|Queens Park Rangers 4 v 1 Sheffield Wednesday|
Saturday, 10th April 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Dykes comes good as QPR nudge Owls towards doom – Report
Sunday, 11th Apr 2021 14:42 by Clive Whittingham
Lyndon Dykes enjoyed his best day in a QPR shirt with two beautifully taken goals and a man of the match performance in a 4-1 home victory against Sheff Wed on Saturday.
Springtime in Shepherd’s Bush. Coming out of their cage, doing just fine, Queens Park Rangers, now 11 wins in 2021, as many as they managed in the whole of 2020, achieved in just 18 fixtures and little more than three months. Thirty five points, kissing right up against the two-points-a-game average that essentially guarantees you promotion from this league if you can extrapolate it over a whole campaign. Hopeful noises already being made about what might be possible in 2021/22, if certain players are kept, other players added, money spent, ambition shown. There’s those two imposters again, hope and ambition, to be treated just the same.
Coming out of the challengers’ corner, Sheffield Wednesday, mood as grey as their away kit, away kit as drab as their season. Now 21 defeats, and 54 goals conceded, theirs is a cautionary tale for those who keep mentioning Charlie Austin and Stefan Johansen in the same sentence as the words “at any cost”. The Owls showed ambition, spent the money, ignored the rules, and at one point carried a Championship squad that included Jordan Rhodes, Steven Fletcher, Fernando Forestieri, Atdhe Nuhiu, Sammy Winnall, Gary Hooper and Lucas Joao – somewhere well north of a million quid a month in wages right there, and that was just the strikers. They were unfortunate to bump up against a pretty exceptional and unique David Wagner Huddersfield side in a division that already included outstanding Brighton and Newcastle teams, but they’d lost a play-off final against Hull City the year before that even Hull themselves didn’t want to win – Steve Bruce on his way out, fans boycotting the Wembley trip in protest at the Allam family’s negligence. Shoot for the moon in this league, with it’s profit and sustainability rules, and miss… well, where they’re going they don’t need Rhodes.
What looked a cakewalk on paper was complicated slightly by exactly the sort of mad Monday that only the Mercantile Credit Trophy can throw up. Rangers, so slick against hapless Coventry on Good Friday, so sloppy against a crap Nottingham Forest team on Monday. Wednesday, meanwhile, recognising the awkward job their media team was going to have assembling a shortlist for their goal of the season competition, decided to hold it in one afternoon, running a very chunky five-goal pork sword right through Cardiff City on national television. Just exactly which of these teams’ split personalities were intending to show up here would go a long way to deciding the outcome.
Initially QPR looked so determined to replicate their Coventry rampage that they almost scored exactly the same first minute goal all over again. Man in the Lee Wallace costume, escaping his captors once more, feeding Chris Willock into space down the left, but a corner was the outcome this time. De Wijs, back from injury at the heart of the back three, headed that one over and when Rangers then attacked down the opposite flank Willock and Wallace rather got in each other’s way attacking a back post shot – Joe Wildsmith just about kept it out, and tipped an Osman Kakay follow up onto the bar though the whistle had already gone for handball. Rangers looked confident, despite the Forest travails. Rob Dickie’s ill-advised, long-distance, aerial back pass had Rib Green’s chunky knit written all over it, but Seny Dieng calmly pulled it out of the sky and distributed it sensibly. The combination in the left channel between Willock and Ilias Chair was particularly delicious in these early stages.
Six games left and seven points to make up, there wasn’t a lot of point in Sheff Wed standing back an admiring, or dying wondering. They matched Rangers’ back three and wing backs set up, getting the impressive Adam Reach in down the left behind the often exposed Kakay whenever they could – Rangers lucky to escape his seventh minute volley into a dangerous area and subsequent cross that Barbet nudged Paterson under intelligently. In Barry Bannon they had one of the game’s outstanding players, somebody with no business playing for a team in the bottom three of this division, literally and metaphorically the man with three hairs in the land of the bald. His very dangerous free kick, after Sam Field had fouled Paterson, was punched off Tom Lees’ head by Seny Dieng – Wednesday wanted a penalty, it was certainly at least a corner, referee John Brooks gave a goal kick. Later Dieng had to improvise a clawed clearance from Liam Palmer’s impressive cross with Reach loitering – Kakay blocked a follow up from Josh Windass in the ensuing melee.
So far, so monkey’s tea party. Championship teams doing Championship things to each other in the name of fun. A goal seemed certain, given how willing both sides were to let the other advance through midfield unchallenged, and when it duly arrived it did so in spectacular fashion. Lyndon Dykes, in from the start for the suspended Charlie Austin, showing there may yet by life after Lonestar yet with a tremendous, full-length, diving header, powerfully diverted into the bottom corner from 15 yards off a trademark Yoann Barbet diagonal assist. From no goals in 24 appearances, Dykes now has three in two starts and two sub outings.
Wednesday had lost all 15 matches in which they’d conceded first this season prior to kick off, and the goal seemed to lull Rangers into a false sense of security. The equaliser, scored almost immediately, was a defensive disaster with many parents among a backline that has been far more solid this year than last, and will certainly become the first QPR defence in four seasons to keep the goals against column below 70 across a full campaign. Rob Dickie, high, exposed, sitting down on the floor. Jordy De Wijs, rabbit, headlights. Yoann Barbet, sightseeing trip, sunglasses, camera round his neck. Captain of Glasgow Rangers Lee Wallace, drunk in charge, failing to track across and cover his absent friends in nearly enough time. Josh Windass, head the size of a moon of Jupiter, into the bottom corner for one one. Silly boys. Start again.
Start again they did, back to Willock and Chair doing bits like boys in the park, and Wildsmith had to make a nervy save from the latter as the clock ran down, but the visitors definitely finished the half the stronger. Bannan pulling strings, De Wijs and Dieng almost getting in a tangle over a through ball before the Dutchman fucked it off down towards Hammersmith Broadway with questions to be asked later, a shot from Windass flying straight at the keeper through a crowd when a couple of feet either way probably would have caused issues.
It felt like the next goal after half time would decide the outcome of the game. QPR got it. Prolonged possession around the edge of the Wednesday box culminating in Chair teeing up Johansen for a low show, horribly and needlessly deflected past his own keeper by Urhoghide. Wildsmith should have done a lot better regardless, as Bannan spent much of the next half hour telling him in no uncertain terms. Successive Wednesday managers insisting on picking him as first choice ahead of Kieran Westwood makes less and less sense every time I see this lot – Westwood with a history of good performances against QPR, Wildsmith looking like he won his place in the team in a raffle.
But that only really told half the story. Rangers hadn’t started the second half well – Rob Dickie furious at the lack of forward options after having to go backwards with the ball straight from the kick off. It was in danger of descending into one of those slow, pedestrian performances when we’re at our worst and most beatable this season – played sideways and backwards, exclusively infront of the opponent. Paterson then should have equalised the Johansen goal immediately all over again – Dickie drawn out, Barbet losing his man. It was still wide open, whatever had been said at the break, with Chair almost tackling an underhit backpass from Borner into the net, and Rhodes just a yard short of Reach’s low cross. Backwards and forwards they went, laughing manically, a happy sort of chaos, like a Year 10 art class left with a carefree supply teacher. Very watchable, fun to be a part of, any outcome possible.
Next goal the winner. For definite this time. Dickie’s cross probably the best thing he’d done to this point in an unusually scatty performance; Willock’s well directed header back across goal bolstering his mark further; Lyndon Dykes on hand once more to guide the ball back over Wildsmith and into the far corner of the net. The first time a QPR player has scored more than one goal in a game this season, a ninth making him Rangers’ top scorer despite all his obvious struggles, and the sort of 12-goal-a-season target we seemed quite happy for Dexter Blackstock to chuck in for us for several years now isn’t a million miles away. He looked, understandably, thrilled, and he wasn’t far off a hat trick when sub Albert Adomah (as-per-usual) got the final ball exactly right from wing back and Dykes attacked the near post well to force a rare save from Wildsmith. Had that gone in, this report would simply have consisted of Rod Stewart on a loop.
Wednesday were getting desperate now. The screams to try and get Sam Field sent off for a late hit on Paterson were eye rolling enough, but they got even louder for even less moments later for a nothing bit of contact by Jordy De Wijs in the penalty area. From the resulting corner, three players smashed Dieng into the back of the net with the ball. Not allowed. They did certainly have more of a shout when Kakay’s extraordinary goal line clearance just as sub Elias Kachunga seemed certain to score turned out to have involved his forearm on replay – by this point John Brooks seemed to have settled for never awarding a penalty again. Sheff Wed have had just two penalties all season, a league low. When it's not going for you, it's not going for you, and to hammer home that point Reach’s cross was soon deflecting back into play off the cross bar.
Overall I came away rather puzzled with the away team. On paper, and in the flesh, this team is far better than those around it. Certainly playing like this, with Bannan to the fore, Reach rather wasted at wing back but still contributing plenty, and Palmer impressing down the other side, you’d think them well capable of climbing over the top of the Wycombe, Rotherham, Coventry, Birmingham and Huddersfield teams we’ve seen in the last few weeks and months – points deduction not withstanding. And yet here they were, losing again, for the twenty first time this season, about to concede a fourth goal, and now seemingly certain that their next trip to the capital will be to face AFC Wimbledon. There were obvious flaws – one can only imagine Mrs Lees is doing a lot of brow mopping in her role at the moment, with Tom surely traumatised and screaming out in his sleep with this goalkeeper behind him, Urhoghide to his right and Borner to his left. Poor, poor bastard. In form or otherwise, you can’t just let teams walk through your midfield and get face to face with that clown car defence as readily as Wednesday did. But most of all they just felt like a dangerous combination of really dim and mentally weak. At key moments in the game, in the most dangerous areas of the pitch, they did the wrong thing every single time. Johansen’s goal was the most obvious example, but it wasn’t an isolated incident. Shots botched, chances missed, possession concession. When there was an opportunity to make the incorrect decision, or do the wrong thing, Wednesday took it every time, and left a game they were well in for long periods, and couple have potentially won on another day, with a 4-1 defeat.
Four because George Thomas, another who’s endured a frustrating first year at the club, having already teed up the irrepressible Willock for one off the outside of the post, escaped in injury time thanks to Lyndon Dykes’ glorious chest pass amidst the move of the game and put the ball on a plate for Willock to slam in the fourth. he is maturing into some player as this season wears on, certainly a lot stronger on the ball than he was at the start, with the sort of plant and turn on him that Ebere Eze used to do so well.
Dom Ball was on by this point, drifting in late the day after the office Christmas party to a round of applause and a story about how he was in a casino till four in the morning. An early counter attack almost as glorious included a Willock back flick for the ages, but ended with Dykes heading over. He selflessly, rather daftly, passed up a chance to shoot deep into injury time which potentially would have been five one and a hat trick.
One thing I haven’t seen mentioned, amidst all the talk of the season being effectively over, and whether Warbs will use that to get gametime into young players and experiment (spoiler, he won’t), is that QPR’s oft-discussed present day wage structure, designed to stop us descending into exactly the sort of hot mess we saw before us on Saturday, includes plenty of incentives and bonuses related to final league position. It may not make much of a difference to the grand scheme of things whether QPR finish top half or bottom half, tenth or eleventh, but it will to the players’ pockets. Keep playing like this, that summer in Mykonos is going to pay for itself.
QPR: Dieng 6; Dickie 6, De Wijs 6 (Adomah 69, 7), Barbet 6; Kakay 5, Johansen 7 (Bettache 81, -), Field 7 (Ball 81, -), Chair 7 (Thomas 76, 7), Wallace 7; Dykes 8, Willock 8
Subs not used: Lumley, Kane, Bonne, Hämäläinen, Kelman
Goals: Dykes 27 (assisted Barbet’s Diags™), 60 (assisted Willock), Johansen 50 (assisted Chair), Willock 90+2 (assisted Thomas)
Bookings: Field 64 (foul), Kakay 90 (foul)
Sheff Wed: Wildsmith 4; Urhoghide 5 (Harris 71, 6), Lees 6, Borner 5; Palmer 7, Hutchinson 6 (Pelupessy 83, -), Bannan 7, Reach 7; Paterson 5 (Kachunga 70, 5), Windass 6, Rhodes 5 (Green 71, 5)
Subs not used: Westwood, Penney, Brown, Shaw, Brennan
Goals: Windass 30 (assisted Reach)
QPR Star Man – Lyndon Dykes 8 Between him and Chris Willock, with the gorgeous injury time chest pass to spring George Thomas for the fourth goal just nudging the Scottish international ahead for me. It’s heartbreaking when you see a young player get a big move that doesn’t work out – all slumped shoulders and weight of the world stuff – and to see Lyndon rebounding as spectacularly as he has over the last couple of weeks has been lovely.
Referee – John Brooks (Leicestershire) 6 There’s something about this referee and penalty decisions in games between QPR and Sheff Wed. Three big appeals here and while the alleged foul be De Wijs was certainly more in hope and desperation than anything else you could make a reasonable case for Kakay’s handball in the second half, and the arm over Dykes’ shoulder in the first. He gave none of them, and for me that was probably about right, though given the number of replays Sky dedicated to the incidents I suspect both he and I are wrong.
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Letters from Wiltshire #47 by wessex_exile
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Letters from Wiltshire #46 by wessex_exile
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Letters from Wiltshire #45 by wessex_exile
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Letters from Wiltshire #44 by wessex_exile
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Letters from Wiltshire #43 by wessex_exile
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