|Birmingham City 0 v 0 Queens Park Rangers|
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.
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.
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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