QPR show the grit that Holloway craves - Knee Jerks
Wednesday, 13th Sep 2017 14:58 by Antti Heinola
Antti Heinola returns with his talking points from Tuesday's frantic draw with Millwall, a game in which QPR once more showed the grit and spirit manager Ian Holloway has been craving in his team.
Grit. A tiny piece of tough stone, atoms packed tightly together, a minute nugget of rugged toughness that don't take no crap from anyone. Grit. It was a gritty game and for 40 minutes the grit was all from Millwall. We were out-battled, out-fought, and, as Glenn Hoddle might say, out-strengthed. Dear me they were gritty and niggly and angry and fired up and full of gusto. We had no answer to it. They did to us what we have been doing to teams at LR this season (well, teams not called Brentford). All over us, they were. And it wasn't just grit - they passed the ball much better than we did and their direct balls caused us lots of problems.
But we showed grit too. Josh Scowen won't take being out-fought all game, and his brave winning of the ball in contrast to Gregory's over the top challenge was enough to help swing the game in our favour. Still, Millwall didn't give in and showed yet more grittiness to take advantage of some rank defending to gain what could have been a decisive lead.
But just perhaps this QPR side is showing something a little different. Last season, if we went behind it usually meant a defeat. Now we've come from behind to beat Hull and came from two-down here to get a well-deserved draw that might have been a win. Yes, they only had ten men, but we showed grit too.
This wasn't a game full of neat passing and rainbow flicks. It was a hard game, where if you wanted a result you needed to fight. Fans and players played their part in that - the fans who seemed about to turn just before the red card stayed with the team even at 0-2, sensing that all was not lost, that we had enough about us to get something from the game. And it came, with a bit of skill, but mostly through sheer doggedness and endeavour. And I don't mind that. This was enjoyable, hard football (I won't say honest, because it was in other ways an ugly game) in the wind and rain traditional for early September. Another point towards safety, another bit of belief building among this refreshingly hard-working squad.
A very quick word on him as I know I jerk about him more than I should. Less effective, certainly first half, than he was on Saturday, but still another good performance and another one in the eye for his rapidly diminishing band of critics. By the end of this season, next time the 'get rid' brigade yell their familiar refrain at the latest signing who hasn't blossomed into Gareth Bale inside six months, shove a picture of Mass in their faces. Patience, perseverance, coaching, natural maturing. Apart from when we get lucky, we're not in a position to buy finished articles anymore. But what we can do is buy potential and build it up.
The very fair criticism of Mass is that he doesn't get enough goals. Well, with a tiny bit more luck he could already be our top scorer this season. Last night he hit one humdinger clawed out the top corner by the highly-suspect yet weirdly effective Archer; a shot that Archer could only parry and led to Washington striking the post; one beautiful volley that zipped fractionally wide; another shot that rebounded to Smith, only for him to somehow miss from four yards; and, of course, his goal - a beautiful hammer blow into the bottom corner. And I loved his reaction. No celebration, just a beckoning for everyone to get back to the half way line. The job was not yet done. Ollie wondered if there's a better midfielder in the division. I think that's going very far, but he's been great so far this season. Never hides, never stops running, and now is finally getting the confidence to shoot. Long may this continue.
There's been quite a lot said about Robbo since the weekend. What I liked about his game against Ipswich was that even when I thought he was struggling, he never shirked his responsibilities, and kept going, and never ducked out a challenge. I thought we were fortunate that Ipswich offered little up front, but it was obvious Millwall would be a different story. And so it proved.
Morison spent the whole night doing what Alan Shearer used to do - not waiting to be marked, but putting himself on the player he perceived as the weakest of the central defenders. It proved a torrid night for Robbo, and you had to feel for him, particularly after Onuoha went off and we looked extremely thin at the back. And, yes, he will have to hold his hand up for the goal - he followed Wallace out, then stood and watched as he span off him and could only run back helplessly as he smashed it home. Perhaps he was used to Onuoha being there and to be fair, had he been on the pitch he would have likely tidied that up. But still, you can't allow your man to run off you that easily, especially not that close to goal.
And yet. this is a young man who's barely played for two years playing out of position alongside a defender who's only been at the club five minutes. did he hide? Did he give up? Did he stop running? Did he stop challenging? Did he react to Morison's constant pushes in his back every time he jumped for the ball? Nope. He showed real character I thought. People can rant all day about whether he's a centre back, but currently, we have very little choice indeed. Under the circumstances, he's doing well. And who knows? Maybe he could switch to this position. Clint Hill was mainly a left back for most of his career. Who would've thought Grant Hall could be so effective as a midfield anchorman? And who could forget how brilliant George Santos was when pushed up front? I said, who could forget... suit yourself.
I thought it was a mixed night for Freeman, but like the rest of the team, you can't accuse him of giving up. His crossing was not up to his usual standard, but he still put some good balls in, and some very good corners, and also delightfully danced his way through a pack of defenders on more than one occasion. He's like a weird hybrid of Rowlands and Cook - a strange mixture, but it's there. He doesn't quite have Cookie's crossing prowess, he doesn't quite have Rowly's defensive ability, but he's an excellent mid-point between the two.
But I was particularly impressed by his reaction to the first goal. I'm not sure what happened there - whether he mis-judged it, over-stretched, under-stretched or what, but he won't be happy that he didn't make it to the ball. Still, he worked his nuts off for the rest of the game, popping up on both flanks and through the middle and having the odd strike at goal too. Very unlucky with that free kick at the death as well.
Good old Rog. Not a bad ref, by any means. But think he was a bit taken aback by what he found at the dirty end of the Championship last night. It wasn't a great night for him. Off the ball stuff going unnoticed (three times Washington was bundled over off the ball and never once did he spot it), Smith being wrestled to the ground with nothing given, topsy turvy advantage rules played, game stopped for injuries to them but not us, and most of all his utter failure to spot Morison's (who was, admittedly, first class throughout) professional tricks - sly pushes on high balls, jumping into Robinson before throwing himself on the floor to get a free kick. All that. Rog did his best, but it was all a bit too frenetic for him. When both sets of fans are getting angry and sarcastically cheering decisions, it's fair to say you've not had your best game. Not an easy one to ref at all this one, but still. One plus point was his funny booking of Morison for complaining about a bottle being thrown on the pitch.
I felt Ollie got it a bit wrong last night. First of all, I feel like having Smith on from the start might have been a good move. compared to them we looked small and timid, and Smith, although not great at holding up the ball as Helguson once did for us so marvellously, does give us presence in both boxes. Washington worked very hard, as did Mackie, but neither ever got a foothold in the game and, like the rest of the team, a bit too easily bullied in the first half. Clive often points up the tippy-tapy midfield Mark Hughes played against Allardyce's West Ham a few years back, and this felt a bit similar. We did have battlers, but we needed a couple of big bastards too.
And while it seems Onuoha was injured and so Ollie had to protect one of our few fit centre halves, I thought second half we went too narrow for too long. Yes it was right to get Smith and Sylla on quickly, but it took too long to get people wide and stretch them. On one side you had Pav almost playing as an advanced full back at times, with Bidwell on the other. Everything was through the middle, crosses coming from too deep rather than getting behind them. Finally, when Lua Lua came on that did change, and it was then that we looked more threatening. I just think a change in shape, or at least establishing a wider framework high up the pitch, needed to be done a little earlier.
Players you haven't thought for years, No. 6: John Gidman
Pictures – Action Images
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