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Queens Park Rangers 1 v 1 Huddersfield Town
SkyBet Championship
Sunday, 28th January 2024 Kick-off 13:30
Paal's late salvage papers deep fault lines - Report
Tuesday, 30th Jan 2024 02:33 by Alex Perry

In front of the Sky cameras (that’ll learn ‘em) QPR and Huddersfield produce a game that spits in the eye of God, prolonging the toothache that is our league status – Alex Perry was the man who signed up to deliver the LFW coverage, and regretted it profoundly.

Stop all the clocks. Burn it all down. Topple it. Erase all memories. Sell the land and put the money into the NHS’ mental health services. Pierce a hole in the rubble and release all the serotonin this place has drained back into the ether. Bury the curse under ludicrously expensive flats and allow these poor people to move on with their lives. QPR one, Huddersfield Town one. It lasted for 95 minutes.

When I contacted Clive at the beginning of the season to help him cover some games, I was under the illusion it might help him see his 40’s. I’m now concerned I won’t finish my 20’s.

When I was a teenager, in 2011, QPR stormed their way to promotion. So enamoured with that squad, I felt duty bound to dive into a video game and adjust their FIFA ratings. The rating system goes as high as 99, my (minor) tweaks left Jamie Mackie with a conservative 93. I’ve done enough cognitive behavioural therapy to know this outlook was not grounded in reality.

I say this because as I’ve watched QPR stumble through this season from afar, I have read the line-ups and found succour in seeing the names on the team sheet. I see the names and I see the flashes of brilliance. Dykes is always ONE goal away from going on a run, Chair WILL put it in the top corner and Willock STILL has hamstrings. I’m not dumb enough to believe our squad has anywhere near the quality of our 2010-11 cohort, I’ve read enough match reports and previews on this very platform to know we are no longer a good team. Yet I strolled up to the ground enjoying the mild winter sunshine, buoyed by England’s majestic comeback against India in the morning and contemplated how a victory could make this one of the perfect Sundays.

There are many factors as to why this game did not prove to be the tonic I believed it could. Though it was the feeling I left with after the match that truly did for it, a feeling I will struggle to shake for a while. Something that only ignorance can induce, something for which I only have myself to blame.

Let’s get one thing out of the way first – the refereeing in this game was less than ideal. I am not one of the blue tick wielding anonymous Twitter accounts keeping the share price of tin foil at an all-time high, I do not practice my cursive to inform PGMOL that I think they’re trying destroy my club. Referees often leave me cold. They are to form some order in the chaos and fundamentally, no matter how many times Keith Stroud makes you swear, there is an appreciation that their job is difficult. Watching a grown man teach a young child wearing a Christmas pudding hat how to boo a linesman was particularly strange. You may bemoan the fact referring standards have declined, but I often feel this frustration is misdirected. I’m of the opinion you should save that aggravation for the power structures that have left football clubs outside of the elite in such a perpetual state of precarity, for the enlightened owners who buy that striker you really want leaving your precious community asset facing oblivion if promotion is never achieved or relegation looms. How, in this environment when the stakes have inflated higher than transfer fees is refeering supposed to improve? When every throw in decision produces enough spittle for Thames Water to recoup their losses, perspective can only drown. That being said, Steve Martin kept doing shuttle runs to the centre of the pitch and it was objectively weird.

I am not saying I thought he had a good game by any means. It’s just he was far from the worst thing about a spectacle so wretched that universally acknowledged Lovely Bloke Darren Moore was made a blood sacrifice come Monday morning. If you’re intrigued about the granular detail I have when note making for an event as thrilling as this, I can tell you that my only acknowledgment for the first 35 minutes was ‘Jack Rudoni’s hair is fun’. And it is.

The game started with the announcement of a new striker, Swiss player Michael Frey. If you’re unfamiliar with him, then have a quick look at his goal record and join the collective exhale that was 16,000 audible sighs yesterday. But hey, who knows, if his goals keep us up maybe I’ll get his name tattooed on my chest as well (Google it).

The atmosphere for the first ten minutes was particularly febrile as Huddersfield started well. I wouldn’t say they had to do a lot to achieve this, I’ve been impressed with our efforts to build play from the back since Cifuentes came in but it certainly felt like Huddersfield simply needed to stay in their 4-5-1 shape to prevent this from happening. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Sitting more or less pitch side in the Ellerslie Road stand, I can’t recall how many times I watched centre back > full back > ineffectual winger > full back > centre back. It was maddening at times.

I genuinely cannot tell you anything of note from the first 45 minutes other than hearing a man use the term ‘line-clown’. It was a truly poor affair. QPR had no ability to play through the midfield and the referee was particularly trigger happy, which meant any chance of the game achieving some flow was fanciful. There were some frustrating inconsistencies. For 30 minutes any grappling, holding, jersey pulling, immediately penalised and a yellow card. When Huddersfield’s already-booked Michal Helik tried to wear Armstrong’s shirt as his own the referee came over all zen. Truthfully though, even if he set the game to no rules, I still doubt the quality of it would have improved. No amount of the ever-fabled consistency would’ve saved this dumpster fire.

Half time came around and I could only assume the reason free scarves were given out by the club to match goers was to have something to cover our eyes. I guess Sky Sports will have dubbed this a ‘clash’, ‘bout’ or ‘battle’. All things synonymous with ‘fight’. There is something noble to be associated with fighting: a sense of will, of pride. In its own way this was a fight of sorts, like watching two boxers on ketamine drool their way into a grapple. It was enticing in the same way watching clips of motorway pileups is. A kind of slow-motion guarantee of tragedy occurring right before your eyes, with just enough physical removal from the event to trick your conscious into thinking it’s fine. You could leave at any time, but morbid curiosity compels you to see this thing through. Loftus Road has essentially become a focus group for how far Netflix can take the true crime genre.

At half time I kept telling myself I won’t be broken. There were bright spots in that first 45, Armstrong was giving Huddersfield’s centre backs a torrid time with his pace and power, I felt Aaron Drewe had stepped in admirably for the early-injured Cannon and Clarke-Salter was putting in his best performance in a QPR shirt. That, well, that was about it. But it couldn’t be as bad, it won’t be as bad.

Yeah, the next 45 wasn’t great, all things told. Huddersfield once again started the second half much brighter, with Sorba Thomas putting in a display that was emblematic of the game as a whole. He teased quality, and the idea this might actually be a football match, as he consistently ran at an isolated Drewe, booked immediately after coming on when grappling and pulling an opponent back was still a yellow card in this game. To Drewe’s credit he handled this challenge admirably, and I would have rated his performance even more if I didn’t feel like every cross blocked out for a corner was certain death. Noticeable how much less often Thomas was able to expose Drewe once Smyth was on ahead of him than when he had Willock for ‘protection’.

However, this was a footnote in what was another turgid 45 minutes. Field and Colback did well to break up play and passed it back to Begovic regularly with great aplomb, but Dykes in a more withdrawn role proved entirely ineffective at providing them with any real option ahead. On the few occasions the opportunity for a break occurred, both teams were plagued with the kind of decision making you’d expect from their relative positions in the table. This was highlighted by watching Begovic throw a ball to Chair on the LW when Armstrong (furious) had acres to run into on the RW. I don’t know what the turf below him had done but his reaction to it felt personal.

This brings me onto a point that, quite frankly, makes me sad. At half time I had to remind myself Chris Willock was playing; come 60 minutes I was relieved Cifuentes put him out of his misery, alongside Dykes. Watching Willock on Sunday was just an indication of what’s happened to this club, a prodigious talent just two years ago which should have had the board getting ready for a windfall. Instead, we are now watching a husk of a player, hollowed out by persistent injuries, a conveyor belt of whiplash-inducing manager appointments and a clear crisis of confidence. I’m sure there are elements of this tragedy that fall on Willock himself but watching his hesitancy to sprint for a ball, that didn’t feel like a lack of effort, it felt like a lack of trust in his body. The cynic says maybe he’s just desperate for a move and doesn’t want to get injured. There was an incident around 55 minutes where Willock wherein he sold Sam Field a dud pass that led to him losing possession. The next scene was damning as Sam Field made it very clear what he thought of that pass. When you’re getting barracked by the human equivalent of a Vauxhall Astra, maybe it's best to be a cynic. I think a move would benefit both parties greatly. Field will miss the next two games after collecting a tenth booking for… nothing very much at all.

I would love to say this substitution, for the much more industrious pair of Smyth and Dixon-Bonner, changed proceedings. But it didn’t. The same pattern again and again: Huddersfield were obdurate and lacking quality; QPR sloppy and unimaginative. Helik, injured, allowed to go forward to attack a set piece, then immediately sit down and stop the game to prevent a counter attack the other way. Head injury? There was time though, that’s the thing with sport isn’t it? There is always time and time equates to hope. Maybe we can just find a moment, maybe Ilias Chair will remember how to take a free kick or Armstrong can get his reward for an afternoon of semi-professional wrestling. Then maybe, just maybe this will have all been worth it.

For those of you who’ve made it this far, switch off. You know what happens next, why do you want to read about it? If you were at the match and reading this call someone you love because you deserve better. I was actually happy; Huddersfield broke away and Jack Colback had waited until the 82nd(!) minute to get his cursory yellow card for a cynical foul to stop their attack. Have we defended set pieces well recently? Absolutely fucking not. Have we defended them well today? Yes, yes we have. Do neither of these things matter if you’re allowed a two-yard head start? Well, I’m sure the letter PGMOL scrawl back to us will answer that. A clear offside, missed by the same linesman who once denied us a League Cup quarter final ay Arsenal (are we sure this guy knows the rules?), a bit of pinball around the box, a mishit shot and a perfect touch and finish from a peroxide topped totem of our clubs’ misgivings put Huddersfield 0-1 up with five minutes to play. There it was again, time. Time for another gut punch at the end of a game that should’ve troubled Amnesty.

There was, however, still some game left and everything of note QPR did happened after the 88th minute.

It felt hard to have any real faith in a positive outcome, but I suppose we don’t go to football for logic despite QPR’s best efforts to make matches at Loftus Road a forgone conclusion. They crammed a fair bit in at the end there, Armstrong screamed for a penalty after what looked more like a terrible miss. He’ll be delighted to know Dixon-Bonner actually put in a goal saving tackle there. He then won my MOTM award for simply screaming at a Huddersfield defender who cried cramp whilst QPR waited to take a corner. But there was one more thing to come, after piling on some pressure QPR were finding themselves ensconced in the Huddersfield box and someone finally produced a moment of quality.

Chair, who’s crossing was egregious all day received the ball from auxiliary centre forward Steve Cook, composed himself with a touch and curled in an undefendable centre that inexplicably went in off Kenneth Paals thigh and into the top corner. Ensuring his place as our second top scorer on four goals for the season, *insert this is fine meme*. The full time whistle blew a couple of minutes later and you wouldn’t be remiss for assuming we had lost the game, the QPR players sunk to the turf and knew they wouldn’t play many other teams that poor for the rest of the season.

So here we all were, subject to the abject. That’s where the feeling started to cement. I’ve been away too long. I knew this club was sick and instead of facing the decline I’ve told myself Lyndon Dykes really would thrive under Ainsworth. I’m at stage one – denial. When Huddersfield scored I was taken aback, where was the anger? Someone is going to shout ‘cunt’ in a direction, right? But no, you’re all here week in week out. You’ve done it all over the past 18 months, you’re at stage five – acceptance. Here I am rocking up like Roman Roy to the funeral telling everyone I’ve ‘pre-grieved’, only to be flung into an existential crisis because I’ve finally gleaned that relying on your left back for goals might actually not work.

Cifuentes described this game as “a step in the right direction” and yes I could make a gag about that direction being towards a cliff, but there is some truth in what he says. He acknowledged that the game was piss poor, the positives to take from it were minimal but at the very least we dug something out and got away with one. The poor guy is having to front up like the Black Knight in Monty Python right now. I would love to say that injury time equaliser felt like hope but having just witnessed that game of football, it was difficult to think anything other than if it looks like a League One team and plays like a League One team, then it’s probably a League One team.

That late goal just means we’re still not sure whether it’s either of these, neither, or both.

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

QPR: Begovic 5; Cannon - (Drewe 13, 5), Cook 5, Clarke-Salter 6 (Fox, 90 -), Paal 6; Field 4 (Adomah 90, - ), Colback 4; Willock 3 (Dixon-Bonner 61, 4), Dykes 3 (Smyth 61, 5), Chair 5; Armstrong 7

Subs not used: Dunne, Walsh, Pedder, Archer, Larkeche

Goals: Paal 90+5 (assisted Chair)

Yellow Cards: Drewe (foul), Clarke-Salter (foul), Colback (foul), Field (foul)

Huddersfield: Nicholls 5, Spencer 5 (Pearson 90+9, -), Helik 4 (Balker 71, 5); Lees 5, Thomas 7, Matos 5 (Koroma 76, 5), Hogg 5, Jackson 5, Rudoni 7, Healey 5, Radulovic 4

Subs not used: Diarra, Kasumu, Wiles, Hudlin, Lorpenda, Bellagambi

Goals: Rudoni 85 (assisted Balker)

Yellow Cards: Spencer (foul), Helik (foul), Radulovic (foul)

QPR Star Man – Sinclair Armstrong 7 In an afternoon where the word ‘urgency’ was thrown a lot, one man stood up and showed us what it looked like. Worked the channels effortlessly and refused to be bullied by Huddersfield backline, it took a great tackle from Brodie Spencer to prevent him running in on goal in the first half. Missed a sitter at the end but all is forgiven for screaming at that guy with cramp. Perfect, no notes.

Referee – Steve Martin (Beverley Hills) 4 The less said about this the better. Went through the game like he was seeing the world at a different frame rate to everyone else, much to the chagrin of the natives. Made an already terrible game harder to watch and struggled to project clear decision making. One could argue Michal Halik might be thankful for this.

Attendance – 16,483 We all had a bad time. Free scarf though.

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JimmyR added 06:40 - Jan 30
Thanks for the write up, a very enjoyable read! Had to google succour but that’s good…..We got a reader!

londonscottish added 07:59 - Jan 30
I liked the "pre-grieved" and "Vauxhall Astra" bits a lot but my favourite was " It was enticing in the same way watching clips of motorway pileups is".

So true. Sad to see the end product of 10 years of neglect and decline played out in front of you. Slowly.

Thanks for making the effort to write about it.

stowmarketrange added 08:44 - Jan 30
I thought you were too generous giving this ref a 4.He obviously didn’t know the laws of the game that now state that if the ball hits the ref it results in a stoppage in play,not continuing because Huddersfield were attacking.
The golden chance for Armstrong turned out to be a defender putting it out for a corner before Armstrong could reach it,but the muscle man chose to give a goalkick instead of a corner.
It was a poor game though and thanks for the report.

Kensal_Ranger added 09:07 - Jan 30
I also thought the muscleman made a poor match much, much worse; almost unbearable in fact, but also glad I stayed to the bitter end despite the twitches in my glutes after their goal.

Great job, Alex; if hopefully you haven't already decided to chuck the whole thing in, I will look forward to subsequent reports :-)

tsbains64 added 09:11 - Jan 30
Enjoyable report- damn missed out on the scarf !

johann28 added 09:59 - Jan 30
Excellent report; many thanks

"I could only assume the reason free scarves were given out by the club to match goers was to have something to cover our eyes". Superb.

MrSheen added 10:23 - Jan 30
MoM - Free Scarf 8. Lovely blue.

Red_Ranger added 11:45 - Jan 30
Super Sub , i say you get the No. 12 shirt until further notice.
Class report.
Husk of a player- lol

SimonJames added 13:42 - Jan 30
Excellent report, shame about the football!

Marshy added 13:53 - Jan 30
Can't think of a worse quality match that I've attended for years. A real yawn fest not helped by an incompetent ref. I thought that Steve Martin was "The Man with Two Brains", but here he showed that he didn't have one at all, let alone any common sense. I suppose it was just about worth turning up for the free scarf. Perhaps it was the club's way of compensating us fans for all the crap performances we've had to endure this season.

CateLeBonR added 13:57 - Jan 30
Thanks Alex. Great write up and lovely lines in there - “perfect touch and finish from a peroxide topped totem of our clubs’ misgivings”. Brilliant mate 👍🏻

derbyhoop added 14:13 - Jan 30
Superb write-up; Clive has an able deputy.
Pity neither the result nor the match itself lived up to the quality of the report.

dutch added 16:00 - Jan 30
Great write up but, from one of the poor souls who have been there every week I've watched worse. Watford away this year was the most blood chilling 90 minutes of my life. That was scrappy and shapeless but at least eventually exciting and for a moment hopeful. We live to die again.

Myke added 20:36 - Jan 30
Cheers Alex, a very entertaining read. I thought Marti had solved Willockin that glorious (well glorious by this seasons standards) of three wins (and three Willock goals) in a week,especially the beauty against Hull. I think Marti thought he had too, with his 'all it takes is belief' comments. If only it was that simple. The game reminded me of the time we dreww 0-0 with Reading which relegated us both from the Prem. The only 'winner' here was Sheffield Wed.
Positives include the continued tightening up at the back, the injury free run of Clarke-Slater (shh don't jinx it). We now don't need to score as many goals to get something out of the game and maybe our new striker will chip in with a few.

TacticalR added 21:45 - Jan 31
Thanks for your report.

Reporting on this game was a bit of a hospital pass. It was all pretty grim. You could tell that by the fact that the away fans were quiet and the home fans were quiet. Everybody was waiting for something to happen, and nothing much happened until the end.

A draw wasn't the result we wanted, but at least it was something.

snanker added 22:33 - Jan 31
Well penned Alex nearly stealing a bit of Clives thunder there as we use to say. All around things are very dire indeed and just as well club didn't hand out a bit of gratis rope instead of those scarves ! Keep swinging R's !

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