Twenty years is a long time. It’s almost half my life ago.
Twenty years ago, City were about to have one of the rare highlights in the extremely depressing first half to a season.
As supporters we’d seen the back of Needler and Fish running the club into the ground as the family owning the club looked to reclaim their investment in the club. Thankfully those days are over. Oh, wait a minute…
As supporters we’d seen the back of David Lloyd running the club, where he frequently attacked supporters every time he didn’t get his own way. Thankfully those days are over. Oh, wait a minute…
As supporters we’d seen the new regime of Belton and Buchanan (with the mysterious Hinchcliffe lurking in the background) take over the club stuck rock bottom of the league. They’d removed former England international Mark Hateley as manager and had a young caretaker manager in Warren Joyce take over. But the club were in desperate trouble. A trip to Luton in the FA Cup second round gave a small highlight with young Ken Morley and a towering Master Butcher header giving the travelling support a rare opportunity to cheer their side.
Moving twenty years on and City travel to QPR. QPR have had a reasonable run of form of late, so the most optimistic City fan would have felt a tinge of apprehension in hoping of coming away from Loftus Road with three points.
Lining up for City
Kane Elphick Burke Lichaj
Bowen Irvine Grosicki
City started the game very much on the front foot and delighted the travelling fans taking the lead in the fifth minute. A long ball finds Campbell who passes right to Bowen. He cuts inside before his shot from the edge of the area passes Lumley and nestles into the back of the net
It was suspected that we’d also experience quite a lenient referee for the afternoon as a high City boot appears to catch QPR’s Leistner near the edge of our area, but referee Simpson plays on.
Burke is soon down for lengthy treatment with the match barely 15 minutes old after a high challenge, but the young centre back manages to last until the half time break.
On the 21st minute, City’s afternoon looks even better. Bowen wins a corner with his direct running at the home defence. The whipped in ball sees Campbell go for the header which seems to wrong foot the entire QPR defence, offering Henricksen the space to score.
Within a minute, however, QPR are back in the game. The wonderfully named Angel Rangle, whose running up the right caused the City defence plenty of problems all afternoon, advanced before a low cross to Wszolek tapping past Marshall.
Throughout the afternoon City appeared to be using a rather effective tactic. Basically, all City players looked to pass to Grosicki who would then run at the home defence. Kamil in return would always look to pass to Campbell, thus seeing quite an effective partnership forming in our two attacking players.
At the other end of the pitch, QPR are imposing themselves more on the game, but City’s Custodian of the Leather produces several fine saves to keep the home team out. When they do find a way past, the ball crashes off the woodwork.
Following his earlier injury, Burke is replaced at half time by de Wijs with Lichaj also withdrawn in favour of McKenzie.
Henriksen’s really becoming a battling midfielder in the centre of the park. Okay so he’s no Ian Ashbee but does show much greater aggression that when he first joined the club. Partnering Batty the two do provide an effective screen for the defence and allow the attacking 4 a foundation to build attacks. Perhaps it was harsh on Stewart after his Norwich showing to find himself back on the bench, but Henriksen and Batty are proving to be the first-choice central midfield pairing.
QPR are getting much more of the play in the opening 20 minutes of the second half with Eze particularly guilty of spurning chances to get the home side back level.
Not long after QPR replace Cameron with Hemed, the Tigers further extend the lead. Bowen robs a QPR midfielder before playing a 1-2 with Campbell. His shot is well saved by Lumley, but before the keeper can collect the loose ball, Bowen’s back up and stroking the ball home.
Batty’s the first to see his name taken by the ref. Contrary to my earlier suggestion that the referee seemed lenient, this booking appeared very harsh, having just challenged for a loose ball.
Trying to protect the 2-goal lead, Adkins withdraws Grosicki in favour of Mazuch. At the same time QPR withdraw Rangel in favour of Smith.
Within ten minutes of the change, Mazuch still isn’t injured, so possibly clocking up a record for his season so far.
Soon after QPR replace Wszolek with Osayi-Samuel, Lynch is the next to see his name in the referee’s book. Bowen, running up the right is felled by Lynch, with the two players ending up head to head. As Lynch was very much the aggressor (Bowen appeared to just laugh in his face for his efforts), the card is brandished in his direction.
After 4 minutes of time are added on, QPR get a goal back. A cross into the area sees several players diving in at the ball from either side before Freeman pokes it over the line to set up a very nervy last few minutes. The nerves in the away end are not helped as soon afterwards the referee awards QPR a free kick on the edge of the area, fortunately Freeman’s shot is narrowly wide of the top corner.
So just like twenty years ago, City are having a bright spell in the first half of a season of struggle. This time the bright spot seems us move out of the bottom three to the heady heights of 19th. But unlike 20 years ago, I don’t think the club will be investing in a second-hand bus any time soon.
James Lockwood (via Tiger Chat)