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Queens Park Rangers 2 v 0 Millwall
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 20th January 2024 Kick-off 15:00
A win - Report
Sunday, 21st Jan 2024 16:47 by Clive Whittingham

QPR are just about still alive and fighting in the 23/24 Championship, after a desperately needed first win in nine matches, scrambled over the line at home to Millwall on Saturday.

Storm Ira, Storm Myra, Storm Rita, Storm Peter. January the 42nd, 43rd, 44th, 45th. Cardiff at home, Bournemouth at home, Watford at home, Millwall at home. 1-2, 2-3, 1-2…? Met Office amber warnings for rain, sleet, snow, accidentally tripping over uneven paving slabs. Severe delays on the Central Line, the Piccadilly Line, the Northern Line, the Hammersmith and City Line. Shortage of drivers, shortage of rolling stock, shortage of signal staff, shortage of will to live. Goals from corners, goals from free kicks, goals from open play, goals from Jake Livermore. Jake fucking Livermore. Put a bullet in me.

We are now onto day 68 of 21 in 2024. When last we saw daylight, Queen Liz had yet to be discovered by one of the maids. An ill wind blowing no good through Shepherd’s Bush chews away at the skin on your face. That roof’s leaking, and QPR are at home again for the eighteenth time this month. It is very difficult to shake the feeling we’re reliving the same nightmarish day over and over again, trapped in a literal and metaphorical perpetual darkness. Alarm goes off, shower goes on, thick socks come out of the drawer, Kat opens the Crown and Sceptre, Clive pours 32 bottles of Peroni into his tummy to ward off the feeling of existential dread, and then we all troop down to Loftus Road. All 15,000 of us, like captured partisans digging their own mass grave.

It’s more of a strip club than a football stadium these days. Every Saturday hundreds of tanked-up coke heads turn up, we give them absolutely everything they want to see, they stumble off home in a state of some euphoria, we’re left in a pit of self-loathing. Who’s delivering the cumshots this week, Bella? Oh, there’s a group booking from the Bermondsey and District Peaky Blinders Cos-Players. Terrific. Each floppy flat cap floppier and flatter than the last. I’ll go get the TCP for the clean-up.

“We’re treating every game as a cup final” says Marti Cifuentes of a club that has lost more FA Cup Third Round ties than anybody else in the history of the competition. In the first 20 minutes of this latest Wembley showpiece Reggie Cannon gave the ball away three times and kicked it out of play twice, shrugging through it all like a man who had better things to be doing with his Saturday afternoon. One poorly executed back header was then spaffed high over his head and into the Loft for a needless Millwall corner by Steve Cook - not a sensible idea when you defend opposition corners so poorly they may as well be opposition penalties. Jake Clarke-Sater toed one straight out of play. Asmir Begovic was languid and slapdash over a pass back, and rolled it past Kenneth Paal and into the stand - not a difficult pass to complete. Chris Willock, who wasn’t meant to be starting until Paul Smyth became the latest to suffer what’s becoming something of an epidemic of injuries in the warmup, went down injured after a minute. Sinclair Armstrong followed soon after. Sorry lads are we, are we keeping you from something?

Only Jack Colback, a poor signing to this point, was brave enough to want the ball, take the ball, and move the ball forwards with purpose. This was his best performance for the club, and it was a single shining light through a horribly sludgy opening to the game. I did tell you not to tell them it was a cup tie.

The defeat at The Den on Boxing Day ached in the balls not only because losing there is always an unpleasant experience, our record in London derbies for many years is lamentable, and it was a really good chance to drag a team in similarly poor form down into the mire with us, but because Millwall were quite clearly and plainly absolute crap. Without a win in seven and cratering down the league table, they really couldn’t have wished for any better opponent than Queens Park Rangers playing like that. The first goal was a defensive shambles like few others, a failure with many fathers. The second would have shamed a pub side. That stung.

The Lions, it seems, have not improved greatly in the time that’s gone by since. Good players here – Zian Flemming, George Honeyman, Joe Bryan, Jake Cooper – who you’d love in our squad. Options up front, even without injured Tom Bradshaw who’d scored in the first meeting, vasty superior to our own. And yet a team far less than the sum of their parts. Trendy new manager Joe Edwards said he felt bad for the fans who’d travelled – they’re going to start noticing all the Chelsea in his backround if his team turns out much more slop like this. Midway through the first half, when Millwall had wellied the ball into the Ellerslie Road side of the ground for no apparent reason whatsoever for the third or fourth time, the rest of the QPR team woke up to what Colback had seemingly been trying to tell them all along – this lot are proper dogshit.

It was Lyndon Dykes, playing again in the more withdrawn role off Armstrong, who punched his time card first. Pulling a ball from Clarke-Salter out of the air and spinning into space in the centre circle before feeding it nicely out to Willock on the left. Is that Marc Nygaard I can see, picking one out of the sky and moving it on to Dexter Blackstock? Well, the end product wasn’t quite as aesthetically beautiful as that, but they all count the same. Willock’s check back around Joe Bryan and well flighted cross to the far post was about his only positive contribution all afternoon. Big Bad Ilias Chair attacked the far post well and between him and Sinclair Armstrong there was just enough presence to force the ball over the line. They'd just started one of their big "MIIIIIIIIIILLLLLLLLLLL" things as well - I love it when that happens.

The nicest thing you can say about it is it presumably went in, but these are the sorts of positions and goals we need Chair to be taking up and getting much more often rather than always looking for the 25-yard Instagram pleaser. Bring on the woman in the green bikini.

You realise, on the rare occasions Rangers do get in front, just how low on confidence and belief they are the rest of the time. What had been a thoroughly odd performance to this point, with half the team playing as if it didn’t really want to be there, started warming up into something vaguely acceptable. From Jack Colback versus The World to, my God, are we, are we the better team here? Dykes, far more comfortable and effective in his new position than he ever has been up front, fed Willock once more for a shot over the bar. Then he curled a long ranger wide himself as part of a successful high press advocated by Marti Cifuentes – booked by rookie referee Lewis Smith early on for waving an imaginary card around after a bad tackle on Chris Willock and dressed like somebody with a spot on Pards Pardew’s regular Saturday night table at Tiger Tiger. London Fire Brigade will have to cut him out of those jeans.

Second half, more of the same. Good build up, Dykes heads wide. Effective high press, Dykes shoots at the keeper. Keeping the ball from a throw in (fuck me dead), and what looks like a pretty clear penalty for Wes Harding handling in the area. Second goal. Second goal please. Why can’t we just have a nice time?

Millwall had one shot all afternoon, and nearly scored with it. Paal’s tremendous defending at the back post from one devilish cross only delayed what felt like an inevitable goal as Eastenders' Billy Mitchell strode onto the loose ball 15 yards out. His shot was fairly weak, but Asmir Begovic somehow contrived to let the thing squirm through his hands and off towards the goal anyway. He was singularly fortunate Reggie Cannon was behind him to clear from the goalline. The latest in a growing catalogue of fundamentally basic errors from this veteran goalkeeper, and this one went unpunished more through luck than judgement.

Probably an escape for Colback in there too. With Cannon down feigning injury to get the play stopped and relieve the pressure, the now traditional ceremonial hail of coins, lighters and other sundries tumbled down from the away end towards the home players. Colback picked one of them up, and heaved it back from whence it came into the crowd of Millwall fans. Nooooooooo Ben. If the referee had seen him do it he’d surely have been dismissed.

There was, thankfully, no red card, and Colback crowned an otherwise outstanding display by having a hand in the game-sealing goal. Paal’s cute free kick to Chair. Chair looking to cross, and then pass, rather than cut in for that jump shot he loves so much. Colback set in advance for a first time drive. Sarkic with his very best Begovic impression, spilling a routine ball back behind him and into the goal mouth. Jesus, it’s Watford all over again. Please somebody be there. Please, anybody. Just tap it in. Just tap it in. Tap, tap, taparoo. This time, this time, somebody did. That somebody was Sinclair Armstrong, and he’s still out there now, removing his shirt, crunching his cruciates in a knee slide, diving into the stands, crowding round with teammates, falling to the earth to pray, pointing to the sky with his thumb in his mouth. His is a celebration of many constituent parts, played out over considerable lengths of time. We hope, we need, to see it very much more often over the coming weeks. Now two goals in three appearances after one in his previous 46.

In truth it was more relief than euphoria. QPR desperately needed to win this game because of their position on the league table, the games they’ve got coming up, the rapidly declining number of fixtures left to play. They needed to win because you’ll wait a long time to play a team as poor as Millwall again, or rather a team playing as poorly as Millwall did here. And they needed to win because, even allowing for the late withdrawal of Smyth, this is about the best team we can put out: Cannon and Paal the full backs without Kakay; Clarke-Salter and the excellent Steve Cook at centre back without Fox or Dunne; Colback and Field in midfield without Andre the Friendly Ghost; Illy and Willy combining in attack with Dykes off Armstrong. If we can’t win, at home, against a Millwall team playing like this, with that team out, what hope do we really have? Interesting that Cifuentes said he’d enlisted the help of Andy Sinton this week to speak with the squad to try and extract some level of performance from them – I’ve oft wondered whether his experience and expertise is something we could tap into more than just for co-commentary.

The result, much like both goals, felt rather forced over the line more through collective will and desperation than any great skill or competence. Had Millwall scored in the first 20 minutes, while QPR were playing like a bunch of twats, I fear Rangers would have sunk beneath the waves, both in this game and on the Championship table. As it is they’re still adrift, but afloat, and next Sunday’s potentially season-defining televised game at home to Huddersfield is enormous.

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

QPR: Begovic 5; Cannon 5, Cook 7, Clarke-Salter 6, Paal 6; Field 7, Colback 8; Willock 5 (Adomah 84, -), Dykes 7, Chair 7 (Larkeche 90+4, -); Armstrong 7 (Dixon-Bonner 89, -)

Subs not used: Dunne, Fox, Drewe, Walsh, Pedder, Talla

Goals: Chair 27 (assisted Willock), Armstrong 87 (assisted Colback)

Millwall: Sarkic 4; McNamara 5, Harding 5, Cooper 6; Norton-Cuffy 5 (Tanganga 67, 6), Honeyman 6, Mitchell 5, Bryan 5 (Wallace 67, 5); Watmore 4, Flemming 4, Nisbet 4 (Longman 56, 6)

Subs not used: Campbell, Saville, De Norre, Esse, Bialkowski, Grant

Yellow Cards: Mitchell 32 (foul), Flemming 85 (foul)

QPR Star Man – Jack Colback 8 Much debate about this signing, his contribution since he got here, and his ridiculous propensity to pick up cards, but this was a brilliant midfield performance. In the first 20 minutes, when QPR looked horribly nervous and in danger of going under, he was the only one brave enough and self confident enough to show for the ball, want it, get on it and get it moving forwards. The performance then grew around him. We need so much more like this, from him and his teammates.

Referee – Lewis Smith (Wigan) 6 Premier League referee, and Huddersfield Town fan, Bobby Madley was meant to be down for this game. Instead we ended up with the far less experienced Lewis Smith doing just his sixth Championship match. A really big ask – London derby, big Millwall following, QPR desperate for points – and initially I thought he looked a little out of his depth and the game would prove too much for him. He grew from there, and I think this was a pretty impressive display from a young official in a game like this, but that looks a penalty to me in the second half.

Attendance – 17,184 (2,800 Marxist hunters) Nice, for once, to see a packed away end emptying out long before the end, and fairly miserable with it. Especially fun that it happened to be the Peaky Blinders cos-players.

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BlackCrowe added 18:24 - Jan 21
Fab report, and agree with your ratings, except Willock - 6 or 7 for me.

Northernr added 18:27 - Jan 21
No chance.

BlackCrowe added 19:08 - Jan 21
your call of course but that sublime (and actually matchwinning) cross for the first goal combined with a fairly good performance puts him above Cannon who was utterly woeful for the first 20-30 mins and then adequate thereafter.

BlackCrowe added 19:08 - Jan 21
your call of course but that sublime (and actually matchwinning) cross for the first goal combined with a fairly good performance puts him above Cannon who was utterly woeful for the first 20-30 mins and then adequate thereafter.

Geoff78 added 19:12 - Jan 21
Colback 8. I thought he was MotM, but 8?

Burnleyhoop added 20:02 - Jan 21
Up until his goal I thought Armstrong was having a poor game. Can barely control the ball when it comes to him and never wins a header. Yes, he is a handful with his direct running with pace and power, but didn’t see as much of this as the Watford game.

Whilst Willock didn’t have a particularly good game, his touch and dribbling ability allows him to retain possession and lay it off. A six for both for me, but that’s just my opinion and I don’t tend to get too hung up on player ratings as a rule.

Gus_iom added 20:10 - Jan 21
I thought Willock was poor, again. Hopefully he'll play himself back into form.

Marshy added 20:57 - Jan 21
I can see where you're coming from Clive in giving Willock just a 5. That was a fantastic cross from him for Chair's tap in goal, but that was the only thing of real note he provided. In the second half there were many occasions where he opted out to tackle, and for the last 20 minutes he played as a pedestrian. I felt he gave up competing. If he's fit for Huddersfield, I'd have Smyth back in replacing him. Just a word on Dykes. I love him in his new "number 10" role. So simple, yet genius from Marti.

tsbains64 added 21:23 - Jan 21
Cant wait for the bug game on Sunday !

hoops_legend added 21:44 - Jan 21
Two comments all about the ratings. Remember clive doesn’t need to read whether a 5 should be a 6 or an 8 should be a 7. Let’s enjoy his masterpiece of a match report instead and the match ratings are more of a guide. In summary

Colback played very well and was supported well by cook, chair, Armstrong

Northernr added 23:19 - Jan 21
Colback was superb. He drove the whole thing. And I've been a huge critic of his.

LazyFan added 23:37 - Jan 21
You need to up the rating for the Ref, as it was not a penalty.
Here's why.

Dykes crosses the ball, and it hits the Millwall player. He has his arm out, and it looks at first like it has hit him on the arm, clear pen as the arm is out.

But I have seen it in slow-mo on the replay, and it does not hit his outstretched arm as he actually pulls that away; it hits him on the elbow point blank, and the player's elbow where the ball struck was tucked well into his chest at his side. The ref was 5 yards away and saw this clearly; hence, there was no pen. You can see this in the above video on 6 minutes.

I also note the first goal is worked all the way from the back.
A manager's goal is that one.

londonscottish added 09:52 - Jan 22
People are coating off Cannon and Begovic for some poor touches/poor distribution but it's also true that Paal was up to it as well. In the first 20 minutes or so he and Begovic were consistently putting balls out of play down the left. I lost count. 4? 5? 6?

Jittery nerves I guess.


Burnleyhoop added 11:12 - Jan 22
People / supporters often see what they want to see. Unconscious bias I think the term is.

I'm struggling to see how Armstrong has turned into Rivaldo all of a sudden. Amazing how a goal and a win can transform opinions. We'll be banging on about a promotion push again if we beat Huddersfield.

Thoroughly enjoyed the game and the win, but unless we can find some consistency, the shit will hit the fan soon enough. Hello Blackburn.

T_Block added 11:26 - Jan 22
Yes in an ideal Workd Armstrong would be at Wycombe playing seventy games in preparation.But mark my words he has transformed this side as a sort of magic mascot who makes the rest of the team have a good chance of winning.I think he has spooky powers to raise the team 25%.

Well done Marti for spotting it.Yeah you can argue he stretches the playing area ; they cannot play a high line,it takes three players to mark him freeing up space for Willock and Chair and Dykes and I hope Smyth.

Marti has found his team quickly.Well done .Now we need to get them to fight and fight and attack and attack ,be brave.Play like Armstrong….

Burnleyhoop added 12:53 - Jan 22
I think the euphoria around Armstrong is well OTT. Hope to be proved wrong of course.
As long as we keep picking up the points needed, Rivaldo it is.

TacticalR added 22:03 - Jan 22
Thanks for your report.

'Existential dread' - you know it makes sense.

We didn't look good at the beginning. It so cold it wasn't going to be a great game of football. Millwall, having got some wins recently, looked more relaxed and more coherent than us. It was the Chair goal that got us going.

The deeper role for Dykes is will be interesting to see if Cifuentes has figured out a more suitable position for him.

One of the good things about Colback (when not getting sent off) is that he does things simply and quickly, in this case a shot on goal, and that led to our second goal.

We needed a win from somewhere, and we got one.

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