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Team with plan v team with vague idea – Report
Saturday, 29th Oct 2016 17:12 by Clive Whittingham

An awful performance, flattered by the 2-0 scoreline, saw QPR crash to a defeat against near neighbours Brentford at Loftus Road on Friday evening piling pressure on manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.

A five match unbeaten run, a first home win since the opening day of the season against Bristol City, a very unfortunate defeat at Sheffield Wednesday which could easily have gone the other way, it’s tempting to say that Friday night’s home defeat to Brentford was the latest case of one step forward and two back for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s Queens Park Rangers.

Such was the paucity of quality in the Rangers display, so emphatic was the Brentford victory which should have been many more than 2-0, it’s probably more accurate to say it’s one step forward and then one trans-continental, multi-legged railway journey back. But, in actual fact, QPR are neither progressing nor regressing, they’re standing stock still, continually caught out by teams with shrewd tactical set ups just as they have been for months.

The Championship is a broken football division really, kidding itself with all this talk of being the fifth biggest and best in Europe which masks the many issues it has. Too many teams, far too many games, fixtures crammed into little three week bursts on all sorts of weird and wonderful days and times, followed by a fortnight off for internationals which none of your players are involved in. Vast financial discrepancy between teams that are meant to be on the same playing field as a result of punitive FFP regulations, and bloated Premier League parachute payments.

It’s a mess, and as a result it rewards things like attrition, and fitness, and all sorts of things like that which football supporters love nothing more than paying £32 to sit through. ‘A typical Championship game’ is one where the teams basically belt it back and forth for 90 minutes, like a couple of chimps picking the shit off the floor of their cage and throwing it at each other, then having a count up of the final score at the end.

These games, QPR can do. Get in the arm wrestle, start tossing the poo about, Rangers are ok at that. Sometimes they win when they should lose (Fulham, Wigan), sometimes they lose when they should win (Sheff Wed, Barnsley), sometimes they draw, and it’s almost always boring and completely without footballing merit, pattern or entertainment value like the vast majority of games played at this level.

But every now and again Rangers find themselves stumbling and bumbling into the path of a Championship team with an actual plan, some idea of how they want to go about their business, a pattern of play, a shape, a purpose. It doesn’t have to be a particularly complex plan, hell it doesn’t even have to be one of Baldrick’s plans, but a solid plan well executed is usually enough to beat QPR because they simply don’t have one of their own. Preston North End, bottom of the table without a win to their name, came to Loftus Road, added an extra man to their midfield (John Welsh) to crowd out Tjaronn Chery, maintained a two man strike force (hot pants model Callum Robinson and neck tattoo enthusiast Jermaine Beckford) to run in behind QPR’s high line and won 2-0. It was like shelling peas.

We can perhaps write the Newcastle game off as a freak of football, executed by a team with a colossal budget and Champions League winning manager, but again it was a well drilled outfit that had a plan and knew their jobs, easily walking all over QPR on their own patch.

And then there was Friday night’s home game with Brentford. As comprehensive a 2-0 victory as you’re ever likely to see, slickly executed by Dean Smith’s team that had an idea of how they were going to take QPR apart and duly tore them a new arse over 98 traumatic minutes.

Carrot-topped Ryan Woods, signed from Shrewsbury at the start of last season, had caught the eye in this fixture in March despite the Bees slipping to a 3-0 defeat. Here he was the outstanding player on the pitch, with everything going through him at the base of the visitors’ midfield. Further ahead of him QPR would have been wary of lone striker Scott Hogan who came into the game with eight goals in 14 starts already this season but actually the former Rochdale man served mostly as a dummy runner, moving into offside positions behind centre backs Nedum Onuoha and Steven Caulker more often than not. Thinking they’d caught their man, QPR pushed high up the field to try and have Hogan flagged not realising that it was a fairly rudimentary trap, with Romaine Sawyers and particularly Josh Clarke able to revel in the wide open spaces they left behind. Time and time and time and time again they did this. Never once did QPR twig what was happening. It’s a miracle this was only 2-0.

The plan was never better demonstrated than in the nineteenth minute when Sawyers walked into the QPR penalty area unchallenged, received the ball onside despite QPR’s protestations, and drew a fine one on one save by Alex Smithies, one of the few QPR players to emerge from this debacle with any modicum of credit. From exactly the same position Hogan curled a short round Smithies but past the post two minute later. Jack Robinson, back at left back after his latest lengthy lay off, had to put his boot through the ball and clear a goal mouth scramble from a corner. Onuoha had to slide in and make a goal-saving tackle at the back post as Brentford sprung the offside trap again and Sawyers laid a cute ball right through the goalmouth.

Six minutes before half time Clarke ran in behind again, cut the ball back and Hogan shot over. Warning not heeded, QPR pushed up again a minute later, left wide open spaces in their own penalty box and Josh McEachran was able to craft a shooting chance for Clarke who slid it under Smithies for the opening goal.

And so this nonsense was allowed to continue after half time. Hogan runs in offside in the first phase, QPR push up, Sawyers and Clarke arrive late in phase two onside and with the freedom of Shepherds Bush to seize onto one brilliant pass after another from McEachran and Woods. It was metronomic, ceaseless and, as was the case against Preston and Newcastle, QPR didn’t have the foggiest idea what they were going to do about it. In the end they did nothing at all, either to stop Brentford playing or to try and effect the game themselves.

Clarke cut a ball back for Hogan to strike at Smithies after the hour. Sawyers doubled the lead and finished the game with a quarter of an hour left for play when referee James Adcock missed what looked like a handball as Clarke blocked a clearance from James Perch down by the corner flag and Colin squared the loose ball to the former Walsall man who sent it screaming into the top corner from 15 yards out. Substitute Konstantin Kerschbaumer, whose signing was funded by the sale of three replica shirts with his name on the back, shot over from the same position when he should have at least hit the target.

Only Lewis MacLeod picking up a nasty knee injury, which prolonged the agony for the students at the School of Science by a further eight minutes at the end of the game, after coming on as a sub blotted the Brentford copy book. They were near-as-damn-it perfect.

So what of QPR then? When you watch them in games like this, it really is stark just how little specific idea Rangers have about how they want to go about their business.

On the face of it, Hasselbaink’s QPR are a long ball outfit. They knock it long to their lone striker whether it’s Seb Polter, Conor Washington or, in this case, Idrissa Sylla. Now that may not be to your taste, but it is an approach you can take to football, one that has been successful for teams at various times and levels. But QPR do it with no real forethought for what that lone striker might do if he does manage to bring the ball down or flick it on. Rangers never get men around that lone striker, looking for flicks or second balls. We’re like a really bad snooker player, constantly rolling the red into the corner pocket without positioning correctly for the black. Brentford captain Harlee Dean stuck Sylla in his back pocket here and kept him there, but you had to feel for the Guinea international given just how little support he had. There are scientists conducting six-month research projects in snow bunkers at the South Pole less isolated than Sylla was here.

Hasselbaink, justifiably, picks Tjaronn Chery as the club’s most gifted player, and also recognises the Dutchman is rather wasted when used as a wide player and needs to be in the middle. But having put him there, QPR seemingly have no idea of how they’re going to service him with good ball in dangerous areas. Chery, for his part, doesn’t get close enough to the lone striker but he spends most of his matches at the moment either watching balls fly over his head, or trying to pick his way through the middle of the final third which teams recognised back in August you can neuter QPR by crowding with a couple of extra midfielders.

The Dutchman is basically reduced to a designated kicker role at QPR at times, having almost no influence on open play whatsoever and simply kept out there in case a free kick or corner is awarded. He whacked one into the wall after six minutes here when Dean hacked down Sylla on the one occasion the QPR man got away from his marker all night and was rightly booked. Just before the hour he curled one over the wall and wide after he’d bought a generous free kick from the referee.

QPR have wingers – Mide Shodipo and Pawel Wzsolek in particular – who can cross a nice ball, but they seldom field them on their favoured wings and use them for that. Rangers haven’t scored for two games now and the last time they did find the net it was by getting the ball wide to Massimo Luongo and getting some quality in from a wide area. The closest they came to a goal here, when already two goals down, was an angled header from Sylla off a Wzsolek cross which beat Bentley in goal but was headed off the line by Dean.

Luongo, like Chery, another talented player suffocating in whatever this is QPR are trying to achieve. Credit to the Australian, and Conor Washington for that matter, for getting their heads down and working their arses into the ground regardless, but are we using either to their strengths? Managers get too much credit when it goes right, and too much grief when it goes wrong, it’s the players who cross the white line at the end of the day, but you can’t say these QPR players are wanting for attitude, effort, application or – in the cases of Luongo, Chery, Jordan Cousins and several others who’ve played well elsewhere – ability, so you have to turn to the guy whose plan they’re diligently, professionally following. Washington and Cousins both had first half shots blocked as they toiled in vain.

Ah yes, Jordan Cousins, who I struggle to recall us playing in the position he impressed in at Charlton once this season. Used as a winger for the most part, he actually finished this game at right back as a result of the bizarre decision to chuck Jack Robinson straight back into the first team after his latest long injury lay off despite him only completing two halves of football for the reserves. I mean, quite apart from Robinson’s personal history over the last 18 months making that a colossal risk to himself, it also spent a substitution before the game even started because he was only ever going to be able to do an hour and so when the 60-minute mark came round QPR were faffing around moving Perch to left back, Cousins to right back and Wzsolek to the wing when they had a whole multitude of more series issues to address with changes elsewhere.

Again, I just don’t understand the thinking there at all. QPR regularly change their team when there are three matches in a week to keep everybody fresh – frequently players who’ve done well on the Saturday are still not picked for the Tuesday night, despite this not yielding particularly good results in the midweek matches. Washington, for example, I thought, was absolutely excellent at Fulham at the start of the month but because he went away on international duty he was dropped for the next match in favour of somebody who hadn’t been away and had trained and rested instead. Now how can a flight to Belfast and 20 minutes as a substitute for Northern Ireland be sufficient reason for a player to be left out of the team, and yet somebody who had a year out with a horrendous knee injury and has spent the last five months dealing with various side effects of it gets chucked back in from the start after two 45 minute outings for the Under 23s? Don’t get me wrong, I was pleased to see Robinson back, I like him a lot as a player, his return is timely with Bidwell’s injury, and he did absolutely fine for an hour here. But really?

We’re just football fans at the end of the day, we don’t understand how the sport works, how the players train, how you would put a session on, how you would set a team up, the sports science of it all and so on. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink would probably laugh at the naivety of my attempts to understand all this. But fuck me sideways it’s not very consistent thinking is it? You’ve been on a plane for a bit this week so no start for you, you’ve been out for six months but we’re shoving you straight back in even though you can only do an hour and we’re going to have to move a central midfielder to right back for the last half hour as a result.

It’s not the disaster it feels like this morning, though QPR will do well not to get sucked into the relegation whirlpool swirling below them playing like this. There will be another clutch of ‘typical Championship’ games to come in the next few weeks, where the monkeys will toss their shit at each other and QPR will pick up the odd win here, the odd draw there, the odd unfortunate defeat, the odd victory against the run of play and so on. But while Hasselbaink’s only plan is to push the defence high up the field and pump the ball into the vague vicinity of where it might be dangerous if it happens to drop in the right way any team with a modicum of structure and thought process to them is going to unpick Rangers every bit as easily as Brentford did.

QPR, the Jamaican bobsled team, whose plan didn’t stretch much further than kissing a lucky egg before races. Brentford the latest team to play the role of the Swiss. There’ll be no tear-jerking happy ending for Hasselbaink if he can’t do any better than this.

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QPR: Smithies 6; Perch 5, Onuoha 5, Caulker 5, Robinson 5 (Wszolek 61, 6); Cousins 5, Borysiuk 5 (Gladwin 81, -), Luongo 5; Washington 5 (Polter 69, 4), Chery 4, Sylla 4

Subs not used: Hamalainen, Ingram, Hall, Henry

Bookings: Borysiuk 16 (foul), Chery 67 (dissent)

Brentford: Bentley 6; Colin 7, Dean 8, Egan 8, Bjellend 7; Woods 8; Yennaris 7, Clarke 8 (Kerschbaumerat 90+1), -, McEachran 7 (MacLeod 71, - (Kaikai 87, -)), Sawyers 7; Hogan 7

Subs not used: Hofmann, Bonham, Barbet, Onariase

Goals: Clarke 42 (assisted McEachran), Sawyers 74 (assisted Colin)

Bookings: Dean 6 (foul)

QPR Star Man – N/A

Referee – James Adcock (Notts) 8 I suppose you could make an argument for handball in the build up to the second goal, with Clarke’s arm up above his head in the ‘unnatural position’ that tends to be the interpretation of these things, but I didn’t think there was a lot in it and the officials were fine apart from that. Mind you QPR were so uncompetitive this local derby was about as ferocious as an afternoon choosing curtain fabric so there wasn’t a lot to referee.

Attendance 16,888 (2,700 Brentford approx) Rather sad that neither team sold their allocation for this, but then if you will move games to Friday nights. I thought the QPR fans stuck with their team well and offered as much support as possible in the second half when I expected the place to turn. Such a shame to see the scenes at the back of the R Block – Joe Hylton and Lee Hoos have worked hard to persuade the council to let us take that fence down so people can have a better view of the game and the reward and thanks the pair of them have got is people not only ignoring pleas not to move between the stands but now moving between the stands to have a fight with other QPR fans. Result – fence probably going to have to go back up. They must wonder why they bother. A prevailing feeling for most of us this morning I suspect.

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switchingcode added 17:39 - Oct 29
Excellent article
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ibnumber10 added 18:18 - Oct 29
Great report again Clive thanks.
i can't believe how JFH thinks that these tactics are helping our club, I mean there is a general understanding that we are in a rebuilding phase and that may take a few years, but surely JFH needs to develop the team with better game understanding than what has been served up over the last year?
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DesertBoot added 19:07 - Oct 29
It really was a mess last night. Where was Cousins playing, why was Sylla so islolated, why can't anyone take a decent corner, why did Luongo see so little of the ball?
JFH spoke after the game about losing the midfield battle, so why didn't he do anything to change it - this didn't happen in the 98th minute!
2-0 game over. 1-0 a draw at best. Boring rudderless football.
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vegasranger added 19:29 - Oct 29
Excellent report Clive. Watching it in Las Vegas I was stunned with our non football. Agree about Robinson. You could actually hear him on the TV asking for team mates to show for the ball. On the subject of Ryan Woods. Keep reading comments like " you buy Div1 / Div 2 players , you end up with with a Div 1 team. Ryan Woods cost 1 million pounds from Shrewsbury. At the end of the day it's all about a proper scouting system than pick out the players that can the jump to the next level. The coaching set up to improve them. I don't think we have either. People complain about JFH lack of coaching qualities but his lower league team of coaches are just as bad.
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Northernr added 19:34 - Oct 29
Cousins and Luongo can be every bit as good as Woods, it's about using them in the right way.
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ozexile added 20:47 - Oct 29
In regards to having a plan. There were a couple of occasions in the first half where we had a thrown in fairly high up the field. It was just tossed in the air for Sylla to challenge for. Yet if he had won it there was no Rangers player running behind him to pick it up. Just throwing away possession. And don't get me started on second balls.
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Spiritof67 added 22:15 - Oct 29
QPR 0 Preston 2; JFH "I felt tiredness was a factor in the sides below par performance."
QPR 0 Newcastle 6; JFH "we were too open, too stretched, it wasn't us tonight and that's not acceptable."
QPR 0 Brentford 2; JFH "we were second best. They put a trap for us and we fell into that trap. They countered us too many times and that's our own fault."

I'm glad to see that things are being put right each week on the training field and we are learning from mistakes!
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CroydonCaptJack added 00:30 - Oct 30
Excellent report.
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snanker added 02:53 - Oct 30
Great work again Clive exasperation expressed. We looked like most of the players had been thinking about taking a sickie off work only to turn up and reluctantly go through the motions. Again we let a side have more space than the Milky Way and Brentford duly carved us up. We seem to subconsciously have to put in one of these performances to clear out a mental lethargy prior to get going again ? Its becoming a bit of a malaise as the players don't turn up confident of a game plan and then start to head backwards if it goes increasingly wrong early. The fans want to get behind their side but need to be able to cheer something or as was the case Friday night anything ! Its is indeed one step forward and a bigger stride backward to the left at the moment ! JFH finger out and thinking cap on the challenge is well and truly evident.
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Marshy added 10:07 - Oct 30
We have a squad of players which I consider to be quite reasonable, and certainly capable of playing much better than this. Therefore the only conclusion that can be drawn is a) they are not being coached in the right way b) they are not being deployed tactically in the right way. If this latest defeat was a one off I wouldn't be too concerned, but we have now played enough games this season to see a worrying pattern which has emerged. I honestly don't think JFH and his coaching staff are good enough at this level. The last thing we really want is yet another change of manager, but we have to be realistic and ask the question, could we be doing better under a more experienced managerial team. Surely the answer has to be yes.
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billericaydicky added 10:38 - Oct 30
Excellent nail-on-head report as usual Clive.

I believe our players are definitely good enough, but aren't being deployed in the right positions and there's too much chopping and changing. Shodipo was excellent when he came on at Sheffield and the Finnish left back did as well as could have been expected, so the Robinson selection was baffling. Washington, I believe, will score goals when played in the right position, but can't be faulted for effort at the moment.

We seem to have little in the way of a game plan - no Plan A so no wonder there appears to be no Plan B. The other area that is blatantly lacking is our leader on the pitch - we just don't seem to have one.

I've rapidly lost patience with JFH and feel that unless things change and change soon (3-4 games) then we must look at a change before we find ourselves in a relegation battle. As always it would be a gamble, but so would keeping him.

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Burnleyhoop added 11:55 - Oct 30
Painfully accurate report. A few things I picked up on.

First half efforts were as tepid and lifeless as I have seen for some time.
louongo, Cousins and Borysuik have promise, but are unable to impose themselves physically. Men against boys more often than not.
Chery on the right requires him to cut inside onto his left, but the introduction of Wosczlek added much needed width and dangerous crosses from the byline.
We are neither technically gifted or physically imposing. We have a bit of both with JFH unable to find the right blend or balance. He needs to find his way forward fairly quickly or he might be gone by Christmas.

At least Henry is'nt playing. That should be part 1 of his plan to find our identity.
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HastingsRanger added 12:07 - Oct 30
For me, I am content that we have a team that is trying their best, which has been a major frustration in the recent past. Ironically now wondering if we have the talent with this team.

Keeper is good. The back four is made up of reasonable backs and centre backs (normally not needing to play people out of position). But Perch seems to be much worse at a left back than right, which I don't understand why he does not work on this.

But I feel the midfield is where I feel we lose out, putting defence under pressure and forwards being isolated. I just think it is about the quality and strength here. I am not sure who should make it up - as I have seen most of them play well at times but not together or consistently. Good teams will overrun it and win, the rest is a lottery in which we have a 50:50 chance. Hence being about 15th in the table.

As for the forwards, I like Sylla but it was soon clear he was going to be physically neutralised in this match. I would have brought on Polter instead of him at half time, not that he had a great game but was much more able to combat the physical side. I still look at Washington as a utility man, perhaps even a midfielder. My concern is he seems the 'nearly' man - will he fully develop I am not sure - goals are not a strength here and I thought that is why we use him.

Finally, there is the fitness question or pre-match preparation. More than once, we don't look as sharp as other teams. Is this fitness or confidence, which our support does not help with? But I cannot understand the mobility of the Brentford midfield versus ours - going forward or covering.

All said, I have seen worse performances! Just difficult to accept Brentford are in a very similar position as us in rebuilding, player scouting, financing, support base, location etc.. and will finish comfortably higher than us

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YorkRanger added 17:02 - Oct 30
I wonder also whether JFH is being swayed by the fans. At Sheffield he got abuse for taking off sylla when he brought on Polter and I think that was the right change on Friday night as Sylla had been very poor, admittedly partly due to the abysmal service he got.

Also the game was crying out for Henry to come on, but again that would have been very unpopular with the supporters.

Generally it's all just a bit of a mess. The match review here is very good.
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DonO added 18:03 - Oct 30
I was really excited when we signed Cousins but he has not been used properly and has been anonymous in many games. I thought we started well but then disintegrated pretty quickly in the face of a team that had a plan. I know QPR were poor but Ellerslie Road was like a library. I agree with what the club are trying to do but this is painful.
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Myke added 22:26 - Oct 30
Strong piece Clive. Reading between the lines you seem to running out of patience with Jimmy. Up until now you have been making allowances for the foreign players and lower league players to bed in, but there is no sense of that in this article so things must be pretty grim. I know how reluctant you are to change managers yet again and run the risk of a new man starting all over again with a new squad but you seem the indicate that perhaps he is just not tactically astute enough at this level
I concur with the notion that a knee-jerk sacking is no solution, but the problem is he is nearly in the job a year now and not only have we not progressed in that time, but there is no real indication that Jimmy knows how to progress us.
The annoying thing is he HAS a plan or at least claims to have a plan. It is supposed to be a high-tempo, pressing, counter-attacking game. We know from listening to Burton fans that he is quite negative and not going to play an open, expansive, free-flowing game. But he seems incapable of getting his players, HIS players, to play how he wants them to. He doesn't seem to influence a game from the start, or know how to make game-changing substitutions when things are going badly.. All the same allegations that were levelled at Chris Ramsey who must be watching on with bemusement at the level of support JFH is receiving from above. (And I still haven't forgiven him for Newcastle !)
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062259 added 23:10 - Oct 30
JFH succeeded at Burton with a team largely built and coached by his predecessor. He just ran with the ball and for a season, as you would expect, it worked. The game is littered with many such examples. At QPR he has been asked to forge the team's identity himself and, so far, he has been found wanting. He has made no apparent impact after 15 games this season and that is long enough for the new signings to at least demonstrate that the manager is making strides in the right direction. As you say Clive, given the effort, ability, application and attitude of the players, you have to start to think the problem lies not with them.

I do believe the club has assembled a decent squad of talented and promising players. The director of football model does allow you to change the manager without making wholesale changes to the playing staff. Then at least you can see the effect of a new manager and coaching regime on a largely unchanged group of players.

I like JFH, and applauded his appointment. He deserves more time, maybe (maybe) until the end of the season. But if improvements have not been made by then, we are in for more change.
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lifer added 02:47 - Oct 31
HastingsRanger is spot on. The problem lies with the midfield. Too slow, too lightweight and unable to keep possession. They don't support the strikers adequately, and because they lose the ball so easily, they put continual pressure on the defence.
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romfordranger added 21:46 - Oct 31
Didn't go as decided on a season long sabbatical after Newcastle debacle, watched it on TV, truely awful against Brentford, they could and should have won by a greater margin. I won't attend whilst JFH remains in charge, we should have taken the opportunity to sack him after the Daily Telegraph sting. It is worse now than under Ramsey, the football is awful, we lack any leaders on the pitch, no game plan, no plan B, not even a plan a, just a complete shambles. I don't expect promotion, but just a team that tries to play good football, well organised, energetic, and generally hard to beat. Not the disorganised rabble from Friday, that couldn't even show up for a local Derby. Maidstone v Rochdale for me next weekend in the FA cup 1 first Rd, hopefully see some goals and excitement, good luck at Forest.
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Tomo_5 added 02:12 - Nov 1
Has JFH lost the respect of the players? I don't like the long ball, I don't like this playing too high and getting sucked in and countered every minute. I don't see improvement, and that's all I hoped for. To lose is one thing, but to be one-dimensional, quite boring to watch and lacking progress is unforgivable.....
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RonisRs added 12:05 - Nov 1
I thought Robinson did okay, Caulker was poor, and the midfield was a disaster and
we had no wingers to challenge, which would have made a big difference. like JFH, I have no idea which is the right team to play.......
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