|Queens Park Rangers 2 v 1 Derby County|
Tuesday, 25th February 2020 Kick-off 19:45
Chair takes advantage of Rooney's generosity - Report
Wednesday, 26th Feb 2020 23:50 by Clive Whittingham
A fundamental error in Wayne Rooney's casino-peddling quarter-back routine set QPR and their outstanding young forward line on course for a 2-1 victory against Derby at Loftus Road on Tuesday night.
Queens Park Rangers and Derby County have big recent history. Those of a hooped persuasion like to sing “oh Bobby Zamora” and campaign for Richard Keogh to get an induction into the Forever R’s club. The regulars at Pride Park like to sing “oh Bobby Zamora” back and pretend it didn’t hurt like hell when the ageing front man found Wembley’s top bins to win the 2014 play-off final for ten man Rangers.
Of course, QPR had cheated to put the team together that won the game. Deliberately ignoring and flagrantly breaching the league’s rules on spend relative to income, big earners like Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Yossi Banayoun, Ravel Morrison, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Jermaine Jenas, Tom Carroll, Andrew Johnson and Luke Young didn’t even make it onto the pitch at Wembley and only one of them was on the bench. The club’s wage bill topped £80m.
Part embittered, part inspired, Derby have since embarked on their own version of creative accounting under enigmatic chairman Mel Morris. Money has been spent, frequently and in large amounts, on mostly quite mediocre footballers. An experiment where Frank Lampard was allowed to set up a creche for Premier League loan players came up one game short, another Wembley defeat, this time against Aston Villa. The stadium, a brownfield site on the edge of a retail park useful only as a home ground for the city’s football team, was valued in excess of £80m and sold to Morris to avoid all of this putting them in breach of the FFP rules. The EFL, now rid of its ruinously incompetent CEO Shaun Harvey, is belatedly investigating whether a stable door may be in need of attention.
Middlesbrough owner Steve Gibson got very cross about this indeed and while attention was distracted, another ruse was concocted with the club’s shirt sponsor to bring in a marquee player on hundreds of thousands of pounds a month that don’t appear on the FFP calculation thanks to the third party, and him occasionally sticking his head round the door at the club’s academy so they can designate him a player coach. Wayne Rooney, for it is he, now waddles around Championship midfields with a face like an angry potato, pretending he’s a quarter back, spraying balls hither and thither, writing the theme tune and singing the theme tune, bravely continuing his brave battle against gambling addition by bravely spending the twilight of his career as an oversized hairy mascot for an online casino to bravely top up the inheritance pot for Kai, Klay, Klump and Karonavirus.
None of this has done Derby much good at all. The overspend, the Lampard experiment, Phillip Cocu, the excellent young Premier League loans, the ground sale, getting the gambling industry to buy Uncle Bollockhead for them… for it all, they came into this game thirteenth in the table, with the worst away record in the division bar the bottom two sides Luton and Barnsley. In the two wins, five draws and nine defeats they had managed on the road, a clean sheet had yet to be kept, which when you saw centre back pairing Matt Clarke and Curtis Davies trying to, you know, jog about a bit and keep pace with this most midtable of games, wasn’t really a surprise. Davies was mercy killed on 71, a good while after he’d signalled to his bench that enough was enough, allowing Jayden Bogle to enter the fray – frankly, it was a bloody mystery why Bogle hadn’t started in the first place.
But the Rams have wrought revenge against Rangers several times over. Seven games had passed since the last QPR win prior to last night, with Derby winning four of those to nil. They came into this on an improved run of just two defeats in 14 games since Christmas and the thought that Rooney might belatedly lift the Rams into play-off contention had the pre-cum bubbling barely beneath the surface in the Sky Sports studio. QPR, meanwhile, had steadied the ship rather with a couple of draws and a thrashing of woeful Stoke, but were still only one win in seven and had failed to score in four of six since Nahki Wells deserted us. Chicken Little had been nervously eyeing the sky.
There was a twist though. Not since Sven opened a retirement home for old soaks at Leicester City has an opposition graced this ground in quite such obviously poor physical condition. Apart from Davies, fairly blatantly playing injured, and Clarke, who I’ve previously rated highly but looked strangely slow on the turn here, Derby turned up with a forward line of a disinterested and sluggish Jack Marriott, Imperial Tobacco poster boy Rooney looking like a side character from Bob The Builder, and Martyn Waghorn who counts a crisp sandwich as one of his five a day if they’re cheese and onion flavour. Even the younger, fitter players seemed to be carrying timber – we see you Tom Lawrence – and when they added Chris Martin (40% batter) to Wagga and Wazza’s luncheon club late on it must have set a record for heaviest forward line ever fielded. You can’t take that on as hand luggage, they’ll have to go in the hold mate.
In a most un-QPR bit of good timing, Mark Warburton’s men had the good fortune to be playing this lot on pancake day. What an absolute touch.
The game, initially, was thick Championship. All gloop and stodge. Like Martin’s artery lining. Grant Hall sliced wide of his own goal after two minutes and Clarke volleyed the corner over. Marc Pugh turned well on the edge of the Derby box and was fouled, but Ryan Manning wasted the free kick and rebound. Rooney got caught in his Dan Marino routine, allowing Bright Osayi-Samuel to nick the ball and two passes later Jordan Hugill was getting Ebere Eze into good space but Ben Hamer in the visitor’s goal saved comfortably. Liam Kelly kicked the ball straight out. Twice.
Yoann Barbet, unbeaten since returning to the side, wasn’t a million miles away from a dramatic own goal on 15 minutes with Lawrence peeling off behind him to cast doubt in his mind, and Martyn Waghorn had two shots blocked in quick succession. Initial good work by Todd Kane quickly turned to disaster when the ball fell kindly for Lawrence on 25 but Waghorn smacked the resulting presentable chance over. At the other end all-action Dom Ball, playing really well again, got carried away with an outrageous chip and collect over Shinnie’s head and belted a snatched chance miles off target. Barbet curled a free kick wide and Ben Hamer also kicked the ball straight out. Once.
So far, so second tier, all played out in a half empty stadium and atmosphere of an abandoned morgue. But another thing Derby have history of is passing the ball to QPR players at inopportune moments and the first of two Richard Keogh tribute acts was about to befall them and cost the opening goal – Geoff Cameron’s chipped cross after great work by Ryan Manning running loose off a defender to Grant Hall who caught everybody by surprise with an instinctive first time shot into the roof of the net via the bar.
Alas, Derby’s best spell of pressure in the game followed immediately and although QPR seemed to have got away with it when they scrambled the ball behind, typically shambolic marking from the corner allowed Waghorn to head in a deserved equaliser.
Only Wigan have shipped more goals from set pieces than Rangers this season and examining this goal afterwards provides plenty of clues as to why. QPR do a mixture of zonal and man marking, but they use their three best headers of the ball for the zonal bit along the edge of the six-yard box. That leaves three players less adept aerially to mark the opposition and has frequently this season led to complete mismatches, often involving Luke Amos trying to beat Boban Marjanović in the air via use of a step ladder. To compound matters, we seem rather too willing to allow overloads to develop against us at the far post, and to really put the tin hat on things we don’t have anybody on the posts either. It’s almost like we’re trying to concede from them, and when Pugh did the job you’d expect him to do on Waghorn as the ball came in the striker had a reasonably simple task of heading home right on the spot a back post defender would usually have been standing.
Half time verdict – really bloody cold.
But from quiet, uninspiring beginnings, this game was to blossom into the sort of farcical cliffhanger you occasionally get in this division of a million fixtures, proving once and for all that enough monkeys with enough typewriters can eventually turn out something worthwhile. There was some early needle, as Manning deliberately fouled Rooney, then collapsed to the ground very theatrically alleging Waghorn had been beastly to him. Yellows all round from our favourite circus ringmaster Keith Stroud.
There were early Derby chances too, as Kelly was first forced to act to prevent an overhit cross finding the net, then Yoann Barbet executed a goal saving sliding tackle when you were just waiting for him to concede his latest penalty. QPR needed to respond in kind but Jordan Hugill looked leggy for playing every minute of every game since Wells left and wasn’t providing much of a threat. Warburton bit the bullet and stuck small boy Jack Clarke on for him, leaving Rangers without a recognised striker on the field and in the sort of 4-6-0 set up Harry Redknapp used to roll out just before transfer deadline day when Willie McKay had some old shite he needed to shift.
In actual fact, while Clarke still looks out of his depth amidst our refusal to put him back in the left wing role he wrought havoc from against Bristol City, the rotation of false forwards worked quite nicely, especially when Ilias Chair followed for Marc Pugh ten minutes later. Pugh had been decent, and almost scored on the volley from a great Kane cross which Hamer needed to be alert to, but their pace and movement became too much for Derby’s creaking backline to live with once Chair was involved.
A sublime flick from Eze got Osayi-Samuel away and Kane saw a shot blocked. Impressed, Spudhead decided to generously invite Eze to try again, picking him out a treat with the sort of suicidal, arrogant crossfield pass of maximum risk for little reward that apparently convinces sad little losers that online roulette could be the ticket out of their meaningless existence. Eze didn’t need asking twice, accelerating down the middle of the field, gliding gracefully past two, and then feeding Chair, who nobody had tracked, and he banged a fierce shot past Hamer for 2-1.
Rooney. Rooney. Rooney. Indeed.
Soon Eze was trying to lob the goalkeeper from the halfway line – come on mate, we’ve all had a drink – and another rampage from QPR’s star man gave Manning a chance to cross and Chair an opportunity at the near post which he smacked straight at Hamer. Warbs Warburton’s philosophy in such situations is to keep piling on looking for a third, and Rangers nearly had it when great strength from Bright ended with Barbet, up for a previous corner, heading over. Friend of the site Keith Stroud started delaying restarts so he could faff about with his footwear a bit.
It was all rather too much fun, and a sparse crowd was finally into the game, but there were to be a series of late scares. Dom Ball forgot himself, carried away with a Cruyff turn, and Barbet committed a deliberate foul to rescue the situation and take a yellow. Waghorn, who’d scored from similar range in the first meeting this season, stuck the free kick just over. Soon Lawrence was having a low, deflected shot pass through a crowd of legs and just wide and from that corner Waghorn headed towards goal only for Kelly to save at point blank range with his feet. More lousy marking at a corner, and a Kelly flap, and Clarke’s wildly inaccurate back post clearance induced more panic. When a ball subsequently fell to Waghorn in the right channel the far bottom corner was yawning, but he missed by a foot. With memories of Charlton snatching a 2-2 here in remarkably similar circumstances still fresh, all you could do was marvel at the carnage and hope we came out on the right side of it for once. If you could keep the self immolation down to a dull roar Rangers that would be great, we’re trying to have a nice night out here.
Legs flailing, bodies tumbling, chances coming, and going, and coming again, and now suddenly, in five added minutes at the end of the game, a man on the floor. Who’s that flat out on the deck? It’s bloody Keith Stroud, prostrate on the turf. I’ll tell you what, it’s a bloody chore finding blow darts of sufficient potency online these days but if you get a good one... This was it wasn’t it? This was how it was going to end. Keith Stroud, the division’s worst referee, unusually competent and disturbingly quiet, centre of attention after all, abandoning the game with three minutes left for play and QPR leading 2-1, returning to fitness just in time for the replay on Tuesday week which Rangers lose 1-0, to a last minute Wayne Rooney penalty, which Stroud awards, despite replays showing there’d been no foul. It was Dom Ball who clocked him I think, thus sealing his Player of the Year award for 2019/20 – sorry Eze, you’re not topping that mate.
Match Gallery: 16 photos
A fittingly farcical end to a happy night of second tier nonsense. What on earth have I just watched?
QPR: Kelly 7; Kane 6, Hall 7, Barbet 7, Manning 7; Ball 7, Cameron 6; Osayi-Samuel 7, Eze 7, Pugh 7 (Chair 73, 7); Hugill 6 (Clarke 63, 5)
Subs not used: Lumley Wallace, Amos, Oteh, Masterson
Goals: Hall 34 (assisted Cameron), Chair 75 (assisted Eze, pre-assist Rooney)
Bookings: Kane 51 (foul), Barbet 80 (foul), Eze 90+5 (deliberate handball)
Derby: Hamer 6; Wisdom 6, Davies 5 (Bogle 71, 6), Clarke 5, Lowe 6; Bird 6, Shinnie 6 (Whittaker 79, -); Lawrence 5, Rooney 6, Waghorn 7; Marriott 5 (Martin 72, 5)
Subs not used: Forsyth, Roos, Knight, Malone
Goals: Waghorn 44 (assisted Bird)
Bookings: Waghorn 52 (unsporting)
QPR Star Man – Ebere Eze 7 Our best player being our best player again. He makes incredibly difficult stuff look incredibly easy, but don’t take that for granted.
Keith Stroud (Hampshire) 7 Goodness only knows what was going on at the end but this about as well as he’s refereed a QPR game for many a year.
Attendance – 11,669 (1,000 Derby approx.) And if you believe that…
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