|Derby County 1 v 2 Queens Park Rangers|
Monday, 29th November 2021 Kick-off 19:45
Stop me if you've heard this one before - Report
Tuesday, 30th Nov 2021 22:49 by Clive Whittingham
QPR made it three wins in a week, and climbed to third in the table, winning a Monday night game at Derby County by the odd worldie in three.
There are some things that Queens Park Rangers “do”.
If you have a striker, for instance, who last scored during the Triassic Period, and has since played so many games, and missed so many chances, that he has grown to loathe the sight of his own reflection in the bathroom mirror, crying himself to sleep in a separate bed from his wife every night and rising each day only so he can watch Homes Under The Hammer in his pants and scratch himself as Martin Roberts dismisses a lean-to as “seen better days”, then what QPR “do” is let him have a goal. Or two. Good goals too, often. Big thunderbastards off the underside of the bar from long distance. Oh how we laugh, on the way back down the motorway, as the t-shirt printing press whirs into life. Jon Stead is 38 now, retired, and assistant to the regional manager at Connecticut-based USL Championship team Hartford Athletic, but sometimes in the night, just as I’m drifting off into whatever restless mess my brain counts as sleep, I jolt myself awake with a chokey gasp, thinking I’ve seen him at the end of the bed, with a jacket draped over his arm, and a small smile.
Perhaps you would consider your team essentially unfit for purpose. Not so much out of their depth as twenty thousand leagues under the sea. Poor footballers, too old or too young, feckless and unfit, arguing between themselves as a succession of spent forces you’ve heard of before trawl through the dugout trying and failing to get a song out of them. Maybe it’s been a year since you won away, or 20 games since a success at home. Perhaps you’re still looking for your first win of any sort, on any ground, this season, and here we are in early December. Fear not. There’s a QPR team that will lose to that. Gladly, willingly, we’ll enjoy it. There’s a once upon a time about a midweek trip to Swindon Town you may have heard a time or two before, though don’t get Ian Holloway to tell you the story because his addled mind always places it in the wrong pissing season and it gets my teeth all itchy. Missing the chance to go second in the Premier League by losing to a team of cartoon ducks, one of whom is sent off after 15 minutes, is what QPR “do”.
We tell ourselves this, and recount these stories out of some sort of dark gallows humour. Never win on a Friday, never win on Sky, never win at Nottingham Forest, never win in the cups – hurr hurr, we’re proper shit, you R’s. Partly it’s a form of emotional insurance, so we can start preparing ourselves for the humiliation of having our planet conquered by a bloke with a board with a nail in it. Partly it’s out of genuine anger, that we invest so much time and money into this, become so emotionally attached to the outcome, and yet the bastards have 210 minutes and a penalty shoot out against Vauxhall Motors and still find a way to lose. And partly it’s out of love, like the love a mother has for the delinquent son she can’t keep out of Feltham Young Offender’s Institute, because when they beat financially doped league leaders Wolves 2-1 on the Saturday, runners-up elect Sheffield United 1-0 on the Tuesday, and then 3,000 of you storm the bar at Hooters in Nottingham the following weekend only for them to lose the match four pissing nil, all you can do is ruffle their hair, sigh and move onto the next. You’re not going to leave them whatever they do, and they know it, so what they do… is that. He said he'd changed mum, he said it would be different.
Derby County we know all about.
Harry Wilson, deadline days, Paul Clement, The Derby Way;
Huddlestones, Max Bird, car crash, Chris Baird,
Covid didn’t start the fire, it was always burning since Mel turned to cheating; Covid didn’t start the fire, though they didn’t light it admin try to fight it.
Cor, it’s like Glee this isn’t it? Wayne Rooney – a bookie paid, what else do I have to say? Derby should have been relegated last season, and not only because by rights they should have had a points deduction that would have demoted them instead of Wycombe. Theirs is a squad built on hubris and short-term fixes, each signing more expensive and foolhardy than the last, all destined to leave on free transfers, and each driving them closer and closer to the oblivion they now inhabit. Two of the more ridiculous ones – ShopMobility’s Krystian Bielik for £8m, and Poland’s Kamil Jozwiak who they said they’d pay £3.6m for even as the house of cards was well on the way down – haven’t been paid for yet. Tom Lawrence, drunken Mario Kart antics thankfully parked by the good folk at Derby Magistrate’s Court, leads the line with a glued-down hairline because they can no longer afford the WD-40 required to get the only other striker at the club, Colin Kazim-Richards, functional enough to move about sufficiently. Tom has “support” from Ravel Morrison, who posts heat maps that would shame a fat goalkeeper but continues to trade off one throwaway comment “Sir Alex” made ten years ago midway through a second bottle of Beaujolais. Every Shrove Tuesday into Ash Wednesday the nearby Derbyshire town of Ashbourne hosts The Royal Shrovetide Football Match, a medieval form of the game in which the locals gather en masse to try, through immense violence and vandalism, and move a makeshift ball to one end of the town or the other. A fire at the Royal Shrovetide Committee Office in the 1890s destroyed records pinpointing the exact start date of this tradition but there was a contest there, legend has it using the severed head of an executed ne’er-do-well as a 'ball', at least as far back as 1667. Derby’s current centre half pairing Phil Jagielka and Curtis Davies both started that day.
Little hope to begin with then, and certainly none now the EFL has belatedly had its 21 pound of flesh. Pressure off, there has been much talk of how Derby are “making a fist of things”, and having beaten Bournemouth and drawn with Fulham in the week prior their record against the top six teams in the league this season read P5 L0. Still, bottom, one point, four wins all season, one win from nine. And here they come, Yoann Barbet giving the ball away as he’s wont to do away from home at the moment, Graeme Shinnie with the through ball, Rob Dickie undecided and leaden-footed, and Lawrence running clear beyond Jimmy Dunne to hammer the opening goal into the very apex of the top corner. They should have scored before that too, in the first minute, as Shinnie’s cross-shot travelled right through the heart of the penalty box with Lawrence unable to apply a finishing touch at the back post. It is, as we say, what QPR “do”. Big eye-roll, exaggerated tut, WHARRAWELIKE HEY? Can’t take us anywhere. Told them not to have the mutton vindaloo.
The rest of the first half was a night spent in a hotel room with a mosquito - just intensely irritating enough to keep you awake, when all you really wanted to be was asleep. There was a QPR corner on the quarter hour flicked past Kelle Roos, who often gives the impression of somebody who won his professional goalkeeping contract in a tombola, but headed out from under the crossbar before it troubled the scorers. Two pretty obvious fouls on Albert Adomah were waved away by referee Jeremy Simpson, and then when he did finally award a free kick at the third time of asking Charlie Austin met the delivery firmly and sent the ball sailing so far off target one of the air traffic controllers at East Midlands Airport laid an egg. Roos claimed a through ball at Chair’s feet right on the cusp of the penalty area, Lawrence spent an imponderable amount of time being treated for minor women’s whiplash, and Dickie and Barbet’s link up faltered so alarmingly that the ball was allowed to roll gently into touch for a throw in 20 yards from the nearest living soul. It felt like I’d taken up smoking, that morning, and chain smoked a new cigarette every five minutes for the rest of the day. The smooth good taste of the 1-0 QPR away defeat to a team that can’t find its own arse with both hands was triggering all the familiarity sensors. Killing me, slowly, grimly, but can I stop? Can I look away? I cannot. Do that thing you do where you send three centre backs up for a corner then work a short routine onto the head of some dwarf they’ve stuck on the near post for aesthetics.
You know what though, this ‘what QPR do’ routine has worn so tired and thin now it can’t even muster the strength to become a self-fulfilling prophecy any more. Yeh we’re one nil down, a long way from home, in the cold, and the dark, and the snow, and playing like tarts, and Sky are here, and it’s a day of the week with a Y in. Give a shit. What this QPR team “do”, in actual fact, is play the game of football. They start slow, they dig holes, they need reminders, often mid-game surgery is required, but eventually the engine coughs to life and starts to purr. In the second half, the band began to play.
Straight away, front foot, more purpose, more aggression, less pissballing about. Shinnie tries to get Lawrence in again – no more friend. Dunne intercepts, Johansen picks it off, Chair starts to motor, Austin gets free down the left, a cross for the ages and there’s Chris Willock at the back post in the sort of space a mere mortal might use to bring the ball down from the sky and assess further options – Willock took the side-footed volley on first time and found the roof of the net. Roos looked as surprised as anybody and, frankly, who could blame him for that? Willock's increasingly decisive interventions in QPR games frequently so sublime they tend to elicit that more continental, Spanish-sounding noise from the awestruck crowd, rather than the more traditional English cheer.
There were set-backs and stammers thereafter. Lee Wallace, sadly, down with another muscle injury and off to be replaced by Moses Odubajo. Yoann Barbet, wildly, still giving possession away for fun. Lawrence with a sight of goal from Byrne’s pass spaffed wide. But, to be truthful, QPR took the game over entirely. Austin’s run and perfect cross had imbued him with long-lost confidence and he was having a whale of a time in the elephant’s graveyard that is Derby’s backline, at one point spraying an outrageous crossfield pass with the outside of his boot that almost had Willock in for a second as Roos was tempted out of his box and then missed the ball entirely. Austin was smiling again, and that grin would have been broader still had Willock’s well flighted wide ball been headed home by Ilias Chair on 71 minutes when it really should have been. Willock was borderline unplayable by this point, a goal seemed absolutely certain, and only Roos will know quite why he’d decided to plant himself where he did on 74 minutes, exactly the right place as it turns out to prevent Barbet’s volley from a tight angle registering the goal that seemed certain from the moment it left his boot.
Andre Gray came on for Charlie with a quarter of an hour to play and although he immediately planted his flag in the offside lands he calls home, his finish from 20 yards after the flag had been raised blazed into the top corner with the heat of a thousand suns. It would have killed Roos stone dead if he’d dared to get anywhere near it. That boded very well indeed. Ilias Chair thought he was in – Byrne got back with a brilliant tackle. From that corner Jimmy Dunne believed he was about to hook home – the air shot was caused by a tug on his shoulder that felt like a strong shout for a penalty. Gray played in Willock, goal at his mercy, but a rare rogue touch narrowed the angle too much. Time was starting to build a case against the visiting side. Festy Ebosele came on for the Rams and contributed more in ten minutes than Morrison had in an hour – one particularly poor piece of defending from Odubajo and Barbet let him into the red zone but Dunne roared across with a rescue act. I guess you take a point, seven for the week, and head home to prepare for Stoke. But then, I’ve been wrong before.
What this QPR team “do” is play to win. What this QPR team “do”, is score in 30 consecutive league matches. What this QPR team “do” is keep going, keep believing, keep trying, keep attacking, keep probing. And, yeh, sometimes Siriki Dembele happens and Edith Piaf strikes up the band for an old-as-time rendition of Typical Bloody Rangers. Much more often under Mark Warburton, though, Albert Adomah not only tracks a dangerous Derby attack into the left channel but controls and pirouettes out of the trouble in one fluid motion, and sets his team away for one last surge with a ball to Chris Willock. There's no playing for a point here, because what this QPR team “do” is get the final ball right. I guess you could say Willock needed two attempts - his first low cross blocked back to him – but such was the quality of the second ball you’ll certainly forgive him that. Chair should have scored with a header that hit the inside of the post. Steady on down Edith, we’re not done yet. QPR are never more dangerous than when they're 4-0 down at half time, or attacking in the final minute of a game against Derby - Jamie Mackie, Bobby Zamora and Macauley Bonne are going to have to make room in the gang for one more.
Andre Gray took the rebound first on his right thigh, then on his right boot to guide it around to his left which in turn allowed for a swivel and strike that would keep Tony Yeboah in hard ons for a month. It left his laces on a trajectory for the top corner, arced through the night sky like a comet, flew past Roos before he even realised it had happened, ripped the net off the back of the posts, and won the game. Bench cleared, substitutes everywhere - probably the naughtiest thing Luke Amos has ever done. In the away end, the structure of society began to collapse. It was the goal of this or any other season. It was a remarkable piece of skill, immaculately executed. It catapults the team up to third. And it is very typical of what this QPR “do”.
Derby: Roos 6, Byrne 7, Jagielka 6, Davies 6, Forsyth 5; Thompson 6, Bird 6, Shinnie 7 (Ebosele 79, 7); Knight 6 (Kazim-Richards 79, 5), Morrison 4 (Jozwiak 69, 6), Lawrence 6
Subs not used: Stearman, Sibley, Allsop, Watson
Goals: Lawrence 10 (assisted Shinnie)
QPR: Dieng 6; Adomah 6, Dickie 6, Dunne 6, Barbet 5, Wallace 6 (Odubajo 53, 7); Johansen 6, Dozzell 7, Chair 6; Willock 8 (Field 90+3, -), Austin 7 (Gray 76, 8)
Subs not used: Amos, Archer, Ball, Thomas
Goals: Willock 50 (assisted Austin), Gray 90 (unassisted)
Bookings: Gray 90 (indecent exposure)
QPR Star Man – Chris Willock 8 Electric.
Referee – Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire) 6 Not a referee whose style I particularly enjoy, but mostly fine here bar a pretty obvious yellow card pull back by young Thompson in the first half that’s a yellow card every day of the week, and a pretty strong penalty shout for the haul back of Dunne in the second.
Attendance – 20,003 (800 QPR approx.) A friend of mine was wondering whether Mel still has the EFL on strings?
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