Sweet spot - Knee Jerks
Monday, 16th Sep 2019 16:40 by Antti Heinola
Antti Heinola was greatly encouraged by Saturday's win against Luton, despite the mistakes that allowed the visitors back into the game. Here are his six talking points.
For me, this is a sweet spot. I have zero interest in promotion to the Death Star floating above us, so all I really want is attacking football, goals and entertainment. At the moment, that is exactly what we have. Too mistake-prone at the back to challenge seriously, but, touch wood, just too damn good to go down. Perfect.
The first 30
OK, there's a lot to unpack from this game, but let's start with a whole chunk of it. That first 30 minutes was absolutely scintillating. One of the best 30 minutes of football I have seen by a QPR team. Took me back to one of my first ever games that I saw - a 3-1 midweek victory over Southampton, where we laid waste to their goal in a second half spell that, much like Saturday, brought three goals, but it could easily have been six or more (night of the Dave Bardsley thunderbolt, fact fans).
All across the pitch we were utterly magnificent. The skill, the movement, the focus, the determination, the work rate, the passing. Luton are by no means a poor side, but they barely seemed to touch the ball and while we spent pre-season worrying if we'd score enough goals, we looked like we'd score every time we got the ball. It was sensational, from back to front. When the BFG, whose passing has always been cruelly underrated, is playing 50-yard defence-splitting balls, you know things are going well. The only very minor quibble would be that we should have scored more, but even then, Eze's two bar-hits were very unlucky - you can't criticise that too much.
Of course, no team can keep up that sort of play for an entire game - while it was beautiful to watch, it was underpinned by incredibly hard work that at times embarrassed Luton. While Harry Cornick Junior did well to tuck away Joe Lumley's generous present, I could scarcely believe his lack of action for the rest of the half - same with Lua Lua (step over, shift left. He doesn't change, does he? As predictable as a Katie Hopkins hot take, that bloke). Time and again Ryan Manning had so much space and time on the left he could have been forgiven for thinking he'd stepped in some dog shit. And there would be Cornick, perhaps reminiscing to himself about his turn in long-forgotten World War II drama Memphis Belle, ambling back, barely even glancing at Manning, as Rangers out-numbered their hapless opponents for the 25th time in the game. It was astonishing. Still, he scored the first and created the second, so maybe the tactics were better than I thought. The stuffing was knocked out of us a bit after their first goal, but even then we should've had one or two more before half time. In effect, both Eze and Wells could and arguably should have already been arguing over the match ball while sucking on their half time protein gels.
This time last year I was 95% certain he wouldn't be here this time this year. He is, and thank the lord for that. If this continues, though, he definitely won't be here this time next season. OK he tired, as the whole team did, towards the end, but that was forgivable given the immense amount of work he put in - and he still had enough about him to glide past players, win free kicks and play that gorgeous outside of the foot ball to Ball or Mlakar or maybe both, I dunno. This was an absolutely beautiful performance - he was King of the KPFS, lording it over everyone, dominating the game, demanding the ball, passing beautifully, scoring beautifully, dribbling beautifully. It was utterly, utterly brilliant, to quote Timmy Mallett, and no wonder the fans have begun to resurrect Adel's song for our current No.10.
What was his best moment? His outstanding opening goal? The perfect pass for Wells's second? His double backward drag back thing in the centre of the pitch? For some, none of that, it'll be his relentless harrying and tackling back that has surely shut up even his most idiotic critics with their lazy accusations of laziness. Superb performance. Clive better give him an 8 minimum, but this was approaching Freeman v Leeds for me.
I was thoroughly underwhelmed by his little display as a sub against Pompey, but much more encouraged by this. I thought he had a very good game in front of the back three - he's mobile, strong, decent in the air, and while some around me were annoyed when he tried a more expansive pass, I don't mind that he has the self-belief to try and rocket a 40-yard diag to Manning even if he should be tapping it short to the Moroccan Messi (possible new nickname: John Inman). Not afraid to burst forward and give us an extra man in the attack, and a man who has a lot to say for himself. Last year we were a bit quiet as a team, so maybe that's no bad thing. Greg Cameron might be a bit worried.
Just a quick word on Pughy. I felt a bit non-plused by Warbs's subs this week. Mlakar for Wells seemed a bit odd given Wells's electric first half display - although he has been off banging them in for Bermuda, so he may well have tired (I'd have considered pushing Morrocan Messi or Eze up a bit and bringing on Amos, personally); and Amos for Kane was an odd one that didn't really work. But bringing Pugh on was a great move. He brought calmness, strength, determination and just a bit of experience to our tiring side and really helped us try to get back on the front foot. He made a couple of great runs with the ball and also won it a few times too - he may be in his 30s but his energy was just what we needed. He's not going to play every week, but he's going to be a valuable asset to this team.
I don't want to spend too long on Lummers, because it's been done to death on here a bit already, but, yes, it was a dreadful mistake for their first. And he knew it, he doesn't need us to tell him and the poor guy was apologising to fans as he walked off at half time. This should not stop us passing from the back - because it is working well, and worked fantastically in that first half. The thing is, you have to judge when to do it. And the worst thing is - we had been. Most of the time when it was tight, we were getting rid. On this occasion, Lumley was absolutely correct to be looking to make a pass. He was under no real threat, he had time, and he had options. He just mis-hit his pass. It's not a reason to stop the way we play - we just have to cut out the really bad mistakes. If we play like this all season and four or five times someone gets robbed and we lose a goal - fine. That's inevitable, and the rewards are greater. But these ones are the ones we can't afford. It was really bad.
Should he be rested? I really don't know. Kelly was brought in with a reputation of being excellent with his feet, but from what I've seen he's not as safe with his hands as Joe. I think for now, we stick. Joe's a good keeper and he can put this behind him - other than that one bad pass, his distribution was actually very, very good, with some really superb passes. Worth remembering.
I occasionally like to jerk off on the fans a bit, if you'll excuse the expression, so here's a quick one. I thought there was good and bad on Saturday. It was great to see the stadium pretty full - Luton brought a lot down and the home stands were packed, which made for a really good atmosphere. It really felt like fans are starting to believe something exciting is happening, and the players responded brilliantly with that amazing start. I also thought the fans were great with Lumley, with far more shouts of encouragement than shrieks of anger after his mistake. And at the end, they received warm applause for the three points and the entertainment. However, sometimes great football has a price, and some of the groans at the (very) odd misplaced pass seemed well over the top to me. There was a lot of impatience around me in the second half too. I do think sometimes it's worth us sucking up our annoyances - passes are misplaced, mistakes are made - and at any level. It will never be plain sailing. This lot are giving us some marvellous football at the moment - let's try and have a little more understanding when we're not scoring a goal every 10 minutes.
Pictures – Action Images
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