|Queens Park Rangers 0 v 1 Huddersfield Town|
Saturday, 13th March 2021 Kick-off 15:00
QPR doing QPR things - Report
Sunday, 14th Mar 2021 17:16 by Clive Whittingham
Form, performance level and momentum that had been building for weeks with QPR ground to shuddering halt on Saturday as lowly Huddersfield Town deservedly won 1-0 at Loftus Road.
Let me tell you about my first Queens Park Rangers game. It’s a story you’ll no doubt have heard before, but it’ll pass some word count and save us talking about QPR v Huddersfield Town for a bit.
My father was what’s known in the trade as an absolute rabid nutcase. Everything he did was done in extremes and that included his support of Queens Park Rangers, which he carried out at very great volume, every game home and away, despite living some 200 miles away from the ground. This was a source of some considerable exasperation for my long-suffering mother who did not see travelling to London from Grimsby every weekend to work yourself up into an angry rage over a silly football team as “having things in perspective”, nor the considerable expense of the whole enterprise as an efficient and practical use of hard-earned money for a young family trying to make ends meet.
When I came along, the miraculous first born, after many years of trying, some very firm ground rules were set down. Sure, he managed to force through the ‘Clive’ thing while she was still high on the gas and air, so that his sons would be Clive (Allen) and Paul (Goddard) (like I say, lunatic), but other than that there was to be no QPR romper suit, no QPR stuffed toys, no QPR baby merchandise, no mention of QPR at all. Little Clive was to find his own way, and his own interests, and if that included QPR then fine, but it was not to be forced upon him.
And so I pottered around through eight years of existence showing absolutely no interest in football whatsoever. I liked to draw, and paint, and make things, and write stories that I’d bind together in little books (shut up). I liked building models and Lego and electric train sets that would often develop into elaborate cityscapes that took over large parts of the floor space in our corner house a couple of miles away from the beach. Same obsessive tendencies as my dad, but about railways, and dinosaurs and thing like that. I was a very sweet, very sensitive, very happy little blond boy, and for this I was teased by the other boys, who did like football and couldn’t understand why I didn’t, and thought it odd that while they kicked a ball around at break times I charged around the perimeter of the playground pretending to run an imaginary railway. With its own timetable. Seriously, shut up.
“I bet you don’t even know what the FC in Grimsby Town FC stands for do you?” That took some weaselling out of. I think I swore solemnly that I did, but didn’t very much feel like telling them at that precise moment. Little fuckers, they knew.
And that was the situation up to and including New Year’s Day 1992, when a house full of assorted family members watched in gawked amazement as QPR blitzed their way to a 1-0, 2-0, 3-0 and eventual 4-1 lead at Manchester United in the live ITV match. This triggered something in my young mind because Grimsby is about 115 miles and two hours away from Manchester and therefore most of those little shits in my school, with their “do you even know what a goalkeeper does?” pop quizzes, all supported Manchester United. Dad’s team, our team, hosting a dick party in their gobs live on national television seemed most excellent to me, and so I insisted on going in the car with mum to pick my paralytic and rather euphoric father up from the train station later that night to ask him all about it. Tell me about the game, and the goals, and this Dennis Bailey character please. And when we get home can we watch one of those QPR videos from the shelf in your office? And when’s the next game? And can I go to that one?
This counted as “showing an interest” and so for the next game I was duly packed up in a car with my dad and my grandad and their mate Stuart to complete the not inconsiderable drive from Grimsby to Southampton for the FA Cup Third Round. I was car sick all the way there, grandad made rather inappropriate comments about a lady in a short skirt who sat on a man’s knee in the pub and let him bounce her up and down, I stood at the front of that weird chocolate box terrace they used to have behind the goal at The Dell, I could see nothing, I was cold, I was bored, Clive Wilson missed a penalty, and Rangers lost 2-0. Within a week they'd gone from Man Utd slayers, to dumped out of the FA Cup by pissing Southampton. I have been cold and bored at just about every QPR match that’s been played ever since.
And why I tell this story again now is to make it plain that what happened in the latest of those games is nothing new. Throughout my near 30-year time with this club it has always been the same. Just when you think they’ve cracked it, just when you think they’re getting somewhere, just when your hopes are raised and your mood is lifted and optimism starts to seep into your mindset, just when you think they might push on to a decent league finish or cup run, just when you start to enjoy watching them play and look forward to the next game, just when they actually start to look quite good and play nice football and win a few games and score a few goals, just when you start to rate a few of the players and think the team looks strong on paper, they do a shit in the bed bigger than the fucking bed itself.
Which brings us, belatedly, to Saturday’s home match with Huddersfield Town. Queens Park Rangers with eight wins from 12, little short of brilliant in last week’s comfortable 2-0 win at Bristol City, midweek banana skin against Wycombe successfully sidestepped, into the top half of the table for the first time in literally years, and with eminently winnable home games stretching out in front of them. Huddersfield Town with just one win from 14 matches, with just ten points from their away games all season, with no win on the road anyway in 12 attempts and a league-low total of two away wins all season long, with an injury list requiring a second sheet of A4 paper, with a terminally accident prone centre half permanently wearing the expression of a man recently struck in the face with a large pan. We’ll dip us bread now. Or not. Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme.
It’s very easy to say the whole thing swung on the, frankly pretty ludicrous, thirty fifth minute butchering of Rangers’ best chance of the game by Todd Kane. Huddersfield busted down their left, Ilias Chair into lots of space, pass timed and executed perfectly for the rampaging right wing back, and a chance that any of you reading this would have scored with some ease. It was harder to miss, but miss he did, as his personal rocks and diamonds campaign continues to ebb and flow between the sublime and the ridiculous.
Score that, take the lead, super happy fun time, different game altogether. Huddersfield, whose goalkeeper Ryan Schofield had already been warned for the time taken over his goalkicks just half an hour into the match with the score at 0-0, would have had nothing to hang onto and would have had to come out and attack, offering space in behind to potentially be picked off for more goals. Confidence, already fragile after the worst set of results in the league since the turn of the year, would surely have drained completely while QPR, buoyed by their recent good form, may have been able to shake off their early lethargy and coast through to another win.
But let’s be pretty honest here, as in the away game in December, Huddersfield were a good deal better than QPR and deserved to win. They could have gone ahead as early as the second minute when Dieng saved excellently down low to his right as Lewis O’Brien sought out the bottom corner. Within 60 seconds Isaac Mbenza bumbled through a collection of piss weak tackles, including a particularly lamentable dangled leg from Stefan Johansen, and fired wide. Rangers legend Richard Keogh headed wide on 28 with Dieng scrambling and Bacuna Matata, what a wonderful phrase, wasn’t a million miles over with a left foot drive just before half time.
Given how lacklustre QPR had been through the first half it was no real great surprise that they fell behind ten minutes into the second, nor really the manner of the goal. It was like Rangers had suffered a momentary power outage, allowing first O’Brien to cross the halfway line into oceans of space completely unchallenged, then the impressive wing back Pipa to advance into a crossing position and deliver without anybody getting within 20 feet of him, and finally leaving Bacuna so egregiously unmarked on the edge of the area that he had time to set himself, pick his spot, and beat Dieng from 18 yards out. Embarrassingly easy.
Bacuna shot wide from similar range on 56 minutes, then after Rob Dickie was harshly penalised on the edge of the box on the hour his free kick beat Dieng but flashed an inch wide of the post. Dieng later made a rusty looking save to keep out sub Duane Holmes, and Pipa’s 20 yard speculator flew fractionally too high. Pipa had the QPR defence at sixes and sevens again a quarter of an hour before time but the moment was rather lost in a series of attempts by Huddersfield players to tee one another up for shots.
QPR’s threat, by comparison, began and ended with the Kane chance. They didn’t register a single serious effort on Schofield’s goal in the entire second half. While Huddersfield’s subs improved them and caused QPR new and different problems, unusually belated changes from the Rangers bench bore no affect whatsoever on a flatlining patient. They certainly weren’t helped by the tempo of the game, with the Terriers understandably happy to slow things to a snail’s pace at moments that suited them - if only referee Salisbury was half as hot on the time wasting as he was on making sure every single fucking throw in was taken from exactly the right fucking blade of grass every fucking time it went out of play. At one stage Duane Holmes, a player I’ve always rated and would have liked to see at Rangers since seeing him play a youth cup final on this ground for Huddersfield many years ago, literally sat down on the front row of the Ellerslie Road stand to perform an elaborate and prolonged cleaning of the football before eventually returning it into play. But Rangers had far bigger issues on Saturday than that.
How you go from the performance we saw at Bristol City to this in a week is the eternal question at QPR. It’s possible the respective form of the teams had bred a little complacency in Rangers. Incidents like Ilias Chair trying to shepherd the ball out for a goal kick on 13 minutes only to lose it on the byline and Huddersfield put a dangerous ball into the box, or everybody stopping assuming the most obvious foul you’re ever likely to see on Yoann Barbet after 26 minutes would be given only to then be completely caught out when Salisbury waved play on through it, or Kane’s miss, or any number of times when simple passes were played up in the air or behind the man requiring extra time and extra touches all the time slowing the pace of the game and allowing Huddersfield to file back into shape, suggested Rangers had perhaps taken the task a little lightly.
Or perhaps this was simply QPR falling victim to their schedule. Huddersfield had eight days to prepare, in which Rangers had played twice. QPR have played ten times in 42 days and players who’ve been impressive in the positive run of results – Johansen, Field, Austin in particular – all looked very leggy here. Austin effectively being played through on goal by a Seny Dieng clearance at the start of the second half only to toe a dreadful first touch so far forwards it ended up rolling out for a goal kick a pretty prime example. Huddersfield's midfield of O'Brien, Hogg and Bacuna was streets ahead of anything Rangers had in the middle of the park.
Whatever the reason, it made for an exasperating, draining watch, and such a let down after all the recent improvements.
QPR: Dieng 6; Kakay 5, Dickie 5, Barbet 5; Kane 4 (Adomah 76, 5), Field 5 (Thomas 88, -), Johansen 5, Chair 5 (Dykes 76, 4), Wallace 5; Willock 6, Austin 4 (Bonne 88, -)
Subs not used: Lumley, De Wijs, Ball, Cameron, Hämäläinen
Bookings: Johansen 86 (foul)
Huddersfield: Schofield 6; Edmonds Green 6, Keogh 6, Sarr 6; Pipa 7, Bacuna 7, O’Brien 7, Hogg 7, Rowe 5 (Duhaney 52, 6); Campbell 5 (Sonogo 67, 6), Mbenza 6 (Holmes 52, 7)
Subs not used: Minguez, Stearman, Ward, Brown, Pereira, High
Goals: Bacuna 55 (assisted Pipa)
QPR Star Man – Chris Willock 6 Only QPR player who looked anywhere remotely near their level. Best of a dreadfully mediocre bunch.
Michael Salisbury (Lancashire) 5 When you have a team trying to slow the pace of the game and clock run halfway through the first half, it would help the situation if the referee did something about it other than issue a series of verbal warnings which themselves take up yet more time. It would also help if the referee himself didn’t have such a pedantic fucking obsession about where throw ins are to be taken from.
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