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Scowen shines as others suffer hard luck stories - Knee Jerks
Monday, 5th Feb 2018 14:28 by Antti Heinola

A much-needed win, but not exactly a performance to relish. Still, a losing run ended sooner than five or six losses in a row is always a bonus.

Scowen

I haven't got to Clive's report yet, but his headline seems to suggest that he agrees with me that Scowen was a clear man of the match. Obviously up for this match against his old club, this was probably Josh's best performance of the season and while he hasn't been in top form lately, you have to say he's probably our most consistent performer this season, along with Smithies.

This really was Scowen at his best. Tackling, harrying, forever in the right place at the right time. His positional sense is so good, that he's often able to make crucial interceptions just as it looks like the opposition may be about to burst through. And on Saturday he (finally) added a goal to his game - and an absolute pearler too - weirdly almost a carbon copy of the one scored by Danilo for City at Burnley just a few hours earlier. He was allowed a bit too much space, as Friend was for Boro the other week, but when someone scores from that kind of distance I kind of think that's irrelevant - it needs to be a shot of real quality to go in, and that was superb from Scowen. A lovely dip so that while it flew comfortably over the keeper's hands, it hit the net quite low down. Lovely technique.

But perhaps the most Scowen-y moment of the game came in the first half, when Barnsley's lumbering striker, their equivalent of Mathieu and the sort of forward that Championship teams have a contractual obligation to have somewhere in their squad, Moore, chased a ball down by the dugouts. Along came Scowen - BANG. Got underneath him, won the ball, left Moore in a heap, then jogged off, quietly pleased that he'd just fairly cleaned out a man twice his size and weight. Glorious.

Cousins

Well, he finally gets a start in his preferred position and while he was clearly trying his heart out, it was not a great day for Jordan. I'm desperate for him to do well. He's only young, which people seem to forget, he has the tools, he's had horrendous luck with injuries since he's joined after being injury-free in his career before that, he's been asked to play wing back, full back, and right wing, and he's never managed any momentum. In fact, he's probably never looked as good as when he came on as sub on his debut v Leeds at the start of last season.

It's heartbreaking to watch a player so clearly devoid of confidence to the extent that when he gets the ball his first thought is to get rid of it. Now, I know there were a lot of occasions on Saturday where we were crying out for players to play the quick ball, but this was different. He wanted rid because he didn't want to make a mistake and in central midfield in particular you need more calmness. The one time he did get his head up and began striding through central midfield, he was cynically hauled down. He looked tired early in the second half too. Feel for him and in a way the only way it'll get better is to play ten games in a row in central midfield. That seems unlikely (although with Luongo seemingly injured and Manning suspended, he may have a better chance than you might expect).

Manning

Another one I feel for after that. It was a bad challenge and while you'd hope he wasn't trying to injure anyone (let's not roll out the old 'he's not that type of player' nonsense - for anyone, I mean, not just Manning) it was a clear red. I always think if I'm looking worriedly at the ref immediately after a challenge, I can't complain about a red, because it's crossed my mind as a possibility. Here, I looked straight over, saw the hand in the back pocket and knew that was it. On the replay, you can even see Bircham there, not even arguing. If he's not arguing, you have to accept it. Although, obviously, if we were Bristol we'd be straight on the FA to appeal it. Shame for him because if Luongo is out injured there was a spot up for grabs there, and while I'm not as enamoured with Manning as some fans, he is undoubtedly talented and has a fighting spirit that I like and it might have been nice to see him in a midfield three for a few games.

Formation

Well, Ollie finally agreed with many on here and reverted to a flat back four. In some ways, it worked: he was rewarded with Lynch having probably his best game in a QPR shirt (although that should be tempered by the fact that Barnsley's strikers looked about as threatening as... well, our strikers). Right from the start he looked up for this one, winning headers, making himself available for the ball, playing some lovely passes, and in the second half made one fine covering tackle (mercifully he didn't dally as he often does once he had won it and cleared his lines well) and then that good block from Barnsley's best chance of the game (although replays suggest Smithies had it covered). Perhaps he feels happier in a back four? Or perhaps with no Bidwell to yell at, he was able to concentrate on his own game a bit more?

But in other ways, it made little difference. We played, I thought, a kind of 4-3-1-2, with Pav being the 1, and playing wide, making it quite lopsided. We've been begging for width, and for Pav to have a more attacking role, and that happened and it was an improvement. But there was nothing down the left. The amount of times a player looked up, could see ACRES of space on the left, but no one there was criminal. Ollie's so terrified of being overrun in midfield that Freeman was tucked in as usual - often nowhere near the left, and so we overloaded the right and became predictable. This overloading might have worked if we could then switch it quickly to the left, but there was never anyone there - apart from one stunning Lynch run and cross that put most of our wingers to shame. And yet, when BOS came on, suddenly we did have width and looked far more dangerous as a result.

Osayi Samuel

Which brings us on to another Bright cameo. I thankyow. Pace and a desire to run at people. What a difference it makes. Three times he terrorised the Barnsley back line - he should have scored with one chance, was unlucky with another and really should have combined with Pav to kill the game off the third time. But what a treat to see some actual pace! To see someone attacking with directness and without fear! OK, his finishing wasn't quite there, but it was a good sub by Ollie and BOS really gave Barnsley a worry when they were trying to snatch an equaliser. As has been said many times before, I'd love to see a front four of Pav, Freeman and BOS playing behind Smith or Sylla - that width, that added pace, feels like it would really make us much more dangerous.

Smith

It's been a year and I still don't know. To me he feels like a modern day Devon White. Really useful sub, really useful back up number nine for when your brilliant usual number nine is injured. The difference is, back in Devon White's day, our usual number nine was fkn brilliant. Now, Smith *is* the usual number nine. And he doesn't even have a Penrice or an Allen who'll get on the end of his flicks. And is it that Washington can't read his flicks, or are Smith's flicks just not that good? I don't know anymore. When we're losing and chasing a game, Smith feels like a great weapon. But on from the start, it doesn't seem to work, and by the time an hour's gone, Smith looks exhausted lugging his huge frame about. I like him, but somehow he's not a target man.

Unfortunately for him, referees don't like him at all. I don't know how many penalties he's appealed for this season. It must be around double figures, and while they obviously weren't all pens, some were and the one on Saturday was the clearest of the lot. It's become a joke now that refs just will not pay any attention to the clatterings he gets in the box from panicky defenders. Just before Scowen's goal, he was pushed, grabbed and finally hauled down - his shirt stretching half a metre from his body. Clear as day. It was such a clear penalty that even after the goal Pav, Freeman and Smith all asked the ref about it. That's how sure they were. They were celebrating a goal yet still couldn't believe they hadn't been awarded the spot kick. And I had sympathy. A clear and obvious penalty and it's a scandal that Smith's size allows defenders to assault him with impunity in the box.

PS - I hope all the punters witnessed Onuoha's brilliant first half through ball, that should've brought a goal. Turns out he can pass after all.

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