|Queens Park Rangers 0 v 0 Birmingham City|
Saturday, 24th October 2020 Kick-off 15:00
Stalemate does little to boost flagging pair - Report
Sunday, 25th Oct 2020 15:44 by Clive Whittingham
QPR, six wins from 26 games, and Birmingham City, one win from 22, did little for their respective Championship causes with a stuttering, spluttering 0-0 draw at Loftus Road on Saturday.
Marginally better than the alarmingly comfortable 2-0 midweek home defeat to Preston, though it could scarcely have been worse. Each small improvement coming with a caveat.
Queens Park Rangers looked better for having Lyndon Dykes’ presence back up front, rather than an isolated Macauley Bonne, though neither really tore up any trees. There was more threat about Rangers for the removal of one of the defensive central midfielders and the addition of Albert Adomah and a second striker from the start, but too often the home team was clunky and disjointed in possession, never quite picking the right pass or making the right choice. There was a third clean sheet of the season, half of last year’s total already, but Mark Warburton’s side haven’t scored themselves for three games now and the shut out at the other end owed as much to poor Birmingham finishing, from Scott Hogan, Gary Gardner and Marc Roberts in particular, as it did anything QPR did particularly well. For it all, goalkeeper Seny Dieng was probably the pick of the home players, and the only person satisfied by the end was Birmingham manager Aitor Karanka, for whom 0-0 draws are the best sex of his life.
Dieng was in action early, sliding underneath Jonathan Leko in a one on one chance on seven minutes, though the flag had already been raised for offside. QPR had looked fragile and rickety before that, Leko guiding Colin’s cross wide after barely a minute, then Geoff Cameron’s clumsiness in midfield almost punished by a near post ball well cleared. Another break down the QPR left drew Dieng from his line for a clean take of a low cross and Barbet blocked bravely as Leko sought out the far corner.
The inexperienced goalkeeper looks confident – certainly more so than his predecessors - commanding his area well all afternoon, and quickly releasing bright Osayi-Samuel for a powerful run and shot curled wide of the far post in QPR’s best moment of the half. A cross from Albert Adomah on the other side after a beautifully slick spin into space sparked panic resulting in a low Cameron shot blocked by a defender on the six yard line before that but Birmingham had the better of the first half and were unlucky to see a Hogan goal ruled out for a tight offside call just before the Osayi-Samuel chance. Marc Roberts also missed when it seemed easier to score as an eighteenth minute free kick flashed right across the face of goal and found him unmarked at the back post after Dickie, not for the first time in his fledgling QPR career, cynically pulled an opponent back by the shirt and this time was shown a yellow card. He’s a bit handsy, and it’ll cost him penalties at this level.
Rangers were forced to make a change before half time when Niko Hamalainen, ink still drying on an eyebrow-raising four-year contract, was introduced for much-maligned Lee Wallace after the Scottish left back had failed to run off a nasty looking injury sustained, like Luke Amos before him, with nobody really around him. Stop it, be nice.
Nil nil at half time and for both teams this felt like a bit of a fork in the road of their seasons. Six wins in 26 for QPR, one win in 23 for Brum, both already staring down the barrel of long, barren winters. Neither have won since surprising opening day victories to nil against Nottingham Forest and Brentford respectively, both were relatively here for the taking and the lure of three points was surely worth cutting loose and having a bit of a go for rather than slipping away into a fourth draw of the season apiece already. I always feel like we might be able to suck a goal in down at the Loft End on days like these but occasional cries of You R’s from the beer garden at the Crown and Sceptre aren’t quite the same and Rangers would have to go it alone, full in the knowledge that going 1-0 down to an Aitor Karanka side is tantamount to signing a death warrant for the rest of the match.
The first quarter of an hour of the second period was fraught, chaotic and panic stricken as both teams tried to do exactly that. Leko looked offside down the touchline after 47 minutes but with the flag down by the linesman’s side Gardner really should have made the chance pay with a first time shot wide of the target with Dieng beaten. Back came QPR immediately, first with a Bright Osayi-Samuel shot which beat visiting keeper Neil Etheridge only to find the meatiest of meatheads Harlee Dean willing to stick his face in the way on the line. From the resulting corner Lyndon Dykes hit the top of the crossbar with another deflected header.
This in turn stirred Birmingham, Dieng required to make an unorthodox flappy clearance as Roberts threatened again, then picking the ball out of the net once more for the game’s second disallowed goal. Brum’s technique of standing Hogan offside for offensive free kicks, then trying to bring him in on the second phase of play after winning the first ball causing QPR all kinds of issues – this a team that scored 15 times, more than any other side, off corners in the Championship last season. Similarly, at the other end, the away team’s willingness to let QPR play their own corners low along the ground into Bonne right by the near post a risky strategy that almost caught them out. Kakay countered immediately, was fouled by Ivan Sunjic, and referee Simon Hooper was rather generous in not issuing a yellow card. Under heavy Birmingham pressure Dieng saved well off to his left from Sunjic on the hour, then one of several rebounds in quick succession was blocked heroically by Barbet – the second such occasion the Frenchman had chucked his body in the way of a goalbound shot, one of his better days.
A quarter of an hour into the second half, both teams going for it, albeit in rather haphazard ways, the bathtub on wheels was gathering pace as it headed off downhill. It felt at this point like something would have to give, and I just wanted to see QPR keep turning up the tempo and pressure to capitalise on the spell of pressure and two near misses, but sadly the game slipped away into a 20-minute malaise. Birmingham re-abandoned their attacking intent, threatening only very sporadically with a hook over at the back post from Pedersen in a seventy third minute counter attack, and a header towards his own goal from Osman Kakay a short while later that wasn’t a million miles away from his own top corner. Having raced through the first 15 minutes of the half by the seat of our pants, now we were back to wishing the time of another load of mediocre Championship slop away. Fitness issues necessitating the early removal of Dykes and Adomah didn’t help, though Dom Ball at least added thrust to the base of the midfield where Geoff Cameron is starting to suffer for being asked to play every minute of league action so far.
It wasn’t really until the eightieth minute that signs of life emerged again. Brum, who’ve scored just three goals this season and none from open play, were well settled in for their point, conceding ground and ball to QPR, and not particularly troubled first by Chair’s shot dragged horribly wide, then by an Osayi-Samuel strike to the near post when he maybe should have crossed, and finally by a good cut back three minutes from time that looked to have created an opening only for Chair to blast wide a second time. His form and frustration rather typical of the team as a whole. Just not quite happening for the kid. Bonne frustrated the ball hadn’t been played to him instead.
Rangers rather burning through winnable home games here, with a run of five out of eight on the road including trips to Derby, Blackburn, Brentford and Millwall and home games with early pace setters Watford and Bristol City lurking on the other side of the next international break. Without a goal in three matches, pressure is starting to crank up rather ahead of Tuesday’s trip to managerless Barnsley. It’s feeling like a long winter already folks.
QPR: Dieng 7; Kakay 6, Dickie 6, Barbet 7, Wallace 5 (Hamalainen 30, 6); Cameron 5; Adomah 6 (Ball 69, 6), Chair 5, Bonne 5, Osayi-Samuel 6; Dykes 6 (Willock 69, 5)
Subs not used: Kelly, Kane, Masterson, Bettache
Bookings: Dickie 18 (foul)
Birmingham: Etheridge 6; Roberts 6, Dean 7, Friend 6; Colin 6, Gardner 6, San Jose 6, Sunjic 7, Pedersen 6; Leko 6 (Jutkiewicz 62, 5), Hogan 5 (Sanchez 76, -)
Subs not used: Prieto, Kieftenbeld, Bela, Dacres-Cogley, Boyd-Munce
QPR Star Man – Seny Dieng 7 A decent, if rather flashy, save to deny Sunjic in the second half and good, confident command of the area and distribution.
Referee – Simon Hooper (Wiltshire) 6 Quite lenient with the cards as we’ve come to expect from him, and played on through some pretty obvious looking fouls, but not too bad in a mediocre game.
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