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Queens Park Rangers 0 v 2 Stoke City
SkyBet Championship
Sunday, 5th December 2021 Kick-off 14:30
Smart Stoke set up slays R’s scoring sequence – Report
Monday, 6th Dec 2021 16:32 by Clive Whittingham

For the second time this season QPR were beaten at home thanks largely to a flying performance from a visiting goalkeeper, though, unlike the 2-1 loss to Bristol City, you couldn’t begrudge Sunday’s visitors Stoke City their result nor pretend they didn’t deserve it.

Now I’m not in any way suggesting that this might be my mindset, as I drag my hangover kicking and screaming through one of those wet December Mondays where it never gets light, but if you were so minded to phone in match report 21/46 this Championship season then you could quite easily do so by tutting, rolling your eyes, giving it a trite “just one of those days” numbers and rolling back over in bed desperately hoping the rest of the world just leaves you the fuck alone until, I don’t know, maybe March.

Queens Park Rangers had scored in 31 consecutive league games prior to this one, two shy of the club record of 33. They had 24 shots on the goal, nine of which were on target, trying to continue that sequence, and came up blank. Seven minutes was all it took for the in form Chris Willock to fashion space in a crowded telephone box and produce a cross for Ilias Chair to head goalwards and Adam Davies to make the first of many saves on the afternoon – he shouldn’t really have been in the equation. Willock later carried the ball superbly to relieve pressure at one end and then one majestic scissor pass from Stefan Johansen had Chair breaking clear on a rapid and eye catching counter attack, but his cross went right across the face of the goal untouched and untroubled by a hooped boot. A shot from Yoann Barbet deflected wide, fellow defender Jimmy Dunne couldn’t head the resulting corner on target.

After half time a brilliant free kick routine saw a ball headed down plum into the path of Charlie Austin whose volley looked in all the way only for Davies to produce the save of the game underneath his crossbar. Rangers have, at times, left it late to continue their scoring run in recent weeks, winning games here against Huddersfield and Blackburn with goals at the death, and eight points have been won in the final ten minutes of matches this season. After the eightieth minute here substitute George Thomas looped one header over Davies and agonisingly wide of the far post, flicked another intelligent effort towards goal from a difficult angle to draw another save from the goalkeeper, and then went clean through on goal in the left channel only for the keeper to spring from his line superbly and produce a monstrous block. The other substitutes, Luke Amos and Andre Gray, both had a go themselves in five minutes of added time – Davies tipped over from the former, bit of a camera save but you couldn’t begrudge him that in a performance as good as this one, and saved more comfortably from the latter from the corner that resulted. Ilias Chair’s strike from the edge of the box was saved right in the bottom corner by the post.

QPR have suffered two home defeats this season, against cities Bristol and Stoke, and across those two matches they have had 50 shots on the goal, 20 of which were on target. Sometimes a Dan Bentley or Adam Davies turns up, gives it the full Danny Coyne, and point blankly refuses to be beaten. All you can do is trust in the process, believe that playing like that and having that many attempts will get you a win more often than not, and move on. That it wasn’t Rangers' day was confirmed midway through the second half when they were awarded a penalty for the first time this season, referee Tony Harrington rightly adjudging that the otherwise superb Vrancic had wrestled Yoann Barbet to the ground at the near post, and Charlie Austin struck one of the tamest spot kicks you’ll ever see in professional football which Davies saved easily. A penalty so poor that in actual fact you could probably give the otherwise exemplary goalkeeper some stick for parrying it rather than holding the ball. Under the laws of lazy football writing I am now contractually obligated to say that if you’re not in great form and confidence is not high – Charlie Austin looked more like his old self against Luton and Derby, and has a 100% penalty conversion rate in the Championship, but hasn’t had the best start to the season and missed badly in the shoot out against Sunderland – it’s probably best to just stick your laces through the ball. Certainly, the crowd will be more forgiving of that sort of miss than this one. He looked disconsolate when he was later replaced by Gray. An afternoon in which he was two saves away from being the QPR hero once more. All good things must come to an end, blah blah blah.

But (there’s always a but), I’m not sure this was just ‘one of those days’. Yes, Davies was superb, an obvious man of the match, but while his save at the start of the half from Austin and end of it from Thomas you couldn’t help but applaud even as an opponent, much of his involvement was courtesy of poor finishing when he should never really have been given a chance – the penalty was the perfect example of this. Actually I thought Stoke played us very well indeed, and deserved their win. The effectiveness of their veteran midfielder Mario Vrancic, compared to that of our own Stefan Johansen, a perfect microcosm of the difference between the two team: one in complete control, well in charge, with the more coherent plan; the other getting less right the harder he tried, frantic at times in his desperate efforts to put things right and drive his team on.

Most of the pre-match talk had been about the injuries Stoke had coming into the game. Davies himself is only in the team because Joe Bursik is injured and their goalkeeping situation has been deemed serious enough for Frank Fielding to be permitted as an out-of-window addition to the squad. While there was a touch of the Jonathan Woodgates about Stoke’s last-man-standing pre-match team news – Joe ‘bravest man I ever met’ Allen and Sam ‘don’t get too close to the Greggs heat lamp’ Clucas were both involved after all – this is a team missing influential Harry Souttar (divorced), mercurial Nick Powell (beheaded), main striker Sam Surridge (died), Jordan Thompson (divorced), Tashan Oakley-Boothe (beheaded) and Abdallah Sima (survived). In actual fact, it was the absentees in the QPR ranks that had the bigger effect on the game. Lee Wallace, without whom Rangers simply don’t function to the same degree they do when he plays, is out with a hamstring injury again and his natural replacement Sam McCallum is out long term after surgery. Moses Odubajo, who can play there or the opposite side, has been sidelined again, along with Albert Adomah, meaning all four of QPR’s first choice wing backs were unavailable here. Osman Kakay got a rare start on the right, but his enormously inferior crossing ability, relative to the others who play that role for us, hamstrung the team’s attack all day. Sam Field may be many things to many people, but a left wing back is not among them. I wonder whether Warbs Warburton may regret not going to the four and/or using Yoann Barbet out there instead? He'd be quick to point out he couldn't even name a full bench here.

Robbed of that wide-from-deep threat that has come to define QPR’s entertaining and successful style in 2021, with Wallace in particularly sorely missed, Stoke were able to funnel the home team’s attacks infield and then suffocate and crowd the space in front of their penalty area to brilliant effect. Ben Wilmott, who’d come as a Darren Peacock tribute act, which I thought was nice, was absolutely enormous for them as part of a back three – bashing, smashing and crashing his way through anything that dared enter that red zone 20-30 yards from goal that Michael O’Neill had obviously pinpointed as the area the Illy and Willy double act can do so much damage if allowed. When Seny Dieng commanded his area strongly on 27 minutes, relieving pressure with a big claim, and then tried to spring Willock with a quick release that has worked for us in the past, Wilmot was so alive and wise to the threat that his emphatic header back the other way bastarded the best part of 60 yards and quickly resulted in another chance for Steven Fletcher.

Crowded out, lacking width, QPR began giving the ball away early, and kept doing so. Vrancic, pure class, calmly lay in wait and then sprung his team when invited to do so by the opposition. Dozzell was the guilty party on 13 minutes, Vrancic’s pass was excuisite, Tyrese Campbell powered through the static back three and slipped in the opening goal – almost a carbon copy to the one Rangers shipped early in the Derby game on Monday. They’d already been lucky to survive a ninth minute scare when Campbell got Fletcher in and Dieng produced a magnificent double save from the veteran Scot – not to know that he’d been flagged offside, probably QPR’s best player on the day which as the goalkeeper in a 2-0 defeat says plenty.

It required a big recovery tackle from Stef Johansen on 24 minutes after Dozzell gave the ball away a second time, Fletcher smashed a very presentable chance flush against the post via a deflection, Campbell (who looked terrific) struck a 20-yarder a foot over the bar, and that was all before half time. After the tea and oranges Barbet’s rather limp and pathetic attempt to muscle Campbell off the ball on half way (good fucking luck mate) set up an enormous break which ended with overlapping left wing back Josh Tymon striking towards the top corner and Dieng producing another eye-catching save.

There was, of course, the usual shithousing. This is now accepted and celebrated as part of our game, songs are sung in its honour, and people paying north of £30 to get in are asked to sit through huge swathes of football where one of the teams doesn’t actually want the ball in play at all. On five separate occasions Stoke players simply sat down on the turf and demanded the game be stopped: Campbell went twice, stopping the play once, going off, coming back on, sitting back down, stopping it a second time, then being substituted; Davies tried to pretend he’d hurt himself saving Chair’s shot in the bottom corner; Fox sat down in the penalty area prior to a QPR corner but when asked if he required treatment said no, because he didn’t want to be off the field for the set piece, but still apparently we have to wait for him to get up before we can take the kick. Stoke are not unique in this, and we did our fair share of it up at Middlesbrough back in August, but among the many damaging things you’re doing by behaving this way is asking referees to serve as triage doctors, which they’re absolutely not. Particularly at a time when there is increased attention and coverage of a number of incidents of players collapsing on the field, every one of these faked stoppages moves us one more closer to the horrifying prospect of an exasperated referee waving play on while a footballer is down with a very serious problem. Medical teams might like to think about that for a moment when they’re, as we saw in the Huddersfield game last week, strolling onto the field for an injury they know to be fake, and then very slowly walking off the long way, delaying the restart, and winking at the Paddocks as they go. The medics are there for the safety and wellbeing of the game, they should be and need to be above this, and yet they’re increasingly used as a weapon to help nudge narrow results over the line. There were times when QPR had got the game started with a quick restart before a Stoke player had managed to sit down, and referee Tony Harrington stopped the game anyway, when really that should have been ‘sorry, tough shit’. Play on, see how quickly that “injury” clears up then. But, really, he was put in a insidious, lose-lose, position by the players and the medical staff and I felt for him a bit.

That is not to pinpoint and abuse Stoke City in particular, like I say this shit goes on every week and we saw it against Huddersfield last week too, nor to go all bitter defeated football blogger (I’ve written about this after wins too) or distract from the general context of the game which, as I say, I felt QPR deserved to lose and Stoke to win. It was no real surprise that a second goal materialised on 78 minutes, nor that the classy Vrancic scored it – gliding through the wide open space of the QPR midfield and calmly curling an unsavable shot around Dieng and into the corner of the net.

Afterwards Warbs Warburton painted a bleak picture with regards the prospect of getting some of the injured players back for Sheff Utd a week on Monday. Most, it seems, are at least a fortnight away, and it’s something of a blessing that Rangers now only play twice between today and the 27th – although, remember, Sky shifting that Bournemouth game means we’re now missing Kakay, Chair and Dieng on AFCON duty (assuming that still goes ahead) which we wouldn’t have been had it been left in its original date. Cheers lads. It’s particularly niggly that the majority of the injuries, bar Dykes really, have all come in the wing back positions, which are so crucial to how successful we’ve been this calendar year. This season QPR are unbeaten with 16 points from 6 games with Wallace, while only taking 19 points from the 15 games without him (hat tip @HoopsDreams_qpr). If we are to continue without him, Odubajo, McCallum and Adomah for the coming matches we have to find a way to make their makeshift replacements more effective going forwards than they were here, or consider whether a temporary switch out of our chosen system might be in order. Otherwise, live on television, Stoke City have just provided the Championship with a very effective playbook for their forthcoming fixtures against QPR.

Links >>> Ratings and Reports >>> Messgae Board Match Thread

QPR: Dieng 7; Kakay 5, Dickie 6, Dunne 6, Barbet 5, Field 5 (Thomas 80, 5); Johansen 5, Dozzell 5 (Amos 67, 6), Chair 6; Willock 7, Austin 5 (Gray 74, 6)

Subs not used: Ball, Archer, Duke-McKenna

Stoke: Davies 8; Smith 6, Wilmot 8, Baath 7, Fox 7, Tymon 6; Sawyers 6 (Clucas 58, 7), Allen 7, Vrancic 8; Fletcher 6 (Ince 90, -), Campbell 8 (Brown 67, 7)

Subs not used: Chester, Doughty, Bonham, Sima

Goals: Campbell 14 (assisted Vrancic), Vrancic 78 (assisted Clucas)

Bookings: Fox 54 (foul)

QPR Star Man – Seny Dieng 7 Remarkable double save in the first half stands out, although I believe the rebound had been flagged offside anyway, and he was up in the top corner to keep out Josh Tymon at the start of the second. Tough day to pick a star man – Chris Willock was the only real outfield performance of any note for me.

Referee – Tony Harrington (Cleveland) 7 Not a referee we have a particularly happy time with but bar the usual complaint about the total lack of action on time-wasting, injury feigning and “shithousing”, I thought he was really pretty good. Nice to finally see a penalty awarded for this penalty box wrestling that’s just strangely accepted as part of the modern game.

Attendance - 13,968 (1,200 Stoke approx.) Not for the first time recently, the place was an absolute morgue. There are loads of perfectly valid reasons for this such as the constant daft kick off times, the weather, the lacklustre performance of the team in this game - who really feels like jumping about and singing during a 2-0 home defeat to Stoke on a soaking wet Sunday lunchtime? But the atmosphere we, together, are creating at Loftus Road is not where it should be for this team, playing like this, this high in the league, in my humble opinion. Certainly, compared to the away support this year, it's night and day. The fans forum during the week descended into a bit of a farce for me, with the same people taking the mic multiple times to make the same point, and the overall tone of the evening rather negative relative to how well the season's going. Zero solutions to the problems raised came out of the evening. That said, I have to agree with the point that our ground is too quiet at the moment, not at all intimidating for visiting teams, and not providing enough backing to our own team - certainly not compared with some home supports elsewhere. It's something we could do with having an honest and open conversation about as a fan base, and coming up with some workable ideas around, rather than just shooting the breeze for an hour and ending up with "well you can't move people out of their seats" (not that this was a problem when they wanted to put the C Club in, or some extra press benches at the behest of the Premier League by the way) or taking anybody who dares to say "it's a bit quiet at our home games at the moment isn't it?" and treating them like they're attacking our own fans. It is an issue and it is within our gift to fix it.

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gazza1 added 17:25 - Dec 6
Pretty much how I saw it Norf.....didn't think he would go to a back four (Should he of done, maybe in hindsight but it isn't easy, as many think, to just say OK lads 4 across the back when all season they been training for 3, also Barbet is vital to the back 3 so moving him to LWB probably did not come, seriously, into his mind). Thought they won it massive in CM, you bit a on Allen, I thought he and the other CM were very good indeed.

We need wing backs available next game otherwise MW will be having a big dilemma what to do player wise and formation.
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A40Bosh added 17:27 - Dec 6
Thanks Clive. I found it staggering that having played 20 games so far this season with such attractive football at times, grinding out wins or draws when we have been behind and prior to this weekend's game we were sitting in 3rd (Third!) place in the table, that a bad performance, where it was blatantly obvious that we could be in trouble when the teams were released at 1:30, still met with such utter disgust by a vocal cohort from around 60mins plus.

There seems to be a perhaps not so significant sized cohort that I would call "spoilt" and are all nice and content as long as we look like we are going to get something out of the game. Vitriolic screams of "Warbuton, sort it artttttt, they're f@@kin' shxt", do these people even look at the sub's bench when the team is read out.

The silver lining is that the timing of this, and the comments from MW and LF at the forum might mean there is recognition that a bolstering of the side might be needed in Jan for the 2nd half of the season push as it is proving that some of the recent additions in the last 12mths are having too many breakdowns.

Just a shame that they can't bring in any new improved fans who won't think the world is ended - I get it might just be localised to me up at the back of the SAR stand, but it's not one or two who need to appreciate where we are compared to a couple of seasons ago
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Paddyhoops added 17:43 - Dec 6
Fair summary of the game. The match stats were enormously in our favour but like you, couldn't begrudge Stoke thier win. Just not our day.
As for the shithouseing. It's par for the course now and despite stokes attempt to aphixiate Barbet, they still to a man surrounded the ref in attempt to change the refs mind in what was the most nailed on peno I've seen in years. Pathetic!
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Burnleyhoop added 21:37 - Dec 6
Stoke came with a game plan and it worked perfectly. They were immense at the back and broke with quality into the areas teams know that can hurt us.
It is to our credit that we had so many shots and corners, although we were never likely to win anything in the air against that lot.
We are significantly weakened without Wallace and Adomah, but for me, both are simply too old to complete a season as wing backs and will inevitably continue to pick up injuries.
Kakay is also clearly a last resort squad player, which is now glaringly obvious.
Our best Xl is more than capable of reaching the play offs, but we are simply not getting it out on the pitch often enough. Another effective recruitment drive might be needed in January to avoid slipping back into the pack.
Austin looked petrified before taking that penalty. Needs an arm around him and our support to lift his low confidence. It will return. Just needs a goal.


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WestonsuperR added 21:41 - Dec 6
I’ve seen a few comments to suggest Stoke deserved to win, stats don’t tell everything but do give a very good indication of how the match went, we had 65% possession, 24 shots on goal, 17 corners and a much superior XG. I thought we played pretty well, just lacked a bit of luck and came up against a keeper in great from.

This was arguably a better performance overall than, for example, vs Luton who could have quite easily have got a draw based on play overall.

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Marshy added 22:08 - Dec 6
Your report Clive, of Stoke’s injury and absentee list of divorced, beheaded, died, survived, certainly has a touch of Henry the Eighth’s Wives about it. In a similar vain we were far from being slaughtered, in fact when you look at the match stats they suggest we should have won this game. In the end though it was a combination of poor finishing, inferior wing backs’, lack of pace up front and defensive inefficiencies that were our undoing. Stoke pressed us really well whereas we gave them too much space at times.

We shall have to hope that the likes of Dykes, Wallace, Albert and Moses can return just as soon as possible. I guess this has been a wake up call after a good run of form, but we’re still in the top six and there is a long way to go.
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Myke added 22:17 - Dec 6
Cheers Clive - spot on. It actually was a combination of 'just one of those days' and being out thought on the day.
Facetiously: If only we had held onto Kane and Manning.
Seriously: If you could see, I could see and I'm sure everybody watching could see that Stoke were pushing us narrow and then clogging up the centre (which has been pretty much Michael O Neil's game plan every time I have watched his teams either NI or Stoke) why could Warburton and his team not see and react to it. The only time I have seen Warburton pro-active early in a game this season was v Barnsley ( he has got other changes right of course, but usually after the 60 minute mark) and that was because we were 2-0 down. This situation was just as damaging, the only difference was we were only a goal down. We would have had more chance of getting something from the game if we had lost a second goal early instead of 12 minutes from time, because Warburton would have been forced to act.
Clearly, Kakay is not a wing back. Clearly, VERY clearly, Field is not a wing back. If he wants to stay with the 3 at the back, then leave Kakay as the only viable option (Stoke don't go wide much anyway) on the right, Switch Field and Willock. Field would stiffen the midfield allowing Johansen to get further forward (because god knows, the man didn't know what his role was yesterday and was really poor as a result) and Willock could still get forward from wing back to link up with Chair (Stoke don't go wide that much anyway).
Later, if that wasn't working ,then switch Dozzell for Amos (Dozzell wasn't great yesterday either) which would give us much more energy in the middle of the park and not let Vrancic have everything his own way.
Maybe none of these changes would have made a difference, maybe it really was going to be 'one of those days', but at least TRY and influence and alter the pattern of the game - after all that is as much what Warburton is getting paid for as what happens on the training ground.
Only plus for me was Thomas - good to see him buzzing around after the Barnsley debacle
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Northernr added 00:51 - Dec 7
Well, not a lot of options for him from the bench. Literally plan a, b and c in both wing back slots are all injured. Against Huddersfield being able to make the subs we wanted to make, rather than the ones we were forced to make, helped a great deal. It's not a luxury Warbs has had many times this season.
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Northernr added 00:52 - Dec 7
WestonSuperR - I think this is a good example of the stats lying to you.
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HastingsRanger added 10:13 - Dec 7
Oh what a game to make your first since lockdown!!

Very disappointing and Stoke were well able to break R's down. That final pass was always the decider. Sadly, the harder Johansson tried, the less his ideas were read (or at least by us).

If a player is able to walk and choses to sit down, could he not be asked to get up and leave the pitch? That seems to be the only option for a referee in this, apart from adding on time, which 5 minutes at the end seemed light.

That said, I agree, it would not have affected the result and indeed Stoke did deserve the points.

Only positive was I thought that Thomas did well when he did come on and Amos looks a stronger player.
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PhilT added 18:40 - Dec 8
I know hindsight is a wonderful thing but it seemed an real issue of round pegs in square holes, I think playing 4-3-2-1 would have been worth ago but, if had gone bandy we’d be giving warbs grief for that
I’d like to see how many players just sit down waiting for treatment if they had to stay off the pitch for 5mins for the physio to check them over - for there own benefit of course
Thomas looked very lively and deserves more game time.
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TacticalR added 22:25 - Dec 9
Thanks for your report.

I found this a huge disappointment after our recent heroics and surge up the table, particularly as this looked one of the most winnable games in recent weeks. I was reminded of previous games before our current good run of form in 2021, where we would have a lot of the play, but opposition teams would let us punch ourselves out. You did make the point in your Stoke preview that there are advantages and disadvantages to the way we play.

I said before the game that we always seem to be at a disadvantage when we're expected to win, and Austin's limp penalty rather enforced that feeling. You think his confidence might be low, but he seemed fine at Derby. He was our talisman and got us going when he first arrived, so we need him to turn the tide in games like this.

Aside from our lack of wing backs, another problem was in midfield. In particular for the second goal our defender were all on the edge of the box and nobody came out to meet Vrančić. You would have thought we would be tracking him after his pass for the first goal.
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