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Antti's Six Knee Jerks: QPR 2 Hull 3
at 13:13 3 Dec 2018

People laughed when Stewart Lee once took the p!ss out of a cab driver for saying 'you can prove anything with facts', but maybe that cab driver was in fact extremely wise. On the one side, we've only lost two in 10 and only one of our last five at home. On the other hand, after a great run, we now only have one win in five and it could feel like we're slipping down the other side of the mountain. This is the life of a QPR fan. And, in fact, contrary to popular belief, the life of fans at the vast majority of clubs. Take the rough with the smooth - you have to, because what choice do you have?

1. DEFENCE: I started getting concerned after the two quick (and poor) goals given away at Rotherham, and now I'm worried we've returned to the dark days of the start of the season. That's nine in four games now after shipping just three in the previous six. I'm not quite sure what has happened, but a lot of the goals to me appear to be down to some basic errors: giving the ball away in a dangerous area (twice on Saturday); goalkeeping error (v Brentford); defensive gifts (Stoke); awful defending from set pieces (last three games). What started as unusual blips after weeks of excellent concentration and heroic effort, is now feeling more like a pattern.

On Saturday Leistner looked exhausted, Rangel looked tired and was struggling with high diagonal balls, Lynch had another poor game after his magnificent October and early November, and Bidwell was below par. All three goals were highly avoidable (although the third was less about defence and more about a poor ball by Hemed) - but worse than that was that, particularly in the first half, we looked vulnerable almost every time Hull attacked.

I'm not quite sure what's gone wrong, but I suppose the main thing to look at is that we've also started scoring a lot more goals while we've been conceding. Perhaps the balance isn't quite right. Or perhaps the team as a whole was understandably tired after having to chase a game for the third time in a week.

2. FIRST 20: Not quite sure what was going on in the first 20 minutes on Saturday, but it was pretty dire, or, being kinder, tired stuff. Sloppy passing, slow to the ball, second balls lost, defensive frailty. You can't start a game that slowly. It was similar to the Rotherham game - we looked ok on the front foot, but anything that came at us we looked scarily vulnerable. The first goal I saw coming the moment Bidwell and Lynch got in a mix up - as soon as we didn't win that first ball, the result was almost inevitable.

We've had two really hard away games, whereas Hull had two home games, albeit one against Norwich, so perhaps that had affected things, I don't know. Once we did wake up, we probably had our best spell after their second goal and really should've gone in at the break on level terms after creating some great chances, forcing some good saves and seeing a shot crack the post. Still, we need to start better than that.

3. SUBS: The 'Plan B' at the moment is to revert to a midfield diamond, keeping Eze behind two strikers, but with Freeman pushing in and Luongo going wider. It's not a bad plan and it worked against Rotherham. But on Saturday we were crying out for width. Dave Mc even called it on Twitter very early on - we weren't pressurising their full backs with pace, and there was joy to be had there.

That was proven late on (very late on) when Osayi-Samuel was finally introduced, picking splinters out of his backside as he ran onto the pitch. He had five minutes plus injury time to make an impact, and he didn't get near the ball for the first four. But then he delivered three quality balls intothe box, terrorised their full back and helped produce a goal. You went away thinking that had he come on even five minutes earlier we might have salvaged a draw.

Having a Plan B that the team understands and can switch to quickly is only common sense, and marks a change from last season where you'd frequently see Freeman or Scowen in long conversations with the bench following a couple of changes made by the manager. But we need one that involves BOS, because he can change games and he does give us an extra gear with his pace. It seemed bizarre it took SMc so long to bring him on when we had three strikers up there just gagging for a cross or two.

4. EZE: Not a knock on Eze at all, it was a tough game and he struggled to find space. I think he's been brilliant this season and of course your first instinct is to keep him on. However, he's played almost every minute of every game, and I think that Saturday was one of the rare games when he should have been sacrificed. It wasn't happening, and moving him further and further back into midfield only nullified him further.

Keeping him on is understandable, because he can change a game quickly, get a goal out of nothing. But earlier this season McClaren made a huge decision when he decided only one of Wells and Hemed could start a game. It was a tough one, but the right one, and the one that benefited the team the most. Here a similar thing was needed. On Sunday, Jurgen Klopp sacrificed a misfiring Salah, and (foirtunately) got the result he needed. And that's the lesson. Eze may in some ways, with Freeman, be our best hope at finding a goal, but when you're loading the box, it's easy to defend if there's no threat out wide to stretch the defence. Every now and again, it's ok to sub the wonderkid.

5. BOWEN, GROSICKI, CAMPBELL: A quick word on Hull. I hate it when fans say one team was useless, thereby giving no credit at all to the opposition. The fact was, Hull played very well - that's worth noting. We caused them problems, but I thought Elphick played well at the back and the keeper made some fine saves. But it was up front where I was most impressed. Campbell's movement, pace and strength was very good - probably the best I've ever seen from him for years. And we struggled badly to get the ball off Bowen or Grosicki, who dribbled well and passed intelligently and held it up when they needed to. With those three on the offence, you'd expect Hull to start doing a little better.

6. ADDITIONAL TIME: I say 'additional time', but only officials, commentators and tw@ts call it that. It's injury time or, at a pinch, 'stoppage time', isn't it? I thought the ref was not great throughout - not biased, particularly, just poor. One case in particular when we had a yellow dished out and then he failed to issue one to a Hull player for an almost identical offence was particularly irritating. Inconsistency is worse when the two decisions are just moments apart. But it was injury time that was my biggest bugbear. Campbell was down for a minute before the board even went up (89-90), hinting that if he hadn't have been down, it would only have been three. I just cannot see it. I was genuinely expecting 6, with 5 as an absolute minimum. I don't care too much about time wasting, everyone does it, Hull were no worse than anyone else really. But the ref has to add that time on. On Saturday in the second half he spoke tom players two or three times about it, twice did some time-consuming business of doing a drop ball, we had goals, subs etc. 4 minutes was flabbergasting. I'm not blaming the ref for us losing, I hate that, but I thought the timing was badly wrong in Saturday.
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Messageboard Theory
at 10:08 30 Nov 2018

As we're all quite happy (at least until the meltdown after tomorrow's inevitable 1-0 defeat), I've been developing a theory about this MB.

Is it me, or is it a much nicer, friendlier place to be than it was a few years ago? There are discussions, but nasty ones are now few and far between (not eradicated completely). Even me and paulparker agree on about 90% of stuff these days.

Why is it? I'm thinking it could be age. We're all getting older and the young blood isn't coming through. The young firebrands and tyros spill their utter nonsense on social media instead. I think that's good. We may be getting older here, but it's a haven of relative sanity.

But does that mean LFW will one day wither, like an old Rotary Club?
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Goals Link
at 19:32 24 Nov 2018

https://www.skysports.com/watch/video/sports/football/competitions/championship/

Two fantastic goals for us. Superb balls by Eze and Rangel's header was as much a bullet as the Helguson one highlighted by Clive in his preview.

Two goals against not so good, but a really good point.
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Antti's Six Knee Jerks: QPR 3 Brentford 2
at 21:56 12 Nov 2018

Said it before, but is this the same season. From a feeling of absolute and understandable apathy only a few weeks ago, suddenly this is properly exciting - good football, goals, excitement, and success. Winning from behind, holding on to leads. Big Friendly Germans. Pav! As Clive said so superbly in his report, games like Saturday are so rare, but they remind you of being a kid again - you can forget everything except the drama in front of you. Nothing else matters - a great game, except for the fact that I feel really sorry for Real Brentford, who were certainly the best team we played this season, if not this decade, and would've won, were it not for all the goals we scored.

1. TWO HALVES: I think there was a bit of a feeling both at the game and on the venerable match fred that QPR did not play particularly well in the first half. There was no booing, no real murmuring, but, still, the feeling was that we hadn't done well. And, correspondingly, that we were much better in the second half.

I'm not so sure about this. As my predictions in the equally venerable as the match fred Prediction League bear out, I am not an optimistic man. I rarely predict a win. Although, this is not really about optimism or pessimism, it's more about superstition. But still, I rarely predict a win. But at half time on Saturday, I wasn't worried. Brentford's defence, to me, looked undeniably shaky. We were causing them problems and while admittedly early on we had struggled to cope with their movement, as they often seemed to find players in wide open spaces concerningly close to our box, as the half progressed we took more control of the game and probably should have gone in on level terms. I felt sure we were going to come back and win the game.

True, the first few minutes of the second half, where we contrived to give the ball away with almost every kick, played against that, but once we settled down, we tore into them and my instinct was, for once, correct. I was pretty certain we'd equalise, very confident we'd score our second from Freeman's free kick, but was, I admit, surprised about the third, especially coming that quickly.

So in some senses, the second half was better, but my jerk is that even in the first we were not bad at all. For the first time in quite some time, we matched Brentford and, ultimately, were the better side - even if our unfair tactics of shutting down their defenders high up the pitch was unscrupulously poor sportsmanship.

2. FREEMAN: Having said all the above, one player who really did have the cliched game of two halves was Luke Freeman. What I love about Lukey is, usually, the fact you can give him the ball in almost any circumstances and he'll keep it. even under great rpessure he'll trick his way out or toe it to a teammate. Not in the first half on Saturday. Passes went out of play, he was continually tackled, passes went to red and white shirts, he kept it too long, he tried to get rid of it too quickly, he dribbled when he should have passed and he passed when he should have dribbled. Nothing, nothing went right.

What character, then, to come out and reverse his performance. This was the Freeman we're more used to. Ludicrous energy, tenacious yet skilful on the ball, dangerous in attack, constantly demanding the ball and moaning when others did the wrong thing (Bids, if you listen to the official podcast, seems pretty resigned to that). And some trademark deadball delivery. At the heart of our first two goals. Despite the doubters, he's proving very much that he can affect games from a wide area.

3. PAV: OK, I'm doing Pav every week, I know, but he's replacing my previous Massive favourite as my new favourite this season as he hits what must be his best run of form in a Rangers shirt. Good in the first half, excellent in the second and another man of the match display. Finally, a manager is playing a system that suits him and giving him a run and it's paying off. His role in the third goal was excellent: winning the ball high up the pitch, then a mix of power, skill and speed to carry it forward before the ball into Wells for another assist. Poor BOS - he's the next cab on the rank for the wide positions, but when you have Freeman and Pav in this sort of form, you can understand SM having to leave him on the bench. I just can't help but love the guy.

4. KEEPERS: Interesting to watch the two keepers on Saturday. Bentley would have been a QPR player had Southend not quoted too much and forced us to sign our second choice, but who really should not be second choice, Alex Smithies. Plenty said at the time Bentley was the superior keeper. Well, he's looked good before, but currently those two aren't even on the same planet. He looked awful on Saturday: hugely susceptible to the high ball (witness Rangers crowding the six yard box for every corner), unhappy with the ball at his feet, and generally looking uncomfortable. Meanwhile, Joe Lumley wouldn't lose confidence if he let two goals in that he really should have kept out. And that is half the battle. Because despite his error early on - which was an error, not a terrible piece of keeping or anything - it never affected him. He still shouted, he still backed himself, he still came for crosses and he also dealt with some very tricky low, bouncing shots on a skiddy surface with great handling. So important to have that confidence, and that's why he may be our keeper for some time. He's young, though, and it's worth remembering that young keepers often come in, do well, then have a poor patch, before kicking on. We should be patient. And he's better than Bentley.

5. LUONGO: Gradually, slowly, he's fighting his way back to form. A second goal of the season (not the first he's got against Brentford, if memory serves), and an improved display. His role is not easy. With Greg Cameron doing a very fine job in front of the defence and with Freeman and Pav hugging touchlines, there is a lot of ground for him to cover. It's ok to say Cameron covers his errors, but that is his job. Mass has to get up there and snap against the opposition, and win it, and start attacks and get n the box when he can. A lot is being asked of him there, and his World Cup hangover clearly took a lot of fighting, but hopefully we're starting to see the player of last season.

6. EXCITEMENT: Mentioned it in the intro, but this is great isn't it? The fourth really, genuinely entertaining game in a row at LR. Goals flying in, games under the lights, hard work, some lovely passing, some great finishing, and a steady climb up the table. Only thing missing really is a goal or two from Eze - but that'll come.
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Memories of 2002/3 season
at 13:56 9 Nov 2018

Clive's article about Birch's goal v Brentford brings back memories of that incredible season - I honestly think it was the most intense few months of football I've ever experienced. Our run was incredible, but everyone else kept winning too, including Tranmere who just kept chasing us the whole time and we couldn't shake them off.

I remember at the time my whole life got engulfed with it, the games were unbelievably intense - the amount of times we scored late seemed crazy (Gallen v Hartlepool, Birch v Brentford etc) and any slip up felt like it would be fatal.

I really believe the insanity of that run caught all our fans at the time. The hardcore had remained after relegation and then Ollie made us all engage with the club again. We all felt like one - I suddenly had loads of friends who were Rangers from that season, whereas before I didn't really know anyone. And it all culminated in the Oldham game - months of pent up frustration and desperation poured out that night - if not years. In retrospect I'm amazed Oldham did as well as they did. Other teams would've been blown away.

Great times, cheers Clive.
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Favourite Moments of favourite players
at 13:43 6 Nov 2018

Can't face work at the moment, so here's a little bit of fun. 5 cult favourites - what was your favourite single memory of each of these below? I've kicked it off...

1. Danny Shittu
Still think the day, think it was against Norwich, he got elbowed. Went off, changed his shirt, looked furious, came on, immediately scored with a header from a corner. Good luck stopping him when he's in that mood.

2. Adel Taraabt
Always the Swansea goal after the nutmeg of Joe Allen. The fact you can hear the crowd make a weird 'oooh' noise before it goes in, not believing what they're seeing does it for me.

3. Kevin Gallen
Very tough, so much to choose. But his first goal v Sheff Wed, even if it was scuffed, was amazing for me. We're the same age, and I thought he was the next Gary Lineker.

4. Danny Maddix
Gingerly warming up before the Palace 6-0. He was very doubtful, but vital to us. He played, he was magnificent. As always.

5. Lee Cook
Continually taking the piss out of Butterfield I think it was v Palace in a game we won 4-2. Absolutely unstoppable that day.
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sorry if posted, but fan interview with Freeman
at 10:49 3 Nov 2018

Really great interview this - Finley's better than quite a lot of people who get paid well to be football reporters!

https://www.qpr.co.uk/videos/features/finley-goes-one-on-one-with-freeman/
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Antti's Six Knee Jerks: QPR 1 Villa 0
at 14:03 27 Oct 2018

This can't be the same season can it?

Special shout out to Dean Smith, who has taken to big club management absolutely perfectly already. Very different game when expectations are so high, Deano. Grealish may have been fouled a lot (deal with it), but the idea his players didn't, as he said, 'tag team' Eze all night is laughable. Watched the Sky after game stuff on TV this morning too, which was interesting stuff, apart from their assessment of the possible pen on McGinn. Two things, lads. One, he ran across Lynch, there was almost zero chance of there not being a collision. Two, he wasn't 'too honest' - the contact was so slight he was able to reach the ball with his stride barely halted and get his cross in. Keith Andrews said 'his side were punished for his honesty.' What? Punished because they failed to take their chance? Idiocy. Anyway.

1. S-MAC: Ian Holloway had a bit of a gift for turning round hopeless situations. That awful time around the turn of the century (yeah, we can say that now), plus various almost endless winless runs. But I'm not quite sure I've ever seen such a turnaround as this, from consecutive absolute thumpings a few weeks ago, and the abominations at Blackpool and Swansea, to this remarkable run. Three wins in a row, Steve? This is QPR, mate. This is verging on witchcraft.

Perhaps what's most impressive, as many others have noted, is S-Mac's willingness to change - to spot the problems and mistakes and act accordingly, even if it means leaving very good players on the bench. He said on Sky last night that originally he wanted to play a possession game, but realised that wasn't going to work. I wouldn't have blamed him for continuing to plough that furrow, to be honest, hoping that things would improve. But, possibly out of necessity for his livelihood, he took the very brave decision of ripping up his pre-season plans and starting again. It was slow at first, with solidity returning, but finally the switch to 4-2-3-1 and the introduction of Pav has resulted in a system that suits the players we have perfectly.


Earlier this season, there was confusion on the pitch (as there often was last season - I can remember several occasions of Scowen or Freeman having long conversations with the bench during matches as they tried to work out exactly what they were being asked to do). Now, like the last time McClaren was here and also during Warnock's reign, every single player on the pitch knows and understands their job. Of course this is a side now shot through with experience, yet at the same time there a rookie keeper and perhaps our most important player has barely been playing first team football for a year. But it's also work rate. Last season, that was our primary plus - players who worked bloody hard for the team. That has now returned only with, at the moment, a defence far less likely to concede goals.

McClaren has had a really tough time. As Brian McCarthy pointed out, we are not an easy fanbase to please, but last night the crowds were returning and in good voice (especially near the end) and the love is beginning to spread. I still strongly suspect, particularly based on the first 20 minutes of last night, that we'll end up closer to 16th than 6th, and I still think, eventually, it will end in tears for us and McClaren, if only because, or us and McClaren, it seems, it always does. But this is wonderful for now and great fun to watch.

2. POSSESSION: We now allow the opposition to dominate possession at times, but we don't panic and simply ensure we keep our shape and trust that at some point we will win the ball back. Leo Beenhakker would call it his 'house' - 'give me my house' he would yell. Players in position, areas covered, players knowing their jobs. You could see that last night and on Tuesday, and while it can be uncomfortable to watch at times, even frustrating as we funnel back and allow teams to pass and pass and pass, as the game wore on its effectiveness was undeniable. We ground them down, disallowed them space, harried them, fouled them, stopped them. We don't have the lightning pace of a Jamie Vardy, but it's not a million miles away from Leicester's title-winning style, and as we've seen this week, even with 35% possession, it can be entertaining stuff when done well.

3. DEFENCE: Last time SM was here, our promotion push was built in the first half of the season and was characterised by two things: a mean defence (just two conceded in the first 10 league games, and 8 consecutive clean sheets) and the goals of Charlie Austin. That all seemed a distant memory after Albion and Bristol, but now it almost feels familiar again. Yet, it's different. That excellent run came in part because other teams saw us as a big challenge with all our big signings, and didn't attack too much, also I remember several games where teams were missing their main goalscorers. Our defence played well, but at the same time, they weren't exactly over-worked. No one can say that about the defence for the last two games. In both they have been put under huge pressure, and in both they have refused to buckle even after three games in six days that must have been sapping their strength.

In goal, Joe Lumley continues to delight and baffle. He'll pluck one cross out the air like Gordon Stewart in his comic strip heyday. The next time he'll come, stop, pause and we'll all gasp for breath. Clive said in his last report that he's not sure if Lumley is good or lucky. I think he's probably both. He's confident, which is half the battle, and he looks beatable, yet he keeps keeping clean sheets. Last night his fortune reached new heights when he waved a Grealish free kick wide with all the confidence in the world, only to see it cannon against the post. Didn't phase him, of course. He can ping a ball out to Bidwell's chest from 50 yards, or he can shank a drop kick straight to an opposing midfielder. A bizarre keeper, but he has all the potential. And i love him.

At right back, I can only think Swansea have some amazing players, because at this level at least Rangel is just getting better and better. Against really tough opponents with pace to burn, he was unruffled, positionally brilliant, and so comfortable in possession. His late tackle to deny what looked a certain goal was only bettered by his Andy Murray-style fist clench of celebration, a reaction that epitomised the determination in this side last night.

At centre back, we have The Wall, as they were dubbed last night. Two players who have been hammered on these pages (I count myself in that, although I've liked Toni from the start - perhaps our scouts do know something after all?) but who have formed a formidable partnership at the back that kept Villa frustrated all night with tackles, fouls and block after block.

And at left back, Bidwell seems to be in the form of his QPR career. Reliable in possession, willing to get forward, strong in the tackle. The bloke even seems to have won over Lynch.

Some incredible work has been done with these five and its a real testament to both the coaching and the hard work of the players that they have been able to turn in performances like this.

4. FREEMAN: As others have said, it's almost impossible to pick a man of the match. Eze, Cameron, Rangel, Lynch all have great shouts, but Freeman was right up there too. Some felt he couldn't be as effective out wide, but he's playing really well there. Last night I thought he and Eze combined much more fruitfully than they did on Tuesday, which helped, but Freeman's real value is as an outlet. When we need some pressure off, someone to hold the ball, qe can give it to him and he looks after it. OK, sometimes he may look after it a little too long, but overall he does a superb job. Despite not being particularly quick, he does have astonishingly quick feet - one move in particular you see time and again from him is skipping from one challenge and just as you think he'll lose the ball in the follow-up tackle, he gets a toe to it, keeps his balance and zips, with the ball, into space and starts to exploit dangerous areas. Obviously, his ability with the dead ball is great, we almost take that for granted, but at the moment he is working phenomenally hard, doing a great defensive job with Bidwell, while still not limiting himself when we're on the attack. Credit again to McClaren for finding a way to get him and Eze into the same side, and getting good performances out of both of them - even if it is at the expense of Wells.

5. SUBS: I thought both subs were excellent. Both were enforced - Wells for the visibly knackered Hemed, and Scowen for the limping Cameron. Wells was marvellous, giving us vibrancy up front and putting Villa's vulnerable backline under real pressure. Hemed had caused them some problems, but Wells' harried them constantly, forcing them into going backwards or making mistakes. Scowen was also great - McClaren actually had a wealth of choices for that sub - the energy of Cousins might have been tempting, and Hall would probably be the player most similar to Cameron. I worried when Scowen came on, not because I don't think he's a good player (he is), but that we would really be lacking height against a big side. But Scowen gave us a new dimension - his phenomenal work rate and relative pace meant Grealish had less time on the ball, and not only did Scowen win plenty of it, he also played some key passes and had a couple of very decent efforts on goal.

6. PAV: Pav!
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