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Birmingham City 0 v 0 Queens Park Rangers
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 1st September 2018 Kick-off 15:00
To a game we'll never remember - Report
Sunday, 2nd Sep 2018 13:42 by Clive Whittingham

Queens Park Rangers' cautious recovery from the West Brom and Bristol City debacles continued with a dull 0-0 draw at Birmingham on Saturday that could, and should, have been a rare away win.

One would presume more boring things than Birmingham City 0 Queens Park Rangers 0 have happened somewhere in the world at some point through history. But I wasn’t there for them.

For your authentic, thick Championship sludge simply take two poor teams and boil them through a traumatic August until all the confidence has evaporated and they’re labouring under the misapprehension that a draw from a game against each other is a good result. Add one referee who grew up loathing football and is now dedicating his life to ruining it for the rest of us and serve over 90 stupefying minutes until your guests have started to weep.

QPR have spent some money on an old fashioned big man-little man strike force for themselves. Nahki Wells and Tomer Hemed started their second game together here, forcing Steve McClaren to play a 4-4-2 formation with Luke Freeman out of position on one wing and Ebere Eze out of position on the other. Two actual wingers remain on the bench. Josh Scowen The Goblin Boy was out injured so central midfield ratting duties fell to Jordan Cousins alongside the artist formerly known as Massimo Luongo. Geoff Cameron arrived from Stoke City on Friday, in time only for a place among the subs, so the back four was once again Angel Rangel, Toni Leistner, Joel Lynch and Jake Bidwell.

I’m laying the team out like that because it came up in the comments on the Bristol Rovers match report that it’s helpful for expats who only get to see the highlights to know exactly how the team lined up. And also because fuck all else happened to talk about.

Actually, that’s not strictly true. There were a couple of bits and pieces that occurred during the seven or eight minutes the ball was in play, so let’s rattle through those now and get the hell out of here shall we? Pretend the whole thing didn’t happen.

The game started with a free kick into the wall from Jake Bidwell tormenter in chief Jota. At the other end, Wells went over in the area and enquired about a penalty from referee Jeremy Simpson. Given that Simpson deemed the Nottingham Forest goalkeeper belting Ayoze Perez in the back of the head wasn’t a penalty at the end of the Reds’ cup tie with Newcastle during the week, this one was never likely to be awarded. Strange though, because absolutely every other single little tiny insignificant thing that happened outside the area was a foul apparently. That’s a foul, that’s a foul, that’s a foul, that’s a foul, that’s a foul, that’s a foul, that’s a foul, that’s a foul, that’s a foul, that’s a foul, that’s a foul, that’s a foul. There were 41 free kicks awarded in this game, not far off one every 120 seconds. Honestly, it felt like three times that. If you told me the ball was in play for 15 minutes across the 90 I’d call you a liar. That’s a foul. That’s a foul.

That’s a foul.

And that.

Anyway, where were we? Ah yes, twelfth minute, Luke Freeman free kick (that’s a foul) caused a bit of a goal mouth scramble in which Joel Lynch looked at one point like he might get a shot away until our former hero Lee Camp claimed the ball and tidied the situation up. Birmingham then forced three corners and a wide free kick thanks to a soft foul (that’s a foul) from Luongo and wasted all of them. Wells attacked a near post cross after 20 minutes and looped a shot over the bar. Leistner did likewise with a free header he should have scored with from (guess what?) a Luke Freeman free kick. Just before half time Joel Lynch got a great block in to deny Lucas Jutkiewitz a shot on goal.

And that was the first half. Joe Lumley spent it sitting with us behind the goal. Nice boy, interesting points to make about agrarian reform.

Second half we’ll split into two parts, the first which QPR completely dominated and played as well as they have done all season, and the second when they weirdly seemed to decide they were happy with 0-0 and stopped playing.

Another early chance for Jutkiewitz hit straight at Lumley was as good as it got for the hosts who were on the back foot thereafter. Hemed drew a nervy save from Camp a moment later with a shot to the near post from the left channel of the penalty box. Then Freeman curled (guess what?) a free kick into the wall after Pederson had let Wells skip inside him and decided to bail out with a deliberate foul and obvious yellow card. On the hour a fantastic raking ball forward from Leistner gave Hemed a chance to turn inside Maxime Colin, but having created the space for a shot he scuffed a low one at Camp when the far corner was begging to be sought out. The turn was pure Dennis Bergkamp, the finish was more Dominic Iorfa.

The move of the match (by which I mean the only move either team put together all afternoon, rather than the best from a selection) ended with Freeman bursting beyond the last man into the penalty area but he, too, shot straight at Camp when he really should have scored.

Garry Monk, football’s Edna Krabappel (a smart woman who makes bad choices), sent on Wes Harding for Colin, the splendidly named Viv Soloman-Otabor for Che Adams, and later Omar Bogle for Jutkiewicz to try and provoke some signs of life from his team, still searching for a first win of the season. He induced a bit of a penalty box scramble in the sixty eighth minute and that was about it. They were, by their fans’ own admission on the way out afterwards, absolutely there for the taking.

Quite why, therefore, QPR spent the last 20 minutes seeing the game out, wasting time over throw ins and goal kicks, is beyond me. I appreciate the team is in a fragile state, and lost 7-1 across the city at West Bromwich Albion just a fortnight ago, so we’re taking cautious baby steps towards where we want to be, but QPR have only won away from home four times in the last 35 trips, two of those victories were on this ground and a third was gagging to be taken here. Opportunities for away wins present themselves so seldom to this group of players, they have to be seized and devoured when they come along.

Steve McClaren said as much afterwards, almost word for word. “In the end we’re disappointed we didn’t win the game. Birmingham rode their luck. We let them off the hook. We can’t do that again, but we’re in a better place now than we were two weeks ago,” he told West London Sport. But a developing theme of his tenure at QPR is that what McClaren says doesn’t often tally with what McClaren does. Bright Osayi-Samuel, man of the match by a thousand country miles against Bristol Rovers on Tuesday, not even deemed worthy of a ten minute run at tired defenders to try and win the game at the end here. When Wells ‘ race was run late on he was replaced like for like with another striker in Matt Smith, but when Hemed followed shortly afterwards it was Cameron who came on – another defender/defensive midfielder to defend against Birmingham’s non-existent attacking threat. Lumley, Bidwell and Rangel all ran the clock down with dead ball situations in the final ten minutes.

Rangers did almost win it at the death regardless. A corner to the far post was returned to the heart of the goal mouth sparking a panic and Matt Smith, who has five goals in eight appearances against Birmingham across his career, hit the inside of the post with a close range header he should have scored. Some debate as to whether it would have counted because, of course, naturally, referee Jeremy Simpson had awarded the ten billionth free kick of the game, but that may have been for something that happened after Smith’s effort rather than before. By the time he put his whistle to his lips again and brought the game to a close, it was more of a mercy killing than a full time whistle.

QPR’s performance, and increased attacking threat, were positives to take away, and another clean sheet for this defence and young goalkeeper is important after the debacle at The Hawthorns. They look like more of a unit, buoyed by Lumley’s confident presence behind them, and Rangel’s assuredness and experience to the right. Up front the ball sticks now, rather than bouncing back at us all the time, and there was a goal threat of sorts there despite the missed chances and blank scoresheet. The opposition was a long way shy of West Brom, but Rangers have done exceptionally well to gather themselves and put together two wins and a draw this week by way of recovery from that horrible four days.

But the game as a whole was lukewarm piss. Absolute bilge. And really the nicest thing you can say about it is at least it’s all over now. Rarely has the warm, comforting embrace of an international break been quite so welcome.

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

Birmingham: Camp 6; Colin 5 (Harding 59, 6), Morrison 6, Dean 5, Pedersen 6; Maghoma 6, G Gardner 6, Kieftenbeld 6, Jota 6; Adams 6 (Solomon-Otabor 68, 6), Jutkiewicz 6 (Bogle 86, -)

Subs not used: Roberts, Mahoney, C Gardner, Trueman

Bookings: Maghoma 30 (foul), Pedersen 53 (foul)

QPR: Lumley 6; Rangel 6, Leistner 6, Lynch 6, Bidwell 6; Eze 6, Cousins 6, Luongo 5, Freeman 6; Wells 6 (Smith 85, -), Hemed 6 (Cameron 89, -)

Subs not used: Ingram, Baptiste, Osayi-Samuel, Wszolek, Smyth

QPR Star Man – Joel Lynch 6 Shading it from Rangel with a good block to prevent a goal at the end of the first half, following up a very good personal performance against Wigan a week ago. But really, everybody was pretty much of a muchness.

Referee – Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire) 5 A pernickety, pedantic, suffocating presence in a match that was already plenty shit enough without him stopping the bloody thing every minute and a half.

Souls on Board: 21,155 (1,163 QPR) Shall we just cuddle?

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Noelmc added 14:08 - Sep 2
Brilliant Clive. Several lol moments.

To pinch one of your lines; ‘The report was pure Dennis Bergkamp, the match itself was more Dominic Iorfa’

MancR added 14:30 - Sep 2
Very generous with some of those Birmingham 6s. There were so awful. A confident, reasonably accomplished championship side would've torn them apart.

BirminghamR added 15:45 - Sep 2
Clive, your reports are a work of art...even if the game wasn't

terryb added 15:54 - Sep 2
I think the free kick at the end may have been for offside againct our player who headed it back across goal.

It is very close as to whether Camp or the defender are goalside.

TacticalR added 16:28 - Sep 2
Thanks for your report. It sounds pretty grim.

My thoughts...

The ball was bouncing all over the place - it was yet another episode of Kangaroo football.

I don't know if it's the 4-4-2, but we need some kind of playmaker/guiding intelligence in midfield. I've felt that all season.

Unfortunately Freeman looks out of sorts and gives the impression that passing to anyone else is a last resort.

For the last thirty minutes we needed some creative spark to come on as sub and break the stalemate. At the risk of sounding like a Paul Smyth obsessive, I really felt we needed a wild card like him as he has the ability to supply crosses and he can also cut in and cause trouble for the oppo that way too.

I get the feeling McClaren thinks he hasn't got any levers he can pull.

Myke added 19:32 - Sep 2
Thanks Clive. Worrying that your only reference to Eze was that he was played out of position. Given that he is the only 'kid' that mcClare has opted to work with , sticking him out on the wing seems is a cause for concern. Certainly if we really wanted to win it, throwing on BOS and/or Pav would have stretched Brum down the flanks. But after the hysteria following our slow start, I can understand NcClaren's 'what we have we hold' approach.

Northernr added 19:39 - Sep 2
TBF Eze did ok. Or rather he did what he could considering Birmingham's main tactic for him seemed to be to kick him up in the air whenever he had the ball. Must have happened seven or eight times, literally every time he got the ball in good possession and position they just fouled him and retreated back into shape for the free kick.

I can also understand the caution given what's gone before, but not having seen what was in front of us. If we play a team as bad as Birmingham were on Saturday again this season I'll be amazed. As Manc says above, I was generous with 5s and 6s for them.

Myke added 21:52 - Sep 2
Fair enough but Eze would surely be more effective playing centrally. We needed Hemed for sure ( how we afforded him is another matter) but if we were serious about educating Eze then surely he should be playing off him? Then we would have room for a genuine winger to do damage down the flanks. Possibly the most basic requirement of a winger is pace (even more important than trickery) yet neither Eze nor Freeman are particularly quick. What is it about our managers that we regularly buy/produce decent wingers and then refuse to use them? On a related topic - what's the story with Shodipo?

GloryHunter added 22:56 - Sep 2
Thanks Clive. Glad to read your magnanimous praise for Joel Lynch, as you have been his fiercest critic in the past.

NayDaze added 23:51 - Sep 2

timcocking added 03:01 - Sep 3
Much appreciated

timcocking added 03:09 - Sep 3
It's almost funny really. We've spent hundreds of millions on numerous "top" managers and God only knows how many formations, because of course they all tell us we just don't understand it, you just can't play 4-4-2 any more, and we won't sign players on loan any more because it wastes money, only to end up back at 4-4-2 with loanees playing after a fortnight.


Antti_Heinola added 12:16 - Sep 3
Love 'lukewarm piss' at the end there. However, I long for the day when it's not a cracking game, but not awful either, and you describe it as 'red hot piss'.

Ribenaboy added 22:31 - Sep 3
Nice to see Birmingham having Colin and Dean at the back. A West Midlands version of Torville and Dean no doubt

Willy_WonkR added 11:42 - Sep 4
Excellent and entertaining report as always.
I'm surprised that you didn't mention the highlight of the afternoon when the Birmingham right back attempted a cross field ball only to catch it with his standing foot and put it out for a throw in. He tried to kick it so hard I'm surprised his leg didn't come off. Cheered me right up.

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