A cagey affair at Loftus Road was left goalless as neither team were able to break the deadlock against two strong opposition backlines.
QPR were looking to resurrect their season, as a poor start had been compounded by four losses and one draw in their last five, leaving them 19th in the table before the game. They had suffered heartbreak last time out, as Reading clinched victory in the last minute to win 1-0. Mark Warburton made two changes to his side, with Kane and Adomah replacing Kakay and Willock.
Stoke came into the game off the back of some crushing injury news, with the recent revelation that star man Tyrese Campbell is likely to miss the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury against Cardiff. The Potters were without a win in their last two, and drew 0-0 against Derby last time out. There were returns to the side for James McClean and Tom Ince, with the latter making his first start since June. They replaced Steven Fletcher and Jordan Thompson in the starting 11. City were also looking to break their capital duck and end a wait of six years to win away in London.
It was to be the last game for QPR with their fans in attendance, with London set to enter tier three just hours after the game.
The hosts started quickly from the very first minute with a flurry of corners, but did not trouble a Stoke defence that has kept a league-high seven away clean sheets this season.
The R’s continued their quick start and heaped the pressure on City in the first ten minutes, and it was striker Dykes with their first big chance of the game.
Ilias Chair was allowed to turn and run into the Stoke box, and he delivered a near inch-perfect cross to the onrushing Dykes, but the striker fluffed his lines and scuffed the ball wide of the post.
City were struggling to maintain any structure and gain a foothold in the game in the opening minutes.
The Potters’ first opening came courtesy of a Tom Ince free kick, which sailed comfortably over the bar. The winger had been Stoke’s only real spark in a dull first 20 minutes.
The home side were the first to pick up a booking for Barbet’s late challenge on Brown after the referee had let the game play on.
Chair had been the game’s best player and he was next to fashion an opening, but his shot from 25 yards drifted well wide.
It was a largely uneventful lead up to the half-time whistle, and the referee called time on the first period just as City had won the first corner of the game.
Once again, Stoke had endured a slow start to the game, but they had looked solid defensively and withstood some flowing moves from QPR’s attackers.
With no shots on target in the first half, the game looked likely to be decided by a moment of magic from either side.
Half Time: QPR 0-0 Stoke City
— Stoke City FC (@stokecity) December 15, 2020
The second half ensued, and it was Stoke’s turn to come out of the traps firing. Harry Souttar found Josh Tymon on a diagonal run into the box, but the midfielder’s shot was brilliantly blocked and turned onto the post by QPR’s Kane.
It was the closest any side had come to a goal, one that would have been Tymon’s first for the club.
City had dominated the early stages of the second half, but all the possession was to no avail as they struggled to find a finishing touch.
Another huge chance went begging for the Potters, and this time it was Powell’s turn to miss the target. An inch-perfect cross from Morgan Fox found the midfielder six yards out, but his header flashed over the bar with the goal gaping.
As usual, the game began to open up for both teams into the final minutes. The introduction of young winger Thibaud Verlinden was a huge plus for The Potters, as he returned from a lengthy 11-month spell on the sidelines.
The hosts were the side pushing for the winner into added time, but only had a poor shot from Chair to show for their pressure.
City flung some high balls into the danger zone with the game all but up, and with 95 minutes on the clock referee Stroud blew his whistle.
Full Time: QPR 0-0 Stoke City
MOTM: Harry Souttar
It was a result that many could have predicted; with a tight affair at Loftus Road summed up by just three shots on target in the game.
Both teams did have their chances, and Stoke looked the more likely to grab the winner with some great openings going abegging in the second half for the visitors.
R’s manager Mark Warburton will take some positives from the result, not least with it being his side’s first clean sheet in nine games.
He will need star man Ilias Chair to continue playing well if his team are to keep picking up points and avoid being dragged into a relegation battle.
Stoke will feel as if it is a chance missed to gain three points and move up the league, with games against lower teams being pivotal if they are to stay in and around the top six this season.
“We are disappointed we couldn’t quite win the game, to be honest."#SCFC 🔴⚪️
— Stoke City FC (@stokecity) December 15, 2020
Nevertheless, Michael O’Neill will be happy with his side’s continued defensive prowess. Their fifth away clean sheet in a row is a new club record, testament to the work the manager has put in to give his team a strong base to work from.
The result leaves QPR in 19th place as they head to Wycombe on Saturday, whilst the Potters move up a place to seventh but are unlikely to maintain their position after the rest of the teams play their games. They take on Blackburn at the bet365 Stadium this weekend.
Match report by Oliver Walton.