|Blackburn Rovers 3 v 1 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 7th November 2020 Kick-off 15:00
The annual defeat at Ewood Park - Report
Sunday, 8th Nov 2020 15:28 by Clive Whittingham
With the world in a confusing and scary state of flux it's good to have touch points back to what life was like before the plague and pestilence, and ahead of next month's three goal defeat at Brentford came QPR's annual loss at Blackburn Rovers. As much as things change...
Game seven of seven in this latest volley of Championship nonsense proved one too many for Queens Park Rangers, who couldn’t build on successive wins against Cardiff and Derby earlier in the week with a third in a row at Blackburn Rovers, despite the hosts’ lengthy injury list.
Of those meant to be missing from the Rovers line-up here, goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski, midfielder Bradley Johnson and striker Adam Armstrong did make the cut while Tom Trybull got as far as the bench. But Bradley Dack, Daniel Ayala, Elliott Bennett, Amari’i Bell, Barry Douglas, Lewis Travis, Derek Williams and Stewart Downing were all missing as predicted, while vegan blogger Aynsley Pears and supermodel Lewis Holtby came down ill on the day of the game.
In theory a perfect opportunity for Rangers to get a first win at Ewood Park in ten attempts dating back 21 years to that time when Stuart Wardley slipped through a tear in the fabric of reality into professional football stardom. After a good 20 minutes at Barnsley had caved into an embarrassing defeat, and then a 45 minute performance proved just enough to squeak past Cardiff at Loftus Road, the R’s had turned in a full 90 minute showing to win at Derby in the week, their first consecutive league wins since last December. But, in truth, with Bright Osayi-Samuel missing, it never really looked on, bar a ten-minute second half spell where they scored and threatened to wrestle control of a game they were clinging on through long periods.
The not-so-super hoops have lost eight of the last nine trips to Ewood and all of the last four. It can often feel, particularly now two football purists in Tony Mowbray and Warbs Warburton are in charge of the respective sides, like QPR are simply getting caught out trying to play in the same manner and style as Rovers, but with inferior players. The Lancashire club had a fantastic transfer window this summer, adding Barry Douglas and probably Daniel Ayala to an ever-growing list of players in their squad who I’d love at Loftus Road. Even Sam Gallagher and Ben Brereton, whose respective moves to this part of the world have been relative flops, always seem to go well against us. On Saturday the driving runs of Joe Rothwell out of midfield, like Alex Mowatt at Barnsley a week or so back, were everything QPR lacked from their own deep lying pair of Geoff Cameron and Dom Ball. Adam Armstrong, meanwhile, was the best player on the pitch by a thousand miles, scoring twice and plaguing the visiting defence all afternoon.
The day had started with yet another injury for Mowbray to deal with. Corry Evans got his legs tangled into a position so awkward his hamstring threatened to exit his body through his arsehole. He was immediately replaced by Football Manager regen John Buckley who joined the Rovers academy at the age of nine – some 18 months ago now. As Blackburn readjusted Ilias Chair got in down the left channel for a shooting chance which he over-thought and rather tamely hit straight at Kaminski, possibly hoping Lyndon Dykes’ through run might distract the Belgian keeper.
But a pattern of play flowing incessantly the other way was quickly set, with the home team able to get Brereton and Armstrong in behind Todd Kane and Rob Dickie down their left and our right at will. Kane could do nothing but haul Armstrong to the ground for an obvious yellow from referee Tim Robinson on eight minutes, and Dickie wasn’t far behind him into the notepad with a similar foul on 21. After dominating Derby’s forwards so comprehensively in the week, here Dickie’s lack of pace was rather exposed, and as we’re coming to learn when that happens so the panicked, handsy, grabbing of opponents begins. He was fortunate Robinson played advantage through another similar foul which surely would have seen him sent off, and I suspect he would like to have pulled Armstrong down again prior to what turned out to be the second goal but learnt his lesson from Oakwell and took the score on the chin without adding a sending off.
From the twenty-first-minute free kick Darragh Lenihan, up from the back, met it firmly and beat Seny Dieng all ends up but couldn’t keep it under the bar and had been flagged offside anyway. Soon Nyambe was skinning Finland’s Royal Crown Prince of Umlauts down the other side and slinging in a cross that Dickie wasn’t a million miles away from slicing into his own net. From that corner Lenihan was certain he’d scored with another powerful header only to be denied by the save of this or any other game by Dieng, one handed and away to his left, getting a thick enough touch to divert the ball around the post when he had no right to be anywhere near it. Disbelieving Lenihan caught mouthing “I can’t believe he’s saved that” on the replay. Dieng saved from Armstrong after the Dickie advantage, then with his feet at the near post from the same player on the other side, then comfortably from Johnson when he caught a first time shot firmly from the edge of the area but sent it straight down the middle of the goal.
QPR were busted. Distinctly second best. Dickie and Yoann Barbet both bravely, heroically chucked themselves in front of shots late in the half from the main man Armstrong – the Frenchman fully justified in his angry remonstrations with Hämäläinen, still a bit weak and timid for me Clive, and Chair, once again struggling having been moved to the left, as Liverpool starlet and one-time QPR academy lad Harvey Elliott motored forward unchecked. Geoff Cameron was mightily fortunate not to inadvertently play Armstrong clean through on goal with a first touch Sammy Koejoe would have laughed at, but got back and recovered and later interrupted a dangerous looking counter attack with an expertly timed, beautifully executed covering tackle on the edge of the area. And this was all in the first half, still somehow tied at nil nil at half time. One Albert Adomah cross cleared before it could reach Dykes the sum of Rangers’ attacking threat, the visitors begging for the half time whistle long before it came. Not so much backs to the wall, more siege at the Iranian Embassy (just a great siege).
But, as has been correctly pointed out to me on the message board, simply saying we’re trying to do the same thing as Blackburn with inferior players, and therefore destined to lose more often than not, is all a bit ‘Arry Redknapp. Wewll they’ve got good players haven’t they, the boy Roffwell I tried to sign him, you’ll have to ask the chairman, Harvey Elliott's terrific, I know his dad lovely boy loves his mum, Armstrong’s fentastic, £60m player, he’ll play for England that lad, what can I do? And having pilloried him for his “bonus games” and chronic inability to coach QPR into a unit better than the sum of its parts we can’t very well sit here now, throw our hands up and say ‘well what did you expect, this defence wouldn’t be able to stop Armstrong with an elephant gun?’. I suffered through Blackburn’s midweek nil nil with Boro, and although their three wins so far this campaign came amidst a hail of goals, they have only beaten Wycombe, Derby and Coventry – three of the bottom four. They were one place lower than us at the start of play, and are eminently gettable – though not the way QPR set up.
Losing Osayi-Samuel, our best player, was less than ideal, but given how well we’d played in the first half against Cardiff and then all the way through at Derby in the week, with Chair at ten and pace either side of him, I was disappointed to see us go more conservative here. Dom Ball and Geoff Cameron is a comedy double act with two straight men, trying to do the same job at the base of midfield, starving those further forward of decent ball. There have been funnier episodes of Miranda (oh look she's fallen off that fucking chair again). Little Tom Carroll can play there and do that job of threading forward passes between the lines, but used further forward in the three behind the lone striker he’s neither creative and attacking enough to pose opponents a threat, nor aggressive and energetic enough to execute a Luke Amos high press. Chair, after two great games at ten, was back to flitting ineffectively around on the left, leaving Adomah as the main attacking weapon and even he was very effectively bossed by an excellent performance by the Conservative member of parliament for Blackburn and Darwen, Joseph Rankin-Costello. The team felt lopsided, unbalanced and exposed, winding back a couple of weeks to when we said it felt like a Rubik’s Cube just in need of a couple more turns. Chair, ten or not at all. Carroll, deep or not at all. Cameron or Ball, never Cameron and Ball. It rather felt like we’d overthought it, when a more ambitious and attacking approach of simply putting Chris Willock in for Bright and sticking with what worked in the previous two games might have yielded a greater reward.
All hindsight of course, and with criticism said, Warbs was proactive and at least tried to do something about it at half time – something we were upset with him about in the recent home loss to Preston, where a plan that clearly wasn’t working was allowed to fester and burn through another ten minutes of the second half before being altered. Off went Adomah and Ball, on came Willock and Osman Kakay, and into a sort of 4-4-1-1 Rangers went, with Kane and Kakay doubling up down the right to stem the flow of Blackburn attacks through the left channel. Given Rovers scored immediately with Ben Brereton hooking in a downward Lenihan header from a short corner – just a fourth goal in 58 appearances over three seasons, God we’re fucking generous sometimes – you wouldn’t put the switches down as a conspicuous success but actually, for the ten minutes after that, QPR started to play a bit.
Willock, in particular, looked great. He finally got Nyambe going back towards his own goal rather than piling forward towards ours, twisting and turning the full back inside and out, and immediately helping to craft a crossing opportunity for Chair and a chance at the back post for Kane which he hit the base of the post with. I felt he should have scored. Yoann Barbet certainly would have done on 54 minutes when a really slick, clearly pre-planned, four-pass corner routine got him free for a first time shot from 15 yards out which cannoned into a Blackburn player and out for a… goal kick. Just have a guess Tim, it’s not important. The Blackburn lad staggering around clutching the patch where the ball hit him might be a clue but that’s easy for me to say from up here.
This spell of pressure and corners produced an equaliser on the hour when Dykes and Barbet were both fairly obviously pulled away from the ball at the back post and keeper Kaminski then cleared Dickie out through his knees as it dropped to him from a set piece. Perm any penalty from three, Robinson picked the one he liked best, and Dykes dispatched a thunderbastard in his now trademark style. I swear the goalkeepers actually don’t want to save those. If someone happened to get in the way by accident it would probably kill him. Ah, sorry lads, went the wrong way there, well you’ve got to have a guess haven’t you, never mind.
Soon Willock was controlling, beating a man, swivelling, and lifting a shot over Kaminski from 20 yards in one fluid movement – great save to keep it one one. And when the former Arsenal trainee pulled a Dieng clearance out of the sky with an immaculate first touch and set off towards goal again, it was Bradley Johnson’s turn to swoop in with a bone-rattler for a thick yellow card. Rangers were now on top, led from the front by their substitute winger. Bonne replaced Dykes looking for another of his late goals to settle it. It was, it must be said, an excellent response to going a goal down, in stark contrast to the way heads dropped against PNE and Barnsley.
But, sadly, the decisive score would come at the other end. When Barbet desperately cleared a dangerous cross that screamed own goal behind for a corner it was Rovers’ first threat for a while, but Rangers were sloppy off the corner and Brereton’s shot to the near post hit Dieng on his knees. There was then a big penalty appeal against Barbet by Brereton that, personally, I’d have been screaming for if it was us. Momentum was swinging and soon Brereton was crossing the halfway line at speed and feeding Armstrong in behind Dickie, who as discussed had been booked and couldn’t touch him, and he was never going to miss from there.
QPR Being Far Too Nice No.1,763 In The Series, compare and contrast Hämäläinen’s insipid input to that move, happy to just check in behind Brereton on halfway and let him go on his way, with Johnson’s earlier clean out job on Willock in a similar area. Trip him, take the yellow card, get us back in shape, preserve the 1-1. I’d say he’s young, inexperienced, and will learn, but I’m not sure he will, because it’s not only him that’s like this. It’s just not something we do as a team. You might see that as a good thing, like it’s a bit beneath us, like there’s some honour in playing both within the rules of the game and the spirit of them, but personally I’m rather sick of losing at Blackburn Rovers, and would have much preferred Brereton face down on the turf as opposed to running free and adding an assist to his goal. You might think Johnson’s a fat hairy gobshite, and you’d be right, but he’s a fat hairy gobshite with three points in his arse pocket. When we last won this league we did it with wonderful players – Taarabt, Faurlin, Routledge, Ephraim, Tommy Smith, Kyle Walker – but we did it with Shaun Derry and Clint Hill as well. Well balanced teams have light and shade, and QPR can be a little bit pure for their own good sometimes.
Along similar lines, Blackburn immediately reverted to clock running, as every club in this league does once they’re a goal up. Every time the ball went out of play, it was chipped over the advertising hoardings into the stand, because of course the Covid lives in there and the ball now has coronavirus, and cannot be used until it’s been dipped in a bucket of unicorn tears, less the poor bastard taking the throw in explode into a thousand pieces just for looking at it. Would you like a graph? Love a graph.
Every time QPR had a free kick, the ball was nudged off the spot, or in one egregious example when Chair was trying to take a quick one in a dangerous area, picked up and carried away by Ben Brereton. If there are Rovers fans looking in thinking these are the bitter, tired excuses of a beaten team then allow both regular readers to set you straight. This has been a pet peeve for a while. Every team in the Championship seems to exist purely to get a goal up, and then start wasting time. Every referee in the division does fuck all about it – occasional point at the watch, occasional get on with it gesture with the hands, but never a yellow card, and always the standard 1-2 minutes at the end of the first half, 4-5 at the end of the second. A referee at this level who we have rather a lot told a friend of mine after one of our games last year “their keeper was even pissing me off with it by the end, but QPR didn’t say anything so I just let it go”. It’s such a chronic issue, and such an easy fix, for a sport that’s currently destroying itself as a spectacle spending interminable amounts of time and money judging whether Patrick Bamford’s armpit hair is offside, to remedy a problem that only really existed in the mind of professional idiots like Chris Kamara in the first place.
Game slowed to a Bob Malcolm-pace, there were two chances for Rangers to equalise. No surprise to see Willock at the heart of both of them – first teeing up Bonne for a touch back to Chair and a shot deflected wide, then setting himself up with a super touch and turn for a shot that beat the keeper and missed the far corner by a foot. I thought it was in, and he surely will be from the start when we return after the international break. But it needed a Bonne block on 85 to prevent Johnson tying it up at 3-1 and with Rangers understandably over committed in the standard five minutes of added time, Armstrong was able to break for a second time and do exactly that, although Dieng did save the first attempt. In truth, though Rangers had been better second half, and Willock looked superb, it was fair enough, and only the goalkeeper had prevented it from being worse still.
Six points from nine, still a successful week we'd all have been very happy with eight days ago.
Blackburn: Kaminski 6; Nyambe 6, Lenihan 6, Wharton 6, Rankin-Costello 7; Evans – (Buckley 5, 6), Johnson 6, Rothwell 7; Elliott 7 (Dolan 90+3, -), Brereton 7 (Gallagher 82, -); Armstrong 8
Subs not used: Davenport, Trybull, Grayson, Eastham
Goals: Brereton 50 (assisted Lenihan), Armstrong 73 (assisted Brereton), 90+5 (assisted Johnson)
Bookings: Johnson 64 (shithousing)
QPR: Dieng 8; Kane 5, Dickie 5, Barbet 6, Hämäläinen 5; Ball 5 (Kakay 46, 6), Cameron 6; Adomah 5 (Willock 46, 7), Carroll 5, Chair 5; Dykes 5 (Bonne 67, 6)
Subs not used: Wallace, Masterson, Bettache, Kelly
Goals: Dykes 61 (penalty, won Dickie)
Bookings: Kane 8 (foul), Dickie 21 (foul), Bonne 90+3 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Seny Dieng 8 Nine shots on target from Rovers here, six of them saved by Dieng, one of them exceptionally from Lenihan – as good a save as you’ll see anywhere. Rather disturbing that QPR have conceded three in two of the last three away games and Dieng has been man of the match on both occasions for making sure it wasn’t worse. Chris Willock ran him close, must surely be pushing for a start now.
Tim Robinson (Sussex) 6 Fine, big decisions correct, penalty bang on, bookings no arguments, possibly quite generous with Dickie on another occasion, but if you can’t be arsed to police clock running this clear and obvious then I can’t be arsed to give you more than a six.
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