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Ipswich Town 0 v 0 Queens Park Rangers
SkyBet Championship
Friday, 29th December 2023 Kick-off 19:45
He said he’s changed, mum – Report
Saturday, 30th Dec 2023 20:11 by Clive Whittingham

After Boxing Day’s debacle at Millwall, QPR looked on an absolute hiding to nothing at Ipswich on Friday night – but, lo, they can play football after all.

You can’t beat a good family row at Christmas. Not since LFW Jnr bought mother a cheap Argos ironing board cover, stayed in bed sleeping off a hangover until mid-afternoon on the big day, then told her she could fish it out the bottom of his wardrobe herself if she wanted it, has there been a mushroom cloud go up quite like the one ignited by the piss rank nonsense Queens Park Rangers served up at Millwall on Boxing Day.

A shameful and shambolic display, in equal parts disgusting and disgraceful, leaving the hapless Rangers once more stranded five points from shore. The fine work early in Marti Cifuentes’ reign to move back into survival contention largely undone; the teams reeled in by a surprise sequence of three consecutive wins mostly disappeared back off into the distance; another chance to drag one of the lower midtable outfits firmly into the shitstorm spurned.

The penultimate game in a 2023 which has seen QPR lose 28 of their 47 games played and win just eight was, for many of the most faithful among the faithful, a final straw. They have inflicted performances like that, results like that and days like that on the ever-presents once too often. In London derbies, in winnable matches, in vital games against opponents near us on the league ladder, they have served us slop and expected us to swallow it. Frequently these showings have come immediately after better efforts against better opposition. ‘Play like that next week and we’ll be ok’, we tell ourselves. They never do.

The top four in this league is currently Leicester, Ipswich, Leeds and Southampton. QPR lost all four of the first meetings by a single goal, and in three of the games gave a relatively good account of themselves – after Southampton they even went and won at Middlesbrough. They followed each in turn with some of their worst: a 3-1 home loss to Sunderland, a 4-0 home defeat to Blackburn, a draw at rock bottom Rotherham, and now El Crapico away to an almost equally dreadful Millwall.

Patience well and truly snapped, it’s not me it’s you.

Well, you only have to turn Eastenders on each Christmas to see Sharon still passing Walford’s most-haggard vagina around into its 56th year, or remember how many times Barnet have re-appointed Martin Allen, to know they all come crawling back eventually. Or, in our case, three days later. The thick end of 1,700 QPR fans battling rail-replacement bus services and post-Christmas poverty to embark on an apparent hiding-to-nothing at this season’s Championship feel-good story Ipswich Town. He said he’s changed this time, mum. By contrast, the Tractor Boys’ remarkable 2023 has seen them win 33 games, draw 14, and lose only six of 53. They have scored 116 (one hundred and sixteen) goals in the process. Alright lads, put it away. Swinging it around like that, no need. What on earth would QPR do with this? Last chance now. I mean it (he doesn’t mean it).

Answer – exactly what you suspected they might do. Suddenly, it turns out, QPR can play a bit. They can pass the ball, positively, in a forward direction. They can press high, together, as a unit. They can carry out instruction, stay in shape, and communicate with each other. They can work hard, and run, and commit. They can tackle people, and head it, and pick up second balls, all without exploding into a thousand pieces. No need to just wave your hands in the air and blame everybody else, just get on and do it. Who knew? This is why I went so hot and heavy on the mental weakness of this team in the match preview, as much as its chronic lack of ability – this is only the Championship, and this lot can do it if they put their minds to it, but all-too-frequently their brains are in the bin.

After two minutes the recalled Sinclair Armstrong backed into centre back Luke Woolfenden, turned him, accelerated, and wrestled him all the way to the penalty box for a QPR corner kick. In two minutes the Irish youth international had already surpassed Lyndon Dykes’ entire 90 minute input at The Den. Later, in the second half, Armstrong got away into that channel again, break-out star keeper Vaclav Hladky strayed miles and miles from his goalline, and the QPR striker couldn’t either lift the ball towards the open goal nor draw a foul and red card. When he did get on the ball, Armstrong frequently picked the wrong option, gave it away, lost out to defenders. With all his raw attributes, it’s a real shame he’s got a touch like my shed. But he also caused Woolfenden and partner Cameron Burgess problems all night long. Twice Hladky had to save from him at the near post. You can be effective in this league despite limited ability, Lyndon. Here was how.

QPR wasted that corner, and most of their others, as we’ve become sadly accustomed too, but when Kenneth Paal did get a rare one right, on the half hour, Steve Cook’s flicked header sailed over Hladky, down towards the far bottom corner, off the inside of the post, all the way along the goalline, and back out into play. Fuck off, will you please.

Second half, Rangers went at their task with the same vigour, but also more belief.

Socks rolled down so we can all see his leg tattoo, shorts two sizes too small, designer swept fringe, it’s fair to say Town right back I’m On Loan From The Manchester United Brandon Williams probably fancies himself a tiny bit. Certainly a good deal more than somebody who can’t get in this Man Utd team should do. Ilias Chair caught him gazing at his own reflection ten minutes into the half, backed him up into his own corner, refused to give him the cheap foul he was desperately hoping for, had him sweating like Fred West on Time Team, then took the ball off him and delivered a good back post cross we should have done more with.

Miracle working home manager Kieran McKenna then hooked Williams, which was a real shame, but Andre Dozzell, back on familiar ground and another chalk and cheese performance from three days prior, was immediately freed in behind his replacement Harry Clarke. His first-time centre surely, surely had to be converted into the empty net by Paul Smyth, regardless of whether Hladky got a touch to the ball first or not. You have to anticipate that and score. When you create chances as seldom as QPR, this counts as a sitter. It had to be one nil at that point.

It is worth pointing out that these improvements are always likely to come about whenever Marti Cifuentes can get a version of this team onto the pitch. Reggie Cannon at right back and Steve Cook at centre half is such a cataclysmic improvement on the Osman Kakay and Jimmy Dunne house of horrors we suffered on Tuesday it’s difficult to believe the four of them are playing the same sport. Sinclair’s pace and physicality was an enormous step change from whatever the fucking fuck Big Lyndon thought he was up to earlier in the week. Illy and Willy were back together. Elijah Dixon-Bonner was here providing exactly the bravery to take the ball in tight spots and move it forwards with purpose we’d been so sadly lacking in midfield. Cifuentes is not an idiot, he knows this is close to his best team, and his best back four in particular. He’s not picking Osman Kakay as a favour to the boy’s family, or Jimmy Dunne out of rank stubbornness. The physical condition of our squad has necessitated the changes in recent weeks and, as if that needed illustrating further, by the end of this one he’d lost Steve Cook to injury, a pretty disinterested Chris Willock to a knock sustained by a ball hitting him while desperately trying not to block a cross, Ilias Chair to what I’m really hoping looked like merely cramp in the back of his knees, and Cannon and Field also looked to be struggling. You’d have a better chance playing pick-up-sticks with your arse cheeks than taking on Cardiff on Monday without those five.

Ipswich, by contrast, had a severely weakened team out. XL Bully Sam Morsy is a banned breed, and Dom Ball looked exactly the sort of honest and willing inferior product he did when he played for us – I’d have him back in a heartbeat versus what we’ve got now mind. George Hirst, six goals and six assists (almost as many as the entire QPR team put together), suffered a hamstring explosion in their game against Leicester and was replaced up front by Freddie Ladapo. The former Rotherham striker used to terrorise us at his former club – three goals in two games in 2020/21 – and Rangers really couldn’t have done more to settle him in. Through and onside after five minutes, Clarke-Salter’s desperate intervention maintained the deadlock. Feeling bad about it, Clarke-Salter then played Ladapo back through on goal himself, and this time Asmir Begovic produced a brilliant save. From that corner Rangers left Conor Chaplin unmarked in exactly the same spot he’d scored against them in the first meeting, but Begovic read the shot comfortably. Begovic’s subsequent save from Hutchinson after Paal missed a routine header was spectacular, and he surpassed that after half time with a brilliant leg block from Harness at close range. When it looked like the Bosnian was finally beaten by a curler from Hutchinson late in the day, substitute Jimmy Dunne stuck his head in the way on the goalline.

For all of QPR’s improvements in team selection and performance, and all of Ipswich’s regression the other way in both, the home team could still, easily, have won the game. Had Hirst started up front, they almost certainly would have done; Ladapo headed a presentable chance wide at the start of the second half as his confidence drained away into oh so many wayward first touches and groans from an enormous home crowd that felt and sounded like it had turned up rather expecting the opposition to just roll over.

Also in the could’ve, would’ve, should’ve pile was gnome-on-the-run David Webb, who’s been trundling around the Championship from his County Durham base for 10 years now without anybody ever once considering him fit for a promotion – and just think about that for a moment, in the context of somebody once watching Rob Styles refereeing football in this league and thinking there was a man who could be trusted with Liverpool v Man Utd.

Webb has taken particularly sadistic pleasure in skull-fucking the corpse of Queens Park Rangers at every given opportunity in that time – Rangers are now one win in 13 games with this official, and came into this one with a penalty or a red card against them in each of our last three meetings. He was last seen sending off Asmir Begovic for going within six feet of Patrick Bamford’s piano recital at Elland Road in October – a red card overturned before it had even got light again the following morning.

Given that, and our overall record with him, you could get all conspiratorial about some deep-seated and long-standing hatred he has for our club for some spurious reason from years ago. Imagine him sitting in his highchair at the Toby Carvery, giggling away about how he’s going to shaft the ‘soft southern bastards’ in ever more creative ways next chance he gets, while his mum mushes his food up for him. It’s actually not that deep. This is a chicken shit referee, who likes an easy ride, and because he’s based in the far north, we only get him away from home – just two of our last 11 appointments with him have been at Loftus Road. Naturally that means we’re going to have a losing record, because we never win away – it says so on that flag. But it also means that we’re often facing 40,000 knuckle dragging meatheads at Elland Road screaming for a red card, and a red card they get from this referee, regardless of whether a red card is deserved or not, because he’s got no arse on him.

Ipswich are one of those teams who negate threat to them on the counter attack by committing tactical fouls early in the move in the opposition half. That’s not me having a dig, I wish we did a lot more of that ourselves, it’s just me stating a fact. In a game of almost exactly equal possession, they were penalised for 13 fouls here to QPR’s five. David Webb is a referee who’s happy to jog about allowing that to go on without booking anybody. Marcus Harness’ crack right through the back of Reggie Cannon on 17 minutes is a yellow card every day of the week and twice on Sundays – but not today. And this is all fine and dandy – well, it’s not, but it’s first world problems – until there’s a big decision to make in the game, at which point he rolls out his tribute to Tracey Emin’s seminal work, My Shit Bed. A bed more shit than bed; add four parts shit to one part bed. When you think there cannot possibly be any less bed or any more shit, shit that bed some more.

Midway through the second half Paul Smyth ghosted between Humphreys, a midfielder out of position at full back and looking it, and Woolfenden, who’d struggled against pace all night, and hit the deck in the area. For me, Smyth has deliberately run across in front of Woolfenden, stuck his bum out, sought the contact, and hit the deck, when he could easily have carried on. Woolfenden does have hold of his shirt at the shoulder, and it probably fits into the category of ‘seen them given’, but I’m not overly upset at this one – more with Smyth, to tell you the truth, for cheating rather than getting on with what was a really good chance. Perhaps, though, that’s because I come in with very low expectations of even getting the 70:30 decisions from David Webb, never mind the 50:50 ones. Any Ipswich fans looking in tempted to bite on the 50:50 remark please do bear in mind that this referee thinks this is a red card, and by those standards Woolfenden’s challenge on Smyth is a fucking war crime.

It became abundantly clear the chances of him having the stones to give any kind of big decision in an extended period of injury time against 28,000 expectant home fans was absolutely zero. Rayan Kolli, on from the bench and pressing well without the ball while struggling to impact with it, was deliberately taken out in back play while attempting to track back – seen, and not given. With Kolli still on the ground, QPR launched a final attack. Cannon, on his last legs, crossed deep. Home reserve Jackson, on from the bench, turned away from Dozzell at the far post, and then with his hand and arm unnaturally stretched out away from the body, inadvertently batted the ball away to safety. Webb stared straight at it from ten yards away, and either missed it, or didn’t have the rocks to give it. Because that’s what he does.

And this is what we do. A festering turd of a performance in a winnable game against a relegation rival deepening our predicament at the bottom of the table, and then the absolute polar opposite in a far more difficult match against a much more talented opponent. Several players all stepping up to a level they’ve not been since the last victory. Making runs they haven’t been making. Sticking tackles in they’ve been jerking. Passing it forwards and quickly. Sam Field, arguably the worst of the worst in a diabolical midfield performance at The Den, here perhaps our best outfield player. Andre Dozzell, from cowardly abdication of duty to calm and creative authority figure. Ilias Chair, petulant, selfish and ineffective against Wawll; hard working, diligent, and all over the pitch against Ipswich. Kenneth Paal, from that, to this. Of course, it helps when the likes of Cannon, Cook and Dixon-Bonner are back, but this is a mentality issue with this group as much as an ability one, plain and simple. Look at Lyndon Dykes, playing effectively in an unfamiliar deep role behind first Armstrong and then Kolli as the first press (something that worked well at Cardiff in August and we’ve barely tried once since), compared to what he slopped out 72 hours ago. It’s maddening.

More maddening still, it’s not a win, and given the weakened Ipswich team, the chances we had in the match, and the penalty appeals, that’s probably two points dropped regardless of the chasm between us on the league table. We have an uncanny, unbearably frustrating ability to raise and drop our level to just shy of whoever we’re playing against. Southampton and Leicester were probably both a good 8/10 at Loftus Road, so we played at a seven. Ipswich are around a seven, we’ve played them twice at a six. Millwall are a three, we went there and belched out a two. Same at Sheff Wed. Cardiff will be around a six in two days’ time, and I suspect we’ll knock out something around a five.

If we’d played like this on Boxing Day, we’d have won. If we’d played like this at Hillsborough, we’d have won. If we play like this on New Year’s Day, we will win. We won’t though, and that’s the frustration with this group.

Last chance now. I mean it.

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

Ipswich: Haldky 6; Williams 5 (Clarke 63, 6), Woolfenden 5, Burgess 6, Humphreys 5; Ball 5 (Taylor 64, 6), Luongo 6; Hutchinson 7 (Aluko 87, -), Chaplin 6, Harness 6 (Buabo 87, -); Ladapo 4 (Jackson 63, 5)

Subs Not Used: Walton, Edmundson, Baggott, Tuanzebe

Bookings: Chaplin 35 (foul), Woolfenden 52 (dissent), Harness 86 (foul)

QPR: Begovic 7; Cannon 6, Cook 7 (Dunne 71, 6), Clarke-Salter 6, Paal 7; Field 7, Dozzell 6, Dixon-Bonner 6 (Dykes 64, 6); Willock 5 (Smyth 45, 6), Armstrong 6 (Kolli 78, 6), Chair 6 (Larkeche 77, 6)

Subs not used: Kakay, Drewe, Archer, Adomah

Yellow Cards: Begovic 83 (time wasting), Larkeche 90 (foul)

QPR Star Man – Asmir Begovic 7 I thought Sam Field and Kenneth Paal, after something approaching their worst performances for the club in the previous game, were back to something approaching their best here. But I’m a bit grumpy with them for that because it typifies the change in attitude and approach of the whole team between the two matches and there’s no real reason to play like that one game and this the next, and we lose the game 2-0 regardless without the goalkeeper. With his three saves from Ladapo, Harness, and the excellent, if slightly niggly, Hutchinson he might just shade it.

Referee – David Webb (Durham) 4 Often in this write up I talk about a referee whose general game management was pretty poor, but they got the big decisions right, and I give a reasonable mark accordingly because in the land of the Championship official the man with three correct calls is king. Here’s a referee who consistently does the opposite. Trundles along through long periods of second tier football giving as little as he possibly can - all touchy feely with the players, all tactile and reasonableness – until a big decision comes along, at which point his brain immediately pulps to mush. As well as the Bamford incident at Leeds versus the Smyth penalty here for what he thinks is and isn’t contact worthy of punishment, check the replay below from Burnley v Boro last season versus Jackson’s late indiscretion for what he does and doesn’t think is handball in the penalty area. He gets big calls, particularly in both penalty boxes, wrong an astonishing amount of the time for a referee of this experience and status. Has no business refereeing football at this level.

Attendance – 29,100 (1,698 QPR) I’m sure we’d all extend our respect to the families of the two Ipswich fans for whom there were minutes of applause during the game, and the third person who it seems sadly lost their life behind the goal at half time. People come up with all sorts of triteness in these situations while desperately scrabbling round for something to say – “it really puts football into perspective doesn’t it” is often a favourite. I’ve never believed that. Read up a little bit on Ben Moore, whose memory we applauded in the 22nd minute last night in recognition of the young age he died after being diagnosed with leukaemia. Look at how much joy Ipswich Town brought him as an ever present from the age of ten, and then more recently during his illness when the club and the players took him in. Football is important – maybe the most important least important thing, but important all the same. Take it from somebody who knows, that belonging and community that comes with football support can provide an amazing, comforting and lasting connection to the person you most want to be with but have had taken away. Last night was a fine example of how our much-maligned sport, and its often-stigmatised supporters, can rally around each other in times of bereavement, or immediate crisis. I hope it brought some crumb of comfort to the three families and will continue to do so into their futures, and may all three rest in peace.

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sportsdaytheo added 20:29 - Dec 30
Lovely, wise, and heartfelt words in the closing "attendance" 'graph. Honest and brilliant as always Clive.

T_Block added 22:49 - Dec 30
You don't mean it.If it helps I have the same problem.

extratimeR added 00:23 - Dec 31
Very, very, good match report Clive, yes, that's how I saw the two Penalties, no to Smyth, nailed on for the bloke in the box catching it and throwing it to his right back.

We were very good, as mentioned Begovic excellent, much improved Sam Field, ( just edged by Begovic).

Clive, I agree that the selection issues dictate our performance and the individuals concerned, but I wonder if we ran ourselves into the ground against Southampton and the tank was empty?

Smyth should have buried that chance but assumed the keeper had it, ( he should look at some old Ferdinand videos where ball and keeper would have finished in the back of the net, be certain!!!

Very good to watch with the usual diabolical Refereeing decisions.

Thanks Clive, ( oh good shout for the travelling 1,700 you were all bloody loud!

Loft1979 added 14:16 - Dec 31
Thanks Clive. Ok we have evoked your frustration however to stage this comment I point to the ‘opinion’ again that QPR have yet to be outplayed in any of Martis games. I point to the post match comments and even The comments after the Millwall game. Instead of whining after a Blackpool- esque pulverizing, he points to lack of execution on his players part. Yes the debacle on the penalty calls and the Sheffield game were pointed to. … and using those points I think we ARE building and can consolidate. I look forward to games again and I hope the transfer window helps address some of our concerns.

Myke added 18:52 - Dec 31
You have probably discussed this on the forum, but Warnock was in the Sky Sports Studio along with Mackie and Smith. They were reminiscing about our promotion year before KO - entertaining stuff. Anyway, Jamie was on our game and showed the Jackson handball over and over again. Warnock took one look and said ' Webb's not giving that. If he caught the ball and held it over head he wouldn't give it'. Classic Warnock

TacticalR added 14:12 - Jan 1
Thanks for your report.

I think our ability to always be just below the level of our opponents is intimately related to our goal-scoring problems. Without a goal there is nothing to cling to (and at Sheffield Wednesday we didn't even manage to cling to our goal). Without a goal we are not easy to watch. Without a goal the best we can do is draw 0-0, which is what we did at Ipswich. Nonetheless a better performance than we have seen in recent weeks.

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