If you can't enjoy that, what's the point? Knee Jerks
Tuesday, 28th Nov 2017 13:45 by Antti Heinola
Antti Heinola returns with his usual six talking points from Monday’s late late show at Loftus Road, where QPR came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 in injury time.
Karma’s a bitch
During the match, the Brentford fans sang eloquently about Jake Bidwell being a c**t for the heinous crime of earning their club £1m and moving somewhere to earn a little more money. Few people, as we know, are more hypocritical as football fans. It led to a conversation around me about chants we'd never chant. My friend said he'd never chant 'you're getting sacked in the morning', for example (he's nice like that). It was interesting later, then, when Brentford fans did exactly say that. And then, which seemed unwise to me even when I was positive we wouldn't score a second, they sarcastically celebrated our late consolation goal, dancing around to Pigbag, lording it over their rivals. Karma's a bitch.
I wasn't looking forward to this game. I was convinced we'd lose 2-0. I didn't particularly want to go. I felt like leaving early (but didn't). But every now and again you need a game like this, amidst all the drudgery, to remind you why you fell in love with football. I don't believe any of us fell in love with it because of patterns of play or style or clever tactical nuances. All those things are lovely, don't get me wrong. But I suspect we all fell in love with this: the complete, total, bonkers, unpredictability of the sport. Unlikely comebacks, great thrashings, fights, red cards, unfair penalties, scoring direct from corners, smash and grab efforts. As a kid, you may have loved Disney, or Star Wars. As an adult, you may prefer something a little smarter, a little deeper. But every now and again, you can re-watch those classics and realise they're pretty good films too. And for a few minutes last night, I was lost in baffled joy at a most unlikely scenario, the ludicrousness of that late comeback. And I couldn't give a fuck if it 'papered over the cracks' - it was fun.
That sinking feeling
At 92 minutes I was thinking about my Jerks, and this was going to be number one. That sinking feeling was back. The same one I dismissed far too hastily late last season before something approaching all-out panic ensued as the defeats racked up. Four in a row. Preston away coming up - another well-organised, very decent side up north. Four would become five. Leeds at home. Five would become six. How many could Holloway stand before he'd have to go? Six? Seven? Eight? Even allowing for the injury list?
I looked at the team and all the potential I saw after the Wolves and Sheffield Utd results seemed to have melted away. We can't score, we can't pass very well, we can't keep clean sheets. Scowongoman can't be relied on to carry the team every single week. Even if Onuoha and Perch came back soon (Hall apparently a write-off for the season), while that might help us concede a few less, we're still not scoring. It was more like how I felt at the start of the season - I'd be happy to get out of this season still in the same division.
But then came the miracle. And perhaps, maybe, that might restore a bit of faith and belief and with faith and belief comes confidence, the willingness to take risks, a surety in how to play the game, rather than a desperation. The bastard hope. Guess we'll find out at Preston.
Never leave early
I never do, as I said. If I did, off the top of my head, I'd have missed that wonderful last minute goal by Ishmael Miller against Leicester. Gareth Ainsworth's last gasp of brilliance to help peg Preston back to 2-2 in a very similar comeback to this one. The Liverpool 3-2. Furlong's final goal for us in the last minute to snatch a 3-2 win against Luton. Cisse's house-bringer-downer against Stoke. Furlong again with a 90th minute winner at home to Leicester after being two goals down. Matt Smith's equaliser this season against Millwall. Port Vale away. Stockport away.
It's worth it. Every single minute I've sat through of inevitable, frustrating, ball-achingly terrible defeats, I stayed because... well, you just do. To support? Maybe for some just to boo at the end. In hope? I suppose. Sometimes. Sometimes it feels like something might happen. Last night it didn't. I didn't move when Smith scored. I rolled my eyes at the Brentford fans celebrating. But also rolled my eyes a little at our players running back to the halfway line, as if there was time for an equaliser. But 100 games of no late comebacks are worth it for just one unlikely comeback. 1000 games I say! All worth it.
Personally, I think Ollie has to be careful. He's an emotional man, he'd been ridiculed for 45 minutes by Brentford fans, he felt for his players who he knew had worked hard and have worked hard this season, sometimes without getting their just rewards. So I can see why he was angry and pumped with adrenaline. But with his record in the last year, he needs to be careful. He has goodwill from the majority of fans. Don't jeopardise that, because if that goes, and his pattern of results continues, he may not survive, however much he wants to fight to the death.
But I also think he's right. I saw a lot on here and on Twitter about how the result papered over the cracks and so forth. And I fully accept that Brentford were better, maybe even much better. They passed it better. They did less running, because they played sensibly and to a plan. They were quicker. Fresher. They moved the ball faster. They looked more rapid, they broke better, they played first time passes better (especially for a very good second goal). They defended better. The only area they weren't better was probably in goal. I think a few on here will have to admit the club were absolutely right to deny Southend their King's ransom and go for Smithies instead. No contest on last night's showing. And I totally accept we have a long, long way to go and Holloway probably isn't the man to ultimately get us there. But he might just be the man for now. Because he has good will and passion and belief and a work ethic that is valuable in our situation.
And I also, to come back to an earlier point, just can't see the point in being too negative after that. I really can't. Yes Brentford were better and deserved to win. But we deserved a draw v Fulham and didn't get it. Brentford's first was offside, and we were denied a penalty far more clear cut than the one that arguably cost us the game v Villa (although I did think that was a pen). This is sport. It's unpredictable. We were terrible that day up at Derby when Mackie scored that late equaliser (oh, another one I forgot you'd have missed if you had left early), but got an undeserved point and never really looked back. Celebrate it, enjoy it. Why bother going at all if you're going to shake your head and worry about pattern of play and style after that? I'm not saying that's not important, I'm not saying I don't think we could be doing better, I'm not saying we didn't play some unimaginative, ugly football last night, especially in comparison with the opposition. But for fuck’s sake. When this happens, enjoy it. Why ruin it? Why be negative? I'm not a happy clapper, I sat in depression worrying about relegation for 30 minutes last night, and I still worry about that. I don't think everything is rosy, I don't think Holloway is the best manager even in the lower half of this league. But come on, if you can't enjoy this, why bother, really?
But of course, we have to have the negatives, because Ollie was wrong and we were not good last night. We battled, yes, we tried, yes. But it was not attractive, and we did not look dangerous until Smith panicked them. So I'm picking on Washington. I realise I'm picking on him, but there we go. I think I've lost the faith. Earlier this year when he had his run of goals and at the start of this season I thought maybe he was turning. But he's not. It's not going to happen. He has industry, flashes of decent stuff, but that's it. He doesn't play well off a big man, he's not a number 10, he's not a wide-ish forward in a front three, he can't hold it up, he's not that fast. He's not bad at any of those things, but not good enough at any of them either. But most of all, it's his movement and lack of scorer's instinct. Watching Charlie Austin at the weekend only reminded me just how special he was in that regard. Washington just isn;t there when the ball drops, he doesn't make the angles - witness Pav's run last night and him desperately looking for the cutback, but Washington hadn't made the angle. I thought he was pretty ineffective all last night, and I'd have left Sylla on and taken Washington off for Smith, because at least Sylla has that instinct to get on the end of stuff. Sylla had a quiet game, but set up two presentable chances first half and hit the bar second half. Why take him off, particularly when Washington and Mackie were huffing and puffing to no effect?
And following on from that, probably our biggest problem now, perhaps even more than our makeshift defence: goals. How can we solve this? I don't know. Smith and Sylla need crosses. But for that, we need wingers. Which we have. But if we play wingers, we destroy the one thing that is working - the three man midfield (last night, it was more of a 4-4-2 and you could see how much less solid we looked in central midfield, with Woods, as usual, bossing the game against us). Washington doesn't score enough, Mackie has lost a bit of pace and doesn't score enough. Smith can score, but never looks effective starting games. Sylla can score, but Ollie feels he needs work horses around him (although you couldn't claim Sylla didn't chase around last night). I actually have no ideas on this, other than maybe playing a 4-3-3 with Wheeler and Pav or Bright either side of Smith or Sylla. But if Ollie doesn't find a way to solve it, I honestly think there's a chance we'll go down.
I think you have to expect dodgy games from a player who hasn't had tons of first team football, is playing out of position and has been hammered by injuries over the last few years. He has credit in the bank despite below par performances recently. But last night I thought he was great. Showed real, Clint Hill-style grit and determination to win the ball. A couple of great tackles first half. Some towering headers second half, and even took a vicious whack on the leg at the end during a big battle after we equalised. No surprise he's been handed the armband recently, because he's clearly epitomising the spirit Ollie is looking for.
Pictures – Action Images
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