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Swans stalemate brings up another unwanted set of six for QPR - Report
Monday, 23rd Jan 2023 03:30 by Clive Whittingham

Six without a win again, six home games without success as well, all-too-regular occurrences for a QPR side that had enough chances to win Saturday's home draw with Swansea comfortably.

Back in the summer - when the sun shone on our backs, the grass was green on the ground, Mick Beale was the Queens Park Rangers manager and you could get a mortgage offer from the bank payable by means other than a EuroMillions win — this video emerged of Russell Martin explaining ‘The Process’ to his Swansea City players. Something, you get the impression, Russell Martin likes to do a lot.

I was particularly interested in this, putting together our 30,000-word season preview which was read by approximately three people, because I’d found Swansea’s approach to both games against QPR last season — in which they played for 180 minutes without scoring and were one of only four teams that managed to lose to us in the final 20 games — stupefyingly boring and at times utterly bewildering. The aim of the game, it seemed to me, was to successfully execute a series of audaciously dangerous one twos between the goalkeeper and the centre back from goal kicks, leading to the ultimate triumph of the goalkeeper now having the ball at his feet 18 yards further forward and in open play rather than from a dead ball. At this point, more often than not, he launched a big, long diag four or five rows back into the main stand. Look, I couldn’t sit here and write about Tony Pulis football every week, but if this is how it’s meant to look then you can fuck that right off as well. Like chewing through glue.

Now, there are reasons managers and football clubs tend to keep what’s said in situations like this behind closed doors: you don’t want to tip other managers off about your plans, obviously; you don’t want to motivate the opposition to play better against you, one for the dressing room wall etc; but, perhaps most of all, you don’t want to end up looking a tit. This proved something of a textbook example. When the opening day of the season rolled round, Swansea took 71% of the possession in their first match and turned it into a 0-3 home defeat to Jon Dahl Tomasson’s new-look Blackburn side. The clip went viral all over again, gleefully shared by the blue and white halved bit of Lancashire, and you haven’t seen a tit looking quite so much like a tit as this since Zoo Magazine’s Christmas 2003 Jennifer Ellison vs Gemma Atkinson Trampoline Spectacular.

Now in the depths of winter, in a cold snap so biting some of us are having to put the heating on for as much as 35 minutes a day, QPR had ample opportunity to do exactly the same. The visitors arrived with Steven Benda (stop it) in goal, and he looked very afraid indeed — of everybody and everything. Harry Darling played centre back, statistically one of the best ball-playing centre backs in League One last season at MK Dons but here apparently wearing his boots on the wrong feet. Ryan Manning was back in town, in the midst of another dispute about a soon-to-expire contract (shocked, shocked I tell thee), and doing a lot of that thing he does where he lies motionless on the ground having come under apparent sniper fire only to leap back up and sprint back into the action when his cheating has failed to get an opponent booked — thankfully, a rare competent Championship refereeing performance here from John Busby wasn’t falling for any of it, hold that call to the coroner I reckon he’ll be alright in a minute.

And so it all began again: the back and forth, the side to side, the intricate one twos, the ludicrous high-risk low-reward pisballing about. All of it — all of it — in and around Swansea’s own penalty box. Neil Critchley had prepared QPR well, they started with former Swan Jamal Lowe instead of out-of-form Chris Willock, and between him, leading man Lyndon Dykes, Ilias Chair and Tyler Roberts, Rangers executed an effective press, in a good shape, that troubled their opponent.

A flicked header from a seventeenth minute free kick flew straight at Benda when a yard either side of him would certainly have yielded the opening goal. That did come when Rangers, themselves all too passive in possession in recent weeks, discovered the value in playing purposefully and in a forward direction out of midfield — Tim Iroegbunam just about bundled through two tackles in the centre circle to open the whole field up ahead of him and two balls later Jamal Lowe was turning around Darling in the box and finishing crisply into the far corner for his first goal for the club. Everybody in the team should do this a lot more, it makes the game look stupidly simple.

Swansea’s threat to this point had come exclusively from a succession of out swinging corners — though, typically, QPR left free headers on their goal from three of the first four of those, and would have been punished by most other teams in this league for it. Despite that, and an early hamstring injury for another former Swan Ethan Laird, the goal imbued QPR with a fragile confidence. Laird’s replacement Osman Kakay put in a good early cross (print it out, we’ll put it in a frame for the wall) after another win back in a high press. In first half stoppage time yet another turnover of possession deep in the Swansea half after more messing about with their goalkeeper could have brought a second, but QPR didn’t even get a shot away. Frustrating but, clearly, all here for us in the second half.

Sadly, though, QPR were neither good enough, nor intelligent enough, to put the game to bed.

There was a moment in the first half when Sam Field put in a strong tackle in midfield, and hit the deck with a stinger. Rangers demanded Swansea put the ball out of play but the visitors, rightly in my opinion, played on. That came to nothing, Rob Dickie got the ball back, and then instead of knocking it out of play as we’d wanted the opponent to do, he not only played on, but played on with a big, ambitious, sweeping pass across the field towards… Sam Field, and it sailed out on the full. School for the fucking gifted.

There was more of this braindead, teeth-grinding, mind-numbing, bang-your-head-against-the-bastard-wall-until- the-sweet-release-of-haemorrhage, rank stupidity to come. Four minutes into the second half and Benda was back in the action, which, as usual, meant a big chance for QPR. More wild, needless risk-taking at the back, more gratuitous passing in lethal areas, more enormous chances taken with a best-case-scenario of ‘well, nobody died’, this time ending with a pass back which Benda calmly bent down and picked up. Thick as pig shit — we’ll probably sign him on deadline day. Busby, right on top of everything all afternoon, gave the lesser-spotted indirect free kick on the six-yard box and as Swansea massed on the goal line a collection of five QPR players convened for this week’s Cleethorpes and District Knitting Circle. We’ve seen how this should be done, Alan Shearer, Nigel Pepper etc — you roll the ball back to buy a little more time and space for the bloke in your team with the hardest shot to whack it high, over the charge, and into the roof of the net. Right of centre, with the whole goal to aim at for a left footer, from six yards out, QPR gave it to Ilias Chair, who went short side, right footed, low, and inevitably straight into Harry Darling. Decent shout for a handball in the block, but frankly if you’ve been this fucking stupid with it you don’t deserve anything. Sad to say, not the first example of Chair picking the wrong option on Saturday. Be honest now, did any of you — any of you — think we were going to score?

QPR have netted three times at the Loft End all season, two of them penalties. You saw why here. They’d set up well, pressed astutely, won the ball back again on 54 minutes, Tyler Roberts put in a brilliant cross, Jamal Lowe came in at the back post and duffed a much simpler chance than the one he’d scored, allowing Benda to flap the ball over the bar. The German keeper departed soon after — shame, better comedy than anything the BBC have commissioned for ten years — but his replacement by Andy Fisher didn’t change anything at all. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before — more lunacy in dangerous areas, more high-risk no-reward, more ideals over pragmatism, more high press from QPR, another win back in the perfect spot, and now Lowe had the ball at his feet on the edge of the penalty area with the goalkeeper completely out of the picture, the goal gaping, and he elected to take two-too-many touches and Fisher saved at his feet. Mmmmmmm, nice long hot soak in my tub, with the toaster.

You don’t win games of football missing chances of that magnitude, and so it proved. Having been wrong for a good hour, Russell Martin turned out to be right — “guess what, they can’t run any more”. QPR couldn’t. They were dead on their feet and Swansea took the whole thing over. Lyndon Dykes’ withdrawal through injury started the rot. In a week when the debate has been about the Scotsralian’s worth to the team and value to the club, here was an insight into life without him — four littlies all running around trying to do the same thing with varying degrees of effort and effectiveness. Chefs, spoiling the product, commitment to cake, etc. Without the centre forward, the astute set up and effective press melted away entirely. Rangers looked worryingly gassed, considering they’d had a week to prepare while Swansea were going through 120 minutes of FA Cup replay extra time with Bristol City. Changes were slow in coming, and made no impact when made.

There weren’t many saves for Seny Dieng to make, but Rangers’ shape melted away entirely, they sunk deep and invited pressure, they started to make mistakes at the back, and an equaliser felt inevitable. At one point QPR were half arsedly shuffling the ball out for what they thought was a goal kick only for it to be whipped back in by an unseen man on the byline sparking a mass panic. Sure enough, Swansea’s best player on the day, Jay Fulton, obliged ten minutes from time, coolly sliding the ball into the bottom corner from 15 yards out. As he’d done against Luton, Ireogbunam betrayed his inexperience letting a man run off his back into a dangerous spot again.

A chunky eight minutes of added time felt more valuable to the visitors than the hosts. There was a final chance, but it fell between substitutes Adomah and Kakay and they started literally pushing each other out of the way to get to it. Give me strength. Swansea much the stronger of the two sides by the end, and almost certainly would have ended up winning the game had it continued another five minutes or so. The impact of their changes from the bench, particularly the introduction of Ntcham, world’s apart from our own.

It’s another set of six for QPR then: six without a win at home, and six without a win at all. It’s the second time this season we’ve gone through six winless games, and the twelfth time we’ve done so in the last six and a half seasons — with several sequences of five thrown in there for bad measure. De rigueur for this hapless club of ours these days unfortunately. One win in 13, and a club that topped the Championship table in October now feels rather like it’s just counting the days and games down to the summer.

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QPR: Dieng 6; Laird 6 (Kakay 38, 6), Dickie 5, Dunne 6, Paal 6; Field 6, Iroegbunam 5 (Dozzell 89, -); Chair 5, Lowe 6, Roberts 5 (Adomah 90, -), Dykes 6 (Willock 58, 5)

Subs not used: Clarke-Salter, Johansen, Archer

Goals: Lowe 27 (assisted Dykes)

Swansea: Benda 4 (Fisher 61, 5); Latibeaudiere 5, Cabango 6, Darling 5, Manning 6; Grimes 6, Allen 5 (Ntcham 59, 7); Cooper 6, Fulton 7, Cullen 6 (Cundle 58, 6); Piroe 6

Subs not used: Wood, Sorinola, Naughton, Congreave

Goals: Fulton 81 (assisted Cundle)

QPR Star Man — Sam Field 6 Bit of a cop out on my part. I thought everybody was much of a muchness which usually means the goalscorer nudges ahead. Lowe has indeed won the day on the interactive vote on both this website and the official site, but I don’t think you can miss the chances he did, particularly the second, and still be getting man of the match.

Referee — John Busby (Oxfordshire) 8 Very good indeed. Controlled the game in a calm, unfussy way and was right on top of every decision. Best player on the pitch.

Attendance 16,110 (2,300 Swansea approx.) With three goals at the Loft End all season, no home wins in six, one win in 13 etc it’s a miracle the numbers are holding up as well as they are, though I suspect a rare Saturday 15.00 kick off and a ticket offer helped. The noise, on the other hand, is long gone.

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062259 added 04:19 - Jan 23
We’ve been hoping during occasional periods of success over parts of each of the last 3 seasons that this is a good team prone to frustrating stretches of mediocrity, but it’s becoming increasingly obvious that this is a mediocre team capable of occasional periods of success.

Marshy67 added 11:02 - Jan 23
Counting the days and games down certainly.
But with Hull and Huddersfield away up next I think it's not too early to have a quick glance in the rear view mirror.
There is still work to be done and games to be won before we can put this season to bed.

jimf added 12:19 - Jan 23
Excellent report as ever. Such a frustrating day all round.

Two points of order (without seeing highlights yet I might add).

1. They got free headers at corners from a blatant blocking pattern and wrestling match that was a deliberate tactic. Both Dunne and Dickie isolated by either being run into, held or grappled with so they couldn't even run to approach the ball. All done behind the melee in front of the ref, albeit in clear view of the lino. Who did SFA. Apologies to anyone in LL enduring me lose my sh1t about this at most corners and screaming at hte ref. You can't blame Dunne or Dickie for this - hard to say be stronger when the guy next to you wants to wrestle you to the ground. Blatant and refs need to do better, especially with help from linos. This wasn't bog standard grappling, it was NFL standard blocking schemes.

2. Did Lowe not hit the bar rather than the keeper? He did really well with that chance imho. So hard to keep a ball on the half volley, on your wrong foot, down and on target. The third was a left footed gentle stroke of the ball first time away from being a goal. That's why strikers especially should be confident on their weaker foot. A genuine two footed player scores that easily.

Andybrat added 12:35 - Jan 23
Spot on Clive, all about the second goal we never scored. Can those who knock LD now see why Milwall want him? Actually would have had him as our best player on the day. Stating the bleeding obvious need a win to calm the nerves, at least we are not losing.

Antti_Heinola added 13:18 - Jan 23
Jimf, I thought Lowe hit the bar too, but I'd agree with Clive that he should've scored. Not an easy chance, but he should be putting that in 8 times out of 10.

CLAREMAN1995 added 16:46 - Jan 23
Albert and Dozzell coming on to grab the winner sums it all up IMO.
We have nothing to add to the battle when the chips are down but Albert managed to get in the way or maybe Ozzie got in his way so the chance passed to nobodys shock.
Lowe looks like a great signing despite those misses but that 3 points was badly needed

Loft1979 added 16:54 - Jan 23

Thanks. I would have continued with your previous headline and pronounced this the inevitable stalemate of inconsistent mid-tablers. QPR are nerve racking. Devoid of confidence and LEADERSHIP. The seniors in this team hardly make up for Charlie. That said I think there is progress. a Dykes-Lowe partnership could yield dividends not seen since Austin left. But then I also think Dykes might want to leave for greener pastures.... Northern pastures.

My primary observation goes back to the confidence factor. My view of what I have seen is that QPR players are too often slow to decisions and tepid when it comes to tackling (not big Sam). Jimmy and Rob are a stride slower than their best in my observations.

Comment: Does the team seem to constructed in a way that would benefit from a back 5 again? That way Clarke Salter moves to the left side with Rob now a little more opportunity to stride forward without fear.

Marshy added 20:16 - Jan 23
J Lo looks to be a good signing for us. He took his goal really well, and although he missed a couple of other good chances the one at the far post from where I sit didn’t look easy. He was certainly puffed out by the end, but I guess he’s still to reach peak fitness.

I think it will be good to get January out the way as it’s probably having an effect on some of our players as to whether they might be off. Players like stability not uncertainty, and that could be feeding through to the whole team. So from February there will be no excuses. Either this team will progress or regress further. I’m not ready to give up on them just yet. Still plenty of time for Critchley to turn things around.

TacticalR added 19:44 - Jan 26
Thanks for your report.

OK, so Swansea are not everybody's cup of tea. Some of their deep defending seems lunacy, and led to the keeper picking up a back pass. Unfortunately in this game I felt they were gradually able to shape the game to their style.

We had our chances to win, but did not take them. Meanwhile, even though they were a goal down I noticed that they carried playing in the same way. They have a style, something to fall back on.

Their goal mirrored ours: both goals came about from good breaks and accurate passing from midfield.

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