|Fulham 4 v 1 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 16th October 2021 Kick-off 12:30
And all I ever knew - Report
Sunday, 17th Oct 2021 23:08 by Clive Whittingham
This season's blow-by-blow account of our regular shellacking by the Thames features four goals conceded, and stars Aleksander Mitrovic who you're closer to now than QPR got at any point of this Saturday breakfast debacle.
Talented or useless, successful or tanking, popular or hated, young or old, rich or poor… Whatever flavour your modern era QPR team has come in, it’s almost certainly lost very comprehensively to Fulham at Fulham. “Queens Park Rangers, it’s happened again” rolls down from the Hammersmith End of the ground once a year like Auld Lang Syne, when they finally stop committing the footballing war crime that is cardboard clapper noise, and there is no response to it. We’re almost as sick of this as they are delighted by it, and Rangers’ response remains depressingly listless on the field.
Neil Warnock’s storied Championship winners were 3-0 down here before half time and lost 6-0. Harry Redknapp’s detested band of feckless mercenaries were 3-0 down here before half time and lost 3-2. Chris Ramsey’s disparate collection of old QPR and new QPR were 3-0 down here before half time and lost 4-0. We’ve worked our way through the thick end of 200 players in the last decade or so, and almost to a man they’ve all played like a complete cunt in this fixture. QPR have played here nine times since hostilities (such as they can ever be described in this setting) were renewed in 1999 and Fulham have taken 22 points from 27 available, scoring 25 goals at a rate of almost three a match and conceding eight at a rate of one every now and again. Weirdly, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is the only QPR manager to triumph in this fixture since Tommy Docherty did so in January 1980, part of a run of two wins in 12 that got Hasselbaink the sack and accomplished only because Fulham were going through a strange period of missing every penalty they were awarded at the same time as QPR had a goalkeeper so adept at saving spot kicks that conceding them deliberately was a legitimate defensive technique.
We know – oh, believe me, we know – how this shit goes down.
The game, potentially one of the best awaydays on the calendar, with pubs oozing out the wazoo of one of the best parts of the city, will be shifted into an anti-social post-work or pre-breakfast slot by Sky Sports. Incidentally, the positioning of their studio in the new riverside development here now affords us a first hand view of exactly how much of the game their pundits believe is necessary to actually watch, versus staring at their phones, before dripping out bland, trite opinions about the merits of the couple of QPR players they’ve bothered to look up on Soccerbase in the courtesy car to the stadium. We see you Jobi McAnuff, engrossed in your Instagram, stealing your living up there, spoonfeeding warm diarrhea into the ears of the poor saps at home. I have dead relatives who watched this game more closely than you.
The horrors then begin early. Regardless of form, context or narrative, QPR will start the game in an alarmingly limp fashion. Stupefied, somehow. Has their drink been spiked? Have they been gassed? Is this the start of a 28 Days Later sequel? What, quite frankly, the fucking fuck, is wrong with them? Do we need to contact a medical professional/coroner? Can somebody, like, clap their hands really loudly? Or get hold of one of those horns areas of outstanding natural beauty use to ward off snoozing, drunk captains of super tankers? Guys, wake up, join us. Some of us are emotionally invested in the outcome.
Here Fulham were in behind Moses Odubajo off a simple diag after a minute (one minute), and spent the afternoon feasting on the gooey mess this player tends to create for himself out there – it’s definitely Sheffield Wednesday Odubajo and not Brentford Odubajo to this point and it’s becoming a real issue. Bare five minutes after that Mitrovic had bundled past Dom Ball and got in at the defence, necessitating a professional foul and yellow card. Jordy De Wijs subsequently rattled the big Serbian and brought a couple of physios scurrying to his aid, which was exactly what we hoped would be the case and needed to happen, but was regrettably a one off. Once back on his feet an everyday cross from the right side to the back post found Mitrovic, and Rob Dickie allowed him to pull the ball out of the air on his chest, turn, and volley into the net unchallenged. I’m not going to pretend that keeping hold of that monster is easy, but we’ve got to make it more difficult for him than that. I don’t use the word pathetic lightly with this team, and these players, because I like it, and them, but that was bloody abject. Come on lads, fuck me, are we arsed about this or what?
What usually happens then is Fulham go haring off into the distance with Starship’s Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now blaring out of the subwoofer while panicked QPR hide in the bushes peering out at their drunk drive wreck hoping the police don’t turn up before they get their story and breathtest straight. Just getting to half time at Craven Cottage without somebody charging the paddles to 30 is some kind of weird achievement, and Rangers did manage that. They put a move together for the first time on 16 minutes but Odubajo crossed straight to Rodak at the near post, then soon after Charlie Austin got into good space on the edge of the area but snatched at a long range shot over the bar when there was space to progress into – he looks leggy, and lacking in his usual confidence. A decent short corner routine saw Yoann Barbet have a dangerous shot deflect wide from the edge of the box; Chris Willock skipped round players intelligently but also crossed too close to the alert Rodak from the byline; and then the former Arsenal and Benfica junior found himself alone with the ball at the back post and struck a firm half volley against the woodwork.
If we’re being really honest here though, this could have been another 3-0 half time heartbreaker. Twelve minutes, way too passive, way too much space on the edge of the box for lovely Joe Bryan to lift one over the bar. Seventeen minutes, enormous confusion at the back, Mitrovic into the area and cutting inside, a shot deflected fractionally wide of the top corner. From that corner he meets the first one and Dieng knows nothing about a point blank range save straight in his face. Up and alert, the keeper saves again immediately from the rebound. Later Harry Wilson strolls around De Wijs like he’s a listed monument and cuts it back for Mitrovic who scores but for a desperate lunging block from Dickie.
Referee Oliver Langford rather distracted the attention of a packed away end with a mad five minutes at the end of the first half. A couple of 50/50s that could have gone either way drew the ire of the travellers, and from there he seemed to adopt an almost contrary attitude of not wanting to give Rangers anything for fear of being seen to cave to a rare bit of noise at Craven Cottage. Harrison Reed committed exactly the same tactical foul Dom Ball had earlier been booked for, and was allowed off with a warning. Stefan Johansen was then booked for the fifth time this season (suspended for Blackburn) for a foul when play should have been stopped for an obvious foul the other way a moment earlier. A throw-in so clearly QPR’s that the whole game had stopped and shifted that way down the field was somehow awarded to Fulham, taken quickly, moved in behind a now stricken defence to an offside Harry Wilson who wasn’t flagged, and then out for a corner off a blocked shot. Really poor refereeing, some mad stuff going on, but QPR were losing because they deserved to be, and in all truth it should have been a couple more at least.
Warbs Warburton went full stereotype to start the second half. On came Lyndon Dykes, which was the right move, but off went Dom Ball. For all his obvious first half struggles, hamstrung by that early booking, taking him off and leaving on the ineffective Charlie Austin left QPR with a midfield numbering one – Stefan Johansen, on a booking. Harrison Reed, who’s always been too good for this level, and Jean Seri, who once cost Fulham £25m, looked brilliant – but they’re going to in that acreage aren’t they? Once you’ve decided you’re playing a back three, and wing backs, and Willock and Chair, and now Austin and Dykes, it doesn’t leave a lot of midfield numberage. With Ball and Johansen, and then Johansen by himself, largely swamped and outclassed, I would have liked to have seen Luke Amos here very early doors – even just as coagulant to stem the bleeding. That he didn’t come on at all is somewhat mystifying to me.
Nevertheless, the second half started well. Fulham should beat QPR. They have a striker on north of £60,000 a week who is a Championship cheat sheet, they have the best left back in the division who gets injured and is replaced by the second best left back in the division, they have a £25m central midfielder… but they are gettable, as Coventry proved prior to the international break, as any team with the dangerously inept Dennis Odoi in its defence obviously will be. Chris Willock, the only QPR player who looked capable of playing at Fulham’s level all afternoon, cut in from the flank and played an assist we’ve seen before for a goal at Swansea last season. This time Lyndon Dykes went with the touch round the goalkeeper rather than the first time finish, but the result was just the same and the away end was alive again. Dykes’ composure here in stark contrast to the catalogue of chances he missed against the Whites in the FA Cup last January – we might have a player on our hands here after all. Rangers have recovered more points from losing positions than anybody else in the league, and for a moment it looked like that might be the case. Jobi McAnuff even briefly glanced up from his phone.
But… there’s always a but… QPR were open wider at the back than a 24 hour Esso garage. I’ve seen some criticism of Warburton for removing McCallum, who was playing well and had got round his man and crafted a dangerous chance just before the Dykes equaliser, but he’s been injured and clearly the directive was he could only do an hour here. You’re literally shouting at science if this is your big takeaway from this game, like one of those knobs that ignores trained medical professionals on vaccines because of something your wacky aunt belched onto Facebook. Bringing Jimmy Dunne on, you would think, should have bolstered us in the air against the omnithreat of Mitrovic and yet no sooner was he on the pitch and Barbet to left wing back than a cross came in from the left and Mitrovic headed the hosts back in front off the post. QPR worked bloody hard for their equaliser, Fulham’s second felt more like somebody snoring themselves awake. Worse was to come as Bobby Reid got in unchallenged down the right channel and scored into the far corner – a move in which three separate attempts to intercept the ball failed in hapless fashion. It is rather getting to the point where I’d like to see QPR concede a goal I didn’t think was completely, wholly preventable at multiple points in its inception. This is too easy. Too easy by far. And we don’t go anywhere conceding 20 times every 12 games.
Game now gone, the remaining time played out like a pre-season friendly. While the goals were eminently preventable, Fulham could probably have had as many again. Bar Willock and possibly McCallum on one side, and the painfully average Odoi and underworked Rodak on the other, I suspect when I get to the ratings all the QPR players will be five or less, and all the Fulham players seven or more. Unlike the defeats at West Brom and Bournemouth, the gulf here was vast. Fulham are much, much better than us.
Odubajo, eye-poppingly bad again, fell over his own arse and afforded Kebano a clear run on goal which Dieng saved spectacularly with one hand. Ilias Chair, nice of him to join us, set up Chris Willock at the far post but he fluffed his lines horribly. Andre Gray, on from the bench, had apparently succeeded where I’d failed and found a pub open early enough to get drunk in time for this one. When Antonee Robinson came bulging out of the Blakley catalogue for the final half hour, Rangers swooned all the way through the heart of the pitch long enough for him to score a fourth off a monstrous deflection. They’re often described as cruel those things, but if you’re going to surrender the whole of the midfield, and give up like that, then there’s nothing cruel about it. You get what you deserve. Guys, we’ll forgive you a lot, you got applauded off here by those that remained to the end, but we don’t like players and teams that give up on us, and you did there. At the very least, it should have been held to 3-1, and this shit does matter.
What does this all mean? Where does this leave us? Well, a quick six hours of kip before I commence Blackburn preview-writing in which we’ll try and work through some of that. Cheating? Hey, they get to play in this division with Mitrovic up front, you can let me have this one.
Fulham: Rodak 6; Odoi 5, Tosin 6, Ream 7, Bryan 7 (Robinson 58, 8); Seri 8, Reed 8; Kebano 7, Wilson 7 (Chalobah 77, 6), Cavaleiro 6 (Reid 32, 7); Mitrovic 9
Subs not used: Cairney, Carvalho, Gazzaniga, Mawson
Goals: Mitrovic 10 (assisted Odoi), 67 (assisted Kebano), Reid 71 (assisted Seri), Robinson 90+1 (assisted Reed)
QPR: Dieng 5; Odubajo 4, Dickie 5, De Wijs 5, Barbet 5, McCallum 6 (Dunne 66, 5); Ball 4 (Dykes 46, 6), Johansen 5, Chair 5; Willock 6, Austin 5 (Gray 69, 5)
Subs not used: Amos, Archer, Duke-McKenna, Adomah
Goals: Dykes 55 (assisted Willock)
Bookings: Ball 7 (foul), Johansen 45 (repetitive fouling), Odubajo 63 (foul), Dunne 70 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Chris Willock 6 Star man with a six says a lot. Dykes made a huge difference when he came on and would have been my other choice but across the 90 I thought Willock was the only player we had who looked like he could hold a candle to the players Fulham had. That may be because he’s really the only player in this QPR team with any genuine pace – Odubajo completely nullifying his by constantly checking inside into traffic. One of many noticeable differences between the teams here was just how slow Rangers looked across the park, and it’s little wonder Willock stood out in that arthritic standard.
Referee – Oliver Langford (West Mids) 4 This is a referee I usually like a lot, so there’s a lot of benefit of the doubt going into the 4/10 mark – had this been Keith Stroud, Trevor Kettle, Gavin Ward, I suspect there would have been a three. He was certainly on that mark at half time, following a wild ten minute end to the first half where he absolutely hammered QPR to the point where it felt he was just doing it to be contrary and show that he wouldn’t respond to abuse from the away end. Dom Ball was, rightly, booked early for a professional foul on Mitrovic interrupting a counter attack, but when Harrison Reid did the same thing he was let off with a word on the run. Johansen’s booking soon after that followed a blatant foul on a QPR player on the corner of the penalty area – one of several incidents in this game where Langford’s uber strict interpretation of advantage stretched barely half a second – keep the ball that long after a foul, we’re playing on, give it away after 0.75 seconds, your problem. A usually lenient referee is currently clocking along at nearly four cards a game, and he added another four to that here when there was no need – Johansen’s, and certainly Dunne’s, totally needless. I would urge you all to listen to Mark Halsey’s hour-long stint on Nedum Onuoha’s podcast recently. Halsey, like Langford, is somebody I always felt refereed games as players and fans would like them refereed, with a lot of benefit of the doubt given, and cards kept in the pocket unless absolutely necessary. Halsey ended up on the Premier League list only because he listened to his assessors and refereed games in a more by-the-book, officious manner which he didn’t like, didn’t believe in, and didn’t enjoy doing. Langford’s performance here wasn’t him. It wasn’t like I’ve seen him referee countless Championship games, but that’s rather the point – he’s been in the Championship as long as we have, we’ve had him four times a season for as long as we’ve been here, he’s only ever had one Premier League game in his life. Like Geoff Eltringham, he usually referees a game in the way the fans and players would like it refereed, and therefore he’s stuck here. This was an uncomfortable, poor performance, but I bet the fucking assessor absolutely loved it. There’s absolutely no way, no way in the world, Oliver Langford books Jimmy Dunne for that in any of the other games I’ve ever seen him referee. Somebody is eyeing a promotion, and to get that you don’t referee for us, or for the players, or yourself. You referee for the prick in the stand with the clipboard. And that’s what he did here in my opinion. The worst performance I’ve ever seen from him, and I’d wager the best mark he’s ever had from an assessor in a QPR game. Really quite profoundly sad.
Attendance – 18,371 (1,600 QPR approx.)
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When Saturday Comes #13 by wessex_exile
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