Smithies, Henry and that atmosphere everybody's talking about - Knee Jerks
Monday, 17th Oct 2016 14:56 by Antti Heinola
Not a great match, not a great performance, but really, not anywhere near as bad as the moaning minnies might have you believe according to Antti Heinola…
There were two bright spots in what was a reasonably drab game, and Smithies was one of them. After a difficult couple of games earlier this season, he's now bang in form and on Saturday he was a clear man of the match for me, with only Polti giving him a run for his money.
There are plenty of things to be negative about at the moment, but one thing we can be pleased with is that we have a keeper who is far, far better than his predecessor. His handling was excellent in Saturday and he made two or three very smart, if not spectacular saves, but what was most impressive was his command of the box and his quickness off his line. With QPR playing a high defensive line to catch Reading out offside (executed very well for the majority of the game), Smithies needed to be alert to balls over the top. He was. I think he came from his area five or six times to head or punt clear, and did so every time with no hesitation, no Green-style stop-start and always making a good connection. you van't ask for more than that and a sign that, even while we were far from brilliant defensively, things are being worked on. Overall, there was little to be excited about, but Smithies once again proved what an excellent buy he's been.
Marvellous stuff and a proper example of how 4-2-3-1 can and should be an attacking formation. Our young left winger has the ball, he bursts forward with increasing confidence. Ahead is our striker, close by his our no.10 and then, most importantly, making a run infield to support everyone is our right sided forward. Suddenly, we have actual numbers in the box, Reading look confused, and Shodipo plays an absolutely perfect chip in, onto Wszolek's chest, for a smart volley in past the helpless al Habsi. Reminiscent of a goal by Helguson after a similar assist by Taarabt a few years back, possibly v Scunthorpe?
Anyway, it was a great goal and a richly-deserved first assist for Shodipo. We have to be patient with him here and JFH will be very, very careful with him - I expect him to be on the bench on Tuesday, before possibly coming back in again at the weekend - but I think we may have found one here. Something else to be very happy about. A youth player who genuinely deserves a place in the matchday squad every week.
The disappointing thing was that we didn't create more chances like this. We got in behind a few times - Wszolek twice and Washington twice, but on all four occasions the final ball was poor.
3. POLTI: Clearly back to his nuisance best after carrying around that glute injury for a while. This was classic Polter, not giving defender's a moment's peace, winning plenty in the air, making intelligent runs, showing far more smarts and skill that he was ever given credit for during the first half of last season. The only thing missing, really, was a goal. And we do need him to score more. sometimes he's a little too selfless I feel, with his running, while at other times he wasn't clinical enough. His one big chance was a header from a Chery corner that could not have been more spot on if Tjaronn had picked the thing up and placed it on Polti's head, but he glanced it just wide. The difference there between Austin and Polter, and a stark reminder of just how many dull games Austin bailed Redknapp out of three years ago.
Polti's other best chance was never a chance - with Reading caught square and high he bent a perfect run, only for Karl Henry to shank what should have been a relatively simple through ball. Which leads us nicely onto...
HenryI never really understood why we signed Karl. When the rumour started I thought it was a joke to wind up Barton. Then I thought that Redknapp deliberately signed him to try and usher Barton out of the club. If that was the case, it didn't work. I have a Wolves friend who is still laughing this far on that we took him off their hands - and for a substantial fee too. I've been vociferous in my belief that he shouldn't be in the side, but at the same time I've mellowed slightly and come to appreciate his professionalism, his fitness, his unwillingness to hide, his all round doggedness.
But Saturday was once again a demonstration of why we will not move forward as a team and in style of play until we finally get to a stage where he is on the bench and only an emergency back up. I have more sympathy for JFH here than many (as usual) - in the vast majority of cases, Karl is in because he has had few choices. Either lack of wide men forced him to play Cousins wide, or Cousins or Borysiuk were injured, or Luongo, as on Saturday, was recovering from his latest trip around the world. Having these constant spasms of 7 games in 21 days, followed by two weeks kicking our heels while Henderson and his chums do their impressive impersonations of QPR doesn't help.
Still, this was classic Henry. Apart from one stupid headed backpass so telegraphed that the entire stadium could see it happening before he even got within playing distance of the ball and almost resulted in a gift for Kermogant, he did little that was actually wrong. He covered, he ran, he tried. But time after time the pass was the easy one back. Time after time the only angle he'd make for the defenders was a square ball (so he could pass back) and on the occasions he did burst forward, he stopped, checked, and went back. It was infuriating at times.
Putting so much blame on him for our performances is unfair - one player can't have such a huge bad influence (we saw with England how simply taking Rooney out the side doesn't necessarily mean getting the lovely fast football everyone craves). But it's equally true that I am desperate to see how we do play with any combo of Luongo, Cousins and Borysiuk. Hopefully, that is not too far off, but because the Pole is still not quite used to our stupid schedule, I expect what we'll get tomorrow is another game with Henry.
AtmosphereClive's article about atmosphere before this game was tremendous. One of his very best. All valid points, superbly made. I saw on here after the game that people said it was dead. It wasn't great, I'll give you that. But I also actually thought the QPR fans did pretty well on Saturday. More encouragement, a bit more belief, and some loud singing even after Reading scored. I thought there was real effort there. It wasn't rocking, but I don't think it's ever rocked in a mid-table championship game anyway, has it? Maybe that night it snowed v Birmingham? Even then they were heading for promotion and we were underdogs. There were some boos at the end, which as usual seemed a bit OTT for a fairly even game, but overall I thought it was slightly improved.
4-4-2Haven't read it in years. So old-fashioned. Should rename it. Ha ha. Anyway, it's interesting that so many people see things so differently. I've heard or read separate people berate JFH for only playing one up front at home (we only played one up front at home for the entire championship season, it bears repeating for the millionth time) and then others for appearing desperate by throwing on Sylla and making the 4-4-2 that so many bellow for.
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