|Queens Park Rangers 2 v 0 Coventry City|
Saturday, 28th August 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Swung by the subs, QPR maintain unbeaten start - Report
Sunday, 29th Aug 2021 17:22 by Clive Whittingham
QPR overcame an impressive looking Coventry team and ropey first half to win 2-0 at Loftus Road on Saturday and head into the international break unbeaten.
A thought occurred to me yesterday, as we watched our hooped chimps tossing the latest unsolved Rubik’s Cube between them – when did the Championship get all sophisticated for itself?
The answer is that it probably hasn’t. Watching a couple of QPR games in August and sleeping off a hangover with Fulham drawing against Middlesbrough on in the background then using it to make a sweeping judgement about the direction of travel of an entire league is the sort of half-arsed, token coverage of life outside The Best League In The World we like to leave to other publications and websites. Some Premier League hack given time off from his usual beat of “five things we learned from Red Monday” and vital hot take on Cristiano Ronaldo’s £480k a week deal with Manchester United that doesn’t include “abhorrent” among its word count nor any mention of why he might have trouble clearing customs on their US tour next summer, sent to point at Fulham v Stoke on August Bank Holiday weekend and go “ooooh fourth v fifth” or Tweet about Pep Guardiola’s all conquering reach and influence because he’s stumbled across a clip of some idiot scum like Rochdale stringing a dozen passes together.
When the weather turns, the pitches crumble, the players tire and the fixtures start racking up, the Championship will be the same channel-ball obsessed dirge it always has been. It already counts, among its early pace setters, Cardiff City, who have scored nine times in five games, every one of them a header. Aden Flint, part footballer, part mythical beast who lives in the woods in Roald Dahl books, is the division’s top scorer with four from centre back.
Nevertheless, with Barnsley at Loftus Road last week, and Coventry City this, we have been treated – if that’s the right word, given our allegiance – to a couple of eye-catching, attractive, innovative approaches to second tier football. QPR have remained unbeaten through both, and their first seven league and cup games of the campaign overall, but it’s been a real wrestle for them, mentally and physically, against a pair of sides that, initially at least, looked to have outsmarted Rangers.
Coventry were promoted a little over a year ago and with three wins from four games to start 2021/22 proving, like Luton and Barnsley before them, that if you can survive that first Championship season out of League One there’s serious ladder climbing that can be done in year two. They matched QPR with a back three and wing back system, and Fankaty Dabo’s impressive turn on the right side of that set up suggests that Todd Kane’s impending move to that part of the world is merely going to see him parked back on the bench behind another younger, better right wing back who he presumably also thinks he can drink under the table for football smarts. Farwell Todd, good luck Cov. The midfield was anchored by Gustavo Hamer, who I never see have a bad game and is fast replacing Alex Mowatt in the “is it just me?” stakes now somebody has finally sat up, noticed and extricated him from South Yorkshire.
Viktor Gyokeres was only afforded seven starts and 12 sub appearances on loan here from Brighton last season, and contributed three goals in that gametime, but they made the move permanent in the summer regardless and he’s already scored against Forest and Blackpool for a gain of four points. Here the movement of he and Greggs mascot Martyn Waghorn gave Rangers’ three centre backs all they wanted for the first hour. For the majority of the first half it looked like being a repeat of seven days prior, when Rangers were two down at the break and lucky to still be in touch. De Wijs was required to block a chance behind on two minutes after Willock conceded possession, Johansen and Austin both came charging back down the pitch in desperation to avert a huge counter attack from a botched QPR throw on five – Maatsen piling forward from left wing back drew a save from Dieng.
Cov could and should have scored three times in a minute a short while later. Gyokeres got the better of De Wijs, squared the ball to Waghorn, and his shot was bravely blocked by Yoann Barbet. Lines not cleared, possession recycled, Gyokeres with the shot, Barbet with a second block. Pressure still on, Hamer arriving from deep, Barbet in the way for a third time. O’Hare keen to get involved, Dieng with a comfortable save. Barbet, making a sixty fifth consecutive league appearance for Rangers, had maintained the deadlock almost single handedly. Mark Robins’ team were able to effectively go around the side of QPR either with Dabo down the right or Maatsen on the left, and then quickly work the ball into big spaces behind Johansen and in front of the back three where the dangerous Callum O’Hare was roaming with too much freedom. They looked very tidy indeed, Dickie’s excellent recovery tackle on 22 denying them once, Dieng saving from another long range Hamer strike twice, and Waghorn’s farcical dive in the area with better options available a third time. Ilias Chair’s free kick, over the wall, down out of the sky, and perfectly placed in the top corner, was the first real bit of respite for the hosts after half an hour but goalkeeper Simon Moore, finally being given a run as a number one after a lifetime spent as a reserve keeper (best career in the world), saved well with one hand.
Gentle Ben’s hospital pass got Johansen in trouble ten before half time and he had to commit a cynical foul and take a thick yellow card to stop another breakway. A corner two minutes later looked in all the way from the South Africa Road stand but somehow went wide. When a pretty obvious foul on Willock was waved away you feared this might be the moment for the Cov goal, because QPR had probably deserved to concede one all half and hadn’t but now didn’t so would. In the end, O’Hare dribbled an assist all the way through the goalmouth without a finishing touch.
Nil nil at half time was about the most positive thing the home crowd had to cling to, and the main significant difference from seven days prior, but it needed a super Dieng save to deny Waghorn in the first minute of the second half to maintain that. A flurry of corners followed, one chested back out of play by Moses Odubajo, another spectacularly cleared with his head by man of the moment Rob Dickie, but QPR were better after that: more urgency, more tempo, more effect on the game. Not many chances though, with Charlie Austin rather labouring as a lone striker against the three visiting centre backs, starved of service and lacking the pace to worry them of his own accord.
It needed QPR subs after just half an hour to turn the tide against the Tykes, and it was the benches that made the big difference here too. Coventry, presumably through fitness, replaced both Waghorn and Gyokeres on the hour. QPR’s defenders would have been glad to see the back of the pair of them, and Matt Godden and Tyler Walker were a thousand miles off the players they’d replaced. Chances and pressure at the School End wizened and evaporated entirely. When Lyndon Dykes stripped for the hosts you wondered whether Warbs Warburton was going to be brave/foolish and remove Dom Ball – so good last week, guilty of over-complicating this – to get the two up top. The presence of O’Hare, already getting too much joy between the lines, probably discouraged him, and Ilias Chair’s recovery from Covid-19 perhaps made the decision for him. Still, plenty of puzzled looks when the ten went up, though these turned to smiles within 60 seconds as Rangers maintained possession and pressure around the edge of the area from a corner and Willock cross, Ball nodded the ball to his left, and Dykes got an arcing shot away quickly with his first and second touch of the match, finding the far bottom corner from 20 yards expertly. Ten goals, four assists, 14 games.
The game took on a different feel immediately. Now it was Odubajo, rather than Dabo, making hay from right wing back, drawing a yellow card for Clarke-Salter. QPR were in the ascendency, creating the chances, playing the football, and bossing the game as they’d been bossed in the first half. Moore saved very adeptly from Dykes, late sub Osman Kakay dragged a presentable chance across the face of the goal. Yoann Barbet, who’d been the pick of the defence in the first half, was now ponsing around so far up the field the EFL has selected him in the team of the week in midfield. A ball rolling out towards him 40 yards from goal with a quarter of an hour left for play was met with an anti-Hugill, hard and low, head too far over the ball if anything, and it flew like a comet towards the bottom corner. It was all Moore could do to keep it out, even from that range, and when Austin, for all his struggles on the day, reacted quicker than Hyam to the rebound and recycled it he found Barbet had continued his forward maraud - because of course, we've got two more centre backs, we don't know where they are at the moment but you carry on - and was on hand to thump the game-sealing goal into the roof of the net. Dykes had transformed the game, but Barbet was its star man.
Though the Scotsralian, and a couple of team mates, must now embark on the new and, frankly pretty disgraceful, three-match international breaks, it’s a moment for the rest of the squad to take a breath and rest up after an August well done. Rangers have, at times, such as Hull and Middlesbrough away, the second halves of the Barnsley and Coventry games, played very well, and showed why they were many people’s dark horses to challenge this season. At others, Millwall H and the first half of the other two Loftus Road games, they’ve struggled through a combination of impressive and sometimes quite clever opposition and also the drawbacks that come with an attacking wingback system. I know I’m a fanboy, and Dom Ball impressed at Hull and against Barnsley, but I think Sam Field deeper and off Johansen would make an enormous difference. This isn’t a team that’s won three and lost three though. QPR are unbeaten in seven league and cup games to begin the campaign, unbeaten in nine going back to the end of April, only Man City (22) have won more than our 18 games in 2021 so far.
When we’re on it, we’re really on it, and when we’re not, we’re resilient. Promising signs, good traits, excellent entertainment. August successfully tucked up in bed, time for a quiet glass of wine with Newsnight.
QPR: Dieng 8; Odubajo 7, Dickie 7, De Wijs 7, Barbet 8, McCallum 6 (Kakay 85, -); Johansen 7, Ball 6, Chair 6 (Dykes 67, 8); Austin 5 (Dozzell 77, 6), Willock 7
Subs not used: Archer, Dunne, Adomah, Thomas
Goals: Dykes 68 (assisted Ball), Barbet 76 (assisted Austin)
Bookings: Johansen 35 (foul)
Coventry: Moore 7; Dabo 7, Hyam 6, McFadzean 6, Clarke-Salter 6 (Allen 72, 6), Maatsen 7; Hamer 7, Sheaf 6, O’Hare 7; Waghorn 7 (Godden 61, 5), Gyokeres 7 (Walker 61, 5)
Subs not used: Rose, Wilson, Shipley, DaCosta
Bookings: Clarke-Salter 71 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Yoann Barbet 8 Three blocks/tackles to prevent goals in the first half and then a score of his own in the second moves him just ahead of game-changer Dykes and the excellent De Wijs, who has still only lost twice for QPR and was subbed off in both those games.
Referee – Dean Whitestone (Northants) 7 Perhaps a little bit picky and fussy at times, particularly with small stuff like placement of free kicks and throw ins, but overall fine and all the significant calls were right.
Attendance – 14,774 (2,000 Coventry approx.)
Pictures – Action Images
The Twitter @loftforwords
Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.
You need to login in order to post your comments
Blogs 31 bloggers
When Saturday Comes #11 by wessex_exile
This blog is a little earlier than usual, to give me and Alfie time to load up the car and sally forth for our first awayday of the season together, on the road to Vale Park – “He who would valiant be, 'gainst all disaster, let him in constancy follow the Master”. Not quite sure who the master is in that analogy, but let’s hope it’s Hayden Mullins on Saturday. All being well, I’m looking forward to catching up with fellow U’sual boarders (Noah, Durham maybe?, anyone else) when I get there. I won’t be meeting up with Clampin (Covid) or Judge (calf injury) who will miss out on making the trip, nor of course Tchamadeu (see below).
When Saturday Comes #10 by wessex_exile
So here we are again, still looking for that elusive first home league win of the season, only this time against high-flying (and recently non-league) Harrogate Town. That isn’t meant to be in any way disrespectful for Harrogate Town, they should be applauded for what they have achieved so far, but it is nevertheless a measure of how far our stock has fallen in recent years that we find ourselves in this situation. I have no doubt that today will be a difficult game, but it’ll be even more so if Hayden Mullins doesn’t take anything from recent performances and realise that what he’s trying just doesn’t seem to be working – he simply has to change things around. Whether he will or not remains to be seen – maybe he will, maybe won’t and the old guard will finally come good? I guess we’ll know one way or another by 5pm.
When Saturday Comes #9 by wessex_exile
After the complete horror-show that was U’s v Salford last Saturday, we find ourselves desperately clinging on to our away form like a drowning man to a lifebuoy…and I have no doubt Tranmere will be seriously stamping on our fingers in that regard. As a Friday night kick-off, I can look forward to the live match stream, which I was fortunately spared for the Salford game (it sounded bad enough). Swings and roundabouts though, if this hadn’t been rearranged to a Friday night, I may well have joined my Tranmere mate Chris and his family for the weekend – Prenton Park is always a good visit for an awayday, so safe travelling and good luck to Durham and the rest of the U’s faithful who make the trip.
When Saturday Comes #8 by wessex_exile
I’ve gone back through my archive, and the last football match I attended before last Saturday at the County Ground was U’s at Cheltenham on 29th February 2020 (and covered in LfW11) – In other words a 574 day wait. Others have mentioned about finding other things to do, losing their love for live football, things like that, and certainly my bank balance has appreciated the break from costly awaydays for the best (worst) part of 18 months. If I’m honest, I was slightly worried that I would go the same way, that the attraction would fade after so long, but I needn’t have been. As a result, it’ll be a slightly different format to this When Saturday Comes blog.
When Saturday Comes #7 by wessex_exile
Well that didn’t go as planned at all – after a stirring battling performance full of grit, character and togetherness with the small band of travelling supporters at Barrow, the U’s then finally returned back to the JobServe and completely failed to turn up against bogey side Crawley. They weren’t the only ones either, Hayden Mullins was absent as well, and we have since learned he has Covid-19 and will also miss tomorrow’s game at Swindon too – I know we all wish Hayden a speedy recovery. Fortunately, I won’t be missing the match, with tickets arriving last weekend – first live game for best part of 18 months, and I can’t bloody wait!
Queens Park Rangers Polls
[ Vote here ]