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As good as we've got? Report
Thursday, 5th Oct 2023 22:52 by Clive Whittingham

QPR suffered an all-too-predictable defeat at freshly relegated Leeds on Wednesday night, going down to a single entirely self inflicted goal and suffering another refereeing calamity into the bargain.

Choose your fighter.

Perhaps, for you, it was Kenneth Paal being penalised for two foul throws in the same game. He was lucky the referee was as terminally incompetent as David Webb because there was definitely a third that should have been called as well, and as I understand it any side that commits three foul throws in the same game is immediately liquidated and has to restart again as a phoenix club for whom Chessington becomes a league fixture rather than a world of adventures.

Let’s stick with the throw-ins for the moment... Perhaps it was Albert Adomah’s “long throw” in the second half. Like Mr Burns trying to cob a bowling ball, distance to be measured in inches rather than feet. A long throw is something footballers either have, or do not have. It’s not a skill you can imbue a player with simply through wishful thinking. You cannot make it true, simply by willing it to be so. And yet, time and time and time again, QPR trundled a couple of centre backs up the pitch into the penalty box to prepare for a long throw none of our players possess, all colluding in the illusion it's got a snowball's chance in hell of reaching the heart of the penalty box. If it was a ploy to trick Leeds into dropping deep, for us to throw short and then cross into a packed penalty area, then I’d understand, but it’s not. They genuinely follow through with it. And we have to stand there, surrounded by 30,000 guffawing Leeds fans, profoundly embarrassed as Albert lets out a little puff of air with all the effort it’s taken for him to throw a fucking football barely past the end of his knob. Please stop humiliating us like this. Please. Ziyad Larkeche came on late in the day and, spoiler alert, he doesn’t have a long throw either, but his pleas for players to offer a short option fell on deaf ears. Whether you’ve got one or not mate doesn’t matter, we’re doing it, get it thrown. Maybe just chuck it in overarm with one hand, that’s what Kenneth’s doing over the other side.

Perhaps Osman Kakay was your favourite. Certainly not for his performance – Summerville and particularly Jaidon Anthony repeatedly targeting him was like watching a lion try to rape a sheep, and brought really quite cruel outcomes that were difficult to watch on a human level until his wild hack and yellow card saw Ainsworth finally pull the plug on a brutal night. But you may have enjoyed his second half free kick, on the halfway line, a chance to put a ball into the Leeds box that we left him to take despite that obviously being a really stupid idea, and him repeatedly gesticulating and saying it was a really stupid idea. Eventually, after an imponderable time, he played it hard, low, square, and wildly in the direction of Andre Dozzell who was, needless to say, not expecting the ball, nor even looking in the same direction as it, and seemed mighty surprised by its arrival. It's clearly been a big old week of set pieces at the shiny new training ground.

Personally I enjoyed them spending five minutes running Jimmy Dunne through a ring binder of charts, diagrams and tactical plans – like taking Father Dougal through the Magna Carta – only to then bring him on at… right back in a 4-4-2. Fuck me, no wonder it required some explaining.

Even this was then all surpassed right at the death when, having spent all our substitutions and then had the goalkeeper sent off for some nonsense we’ll come onto, we elected to put our centre forward between the sticks for the stoppage time while losing the game 1-0. Lyndon Dykes had actually almost scored a moment before with our one and only chance of the night - seizing on a loose ball in a penalty box scramble at full stretch and forcing a brave block from home keeper Meslier - but we then left ourselves to chase a 1-0 deficit through eight minutes added on with the striker in goal. When awarded a last gasp free kick and chance to put the ball in the box, Adomah was – genuinely, genuinely – signalling for Dykes to go up for it while he stayed back to cover. Which rather begs the question whether Adomah, or any of these other goons, could perhaps have worn the gloves for five minutes to leave our only senior striker up front while trying to score an equaliser?

It would be comedic if we weren’t so invested. I’d laugh if I hadn’t spent 16 of the last 36 hours on the M1. It’d be funny if it weren’t so sad. If Fred Karno’s Army was, in fact, a football team.

You may think this harsh, given who we were playing, where we were playing them, and the respective situations the clubs find themselves in financially and player roster wise. Perhaps my thoughts have indeed been coloured by wasting two days of my life enjoying what our government describes as the “freedom and independence” that comes with being a motorist in this festering shithole of a country.

I am not unaware. I promise. In many ways this game was a microcosm of our entire season – QPR woefully underfunded and underequipped to tackle an apparently herculean task on paper, asked to go out there and give it their best swing, then we criticise them and the manager when they come up short (and in this case it was just a single goal short). Dykes scores at the death, we take a point, the away end erupts in a flailing mass of die-hards, everybody comes away happy. Playing ten men, Leeds ended up wasting time in the corners to try and run the clock down. In the first half in particular that really became rather the point.

Leeds are far from infallible. This is the Championship, not Serie A circa 93/94. Three other teams have managed to get out of here with a draw already, including the hapless basement club Sheff Wed – one of only two points they’ve won. Leeds did not play well in this game. Bar odd notable exceptions – Pascal Struijk looked quite composed at the back against limited opposition, Alfie Gray and Ethan Ampadu is a very classy and exciting young pair in midfield, Summerville and Anthony made hay from Osman Kakay’s hair – Leeds weren’t very good. Off the back of a weekend loss at Southampton and with an expectant home crowd in attendance they looked nervous, disjointed, and often quite dull. Daniel Farke lapped the pitch at full time trying to get the little three cheers celebration he used to do at Norwich going, only to find everybody had already long since gone home in a bored stupor.

And yet there were QPR, who are not a small or insignificant club whatever we’re currently being pressed into accepting at the moment, basically acting like it was just a bit of a privilege to be there, and what do you really expect other than a swiftly delivered defeat and a long trip back home? Lacking bravery and ability on the ball, they struggled to even knock simple ten yard passes to each other with any degree of precision or control. For all the stick Andre Dozzell gets he is at least capable of playing an accurate pass at pace, or controlling one should it ever arrive to him the other way, and we improved a bit for him coming on at half time. We played in a frankly bizarre shape, with Lyndon Dykes mostly wide on the right and Ilias Chair dropping deep back into his own half to try and either hit him in the air or Armstrong in behind with long balls. We basically spent the night turning one channel ball after another in behind a full back for either Dykes to flick on, Armstrong to charge after, or a combination of both – a tactic that succeeded once in the first half when Armstrong crossed through an entirely unpopulated penalty box, and once in the second which resulted in a throw in by the corner flag which… Albert Adomah took. Do the players want to play like this?

The plan, if we’re being sympathetic, seemed to be to try and hang in the game and keep the score within reach so we could chuck stuff at them in the final ten minutes. More unkindly, at times it appeared we were trying to make Leeds think this was so embarrassingly piss easy that they would get bored, clock off, and do something stupid to themselves. I guess the team and its manager were one late Dykes miss away from both being true and whatever weirdness they were trying to pull off here being vindicated. But it was a gruelling watch, and some of the stuff we did was at times really quite embarrassing. Like a pub team that’s accidentally got itself promoted a bit above its level and the regulars are now muttering about how serious it's all got and how they “didn’t get into it for this”.

Leeds opened the scoring, and as we know QPR have recovered only two points from the 14 occasions they’ve gone behind under Gareth Ainsworth so we were well aware that was more than likely the game over after eight minutes. Osman Kakay’s pass to Paul Smyth had a flashing blue light on it. Smyth, instead of letting it roll out (some replays suggest it might actually have done so), retrieved a hopeless situation and returned the post to sender. That was enough to split the defence entirely and Rutter calmly played Summerville in for 1-0. Rutter cost this lot £25m, everybody on the Leeds bench would be our best player, like I say I’m not unaware of the task at hand, but what on earth are we doing out there in all seriousness? Keep it tight early lads, eh? School for the gifted.

We’ll list the other Leeds chances now – contractual obligations and all that. Rodon piled in over the top of Kakay at a twelfth minute corner and somehow contrived to plant his diving header wide. Should have been two nil with the time barely into double figures. Summerville’s shot from point blank range, after the targeting of the Smyth-Kakay corridor by Anthony minted more silver platters for Leeds strikers, struck Jake Clarke-Salter and bounced away when the QPR centre back knew nothing of what had occurred. Struijk headed that corner over. The visitors did give a bit of a better account in the second half, and there was a brief flurry of end to end action to loosen arteries thickened by a bracing first 45, but the only reason Rangers were in touch by the closing stages was Asmir Begovic saving first from sub Patrick Bamford at the near post on a counter attack, then a deflected strike by Dan James, then another Bamford effort. When the Bosnian was finally beaten Struijk blazed a glorious chance high over the bar from no distance at all after Rodon met the corner firmly and the ball fell loose to his centre back partner. I repeat, this was all with Leeds rather going through the motions in second gear. The R's had one shot from 20 yards by Ilias Chair which dribbled through to Meslier.

There was, as there had been against Swansea and Coventry, an incredibly poor refereeing decision still to come. Rangers had won one of 11 games with Durham-based gnome David Webb prior to kick off, and in the first half Leeds enjoyed a nice swift counter attack through a yawning chasm in the visiting midfield caused by him obstructing Sam Field from chasing back and then getting angry with the midfielder for complaining about that. Four minutes from time, trailing 1-0, Lyndon Dykes was fouled right on the edge of the box for a very presentable free kick which could have been a shot, or a dangerous ball into the area. Webb waved an advantage, with QPR now in possession, outnumbered, wide on the touchline. He knew, within a second, he’d made an error, putting his head on one side and cursing himself, but didn’t go back to award the free kick then, or two seconds later when Adomah predictably gave the ball away.

Then, in stoppage time, Patrick Bamford pushed a bouncing ball through a gap in the defence towards the area, Begovic lunged towards him, the Leeds man collapsed in a heap, and Webb awarded a free kick and sent the goalkeeper off. Cue an absolute melee as Begovic tried to get at the referee and then the Leeds striker, full in the knowledge the replay would duly show he didn’t go anywhere near him and Bamford, as he is rather prone to do, had cheated to get him sent off. Given Bamford’s finishing ability you can see why he’d rather hit the deck than go through on an open goal, and I think there’s a debate to be had about whether anything could be deemed a “clear goalscoring opportunity” when it’s that chinless toff on the end of it, but it certainly wasn’t a foul, never mind a red card. Bamford, predictably, took the opportunity of a free hit at makeshift goalkeeper Lyndon Dykes from 18 yards and stuck it straight into the wall. As against Coventry it gave manager, players and staff a chance to talk about a referee afterwards, rather than their own failings.

The game had been lost before this, by QPR. The red card will surely be overturned on Friday, but let’s be really honest here it’s a curious bit of decision making from Begovic and a bit of a mad tackle that only failed to connect with Bamford through luck rather than judgement. That faith in this group of ageing senior players to galvanise our bedraggled, beleaguered team all the way through a long winter, with help from this expert new sport science department, already looks like going into the second Saturday of October with Colback (sat down in the first half, went off at the break) and Cook (sat down in the second half, didn’t make full time) joining Morgan Fox on the sideline for Saturday and Begovic potentially suspended. Even Field’s weekly yellow card felt a bit lazy, half-arsed and unnecessary, particularly when he must have known he was one away from a ban.

I don’t know lads… I’m completely aware of our FFP situation, the horrendous stuff Gareth inherited, the lack of resources to do anything about that, the laughable disparity in what Leeds have at their disposal player and finance wise versus ourselves… I knew this season would be like this, I know this is actually an improvement on what went on in the second half of 22/23, and I didn’t really expect anything else – this was actually substantially better than I thought it would be on Wednesday night. I know exactly what I’d have been sitting here writing had Dykes equalised when he easily could have done – it would have been all euphoric and talking about dope roping and picking out which fat mess in the home end I enjoyed losing his shit the most. I expected nothing. Technically we were competitive. They did just enough to win, we did just enough to lose.

But, when we’re not even capable of completing simple passes, or taking a bloody throw in legally… and I’m looking at us thinking I can’t really tell what the shape is here, or the plan, or the big idea. And we’re talking about pride and progress because we’ve only lost 1-0 to a Leeds team in second gear when, hey, we all thought we were going to get trounced… It’s just all so unutterably bleak to me. At least give yourself a chance by doing the fundamental basics of the sport when you’ve got the ball, no?

Saturday against Blackburn, with key players now set to be missing, looms very large in the context of this season.

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

Leeds: Meslier 6; Ayling 4, Rodon 6, Struijk 7, Byram 6; Gray 7, Ampadu 7; Summerville 7 (Poveda 80, -), Piroe 5 (Bamford 65, 5), Anthony 7 (James 65, 6); Rutter 6 (Cresswell 90+11, -)

Subs Not Used: Cooper, Kamara, Darlow, Gelhardt, Gruev

Goals: Summerville 9 (assisted Rutter)

QPR: Begovic 6; Kakay 3 (Dunne 73, 5), Cook 5 (Larkeche 84, -), Clarke-Salter 6; Smyth 4 (Adomah 46, 4), Colback 4 (Dozzell 46, 5), Field 5, Paal 5; Dykes 5, Chair 5, Armstrong 4 (Kolli 78, 5)

Subs not used: Archer, Dixon-Bonner, Duke-Mckenna, Kelman

Red Cards: Begovic 90+3 (professional foul)

Yellow Cards: Field 26 (foul), Kakay 69 (foul)

QPR Star Man – Jake Clarke-Salter 6 I don’t know, maybe? At least looked like he felt he belonged on the same pitch as the opposition.

Referee – David Webb (Durham) 3 With the money washing around the sport in this country - which could be used for handsome pay packets, recruitment drives and training to grow the talent pool of officials - it is disgraceful that gormless 4ft pissmonkeys like this are officiating as high as the second tier. This is the best we’ve got is it? This guy? This guy?

Attendance – 32,663 (713 QPR) At £45 a ticket, this distance, midweek, train strikes, to watch this team, play like this, that away following is remarkable.

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Pictures — Ian Randall Photography

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Clive Whittingham

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gazza1 added 09:01 - Oct 6
They cant even pass a ball from A to B.....I could not believe it, its shocking. It was a dire performance indeed and some of the stuff that went on by the players were 'proper, proper' poor. Leeds were 'bang' average too. Best player, Clark-Salter, was a main failure in the Leeds goal, he 'ball watched' and came across to the right far too much and gave the attacker so much time & space to slot home. His positioning was 'piss poor'. I am not a particular fan of VAR but at least it assists officials on tight calls (not always byt often more than not), and, heck, they need help a lot of the time.

LLoydy added 09:53 - Oct 6
it's rare for me to comment on the star man award but each and every one of the 713 that made the trip in the middle of the week at £45 a pop deserves it this week.

Burnleyhoop added 11:31 - Oct 6
No getting away from that performance, clueless pub team shenanigans all day long. Brilliant report, could laugh and cry in equal measure, just bizarre.

Blackburn tomorrow with key players missing. Back to betting on QPR defeats I'm afraid.

LazyFan added 12:43 - Oct 6
JCS should get a 5, as was previously said, he did not pick up his man when Leeds scored.

You say when we lose, no one should get a 7. But here we lose and no one plays well against a team who really were poor themselves. Begovic kept the score down so only he should have got 6 and the sending-off was not his fault.

Northernr added 13:18 - Oct 6
After 16 hours on the M1 you can only imagine how little of a toss I gave about whether Jake Clarke-Salter was a 5 or a 6.

stainrodnee added 15:24 - Oct 6
Thanks Clive yet again for hitting the nail on the head. I find it depressing enough going to all the home games so bow down to all of you putting up with it away week after week.

In the decision to rescind Begovic’s red card, why wasn’t Bamford then awarded a yellow for diving?

Northernr added 16:01 - Oct 6
Well I guess that could still happen, but the decision to overturn Begovic's red was a very simple one that needed to be made before Saturday and could be, whereas if they charge Bamford with deceiving the referee (which they should IMO) then Leeds will certainly demand a hearing and fight it which takes more time. May still happen in the next week or so, and like I say IMO they should because it's blatant and he's got form for it.

Scarecrow added 19:12 - Oct 6
Well done Clive bang on report
Amongst the waif of despondancey, were so lucky to have your upbracing humour within your scripts and Dave Thomas with AKUTRS. I am always the optimist QPR Wise, but bloody hell, we are all wearing thin and looking for a consistant turn of form at HOME and away.
Watching it on QPRplus Wed night, started ok, crazy pass, but then stayed off leeds team in first half.? Cant quite get my head around it. Hey we move on, Urs.

TacticalR added 12:34 - Oct 7
Thanks for your report.

We are so terrible to watch. As you said in your Coventry report: 'there are no goals in this team'. On top of that we are not doing the basics. Our throw-ins are poor. Our passing is poor, on top of which we try ill-judged longer passes because the players are too far apart, because we are not moving forward as a team.

It is quite worrying that the experienced players Ainsworth has brought in are limping off. In particular we need Colback's nous. It would be a great irony if Ainsworth's cohort disappeared through injury whereas last season the Beale cohort disappeared through lack of commitment. Talking of the Beale cohort, I was not impressed with Clarke-Salter waving his hands and shouting to distract from his own shortcomings.

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