One Bright spot on an otherwise dark night - Knee Jerks
Friday, 15th Mar 2019 08:26 by Antti Heinola
If you can stand it, Antti Heinola is back to pick over the flaming wreckage of Wednesday night's loss to Rotherham with his usual six talking points.
Well, if you weren't one of the 19,000 that crammed into Loftus Road last night, you'll be regretting it for the rest of your lives. A scintillating game, played between two cavalier sides at their absolute best, play swinging from end to end like a basketball game where all the players are on speed. Tough tackles, incredible goals - everything you could want from a game at this hallowed level. Breathless stuff from the ref's first powerful blow of the whistle, which seemed to set the tone for the excitement ahead, to his final, exhausted blast - a man as dead on his feet as the rest of us having witnessed a match for the ages, one that will be talked about for years and will surely go down as one of THE greatest 'nights under the lights' at Loftus Road. Absolutely superb - everyone was hoarse at the end as we piled out into the night sky, smiles beaming, limbs aching, eyes disbelieving. This, friends, was pure football.
I was going to do all six jerks like that, but truth is, I can't. Because that was truly a pile of dreadful crap played between two God-awful sides, the only surprise being somehow, between them, they managed a shot on target at all. Rotherham were utter garbage - hard working and full of honest endeavour - but garbage. Three months ago we'd have swept them aside as we did Ipswich on Boxing Day. How happy we were back then. The fact that we contrived to lose to them - and deservedly so - tells you all you need to know about the utter poverty of this excuse for a performance.
And of course you knew we'd lose this. Lloyd Doyley, Swindon Town, Daniel Amokachi, John Jensen... any team on a bad run, any player who hasn't had a goal for 10 years, roll up, roll up, roll the fk up to Loftus Road, or invite us to your place, and get that giant monkey off your back - and without hardly trying! The ultimate soft touch once again, the ultimate team to face when things are really bad. If only we were playing QPR on Saturday.
I've seen people on the board ask for 'McClaren lovers' to come out and defend him and while I can't really understand the apparent glee some fans have when their opinion of a manager is eventually proved, somehow, correct (the fact is, you could say every manager we've had for the last 25 years has, in the end, been 'proven' to be wanting - even the rare good ones), there really is no defence anymore.
No one has ever 'loved' McClaren at this club. He had a couple of songs sung in late December, but otherwise, fans have never warmed to him. I and others were, rightly, pleased with his job even as late as the end of January. Sure, league form had tailed off, but we were still in the FA Cup and December in particular had been a great month, despite losing three of our four loan/free signings to injury. There was a settled side that worked, we played 4-2-3-1, we got goals, we could defend sometimes. There were plenty of positives. Players at least seemed to know their roles and while the talk of play-offs at the start of the year was always likely to be fanciful, a decent final position looked nailed on. Job done. Look to next season.
But the wheels haven't so much come off as spontaneously combusted. And the rest of the car is on fire too. It seemed unthinkable even two weeks ago after the Leeds win, but we are, somehow, genuinely in danger of being spectacularly relegated. This is an appalling run, worse than any last season. Our home form is dreadful, our away form is worse. The players looked knackered and completely devoid of confidence. And while I don't think changing manager is a good idea (when has it really worked for us?) you do have to ask how many games this one can possibly lose before he's shown the door. Because something has to change and at the moment he doesn't look as if he is the man to do it. He's tried 3-5-2 and 4-4-2, he's gone back to 4-2-3-1 but, Leeds apart, none of it is working.
Circumstances have conspired to some degree - a long run of tough games that featured some particularly cruel luck has led to some dispiriting results. The players have looked tired for a while, and you can't blame them really when they had that tricky run of 11 games in 30-odd days or whatever it was. And yet, some of that is of McClaren's own making. You can understand wanting to keep the same team, especially when it's winning, but everyone thought he didn't do enough to rest key players over Christmas and he's paid for that dearly.
Last night we looked as lost as we did in that shellacking at home to Forest last year - the game that, for me, spelled the end of Olly's reign. In fact, we looked worse. McClaren's dug out some big results when he's needed to this season, but he's starting to look as if that's beyond him this time. Nothing last night suggested he knows how to turn this around - in fact, several decisions (BOS skinning their left back, getting him booked and then immediately is told to go and play on the other side of the pitch, for example) suggest the opposite. We are in serious trouble here, and if we lose the next couple - which seems likely - I'm not sure how he can survive. And then what? Thoroughly depressing.
As I sit here now, he's on Sky talking about his career, and despite it all, I like the guy. He seems nice. I think the players like him too. But it was probably recorded a few weeks ago and he ends the show referring to our recovery from the terrible start to the season, before adding: 'Things change quickly in football.' Yep.
I love Darnell. I thought he did so well to come back from injury and take Rangel's place and for a month we never missed him. He's a great professional by all accounts. He works hard, he's a great person, he speaks well, he always wants to improve. But currently he sums up our plight more than anyone. It's just gone. Bereft of belief, scared to make a mistake, stopping doing the things he was doing so well, wanting to just get rid of the ball as soon as he gets it. It's absolutely painful to watch. The problem is, with so many players out of form, there's no hiding place.
Eight touches in the second half. I didn't count first half, but I suspect it was a similar total. Offered almost nothing, hid behind his man, never attacked the ball, never moved into space, never showed for the ball, never chased adequately, never harried. Nothing. Thanks Tomer.
One of the many signs of a poor side is blowing it late in games. Not having the nous, or the skill or the stamina to get the result that you should get. Bristol, Albion, Birmingham and now Rotherham. Points chucked away for whatever reason so late in the game. Points that would have given us four more points and definite safety. It's not good enough and each time it happens it gets harder for the players to pick themselves up again. And now, understandably, the fans are losing sympathy.
The Bright spot
Mr Osayi-Samuel. At least he tried. At least he wasn't scared. At least he kept going. And he got a goal (which, to be fair, was a very good move). I mean, it wasn't great, he was a 6/10 MOTM, but then when everyone else is about a 3 or a 4, 6 seems pretty good. A meagre positive to take.
Pictures - Action Images
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