Written by Liam Gleeson
QPR’s 45th and final home game of the elongated Championship campaign saw them take on surprising play-off hopefuls (no one likes us, we don’t care) Millwall. A game which undoubtedly would have seen a packed out KPF, however during these unprecedented times we didn’t have to trot our way round Shepherd’s Bush just to get in and out of the ground but instead Rs fans could endure this London derby from the comfort of their own homes.
With news of star man Bright Osayi-Samuel reportedly on his way out of the club and on his way to Club Brugge for around €5m, Mark Warburton made one change to the side that took a point at Kenilworth Road on Tuesday night with Olamide Shodipo making his 11th appearance this season. The visitors were unchanged.
10 minutes into the game and the Rs had started brightly (oh the irony!) with Luke Amos, who you could tell was fighting for a contract, picking out Ebere Eze in a pocket in between the opposition defence and midfield where we’ve seen him in so many times this season and neatly slipped in Ozman Kakay who had made a darting run into the Millwall box from the right flank but Bialkowski was first to it. A promising start from Rangers. Just a minute later, Mason Bennett was forced off through injury and was replaced by striker Jón Dadi Bödvarsson.
8 minutes later, the visitors had their first chance of the game after Shane Ferguson’s deep cross evaded Joe Lumley and reached the Icelandic striker whose headed effort struck the post from an acute angle. A whiff of poor defending despite a pleasing start, something we’ve seen from the Rs on numerous occasions this season but just 3 minutes later, Rangers really should’ve gone ahead. Attacker Ilias Chair saw his powerful shot saved smartly by Bialkowski but only parried to Shodipo who drilled in a cross to Rs number 8, Luke Amos, who also had his shot saved intelligently. The Millwall keeper, who has kept 15 clean sheets this season with only David Raya keeping more, was called into action in quick succession keeping the score level, for now.
Just before halftime, Rangers third corner of the game was whipped in by Eze and attacked potently by Frenchman Yoann Barbet whose header was saved but only parried to the unmarked Irish U21 International Conor Masterson who tucked away for his first goal of the campaign and the opening goal of the game. QPR deservedly in front going into the break. The fluid, fast paced, exhilarating, attacking football that we’ve seen so much in months gone by was finally coming back. The likes of Eze, Chair, Manning and Shodipo were flooding forward trying to create chances which was a joy to watch at times. The visitors on the other hand, were just a fraction of themselves seeing just 39% of the ball and the solitary shot on goal, struggling to get a foothold in the game and being dominated in each third of the pitch.
As the second half kicked off, Millwall made their second substitution, seemingly attempting to get back into the game, as Antigua and Barbuda International Mahlon Romeo was withdrawn and replaced by former Rs striker Matt Smith, who featured 92 times in a 3 year spell with the club, scoring 21 times.
The Rs quickly continued their attack on Bialkowski’s goal with Ilias Chair stinging the hands of the Polish ‘keeper, with a fierce shot. However, QPRs inevitable defensive incapabilities came evident as they were calved open down the right flank on the 49th minute where starman Jed Wallace found himself in acres of space after being played in behind the fragile Rs defence. His cross, unchallenged, picked out substitute Matt Smith also in acres of space, with his first touch of the game, who tucked away his 13th goal of the season, his best return of his career, with uncanny ease. Inexcusable, soft and execrable defending as the Rs shipped their 71st league goal of the season, the third most in the Championship.
Soon after, Rangers were back on the attack seeking to retake the lead. Ryan Manning, pushing forward as normal, picked out Ebere Eze just outside the area. After a poor clearance, Dom Ball teed up the Irish left back for him to drill the ball beyond The Lions’ man in net and into the far corner. Rangers’ lead was restored within minutes of conceding. This is the first time two different Irishman have scored in the same game since Eoin Doyle and Richard Dunne were on target in a 3-3 draw with Burnley in February 2014.
This goal had kicked the hosts into gear with 4 quick fire chances shortly after which so easily could’ve extended their lead. Manning saw a similar effort to his goal clip the crossbar just a minute after scoring, fellow full back Ozman Kakay saw his long range effort palmed wide by the ‘keeper after a wonderful solo run. The chances kept flooding through as Chair saw his close range target sail high and wide then just two minutes later, Luke Amos was somehow denied a tap in 2 yards from goal. Remarkable stuff. The Lions were on the ropes at this stage and eventually, Rangers doubled their advantage. Manning, once again the architect, lofting the ball into Chair in the centre of the park whose incentive flick set Ebere Eze away on goal to score his 13th goal of the season, his 21st goal involvement. A wonderful season from the surely Premier League bound England U21 international.
With these onslaught of attacks on Bialkowski’s goal, Millwall needed to reevaluate their take on the game to stand any chance of getting back into the game. Jed Wallace was at the forefront of the visitors’ resurgent effort. His free kick just after the hour was bundled home by Pearce after Matt Smith’s header but the Millwall centre half was deemed offside. A let off for Warburton’s men. Wallace’s inviting deliveries continued until Hutchinson glanced home from his corners. Something so inexorable bearing in mind QPR’s lamentable defence.
Olamide Shodipo was replaced by Todd Kane on the 72nd minute and deployed at the unusual position as a right winger but just a minute after being put into the spotlight, Ryan Manning sent Dom Ball down the left hand side who picked out the temporary winger whose elegant, diving header glided into the far corner to once again extend Rangers’ lead to two goals. Reminiscent of Jamie Mackie’s beauty at the Etihad with a scent of Henrick Larsson put in for good measure. A truly pleasurable goal from such an improbable source.
Millwall were still fighting as the game came to a close but were susceptible to an Rs counter attack and in fact substitute Aramide Oteh almost added a fifth as he was
teed up by Eze but his shot was saved well by Bialkowski.
You would expect a team leading by two goals with 6 minutes added on to play out the rest of the game with relative ease, but this is Queens Park Rangers we are talking about, so anything could happen. In the 5th minute of stoppage time, Jed Wallace made it a hat trick of assists after finding Irishman Jayson Molumby with exceptional simplicity whose deflected strike looped over Joe Lumely and into the back of the net to make it 4-3 with around 30 seconds of the allocated time left to play. QPR, nervous to finish the game, gave away a free kick on the right hand side of the pitch, with Jed Wallace to take… In came the cross and attacked by Shaun Hutchinson who believed to have headed the visitors level, but once again the flag was up and the score stayed in the Rs favor. The last action of the game and season at home encapsulates how our campaign has gone. With 65 goals scored but 74 conceded just goes to show the level of quality we have going forward but with inexplicably pitiable defending, the season was always going to be overshadowed by our inconsistencies.