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|Antti's Six Knee Jerks: QPR 1 Barnsley 0|
at 11:14 5 Feb 2018
A much-needed win, but not exactly a performance to relish. Still, a losing run snapped earlier than 5 or 6 losses in a row is always a bonus.
1. SCOWEN: I haven't got to Clive's report yet, but his headline seems to suggest that he agrees with me that Scowen was a clear man of the match. Obviously up for this match against his old club, this was probably Josh's best performance of the season and while he hasn't been in top form lately, you have to say he's probably our most consistent performer this season, along with Smithies.
This really was Scowen at his best. Tackling, harrying, forever in the right place at the right time. His positional sense is so good, that he's often able to make crucial interceptions just as it looks like the opposition may be about to burst through. And on Saturday he (finally) added a goal to his game - and an absolute pearler too - weirdly almost a carbon copy of the one scored by Danilo for City at Burnley just a few hours earlier. He was allowed a bit too much space, as Friend was for Boro the other week, but when someone scores from that kind of distance I kind of think that's irrelevant - it needs to be a shot of real quality to go in, and that was superb from Scowen. A lovely dip so that while it flew comfortably over the keeper's hands, it hit the net quite low down. Lovely technique.
But perhaps the most Scowen-y moment of the game came in the first half, when Barnsley's lumbering striker, their equivalent of Mathieu and the sort of forward that Championship teams have a contractual obligation to have somewhere in their squad, Moore, chased a ball down by the dugouts. Along came Scowen - BANG. Got underneath him, won the ball, left Moore in a heap, then jogged off, quietly pleased that he'd just fairly cleaned out a man twice his size and weight. Glorious.
2. COUSINS: Well, he finally gets a start in his preferred position and while he was clearly trying his heart out, it was not a great day for Jordan. I'm desperate for him to do well. He's only young, which people seem to forget, he has the tools, he's had horrendous luck with injuries since he's joined after being injury-free in his career before that, he's been asked to play wing back, full back, and right wing, and he's never managed any momentum. In fact, he's probably never looked as good as when he came on as sub on his debut v Leeds at the start of last season. It's heartbreaking to watch a player so clearly devoid of confidence to the extent that when he gets the ball his first thought is to get rid of it. Now, I know there were a lot of occasions on Saturday where we were crying out for players to play the quick ball, but this was different. He wanted rid because he didn't want to make a mistake and in central midfield in particular you need more calmness. The one time he did get his head up and began striding through central midfield, he was cynically hauled down. He looked tired early in the second half too. Feel for him and in a way the only way it'll get better is to play 10 games in a row in central midfield. That seems unlikely (although with Luongo seemingly injured and Manning suspended, he may have a better chance than you might expect).
3. MANNING: Another one I feel for after that. It was a bad challenge and while you'd hope he wasn't trying to injure anyone (let's not roll out the old 'he's not that type of player' nonsense - for anyone, I mean, not just Manning) it was a clear red. I always think if I'm looking worriedly at the ref immediately after a challenge, I can't complain about a red, because it's crossed my mind as a possibility. Here, I looked straight over, saw the hand in the back pocket and knew that was it. On the replay, you can even see Bircham there, not even arguing. If he's not arguing, you have to accept it. Although, obviously, if we were Bristol we'd be straight on the FA to appeal it. Shame for him because if Luongo is out injured there was a spot up for grabs there, and while I'm not as enamoured with Manning as some fans, he is undoubtedly talented and has a fighting spirit that I like and it might have been nice to see him in a midfield three for a few games.
4. FORMATION: Well, Ollie finally agreed with many on here and reverted to a flat back four. In some ways, it worked: he was rewarded with Lynch having probably his best game in a QPR shirt (although that should be tempered by the fact that Barnsley's strikers looked about as threatening as... well, our strikers). Right from the start he looked up for this one, winning headers, making himself available for the ball, playing some lovely passes, and in the second half made one fine covering tackle (mercifully he didn't dally as he often does once he had won it and cleared his lines well) and then that good block from Barnsley's best chance of the game (although replays suggest Smithies had it covered). Perhaps he feels happier in a back four? Or perhaps with no Bidwell to yell at, he was able to concentrate on his own game a bit more?
But in other ways, it made little difference. We played, I thought, a kind of 4-3-1-2, with Pav being the 1, and playing wide, making it quite lopsided. We've been begging for width, and for Pav to have a more attacking role, and that happened and it was an improvement. But there was nothing down the left. The amount of times a player looked up, could see ACRES of space on the left, but no one there was criminal. Ollie's so terrified of being overrun in midfield that Freeman was tucked in as usual - often nowhere near the left, and so we overloaded the right and became predictable. This overloading might have worked if we could then switch it quickly to the left, but there was never anyone there - apart from one stunning Lynch run and cross that put most of our wingers to shame. And yet, when BOS came on, suddenly we did have width and looked far more dangerous as a result.
5. OSAYI-SAMUEL: Which brings us on to another Bright cameo. I thankyow. Pace and a desire to run at people. What a difference it makes. Three times he terrorised the Barnsley back line - he should have scored with one chance, was unlucky with another and really should have combined with Pav to kill the game off the third time. But what a treat to see some actual pace! To see someone attacking with directness and without fear! OK, his finishing wasn't quite there, but it was a good sub by Ollie and BOS really gave Barnsley a worry when they were trying to snatch an equaliser. As has been said many times before, I'd love to see a front four of Pav, Freeman and BOS playing behind Smith or Sylla - that width, that added pace, feels like it would really make us much more dangerous.
6. SMITH: It's been a year and I still don't know. To me he feels like a modern day Devon White. Really useful sub, really useful back up number 9 for when your brilliant usual number 9 is injured. The difference is, back in Devon White's day, our usual number 9 was fkn brilliant. Now, Smith *is* the usual number nine. And he doesn't even have a Penrice or an Allen who'll get on the end of his flicks. And is it that Washington can't read his flicks, or are Smith's flicks just not that good? I don't know anymore. When we're losing and chasing a game, Smith feels like a great weapon. But on from the start, it doesn't seem to work, and by the time an hour's gone, Smith looks exhausted lugging his huge frame about. I like him, but somehow he's not a target man.
Unfortunately for him, referees don't like him at all. I don't know how many penalties he's appealed for this season. It must be around double figures, and while they obviously weren't all pens, some were and the one on Saturday was the clearest of the lot. It's become a joke now that refs just will not pay any attention to the clatterings he gets in the box from panicky defenders. Just before Scowen's goal, he was pushed, grabbed and finally hauled down - his shirt stretching half a metre from his body. Clear as day. It was such a clear penalty that even after the goal Pav, Freeman and Smith all asked the ref about it. That's how sure they were. They were celebrating a goal yet still couldn't believe they hadn't been awarded the spot kick. And I had sympathy. A clear and obvious penalty and it's a scandal that Smith's size allows defenders to assault him with impunity in the box.
PS - I hope all the punters witnessed Onuoha's brilliant first half through ball, that should've brought a goal. Turns out he can pass after all.
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|Antti's Six Knee Jerks: QPR 0 Boro 3|
at 13:09 22 Jan 2018
Last week we were looking up, this week we're looking down again.
1. OUTCLASSED: There are games sometimes when you've been heavily beaten and you're disgusted: the effort wasn't there, the belief wasn't there, the pride wasn't there, perhaps they gave up after just going a goal down and then pathetically capitulated and it's all a load of sh!t and why do you bother and how much is this costing and fk me this makes me miserable and it's raining and what's the point we never win anything anyway and we're going to get relegated and I HATE THE WORLD!
But Saturday wasn't one of them. I looked around after the game and thought, well, no one played what I wuld consider to be 'well' (a 7/10), but on the other hand no one was that poor either, and if they were, it wasn't through lack of effort. Until their goal, which, while annoying for it to come from a set piece, was very well-worked and almost impossible to defend if you don't win that near post ball, we'd even been marginally the better side. After that, though, they just looked bigger, stronger, faster and even seemed to have a man more than us at times. They moved the ball well, shifting us one side then exploiting space on the other, and in the end, it was a very good, professional performance from them that we had no answer to. There are reasons and failures for that, of course, but they were just too good.
2. ROBINSON: My Man of the Match. I do hope we can get him to rejoin this summer because he's turning into a very decent player who is also quite versatile. On Saturday he had our three best moments: A thunderous effort from range that would have been a match for Friend's later goal had it been a couple of inches lower; An absolutely superb slide rule pass in the second half that went in behind the Boro full back, and split their defence and which should have led to a goal; a fine goal-saving, goalline clearance. Had he scored with a diving header (which he really should have done - even Lee Cook put two of those in during his career, and they were literally the only two times he headed a ball), it would have capped another very good display from someone who must be moving into the reckoning for player of the season. Thought he, Onuoha and Lynch actually played pretty well, considering we let in three, with Assombalonga the quietest I've seen him against us.
3. ADAMA TRAORE: Boro probably had at least four of the top five performers on the pitch on Saturday (Ayala, as usual, superb against us, Shotton also excellent), but Adama (one of five footballers in the world called Adama Traore, apparently) was the pick. I couldn't believe it when I did a bit of research after the game and discovered it hadn't really worked for him at Villa and his richly deserved goal on Saturday was his first for Boro. Because he looked like he had the lot - pace, power, skill, a willingness to track back, almost impossible to knock off the ball (Robbo tried two reducers near the end, one of which was two-footed and he was lucky to get away with, but it made little difference) and he scored a great goal. He was excellent. Far too good for us, and if he continues that level of performance, far too good for this league. Really impressive.
4. FORWARD LINE: Clive said in his Burton report that Ollie's decision to play two smaller, quicker forwards against Burton's big man defence was a brave choice, but one that worked. He went with the same on Saturday, but sadly Boro's defence, especially now under Pulis's eye, is a totally different proposition. Oteh struggled to establish himself, although at times he showed good willingness to move around and receive the ball. Washington was really no better than he's been all season - in fact, his first three touches were all in good areas and he failed to find a QPR shirt with any of them. It was really frustrating. In the end, he was lucky he wasn't hooked at half time, and while after the break he did perform one good take down of a long ball before firing wide, he was never a threat to the Boro backline. In retrospect it seems obvious we needed more strength up there, and with our chronic lack of goals continuing, it really might be time to try a 4-2-3-1 (as we had in the second half, with some limited success) so that we can perhaps get Pav and Osayi-Samuel wide on the wings putting balls into the box for Smith/Sylla (with the option of Freeman shifting wide to accommodate Eze if needs be). On Saturday, it was mostly too easy for Ayala and chums. We were too small, too weak, and with not enough guile to trouble them enough.
5. CHANCES & PENALTIES: Which does bring us onto this. Although we were well beaten, the fact is, this should have been a lot closer. Boro scored a good set piece, a worldy and a well-worked final goal as we searched for a way back. Smithies made one other fine save that I remember, but the fact was Boro weren't rampant. They didn't need to be, you could argue, but shots weren't raining down every 10 seconds. Meanwhile, we did have chances, particularly one for Lynch that he should have put away and a header by Smith from a perfect Freeman corner that really should have been a goal. And then there were the penalty shouts - three of them, all against Smith - at least one of those was a pen. I know you can't add up small infringements, but one in particular he was blatantly impeded from getting to the ball. The final one, he appeared to take an elbow to the face. So there was bad luck here, but also an inability to punish teams when we do make chances. It's been a problem all season, and doesn't look like it's going to change any time soon, sadly.
6. POSITIVES: Well there weren't many, but I thought Furlong had a good game, particularly up against Adama - and it said a lot that he switched wings, I thought. Oteh tried hard and it will be good to see more of him. Eze clearly has talent - he's so comfortable on the ball, and is strong and confident. Cautiously optimistic. And we had Manning on the bench too. There are some green shoots. We might look back on these days as the start of something exciting. This level of penetration into the first team picture is unheard of for many, many years. Not all of them will make it with us - but even if one does, that'll be something.
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|Antti's 6 Knee Jerks: QPR 1 Bristol City 1|
at 08:54 25 Dec 2017
Would have settled for a draw before, wouldn't have settled for a draw at half time, annoyed that we drew in part thanks to an awful penalty decision, but, let's be honest, a draw was fair. Draw.
OLLIE'S XI: Well, apart from a fully fit Hall in for Baptiste and, well whoever Ollie thinks are his best options up front this week, that was Ollie's best XI. And for the first half at the very least, you could see why. QPR were much the better side than the much-vaunted but perhaps hungover City, and a 1-0 half time lead was the very least the team deserved.
With the back three all playing in their most comfortable roles, Onuoha already looking fitter, Scowongoman back on song, Pav happier being allowed to attack more and Osayi-Samuel's pace clearly worrying City's defence, we suddenly looked like the upper mid-table side we might have been if not for debilitating injuries at the back.
Granted, the second half saw us pegged back, especially for the last 20 minutes, but you'd expect that for a team in the top 4 chasing an equaliser. It's kind of worrying that with a squad this big, you realise that it's only our top 14 or 15 players who genuinely seem to have the quality we'd need for a comfortable season, but at the same time our proper first XI probably is a match for most sides in the league. Any sort of result against Cardiff in January will underline that - Wolves, Sheff U, Cardiff and Bristol will have all been to LR and none will have come away with the three points.
PAVEL WSOLEK: He's been a little frustrating this season. He started really well, then his form drifted, then he was in and out the side in a variety of positions, none of them his strongest. But he's stuck with it, manfully committed to a role at right back and yesterday he was more of a wing back, but with license to really go forward. This was due to the experience and confidence of Baptiste, who covered him really well, and got forward very effectively himself. In the first half in particular, the pair of them really pushed back the Bristol left side, so that very little came down their left, but most of our best play came down their right, particularly with one lovely move that ended with Baptiste attempting a backheel on the edge of the six yard box when he might have been better taking a swing at it.
Yesterday I thought Pav was brave, smart, strong, skilful and dangerous. The problem was his crossing. Always good with a pull back from the byeline, his crossing from deeper wasn't good enough, and too many decent opportunities went begging. Hopefully, though, he's coming back to his best and a settled role as an attacking wing back (I thought defensively, especially in terms of positioning, he improved yesterday too) could pay some dividends - we badly need someone other than Freeman to create decent chances.
3. BRIGHT OSAYI-SAMUEL: Bit of a curve ball thrown by Ollie to play BOS up front, but it overall worked pretty well. He enabled us to break a little quicker than normal and unlike the confidence-free Washington he was always looking for the ball. Early on, he battled well and ran through to force the Bristol keeper into a good save and afterwards was neat and tidy in possession and gave Scowongoman another option for some of the quick passing through the centre of the park.
I have to agree with other views on here that taking BOS off contributed to our gradual fading from the game. Bristol had been clearly worried by his pace throughout the game and while he wasn't exactly battering down the door to score, he was a concern. Once he went off, that threat receded and Washington never managed to carry the same kind of threat. There's been a couple of patronising things thrown round about BOS, including from our own manager, but the guy's played a few Championship games for Blackpool, 26 at League One Level and a full 42 at League Two - a great record for someone his age. Bought for the future, but he certainly has a great upside.
4. ALEX SMITHIES: A rare rick from Smithies last week, but back to his absolute best again this week. I just re-watched some of his superb saves, but the one from the header has to be the pick of the bunch - superb reactions. Also, after spilling the shot last week, the way he clung on to the skiddy, deflected strike was first class. that's the sign of a strong keeper - one who can put mistakes behind him. As Clive says in his match report, he deserved a clean sheet for that performance, even if Bristol deserved a draw for the chances they created.
5. SUBS: I also agree with the general feeling on here that the subs made by Ollie, who often affects game positively with his changes, made us weaker. Washington for BOS seemed needless - he wasn't tiring and he clearly looked disappointed to come off, especially so early. Smith for Sylla was a little more understandable, but despite the tiresome moaning about Sylla for the entire game from people around me when he failed to get his head on balls 9 feet in the air, Smith was even less effective. And that was predictable. Smith is a good player to bring on when you're chasing a draw or a win - not when you're defending a lead. He was never going to get the service he needed and he's not great at holding the ball up. In the end it felt like as much a decision to have an extra decent header at the back for their set pieces than any hope he might score. To that extent, it worked, but once Freeman went off too (to be fair to Ollie, he had been feeling his leg a bit before that, so it may have been precautionary) any hope of late attacking intent went out the window.
Still, I felt the team worked extremely hard and were very resilient. Once again, this is not a team that looks like it's not playing for the manager. And Bristol, for all their much-vaunted passing game, were outplayed for about an hour, with the whole team working to shut them down and give them no time on the ball. Three times in the first half they played aimless balls straight out of play because we had closed down all the options. Only the switch to route one stuff aimed at the effective, if niggly, centre back Flint, brought them into the game.
6. REFEREE: I'm not one to blame referees for results. The decisions they make rarely totally influence a game in my opinion. Good teams get more decisions because they attack more and put themselves in areas and create pressure that leads to rash challenges. Look how many pens we got the year we won the league - and not always because of Adel's theatrics.
But this was a strange performance. I thought he was very good first half, refusing, on the whole, to give easy free kicks and allowing the game to flow. He even did a drop ball, which is always welcome. Second half, things began to unravel. A few odd decisions led me to predict he would award a penalty - and three seconds later he did just that. I've watched it again now and there is a bit of a melee in there, but I'm still not quite sure what he thinks he saw. One Bristol player (Flint, I think) launches himself into the air, misses the ball, crashes to earth and appeals for a pen, another may have had a minor push, but it was nothing he wasn't doing too. It doesn't look a pen to me, and if it had been us, I don't think I'd have been on my feet demanding one either.
Still, any anger I had was tempered by the fact that Bristol deserved a point in the end and that we showed great heart throughout the match.
Merry Christmas to you all!
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