|Coventry City 1 v 2 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 22nd January 2022 Kick-off 15:00
Print it out for Joan - Report
Sunday, 23rd Jan 2022 19:51 by Clive Whittingham
QPR, battered and pummelled through much of the second half, made it five wins and a draw from six away games with another gritty late show, this time through Albert Adomah and at the expense of Coventry.
I’m fresh(ish) from the bogs and still trying to get my old chap back in my trousers when Monkey Allen breaks through for the first time, flying into a yawning hole in the QPR defence for a clear sight of David Marshall. The goalkeeper beats the first shot away – Marshall does a lot of beating shots away rather than saving them – and then scrambles into the sky to flap away any potential rebound under heavy pressure. Up to the other end and Lyndon Dykes has Andre Gray screaming through on the goal with the ball at his feet, but Simon Moore springs from his line and makes a very fine stop one v one. It could be a good day for Gray this, with the pace of a defence marshalled by the leaden footed Kyle McFadzean a clear weakness to exploit, and sure enough we’ve barely caught our breath when Chris Willock crafts a beautiful curving pass down the other side of the back-three and Gray seizes on it again, this time making no mistake with a much earlier shot, bent around the poorly positioned goalkeeper and through the legs of a marker for one nil. There are the best part of 4,000 QPR fans standing feet away ready to greet its arrival in the back of the net, and it’s quite the work event when it does.
Marshall’s poor kick is then recovered by Rob Dickie at the expense of a corner which, though initially cleared, soon has Allen (he fancies you, even if nobody else does) back in the red zone for another strike saved in similar style by the veteran Scot. Allen’s Wikipedia says he is 5ft 7ins tall, and this is the sort of lie we allow to be told in this country at the moment. A throw in, and nothing more, cuts Rangers apart again, and on the scramble Marshall saves first from Gyokeres and then from Gyokeres again. Amidst a febrile atmosphere the ball squirts loose to Gustavo Hamer who tries his luck from range, sees it blocked down, and appeals noisily for a handball. You won’t see a better Championship game than this this season, and it’s all of 11 minutes old. There has been more incident here than we managed in that entire test match with Rotherham earlier this month. Enthralled, enraptured and captivated, I can’t wait to see what it’s got next for us, and that’s just as well because I’m still going to be here watching the fucking thing in two hours’ time. If you weren’t there too, you missed out.
Queens Park Rangers and Coventry City have been cousins in chaos since Sky invented football in 1992. These two were founder members of The Best League In The World™ and QPR actually went top of it with a 1-0 win at Highfield Road early in that inaugural season. Andy Impey. There have been moments like that, of extreme high, scattered among long, drawn out periods of abject misery. Most of that has been self-inflicted, these two proud and historic community assets passed around like play-things by a bad, mad and sad mixture of chancers and incompetent arseholes. Coventry thought they had it made when they bummed QPR in the gob on the opening day of this dire example of new ground architecture, but the stadium has been a millstone constantly dragging them back to the black depths ever since. Both have had league games at Hartlepool – a sure sign, if ever there was one, that it’s not going very well. Both have drunkenly danced right up to the precipice of financial oblivion. Both have been to Northampton – QPR to lose games in farcical circumstances with Ugo Ukah in defence, Coventry to live for a bit. Your mother’s kicked me out, I’ll always love you kids remember that, nothing will ever change that. If Steve Ogrizovic calls give him my new address. QPR trudged through so many years losing every away match except Birmingham City that we joked about moving there, making the most of the sub-£3 pints and a £6 train from Marylebone to make a new home. Coventry actually did it. Both have been left to cast around for local rivals as all their near neighbours drove off into the sunset doing clever things with excellent young footballers while we paid £30-a-time to watch Joel Lynch and Clive Platt fall over their not insubstantial arses. Stupid Flanders.
But there have been signs of life in these respective wildernesses. There are two Marks here, doing progressive work, benefitting from being given an extended period of time to get their ideas across by producing two teams you’d gladly pay to watch. It was no surprise to see them match each other with back threes, wing backs, and ball-playing midfields because after mixed fortunes elsewhere it’s the shape, system, style and philosophy they’ve both settled on and enjoyed success with. Only Darren Ferguson and Moaney Towbury can match these two for longevity in this division, and the result is two teams of players that know their ethos, style and respective tasks implicitly. These two are now not only competing in the top half of the Championship, they’re looking good doing it, and they’re there with the two lowest budgets of any of those around them by far. There are players here – Chris Willock, Gustavo Hamer, Rob Dickie, Callum O’Hare, Jimmy Dunne – picked up for an absolute song, a match for anything the rest of this division has got, and often paid eye-watering sums for. Bournemouth’s Jefferson Lerma and Fulham’s Jean Seri cost £50m between them. Midfields here of Sheaf, Hamer, Allen and O’Hare vs Field, Dozzell and Willock cost sub-£5m in total. If there have been better performances in this division this season than Field and Willock yesterday then the very best of luck to them. Maybe you will find your gold on a sandy beach. That’s the wicket these two are playing on.
Having won the toss and elected to bat, QPR had scored early and then been pegged back. O’Hare shot brilliantly and instinctively towards the top corner having turned onto a throw in but Marshall was alive to it with a save up in the top corner. That Jordan Archer injury, that emergency call to Derby, looking like more of an absolute touch with every passing minute. O’Hare, frustrated, shot from range again, and a second huge handball appeal of the afternoon owed more to the local education system than any remote proximity to anybody’s hand or arm. Altogether now…
On the half hour a ball dropped off Yoann Barbet and Allen was onto the scraps again, but shot wide. Back came Warbs’ men, Willock’s cross to the back post little short of sumptuous, Albert Adomah a goalscorer with just a tad more bravery as chance and Cov defenders converged. From the corner only Jimmy Dunne will know how he didn’t score from a yard out on a perfect delivery. Later a brilliant counter-attack sweeping down the pitch, started by Adomah, would have been finished by the Rangers right wing-back but for a deflection on Gray’s low cut back. When Adomah then returned the favour with a low cross of his own, Gray missed at the near post and Wallace blasted over piling forward from the opposite flank when he really should have at least hit the target.
It was 1-0 at half time, and it could easily have been any combination south of 3-3. It was exhausting, frantic, high-paced and eminently watchable. But this was not Championship-standard, monkeys in the bottom of the cage chucking shit at each other. This was good stuff. Two talented teams, playing to win, hamstrung occasionally by a pudding pitch, or the spirit being willing and the flesh being spongey and bruised, but full of good intention and bright ideas. I loved it so much I wanted to have sex with it.
Second half, Coventry ordered the final boiler lit. My good God did they spread it on thick. Gyokeres’ lack of a goal in his previous 16 matches felt very QPR-indeed, and he scores for all money five minutes into the second half but for a remarkable, last-ditch intervention under his own crossbar from Rob Dickie. It was only a brief reprieve, public enemy number one Todd Kane played the resulting corner low and flat to the edge of the box where Jordan Shipley strode into view and absolute cunted the thing straight into the top corner from 20 yards. QPR have conceded a division-best three goals from set pieces this season, another mark of the progress under Mark Warburton given how susceptible they were early in his reign – who can forget Kyle McFadzean getting free reign to have half a dozen cracks at winning this fixture at St Andrew’s at the start of last season? But, in all honesty, what you going to do about that one? A brilliant goal, entirely in keeping and befitting the game it was scored in, absolutely unstoppable. He could have told Marshall where it was going and given him a butterfly net and it would still be 1-1. Sometimes you just have to hold your hands up guys. Went like a fucking rocket.
This may well be the worst example of surrendering a perfectly functional and characterful old stadium you own to move into one you don’t that looks like everybody else’s, but fair play to the locals it was really rocking at this point. Sadly, in the immediate aftermath of the screaming equaliser, a steward in the most raucous part of the ground suffered a bad head injury in a fall, possibly after an epileptic seizure. The restart was delayed by the best part of a quarter of an hour as medics from both clubs sprang into action, and I think it’s worth saying while I’m here wibbling on that watching medical staff tear across the pitch and just slip seamlessly into ‘oh we’re going to save this poor bastard’s life now’, having been watching a football match with the rest of us just seconds before, will always inspire wide-eyed awe in me. I struggle to adapt when Channel 4 switch their breakfast schedule around, replacing a Frasier with an Everybody Loves Raymond, or playing the Kitchen Nightmares out of sequence. These guys can go from ‘good goal that’ to ‘charge the paddles’ in the time it takes me to put my bloody socks on in the morning. They are the best of us, and said steward was reportedly safe and well by the end of the day thanks to their swift action. The worst of us reside online, not at the match, nor privy to this incident, but still apparently feeling themselves worthy of using this moment to peddle their anti-vaccine agenda into an echo chamber. I know whose team I’m on.
Don’t worry about it, let’s get on with the quiz. Coventry were rabid dogs with blood on their lips. Adomah, fannying about slightly, caught in possession and Gyokeres, John Jensen t-shirts on the printing press, can’t have been more than an inch away from finding the very far top corner of the net with a searing volley. Rob Dickie gave the ball away, committed a foul, received the game’s first yellow card from excellent (not a typo) referee Andy Woolmer. Give us a cuddle Chuckles, it was never personal. How’s Mr Jingles? All over the shop and unable to get out, Rangers faced the nightmare scenario when Todd Kane drew boot back from 20 yards, but, predictably, typically, it was high and wide. Kane's desperation to do well oozed from all pores and, like much of his time with QPR, he produced good bits and pieces on occasions, but only in the way so many monkeys with so many typewriters would do. Lee Wallace will wake this morning battered and bruised from the amount of crosses that deflected out for corners and throw ins having been wellied straight at his nutsack. For all the talk of disrespect, interview comments, fingers in ears, Chelsea… it was always this that frustrated most about Kane – you need to give that cockwomble 20 cracks at something for him to get it right once. Thick as a whale sandwich.
There was another great Marshall save, probably the best of the game, in what at this point is ostensibly minute 72, to deny Hamer. Only a second miraculous intervention of the day from Rob Dickie prevented a goal immediately after that. Gyokeres played in Shipley and he spooned over before being replaced by another old charge of ours Jake Bidwell – this moment would be of interest to accident investigators in their reports later.
We were, cards on the table, taking an absolute pounding. With an extended period of stoppage time to come, if you’d offered me a point here I’d have stuck my tongue down your throat. Warbs desperately tried to introduce legs and energy from the bench, bringing on first Luke Amos (who I feel might be slightly underused at the moment) for the ineffective Dozzell, and then George Thomas to press his case against his former club. Slowly but surely, their legs combining with a formidably titanic one-man resistance mission from back-to-his-best Sam Field, Rangers started to claw finger-holds back in the contest. They started to get the ball down, on the floor, in the left channel, where they like to paint. Lee Wallace got further forward, and got on the ball, always with Field in support as an option, and that in turn started to re-involve Chris Willock who Coventry could only cope with by fouling. If there was to be a criticism of the referee, it was the lenience with that systematic targeting of the best player on the pitch. There was a yellow card for O’Hare though as Thomas threatened to go the length from a Coventry corner and was deliberately hauled to the ground – Andy Woolmer does not approve of that in the workplace.
It was from that left side that the party at Elton John’s house originated. Willock emerging from exactly the sort of triangles we play when we’re at our best with the ball and producing a cross you'd want your daughter to bring home. Albert Adomah steamed in from the far flank, eyes open this time, more alert, more powerful and more determined than a flat-footed full back you may remember from a paragraph a moment ago. You could see it all the way from the far end of the ground and while the 4,000 travelling fans had largely been pummelled into silence by the pattern of the second half, now there was life again. I say it again, these are the good old days. I can see it hitting the net now, you know. I can see it. Objects in the rear view mirror may appear closer than they are.
QPR won in the last minute at Bristol City over Christmas, and against West Brom last week. Officially, they’d done it again, but in reality, the sad incident with the steward meant this goal had actually been scored somewhere around the seventy second minute. The narrative was set – Coventry, like QPR a couple of years ago, had largely dominated but not taken the chances, leaving Rangers clear to win the game by having just that extra little bit of clinical quality that Willock, Adomah and others can provide. They, now, are us two years past, and maybe two years’ hence they’ll have their own version of Illy and Willy to make it count. The next time you see sky, it'll be over another town. The next time you take a test, it'll be in some other school. Our parents, they want the best of stuff for us. But right now, they got to do what's right for them. Because it's their time. Their time. Up there. Down here, it's our time. It's our time down here. That's all over the second you ride up Troy's bucket. Sixteen minutes were added.
The Museo delle Mura ("museum of the walls") is an archaeological museum in Rome, Italy. It is housed in the first and second floors of the Porta San Sebastiano at the beginning of the Appian Way. It provides an exhibition on the walls of Rome and their building techniques, as well as the opportunity to walk along the inside of one of the best-preserved stretches of the Aurelian Wall. How many backs you got to put along that for this effort? Jimmy Dunne was absolutely monstrous. Truly. Is everything alright at home? Coventry would end up with 13 corners. It felt like more. It felt like all I did yesterday was clench my sphincter waiting for another fucking Coventry corner and, even when they dispensed with the nonsense idea that Todd Kane should be taking them, Dunne was still there sticking his pasty head on everything. Get out of my pub. He, Rob Dickie, Yoann Barbet and David Marshall did an absolutely magnificent job of repelling all boarders in that extended period of added time. Now with a win to hang onto they drew a line, stood upon it and laid the challenge down: that’s us, we’re fucking stopping here, we’re not moving, you come to us with an offer and see how that goes for you. It was like Alan McDonald, Danny Shittu and Clint Hill, if Alan McDonald, Danny Shittu and Clint Hill had been armed. Dunne celebrated at full time like he’d won The Boer War. Barbet stood hands on hips and drank in the away end. Shy Rob was shy. Some thing those three have got going on at the moment.
They were not alone. I think most in W12 have basically given up on George Thomas, but he was brilliant here. There will be other moments on this run in when we’ve got a single goal lead in a game we’re second best in, clinging on with eons to run on the clock, and need a Jamie Mackie character to play the wasp-at-a-picnic role of hassling, harrying, closing, pestering people to prevent them just getting a free pass to load balls in on our penalty box. His best performance for QPR, on the ground where it all began for him. All of that, and more, said, O’Hare got in round the back just before the second reading of the classified football results and put it on an enormous plate (got a bit of a scam going with a big plate) for Gyokeres and the only reason that didn’t end up in a goal is because sometimes it’s your day and not theirs. Coventry will be absolutely baffled, and somewhat mortified, to come out of two performances against QPR this season that I’d rank right up there with the best we’ve seen from an opponent, with two defeats. Mark Robins said we’d got away with one, and he was right. He scored a goal for Man Utd once you know.
Lovely little Matty Godden, who played in my mum's village's team for a while before somebody introduced him to a gym and a proper barber, probably would have taken at least one of these Gyokeres chances but had his appendix pop on Wednesday night. Sometimes, it is written. What that destined ending might have in store for Queens Park Rangers in May, one can only begin to imagine.
Coventry: Moore 5; Kane 6 (Jones 90+7, -), Hyam 6, McFadzean 5, Clarke-Salter 7, Shipley 7 (Bidwell 75, 5); Hamer 7, Sheaf 7, Allen 7 (Waghorn 89, -); O’Hare 7, Gyokeres 6
Subs not used: Rose, Kelly, Wilson, Eccles
Goals: Shipley 50 (assisted Kane)
Bookings: O’Hare 79 (foul), McFadzean 90+15 (foul)
QPR: Marshall 7; Adomah 7, Dickie 7, Dunne 7, Barbet 7, Wallace 6; Dozzell 5 (Amos 68, 6), Field 8, Willock 8; Dykes 5 (Austin 80, 6), Gray 6 (Thomas 76, 7)
Subs not used: De Wijs, Ball, Odubajo, Walsh
Goals: Gray 6 (assisted Willock), Adomah 88 (assisted Willock)
Bookings: Dickie 66 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Chris Willock 8 Sam Field has had a lot of justified attention for his one-man midfield mission, belatedly backed up by good impacts from subs Amos and Thomas but not greatly assisted by a pretty poor showing by Dozzell alongside him and the strikers ahead of him for the most part. But the best player on the pitch, for either team, was obviously Willock, who tormented the hosts to the point where all they could do was take turns to foul him, and even that wasn’t enough to prevent him registering two very stylish assists. That cutting edge quality, Rangers able to do far more with far fewer chances, was the difference between the two teams, and it was predominantly Willock providing that.
Referee – Andy Woolmer (Northants) 8 A very difficult game to referee, played at a frantic pace throughout, with incidents flowing constantly, and a nasty off-field medical emergency to deal with into the bargain. Coventry took to systematically taking it in turns to foul Willock in the end, such was his influence, and while that’s quite difficult to clamp down on when it’s a different man every time, I did think he was lenient with Hamer, particularly in the first half where he was guilty of three deliberate fouls on QPR’s star man by himself. That said, I much prefer games refereed with fewer cards and refereeing intrusions, and I thought he did a very good job here in difficult circumstances over the best part of 110 minutes.
Attendance 20,942 (3,981 QPR) QPR brought a few, don’t know if you’d heard.
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