End of Term Report 19/20 – Goalkeepers
Tuesday, 4th Aug 2020 06:41 by Clive Whittingham
In the interests of starting with the bad news and building up to the good stuff, we begin our annual statistical review of the QPR squad with a look at… the goalkeepers. Poor loves.
1 – Joe Lumley D
A season that feels like it could make or break Joe Lumley at Championship level.
It’s been mostly rotten. Both statistically, where Lumley was not a million miles off conceding two goals a game (1.75) and kept just three clean sheets in 28 appearances, and in practice, where a clutch of glaring mistakes meant that, even if some of the blame for conceding 70+ goals in a season for the third year in a row could be shifted to the obviously deficient defence in front of him, you still couldn’t exclude the goalkeepers from criticism.
The mistakes, as the previous season at Derby, often came with his feet, not an ideal weakness for a goalkeeper to have when Mark Warburton is your manager and playing the ball on the floor is the gospel according to Warbs. Against Luton at home he turned a cakewalk into a nervous afternoon, with a slack pass straight to Harry Cornick who scored into an open goal – that smacked of over confidence and lack of concentration on a sunny day with Rangers 3-0 up before half time. As we’ll come onto discuss with our penalty record since Alex Smithies departed, there’s a fine line between confidence/presence/banter/gamesmanship and not paying a-fucking-ttention.
At Bristol City a wild swing at a botched QPR throw-in was all about surprise and panic. As QPR have sacked one manager after another to no improvement we’ve often said “manager not the problem” and with Lumley and Kelly suffering near identical records this year perhaps it’s now a case of “goalkeeper not the problem”. The Bristol City goal, in particular, was a catalogue of idiocy before it even got to Joe. But against Fulham and Brentford away none of those things were applicable to duffed kicks that set up crucial goals against. He has this tick in his game where far too frequently a ball goes flying off his toe end about five feet off the ground, straight down the middle of the pitch, never more than 40 yards from our goal, dying to be intercepted and turned back upon us. It cost us goals at Craven Cottage and Griffin Park, but it’s happened many times more than that and it’s a kink that needs ironing out really quickly, for the sake of my blood pressure and stomach lining, and his career.
Sadly, there were also mistakes with the hands. Routine saves butchered into goals against, often from super long range, against West Brom H, Forest H, Cardiff H, Hull H and Sheff Wed H (cup). Flapping around like Christ in a crucifix shop.
Nine goals at least there, costing half a dozen points and a place in the FA Cup. Even when he came back strongly during the lockdown there was one at West Brom A that squirmed through his hands but just stayed out and could have been a humiliating way to sign off the season.
God, I’m sorry Joe, there’s light as well as shade in this I promise.
There were good performances. At Reading away, where he kept Rangers in touch with a string of saves, beaten only by Jon Swift’s barnburner, but couldn’t prevent defeat thanks to poor finishing at the other end. At Derby away, where he recovered admirably from the 4-0 midweek destruction by Nottingham Forest and performed well in a 1-1 draw, clearly emotional at full time as the away fans sang his name in solidarity. At Middlesbrough away in lockdown, where he returned to the side with a series of early saves to keep fragile Rangers from going under and laid the platform for a 1-0 away win. And at Wigan, where he was the only player to emerge with any credit, making several stops to prevent a complete embarrassment as his team mates abandoned their stations in front of him. Coincidence that all of these were away from the baying W12 masses? There was also Cardiff at home, where he got a beautiful assist for a superb Bright Osayi-Samuel goal, but then subsequently spaffed one into his own net in injury time just when a clean sheet was begging at the perfect time. Lumley does actually have a dangerous, accurate, raking kick out of his hands, as opposed to his frighteningly inconsistent one off the floor, so it’s weird to see him use it so seldom.
Lockdown was ideal for Lumley. It had got to the stage pre-Covid where the crowd at Loftus Road had been heard ironically cheering clean catches and clearances and he deleted his social media channels halfway through the season under a torrent of aggressive and disgusting abuse from accounts professing to be Queens Park Rangers supporters – guys, I get we’re frustrated, but what are we achieving with that? The opportunity to slip Joe back in for half a dozen games that didn’t matter and didn’t have a crowd there was a unique set of circumstances that he may look back on in future years as a career-saver. Lumley played well in the last few games, making a great save late on down to his right keep hold of a point at Luton, and an even better one off to his left at West Brom on the final night to get us another creditable result there. His confidence, demeanour, brashness, and outright bloody racket, doesn’t seem to have been dimmed, at least in public, by a traumatic 12 months on the field. Come back from this, the whole experience could all make him stronger.
Les Ferdinand was steadfast in his defence of the keeper at the lockdown fans forum, saying…
“…I know Joe at the start of season didn’t have the best of times and Liam has come in and taken his place, but I remember when Eze came back from Wycombe and did really well then the following season he wasn’t so good and people said 'you need to get rid of him, he’s not good enough'. Young players have ups and downs. Joe’s had a bit of a down, but I have no doubt Joe will be a top goalkeeper and he will come back. Sometimes you need to give them an opportunity, and when he first came back from loan everybody was talking about what a top goalkeeper he was. All of a sudden he’s had a bit of a lull as young players do and now we’re saying he’s not good enough. We need to sometimes take our time, give them an opportunity to have a few bad games. I know it costs us at times but that’s what football is about. I totally understand how difficult it is at times, sometimes there are managers who don’t quite fancy what you’re doing at a particular time. When Joe has been out on loan he’s done exceptionally well, when he came back into the side everybody was raving about what a top keeper he is. He’s had a dip in form. It’s normal. Not just because he’s a young player, senior players have dips in form as well. Sometimes we need to get behind these young players and give them the gee-up they need.”
As we’ll come onto though, QPR have got themselves into a situation where they now have half a dozen keepers all of similar age and ability levels, and Joe is going to have to hit the ground sprinting at full speed in September if he’s to prove he should be at the front of an increasingly congested, but sadly rather mediocre, queue.
28 starts, 0 sub appearances, W10 D6 L12
49 goals conceded (1.75 a game), 3 clean sheets, 1 assist (Cardiff H)
2 LFW MOTM Awards (Reading A, Wigan A)
LFW Ratings – 6, 6, 5, 5, 5, 6, 5, 6, 5, 5, 4, 3, 6, 7, 6, 4, 6, 7, 3, 6, 3, 4, 7, 6, 5, 7, 6, 6 = 5.357
Interactive Ratings – 5.66
0 Supporter MOTM Awards
32 – Liam Kelly C/D
Liam Kelly produced one of the moments of QPR’s season in January, diving low and hard to his left to keep out a penalty from Patrick Bamford at the School End and then springing from his line to command the resulting corner kick and set Rangers on their way to a televised 1-0 win against the eventual champions. The noise. The atmosphere. It was like we’d scored ourselves. Our new goalkeeper had, belatedly, arrived. Or so it seemed at the time.
It was, however, tempered in a number of ways. First and foremost, it was only Patrick Bamford. Twenty press ups for anybody who can’t save a Patrick Bamford penalty.
Secondly, it was the only one of ten penalties faced all season that either Kelly or Lumley managed to save. I know we were spoilt with Alex Smithies routinely just stretching down into the bottom corner from a standing start and bailing us out of the shit but QPR have now faced 21 penalties in two seasons and only this one and Fernando Forestieri’s ballooned effort over the bar at Sheff Wed on the final day of last season haven’t been scored. All of these kicks are preceded by needless, exaggerated, histrionics and gamesmanship, from both Lumley and Kelly (Kelly was eventually booked for prolonging the agony against Pompey in the cup) that seem to only rile the taker up and make him more determined to score. Luton’s James Collins not the first player to calmly dispatch the kick and then make a point to the QPR keeper in his celebration. It’s a collector’s item if our goalkeeper even goes the right way. A bit less of a performance and a few more saves wouldn’t go amiss.
And thirdly, it was sadly the best thing Kelly contributed this season by a considerable distance.
Brought in with a reputation of being good with his feet, in contrast to the more accident-prone Lumley, the only evidence of that was that Lumley’s kicks resulted in a series of embarrassing goals conceded and Kelly’s did not. In the land of the bald the man with three hairs is king. He initially replaced Lumley in the autumn, coming in after the first choice had made rather a hash of a couple of long rangers in a 2-0 home loss to West Brom for a 3-0 defeat at Cardiff when the home side only had four shots in the whole game. Rangers continued to concede goals much as they had before – 14 in Kelly’s first six appearances – and like Lumley he clocks in at more than a goal and a half conceded a game over the course of the season and just three clean sheets. Goals like Jarrod Bowen’s lobbed effort in the 3-2 win at Hull didn’t suggest he was any great improvement, and he was back out of the team after a 2-0 loss at Leeds with a calf injury. All of this is said with the greatest of awareness of just how abysmal the defence is in front of him. Some of the goals these boys conceded wouldn’t have been saved if they’d been armed with a butterfly net.
Lumley’s January disasters, particularly a first half meltdown at Brentford, saw Kelly recalled in February and he played well in a 0-0 at Nottingham Forest before the lockdown came. He spoke to the Open All R’s Podcast during the shutdown and was frustrated that he didn’t feel he’d produced anywhere near what he was capable of for QPR so far, which was encouraging, but sounded utterly miserable, which was less so. First choice upon the restart he conceded immediately to Barnsley when he should have done better, Charlton when he should have saved it, and two against Fulham the first of which was an aberration. The decision to initially allow goalkeeping coach Gavin Ward to stay locked down and away from the club upon the restart looked rather less than shrewd at that point.
That concluded his stop-start first season in English football and in the looming three-into-one-doesn’t-go scenario he looks vulnerable.
22 starts, 0 sub appearances, W7 D5 L10
35 goals conceded (1.59 a game), 3 clean sheets
1 yellow card (Pompey H, delaying a penalty)
0 LFW MOTM awards
LFW Ratings – 6, 6, 5, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 8, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 7, 7, 6, 6, 5, 5, 3 = 5.9
Interactive Ratings – 5.9
2 Supporter MOTM Awards – Leeds H, Forest A
Others >>> As he did the previous season, Senny Dieng spent the whole campaign out on loan, this time at Darren Moore’s progressive Doncaster Rovers side in League One. He got another 32 starts under his belt there to take him to 67 professional appearances for Stevenage, Dundee and Doncaster and not a one for QPR. He conceded 31 goals across those 32 starts, less than a goal a game and significantly better than Kelly and Lumley’s records in the higher division. He kept clean sheets in a third of the games he started – 11 – including a run of five consecutive shut outs in January against Oxford, Shrewsbury, Bristol Rovers, Coventry and Sunderland. Before we get all lubed up and ready to go, probably worth reminding ourselves that these are remarkably similar numbers to the ones Joe Lumley posted when loaned out to this league with Bristol Rovers (19 apps, 23 conceded, 8 clean sheets) and Blackpool (18 apps, 15 conceded, 9 clean sheets).
Moore was effusive in his praise for Dieng on several occasions last season, particularly his ability to play out from the back (don’t groan) despite a glaring error in a home match with Bolton caused by too much pissing about on his own goal line (ok, small groan for that one). Birmingham City were very keen on bidding for Dieng, who is out of contract next summer but has been offered a new QPR deal, as a replacement for Lee Camp. Birmingham have since replaced Johnny Foreigner 1.1 Pep Clotet with the much more pragmatic/dogmatic/depressing Aitor Karanka but LFW understands (see, we’re getting big time) they’re still keen on recruiting Dieng and can promise first team minutes in their quest. Camp has been offered reduced terms as a number two there.
QPR have worked themselves into a situation where they have a 25-year-old who they thought would be their first choice but has had a retched season, a 24-year-old they brought into challenge him but hasn’t really impressed, and a 25-year-old who has now excelled in three loan spells and is wanted by a clutch of other clubs but is yet to play a single minute for us. As we look for clues to the direction they’re going to take, Moore told the Doncaster Free Press over the summer that Dieng would not be available to him on loan again in 2020/21 because he was coming back to QPR to challenge for a place here.
Into that situation the club decided it needed to parachute Dillon Barnes, a 24-year-old goalkeeper who’d failed to impress in 29 appearances at League Two Colchester United. Warbs Warburton was aggressive in his defence of this move when pressed on the pre-season Open All R’s Podcast, saying it allowed them to loan out Dieng while not leaving them short of cover.
I wasn’t having that then, and I’m not having that now. A club that pleads poverty at every turn, is desperately trying to educate an often quite unreasonable section of its fanbase on the challenges of FFP, is working desperately hard to get its house in order and reduce losses and promote sustainability, could and should be able to get through a season with two senior goalkeepers, a third out on loan, and two more in the U23s (19-year-old Tyla Dickinson, and 21-year-old Marcin Brzozowski). Barnes subsequently made the bench as an unused sub 11 times, through the autumn when Kelly was injured, and post-Christmas when Joe Lumley was taken out of the firing line. I’m sure the manager would point to that as full justification, and he knows far more about it than me. But QPR currently have six keepers contracted, all aged between 19 and 25, and that seems excessive for a club that’s meant to be cutting its cloth. Anybody who tries to convince me why Barnes is here is in for a long night at the pub.
Still, nice weather this week.
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