|Plymouth Argyle 3 v 2 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 5th September 2020 Kick-off 15:00
QPR singing the same old song in the South West – Report
Saturday, 5th Sep 2020 17:04 by Clive Whittingham
Queens Park Rangers bowed out of the League Cup in the first round at League One Plymouth on Saturday as a whole barrel of familiar defensive failings from last season came spilling out across the deck.
If you were counting on five new arrivals, two weeks in Mykonos and a truncated pre-season training programme to iron out the flaws in the Warbsball ethos then Saturday’s League Cup first round exit at Plymouth will have come as a great disappointment.
All of the good attacking things are still there. More men committed to the attack than the British Empire sent in to fight the Boer War. Lots of intricate triangles, lots of Bright Osayi-Samuel taking full backs into deep water and drowning them. Little Tom Carroll not only passing the ball forward but passing it forward creatively and dangerously (after a rusty start). Width provided by full backs pushed so high down the field even lone striker Aramide Oteh was often deeper than them.
No surprise to find left back Ryan Manning and Osman Kakay on the scoresheet, given their suicidally high position in the system. Manning’s, to be fair, came from an Ilias Chair corner, in the first minute of the game after Plymouth pair Will Aimson and new arrival from Wigan Lewis MacLeod had become disorientated and marked the same man together allowing QPR’s Irish full back to run in unmarked and head home. It was a third consecutive competitive game in which Manning has scored either side of the mini summer break.
Kakay’s, though, was in open play. Just before the hour a cute cross from Carroll, Rangers’ best player, was headed clear only as far as the rampaging Sierra Leone international and he got in a firm first-time strike that rifled into the net at speed. A reverse Hugill, head fixed over the ball. His first senior goal.
Todd Kane scored against Millwall in the final home game of last season from that position and has also bagged in pre-season against Wimbledon and Arsenal to go with this Kakay strike and Manning’s free-wheeling form in front of goal. This is the good stuff, and there was plenty of it at Home Park on Saturday afternoon. A terrific start headlined by the opening goal also included Dom Ball and Ilias Chair combining well to get Big Bad Luke Amos in behind for a cut back that Plymouth barely scrambled clear. A super cross from Kakay on ten minutes caused panic which was diligently cleared up by 20-year-old home goalkeeper Michael Cooper but Rangers were getting in down the right and left channels at will.
Before half time Carroll caught MacLeod dallying in a dangerous area and won the ball back to streak clear on goal but referee Anthony Coggins generously awarded the home team a free kick. Then the new arrival from Swansea freed Osayi-Samuel down the right and his low cross flashed right through the goal mouth. A similar move straight after the oranges and tea almost saw Bright force an own goal from Newcastle loanee Kelland Watts at his near post. Then when Manning faked a shot and laid Bright in again 60 seconds later he drew a save from Cooper at his near post. There was a long range shot from Manning nervously saved, the Kakay goal, an Osayi-Samuel cross through the six yard box, a powerful shot from the former Blackpool man strongly parried away, and a fine one handed stop off to the keeper’s left as Manning tried to reverse a disguised shot into the far corner. When Manning launched a sweeping crossfield pass to the far past Oteh chested it out of the sky, chipped it back over the advancing goalkeeper, and finished low for a certain goal that was somehow bundled from the line by three retreating defenders. The young QPR striker a lethal combination of not very good and not very lucky at the moment.
That’s the stuff the system and style does bring, and at its best it’s exhilarating, but as it gives with one hand so it takes away with the other. Rangers can be completely, totally, brutally exposed with one simple ball down the side of their defence if they have a pass intercepted, which when Amos is playing central midfield and playing like this happens a lot. He wasn’t the first to sin, Manning’s sloppy ball on six minutes signalled an end to QPR’s powerful start and literally within one pass the other way he was out of the game completely and debutant Rob Dickie was caught the wrong side of Ryan Hardie and forced to trip him. Plymouth were delighted to secure the permanent signature of their own left wing back George Cooper from Peterborough during the week after a successful loan spell and it wasn’t hard to see why when he whipped the resulting free kick over the wall and flush against the top of the post. Joe Lumley would have had more chance of getting a hand on the sun than that one.
When possession was conceded again on the half hour it again took just the one pass to get Hardie in behind the advanced Manning and then a further ball from him to the left to set up a simple equaliser for Joe Edwards. There’ll be no clean sheets again this season then, I’ll tell the children.
This complete exposure of centre backs Dickie and Conor Masterson and defensive central midfielder Dom Ball manifested in numerous ways. Three times the impressive Danny Mayor was allowed to pick up a ball in acres of space in the right channel with only Ball for company, and then maraud infield to dangerous shooting positions in the penalty area without anybody doing a thing about it. It’s not just the exposure, the getting caught out, the space, it’s the lack of physicality, tackling, tactical fouls and belting people in the recovery – we just kind of jockey along and let it happen until the shot comes at which point we start cobbing bodies in front of it. Rangers escaped on 21 minutes with a desperate block from Masterson, and again on 26 minutes when first Masterson from Mayor, then Dickie from Nouble on the rebound and finally Ryan Manning on a third follow up all chucked themselves bravely into harm’s way. Let’s start with three shots, and then two more if you need them.
The problem was the same on the right as it was on the left: Kakay was so far downfield Plymouth were able to simple play the ball into the space behind him and make hay from there. You’ll be lucky to give Championship players three free tickets to the heart of your penalty area and get away without conceding a goal and eventually, ten minutes into the second half, Mayor did indeed pick the ball up, run across the field unchecked, and finish a second Plymouth goal past an oddly flat-footed Lumley. This, remember, a team that was League Two last season, hasn’t played a competitive game in 182 days, and had six new signings in the team for this first competitive action of the season.
Plymouth’s knockout cup record is every bit as dire as QPR’s. It was their record for third round FA Cup exits that QPR surpassed two years ago and they’ve exited this competition at the first hurdle in nine of the last 12 seasons. But despite Kakay’s immediate riposte to Mayor’s goal they were destined to progress this season when - stop me if you’ve heard this before – Conor Grant got in behind an advanced Osman Kakay and crossed unchallenged into the penalty area where lower league journeyman Frank Nouble was able to ghost past Manning at the far post without the QPR man ever really giving any indication he even knew the geezer was there and slammed a third into the roof of the net. Manning does that a lot, and QPR had been getting steadily worse since Tom Caroll had been withdrawn on the hour.
It could, naturally, easily have finished 3-3. Before Nouble scored substitute Paul Smyth had killed a through ball stone dead, drawn Cooper, slid a seemingly goalbound shot past him, and somehow hit the inside of the post without the ball subsequently bouncing into the net. I’d like to see much more of him. In five minutes of added time a sub who is getting more regular opportunities without doing much with them, Mide Shodipo, crossed for Bright to have a header deflected wide and Masterson headed the resulting corner straight at Cooper. Seconds later Osayi-Samuel looked like he’d brilliantly brought a ball down, bullied a defender out of the way and freed Shodipo into a one on one chance but a Plymouth defender just got a toe to the through ball and diverted it back to his keeper.
But, equally, it could have been four to the home team but for Masterson’s commanding track and block on Nouble’s shot as he got clear in the penalty area, once again just one simple pass after QPR had given the ball away in their own half. Likewise, in the first half, a nervy Dickie clearance presented MacLeod with a good chance but it fell to his weaker foot and was bobbled wide.
Rangers conceded 76 goals in the Championship last season, a third consecutive year of 70+ goals going in at the wrong end across the 46-game campaign. There’s little sign Mark Warburton knows how to stem that tide, or even really cares about it very much – happy to take the downside in trade off for the positives. He again used his post match interviews to bemoan the team’s lack of ruthlessness in front of goal rather than their gaping wide open approach to defending.
Without Ebere Eze as part of the emergency response team this time around, this approach could prove to be a real artery hardener.
Plymouth: Cooper 6; Aimson 5, Wootton 6, Watts 5; Grant 6, MacLeod 6, Edwards 6, Cooper 7 (Law 89, -); Hardie 7 (Telford 77, 6), Nouble 6, Mayor 8 (Camara 85, -)
Subs not used: Canavan, Lolos, Randell, Coombes
Goals: Edwards 32 (assisted Hardie), Mayor 55 (assisted Cooper), Nouble 77 (assisted Grant)
Bookings: Nouble 81 (foul)
QPR: Lumley 5; Kakay 6, Dickie 5, Masterson 6, Manning 6; Ball 5 (Bettache 77, 6), Carroll 6 (Smyth 64, 6); Osayi-Samuel 6, Amos 5, Chair 6; Oteh 5 (Shodipo 77, 5)
Subs not used: Kane, Wallace, Kelly, Gubbins
Goals: Manning 1 (assisted Chair), Kakay 58 (unassisted)
QPR Star Man – Tom Carroll 6 Couple of early sighters went straight into touch but once he’d got that rustiness out of his system he actually played very well, picking out effective, creative, forward passes when the criticism of him as always been that he plays ineffective, sideways and backwards safety-first options too much. We weren’t ever as good in this game once he’d gone off on the hour.
Referee -Anthony Coggins (Oxfordshire) 7 Not much to referee in a game between two nice-looking, technical teams. Thought he was quite kind to MacLeod in the first half when Carroll caught him high up the field and would have been in on goal but for a generous free kick award. Nouble yellow card for a deliberate foul to a protect a lead justified.
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