|Brentford 3 v 1 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 22nd April 2017 Kick-off 15:00
Can we not knock it? Preview
Friday, 21st Apr 2017 14:55 by Clive Whittingham
QPR, not quite safe and on a five match losing run, head to near neighbours Brentford who are bang in form and smelling blood this Saturday.
Brentford (17-9-17, WWWLWD, 11th) v QPR (14-8-21, WLLLLL, 17th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday April 22, 2017 >>> Kick off 15.00 >>> Weather – Overcast. Again. >>> Griffin Park, Brentford
One can only begin to imagine what it’s like being a football manager – unless, of course, you are or have been a football manager and you’re spending your time reading LFW match previews, which seems unlikely.
Yes, it’s only football, and it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Yes, try working a shift down a coal mine, or in an accident and emergency department, or with vulnerable children, and know real pressure, real stress, real work that actually matters. Yes it’s very handsomely rewarded, try bringing up kids in London on this city’s average wage.
All of that, but still, it is a bit of a wonder they don’t all go mad from the stress of it all. I mean apart from the non-existent job security, and the knowledge that if you’re not a ‘name’ you’re probably only going to get one shot at it in the professional game and never be trusted again if it doesn’t go well while the likes of Reidy Reid and Pards Pardew step on and off the merry-go-round at will, your fate is entirely in the hands of others. Your job hangs on the behaviour and performance of a group of rich kids, mostly in their teens and early 20s, many of whom were pulled out of education before puberty and told they’re going to be a brilliant superstar footballer, all of whom know that if they don’t much like you they can just phone it in for a couple of weeks and you’ll be gone. Well, them and the match officials, many of whom are still part time, some of whom will turn up, like Andy Davies at Loftus Road last week, absolutely determined not to award a penalty regardless of what happens. And all the while there are 20,000 people sitting behind you who not only believe their extortionate ticket fees entitle them to scream whatever they like at you and your players, but all of whom, to a man and woman, think they know better than you, or think that if only you’d done things slightly differently we’d have won the game you fool – this despite them not actually being able to agree amongst themselves what you should have done, and coming from backgrounds of absolutely no experience in professional football whatsoever. Some twats even write blogs and websites about it.
When you put it like that, 12 hours down a mine doesn’t seem quite so bad.
I do wonder, in amongst the never-ending rush of Championship fixtures, the scouting of opponents and signings, the training, the meetings, the admin, the paperwork, the politics, the man management, the travelling to and from games which is exacerbated by the league’s insistence on placing the longest distance away trips on midweek nights, and maybe some time to, you know, shit, shower, shave, stop at the petrol station for something to eat and kiss your sleeping kids goodnight – all against a clock that says you’ll be sacked within nine months - whether these managers ever have time to sit down, take a breath, and look at the big picture when it comes to their team.
I should imagine it’s quite easy to get all tunnel vision about it, particularly when you’re approaching the job as Ian Holloway has done since the turn of the year. His desire to see QPR able to play three or four different systems, his belief that we’re better off coming up with a new plan for every opponent to both surprise them and counter their strengths, his need to rest certain players while bringing others up to fitness, keeping others happy, giving some first team experience, work out what he’s got for next season – all done at a time when QPR feel like they’re playing every other day – must be a difficult mental battle to fight. I wonder if he’s ever backed away from the terrifying thought of in-form Brentford and all their QPR hatred this Saturday and looked in broader terms at what he’s got.
Because when you think about it, across what has been a very poor season at Loftus Road, there are some recurring themes that might help.
Our best moments, performances, results and goals this season have come with the team playing with width and delivering good balls in from wide areas. Leeds home and away, Birmingham away, Reading away, the last 20 minutes at Fulham, the last 20 minutes at Forest, the winning goal at home to Bristol City, the last 20 at home to Brighton – all of these had Pawel Wszolek, Jamie Mackie, Massimo Luongo, Luke Freeman, Ryan Manning, Mide Shodipo and others playing wide, getting good ball, delivering dangerous crosses. The nearest we came to an equaliser against Sheff Wed was Jake Bidwell crossing and Matt Smith heading wide. When Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was in charge we only seemed to really start playing late in games when Shodipo and others were sent on and the team played with width. Idrissa Sylla and Matt Smith both look decent when attacking balls in from wide areas.
By contrast, our worst performances, results, games and moments this year are when we’ve stuck one striker up front and gone long to him. Be it Seb Polter, Conor Washington, Smith or Sylla, it’s not only been awful to watch, but it also hasn’t worked. Hasn’t worked once, in fact.
It’s so disappointing, when we’ve seen how well this system of Holloway’s can work, specifically at Birmingham and Reading, to see how we played it against Bristol City and Sheff Wed. Not only does it isolate the strikers, neither of whom are that good fielding long balls down the field because they’re not good enough with their backs to goal, but it also takes the two players either side of them, particularly the guy starting wide right, completely out of the game. Think of how good Wszolek was at Reading and Birmingham, then how anonymous he was at Bristol on Friday while we hoofed it up towards Smith for Aden Flint to return it to us with gusto/contempt.
There are injuries, there are confidence issues, there are the wild team selections, there are eyes on next season, there are eyes over our shoulders and much else to consider. But I do wonder whether the answer is as simple as taking a step back, taking a breath, looking at what we’ve done well this season and doing some more of it, looking at what we’ve done badly this season and doing less of that. Give good ball to our good wide players and give our strikers something to attack; take ball away from Joel Lynch and Nedum Onuoha and stop isolating our strikers in non-threatening areas.
But like I say, we’ve probably got no idea. It couldn’t possibly be that easy, could it?
The famous last minute Marc Bircham volley at Griffin Park which kept QPR in the 2002/03 Second Division play-off hunt.
Team News: Who fucking knows? Seriously. Could be anything. Steven Caulker is still wherever Steven Caulker is, probably pissed. Kazenga Lua Lua made a sub appearance last week after his ankle injury and might start. Grant Hall is said to be close to a return after missing the two Easter games. Nedum Onuoha’s nasty head wound at Bristol City may keep him out. Other than that anything apart from Smithis and Ingram starting together up front (and, hey, maybe don’t even rule that out) is possible.
Brentford gave accident prone second choice goalkeeper Jack Bonham a little outing at Barnsley on Easter Monday but will almost certainly recall their excellent first choice Dan Bentley for this one.
Elsewhere: Here he comes, riding to the rescue, fresh from that knee operation he never had on a problem so chronic he couldn’t stand and watch his grandkids play football, ‘Arry Houdini (relegated at QPR and Southampton) is back to save Birmingham City from themselves. He has, naturally, immediately brought in former Championship managers Steve Cotterill and Paul Groves to, you know, actually do the work and they start on Sunday with the big second city derby against Leddersford.
Nottingham Trees, 11 matches without a win and at Loftus Road next week, are five points back and at home to promotion chasing Reading. Then come Redknapp’s Barmy Army four points back and Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion two points away and at home to the Champions of Europe. Bristol City are also two points back and they’re hosting Barnsley in this week’s exciting fixture between two teams beginning with B.
Tarquin and Rupert are into the play-off spots, at the expense of Leeds hilariously, but their tough run in begins with a trip to high-flying Borussia Huddersfield. Sheffield Owls, four straight wins at just the right time, have the Derby Sheep at Hillsborough and then host Fulham on the final day. Wigan Warriors could be relegated with a defeat on the Seventh Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour.
Relegated Rotherham v Ipswich Town looks like footballing dysentery.
Referee: The Football league were obviously so pleased with how the first meeting between these sides went this season that they’ve sent the same referee, assistant and fourth official back for the return game. More on James Adcock’s recent history with us, and his stats for the last couple of seasons, available here.
Brentford: The Bees are eleventh, 13 points shy of the play-offs, but that doesn’t do credit to their form over the last couple of months which has been that of a top six side – well, a top six side that isn’t Leeds that is. They’ve won seven and drawn two of the last 12, including three consecutive home victories without conceding a goal approaching this one against Bristol City, Leeds (both 2-0) and Derby (4-0) last time out. Prior to that Villa were beaten here 3-0 and promoted Brighton were lucky to escape with a 3-3. They did lose at home to Wolves and Huddersfield in March but overall this season it’s ten wins, five draws and six defeats at Griffin Park this season and 38 goals scored which is more than three of the teams currently occupying the play-off places.
QPR: Five straight defeats for the second time this season, the previous run went to six between November 26 and December 27 in a sequence of fixtures that also included games with Derby, Villa and Brighton. Having won a sixth away game of the season at Birmingham in February, Rangers are now without a win on the road in five attempts, four of which have been lost. All five defeats in the run have been by a single goal, and the last three have all been 2-1 – in fact since Ian Holloway returned to the club there have been 14 games finish 2-1 either way and another seven 1-0’s from the 28 games played. Holloway has never lost to Brentford as QPR manager – four draws and two wins between 2001 and 2004.
Prediction: Brentford have a better team, in better form, are playing at home and have had the upper hand in the meetings between the sides over the last 18 months. You can’t watch the way they’ve taken apart Bristol City, Leeds and Derby on this ground in their last three games, and the way QPR played in the two Easter games, and have much optimism can you? Only Holloway and Bircham’s excellent record in this game back in the Second Division days stands in our favour, and that’s not much.
LFW’s Prediction; Brentford 2-0 QPR. No scorer.
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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