All hail the kids - Knee Jerks
Wednesday, 7th Mar 2018 14:29 by Antti Heinola
Antti Heinola welcomes a point for QPR against Derby following the our deforestation (does that work?) last week. Another point close to safety and, in the end, a well-earned one, too.
And, finally, a reversion to four at the back. It didn't give us the real width many have been calling for, but it helped. And we weren't overrun in midfield. Now, that may be because Derby's plodding midfield of Huddlestone (who may genuinely now not be able to actually run at more than a light jog) and the pleasingly over-the-hill (but obviously still a pr1ick) Bradley Johnson would be left for dead by Joel Lynch in a turning circle contest, but it was also a lesson that we don't need to play three at the back in every single game.
The new approach worked early on when Derby struggled to deal with Smyth, faded a bit, and then worked better when we played more of a 4-2-3-1 once Eze came on. Against a Sunderland side devoid of confidence and in desperate need of a win, any win (you know how this ends), surely Holloway must start with the team he finished with, barring Smith for Lynch on Saturday. While some might be blaming (ludicrously) our recent defensive travails on Ramsey, you might also say now that perhaps the more attacking Ramsey has got in Ollie's ear and convinced him to make this change.
As many others have said, a clear man of the match. This is why youth is so dangerous. This is why hesitating before throwing youngsters in is a bad idea. He summed up everything that is desirable in having a young player on the pitch. He's not jaded by years of struggle. He's fearless. He'll try stuff. He has belief and confidence in his ability. He doesn't care about reputations. He knows what he's there to do and he's so desperate to stay in the side, that he won't be cowed into playing any other way. Run with the ball. Scare the full back. Win free kicks. Chase back. There were so many great moments to enjoy from him in that game, from tricky runs at pace, to clearing out the moaning, fairly pathetic Lawrence with a thundering covering challenge, to winning free kicks and corners when out-numbered and, possibly best of all, robbing Keogh, giving it quickly to Freeman to play in Lynch when we went so close to a late winner.
He is only small, but it doesn't feel like it. He's wiry and strong and despite Derby's best efforts, absolutely refused to be bullied. In fact, he did the bullying and Wisdom walked a tightrope for most of the game after a deserved early booking. Really good. Still early days, still in that first flush of first team excitement, but he feels like a genuine prospect. I don't want to dig out Washington, and I thought the cheering of his substitution (as welcome as it was) was unfair and lacked class, especially as I'd never question Wash's commitment to the cause, but the contrast between the pair of them was so stark last night. One player full of confidence and running. The other absolutely devoid of belief.
Which brings us to Eze. Welcomed onto the pitch by a crowd desperate for a hero, it has to be said he did more in his first five minutes than others had managed in the hour that preceded it. What he gives us is someone else in a forward position who you can give the ball to and expect that he will keep it. He has a great touch, he absolutely glides past players - it's beautiful to watch. He spots passes - one he fired into Smith and ran for the return, but Smith didn't quite have the ability to knock it back to him first time (as effective as he is, the fact that we can't play balls into Smith's feet is a huge problem for us) showed incredible vision. And quick thinking. We may well have been relegated without Freeman this season, such is his importance in terms of assists and goals, but he can dally on the ball when a quick pass is needed. Eze just seems to move a bit quicker, to see things and act on them a little faster.
He gave us something the excellent Palmer gave them - menace, skill, the ability to beat a man. His first goal for us is not far off, I'm sure and he simply must start on Saturday. There is no convincing argument against it. It means shifting Freeman wide, but that's not a terrible thing in itself and the simple fact is we do not score enough goals. We have to try something new. He's worth accommodating. He's not the messiah, and I am convinced he'll infuriate the same group of fans that were always infuriated with Taarabt, but he can't be held back any longer. And he needs a run. Not a moral-sapping 60 minutes, then replaced, then on the bench. An actual run.
And we complete our run of praising youngsters with Darnell Furlong. OK, he's not exactly a 'youngster' any more, but this has been a difficult season for him. In and out the side, schooled in a couple of games, injuries etc. But he looked much happier last night as a full back rather than a wing back. He's always been good in the air, he's fairly quick, strong, with a great attitude, and I think everyone would agree that positionally he has been caught out more than once this season. But the wing back position is hard. In truth, no one has had a great game as a wing back all season that I can remember. He looked confident and determined here and I'm sure it helped playing nice and close to someone as experienced as Onuoha. Two highlights for me: one run and excellent cross from a tricky angle in the first half, and then a superb diving, twisting defensive header away from a free kick in the second. Would love to see him have a run as a right back, but I feel like Perch will soon be replacing him yet again.
After a great start to the season, Luongo seemed to have lost his way over the winter a little, maybe due to fatigue, the grind of the season, or whatever. But at the same time he’s now scored three goals in seven games and has four for the season. One or two more before the end of the season and the 'Luongo doesn't get enough goals' argument will be, if not buried, then covered over lightly with some quality soil. I've felt for Scowongoman a little in recent games. The crowd get on their backs for going backwards or holding onto the ball for too long. But so many times - so. many. times. - I've looked at them and looked at what's in front of them and there just isn't a forward pass on. There just isn't. You can't play low balls into Smith. You can't always hit high balls into him. Washington does not show for it enough. We have no width. Frequently, Scowongman can only pass to, er, itself. It is hard. But it was a bit better last night and Luongo arguably had his best game for a while (not a great game, but better) because of that. He won loads of the ball as usual, he got himself out of tight spots well as he does when he's feeling it, and of course he scored a lovely header - great jump and a powerful neck movement to nail it into the corner. I'd still like to see him move a bit better off the ball - to give and go a bit more, to run up and get in and around the forwards as he did in the first few games of the season. But overall, a solid 7/10 from Mass - a welcome good game.
What a difference it makes. It was noticeable, particularly in the first half, how many long, high balls we played. How many times Bidwell, Onuoha or Robinson adopted the 'if in doubt, kick it high and far' method of defending. No one wanted to get caught, or to make a mistake. The good passing football we saw early season has slowly been evaporating and we only see little glimpses of it now. Just look at Palmer - a player full of confidence, willing to try tricks and flicks, and to risk losing the ball to help produce a goal. His run for that goal was superb, as much as we all may think someone should have got a foot in somewhere before his sublime final ball. It makes such a difference. We finally had this in the last half hour or so, thanks to the fearlessness of Eze and Smyth. Belief returned, the crowd came to life, anything less than a draw would have been a travesty. Confidence - so hard to get, so easy to lose.
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