Mackie, Manning and the night it all clicked for Ollie - Knee Jerks
Friday, 13th Jan 2017 15:47 by Antti Heinola
Antti Heinola returns with his six talking points from Thursday’s surprise, but very welcome, win at Reading where Jamie Mackie scored the only goal.
Clive's written before about the troughs Ollie managed to drag us out of last time he was here, and he appears to have done it again. The Wolves and Ipswich games could have gone either way (to be fair, so could at least half of the six-game-horror-hell too) and had they done, I'm not convinced he'd still be manager. Can any boss survive eight defeats on the bounce, no matter when it comes in their tenure?
Bad runs rarely end with a thumping 4-0 win. They usually end with a draw or the sort of wins the Wolves and Ipswich games were - barely 'deserved' (whatever that means - surely if you scored more goals you deserve to win?) - but once that belief that you can actually win games returns, it's amazing how performances from largely the same players can change. Ollie talked about players who didn't want to be here afterwards - but Chery's attitude never seemed particularly questionable, and neither did Polter's. This seemed more about belief returning and, crucially, a fantastic game plan executed perfectly. Mackie's on-camera chat afterwards said as much.
And that's where some are perhaps a little harsh on Ollie. Yes, he's a motivator, yes he has enthusiasm, but here he out-thought Stam, the tactician from Holland. Not only did he have the right plan, the players understood it, learned it, and executed it with both skill and relentless energy. I feared they wouldn't be able to keep up the high pressing all game, but they did, and fully deserved the win.
The pressure will have eased on Ollie now, and it'll be interesting to see how things develop and how the side changes with incomers over the coming month. Of course, a bashing by Fulham - always a strong possibility - could change all that very quickly, but we'll all go into that game feeling less apprehensive than we would have done a few short weeks ago.
When he was thrown into his debut in the humbling by Newcastle, I really felt for him. Having to come on and face that onslaught must be the worst possible situation in which to make your bow. But with each game he's slowly got better. The signs have always been good - Andy Sinton talked on the Loftcast about his excellent cutback he does when he reaches the byline and he did it here again a couple of times - he has such great awareness from that position.
But what's really improved is his fitness. Against Fulham he was excellent, but tired around the 70-minute mark. Yesterday he was still working as hard in the 90th minute as he did in the first, making sure he gave Furlong plenty of protection, while still remaining a threat further forward. Something seemed to happen almost every time he got the ball and his cut and run, bisecting two Reading defenders on the halfway line before setting up Sylla to have his shot scrambled away, was the kind of joyous breakaway teams have been doing to us every week.
Hope the rumours are true that a two-year deal is agreed. Good player.
I still haven't had a proper live look at him yet, but the signs are encouraging. At times yesterday I thought he was being bypassed a little, which is only to be expected, and I think I'd have had him off ten minutes earlier just to get some fresh Doughty legs on there. But it was a good showing and what most impressed me was his passing. Particularly for the goal, obviously. Baffling that on TV there was some chat about whether he meant it - OK, it may have been more perfect than even he hoped, but still, there was absolutely no doubt about what he was attempting. Absolutely superb assist.
And his perceptive passing was a feature of the game. He has great vision and definitely has the ability to thread dangerous balls in behind the defence, with Wszolek particularly being a great outlet for him and the rest of the team. Will be interesting to see who we bring in and whether he retains his place - who would've thought we'd be fielding a midfield three of Hall, Luongo and Manning this season - and that it would work so well?
Just a quick word on him. Written off by many, criticised for being too lightweight, but this game showed again why he could be such a vital player for us. Nobody won more of the ball than him last night - often he nicked it in dangerous areas too, as he pressed high and really put the Reading back line on the back foot. Not only that, he showed enormous energy, popping up everywhere from left wing to just in front of the centre backs. He does need to produce more in the penalty box, in terms of goals and assists, but there's a big player in there.
Was disappointed when he went out on loan. I felt for sure that he could establish himself this season, but perhaps it was the right decision. He learned a lot at Cambridge, moved on at Swindon and now, it seems, is ready to claim the right back slot - with the fabled 29 on his back too. I thought he was excellent - strong, quick, determined, skilful. And he and Wszolek worked really well together. I thought he had a real handle on Obita and later Meite and didn't look in the least overawed. Played it when he could, but booted into touch or upfield if he was in trouble. A mature performance. And, it may not look like it now, but he may develop into the kind of leader many are crying out for. He's been a great captain at youth level, so that may help us too as he settles into the side.
And how amazing to see a game where Furlong, Manning, Doughty and Comley all had game time.
And final word has to go to Jamie. Mocked in some quarters for not having the skill of Messi, his return to the side has coincided with these valuable victories.
Will get you goals.
Will have belief.
Will chase lost causes.
Will win 30-70 balls.
Will hold it up.
Will annoy defenders.
Will offer hope.
Will work his arse off.
It was classic Mackie, maligned by the few, loved by those of us with half a brain. Some players just fit some clubs - Mackie and QPR is a great fit. Brilliant that he celebrated too - none of this not-celebrating-in-front-of-old-club bullshit. Aren't fans precious?
Pictures – Action Images
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