventh a year later it was seen as a disaster worthy of changing the manager. Two places different in a 24-team league. Expectation can be a powerful thing in football.

The expectation this year is QPR would be little more than cannon fodder for the rest of the Championship. Some idiot scum struggling to string two passes together for a manager dressed as a midlife crisis while all the proper football teams calmly waltz through and run up rugby scores. When Watford scored from QPR’s kick off on the opening day, and ran up four without reply before half time, there was anger, dissent, frustration, resignation, but not one single ounce of surprise. That’s what it was meant to look like. That’s what we had come to expect.

And so when Rangers subsequently started knocking the ball around a little bit, scoring the occasional goal, and not disgracing themselves, there were pleasant murmuring sounds from a long suffering support base.

A defeat, at home to Norwich, in the cup, but a young team showing occasional bits and pieces. A defeat, at home to Ipswich, in the league, but did you see Illy nearly chip the goalkeeper from the halfway line? A defeat, at home to Sunderland, in the league, but how can you be expected to play 70 minutes against that team, in that heat, with ten men? A defeat, at Southampton, in the league, but would all have been so very, very different had a catalogue of chances been taken at 1-1. When Rangers clung grimly on to a 2-1 win at Cardiff City, an actual win, and followed it with another at Middlesbrough, the place was in raptures, and never mind how good Cardiff may or may not be and how Boro are bottom of the league with two points.

The expectation was we’d have no points at all, and here we are sitting with six like an absolute stud. The fans forum on Monday was conducted in an atmosphere so positively sanguine I had to double check my Google Maps to see if I’d fallen asleep on the Central Line and ridden the bloody thing all the way to Ipswich Town by mistake. Was this really the club I follow, that put its season ticket (and everything else besides) prices up in the middle of a near year-long run of one win from 18 home matches? Iain Dowie got the sack here once for only winning eight of his first 15 games and getting through to the fourth round of the League Cup.

I wonder aloud whether such a forum held even a week later would have rather a different tone should the team lose again to a Birmingham City team impressively managed by the same John Eustace we binned off and didn’t want any more, and particularly Swansea City at home on Tuesday. Fresh from a deserved defeat to Cardiff in the South Wales derby, there have been rumblings in the valleys that Michael Duff’s summer arrival from Barnsley may have been a misjudgement. No wins, and just two points, in the league so far, they arrived in W12 on a run of four straight defeats, and they’d blown leads in three of those matches. Losing to the neighbours in that part of the world really accelerates criticism and ill-feeling and “perhaps he’s the wrong man” has quickly morphed into “get out of our club” over the course of the week.

For the first time this year, QPR were expected to win. And my don’t we know from experience how problematic that can be. Frequently it looks exactly like the first five or six minutes did here, with Swansea fast out of the traps in a high press, and QPR rather caught in the headlights while lackadaisically rolling the ball backwards and forwards between each other waiting for the inevitable goals and glory to present themselves. Without the suspended Jack Colback there was a Hammersmith Flyover of space between QPR’s defence and midfield, into which Jamie Paterson settled into an early revel. They should have scored after four minutes when Paterson shot wide after Josh Key had reached the byline and cut back – a good chance – and then did so on six minutes when Morgan Fox losing a header in the left channel was enough to spark a complete meltdown of the defence and Begovic’s attempt to parry away a low cross was then batter back into the empty net by Josh Ginnelly with his hand.

Not the decision debutant Championship referee Andrew Kitchen needed this early into his second tier bow, and not the night to team him with linesman Bhupinder Gil who could scarcely have done a worse job running the Ellerslie Road side of the ground had he stuffed the flag up his arse and waddled about like a duck for the duration. Both of them, somehow, missed this most basic of calls and allowed the goal to stand. Staggeringly inept.

Now you do have a problem. Up until Saturday, and Colback’s brain explosion, QPR have been fairly immaculate when scoring first under Gareth Ainsworth – five wins and a draw. But on the 14 occasions they’ve fallen behind since this manager took over the team has recovered just a solitary point, last Easter at West Brom.

A prolonged period of huffing and puffing began. Ilias Chair dribbled the ball into the area then waited for a touch and a chance to go down – Swansea behaved themselves long enough for him to run out of pitch. Sinclair Armstrong, who’d been happily grazing the grounds of Macauley Bonne’s gaff in Offsideville to this point, had become so used to the flag going up against him that when Andre Dozzell cutely found him in the area with an incisive through ball he just assumed it would be pulled up and had a lazy, half-hearted swing at the ball sending it high over the bar. In fact, this time, he was on, and had just skied a sitter into the away end. Paul Smyth had the beating of his full back all evening, doing so once for a low cross cleared out from beneath the bar as Armstrong loitered, and then again for a shot of his own over the top.

Swansea offered next to nothing at all, and still should have scored a second – a nice move just before half time and a smart Begovic save to deny Lowe what felt like an inevitable goal. Mostly the Swans seemed keen to take further advantage of the rookie referee by running the clock in exactly the way we’ve been told will be clamped down on with large chunks of stoppage time and yellow cards this season but, needless to say, was not. When Josh Key finally, finally ended a ten minute spell in which he’d been up and down more than Russell Brand’s skinny jeans by going off, he decided he was going to walk the long way across the field, with the referee’s blessing, until an exasperated Sam Field came and physically carted him off the other way, doing the referee’s job for him. You’ll do for me Sam.

What stoppage time we did get in the first half was mostly spent trying to turn the sprinklers off. Smallest big club and biggest small club in the country.

With Colback out I was pretty surprised we didn’t start Dykes behind Armstrong in the system that worked so well without the ginger veteran at Cardiff. I was even more astonished Dykes didn’t come on at half time to chase the game. The decision to start Chris Willock instead... not a conspicuous success. A shadow of the player from this time last year. On we went regardless and to be fair could and should have scored twice in the first minute – Smyth’s point blank header was brilliantly saved when it had to be scored (though, typically, international year of the wally brain on the far side had read up on the offside law over half time and was suddenly flagging things like that when he hadn’t for Swansea) and then the Northern Irishman skinned his fullback again and put in a great cross which Chair made a hash of at the near post.

Rocks and diamonds. Rocks and diamonds everywhere. At one point Osman Kakay pulled a ball out of the air with a first touch that would have made Dennis Bergkamp’s scrotum twitch, then with his second touch accidentally punted the thing 15 yards away, and with his third rescued that situation tight to the byline with a big run and tackle. That’s Kakay, in general, and he was rescued from a terrible back header by Morgan Fox’s intervention – the first positive input he’d had on the evening. But it was also QPR on the night. Smyth, so lively and effective, suddenly got in a crossing position on the Ellerslie Road side and planted it firmly into the South Africa Road stand. Chair delayed one attack to the frustrated ire of the crowd one minute, and then played a beautifully deft ball to set Sam Field away down the left the minute. Dozzell’s through ball for Armstrong in the first half was inch perfect, some of the other stuff he did was amateur hour.

It became an incredibly frustrating watch against an opponent that hadn’t been much good to begin with, and was now getting considerably worse by the minute. Dykes did eventually join the game, and the theme of brilliance on minute followed by ineptitude the next. Field, Chair and Smyth each in turn put in absolutely sublime crosses from wide, right into the heart of the goal mouth with Rushworth stuck on his line, and Dykes was on his heels for each of them in turn. There’s much talk about how we don’t play to his strengths, utilise him and service him as well as Scotland do, and Ainsworth has made a big play of trying to change that. Well here was exactly the sort of service you’d think he’d want, and still nah, didn’t like that one either. What service does he want if it’s not this? It’s not going to suck itself Lyndon, get in there.

And then, typical of him, and of this game, and of this site, just as we’d finished that rant he got across the front of Cabango to attack a low, inswinging ball across from Chair, launched himself full length, arched his back and angled his head to perfection, and sent a scorching diving header past Rushworth and into the corner for a spectacular equaliser. A brilliant goal, entirely out of keeping with a desperately low quality affair. A goal. At the Loft End. A first in ten games and just shy of 1,000 minutes of football. Print it out for Joan.

Swansea looked and felt like us under Neil Critchley – a team of players not having their new manager, and not too bothered if this game went the other way in order to expediate his exit. Like we saw in a couple of Critchley games, the closing stages were spent by several Swans making obviously ridiculous tackles almost as if they were deliberately trying to Joel Lynch the whole thing with a nice timely ban. Olly Cooper won the top prize – two yellow cards within a minute of each other deep into stoppage time, each tackle more ludicrous than the last.

Which makes it difficult to get too excited about only taking a point from the game. They kept at it, you’ve got to give them that, but I suspect we’ll be waiting a while to face an opponent as poor as that again, and we’ve got to take opportunities like that put points on the board when they present themselves this season. For the most part we weren’t able to reach the levels we had not only in the wins against Cardiff and Boro, but also in the defeats to Ipswich and Southampton – had we done so, we’d have won. There were good individual performances from Paal (who I think is playing well and stopped a Leicester at Southampton style breakaway from one of our corners with a great piece of play under heavy pressure in the second half), Field, Chair and Smyth. We recovered a point from a losing position – not to be sniffed at given our record. We scored a goal at the Loft End – again, don’t knock it. But it’s now one win in 19 games at Loftus Road, and we weren’t at the level here to boost that run with a much needed victory that was really there for the taking. It was, overall, a desperately poor quality game for second tier football.

But, then, perhaps it’s my fault for getting my expectations up.

Links >>> Ratings and Reports >>> Message board match thread

QPR: Begovic 5; Kakay 5, Cook 5, Fox 4; Smyth 6 (Kolli 87, -), Dozzell 5, Field 6, Paal 6; Willock 4 (Kelman 73, 5), Armstrong 5 (Dykes 61, 6), Chair 6

Subs not used: Clarke-Salter, Dixon-Bonner, Larkeche, Duke-McKenna, Walsh, Adomah

Goals: Dykes 90+2 (assisted Chair)

Yellow Cards: Kakay 67 (foul)

Swansea: Rushworth 5; Cabango 5, Wood 5, Humphreys 5; Key 6, (Tymon 34, 5), Fulton 6, Grimes 6, Lowe 5 (Kukharevych 73, 5), Ginnelly 5 (Cooper 73, 3); Cullen 4 (Yates 58, 4), Paterson 6

Subs not used: Fisher, Pedersen, Darling, Patino, Ashby

Goals: Ginnelly 7 (unassisted)

Red Cards: Cooper 90+8 (two bookings)

Yellow Cards: Wood 5 (foul), Cooper 90+7 (foul), Cooper 90+8 (foul)

QPR Star Man – Ilias Chair 6 I actually came away minded that Paal, Field and Smyth were the top men, but with the late assist and a chunk of the vote on both our interactive ratings and the club’s man of the match vote everybody else has gone for Chair so I’ll bow to that.

Referee – Andrew Kitchen (Durham) 5 I actually feel a little bit sorry for him. The Swansea goal, five minutes into his Championship debut, is a blatant handball. How he hasn’t seen it, I don’t know, but you can only give what you see and if, for whatever reason, he’s unsighted or missed it or whatever, then an experienced linesman on the far side has to help out. You would think his assistants and fourth would have been picked to help get him through this first night unscathed, and unfortunately Bhupinder Gill on the far side was an absolute hindrance to him all night. Between them they botched that relatively simple decision. He actually refereed most of the rest of it quite well, but you can’t be giving a high mark when they’ve allowed a goal that a geezer has batted in with his hand.

Attendance 13,367 (600 Swansea approx.) Well, that’s the reported figure anyway.

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gazza1 added 08:26 - Sep 21
I think Chair edged MoM, he worked his socks off all night, he did not hide for one minute, sent a few good crosses in with the last an assist, a committed Ranger. Agree the Field, Paal & Smith were our better players too. Perhaps I'm going soft but I think a couple of them, one being Kakay, deserved a bit better mark. As for Kellman, did very little at all - not sure that he is good enough!!! Tough to mark players Norf and always going to be questioned.

A game we should have won, for sure, we just got to start being more clinical in the final 3rd. Well done to LD, smart header.

R_in_Sweden added 09:28 - Sep 21
Anybody disputing the player ratings on this excellent website ought to take a look at West London Sport’s ratings efter a game, they seem to have been drawn out of hat.

Geoff78 added 09:41 - Sep 21
I agree Chair as MotM. Sitting in the upper Loft behind the goal I didn't see the handball for the Swansea goal so maybe it was difficult for the Ref and lino to spot.

I thought there were glimmers of Willock getting into the game. For whatever reason he looks as though he's been through a really difficult time and hopefully the arm around the shoulder and some managerial love will do the trick.

hoops_legend added 10:29 - Sep 21
I think we let ref get off lightly but hey this is QPR we are used to failure

You hit nail on head with the game being frustrating and did not expect that beautiful equaliser, chair is very very good

Marshy added 14:17 - Sep 21
I took away more positives than negatives from this game than some. Since Gareth has come in there does seem to be more belief and tenacity in this team. They do seem a lot fitter than they were, and some of the link up play has been pretty good. It was unfortunate that the handball goal wasn’t spotted, and on another day we would have come away with the 3 points. Chair’s overall work rate is to be applauded, and Smyth coming back to us was a great bit of business. If we can just get a bit more service into the box with players being quicker to getting in there, and taking up better positions, then I’m convinced we’ll get more goals.

Match82 added 18:42 - Sep 21
The strange thing to me was that once we got the equalizer we didn't seem all that interested in getting a winner. Couple of times we were standing in front of the ball trying to delay them taking a quick free kick, shocking as they had no intention of going for a winner themselves, surprised we settled.

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