|Birmingham City 0 v 2 Queens Park Rangers|
Wednesday, 11th December 2019 Kick-off 19:45
Bright's brilliance lights up Birmingham - Report
Thursday, 12th Dec 2019 12:06 by Clive Whittingham
Queens Park Rangers equalled last season’s record of five away wins before the halfway point of the current campaign with a comfortable 2-0 victory at Birmingham City on Wednesday night.
That this fifth road win of 2019/20 was achieved at St Andrew’s should come as little surprise – QPR have a tremendous recent record here with now four wins from their last six visits. But for so long through a turgid first half this looked like being a repeat of last year’s 0-0 snooze-a-thon which could have bored a room full of boxer dogs into calmness.
QPR, fresh from a first win in eight games and a first clean sheet of the season against Preston at Loftus Road on Saturday, erred on the side of caution for this first of two quickfire away games. Jordan Hugill, despite a game battle with AJ Styles at the weekend, dropped out of the starting eleven in favour of an extra Luke Amos-shaped body for the midfield alongside Geoff Cameron. Out of the 5-0-5 we came, and back into the 4-2-3-1 we slipped.
Quite what Birmingham City were erring on the side of was never quite established. A rickety defence was to be expected with both first choice centre halves Jake Clarke-Salter and Marc Roberts injured in a win at Reading at the weekend, and they were also missing Dan Crowley’s above-average vision and below-average temperament from midfield, but across 90 insipid minutes they failed to muster a single serious shot of any note on Joe Lumley’s goal. QPR have gone from no clean sheets in 24 games to two in five days but where Lumley had to command a penalty box and make a spectacular save in the second half to secure the first against Preston, he could have immersed himself in a good book for 90 minutes and still kept the second one here. Apart from perhaps lulling QPR into some stupefied sense of security before trying to spring a late surprise on them, it was really quite difficult to see what Pep Clotet’s team was trying to achieve here, and there were precious few locals left in the stadium to see it by the end.
The first half was how football looks to Americans. Halfback passes to centre, back to wing, back to centre, centre holds it. Holds it. Holds it. There was only the cold to keep us awake as Jacques Maghoma saw a ninth minute speculator deflected wide for a corner that was also subsequently diverted off target by Grant Hall. Trying to get Toni Leistner to play out from the back landed Rangers in sticky stuff soon after but Ivan Sunjic couldn’t test Lumley with his shot. One low cross through the six yard box by Bela after he’d skinned Manning on the half hour really should have been a goal for Alvaro Gimenez but he missed the ball entirely and all subsequent Birmingham threat was snuffed out by a back four led supremely by Grant Hall, turning in one of his best ever QPR performances on a ground where he once let in seven in a Birmingham shirt. A superb tackle after another Leistner give away on 33 stopped one chance, and he sprang to his feet to clear at the back post when the ball was returned to the danger area.
Birmingham had adopted the Mike Bassett tactic of dealing with Ebere Eze at the other end – if he gets it, boot him up in the air. He did free himself from this battering long enough to bring a thirty eighth minute cross down in the area and shoot over. That was really as close as Rangers had come, and if ever a game deserved to be nil nil at half time it was this one, where the standout player was a centre half for a series of clearances at the back post. But there was to be a sting in the Rangers tail in a minute of first half stoppage time when Hall got involved at the other end, heading an Ebere Eze free kick down into a crowded six yard box and then following up with a low first time finish into the corner when the ball spurted out of the carnage in his direction. Is goal, counts as a whole one apparently, thoroughly deserved by Hall, if not the game overall.
If our Sky overlords were hoping for better in the second half, well it was a pleasure and an honour to disappoint them. QPR’s advantage meant they didn’t have to push forward looking for more, and Birmingham’s comatose approach to the game meant they didn’t really have it within them to chase it. And so the scrappiness began again – Leistner gave the ball away, Birmingham forced a corner, QPR cleared. Cameron tripped Josh McEachran on the edge of the box, substitute Jutkiewicz hit a piss weak free kick into the wall. Osayi-Samuel almost slipped Eze clean through on goal but Birmingham intercepted and countered drawing a yellow for a professional foul from Leistner which would force local starlet Jude Bellingham out of the game. Maxime Colin objected to the awarding of a routine throw in against him to such an extent that referee Darren Bond booked him for dissent – something accident investigators would find played a key role later on.
On and on it droned, meandering its way towards a 1-0 away win. The QPR fans found a large gent with glasses in the home end and started signing “you’re just a fat Harry Potter” at him. The Birmingham fans found a large gent with glasses in the away end and started singing “you’re just a fat Harry Potter” at him. Birmingham seemed to kick the ball out for a throw in an awful lot for a professional football team. A text from the family home pleadingly asked if I’d done the sensible thing and stayed in London to watch it on the television. I had not stayed at home to watch it on the television. You’re wasting your life Clive. Thanks mum, love you.
And then the ball arrived at the feet of a young man called Bright Osayi-Samuel. You see this sort of exhilarating incident in both codes of rugby, when play has become condensed in the midfield and the defending team’s winger has come too far in, offering a corridor of land between him and the touchline through which an opponent can burst if they’re quick and strong enough. Bright Osayi-Samuel was quick and strong enough. Switched onto the left side post Colin yellow card to try and extract a red from him, he had his man all ends up from the moment he got hold of the ball. Colin knew he couldn’t foul him, and didn’t want him one on one in that position. He didn’t want him one bit. Off they set, down the line, towards the away end, Osayi-Samuel combining superb ball control at speed with powerful right arm fends to keep his man at bay. If anything, he seemed to be getting faster as he powered out of the QPR half and down the touchline, aggressively driving at the heart of the home team defence, bringing the travelling fans to their feet in anticipation, forcing his way towards the penalty area. Come across and help out any time you like lads, but nobody did, and Colin was spent. By the time he breached the 18-yard box Osayi-Samuel was just a blur, absolutely motoring along and now with Nahki Wells up alongside him awaiting a tap in. Lack of end product? Not me, never doubted him. He drew a foot back and shelled it straight into the roof of the net. In under the posts. Blood of Jesus. The away end took off. Print it out for Joan. Count that scrappy first one as half and we’ll have two for this one – Birmingham 0 QPR 2.5.
Birmingham had lulled too long, and were now heading for a third home defeat of the season. QPR added Jordan Hugill to their attack and went looking for a third, which they would have got but for a goal line clearance from Geoff Cameron’s seventy sixth minute header which would have been nice reward for his latest impressive, solid display in front of the back four. Later Hugill had Brum exposed down the middle but, with Osayi-Samuel one side and Luke Amos the other both absolutely crying out to be played clean through on Connal Trueman, he selfishly took on a shot himself and scuffed it wide.
QPR had done a number on the hosts, and they knew it. Displeased locals were streaming down the stairs hours before the full time whistle was eventually sounded. A rare flash of temper from Ebere Eze in stoppage time could easily have brought a red card to spoil the evening but referee Bond gave him the benefit of the doubt with a yellow and the jingle bells party continued on the terrace, and all the way back to New Street. QPR, so leaky just a fortnight ago, have now conceded just once, from a direct free kick, in three games and looked completely solid and comfortable in this system. Osayi-Samuel’s strength and tracking back to help out either Todd Kane or Ryan Manning, depending on which wing he’s on at the time, has helped stem the flow of goals conceded from crosses, and going forwards he’s in electric form right now.
His was a goal we’ll never forget in a game we’ll never remember.
Birmingham: Trueman 6; Colin 5, Dean 6, Harding 6, Pedersen 5; McEachran 5, Sunjic 5; Maghoma 6, Bellingham 6 (Montero 64, 5), Bela 6 (Bailey 54, 5); Gimenez 5 (Jutkiewicz 53, 4)
Subs not used: Camp, Gardner, Davis, Bajrami
Match Gallery: 23 photos
Bookings: Colin 51 (dissent), Maghoma 77 (foul)
QPR: Lumley 6; Kane 6, Hall 8, Leistner 6, Manning 7; Cameron 7, Amos 7 (Smith 90+2, -); Osayi-Samuel 7, Pugh 6 (Ball 71, 6), Eze 7; Wells 5 (Hugill 70, 5)
Subs not used: Wallace, Mlakar, Chair, Barnes
Goals: Hall 45+1 (assisted Eze), Osayi-Samuel 68 (unassisted)
Bookings: Leistner 61 (foul), Eze 90+1 (unsporting)
QPR Star Man – Grant Hall 8 Best performance from him for some time. Several key tackles, blocks and clearances during a first half – all too frequently after Toni Leistner had given the ball away – and then a goal in stoppage time. Tower of strength in the second half, shutting the hosts out of the match completely.
Referee – Darren Bond (Lancashire) 7 As calm and unfussy as I think I’ve ever seen him, though Maxime Colin probably doesn’t think so because his yellow card for dissent looked harsh given what had been allowed to go before and played a key part in him not bringing down Bright Osayi-Samuel for the second goal. Quite why players are allowed to scream “fuck off” at referees and that’s fine, but bouncing the ball on the ground in frustration at a decision is a big no no I’ve never understood.
Attendance – 18,161 (682 QPR) Absolutely loving being back among the noisy, supportive, diehards on the road this season. They back their team, support the players and sing throughout. Not so very long ago I was sitting in this away end with three times as many people, listening to people racially abuse our own German striker. Not missed.
The Twitter/Instagram @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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