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Comprehensive Cov loss has QPR glad of the break - Report
Sunday, 13th Nov 2022 20:06 by Clive Whittingham

Much as we feared, in form Coventry City steamrollered an increasingly baggy QPR side on Saturday, sending the R's into a relieving World Cup break on a run of one point from five games.

And lo we reached the end of one of the most ‘typical QPR’ weeks you could ever possibly conceive with a 2-0 defeat at Coventry City so predictable we did actually predict it in the match preview. As thick a 2-0 as they come, a 2-0 from the moment the game kicked off to the moment it finished, a 2-0 that both teams involved richly deserved.

Having seemingly done the hard work, rattling through a series of very tough away games picking up points and climbing the league table, Rangers have subsequently faced three games in a week against the bottom two at home and early season strugglers Coventry on the road and lost all of them.

In the 21 games the Championship has crammed into part one of a season divided by a murderous and corrupt World Cup, Queens Park Rangers have completed a whole lap of their well-worn track. They began the season with defeat at Blackburn, the hangover from last season’s collapse thick in both a leggy and injury hit team and a large but grumpy travelling support. As players came back to fitness, form was found and Mick Beale’s new ideas caught teams cold, results improved and optimism increased. Soon eight games had been won out of 11 and QPR were among the early promotion contenders, manager and players were being hyped up by fans and media, rumours of interest from other clubs did the rounds, dreams of May glory were entertained. As injuries have again bitten, fixtures piled up, and clubs got wise to the changes Beale had made to his team, so the results, confidence and momentum has evaporated. We find ourselves back at the start again, playing tired and unimaginative football with no verve, speed or belief, in front of a large but almost totally silent away following, fed up with forking over their hard earned to watch football played like this.

Rangers have now taken one point from a possible 15 and scored one goal in five matches. Across 90+ minutes at Coventry City they managed the sum total of one serious effort on target. It came from recalled centre back Rob Dickie 20 minutes from time, striding forwards into the opposition half like prime August 2021 Rob Dickie, and letting fly from long range with a shot that seemed certain to find the top corner but was brilliantly saved by Ben Wilson — the stop was formidable, but more impressive still was the Cov keeper still being switched on and concentrated enough to save it after the previous 70 minutes of action which he could have taken in standing behind the goal with us, such as the lack of threat posed to his goal.

We’ll rattle through the minute-by-minute now — fair warning, it’s going to be quite Cov-heavy. I’ll give some completely unlearned observations on quite why and how QPR have become quite so insipid again quite as quickly as they have — disclaimer, probably all bollocks, because I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’ll try and stick some pithy conclusion on the end of it — I doubt this will top Tuesday’s Gavin Ward diatribe, one because that was ridiculous, and two because I’ve come full circle too and am now back to where I was in July, fed up and not at all keen to see this lot again any time soon. Then I’m going to go put the dinner on and cook in front of an old episode of Parts Unknown to try and soothe me from my present level of wanting to take a baseball bat to something, to a point where I might go to sleep tonight. Whole thing will take about 20 minutes.

When you’re kids on the playground, it’s very common to try one-upmanship on the other kids with boasts about the prowess of one’s father. My dad’s got a faster car, my dad’s got a better job, my dad’s got more money, my dad could beat your dad in a fight. So far, so cliched. I think I used to swear blind my dad was a semi-professional footballer, because he’d turned out for the Met Police in the 70s, and to be fair when my mates came round and we did play football he was better than all of them — so, you know, bite me, prove me wrong. A friend of mine, Michael, said his dad had a secret passageway through the back of his cubboard to some sort of other land/world/laboratory (I forget which, all very Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe anyway) and followed through on this right to the point that three of us went into his dad’s wardrobe and banged around on the back of it for a bit before concluding that “only he knows the access code…” or something. I can’t really talk, later I said my dad had bought us a television so big they had to manufacture it specially to order and ship it over from Asia, definitely bigger than all your dads’ televisions combined — bluff called, several of the other boys demanded access to the giant wall of moving images to watch Scunthorpe’s Second Division game away at Burnley on Sky, and so there we all sat in front of what was, really, quite a meagre and ageing television set by that stage and they took the piss out of me while Guy Ipoua chipped the goalkeeper from 25 yards and secured the Iron a surprise win.

In case you were keen to relive the mortification of having that mask finally slip, QPR served up the first ten minutes of this match for you. My dad’s… in the play-off positions, my dad’s… wanted by Premier League clubs, my dad’s… taking 3,600 fans to Coventry… It took a minute for Coventry to get Viktor Gyokeres in behind a back four missing Kenneth Paal through illness, and although Andre Dozzell just about held him up and Rob Dickie was able to hurl himself in front of a subsequent shot from Ben Sheaf, the ball ran clear to Josh Eccles who shot over. On five minutes Chris Willock gave the ball away, Callum O’Hare raced into space, he went for a chipped cross when a low one looked a better option but Gustavo Hamer headed it back across regardless and Gyokeres almost forced the opening goal in between Seny Dieng’s legs. Seconds later Gyokeres turned provider for Josh Allen who shot over. The ball was barely back in play a minute when O’Hare took Ethan Laird to the byline, looked to have run out of pitch and space but then caught the full back napping by whipping the ball back into his own possession through his legs, and then cutting it back into a startled and busted defensive set up in the box. Clarke-Salter, replacing Paal as a makeshift left back, committed early and obviously allowing Gyokeres to waltz around him into space and finish the opening goal in off the bar. Ten minutes. My dad’s… getting beaten up by the fucking RE teacher.

Things settled a tad after that, which is just as well because if they’d carried on like that this would have finished 10-0. Jimmy Dunne headed one QPR corner wide at the back post, Rob Dickie did the same with a free kick from a more central position that he probably should have scored with. A bit better. The second half began with Ilias Chair seemingly played through on goal behind the defence, but he was slow, looked leggy and was easily caught.

Rangers had swathes of possession in the second half, but it was exclusively in front of Coventry in non-threatening areas. The chances all came at the other end, either through QPR giving the ball away (which they did a lot — Andre Dozzell and Jake Clarke-Salter giving it away one in every five times they had it, Ethan Laird one in every four, Lyndon Dykes nearly one in two, according to the stats, and I was surprised to see Taylor Richards up as high as 87.5% pass completion too given how often his efforts seemed to go astray) or having their corners cleared and broken upon. Sam Field and Ilias Chair were both yellow carded for committing professional fouls to end dangerous counter attacks, only Rob Dickie’s brave block on former R Jake Bidwell prevented him capitalising on Dozzell giving them the ball back again, Dozzell and Laird then turned heroes by just about averting disaster when Hamer broke away from a corner with two in support and only those two by way of opposition.

Sure enough, 12 from time, O’Hare broke through the space in midfield and put a ball on a plate for Gyokeres to slide a killer second goal into the bottom corner. It won’t surprise anybody to learn that Clarke-Salter then decided he was injured again and limped off — doubt that’ll be troubling the News at Ten headlines — and only a brilliant flying save from Dieng prevented a third goal and Gyokeres hat trick when Dozzell was again robbed of the ball in midfield and Cov were afforded time for a cross from the right (weirdly this and the goal seem to have been swapped around in the highlights package).

Coventry were absolutely fantastic here, I had them down for a play-off push in the summer and they’ll definitely do that if they can keep playing like this. But they are quite similar to us as a team in general. At their best they like to play progressive, attractive football, at a high tempo, in a high press — they’re sticking with the back three that we’ve since abandoned, but still. To be at that best, they’re fairly heavily reliant on three players being fit and firing — Gustavo Hamer is Stefan Johansen, Callum O’Hare is Ilias Chair, Viktor Gyokeres is Chris Willock. The start of their season was disrupted by problems with their pitch and stadium, but also by O’Hare missing the first couple of months hamstrung — they won none of their first eight games without him, but now have eight wins from 12 and four in a row with the trio back together. Unlucky, in some ways, for QPR to catch them now, rather than two months ago when Stef, Illy and Willy were firing, we were confident, and Cov were on the bones of their arse. They’re going to have peaks and troughs in form, just as we are, and we caught them here while heading in the opposite direction as we did with West Brom last week. In this league the way it is this season, that’s going to happen a lot — we took Millwall apart at The Den when we were on an upward curve than them a downward one, I doubt that fixture would play out the same if it was this Tuesday. For all of Saturday, QPR are still above Coventry in the league.

One key difference is their centre forward is a fucking animal. Lyndon Dykes looks like he should be minding the door of a suburban Wetherspoons, while Viktor Gyokeres could be modelling for Blakeley — but the difference in aggression and effectiveness in their play here was startling. QPR’s recruitment has improved immeasurably in recent times - and I think I’m right to regularly highlight the problems we have with FFP, headroom, and the cost of strikers in this market - but there are players that have moved in this division within our budget in recent times that count as big misses. Gyokeres was loaned by Swansea and Coventry and then bought, for less than we paid for Dykes, from the same Brighton second string we got Jan Mlakar from instead, at a time when the Brighton loans were being overseen by Mark Warburton’s best bum chum David Weir. Morris and Adebayo at Luton, who crawled all over us like Gyokeres did here a couple of weeks back, have also moved in recent years without competition for their signature for less money than we paid for Macauley Bonne. All very well with hindsight of course, but immensely frustrating all the same. Gyokeres was superb here, and really would have deserved his hat trick goal. I wondered if Dykes might grab the mic at the end Anthony Joshua style “oh Lyndon don’t throw combinations like Viktor Gyokeres, that’s because I’m not 14 stone man, I’m 18 stone, I’m heavy, it’s hard work…”

Mick Beale’s post-match interview mentioned the schedule, injuries, players playing hurt, players playing or dropping out late with illness. It does ring a little bit hollow when you’re playing Coventry City, who lost a clutch of games at the start of the season to postponements and the death of the Queen, and have consequently played 12 games in the last 43 days, with midweek fixtures in five of the last six weeks, one more than Rangers, and used zero subs here to QPR’s five. Huddersfield won at Loftus Road in the week with ten players out injured, on top of the stars they lost in the summer. But, to an extent, he is right - we did look tired. That’s a problem to solve, not an excuse to fall back on. We can’t keep throwing our hands up in the air in the three game weeks and asking what people expect. We can’t keep having the same players constantly limping out of this and that when the going gets tough — I know Clarke-Salter was out of position here, but I thought the way he tried to saunter through this game, the amount of times he gave the ball away, and then limping out of the game yet again straight after rather having his arse handed to him with the second goal, was all in all pretty fucking lousy to be honest given the faith and the superlatives the manager has thrown his way. You look how 35-year-old journeyman Kyle McFadzean is playing at the other end and that grumbly Marge Simpson noise is just desperate to come out again.

A bigger problem is this is the eighth time in 21 games an opponent has been able to stop QPR scoring. Coventry have kept four straight clean sheets, they’re doing it to other teams too, but this was the fourth shutout in our last five games.. Coventry were able to get in behind, and play through, QPR far easier than we could to them. Without the ball, like everybody we play at the moment, they set up in what the trendy analytics types like to call a ‘low block’ which is basically kryptonite to this QPR team at the moment. Faced with it, we just pass the ball backwards and forwards between ourselves in front of them — much of Saturday was like the tail end of Warburton’s time here, and every bit as frustrating.

Sooner or later in these situations when an opponent is set up like that, you’re going to have to beat a man and take him out of the game to weight the numbers more in your favour. You’re going to have to go past somebody. Since Bright Osayi-Samuel left we don’t have the pace in the team required to do it. Chair and Willock want to play as tens, in the space behind the striker, but nobody gets up and goes beyond Dykes, or supports him for knock downs. In the second half Ethan Laird got one on one with his wing back a couple of times, but looking up and seeing a penalty box population of one, he, like Adomah on Tuesday, frequently chose to hang on and delay waiting for somebody else to get their arse in there, rather than go past his man to the byline and create as he was doing so effectively a month ago. Without Johansen, we don’t have that drive out of midfield that Hamer brings to them. Tim Iroegbunam is the only midfielder we have who actually commits and runs past people, and he was ill here. The others are all too happy to just turn things back and inside all the time. Richards hinted he might be able to do something about that against Huddersfield, but not here really — too rusty and slack with too many passes. Dozzell was just fucking infuriating. If you don’t go past people and remove them from that moment, if you keep playing around in front of a team, if you keep passing it back and inside, then if they’re leading they’re just going to sit there thinking “da fuck are they doing over there?” and wait for you to punch yourself out and give the ball away.

Mide Shodipo did a little bit of that when he came on, and Sinclair Armstrong and Albert Adomah have done in the past, but Beale was again strangely slow with his substitutions, making them all in the final ten minutes and only once Coventry had scored a second goal which was a bit of a hiding to nothing for all five players involved. What, exactly, are they meant to do at that point? He also put on several people who might cross a ball, while at the same time taking Dykes off who’s the most likely to head one in. The debate about whether he should be more proactive earlier in games, or is simply looking along a piss-weak bench and wondering what the point is and what difference it’ll really make, will rumble on for another week now at least.

The manager’s pre-match comment that nobody has outplayed us yet this season aged as well as a fart in a lift — somebody has now Mick, pretty bloody comprehensively.

Bigger picture, we’re seventh in the league which we all would have taken at this point if offered it at Blackburn on day one. Jumble the results up a bit, we’d be going into the break optimistic. But that’s all a little bit sticking wheels on an aunt and trying to ride her to work. We’re in danger of trotting out that “still in the play-off places, still near the play-off places, still in touch with the play-off places, well we didn’t expect anything from them anyway” sort of stuff all the way back down to the table, which will then no doubt comfort ourselves with by saying at least we won’t go down and this is what I expected from the season anyway. Performances and results are heading in one direction at the moment, and there’s a lot to fix up. There’s also still all that baggage and hangover from last season that means the QPR fans are clogged with déjà vu and quickly draining of faith that this is just a "blip" and is going to be any different to the collapse in 2021/22. I don’t think you’ll ever see an away end with quite so many people in it make quite as little noise as we did on Saturday — it was like the whole following was just resigned to a shitshow from the first minute, which is exactly how it played out.

Who said a mid-winter break was a terrible idea? Not me, never believed it. Let’s make this one twice as long.

Links >>> Photo Gallery >>> Ratings and Reports >>> Message Board Match Thread

Coventry: Wilson 7; Doyle 7, McFadzean 8, Panzo 7; Eccles 6, Hamer 8, Sheaf 7, Bidwell 6; O’Hare 8, Allen 7; Gyokeres 9

Subs not used: Moore, Kelly, Walker, Kane, Tavares, Burroughs, Palmer

Goals: Gyokeres 11 (assisted Allen), 78 (assisted O’Hare)

Bookings: Doyle 27 (foul), McFadzean 86 (foul)

QPR: Dieng 6; Laird 5, Dunne 6, Dickie 6, Clarke-Salter 4 (Kakay 80, -); Field 6, Richards 5 (Adomah 87, -), Dozzell 4; Chair 5 (Armstrong 83, -), Willock 5 (Thomas 87, -), Dykes 5 (Shodipo 83, -)

Subs not used: Archer, Trävelmän

Bookings: Field 59 (foul), Chair 76 (foul)

QPR Star Man — Jimmy Dunne 6 I thought given what I said about mentality after the set piece disasters of the week, Dunne was worthy of some credit for at least being that guy who made it his business to go and win headers from corners and put a bit of a body on the line.

Referee — John Busby (Oxfordshire) 6 Gave some bits and pieces of nonsense — Mide Shodipo looked to have been fouled on the corner of the box late on but somehow got penalised himself; earlier having bought a spurious head injury claim after a QPR corner and stopped the play he returned the ball to Coventry even though Rangers had it in their possession 40 yards out from goal at the time — but overall not too bad and a world away from the pillock who was meant to be in charge of this one.

Attendance 23,201 (3,661 QPR) I don’t think you’ll ever hear so little noise and atmosphere from an away following as big as this again in your life. Coventry were so good from the first minute, their fans so loud, and QPR so limp, that you just stood there and knew from thirty seconds in what was coming. I know there's a chicken and egg argument about players responding to backing, but it's difficult to get excited and sing about us passing it backwards and sideways in front of a superior team for 90 minutes with last season still so fresh in the memory.

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Northolt_Rs added 20:39 - Nov 13
Brilliant write up. F uck I feel miserable.

Watford_Ranger added 20:56 - Nov 13
Seriously generous mark for Dozzell there :)

Paddyhoops added 20:56 - Nov 13
Spot on about our support yesterday. I do about 3 or 4 away games a year and it was obvious from the first five minutes we were going to get F**k all in terms of a performance. Is it any wonder we gave nothing back . Insipid from the first minute.
Jimmy and Sam as ever did the business.

WokingR added 21:13 - Nov 13
You know what we’re missing at the moment ?
Dom Ball

snanker added 08:20 - Nov 14
Absolute bang on write up Clive. If it continues to go soooooo to script expect Dieng and Chair to cop WC injuries and be out until early spring !! Opposition teams have indeed watched the videos & sussed our plan A big time hence our woeful scoring efforts over the last 5 games !! Lack of leadership on the pitch is self evident and we really need a Shaun Derry, Peter Reid, Gary Waddock edge to our game. Please Mic a decent plan B needs sorting during the break so we won't end up sweating on the 52 point benchmark in 2023 ! Time will tell & maybe sooner rather than later ?

Burnleyhoop added 09:34 - Nov 14
Another insipid, lame arsed performance was always likely the moment that line up was announced.

Beale must surely now realise there is simply not enough grit in our central midfield areas to live with teams in this division. We can carry Chair and Willock as our flair players that don’t particularly put a foot in where it hurts, although in fairness to Chair, he works extremely hard to close defenders down. Dozzell and Amos always look like boys lost and Richards looks like a Willock type.

I recall Beales comments regarding discussions with the players when he first arrived at the club about why the wheels fell off last season. He is now witnessing the same first hand. It will be interesting to see how he and the club arrest the slide this time around.

Burnley up next. A team that showed both aggression and flair in beating a dogged Blackburn side yesterday, despite having an almost completely new team made up of loanees and cheap buys from the Belgian leagues. The old warhorse Barnes looked like a man possessed, flattening anyone in his way, scoring two and becoming a cult hero into the bargain. Christ how we could we do with a few more in our team with an attitude like that.

The worry for me and one which I wasn’t expecting, is that we looked a beaten side before the first goal was conceded. The mental frailty is still very much there. A fundamental change of attitude and or personnel is now required, urgently.

The honeymoon is most definitely over for Beale. He has a month to find some answers to all the same issues that have been obvious to all fans for some considerable time now.


CroydonCaptJack added 10:53 - Nov 14
Absolutely nailed it there Clive. I was amongst the away following and it really was shades of Peterboro marks 1 and 2 last season.

thehat added 14:33 - Nov 14
Spot on Clive as always.

What a crap week from start to finish.

Was really hoping Beale was the man but this week has shown real shades of Warburton with no plan B.

We were screaming for subs second half to mix it up and try something different even if that means taking Chair and Willock off who offered next to nothing.

Coventry going on to get a second was so bloody obvious.

Enjoy the break Clive I know I will.

062259 added 17:40 - Nov 14
13 of the 16 players who took part in the game were with the club last season, so perhaps the malaise that affected the team in ‘21/22 is still lingering. Whether it is or not, the recent slump has been alarming.

TacticalR added 20:06 - Nov 14
Thanks for your report.

'It was like the whole following was just resigned to a shitshow from the first minute, which is exactly how it played out'. We're staggering into the break, and it's pretty frustrating. A lot of players have gone off the boil, especially the players Beale has bought in. One can only hope they have not been affected by Beale's flirtation with Wolves. Even Laird is starting to have bad games.

Yes, Gyökeres looked good, but for the goals he was given a lot of space by Clarke-Salter, who looked awful at left-back. Either JCS was on strike, or injured, or just can't play that position.

We seem to be in the middle of another one of those seasons where everything that we thought was good is turning into its opposite. For example, it didn't seem to matter much that Dykes wasn't scoring as other players were getting goals, but now that alternative source of goals has also dried up we could really do with some conventional firepower up front.

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