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Prediction Logged by at 15:03:23
Queens Park Rangers v Derby County prediction logged
Gotta Love Forest, eh?
at 17:26 22 Feb 2020

Couple of weeks ago they greeted their Leeds win like promotion was almost secured. Now they're 6 points off second.
I remember them doing the same thing when they drew 1-1 with us in out Championship season, when they thought that was the start of their run to promotion. It wasn't.
Can't stand them.
Well played Warbs!
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Nottingham Forest v Queens Park Rangers prediction logged
Antti's Six Knee Jerks: QPR 4 Stoke 2
at 20:43 16 Feb 2020

From the brink of being sucked in to having to battle yet another last few nervy weeks of the season, QPR suddenly rediscovered their potency to give Stoke a playful spanking. I, for one, enjoyed it.

1. CLINICAL: It's been a word on the lips of Warbs so often recently even he's had to preface it by saying something about sounding like a broken record, which only makes the younger panickers even more angry because they have no idea what a record is, broken or not. But I had sympathy for him there. In a recent report Clive rightly said that you can't just point at someone and say 'be more clinical' and hey presto, more clinical he becomes. But at the same time, we do miss chances that you would expect any forward, even at semi-pro level, to comfortably tuck away. Yesterday was a case in point as we contrived to miss no less than three times when faced with an open goal from less than a yard out. Luckily we scored four others, so it matters less, but weirdly MW could still repeat his most recent interviews even after this game because the fact was we were still wasteful in front of goal - three misses from a yard, plus Pugh's powder-puff finish when clean through - and that's just for starters.

But let's get to the positives. After losing Wells, the team seems to have collectively lost its knack(y! get it?) to score goals, even to the point where one morose poster said the other day that they 'couldn't see where the next goal was coming from'. And I mean, you get people during a bad run saying 'I can't see where the next win is coming from' which is a meaningless cliche in itself, but to apparently think a team which has scored 56 goals in all competitions before Saturday , of which just 15 were scored by Wells, would fail to find the net for the next couple of months takes a special kind of pessimism. Other than the fact that when it comes to QPR experience tells you that you can never assume anything, I was never too worried, because we do have quality going forward and if there's one thing Warburton teams do, it's create plenty of chances.

Still, after the Hugill and Pugh misses, I did start to worry, especially after we then went two-down. It was so frustrating knowing we should be two-up. So it was even more gratifying when the players refused to lie down and clawed their way back into it before the half time whistle had blown. Hugill especially deserved praise - after missing some frankly easy chances in recent games, he showed real character to put away his chance - a goal he fully deserved for one of his best performances of the season. From, there, finally, we were clinical. Eze broke his long goal drought as his recent return to form continued, BOS grabbed a beauty and Chair got his second of the season - he's one who should be looking to score more often too. Hopefully, those four goals will give us confidence again that we can take teams apart even without our beloved Nahki.

2. MANNING: Quick word on Ryan, who showed signs of his early season form returning on Tuesday and went a step further again on Saturday. It was not an easy role for him, often having to face up against the tricky Tom Ince, but with Pugh ahead of him playing a disciplined role that seemed to help and Manning both defended well and attacked well. After a long drought of his previously excellent deliveries, things came good again. Not only that, when the team was down and facing a fairly devastating defeat, it was Manning who took things in his own hands to really make something happen - cutting in expertly and then playing the perfect through ball in for Hugill - a particularly lovely moment, because it showed he harboured no grudges towards Hugill for missing that earlier chance from one yard (sorry to keep going on about it). Then at the end of the game he bravely took on a shot rather than trying to maintain possession, which brought about our fourth goal. Would be great if he continues to re-find his form like this.

3. CENTRAL MIDFIELD: A lot of people have been saying this season that one of the reasons we have been so poor defensively is because we're losing the battle in central midfield too often. After trying a few different combinations in the two holding roles, on Tuesday Warbs pragmatically decided to field both Ball and Cameron, and when that worked well, apparently without ruining our attacking philosophy too much, he stuck with it here to even greater effect. OK, we stll conceded our customary two goals, but overall the pair of them were immensely effective - two hard workers who covered a lot of ground and gave us an extra layer of protection and, perhaps more importantly, a bit more height and strength (not that it stopped us once again getting caught on at least four occasions with deep crosses to the far post - a major weakness in our game). It also allowed Cameron to go forward a bit more than we're used to seeing, and suddenly he's out there attempting dribbles, drag-backs and other skills like he thinks he's Ebere bleedin Eze. One incredible run in the second half for a moment threatened to be the sort of solo goal that would have us making comparisons with Roy Wegerle. Interesting to see what Warbs does frm here - Amos will certainly come back into the side at some point, but while things are going well, he may have to bide his time a bit on the bench for a while.

4. HUGILL: Jordan's been getting a fair bit of stick from fans lately so I was really pleased to see him find some confidence, get a goal and generally contribute what was arguably a man of the match performance. In recent weeks I felt he hasn't won enough for us in the air, but on Saturday he was constantly picking balls out of the air and laying them off to great effect. He now has 12 goals this season - four more than the wonderful Heidar Helguson had at the same point in our promotion season. Of course, there's more onus on Hugill to score than Helguson because there is no Adel Taarabt, but they are similar players in many ways, and Helguson also took a fair few of our penalties. I think Hugill deserves far more credit than he gets, even if his frustrating propensity to hit the ball miles over the bar is enough to drive anyone nuts. If he goes on to get 15 or 16 goals, that's a decent return for any striker and the sort of return we have rarely seen in recent years. No, he's not vintage Charlie Austin, but who is?

5. BOS'S CHALLENGE: Ebere Eze should walk away with the Player of the Season gongs, but by far the most fascinating season for a player in our team is Bright. After a year of unfairly limited chances given by a limited manager, he started this season in the side under Warbs. He impressed, but, even as a huge fan of Bright since he arrived, the delivery wasn't quite there. Then injury saw him out the team again, before he worked his way back into the side around November. The moment it turned for him, I think, was his possiblr Goal of the Season at Birmingham. Since then, the 'no end product' naysayers have melted away, because Bright has been mainly excellent since then, scoring and assisting regularly.

This burst of form, and in particular his one-man dismantling of Swansea has had the consequence of making him a marked man. He's doubled up on frequently and both Swansea and Stoke played a player out of position specifically to look after our winger. So Bright is having to learn to deal with this sort of attention and Saturday showed how he will not be cowed by it. It was a terrific battle with Martins Indi that was even for long periods until eventually Bright's superior fitness and determination finally won out. His goal may have come from the other channel, but from around the 70th minute, Martins Indi looked a beaten man as Bright continually ran him ragged down the right, and perhaps should have brought us an extra goal or two. Still, it was a fine finish for our crucial third as he spotted a gap no one else noticed, and his blossoming continues - a potent mix of strength, pace and skill, he must be a tempting target for top flight clubs.

Clive is often unhappy with Warbuton's comments abiut Bright not having an Academy education, but when you look at his improvement this season, it's not hard to see Warburton's point: an outstanding talent is there, and slowly it's being honed. Equally, of course, Bright will have developed other skills by not being part of an academy - desire, determination, a willingness to scrap, that, yes, perhaps you don't see in all young PL graduates.

6. EZE: A quick word on our diamond. Last year he did run out of puff, hammered into the ground as he was by McClaren's understandable desire to play him in every single game. There were concerns the same may happen here and I noticed the odd sarcy comment slipping in from fans here and there about 'his head being turned' and so forth. More accurate, I suspect, is Warburton's belief that young players do have ups and downs. They don't have incredible consistency at 20, 21. Eze may have not been as impressive as he was early season, but he followed up a great first half at Huddersfield with a beautiful display at Swansea and an excellent one on Saturday. He may not be as demonstrative as Taarabt, as explosive, but Christ, if he did give it away on Sat, you could count the times on one hand. His gliding style, is calm confidence on the ball, his lovely, calm finish for the goal - it was all there on Saturday. Enjoy it while you still can.
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Queens Park Rangers v Stoke City prediction logged
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Queens Park Rangers v Stoke City prediction logged
Antti's Six Knee Jerks: Swansea 0 QPR 0
at 16:38 12 Feb 2020

Jerked from the comfort of my sofa. I've only been to Wales once and it was a nightmare (play off final). I'm never going again.

1. SELECTION: A few times this season we've embarked on mini winless runs and because of our dreadful tendency to turn a couple of bad results from a little skid across some skiddy ice to one of those mile-high sheer-drop water slides, we've all been conditioned to, essentially, panic whenever we lose two or three. This is despite us starting the year with two thrashings and a defeat of the league leaders. Still, the spectre of last season, the season before that and especially the season before that loom large, understandably, in our minds.

However, unlike his two predecessors, Mark Warburton does seem able to get a corner turned before a drama turns into a crisis. It's still not a win, and our first goal drought of the season has well and truly set in, but at least we chalked up a clean sheet and grabbed a rare point. Hopefully this will restore a bit of confidence in the side and we can move on from the fug left by Wells's departure.

I thought the selection Warbs made last night was both predictable and correct. Rangel was bound to come in, and Cameron was a cert, so it was all about who would go. In the end, Ball got the nod to stay and we started with, for Warburton, a very defensive line up. And it worked really well. Rangel looked better both defensively and with the ball than Kane has done in recent times. Cameron had one of his better games and Barbet brought back some much-needed vision at the back. Looking at the selection without seeing the game, you'd be forgiven for thinking MW went for a 0-0 and got it, but in fact our outlook didn't change. We still attacked - more than they did - and should have scored at least a couple of goals were it not for Hugill's failure to convert two or three very decent chances. So, right team, decent result, could've been better.

2. MANNING: I didn't, however, expect to see a recall for Ryan Manning who has been out of sorts for a while now. Whether Wallace was sick or injured or just rested, I'm not sure, but it was good to see Manning rediscover some of his early season form. I thought he was better here than he has been for some time, not only doing a very good job on the dangerous Ayew (a player who would need to pull off someone's leg and start beating about the ref's head before he might be yellow carded, it seemed) but also safe in possession and putting in a couple of sumptuous crosses that deserved more than they got. I think overall he's a better player than Wallace, but there's a real battle for that left back slot now, unless Warbs finally decides to give Ryan a go in midfield again.

3. RANGEL: Over on the other full back, the old warhorse was back, months off, but looking no different to the last time he played. The downside of Rangel is that we have to defend a bit deeper, the upside is that he's just a good defender. His anticipation is excellemt, his positioning very good, he sstops crosses and he passes the ball accurately. If only he were 10 years younger. If only he were five years younger. Plenty of people had influential games last night, but I thought from the start of the game Rangel looked completely determined to play his part. When a player gets to his age you sort of think that they're probably happy just to play the odd game, but they won't be. I'm sure Rangel wants to compete with Kane and play every week if he can. Brought some sure-footedness to the defence and was another good outlet for Kelly.

4. CAMERON: I subscribe to the common thought that if Cameron plays well, we play well. Last night he played well and did what he does best: winning the ball, showing strength, getting it, giving it (although I do think he has a propensity to sometimes mess up the simplest of passes), and he also had a few surges forward. Indeed, his clean strike on the half-volley could easily have brought a goal but for an unfortunate deflection. The problem, as with Rangel, is his age. He just cannot play at full tilt in every game, and that spot (or spots) at the base of the midfield are so crucial to how MW wants us to play. I agreed with Clive when he said the other week that Ryan Woods, who went on loan to Millwall, would have been ideal for us. Wonder if Warburton might think of trying to nab him in the summer...

5. PENALTIES: We've had our fair share of poor luck with pens this season (not least an appalling decision on Saturday), so I'm not too bothered if we got away with one last night, although I have to say I don't think any of them were penalties. There was contact with all three, but contact does not mean a penalty. Kelly's contact with Brewster was minimal and came after he had grabbed the ball at the 19th attempt. It was like a bar of soap, Martin. Barbet's shove was stupid and risky, but overall there was enough of a barge coming from the other way that I think the ref got it right. And Ayew's was a dive - the old trick of flicking his boot out at Barbet's leg and throwing himself down. He'd been hoding the ball, desperate for a challenge so he could try it and when the challenge didn't really come he did it anyway. Pretty poor.

6. SUBS: Said this on the Match Fred, but I thought Warburton got this about right. I wasn't even too happy about Rangel coming off. Sometimes in tight games, it feels risky to change things. No one really looked exhausted, except maybe Rangel and Pugh, and all over the pitch players were, on the whole, winning their individual battles. I might have taken Pugh off for Chair, but I felt he was giving Manning some decent cover and was showing for the ball well. Warburton had rotated quite a few players from Saturday's game, so most of them were pretty fresh. The only concern remains poor Eze, who, with the absence of Wells, we're starting to rely on more and more - just at the point where his goals have dried up a bit.

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Swansea City v Queens Park Rangers prediction logged
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Huddersfield Town v Queens Park Rangers prediction logged
Antti's Six Knee Jerks: QPR 0 Bristol City 1
at 10:39 3 Feb 2020

Wth the atmosphere flatter than a Paul Hart teamtalk, it was hard to believe this game took place in the same month as two triumphant thrashings and a defeat of the current league leaders. Then I remembered it was February 1st, a brand new month, and it seemed slighty more understandable.

1. PATIENCE: I had to feel sorry for the team. 30 minutes in, admittedly a goal down, and the boos started. I've talked about this before but I've been going to the football since I was two and I swear to God my recollection in the 80s was you had to be about 5-0 down before boos rang out and they generally only rang out at the end of the match. Now, apparently, we can boo after 30 minutes if things aren't going right.

That's not to excuse players or management for a very slow first 45 - although any team is going to find it hard to break down Bristol when set up like this. Clive reckoned they had 7 behind the ball, but I frequently counted every outfield player bar Diedhiou massed between the 18-yard line and an imaginary 30 yard line. Sorry, but while you might see Mane and Salah dance through that sort of density, at Championship level it's a different story. The booing was, it seemed to me, because the the team was not being direct enough. And there was too much passing backwards and sideways and not enough risks being taken. But sometimes patience is needed from players and fans. We were only 1-0 down. We dominated possession after that for long periods and once or twice the excessive possession led to chances when they finally found gaps - usually thanks to the celeverness of Ilias Chair.

It wasn't good enough, they knew that, MW knew that. I'm just not quite sure why we couldn't lend them a bit more support here? I get the frustration to an extent - although the weird notion that with Leistner and Scowen we'd somehow be troubling the play-offs but without them we've 'binned off the season' seems an absurd one to me. Even with Wells we weren't going to finish 6th and while I love to dream as much as the next person, sometimes dreaming that big is only going to add to your fury. At the start of the season, many were convinced we'd go down. By January, the club are being hammered for not chasing a play-off dream hard enough. To return to the point - who in this team does not work, does not give their all, does not show passion, does not try to pass the ball? In the bad times you often hear the refrain 'all i want is for my team to care and try and play good football' - well if that's the case, why not support this lot? People are angry at the state of football, they're angry about QPR's financial situation, at the owners and so forth. 'What's the point in coming,' they say, 'if they've binned off the season?' But what they're really saying is, 'what's the point in coming if we're not going to get promoted - or challenge for that?' And I think - if you think like that, fine. But this is sport and not all clubs can challenge all the time. We used to come because it was our local team and we loved the game and we wanted to see our team do well. I don't know when success was a pre-requisite for attendance. Maybe it's because of how fans are treated now - as customers, and as customers you demand satisfaction (especially at modern prices), so patience is in short supply.

But success never comes easily or quickly. We may have been conditioned to think that because of the quick turnaround under Warnock, but even that came off the back of three years of frankly crazy spending and he inherited a side packed with talent that had been appallingly managed. I looked at this team of cheap buys, free transfers, U23 graduates and two loans and thought, 'do this lot really deserved to hear booing after 30 minutes? Really?'

2. NICENESS: Personally, I actually like the fact that we're not in the ref's face all the time like most other teams. One of the greatest managers of all time, Brian Clough, always forced his players to be respectful of refs, and I've often thought that if players are reasonable refs might actually feel better disposed towards you. So complaints that we don't try to ref games like other teams are not something I agree with. But I do feel we are too nice sometimes. You look at that team on Saturday and think apart from Wallace, who's hardly Mark Dennis, walking yellow card Dom Ball, and Hugill, who is, admittedly, something of a sh!thouse, we're a very nice team of nice lads trying to play nice football. Now, of course, they are tough - you don't get to play at that level without being tough - but it does feel we're lacking a bit in that department - a real bully somewhere to give us a different dimension.

3. REFEREE: Gah, I hate it when a ref is one of my jerks. We didn't lose because of him, but he really wound me up on Saturday. Perhaps worst of all was the awful 'advantage' he gave when the ball had gone from the edge of their box into our own half. I'd love to know how he could explain how it was more of an advantage to have the ball in our half than a free kick near the penalty box - particularly as, unusually for us - we actually looked dangerous from set pieces on Saturday. But I think what angered me most was his laziness. Twice there were instances where he stopped the game and was in no rush to start it again. Once to give a yellow card to a Bristol coach (why can the fourth official not do that?) - and here, as we pressed for an equaliser, he walked the 20 metres to chat and then issue the card. Why walk? Why? You are a ref, we are not here for you, RUN mate. At the very least jog, or at least appear to be in a hurry. If you're not fit enough, then get out of the job. He then did the same thing with the drop ball, which somehow took about two entire minutes to sort out, this time walking slowly across the entire pitch. RUN, mate. This is a sport. RUN. If a player was being subbed and walked as slowly as he did he'd been in danger of a booking. Just GET ON WITH THE GAME. Utter crap.

4. EZE: People have been saying that Eze is a little out of sorts at the moment, and I think that's probably a fair comment. He's not quite the danger he was earlier in the season, although it's not through lack of trying. One thing I've noticed is that MW seems to be using him more of a playmaker and in recent weeks we've seen him dropping deeper and deeper for the ball and he rarely actually gets inside the box any more. He's a dangerous player, with a good shot, yet you almost never see him run past our striker any more. I just wonder if we're asking too much of him to create and need to give him a bit more license to get in where he can really hurt other teams. Whenever he gets near the box we look dangerous, but too often he seems to be playing his football out by the halfway line.

5. WALLACE: Saturday made me want to mould Wallace and Manning together as one. He seems to have now taken that left back slot as his own and while he did little wrong going forward or back, you did at times wish he had a bit more of Manning's early season guile as we searched for that equaliser. Still, I thought Bristol's goal was an excellent one but other than that I felt we defended well, with only really Diedhiou's overhead kick (which surely should have been a foul for high kicking) causing Kelly much of a problem (although it was Wallace who played Wells onside when he should have secured the game with a header).

6. CLARKE: After enduring the toughest of full debuts, it was great to see him come on and show why Warburton was keen to get him in. Maybe he's just more at home on the left wing. I thought he was superb - kept it simple: beat the man, get a cross in. One cross in particular was an absolute swirling, whipping beauty that could easily have brought an equaliser. Hopefully that'll give him confidence going forward.
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Queens Park Rangers v Bristol City prediction logged
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Blackburn Rovers v Queens Park Rangers prediction logged
Antti's Six Knee Jerks: QPR 1 Sheff Wed 2
at 11:06 27 Jan 2020

A disappointingly meek defeat against a team that turned up and played efficiently but without much invention or danger, and after our marvellous 3rd Round thrashing, it was back to the more traditional QPR FA Cup performance.

SELECTION: Aware I'm in a huge minority here, but i had very little problem with MW's selection and feel the stick he has received since to be a load of tosh. These are my knee jerks and I'll jerk as wildly as I want. I have very little problems with the changes he made and I think this was more than close enough to a first choice XI for the changes to be justified.

It made sense to rest Cameron who has been playing a lot lately and we have a lot of games coming up in the next few weeks. I also had no problem with starting Jack Clarke and only would have had a problem had we fielded a severely weakened XI, which we didn't. Clarke was in fact the only member of the entire team, bar Masterson, who has not had significant starts this season. This was undoubtedly the game to give him to see what he could do.Leistner for Hall was a no-brainer given Hall's injury issues and tha Masterson deserved to keep his place. There was no choice at right back, and Manning could hardly be describved as second choice, even if Wallace has maybe edged ahead of him in the last fortnight. Up front, Hugill was always going to play. The one change that I probably wouldn't have made was recalling Lumley, who I feel needs a spell away from the firs team to try and re-build some confidence, but as Kely was not even sub, I'm wondering if this was enforced. I love BOS, but Warbs has spoken before of how you have to look after playes like him with explosive pace and I can see why he resisted starting him again. Essentially, though, while this wasn't the strongest possible team MW could have put out, it was more than good enough to win and was hardly second string.

I think too often fans look at a team before kick off and disagree with it and then when it goes wrong they say, 'Well, that's because the selection was all wrong.' But those two things aren't automatically correlated. Before the Cardiff game Warburton was pilloried on here for fielding what many felt was an overly defensive side, hoping for a 0-0 draw. We won 6-1. Ball, Pugh and Scowen all started as part of a similar line-up against Swansea when we won 5-1 in a game that saw Masterson's first start for the club. On Friday, I did have some issues with the confusing 4-1-5 (let's generously call it a 4-1-4-1) formation, which I felt would leave us without a link man between defence and attack. But you can't blame formation on the first goal when two players stood around chatting while a throw went over their heads and the keeper fails to keep out a fairly routine shot. You can argue that this may not have happened has Bright and Kelly played instead of Clarke and Lumley, but I'd counter that whatever team you select of almost any ability should never defend like that. I'm happy to be critical of MW for our team's inability to defend set pieces this season - that stuff could and should be worked on in training. But this was beyond basic. It was absolutely dire, and I don't think you can level that sort of sloppiness at the manager's door. He has a right to expect his tea to do better.

And in the end, that goal was the difference. We could, probably should have won this game. We missed chances, we were a bit under powered, we conceded a second when we were taking risks, which was more understandable, but personally I had no problem with the selection. It was sloppiness that caused this defeat and MW had every right to trust the XI he put out to get a win.

2. CLARKE: There are lots of ways to describe a debut - I think there's a list of them somewhere from which football reporters get to choose. 'Dream debut' is when they score on their debvut. 'Showed some nice touches' is when they don't score, but don't do too badly. 'Clearly needs time to bed in' comes with an underwhelming display. And 'nightmare debut' is usually reserved for a keeper making a howler, or someone missing a penalty or getting sent off. For Clarke it was a case of him having a night that started badly and only got worse, no matter how hard he tried. It was a mercy-killing when he was finally hooked, and the poor boy was halfway off the pitch even before his number came up. I felt awful for him. Running into blind alleys, poor passing, caught cold for their first goal marking no one. The more he tried to rectify his errors, the more mistakes he made. There's no doubt he has great talent, and his gait is pleasingly reminiscent of Chris Waddle, but Warbs has work to do to get his confidence up. Early days, but felt really bad for the lad.

3. STRIKERS: This looks like it may not be a problem soon with the news that it seems Nahki Wells may be about to depart, dealing us a heavy blow for the rest of the season, but it often seems that if Wells is playing we're crying out for the strength and height of Hugill, but when Hugill isplaying we're crying out for the guile and pace of Wells. It's a conundrum Warbs has perhaps never quite solved, but Hugill will now have to carry that load on his back for the rest of the season unless something fortunate happens. There was no lack of effort form jordan on Friday, but in the end Wednesday dealt with him well - he won lessof the ball in the air than he normally does and really we failed to get up and support him or supply him with much service - strange, since we fielded so many number tens in one team. And Hugill's main problem was laid bare at 0-1 - a rare decent move and a good early ball finally gave him a sight of goal in a position very similar to the one where he scored so brilliantly against Swansea, but this time he hacked at his shot and it bounced tamely wide, to his obvious fury. huge pressure on him now to try and grab another 7-8 goals before the end of the season to keep our heads comfortably above water.

4. FIRST GOAL: We've conceded some horrors this season, but this one was right up there. I can almost bear honest mistakes - passes that go wrong, something like that. But players standing about and getting done by a throw-in - a throw-in! - was a new low even for us. I know Lumley has (of course) taken a lot of stick for the goal, and having seen it again I completely agree he should be stopping that (it seemed to go through him), but that sort of chance should never happen. Kane and Clarke culpable, while at least Ball spotted the danger and did his best to rectify it. However you look at it, it was so bad. so, so bad.

5. OUR GOAL: Having said that, it was nice to get a goal of the kind we've been giving out all season - the second one like that that Wells has had this season, actually, after the one at Millwall. Beautifully finished too - I always like to see a player go round the keeper, you rarely see it these days. Unfortunately, it happened just a bit too late, but when the ball dropped to Leistner from the corner soon after for a fraction of a second I thought we were going to rescue it.

6. ATTENDANCE: 11,800 apparently, which was not too bad. We probably could have opened the Ellerslie with that, which would have saved the ludicrous crush in the SA Road stand at half time. Well done to the Wednesday fans who came in such great numbers, and enjoyed their deserved win, but I'm in agreement with Warbs, it really felt like we didn't have a proper crack at it and we never really managed to get the crowd going.
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Blackburn Rovers v Queens Park Rangers prediction logged
Antti's Six Knee Jerks: QPR 1 Leeds 0
at 19:33 20 Jan 2020

I suddenly noticed during the second half that I'm becoming calmer watching this team. Usually when we're 1-0 up I'm on the edge of my seat, desperately hoping for a bigger cushion (for the team, not for me) and praying for us to hold on. Now, i feel relaxed. Not because I think we'll hold on to the lead, but because I assume we won't. Accepting we'll concede at least twice is actually quite liberating, and when on those rare occasions when we don't, the pleasure is merely doubled thanks to the element of surprise.

1. STYLES: Clive may comically deride this league for its desperate nature, its propensity to bear large similarities to a fight involving buns, and its drive to set records for sheer number of games to be played in the shortest month of the year, but I have to say, it is rather fun.

A big part of that fun is us. We are the funnest team in a division of fun. Our style means we rarely complete a game without being fun in some shape or form, but our style can also mean real fireworks. and when i say fireworks, I mean both kinds: the kind that we stare at and go 'wow! ooh! aah!' at, and the faulty kind that blow up while you're lighting them and leave you with a flayed hand.

It means that some sides, however good they are, will struggle against certain other sides that they should, on paper at least, beat easily. And others will beat sides quite easily when you might expect the games to be closer. For example, if the current Brentford side could pick a perfect team to play against, it would be us. Willing to attack, hugely vulnerable at the back, absolutely no chance of deciding to play for a 0-0 with a deep, packed defence and five strung across the midfield, no pace through the middle or at full back. We are made for them.

Leeds are not made for us, because they're a very good side. If you look at league positions, they should be beating us fairly easily. Yet despite them sitting above Brentford in the league, we were always going to enjoy more success against them. Leeds always have plenty of the ball, but they don't have the pace or the power of Brentford, nor do they have Brentford's stiff defence. They give you a chance, and with a team like ours, we don't really need to be give much of a chance. So while we had fortune in our win, Leeds never came close to the sort of dangerous domination Brentford enjoyed a week ago. They had plenty of the ball, but created very little. As Liam Kelly said, apart from the penalty, he perhaps only had to make two decent saves, and would have been disappointed had either gone in.

The difference in the two games was fascinating considering we were playing two teams of such a similar calibre. But that is the Championship. Teams are constantly going on long runs of winning and then of not winning - we're not the only ones. Teams have patches that propel them up to 8th, 7th, 6th, only for them to drop back down to 17th within a month. And vice versa. There isn't a team in the Premier League that has happened to this season except, perhaps, Southampton. And I love it.

2. THE MASTERSON: I won't spend too much on our saviour of the defence as it's been done very well by plenty of other people on this site already, but he did have a very good game. Big ticks are his heading ability and positioning - he headed away a lot of the ball on Saturday - and his comfort on the ball. Not ruffled, not rushed, happy to receive it even if he's in a fairly tight situation. And he's not afraid of making himself heard, either, which is important for a CB and especially in a team like ours which is not the loudest you'll meet (for all Leeds' fans complaining about us and the ref, it wasn't our players constantly in the ref's ear for the entire game).

He was done rather easily by Bamford in the first half, but things like that can happen to any defender, let alone one making a rare senior appearance at the start of their career and is at least excusable. But I will add a couple of things. The first is to commend Warburton, who could easily have put Leistner straight back in the side this week but decided that Masterson deserved to retain his place. That is one huge plus I love about Warburton - if you come in and do well, you will get a run and not be dropped once an established first teamer returns. Eze is perhaps the only player who could not be kept out the side by someone else. Secondly, for all the deserved praise Masterson has had, it's worth remembering that he's young, that this is only a couple of games, and that young players very often come in reeking of adrenalin and that is enough to carry them through the early matches. It is after that, after the first 10-15 games, when you start to really see if you have a player. Comparisons with Alan McDonald, or suggestions he should play every game for the rest of the season are not really helpful. It should be, and is, a one game at a time thing. Criticism of certain players has been well over the top, but I sometimes think this comes from there being too much praise early on - witness some posters deroiding others now for saying positive things about Lumley a year ago, for example.

3. LAST SEASON: There are inevitable comparisons with this season and last season. Both games 1-0. Both games Leeds deserved more out of. But in other respects this was a different game. Last year we really were fortunate, winning with a bit of luck, a bit of skill, some tireless work and of course Luke Freeman playing like the devil himself. This time there was nowhere near the intensity, we didn't require a virtuoso performance, and what we got was solid performances, if no spectacular ones, from all over the pitch. Leeds meanwhile did not create anything like the same amount or quality of chances. This time, they looked beaten long before the final whistle and bereft once they went down to 10 men. There's much discussion about our progress and how much (if any) progress we have made (considering our similar number of points and similar league position), but this game did show the difference in how we as a team coped better with Leeds, and did not need superhuman interference to deliver three points.

4. BRIGHT: Another mention for Bright. He's appearing here quite a lot lately, so I'll keep it brief. With no Hugill (who Warburton must've been wishing he could call on to give us someone to hold it up front and win the odd header), Wells did a brave job trying to compete for Kelly's long balls, but so did Bright. Using his incredible strength he constantly got his body between ball and marker and tried manfully to retain possession for us. I thought he battled really well and caused them problems all afternoon, and his one thrilling run where for a moment i thought he might somehow pick his way through a whole pack of chasing Leeds hounds, was almost the icing on the cake. Becoming a big player for us - that goal at Birmingham has transformed him.

5. WALLACE: It's taken him half a season, but he may now have finally won the left back slot, at least for a while. One of the reasons Warburton probably settled on Masterson in defence was that he had the option of putting Wallace next to him, giving him tha t valuable experienced head next to him. Wallace was also an improvement on Manning for his defensive side of the game, certainly stopping more crosses than Manning has been managing. That's not to have a go at Manning, who obviously has aspects of his game that are better than Wallace, but that bit of solidity at the back certainly helped us on Saturday -and maybe that added bit of organisation too made him a smart pick. Be interesting to see who plays against Wednesday.

6. CONTENTIOUS DECISIONS: I think it's fair to say it was handball - even under the old rules, when it hit Wells's right hand, it should have been disallowed. My rule on this is always to imagine what I would think if the decision went against us, and on this occasion I would have been annoyed. Not furious, because he did not know anything about it, and it was accidental, but certainly a bit cross it hadn't been seen by the officials. Having said that, the new handball rules seem to be nonsensical, where a handball in one situation is punishable, but not punishable in another situation.

Palace had a penalty awarded against them on Saturday which was then overturned after VAR. Yet it was a handball. Had Aguero used his arm in the same way and then scored, then it was no goal. But the Palace player doing likewise was not penalised, even though the intervention of his arm could have prevented a goalscoring opportunity. It is utter madness.

As for the Leeds penalty, there's no doubt Bamford dived, and no doubt Kelly tried to pull away. It probably should not have been given, but I wasn't too angry about it. Those ones tend to be given and I'd expect us to get similar ones in most cases (unless it involved our old Matt Smith). Fortunately, Kelly made a superb save, although I have to say he owes me a drink. Just before the penalty I stared at the ball, willing it to move, like Uri Geller did before Gary MCAllister's penalty at Euro 96. I think it did just slightly move, causing his small scuff, that helped Kelly make the save. I'm claiming it as at least partly down to me.
Stats on Eze
at 23:11 18 Jan 2020

Noticed some stuff about Eze on the match thread today that were not overy critical, but i still felt were unfair.
Hist stats today, for the record.

52 touches - most for QPR
88% pass accuracy - highest of QPR starting XI
10 ball recoveries
9 dribbles attempted - most on pitch
6 successful dribbles - most on pitch
2 key passes - as many as anyone on the pitch
2 shots
1 interception

Just because he's not single-handedly blowing the opposition away, does not mean he's not playing badly or not working hard enough.
Prediction Logged by at 17:15:50
Queens Park Rangers v Leeds United prediction logged
Antti's Six Knee Jerks: Brentford 3 QPR 1
at 12:22 13 Jan 2020

The most predictable result since lame race horse Mr Predictable attempted to take part in the Predictable Stakes at Royal Predictable in Predictableshire.

1. SELECTION: Like many others, I looked at the team selection by Warby and immediately thought, 'hmm, that doesn't look too promising.' The defence looked like a back four and keeper that Brentford would pretty much name as their ideal back four and keeper to play against. My conviction that this was likely to be a fairly easy home win was solidified.

At the same time, though, it was only two games ago that there were claims on here that the team put out for the Cardiff game was one that was a defensive side made up to nick a 0-0 draw. Turns out, that wasn't quite the case. Sometimes selections can surprise you. I was convinced Dom Ball would play RB v Cardiff - the idea of Cameron playing there seemed bizarre - but it worked. So I wasn't about to jump on Warbs's back about it.

Also, there was the point that he really didn't have a great deal of choice. While Graham Cameron may have been fine as a full back against the aerial attack of Cardiff, he was unlikely to be as well-prepared for the trickery and speed of the superb Benrahma. Rangel's experience might have been better, but he doesn't seem to be able to play more than an hour this season without needing time off. So Kane was his only real choice. At left back, he could have played Wallace, who had after all played left back in the two recent maulings. But Manning was back from his rest and it was only a couple of weeks ago that Warbs was being castigated for playing Wallace instead of Manning up at Barnsley - and his presence there didn't stop us from shipping five. In central defence, where we are already weak, we had two of our three senior, natural CBs out. You can say Masterson did well second half, but Brentford still created chances pretty much at will and had long since had the game won before he came on the pitch. I'm not sure he would have made any difference at all. So, I do have sympathy for the selection at least. I have less sympathy for what actually then occurred.

2. SET PIECES: And here's the main bone of contention. We have almost conceded as many goals just from set pieces as Brentford have in total this season. It is such an obvious, glaring weakness now that it's almost comical. To be fair, I actually thought Brentford's first was very difficult to defend. A hard, low ball from very close to the box - it is extremely difficult to beat someone to that when they know what's coming and you don't. And once he's hit it, from that range, there's not much you can do when it's in the corner. So I don't blame the defence or Wells for that one - but, as Clive says, Manning's foul was needless and when we are so poor from set pieces, one way to mitigate that is to not give away stupid fouls.

Their third was more typical of the set piece goals we've consistently conceded all season and this is becoming critical. I don't mind passing from the back, I love our style of play, I love how exciting we are in most games, how many goals we score, our at times excellent passing and imaginative movement. To have that, you do have to play in certain ways, take certain calculated risks and make certain sacrifices. But none of that involves being so unable to defend set pieces adequately. I also don't think it can be fixed merely by switching from zonal to man-marking. It's clearly deeper than that. I'm not, however, a defensive expert. I don't know if this is poor coaching, no coaching, or we happen to have a set of players who are simply not great at dealing with crosses into packed areas. But a team that often fields Hugill, Leistner, Hall and Cameron really should not be having a huge problem - all are decent in the air. It is true that teams target our left post - in other words, Manning, and maybe that is becoming a problem too big for our left back to deal with.

I don't know what the solution is, but I do feel it's one that can be solved. I saw Bosh calling for Clint Hill to be brought in to coach the defence, and while I kind of see the logic in that, I can't see why he'd leave an assistant boss role to be a defensive coach, I'm not sure we have the luxury to pay for such a specialist role, Fleetwood's defensive record is good (better than ours) but not noticeably great and, finally, just because we love him and he was a great captain, it does not necessarily mean he is a great coach or defensive coach. I'm not saying he's not, but I'm not sure how we *know* at this stage of his young career. This *should* be something Warburton and Eustace can fix themselves - and it really needs to be a priority now, because every team knows how weak we are in those situations. It may be that playing Wallace more regularly and bringing in a new CB alleviates the problem, but I met a Brentford fan on the way to the game who said Warbs's Brentford team couldn't defen set plays, and Forest fans say the same. It does seem to be a real problem with him.

3. FULL BACKS: I thought both full backs had poor games on Saturday. Manning was below par throughout, and his wonderful crosses and passing do seem to have dropped off over the last few weeks for some reason. First half, Mbuemo had him well tied up, so he must've been relieved when in the second half Brentford all but abandoned attacking down our left, so dominant was Benrahma against a game but completely out-classed Todd Kane. I don't want to pick on players, and I have mentioned this before, but right back is a huge issue for us now. Positionally, neither full back seem to get close enough to their wingers, and it's rare that either of them stop a cross. That improved when we played more of a diamond in midfield, but with Eze and Bright playing higher up again, these two are getting exposed by decent sides. On Saturday, Benrahma didn't so much rip Kane a new asshole than tear away all the flesh just to live one single gaping hole for his intestines to flop out of. It was absolutely horrific and it's beginning to happen too regularly. He is not a bad player, he has a good touch, he has a very good cross, but defensively we need more. You would imagine Rangel will have to go this summer, and I suspect a right back is very high on Warbs's wanted list.

4. LUMLEY: I was shocked Lumley was picked for this game. I like him, I still think he has a future, as I'm convinced that nearly all younger keepers go through tough times, and it's only in their late 20s / early 30s where they really start to blossom and become consistent and have that huge experience to rely on. You often see it with young players - an eplosive start, then a drop-off, then a sort of second-coming. But at the moment, it seems obvious to me that he has tobe taken out of the firing line. When you think back to the player we had 13 months ago, the player who never shut up, who you could hear yelling throughout the game, who was buoyed by incredible confidence in his own ability, and compare it to who we have now, there is no comparison. And you cannot be a nervous keeper. You cannot be a keeper who is struggling with confidence. Because then every single thing you do is a problem. Every kick, every cross, every shot. When Lumley has to think, at the moment, he's in trouble. He's not happy coming off his line, sweeping up, as he was a year ago. His handling is not as safe. His kicking, which while never great, was decent, has become erratic.

It was good at the game to hear the fans cheering him, giving him encouragement during the second half, in stark contrast to the nonsense he's faced online. But this is a shell of the player we knew, and for his own sake he must sit it out for a while. I applaud Warbs's faith in him, and no goal on Saturday was totally his fault (we should have been able to defend his poor kick - it wasn't great, but it wasn't like he presented Mbuemo with a free run on goal), but Kelly has to be given his chance.

5. CAMERON, BRIGHT: On a more positive note, I think both these two deserve a bit of praise. Neither had a great first half. Cameron was culpable for the second goal and generally struggled, while BOS got no change out of Henry (another excellent player) on the very rare occasions he actually got the ball. But second half, at least those two (and to be fair, most of the team) battled. Cameron came out and snapped into challenges, usng his big frame to its full advantage to spider over players and continually win the ball with some bone-shuddering challenges. He demanded the ball, he went looking to win the ball, he showed desire and fight.

Bright did likewise. He was very evenly matched with Henry, who must be one of the few full backs in the league who can match BOS's pace. But, by sheer bloody-mindedness, by using everything he had - skill, strength, pace, desire, he made things happen, he set up a goal, and caused problems. Othet players would have folded a bit, but he kept Henry tied up, and at least stopped him marauding forward - not that Benrahma needed much help up there. Great attitude from both.

6. FANS: I sometimes give some of our fans a bit of stick, but they deserve praise here. I wasn't enamoured by all the songs. Bus Stop in Hounslow is funny before the game, and would be funny if you were winning 2-0. But at 0-3, it sounds utterly pathetic. There was a very, very brief rendition of that awful 'we're fkn sh!t' song, but thankfully it didn't last - it has to be said, while in the past it had some merit, it was extraordinarily mean to chant that off the back of our last two results, however poorly we were playing. But those two niggles aside, he fans were excellent. I fully expected the end to be half empty at the start of the second half, but everyone seemed to stay and the humour was good. When you see Villa fans walking out after 28 minutes last night, that shows how good our fans are. I'm not sure anyone did that. The willingness to sing in the second half was great, and the 'We've got the ball / We've lost the ball / We'll win it back' chant was genuinely funny - the 'win it back' part was fantastically defiant too - loved it. And well done all the fans who gave Lumley their backing - he appreciated it, you could tell.

What we have to temember is that Brentford are on a a steep upward curve. This is not overnight - this is years of work. And while we can all be wise after the fact now, there were precious few, if any, fans saying we should be more like them 6 or 7 years ago when they started on this journey and we were in the Premier League singing about how rich we were. As Clive pointed out - they are a model, but not just for us. For loads of clubs. For loads of much bigger clubs then them - and us - but the key is patience. We're seeing green shoots. We're on the right track. If the most negative fans, who came flooding back on here on Saturday after their relative placidity after the previous two games, could accept this instead of always demanding instant change, we'd all be a lot happier.

Clubs of our size and similar, whether it's Norwich, Fulham, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Watford, Palace and now Brentford, will never, ever have prolonged success in the top flight. Bournemouth have had a wonderful run, but that looks like it's coming to an end. Palace are dojg well, but at some stage in the next 10-15 years, they'll be relegated. History tells us this. You can demand the best, you can demand change, you can demand whatever you want, but our clubs, our mid-sized clubs, simply cannot and never will reach the stage where, like Spurs, Everton, Arsenal, Man U, and now City and Chelsea, relegation is almost an impossibility. In my view, we already reached the bottom of our curve, and we're starting to swing up. But that upswing, of a kind more sustainable than the one built quickly by Warnock, however much we loved it and loved him, simply takes more time. We will get there. Praise be to the fans who'll stick with us.
Prediction Logged by at 10:35:01
Brentford v Queens Park Rangers prediction logged
Great debuts
at 15:08 7 Jan 2020

Following on from the praise for Masterson, what are the best QPR debuts you've seen?

Clive Allen's is an obvious one, but I wasn't there. For me, Gareth Ainsworth stands out, brilliant debut v Blackpool. Lee Camp, first time. Jamie Mackie's was decent.

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