McCleary’s rocket helps Reading slay ragged Rangers – report
Monday, 17th Feb 2014 22:21 by Clive Whittingham
QPR were beaten 3-1 by Reading at Loftus Road on Sunday despite a goal against his old club by Kevin Doyle, and a sending off for former Rangers’ favourite Kaspars Gorkss.
Harry Redknapp warned against writing QPR off in the Championship title race despite this latest defeat at home to promotion rivals Reading, but it’s going to need every ounce of experience garnered during his 50 years in the sport to stop the wheels falling off the R's bounce-back attempt completely. Rangers, missing key players through injury, are listing badly at present.
At the moment Redknapp seems to be part of the problem rather than the solution. Despite Burnley running three goals through the wide open spaces proffered by a 4-4-2 formation that suits neither the defenders nor the midfielder’s at QPR’s disposal Redknapp stuck with the shape for a lacklustre 1-0 defeat Derby on Monday and paid the penalty for using it again here.
Team selection continues to fluctuate wildly – Gary O’Neil and Little Tom Carroll started at Pride Park then didn’t even make the bench here, while Armand Traore played well against the Clarets only to miss out against Derby and then return for this game. Niko Kranjcar started on the wing in Derbyshire, then in the middle of a four-man set up here, neither role he’s suited for.
Rangers have seven loanees with an eighth arriving in the form of Ravel Morrison on Friday so two are currently having to sit out with league rules limiting sides to five – Carroll was the fall guy here, but having not even made the bench for the previous two matches Manchester United’s Will Keane led the attack from the start against Reading.
Then, after impressing as arguably QPR’s best player for the first 56 minutes, he was inexplicably the first man removed to be replaced by Bobby Zamora who, after an impressive recent cameo against Bolton, was back to his lumbering, ineffective self here.
It’s all turned into a bit of shemozzle and while any team in this league would struggle if they lost players of the calibre of Charlie Austin, Danny Simpson, Ale Faurlin and Matt Phillips all at once, QPR have a much bigger squad, with vastly more experienced players, and a fat cheque book other sides at this level could only dream of. There was still more than enough quality available for selection on Sunday to avoid the comfortable defeat handed down by the Royals and an ugly on-field set-to between Richard Dunne and Benoit Assou-Ekotto after the third goal had gone in suggests there are more problems at Loftus Road currently than just a bad run with injuries. The right-sort revolution is in danger of coming apart at the seams.
Reading, like the rest of the top six teams in the Championship, were experts at executing the very basics of the sport – and that was more the enough to secure a victory. Garath McCleary and Jobi McAnuff provided threat in wide areas and Adam Le Fondre and Pavel Pogrebnyak formed an awkward big-man-little-man combination up front. With a physical back four and leggy, athletic central midfielders like US-born Danny Williams and former Crawley man Hope Akpan, they were the latest side Rangers have faced just lately who seemed to have more energy and tempo about them right from the beginning of the game.
They scored with the first meaningful attack – Le Fondre crossing for Williams to head home unmarked after arriving late from a deep-lying midfield position. Embarrassingly easy that one, and it was almost 2-0 immediately when Williams headed straight at Green when left unchecked again from a McAnuff free kick. Then Pogrebnyak had good cause to ask why no team mate had gambled on his knock down into the six yard box on the quarter hour. For the umpteenth time this season Rangers had started a match at a snail’s pace against opponents intent on asserting themselves right from the off.
It looked ominous at this stage but a goal against the run of play by former Royals favourite Kevin Doyle brought Rangers back into the game. It won’t be winning any awards for aesthetics, with the Irish forward eventually poking in from no range at all when Keane’s toe poke fell to him off goalkeeper Alex McCarthy, but credit is due to Armand Traore whose pacy wing play caused the panic initially, and Junior Hoilett who kept the pressure on after former Rangers an Kaspars Gorkss had blocked the first effort on goal impressively in the six yard box.
Reading have been almost as inconsistent as Harry Redknapp’s team selections of late – beating Bolton 7-1 at home then losing on their own patch to lowly Sheffield Wednesday – and their response to the Rangers equaliser betrayed nerves. Soon Hoilett was firing a low cross into the near post and causing more consternation in the six yard box, then Keane rose highest to glance a near post header onto the roof of the net from the resulting corner. Keane, a gangly youth who looks like he could do with a week in the sun, started the game with a hideous first touch but grew into the flow as the first half wore on and was arguably the pick of the home players before half time.
A swift counter attack from Traore, who finally seems to be coming back into a little personal form just as everything else falls apart around his ears, gave Hoilett a chance to shoot and McCarthy – hero of the first meeting between these sides this season – needed two attempts to gather.
Both teams had had their 15 minute spells at this point, and referee David Coote – in his first ever QPR appointment – decided it was his turn to dominate proceedings for a quarter of an hour before half time. Certainly no complaints could be made about quick fire yellow cards for Clint Hill after he’d been skinned by Le Fondre and hauled him back, or Williams who was turned by Hoilett on halfway and also elected for a cynical tug back to halt the attack. But Pogrebnyak was then released without further punishment after an obvious shove on Joey Barton and play was also allowed to continue with Hill down with an obvious head injury. Later the referee awarded Reading a free kick for a non-existent push from a distance of 30 yards away when the linesman next to the incident had given the home team a throw in and Rangers were lucky that no visiting player was available to turn in Obita’s extraordinarily good cross through the Loft End goal mouth.
No emergency surgery required on the QPR team at half time for once, and Joey Barton’s ambitious 20 yarder that flew just too high at the start of the second half hinted at better to come. Traore’s enthusiastic running drew a foul and yellow card from McCleary but Rangers were about to capitulate in a mad five minutes that would take them from 1-1 and on the front foot, to 3-1 down with their attacking threat removed and fights breaking out among team mates.
First Alex Pearce, only available to play at all because of a generous decision to overturn a red card from the Sheffield Wednesday defeat a week ago, slipped the attentions of Clint Hill and headed Obita’s corner firmly into the net from a yard out in front of the jubilant Reading fans. Redknapp then infuriatingly removed Keane for Zamora, stunting Rangers’ attack for the remainder of the game, and with fights breaking out in the Ellerslie Road stand over the abuse handed out to the former Fulham man, Reading piled forward again and made the game safe with a spectacular long range goal from McCleary.
The quality of the strike wasn’t in doubt – curling, swirling and dipping over Green and into the top corner from fully 25 yards out in quite magnificent style – but given that McCleary had scored from long range in the first meeting between these sides this season at the Madejski Stadium one does have to wonder why Benoit Assou-Ekotto felt safe back-tracking 30 yards and allowing McCleary the time and space he needed to execute the shot in the first place. Not since Zesh Rehman’s nadir in the 5-1 defeat at West Brom has anybody backed off quite so far, for so long, for so little reason and the actions of the full back – not a known giver of fucks it must be said – drew criticism from the centre backs to his right. Suddenly, in an embarrassing repeat of a previous spat between the Cameroonian left back and Charlie Austin, Assou-Ekotto was moving towards Richard Dunne and spoiling for a fight which Clint Hill had to intervene in to prevent the R’s being reduced to nine men for scrapping between themselves. The behaviour typifies Assou-Ekotto’s attitude to life at QPR, which has dipped from a low starting point along with his performances since the possibility of a January return to Spurs was taken off the table. Personally I’ve grown weary of Assou-Ekotto’s half-arsed performances of late and would quite like to have seen The Landlord stick one on him.
Rangers were rocking and Barton had to take a suspension-triggering tenth yellow card of the season for fouling McCleary – had he not done so Reading could have been in for a fourth – and Kranjcar followed him into the book for pulling back McAnuff. The game became a stop-start affair, littered with cards and injuries, not helped by an incredibly pernickety refereeing display from Coote. Sky’s decision to schedule this against Arsenal v Liverpool on BT Sport didn’t exactly look shrewd – anybody watching this instead needs their head examined – but for all of that it could have turned into a cliff hanger ending, and potentially another three all draw, had Doyle headed home his second of the game from Hoilett’s deflected cross on the goal line. Only he will know how he missed.
But with Zamora lumbering around it’s doubtful Rangers would have pushed for an equaliser with any degree of threat. The crocked forward even had the nerve at one stage to openly slate one of QPR’s better players on the day Traore for not reaching one of his misdirected flick ons. Given Zamora’s money to return ratio, and non-existent contribution this season, it’s a wonder it didn’t provoke a second on-field dust up of the day between team mates and, again, it didn’t suggest a happy camp at all.
The game slowed back to a crawl with a clutch of substitutions. Michael Hector replaced Le Fondre for the visitors while Redknapp sent on Yossi Benayoun for Assou-Ekotto. Benayoun the latest in a long line of midfielders QPR have accumulated who is neither particularly good in defence nor in attack, neither quick nor slow, not really suited to a wing role nor a place in the centre, not a prolific goalscorer or particularly creative – just bodies, endless stacks of middle of the road midfielders who add little and cost a fortune. Last week at Derby Jermaine Jenas came on and made no difference whatsoever and here Benayoun did exactly the same. Next week it might by Gary O’Neil and the week after Karl Henry. The times I have fans of other teams say to me “oh I forgot he was at QPR”. It’s a transfer policy from the back of a cigarette packet and it’s lumbered QPR with a squad that is massively bloated in numbers and wages but wholly ill-equipped to cope with injuries to three or four decent players.
Kaspars Gorkss did his best for his former side with a wild challenge on Junior Hoilett close to the far touchline that brought an immediate and deserved red card – although I’m not sure it was vicious enough for a loyal servant to the club to be booed off by the home fans – but any attempts the visitors did make at capitalising on that numerical advantage were ended by referee Coote who bizarrely decide to start blowing his whistle and awarding fouls for mysterious pushing offences every time the ball went within 20 yards of the Reading penalty area. That restricted the R’s to long range shots only – Traore hit on at McCarthy, Barton smacked a volley a foot over the top.
Reading took off Pogrebnyak, who’d mixed powerful front play with powder puff injury feigning in equal measure throughout, and sent on Hal Robson Kanu but that was needless clock running at that stage with the game already well won.
Reading, like Leicester and Burnley before them, were more than good enough to beat QPR with a basic set up – strong defence, two good wingers, two good strikers, plenty of legs in midfield. QPR look old and staid and slow and grumpy and lethargic. They look like a team of 30 year olds coming to the end of a long hard 46 game season, which is exactly what they are – with the lack of consistency in team selection hamstringing them further.
Harry Redknapp needs to find a system that suits the players he has left at his disposal better than this one, and a way of injecting some life, speed and confidence into his team – who knows, maybe pick one of the younger players for once – or this is going to get a good deal worse before it gets better.
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QPR: Green 6; Hughes 5, Dunne 5, Hill 6, Assou-Ekotto 5 (Benayoun 78, 5); Hoilett 6, Kranjcar 5, Barton 6, Traore 6; Doyle 6, Keane 6 (Zamora 57, 5)
Subs not used: Onuoha, Jenas, Henry, Murphy, Maiga
Goals: Doyle 20 (assisted Traore/Hoilett/Keane)
Bookings: Hoilett 14 (foul), Hill 25 (foul), Barton 60 (foul), Kranjcar 62 (foul)
Reading: McCarthy 6; Gunter 6, Gorkss 6, Pearce 7, Obita 7; McCleary 8 (Kelly 90+3, -), Williams 8, Akpan 7, McAnuff 7; Pogrebnyak 6 (Robson-Kanu 85, -), Le Fondre 7 (Hector 73, 6)
Subs not used: Federici, Drenthe, Guthrie, Blackman
Goals: Williams 10 (assisted Le Fondre), Pearce 56 (assisted McAnuff), McCleary 58 (unassisted)
Sent off: Gorkss 70 (serious foul play)
Bookings: Williams 29 (foul), McCleary 46 (foul), Obita 90 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Armand Traore 6 End product often poor, but improving and at least provided some enthusiasm, pace and work rate to the team. Will Keane was also in with a shout had he stayed on for longer.
Referee – David Coote (Nottinghamshire) 4 A bit of a pain in the arse really. His grasp of the laws around injured players seemed rather loose – Reading were allowed to play on with Clint Hill on the floor with a face injury, then in the second half play was stopped with Pogrebnyak sitting down half a yard from the touchline. The final ten minutes where he awarded free kicks for mystery offences every time QPR went near the penalty area was bizarre. Red card for Gorkss probably justified.
Attendance – 16,522 (1,800 Reading approx) Subdued home crowd as you would expect, mocked by their stripey visitors throughout the second half. Horrible day all round.
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|isawqpratwcity added 23:40 - Feb 17|
Nice report, thanks, Clive. I think your overall criticisms of lack of team shape, spirit or vigour are fair.
I thought your 5 for Hoilett was a bit harsh: he frequently beat his man to get a cross in from the right wing, though he should have scored.
I wouldn't have booed either Zamora or Gorkks, but I despaired when Zamora came on (he is the attacking equivalent of waving a white flag) and I thought Gorkks' card was only just deserved.
Who knows where we go from here?
|Kaos_Agent added 00:50 - Feb 18|
I rated Junior better than 5. He is at least trending in the right direction and helped provide what little offensive spark there was.
The on-field acrimony is worrisome. That could impact the dressing room, as will the ever increasing layers of hirings. It's all uneasily familiar.
I think that Reading fielded the same squad as in their previous six matches. What a contrast with Harry's approach to selection.
|062259 added 01:24 - Feb 18|
"This isn't a sudden malaise. It had been signposted for a while, both by claiming eight wins in 20 after eight in the first ten and conceding in seven successive matches after 14 clean sheets in 23. They were breached twice in their opening ten fixtures, compared to seven times in the last three."
"In addition to the recent defensive failings, traveling tribulations have been a longer-term concern. After three away wins in a row across August and September, they have delivered a mere two in ten since."
"After QPR’s fifth defeat in their last 11 games yesterday, self-belief appears to be in decline."
These are snippets I found from other reports of the game. They all tell the same story.....the early season haul of points, mostly on the back of scrappy, often lucky, always uninspired one-goal victories, against mainly bottom-half teams, was a mirage. This is not a very good team, and actually never has been. Redknapp has failed spectacularly to extract a fraction of the talent his vastly experienced and expensively assembled squad would suggest.
This suggests either a colossal lack of judgement in recruiting, or an equally colossal lack of coaching ability.
I think it is more of the latter than the former. Harry is way past his prime, has no plan B, and doesn't know how to build a team from the ground up. As I wrote last time, heaven help him and this team if promotion should be secured, a prospect that is, sadly, rapidly receding into the distance.
|snanker added 07:53 - Feb 18|
062259 well sorted, your quotes very nicely encapsulate the latest drama. It is all very R's and of course horribly familiar and its just as well you are not allowed a full team of loanees on the park coz u can bet your bottom quid who would be the first team to achieve that little chestnut ? Not writing us off just yet but next week is only a few daze away so to speak. Very good CW "It’s a transfer policy from the back of a cigarette packet" Players Cut to be sure ? A loss down the Valley Sat. and its definitely bat & ball and I'm going home time ! All digits crossed v Addicks then, gulp !
|RonisRs added 08:03 - Feb 18|
Hoilett should have been rated higher, and BAE should have got at the most a 3. I thought Keane was quite lively, and as you say Zamora, why on earth. who knows where we go from here..........
|snanker added 08:05 - Feb 18|
And while I'm on the moan Doyle's "missed" header down the Loft was as soft as it gets.He was bricking himself the keeper was gonna come steaming of his line and just didn't put in simple as that when CA would have put both ball and McCarthy in the back of the net. He's a poacher at best.
|probbo added 08:27 - Feb 18|
BAE was partly at fault for Reading's first goal and what he was playing at for the third..? The sooner he goes back to Spurs the better. That said, it was a beauty from McCleary.
I felt quite sorry for Keane being substituted - its not his fault he wasn't getting much service from the midfield and you'd think chasing the game Redknapp would have forsaken a midfielder ( the disappointing Krancjar), thrown a third striker on (aka Zamora, or anyone else) and resorted to a more direct approach to try and get a result. Poor tactics all round by Redknapp. And lets face it, we were no more of a threat when they had 10 men on the pitch than we were when they had 11.
The one positive was Traore who looks good in that left midfield position and is one of the few players in the team who can deliver a really good cross. He had a good game, so I expect he'll be dropped for Charlton. Must give credit to Barton too.
Our form against all our promotion rivals suggests a play-off spot is our most likely outcome but like some other posters I'd fear for us in the Prem. Perhaps a few years consolidation, rethink the whole structure and building a team of young home grown talent should be the way to go. Premier League riches aside, its no fun watching your team being whipped every week.
|TacticalR added 08:51 - Feb 18|
In the first half we kept getting caught on the break. For the first goal the whole team got drawn towards the ball, and we looked very naive. The second Reading goal rocked us, and third one knocked the stuffing out of us. As at Derby we played too many straight long balls that were easy for Reading to mop up.
Kranjčar. I didn't think he was a bad as people say. He tried to play a defensively and while he got some tackles in, he often ended up lunging at opposition players. Nico sitting in front of the back four just doesn't work.
Hoilett. Helped make the goal, had some decent runs and a decent shot.
Clint Hill. Non-stop tussle with the handful that is Pogrebnyak and managed to keep him quiet.
Keane. Looked OK, but a bit lightweight, and faded in the second half.
Barton. A lot of midfield tussles, and a couple of decent shots.
Aaron Hughes. His crossing is pretty awful.
Assou-Ekotto. I didn't think he was particularly at fault for the third goal. McCleary had the complete freedom of the Reading right wing to run down without a challenge before he got to Assou-Ekotto. Assou-Ekotto showed him inside to prevent a cross, and if McCleary hadn't have scored that wondergoal nobody would have noticed.
Zamora. Looks a shadow of himself and doesn't even seem to bring high balls down on his chest which used to be his speciality.
Doyle. Poached a goal and nearly got a second.
Traoré. Looks a lot happier bombing up the left wing with few defensive duties, and he's got Assou-Ekotto behind him if anything goes wrong. A lot of Green's long balls were directed towards him and he got most them down OK. A few times he got kicked and you wondered if he would get up again, but he lasted the whole game.
|MTG added 10:03 - Feb 18|
That game was very bleak, somewhat reminded me of the Ipswich defeat in 2009. I'm surprised you blame Clint Hill for Pearce's goal and not Green as his positioning/judgement was very poor in my opinion. On current form, I have doubts we'll be able to hang onto a play off spot.
|Northernr added 10:14 - Feb 18|
MTG - I'm Clint Hill's biggest fan, and I thought he played reasonably well on Sunday, but the goal is definitely his fault. It's a free header in the six yard box from the man he was meant to be marking, watch it again.
Don't like Green at all, and he should have done better, but it's Hill's fault primarily for me.
On the Hoilett stuff - you're all probably right and I've bumped him up to a six. Although that means he's now on the same mark as Keane and Traore, and he wasn't as good as either, but neither were good enough for a seven. Not as easy as it looks this mark out of ten malarkey.
|Eddo added 11:04 - Feb 18|
As usual, got to agree with everything Clive Whittingham say’s – It’s all common sense.
I have said it before,but will say it again – We should be building a young team for the future, yet insist on playing with an old team who should know better.
As for Hoilett - sorry chap but you should do the honourable thing and leave us (please).
Come on Harry, work it out for yourself!!
|Eddo added 11:27 - Feb 18|
To put the Hoilett comment in context:
Stats this season:
QPR have nutured Hoilett through what can only be described as a torrid time, the fans have supported him, cajoled him despite his complete loss of form.
For me, he has been a huge dissapoinment given that we paid £4M for him.
We need Hoilett at his best, 2 goals and 2 assists in 22 games is simply not good enough. Hence, my original comment, step up, or leave....
No point in discussing SWP/BAE/Zamora apart from saying May cannot arrive quickly enough for them , or us!
|QPunkR added 11:31 - Feb 18|
I dunno, I'd probably have agreed with a 5 for Toilett. Why can't our coaches persuade him to knock the ball down the line and take his man on?? I've never seen a winger so allergic to wing play before. Keane was only ok, I can't see why others thought he was so good.
Traore rightly MOTM for me, was the only bright spark going forward, but thought Clint was a close 2nd. I lost count of the number of headers he won against their diving Russian after 11, don't think he lost a header all day. Didn't see their 2nd goal clearly from Q Block but if Clint lost his man then fair enough to knock his mark slightly.
And bringing Zamora on for the whole last half hour?? That's Shirley a two-finger salute to us fans from Redknapp.
|isawqpratwcity added 11:36 - Feb 18|
Clive, I once called Neil on his report (when he filled in for you once in the previous Championship season) and he called 10 sixes and a seven, or something similar, but I backed down and allowed Neil to call it as he saw it. Ffs, I hadn't even seen the game.
You call it as you see it. Myself, I thought Hoilett had the edge over Keane, even, but damn! it was nice to see Keane trying! Nothing personal, but I never want to see Zamora in a hooped shirt again while we have any other striker outside of a wheelchair.
|isawqpratwcity added 11:41 - Feb 18|
I just said Hoilett had a reasonable game, I didn't say he'd overcome a season of underwhelmingness.
Jeez, some appreciation and encouragement where appropriate...
|hoops_legend added 12:37 - Feb 18|
Love how most of the comments after a fantastic report are about whether a players is +1 or -1 from what Clive has rated them. Lets be honest unless the mark is well off it doesn't matter that much as a 5 or a 6 is a medicore performance anyway!
The way we played yesterday reminds me of our time around 5 years ago before Warnock when we were scrapping around playing badly and having no real game plan...
|Spiritof67 added 12:41 - Feb 18|
At home, earlier in the season, we were beating teams by the odd goal and struggling to gain the 3 points. Probably the reason being that sides were coming to Loftus Road hoping to hold on for a point and being less adventurous, But now, the opposition have “worked it out” by playing with a bit more energy and commitment, they have nothing to fear and can by pass by any individual skill and flair our midfield may possess.
Difficult day for the R’s supporters with the frustration vented between some supporters in the stands. Too easy to pick out the many individual faults in this performance., Free header for Reading’s first goal and Assou-Ekotto backing off - and off - and off for the third goal.
But it’s now February and we don’t appear to have learnt anything from previous games; the simple answer appears to be, for each consecutive game, we simply swop one individual player with another and see if it works! Do our coaches plan anything on the training field and work to a pattern of play to be successful for each game and then, work at it, as a team unit!
Off to Charlton on Saturday, so expect to see Harry’s Plan B team selection to get the wheels back on, to be: Murphy, Hughes, Onouha, Dunne, Hill, Hoilett, Henry, Kranjcar, Taore, Doyle, Keane the bench consisting of the maximum number of loans he can possibly get onto the bench and with Zamora driving the team coach!
|westsurreyR added 13:04 - Feb 18|
Excellent report. As you say, the basics of a well organised, hard-working and reasonably mobile defence, combined with a willingness to counter attack in numbers with pace, movement and good understanding between players has done us again. For me the Leicester, Burnley and Reading games had a very similar pattern - only the scorelines differed.
Personally I don't think it makes any odds whether it's 4-4-2 or 4-5-1. We played 4-5-1 against Leicester and it was just the same. We have good technical players but very little pace and they don't get enough time on the field with each other to develop a good understanding. By my reckoning Keane was the 21st player we've used in a midfield or striking role in a league game so far this season.
And I know we were 3-1 down by then, but leaving Joey Barton as the man on the half-way line while the rest went up for a corner was asking for trouble against a quick counter-attacking team. The inevitable happened - he was beaten for pace and booked 10 secs later playing emergency right back and is now suspended.
On paper we've got some easier games coming up, but this is where we'll start to really miss Charlie Austin imo. All his 14 league goals have come against teams currently in the bottom half of the table. That's a goal a game compared with none in 12 against the top half. So Doyle, Maiga and Keane really do need to do it now, or games we would expect to win will become draws or worse.
Personally I reckon we'll make the play-offs, but there is no evidence that we will get beyond the semi-finals.
|Marshy added 13:13 - Feb 18|
Woeful display. We couldn't even control the game with Reading down to 10 men. We allowed them too much space often standing off, giving them time and momentum. Likewise we didn't close them down. There was no flair or creativity in midfield, and if truth be known, apart from our very scrappy goal, we never really looked like scoring again which has been a common theme all season. The only bright spark for me was Armand Traore who played very well all afternoon.
It's all very well having loan signings of the likes of Doyle, Keane and Maiga, but I only see them scoring a handful of goals between them. Forget Zamora altogether as he has become a complete waste of space. I have always felt it was wrong to loan out Tom Hitchcock who is certainly no worse than the aforementioned, and probably a much better prospect. We shall just have to see if Ravel Morrison can fair any better. All successful promotion contenders need at least one 20 goal a season striker. Alas, our one is knackered.
The chance of promotion is slipping away game by game. The way we have played in the last couple of matches is more akin to relegation form.
|DANRANGER added 13:33 - Feb 18|
Good report and pretty much on the money. Totally agree HR needs to find a formation that works as playing Kranjcar in a 2 in the middle is a complete waste. Better off with Henry. Hoilett is disappointing but is our only real hope and we need to build him up again as we have no other options and we are poorer without him.
We now have to accommodate Morrison who potentially can put our season back on track but if HR is not able to realise that Kranjcar is not a CM then will he know what to do with Morrison. Right back is a problem and I'd consider switching BAE as I do find full backs concentrate more playing on the opposite side and then put Traore at left back. Nedum is a must and has to play Sat. We need to start controlling games again so 5 in the middle is also a must with Hoilett/Kranjcar/Morrison rotating positions ahead of 2 holding. Doyle up top.
Who knows what HR will do though....
|Antti_Heinola added 13:57 - Feb 18|
In terms of analysis, Clive, possibly your most astute report ever. Superb.
I think Will Keane came off with a knock. He had been stretching and limbering for most of the 2nd half, and looking at the bench expecting a change. Agree, otherwise, he'd been promising.
|francisbowles added 16:23 - Feb 18|
No disrespect to DANRANGER but if BAE is making several mistakes and has a can't be bothered attitude at left back, what's he going to be like at right back? He just about got away with it when we tried it before but it would have been sussed by watching future opponents, as he kept turning in side to try and get it on his left foot. Additionally, why would we want to move Traore as he has played well and provided a threat recently with defensive shackles removed.
IMHO we have got to get Ned into the team and if it's not at CB try him at RB again. At least he has the pace to get back.
Hoillet much improved but the coaches need to keep motivating him and explain that when he chases back he has to use his speed and not do the impression of BAE/Bosw*****
|terryb added 19:01 - Feb 18|
I thought we already had eight players on loan ?
BAE, Niko, Benny, TLC, Doyle, Keene, Maiga & the forward from Argentinia.
|terryb added 19:06 - Feb 18|
Pressed add comment before I'd finished!
I'm in the same camp as you with BAE & am fast reaching the conclusion that we peaked at the start of the season when we all thought we would improve.
I can never enjoy losing but it would be easier to endure if the likes of Harriman, Hitchcock & Petrusso (?) etc were playing, giving effort, caring & improving from experience.
|Noelmc added 19:37 - Feb 18|
I think most agree we need Nedum back in the team & BAE is struggling, so I'd put Ned in at centre half and move Hill to left back. It should make us more solid at the back, certainly in the air and Hill's lack of pace could be compensated by Traore in midfield tracking back when necessary.
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Letters from Wiltshire #48 by wessex_exile
“And now the end is near, and so we face the final curtain…regrets, we’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention”. Not quite right Paul Anka, probably more than a few, but otherwise a fair assessment of where the U’s are today. It’ll be interesting to see how we perform with the relegation monkey finally off their back – I’m not expecting miracles, particularly with Tranmere needing at least a point to guarantee making the play-offs, but they’ll certainly be more nervous than we will be, so can we make that count? This will be my last blog of the season, and not yet sure what I may or may not do for next season, but suggestions are always welcome.
Letters from Wiltshire #47 by wessex_exile
Here we are, at the penultimate game of the season, and our last game in front of the cardboard U’s faithful at the JobServe. It has been a long, difficult, and definitely strange season, which frankly I’ll be glad to see the back of. That’ll we’ll be here again in August is definitely going to be something to celebrate, but I suspect we’re facing a summer of significant rebuilding both on the pitch, and possibly off it too. I won’t be the only one, but the biggest oddity for me has been being able to watch every single game – not always easy viewing, but something I’ve never done before, and probably never will again. But it doesn’t really make up for not being there in person, the long train journey away-days, meeting fellow U’s and other supporters, and of course sharing a beer or three. Fingers-crossed we can return to the terraces in 2021/22.
Letters from Wiltshire #46 by wessex_exile
That was quite a week for us all then. In the space of four short but remarkably tense days we have gone from having to take shoes and socks off to check how many more points we need to guarantee survival, or whether we would even achieve it, to breathing a huge sigh of relief knowing we’re almost there. But close of play this afternoon, whether by our own actions or the failure of others, I am sure survival will be confirmed. Of course, Tuesday night not only all but guaranteed it, it also virtually condemned local rivals Southend United to non-league football for the foreseeable. Looking at the host of fully professional former football league sides currently battling it out for the two promotion slots out of the National league (including Hartlepool, Torquay, Stockport, Wrexham, Chesterfield and Notts County), it is not going to be a walk in the park for Southend to return any day soon.
Letters from Wiltshire #45 by wessex_exile
Tonight, Colchester United face Southend United in what may not necessarily be the most important game of our respective histories (though it’s certainly very close), but is almost certainly the most important Essex derby ever. However this season pans out, by the end of it there’ll either be only one team in Essex, or worst case scenario, none at all. If the U’s win, then Southend will be 9pts behind with just three games to go, and a minimum of a -12 goal difference to overturn if they want to overtake us. Certainly mathematically possible, but that would rely on a remarkable turnaround in their form, form that they’ve shown precious little sign of achieving so far this season. The stalking horse is Grimsby, with their game in hand, who have rather belatedly shown an improvement in form, so their match against automatic promotion chasing Morecambe tonight is equally important, particularly if we want to avoid the unthinkable, with both Essex clubs dropping out of the league.
Letters from Wiltshire #44 by wessex_exile
So here we are, as the nation mourns the passing of His Royal Highness, Duke of Edinburgh, the U’s face the first of two season-defining moments, with our late kick-off match at home to Walsall. Before then, no doubt many will have been focused on events elsewhere, not least the early kick-offs for Grimsby (at home to promotion-chasing Bolton Wanderers), and particularly Essex rivals Southend United, who faced a tricky visit to Exeter City – still very much in the hunt for at least a play-off spot. As I finalise this blog, I know that Grimsby have beaten Bolton 2-1, and Southend earned a credible 0-0 draw in the West Country. More to the point, the U’s will know this too. Whilst I can’t help but feel that will ought to be to our advantage, it surely must also put additional pressure on a squad whose confidence is paper-thin. We must hope that Hayden Mullins, assisted by Paul Tisdale, get their heads right, and send the lads out this evening fired up with self-belief.
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