Bright spots, Eze pickings and late heartbreakers - Knee Jerks
Monday, 23rd Dec 2019 16:20 by Clive Whittingham
Antti Heinola looks back at Saturday's topsy-turvey home draw with Charlton through the medium of his usual six talking points.
A frenzy of mistakes, fights, occasional brilliance, joy, heartbreak, unexpected cameos from people you'd assumed were retired and at the end a real sense of nostalgia. But enough about the new Star Wars film - let's talk about QPR v Charlton. BOOM! TOPICAL!
Many hands have been wrung at the catastrophe of that last minute goal which some seem so upset about I had to check the table to see if we were were 6 points adrift at the bottom, rather than it being a bit of a freak goal that happens to every team every once in a while, but the reality is, at it was against Reading, Boro and other games this season, that goal would have meant nothing had we taken our chances to score the goals we should have done.
It's bizarre to sit here writing this sort of thing again when only one team on the division has scored more goals than us this season - and they're top. But it's true. We score most weeks, and yet we still should score more. Against Luton we scored three, but should have had six easily by half time. Luckily that time we got that extra goal we generally need to win a game (unless we're playing Barnsley away). This time, we only managed two. You could say with all Eze's shots that brought saves of varying quality from routine to excellent, he was unlucky not to score, but when you have that many shots you'd hope one would go in. But then there's our strikers, both of whom I love dearly. And both of whom have a decent scoring record this season, we should remember. But, still, we have Hugill who is guaranteed to blaze at least one into the upper tier at the Loft End every week, and Wells who is at times deadly, and at others... well, that's the second time this season he's raced clear with no defender much closer than Westfield and he's found a way to miss. For someone as technically skilled as him, it's baffling that he should miss that. And you felt at the time it would cost us - and in the end, it did.
Toddy Kane has plenty of upsides. He's quick. He puts in a decent cross. He works hard. But there are big issues. When targeted and left isolated, he seems to get beaten more often than not. Clive Wilson he is not - but then, who is? He has that annoying habit of going forward, checking, turning back and laying off a dangerous backwards pass that takes pressure off of him, but puts more pressure on the team. On Saturday, frankly, he was absolutely destroyed for most of the game. Bullied and hammered in the first half, nothing was done at half time by Warburton to redress the glaring problem at half time. If anything, Kane went narrower, affording more and more space down their left - an out-ball that was always available. And he was seemingly completely unable to stop the flow of crosses. I couldn't help thinking that Rangel would not have allowed that sort of thing to go on for so long, but Kane looked lost and had no real idea how to solve his problem.
The solution, however, was plain: Bright Osayi-Samuel on to play in front of him and force Charlton onto the back foot down that side, and also have BOS tracking back when needed, too. Warburton was a bit testy about people questioning why Bright was left on the bench. I have some sympathy there (not that others were not culpable but his failure to watch ball or man for Barnsley's 5th last week was not a great look) because he is a young player and there's nothing too much wrong with putting him in and out. The mistake was waiting until the 66th minute to make the change. I wouldn't have argued had he done it at half time, but to wait that long when it was such a patently obvious change that would solve so many solutions seemed very strange to me.
Still, Kane is beginning to look a bit like what he seemed at the time: a hasty stopgap following the unexpected sale of our right back. With Rangel surely likely to retire at the end of this season, especially as Warbs has barely used him anyway, I think we'll be in the market for a right back next summer.
A friend of mine is a West Brom fan and he says that when he watched them in the late 70s / early 80s he and his mate would walk out at the end of the game and discuss who was man of the match. But for that period, they had to change slightly. The answer, every week, was Bryan Robson, so they just discussed who was man of the match 'apart from Bryan Robson.'
Eze is starting to get to that sort of stage with us now. It's fantastic when you get to see a player really develop over a couple of years. For me, from the first time I saw him, I could see he was special. What we've seen since his improvement in every single area of his game to the point where he stands out in every match we watch. I know Clive has BOS down as MOTM, and I won't argue with that, such was his impact, but I thought Eze was superb. His control, his grace, his intelligence, his movement, his accuracy, his calmness. Just brilliant. That trick he repeats again and again where he cuts past a defender and seems to duck underneath them in a tight circle before accelerating away seems almost undefendable. I was watching Spurs yesterday and just thought - you know, you could stick him in this team. And I really think you could.
We have to be so clever with this deal. We do not need to sell immediately, we don't need to negotiate. Just keep saying no, because his price if this continues will just keep going up. And on top of all that, who was the player, on his haunches, absolutely distraught at that late equaliser? Eze. Upset perhaps that he shot a couple of times when he could've taken it to the corner (although the old 'taking it to the corner' thing seems to have had a baclash recently from some who believe it doesn't particularly save a lot of time, and merely keeping possession is a better option). But I won't blame him for that. For me, the game was won - we shut them out of it very well, we were not put under any pressure, we didn't retreat to the edge of our box and have to defend for our lives. The game was won - a poorly timed header cost us badly. Still, here's a player who must know he's going if not in one month then certainly in six, and look how much he still cares. A gem.
There were plenty of charges of unprofessionalism and so on from posters about that late equaliser. And it was heartbreaking as well as a terrible gift of a goal to give away. But at the same time, as mentioned above, I disagree with that a bit. The fact is that from the 80th minute we controlled the game beautifully. We attacked fluently, we should have killed the game off, we kept possession well and we defended sensibly. Charlton did not make a chance in that time, nor did they put us under any pressure. It was good football. But then came the hopeful punt, the misjudgement from Cameron (I am firmly blaming the man-bun - if it was a bit higher up his head, it would've had ore of an impact and taken it beyond Sarr and safely to Lumley to shank out for a throw in). It was a poor goal, but overall, I thought we dealt with the end of the game well. It was again, an unfortunate mistake that cost us.
I mean, this guy looked finish seven years ago. How is he still playing football? Somehow he's only 34 - I could've sworn he was 39 minimum. He's been around forever. And here he was again, taking out Eze nice and early, a clear and obvious booking which was not given on account of it being early in the game. So he did it again, still no booking, but he engaged in a lengthy diatribe (diatribes are always lengthy) until finally the yellow was produced. I was convinced Pratley had a week booked in Dubai with Joel Lynch, but turns out that was his seventh of the season, so he's already had his ban, so I'm not quite sure what he was playing at. Still, that shut him up and for the rest of the game we got to see Eze turn this waster inside out a few times. Hopefully retirement is imminent.
Shall we just start him in the next game? That was a message to the manager, wasn't it? What a performance. Not seeing quite so many 'no end product' messages about now, after a goal of the season, an assist, and now an assist of the season. Very, very exciting. When he, Eze, Chair and Manning are on song together they look unstoppable.
Pictures – Action Images
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