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Here’s one you might have heard before – Report
Thursday, 15th Feb 2024 22:49 by Clive Whittingham

QPR once again turned down a chance to climb above a rival, and out of the bottom three, by phoning in a weirdly insipid, laboured and slapdash performance against a Stoke side there for the taking on Wednesday night.

It was many things to many people. To the Queens Park Rangers supporters huddled together behind the goal, it was anything and everything but a surprise.

First and foremost, a truly wretched spectacle. If you’d been unfortunate to tune into this as a neutral, I’d be astonished if you made it all the way to the end. Had you done so, you’d have been left in no doubt at all as to why Stoke and QPR are struggling so badly in this season’s Championship. Should this have been your first experience of the sport, you’d have left it perplexed at how such tedious rubbish has ascended to a multi-billion-dollar global industry that grips half the planet in its spell. If all association football looked like this it would have the same participation levels as bog snorkelling, for the same reasons.

You couldn’t point to a single player on either team operating at anything close to what they’re presumably capable of to have made it this far in their careers. You couldn’t even really pick out any of them and say there was any degree of competence in their performance – bar perhaps Wouter Burger and Luke McNally in the home colours. I can't remember applauding, anything, once, even for a bit. 'Oh, that was quite nice'. 'Quite nice' was the moon to these people. If you, Stoke or QPR player, escape with more than 5/10 in our ratings this week you should count yourself very fortunate and know that, having suffered through your efforts last night, I think you’re all absolute crap. The amount of poor play - simple passes going astray, touches running away from people, ball given away, ball kicked into touch, wrong decisions made, miscommunication – was biblical. I’d usually say it quickly descended into a battle of who could be slightly less shit than their opponent, but for the most part it looked like they were doing the opposite – ‘ha, ha, you think that’s bad, watch me smack this cross straight at the first defender on the near post yet a-fucking-gain’.

Presumably all these supremely talented boys wanted to do their whole lives is be a professional footballer. To have attained this level has taken years of dedication, from a stupidly young age, where all they wanted to do, morning, noon and night, was play football. Playing out until it’s pitch black and then seeking out some streetlight somewhere to continue the kick about - they lived to play football. Now it’s happening, and they’re living this tremendously privileged life, they look like they’d rather be anywhere else but here, doing this. To a man, both teams looked profoundly fed up and miserable. I have spent 90 minutes crawling behind two lorries trying to overtake each other on the A1 going past Scotch Corner, and that was less of a complete ballache than sitting through this. You just wanted to scream at it. Everything you’re doing is bad, I want you to know this.

Stoke, for their part, looked frightened of their own shadow. They were the only team in the division to lose as many home games as QPR last season (12 out of 23) and came into this one on a run of nine without a victory on their own ground – some 112 days since they last won here. The last four matches had seen them chalk up four defeats, with 13 goals conceded, and defeat here would have put them into the bottom three for the first time. I know it’s the typical barbed retort of the embittered and beaten opposing club reporter to go on about how dreadful the opposition were but, come on, let’s be real here. They looked apprehensive, nervous, tentative, unsure and, above all else, proper dog shit. A sparse home crowd was aggy with them from the start, groaning and moaning at each misplaced pass and aimless hoik from the back. And there was a lot of that to groan and moan at.

We’ve seen what Steven Schumacher football is meant to look like, when his carefully cultivated Plymouth team outplayed us at Loftus Road despite having ten men for an hour, and this was not it. Tiny little Luke Cundle had been brilliant in that game, but was anonymous now he’s been dropped into this situation. Stoke, like ourselves, are a club that swallows up players and managers without even chewing. Schumacher is now trying to impose that style on a squad that has had 24 new players added to it this season, almost all chosen for and by Alex Neil, to suit a wholly different approach and style. It’ll take Schumacher many months and seasons to wrestle this round to his way of thinking and playing, and at the moment he looks like he’s trying to win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in a Biffa Bin. Like asking the cast of In The Night Garden to edit The World At One. A team on the edge, a club potentially about to pay for its years of mismanagement with a drop into the third tier for the first time in nearly 25 years, a crowd ready to turn on their own given half an opportunity, and all QPR needed to do was give them a push.

That QPR couldn’t/wouldn’t/didn’t is, like I say, of shock to nobody who has followed this team in recent times.

Quite apart from the travelling faithful being let down like this for two years under five managers and several different iterations of the team, this present disasterclass have fucked up this precise game in exactly this fashion on now five different occasions in three months.

The pattern is clear and set. First, they start to get it together a little bit. Green shoots of recovery start to poke through the nuclear fallout of Queens Park Rangers 2022-2024. A formation is settled upon that appears to work, injury prone key players get themselves fit and available, a few half decent performances are thrown out there, maybe even a couple of wins picked up, and you think finally, finally, Rangers are getting somewhere. Hey there Mr Blue, we’re so pleased to be with you, look around see what you do, everybody smiles at you. Please tell us why you had to hide away for so long.

They then have a game they probably should win, really need to win, and absolutely would win if only they put in the same performances they had been doing over the previous two or three. At which point a familiar grumbling in the stomach heralds a monstrous shitting of the bed, and back come the men in hazmat suits to wade through the festering oceans of whatever vile smelling slurry these arseholes have henced forth with now, asking themselves why this keeps happening, and how can it be stopped? Shall we maybe try sacking the manager again?

QPR beat Stoke 4-2 at Loftus Road in the first meeting. It was, let’s be fair, a poor performance, heavily benefited by favourable refereeing decisions, in which QPR went behind and trailed for sometime against ten men, but rallied in late and thrilling fashion. They then won 2-0 at Preston, and although Preston weren’t up to much this was an improved showing from the R’s, with Chair and Willock back to something approaching their best. Two wins, two good results, improving performances, and then Hull at Loftus Road – spent a fortune, pushing for the play-offs, good manager, might be Premier League next season. Oooooooooooh, now that was a proper display. That’s how this team can look. A 2-0 win, richly deserved, now we’re cooking with gas, as Ale Faurlin used to say, when we employed proper fucking midfielders at this club. All there is to do now is make the most of Plymouth having a man sent off after 30 minutes and we’ll be out of the bottom three, level on points with them, four wins in a row, and on the up – message boarders were advising you to get the 500/1 on a play-off push while you still could. Drew 0-0, Charlie Kelman started up front. Never mind, all there is to do now is knock over Sheff Wed and their lunatic chairman and their abject side and their supporters in open revolt and we’ll be out of the bottom three and ten points clear of those fools. Lost 2-1. Never mind, all there is do now is knock over Millwall, so bad every time I watch them it’s actually laughable watching them trying to do whatever it is they’re trying to do. Lost 2-0. Didn’t like that one either, no? The slightest application of pressure and they crumple completely. Frank Spencer had more durable mental fibre to him than this lot, and I'd back him to defend corners better than this as well.

And so off we go again, back to square one, and a long losing run from where, eventually, the pattern repeats once more. Not too bad against a good Premier League team in Bournemouth in the FA Cup. Victorious, finally, after nine attempts, at home to Millwall – second time lucky. All there is to do now is knock over Huddersfield, a team in such lousy form their new American owner is already about to lose patience with a second manager of the season and fire him, and we’ll be out of the bottom three, above them, and dragging others into the fight with us. Drew 1-1, lucky to get it.

A win at Blackburn, a good result with actual midfielders playing in actual midfield, breaking forward to join attacks and score goals. Sorcery. Witchcraft. The 2-2 against play-off chasing Norwich looked like a proper football game of the sorts proper football teams embroil themselves in. Applauded off at full time, a compelling encounter you’d have been able to enjoy without the terror of the emotional investment. All there is to do now is knock over Stoke, absolute pony, in complete freefall, conceding goals for fun, registering home wins at a rate of one per monarch, and we’ll be out of the bottom three, above the Potters, dragging other teams into the mess with us. Lost 1-0. Lost 1-0, deserved to lose 1-0, always going to lose 1-0. They can’t do it. Three game weeks, pressure games against teams around us. They can’t do it. They won’t do it. They’ll let you down again.

They’ll probably beat Bristol City now, get to within a point of Millwall, and then lose at home to Rotherham.

I’d say it’s abject, abysmal, all sorts of aggressive words like that, but I’m numb to it now. You know it's bad when the message board is besieged by dozens of new threads where every single one could have just been a reply to the match thread because (understandably, I get it), people have suffered catastrophic head loss. I’d do a minute by minute report, but what minute by minute report is there to write? It would just be me writing a long list of all the times Kenneth Paal booted all of our set pieces into Jordan Thompson’s face. We talk about concussion protocols in sport and the ticking timebomb of brain injuries in professional sportsmen, Paal’s an absolute menace to society. Choose a different club from the bag Kenneth. You have selected Power Drive. May I suggest, feather touch? … Power Drive. Stoke had to replace Thompson as their near post defender in the end because he was getting a sore bonce. Far be it from me to suggest that slipping “he’s also good at set pieces” into the Lucas Andersen puff piece on the official site may have been done as a crowd pleaser rather than because it’s actually true, but why is Paal still taking our sodding corners even after the Dane has come onto the pitch? He kicks the thing like it’s a fucking medicine ball. No team has scored as few goals from set pieces in the league this season as QPR’s, pathetic, three.

In among the stunning shocks was Stoke’s winner. From a corner of their own, of course. No team has conceded as many goals from set pieces in the league as QPR’s, alarming, 13. Leicester have conceded 24 goals all season, we’ve conceded more than half of that off fucking corners. Minute to go until half time, concentrate, see the time out, get in at half time for a proper sort out. Don’t keep giving the ball away, don’t keep giving them corners, and if you are going to give them corners make bloody sure you win the first contact, win the second ball, mark your man. I think it’s Jack Colback who appears most at fault, but frankly the tracking and marking of both Luke McNally, who won the first header, and Wouter Burger who scored the goal was so hilariously bad it’s really difficult to tell with any degree of accuracy who you really should be blaming for it. If somebody was sort of nearby either of them you could perhaps say ‘you should have done better there’ but in a penalty box populated by all 11 QPR players both managed to find the sort of sort of acreage usually reserved for Tory MPs to build second homes on. Ceremonial mass wave at the linesman as per usual – HIYA.

What else have I got in my notes? I’m sure you’re dying to know. The only save Daniel Iversen in the home goal had to make all night was after a couple of minutes when Joe Hodge fed Ilias Chair for a shot at a nice height. He should have been worked later by Paul Smyth, in for Chris Willock, when Chair ran crossfield and played him in but, once again, Smyth went for the near post instead of across the keeper to the far and hit the side netting when he really should be working the keeper at least. As far as attacking threat went, that was it. Sinclair Armstrong got no change at all from McNally and co, and referee Andrew Kitchen is one of those Championship officials who’s taken completely against him so no free kicks were forthcoming when they might have been on the rare occasions he did do something vaguely okay.

Rangers spent so long over a corner in the 18th minute it looked like we were wasting time with an hour to go and the score still nil nil – the big build up preceded Steve Cook banging the ball wide of the post. Weird. The whole thing just felt so lethargic. I kept saying in the Norwich report “this is how it’s going to be” – tight games, checking other results, whole thing on a knife edge, pushing right to the end, fighting right to the death, stomach churning, nerves frayed. And then… this. I could easily have slept through it for the want of three empty seats to stretch across. Reggie Cannon, Ilias Chair and others just slobbing about, taking an age over every throw and set piece. There was no urgency and tempo. No aggression and purpose. Just, rather, arsing about. Nobody smashing into tackles.

Tactically, technically, ability wise, not at the races at all. We often struggle against the modern parlance “low block”, but this was a cumulative failure of both heart and mind. Where was somebody, anybody, cracking into a big challenge early doors to put a marker down? Where was the desperation about our desperate situation? Where was the bravery to go and make it happen? Turning the ball back inside rather than running at your man, abdicating responsibility, taking the easy way out. Punting it long rather than risking a more progressive pass into midfield. Everybody as guilty as everybody else, nobody spared from blame. It was a big game this, we’re running out of opportunities to save ourselves. We’ve now got 14 left to play and that includes Leicester and Hull away, Leeds at home, Coventry potentially needing a result for the play-offs on the last day. I don’t know how many more opportunities these players think they’re going to get but it felt like we were keeping them from something. Have you got somewhere else to be lads? Put a bit of minge around it for fuck’s sake.

Stoke gave the ball away twice in quick succession on the half hour, and their crowd really started to drill them in earnest. Rangers not only sportingly gave it straight back to them on both occasions, but also nearly conceded when Rose’s header from a corner was tipped over by Begovic. How does your opponent give you the ball twice in minute, under a hail of disgruntlement from their own fans, and you turn that into a situation where you almost go 1-0 down? That, and a later save from Burger (one of the few you could rate as something approaching acceptable on the night) were stops the keeper should be making. Otherwise the Bosnian’s painfully slow distribution, slapstick waddle across his area chasing a horribly wayward backpass from Colback (another example of one of your senior players not even committed and concentrated enough to get a fundamental basic pass back to the goalkeeper right), and farcical situation in eight minutes of added time when Rangers desperately sent him up for a corner but then had to waste another chunk of their own time waiting for him to slog all the way back down the pitch, made it another painful night watching the guy who is, let’s remember, the captain of this team. Glacial. Serious talk now, I move about quicker and more deftly than this when I’m pissed. His giveaway led to the corner from which the only goal of the game was scored.

Stoke looked like they were happy to sit deep and see out the second half. QPR’s attempts to capitalise by starting on the front foot floundered on the rocks of oh so many crosses into the first defender. Honestly, it’s like watching under sevens play with a proper ball on a full size pitch for the first time. They can’t even kick it properly. Whatever Big Ten Minutes Rangers had planned for the start of the second period was declared done and over by a hopeless shot over the bar from Isaac Hayden. And he really rather microcosmed the whole thing. I’ve seen criticism of Cifuentes, for picking the wrong team, for not motivating them enough, for making the wrong substitutions. I’m here to tell you, again, there isn’t a winning team waiting to break out of this squad for want of a different manager picking it a slightly different shape, system or team selection. Cifuentes picked the team the vast majority of supporters would have gone with after the weekend game against Norwich, and had they played as they did in that game they’d have won. Then they phone in this slop. How do you manage that? How does Hayden go from Saturday, to this? Colback the same. Oh he needs to motivate them more. Just like Warburton. Just like Beale. Just like Critchley. Just like Ainsworth. Coming through our last three seasons and concluding Wednesday was really in any way the manager’s fault is akin to correcting climate change by hammering my mum's kitchen wood burner.

By the time Stoke sub Lyndon Gooch blasted over on a late overlap, when he should have done better, Rangers had gone entirely. Andersen, weekend hero Michy Frey, Chris Willock and others came on from the bench to no effect whatsoever. Ilias Chair, cutting in field, and cutting in field again. If that shot from 25 yards didn’t work, why not try one from 35? Go on, get some parsley on there. Boring, and predictable.

Stoke introduced Ben Pearson The Goblin Boy for shits and giggles but, frankly, could have started fishing people out of the crowd who fancied a bit of a run about if they’d wanted. When they also brought on Diabeto, once a £23m buy for Aston Villa believe it or not, it looked like they’d done exactly that. Kitchen added eight minutes, it may as well have been 108. Rangers' hopes had long since slipped away into the night, and on the first b of the full time bang the players did exactly that themselves – off and away down the tunnel with a few cursory claps and hands of apology to a dumbstruck collection of 700+ people who’d again made the effort to travel north midweek and support them. If only they’d shown such pace and urgency during the game.

What did I really want them to do? Stand there for a bit so I could yell some abuse at them? Perhaps. What good would it really have done anybody? I don’t know. I just wanted something else. Something a bit better. More than this. A lot more than this.

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

Stoke: Iversen N/A; Hoever 5, McNally 6, Rose 5, Thompson 6; Cundle 5 (Leris 89, -), Baker 5, Burger 6 (Pearson 75, 5); Tchamadeu 5 (Gooch 81, -), Ennis 5 (Wesley 74, 4), Bae 5 (Laurent 81, -)

Subs not used: Campbell, Bonham, Wilmot, Manhoef

Goals: Burger 45 (assisted McNally)

QPR: Begovic 5; Cannon 4, Cook 5, Clarke-Salter 4 (Dykes 85, -), Paal 4; Hayden 5 (Field 85, -), Colback 4 (Willock 78, 4), Hodge 5; Smyth 4 (Andersen 67, 5), Armstrong 4 (Frey 67, 5), Chair 4

Subs not used: Dunne, Archer, Dixon-Bonner, Fox

Yellow Cards: Hayden 64 (foul)

QPR Star Man – N/A Yeh, you can suck a star man award out of my arse.

Referee – Andrew Kitchen (Durham) 6 Fine. Harsh on Armstrong a few times, but first world problems. I actually felt sorry for him having to referee this nonsense.

Attendance – 19,307 (735 QPR) Forgive me, in lieu of the usual comment about our support holding up miraculously despite everything, and snidey remarks about how quickly the players scuttled off at the end, I wanted to just do a little bit here about Peter Handyside, who Stoke held a minute of applause in this game to remember following his sadly untimely death last week at the age of just 49. Handyside formed an uncompromising, formidable centre back pairing with Mark Lever at Grimsby Town who I watched a lot when I was a kid. That was the bedrock of a team Alan Buckley took twice to Wembley, and into the First Division where they were something of a mainstay at that point in time – remarkable achievement given the size of the club and its resources, and when you look at it now. You wouldn't have wanted to play either of them, but Handyside had that added touch of classy ability about him too which has become en vogue for modern centre backs. Ahead of his time, while good at the old school stuff, I always thought he’d be a good option for QPR as they looked to replace Alan McDonald, rather than spending money on tat like Steve Morrow. No surprise to anybody who watched him at Blundell Park that he subsequently went and did well, winning promotion, at Stoke. He was the victim of the worst ever tackle I saw on a football pitch, in a play-off semi-final win against Kevin Keegan's monied Fulham - that's how good that Buckley side was. It simultaneously sparked one of the greatest pieces of club commentary you’ll ever listen to. Forty nine is no kind of age, RIP.

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royinaus added 06:47 - Feb 16
Apart from the brilliant & often hilarious writing, I think the reason I've followed Lost For Words for neigh on 10 years now, is the fact that you seem to see things exactly the way I do. On my recent trip home, my Liverpool born, Australian wife & I attended the Preston, Hull, Southampton & Cardiff games (as it was a delayed honeymoon I concluded taking her to Millwall may have pushed her devotion a little too far & opted instead for the Colosseum)
The ball on the wing, constantly being recycled backwards & across was mind numbing & we were both desperately urging someone to take the game by the scruff.
Usually a fan but I thought both Smyth efforts were appalling last night, they were not half chances but were treated as such because why.....too early? Even at the level I played I knew in that position. low & hard, low & hard and that was before goalies were all seven foot!
As you say, after a few better performances I was actually guilty of fancying us, but to play that team, in their current form for 98 minutes and not be able to get 1 goal, I fear the worst.

Spanishal added 11:09 - Feb 16
If anyone can put a smile back on our faces after such an atrocious game of football it’s you Clive. Hilarious, to the point with great use of our wonderful colorful language. There is a site called the Optimistic QPR Supporters which I’ m sure you’d get banned from if you posted, but would love to see one of your epics before it did so

extratimeR added 17:27 - Feb 16
Yep! Exactly right Clive, at one stage I felt as though I had been watching the game for over five years, it's weird we turn in good performances Watford Ipswich ? Norwich, Blackburn, and the next game is appalling.

No imagination whatsoever something drastic is going to have to be done to Central Midfield Creative wise,Anderson?

Yes, I agreed completely with team selection before game.

You show great restraint writing your match reports Clive, excellent as always!
Cheers Clive!

snanker added 02:33 - Feb 17
Spot on Clive and Rs back to being a bloody disgrace when the pressure to perform is really on. They just can't cope with it. Yes and likely we get the skitso effort in Bristol. Need to swab this squad every game.

Tomo_5 added 06:24 - Feb 17
Kenneth Paal was so bad that I think we would have played better with 10 men. This was a horrendous spectacle, both teams should be relegated 2 divisions based on their inability to do anything that resembles the game of football. Not one of the players on that pitch has any ability of merit. I am totally embarrassed for them. I would prefer to be relegated now than endure any of this utter shite any more. Pathetic. If I was a QPR owner I would dock all of their wages for not turning up to work. They are a shower of shine.

AgedR added 08:31 - Feb 17
“Like asking the cast of In The Night Garden to edit The World At One.”

Bravo sir, bravo!

TacticalR added 12:28 - Feb 17
Thanks for your report (really a post-mortem).

We know that this team can't handle expectation (or corners), and you did warn us in the preview that we had repeatedly refused all opportunities to get out of the relegation zone.

We're back to our old problem of being unable to score, or even create chances, so a goal conceded is the end of the game.

AgedR added 11:03 - Feb 18
“Like asking the cast of In The Night Garden to edit The World At One.”

Bravo sir, bravo!

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