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Blackburn Rovers 1 v 2 Queens Park Rangers
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 3rd February 2024 Kick-off 15:00
New boys inspire QPR’s first win at Blackburn for 25 years – Report
Monday, 5th Feb 2024 13:56 by Saffa Michail

Joe Hodge scored on his QPR debut as the R’s gave their Championship survival hopes a big boost with a first win at fellow strugglers Blackburn since 1999.

Such has been our dismal run on the road, the IOW ferry staff down here have occasionally started to gift me a 'priority boarding pass' en-route to whatever part of the country we’re playing.

For any readers unfamiliar with transport from the Isle of Wight - pound for pound the most expensive strip of water to cross in the entire world - those with deep pockets (and more money than sense) can throw even more money at this awful company for a priority place on this completely broken service.

Our National Rail has major issues - but it’s nothing on the Island ferries. Getting up at 4:45am, off the back of last week’s snooze fest, heading to a ground we’ve not won at for 25 years with no Sam Field, I went cap in hand expecting my free priority boarding pass waiting for me in the terminal.

... I should be so lucky, no priority boarding pass, and a cosy welcome to Ewood Park by some Blackburn fan sat in a VIP corporate box behind the away end flipping the bird and givin' it large whilst chugging his way through his white-wine spritzer.

The last time I wrote for LFW was that grim Boxing Day fixture at The Den. We were masters of our own downfall back then, and we started in an equally shaky fashion. Indeed, Blackburn had a truly gilt-edged chance with less than five minutes on the clock.

Sticking with this incessant plan of playing out from the back on every single occasion, Cook received the ball from a Begovic goal-kick, but his forward pass was easily dispossessed and pinged straight back at us... After the ball was slid in behind Colback, Ben Chrisene advanced into our area, skipped his way past the recovering Cook, and saw his right-footed effort slice high and wide of the goal from around 10 yards out. A huge, huge let off.

We didn’t heed the warning and within a couple of minutes, another hash-up between Begovic and a wrong-footed JCS saw us present the latest gift to the division’s top goalscorer in Sammy Szmodics - thankfully Paal was alive to the danger and manage to hook the ball out for a corner.

The second warning shot within the opening few minutes, Cook firmly pulled rank and had a strong word with Begovic to re-focus the attention amongst a backdrop of a very uneasy away crowd. To his and their credit, whilst we continued to go short, it was at least done in a far more measured way than the franticness that saw us open the game with.

That coincided with us threatening at the other end of the pitch too, after collecting the ball out wide, Chair saw a trademark rasping drive from the edge of the area comfortably pushed wide of the post.

With the wind in our sails, Cannon later sent Willock away down the right hand side, after a couple of step-overs, he cut in on his left, bent back the other way whilst sitting his marker down, but his deep cross just evaded Dykes at the far post.

Shortly after, Cook played a stunning ball right through the centre of the pitch to set away Armstrong who had oceans of space to run into, with Willock and Chair both available out wide, he got caught between dribbling and passing, and frustratingly the chance came to nothing. His pace and power unquestionably was causing them problems, but the decision making in those key moments was poor.

Talking of poor decisions… To our right, an increasing number of QPR fans were getting pretty invested in something happening at the back of the stand.

Alcohol in the ground? Confrontation with a steward? Someone caught with a pyro?

No, no… Low and behold, that same Blackburn fan from earlier, half hour into his VIP experience, with the scores level, decided now was the time to start a feud with the QPR fans directly in front of him.

Through a mixed chorus of laughter and cheers, it became apparent that the response to him was far more inventive than to just exchange insults… With every cheer, another sticker slapped on the window in-front of him - "QPR FC FROM THE WHITE CITY” stickers becoming an ever rare commodity in this part of the country.

Needless to say, his view was violently downgraded from VIP to severely restricted view within a matter of minutes until there was a ceasefire. So childish, so petty, very immature… But to a man, united agreement that it was absolutely glorious.

The poor lady assigned to look after the guests in this area really providing the icing on the most edible cake, by shrugging her shoulders and saying there was nothing she could do. Exquisite.

Back to the game, and Blackburn still looked threatening and had played some decent football. Costello saw a shot from a tight-angle smothered by Begovic, but it was an open encounter with both sides just lacking a bit of quality upfront.

Chair had looked very lively, and he was the next to carve out an opening for us. With two men tightly marking him around the half was line, his delicate chip again set Armstrong racing through on the left, he roasted past his man, and advanced through on goal before his near post snap-shot was pushed wide for a corner when it appeared there better options in Dykes and Willock both on for the cut-back.

The first half ended 0-0 with us probably just shading it as the better side.

We started the second half very much on the front foot, and Illias Chair was again causing havoc.

After receiving the ball from JCS, Chair darted his way run down the left wing, jinked his way past the full-back and dinked a lovely ball into the back-post… It was just taken off of Dykes head for what would have doubtless been a certain goal as the ball went out for a corner.

You know the drill, par for the course, the resulting set piece was headed straight back out, but only to Chair who put a far better quality ball back into the far post… Cook won the knock-down, and it looked for the world that Dixon-Bonner would score his first goal for us before the ball was prodded away and back out wide to Paal… He teed it up for Chair, who bent the ball right back into the same area, and Cook this time saw his out-stretched header fly just wide of the post.

The pendulum had really started to swing in our favour, and the biggest chance of the game followed shortly after.

JCS was the architect from deep, and after dispossessing Costello, he played a perfect ball forward to Armstrong who was left in a one-on-one foot race… Only one winner there, and with the nearest Blackburn player absolute history, he was through on goal with just the keeper to beat… As he approached the box, Armstrong's next touch was a heavy one, and the ball was gratefully received by Pears in the Blackburn goal without us even mustering an attempt.

Keen to step things up further, Cifuentes mixed it up with Hayden, Hodge & Smyth all coming on to replace Willock, Dykes & Dixon-Bonner. It paid instant dividends, with the dead-lock broken almost immediately.

Cook fed the ball out wide to Smyth for his first touch of the ball, and after good work, he feinted to cross, beat his man on the by-line, and crossed for the back post... Paal controlled the ball dead, and squared it to Colback… With three men well positioned directly in front of him, he found Chair who was hovering on his left… After teasing his man, he cut in from the left, bought the commitment from a flurry of Blackburn defenders by shaping to shoot, then dragged the ball onto his right foot for a further touch before letting fly from the edge of the box…

The keeper was well beaten, but Chair’s shot thumped against the post, before kissing the goalkeepers back, and then trickling back across the line for the opener. It was a fortunate goal, but one that even the most ardent Rovers fan would agree was well deserved.

1-0. Game on!

With a jubilant atmosphere in the away end, we didn’t have to wait long until we were celebrating again.

Colback robbed Dolan of possession, and he again set away Armstrong who was again on the turn… After holding the ball up, he got a fortunate deflection with two Blackburn men on him, and it fell kindly as he brushed off his marker and carried the ball forward. After so many wrong decisions and poor touches, this time Armstrong got it all right. Chair was the obvious option out wide, but Hodge made a direct run right through the heart of midfield and in behind the defence… Armstrong’s pass was weighted to perfection, and Hodge didn’t even need to take a touch before arching his body and clipping the ball in the corner for our second goal in as many minutes.

Hodge led the celebrations down by the away end, my dad, still nursing the effects of a broken shoulder thrown around like a rag-doll as fans piled in around us. The only regret that our friend in the VIP lounge wasn’t able to witness in it all it’s splendour.

The Blackburn fans immediately voicing their displeasure and turning on their ownership - QPR’s sticklerless away following going absolutely nuts behind the goal. This is what it’s all about.

The following 10 minutes we really got the ball down and started to play… Smyth had their full-back on toast, and there was one exquisite move between our Irish contingent that would have really killed the game. Hodge had the ball in a deep position, and with two men on him, he skilfully nut-megged one, and set away Smyth out wide, his bursting run on the right saw him beat his man and find Armstrong on the edge of the box, who saw his powerful shot fly wide of the post.

We were all having a lovely time - but Queens Park Rangers, Sam Gallagher (one league goal to his name all season) and clean sheet will never fit in the same sentence. Not now, not ever.

Armstrong was harshly adjudged to have fouled his man on the half-way line, and the quickly taken free-kick was immediately played forwards to Szmodics who drilled the ball in low and hard for Gallagher who was racing for the near post… Cook just managed to get a foot on the ball as he hacked it clear to the edge of the box, but it fell to Costello who’s scuffed first time effort bounced up into the air, and he won the second ball ahead of Colback, to leave our perennial pain in the arse Sam Gallagher to fire through Begovic and bring them right back into the game.

2-1. 15 minutes left on the clock.

Paal had been down for a couple of minutes, and he was replaced by Larkeche on the far side, with the tireless Armstrong also making way for Frey up top.

It’s incredible the difference a goal makes and the balance of play moved heavily back into their hands from here.

From a really fluid, progressive mindset to a cagey backs to the wall job, it made for an excruciating watch… We just couldn’t get the ball out, and Blackburn dominated possession and committed bodies forward and put countless balls into our box. Whipped crosses, floated crosses, drilled crosses… It felt like it was a matter of time until they found the leveller, but time and again there was always a QPR body in the way...

We managed to grind our way through to the 89th minute without them really testing Begovic, and then an opening… Colback, right back to his best here, slid to intercept a ball which he missed, and it left Costello around 35 yards from goal with our midfield completely out of the picture… He took a touch, set himself, and then smashed an effort goal-wards which bounced off JCS and looped towards Begovic… Thankfully he was well positioned and punched the ball up and over the bar for a Blackburn corner.

Hairlines receding, all eyes were on the touch-ine for added time: and a whopping ten minutes awarded, from somewhere. The resultant corner mercifully nodded wide of the post.

Four minutes into the ten being played, and an enormous chance again. With Cannon caught between two players, the loose ball was rolled across the goalmouth and eventually smashed wide of the upright with Begovic having no chance in the world.

As the time dwindled down, nobody typified our spirit more than Illias Chair. With 99 minutes on the clock, after losing the ball down by the corner flag, he got back to his feet, went on a lung-busting run back to the halfway line, won the ball back, before eventually being hauled back down by the frustrated Blackburn man he had dispossessed. It was celebrated as much as any goal - as much as any sticker - and the game was finally ours.

A really enjoyable game of football, and a critical three points towards our fight for survival.

Just a quick comment on the loan players:

Hayden looked every bit the player I hoped we had signed. A strong, calming presence in the midfield and a really promising start to his time with us.

Hodge will obviously get all the plaudits for his goal, but he looked really impressive. From his first interview, his hunger to come here and play was apparent, and he matched those words with a really energetic, effective impact from the bench.

The old adage to never fall in love with loan players is a good one, another season watching the likes of Ethan Laird & Tyler Roberts is about as appealing as a weekly prostate examination. But we might have something pretty special here if this cameo is anything to go by.

I don’t want to go too harsh on Frey as he was introduced at a tough time, but truthfully he looked miles off it and very heavy. I really hope his finishing is better than his mobility on this showing.

They say it’s the hope that kills you, but we’ve had a heavy dose injected right into the arm here.

COME ON YOU R’s!

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

Blackburn: Pears 5; Rankin-Costello 6, Hyam 6, Wharton 5, Chrisene 5; Dolan 6 (Ayari 67, 5), Tronstad 5, Moran 5, Sigurdsson 5 (Markanday 67, 6); Szmodics 5 (Telalovic 85, -), Gallagher 6

Subs not used: O’Riordan, Wahlstedt, Koumetio, Fleck, Garrett, McFadzean

Goals: Gallagher 73 (unassisted)

Bookings: Tronstad 39 (foul), Ayari 90+9 (foul)

QPR: Begovic 6; Cannon 7, Cook 7, Clarke-Salter 7, Paal 6 (Larkeche 79, 6); Colback 7, Dixon-Bonner 6 (Hayden 57, 7); Willock 5 (Smyth 57, 6), Dykes 5 (Hodge 57, 7), Chair 8; Armstrong 5 (Frey 77, 5)

Subs not used: Dunne, Archer, Fox, Drewe

Goals: Pears own goal 61 (assisted Chair), Hodge 64 (assisted Armstrong)

Bookings: Armstrong 41 (foul), Dixon-Bonner 54 (foul), Begovic 90+4 (time wasting)

QPR Star Man – Ilias Chair 8 That final lung-buster to close down a last Blackburn attempt to get the ball forward in stoppage time seals it.

Referee – Geoff Eltringham (Durham) 5 Absolutely fine, as he always is, for the first hour, and then seemed to take against QPR aggressively. Why Sinclair Armstrong would go down unless he’d been fouled when played clean through on goal I don’t know, that was somehow given as a foul the other way from which Blackburn scored their goal. They almost scored a second soon after when Paul Smyth had pretty obviously been fouled in the build up too. The ten minutes added time was a throwback to the start of the season before the PGMOL abandoned its latest pre-season clampdown. Ten minutes here but only five last week against Huddersfield after all their time wasting? Do me a favour.

Attendance – 12,888 (650 QPR approx.)

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Pictures — Ian Randall Photography

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HastingsRanger added 14:52 - Feb 5
Unbeaten since Clive has gone on holiday, should we crowd fund his continued vacation?!!!

With Huddersfield winning, can those those teams above can be pulled into this? Maybe starting with Blackburn?

Thanks for the report.
4

qprninja added 15:46 - Feb 5
Nice one, thank you.
2

thehat added 16:04 - Feb 5


Thank you Saffa - Great report and an enjoyable if somewhat long journey back to the Island I'm sure.

Also thank you Dave B for your preview due to work commitments I only managed to read it after the game but a fantastic read it was too.

Yes that bloody thing "hope" has reappeared - I was quite content in my head we were relegated but I'm now back looking at fixtures and potential points scenarios.

Bring on Saturday and let's fill Loftus Road to the rafters - It might just be the day we get above the dotted line for the first time since the clocks went back.

Come on you R'rrs
2

BucksRanger added 16:31 - Feb 5
Geoff Eltringham's ten minutes more.
3 goals at 30 secs per goal - 1.5 mins.
6 times the subs boards went up, 30 secs per subbing - 3 mins.
2 injuries - Szmodics - 1.5 mins, Paal - 3 mins - 4.5 mins.
and a bit more time for fannying around - say 1 min.

I think I must have been the only person not surprised at the 10 minutes extra time played based on all the posts I've seen.
1

hoops_legend added 16:46 - Feb 5
Sinclair and weighted pass is not something I expected to see or read here after his first 60 mins. Great hall though!
1

hoops_legend added 16:46 - Feb 5
Sinclair and weighted pass is not something I expected to see or read here after his first 60 mins. Great hall though!
0

probbo added 17:17 - Feb 5
Thanks Saffa. We definitely rode our luck early on - why we insist on trying to play it out the back I just don't know and had Chrisene taken his early chance it could have been very different. But in the end I thought we were good value for the win - a great team effort and I thought Chair and Colback were immense. I'm glad Sinclair provided the assist to Hodge because lets face it, he had several great chances to score and fluffed them all. And he looked very down after blowing the one on one chance with their keeper. He just needs to calm down a bit when he gets in to a goal scoring position. And I agree about Frey - he's not played for 10 or so months and it did show. He's a physical presence but seemed intent on backing in to everyone. But after 4 previous losing visits to Ewood Park and a 23 year hiatus this was a real moment to savour and I had a good night celebrating in Darwen with three subdued Rovers fans of mine - it was a great time to play them!!
1

Myke added 20:00 - Feb 5
Cheers Saffa. If we starting to get that vital ingredient - luck - on our side, then we have a fighting chance. Hayden and Hodge look decent additions and we now have brought the Danish lad in. Frey may be overweight, but he is already as mobile as the current version of Dykes and if his very presence can stir the Scottish International to play a little more like he does for his country then that can't be aa bad thing.
0

kingfisher6404 added 21:10 - Feb 5
Great report Saffa, especially liked the bit about the stickers - very inventive of them! I think I am right that at the end of 90+10 Chair was too exhausted to even join in the celebrations. He gave his all and is an example to others in the squad. Now let's do it all again on Saturday by knocking the Canaries off their perch!
3

francisbowles added 14:38 - Feb 6
Thank you Saffa, good report, lots of detail. I travel up from the south coast for home matches but to travel from the IOW to the frozen north and then to write the match report is one helluva commitment. I salute you.
0

extratimeR added 13:49 - Feb 7
Excellent match report Saffa, ( loved the stickers) .
Yes Andy Swinton was gob smacked as to why would Sinclair go down when clean through? Terrible decision?

Thanks Saffah!
0

TacticalR added 12:05 - Feb 10
Thanks for your report Saffa.

It was a game we won with a bit of luck, and a bit of quality.

The luck came with the Chair goal, which, after Chair's familiar run across the edge of the box and shot, rebounded off the keeper's back.

Hodge gave us the moment of quality with composure in front of goal which we have been so sorely lacking. After some poor touches, Armstrong redeemed himself with that through pass to Hodge. Fortunately for us Blackburn lacked similar quality in front of goal.

The goal we conceded was a mess, but at least we hung on until the end.
0


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