Cup heartbreak - Knee Jerks
Tuesday, 28th Jan 2020 00:03 by Antti Heinola
Antti's six knee jerks from Friday's defeat to Sheff Wed include support for Mark Warburton's team selection, but plenty of despair at just about everything else.
A disappointingly meek defeat against a team that turned up and played efficiently but without much invention or danger, and after our marvellous 3rd Round thrashing, it was back to the more traditional QPR FA Cup performance.
Aware I'm in a huge minority here, but I had very little problem with MW's selection and feel the stick he has received since to be a load of tosh. These are my knee jerks and I'll jerk as wildly as I want. I have very little problems with the changes he made and I think this was more than close enough to a first choice XI for the changes to be justified.
It made sense to rest Cameron who has been playing a lot lately and we have a lot of games coming up in the next few weeks. I also had no problem with starting Jack Clarke and only would have had a problem had we fielded a severely weakened XI, which we didn't. Clarke was in fact the only member of the entire team, bar Masterson, who has not had significant starts this season. This was undoubtedly the game to give him to see what he could do. Leistner for Hall was a no-brainer given Hall's injury issues and Masterson deserved to keep his place. There was no choice at right back, and Manning could hardly be described as second choice, even if Wallace has maybe edged ahead of him in the last fortnight. Up front, Hugill was always going to play. The one change that I probably wouldn't have made was recalling Lumley, who I feel needs a spell away from the first team to try and re-build some confidence, but as Kely was not even sub, I'm wondering if this was enforced. I love BOS, but Warbs has spoken before of how you have to look after players like him with explosive pace and I can see why he resisted starting him again. Essentially, though, while this wasn't the strongest possible team MW could have put out, it was more than good enough to win and was hardly second string.
I think too often fans look at a team before kick off and disagree with it and then when it goes wrong they say, 'Well, that's because the selection was all wrong.' But those two things aren't automatically correlated. Before the Cardiff game Warburton was pilloried on here for fielding what many felt was an overly defensive side, hoping for a 0-0 draw. We won 6-1. Ball, Pugh and Scowen all started as part of a similar line-up against Swansea when we won 5-1 in a game that saw Masterson's first start for the club. On Friday, I did have some issues with the confusing 4-1-5 (let's generously call it a 4-1-4-1) formation, which I felt would leave us without a link man between defence and attack. But you can't blame formation on the first goal when two players stood around chatting while a throw went over their heads and the keeper fails to keep out a fairly routine shot. You can argue that this may not have happened has Bright and Kelly played instead of Clarke and Lumley, but I'd counter that whatever team you select of almost any ability should never defend like that. I'm happy to be critical of MW for our team's inability to defend set pieces this season - that stuff could and should be worked on in training. But this was beyond basic. It was absolutely dire, and I don't think you can level that sort of sloppiness at the manager's door. He has a right to expect his tea to do better.
And in the end, that goal was the difference. We could, probably should have won this game. We missed chances, we were a bit under powered, we conceded a second when we were taking risks, which was more understandable, but personally I had no problem with the selection. It was sloppiness that caused this defeat and MW had every right to trust the XI he put out to get a win.
There are lots of ways to describe a debut - I think there's a list of them somewhere from which football reporters get to choose. 'Dream debut' is when they score on their debut. 'Showed some nice touches' is when they don't score, but don't do too badly. 'Clearly needs time to bed in' comes with an underwhelming display. And 'nightmare debut' is usually reserved for a keeper making a howler, or someone missing a penalty or getting sent off. For Clarke it was a case of him having a night that started badly and only got worse, no matter how hard he tried. It was a mercy-killing when he was finally hooked, and the poor boy was halfway off the pitch even before his number came up. I felt awful for him. Running into blind alleys, poor passing, caught cold for their first goal marking no one. The more he tried to rectify his errors, the more mistakes he made. There's no doubt he has great talent, and his gait is pleasingly reminiscent of Chris Waddle, but Warbs has work to do to get his confidence up. Early days, but felt really bad for the lad.
This looks like it may not be a problem soon with the news that it seems Nahki Wells may be about to depart, dealing us a heavy blow for the rest of the season, but it often seems that if Wells is playing we're crying out for the strength and height of Hugill, but when Hugill is playing we're crying out for the guile and pace of Wells. It's a conundrum Warbs has perhaps never quite solved, but Hugill will now have to carry that load on his back for the rest of the season unless something fortunate happens. There was no lack of effort form Jordan on Friday, but in the end Wednesday dealt with him well - he won less of the ball in the air than he normally does and really we failed to get up and support him or supply him with much service - strange, since we fielded so many number tens in one team. And Hugill's main problem was laid bare at 0-1 - a rare decent move and a good early ball finally gave him a sight of goal in a position very similar to the one where he scored so brilliantly against Swansea, but this time he hacked at his shot and it bounced tamely wide, to his obvious fury. huge pressure on him now to try and grab another 7-8 goals before the end of the season to keep our heads comfortably above water.
We've conceded some horrors this season, but this one was right up there. I can almost bear honest mistakes - passes that go wrong, something like that. But players standing about and getting done by a throw-in - a throw-in! - was a new low even for us. I know Lumley has (of course) taken a lot of stick for the goal, and having seen it again I completely agree he should be stopping that (it seemed to go through him), but that sort of chance should never happen. Kane and Clarke culpable, while at least Ball spotted the danger and did his best to rectify it. However you look at it, it was so bad. so, so bad.
Having said that, it was nice to get a goal of the kind we've been giving out all season - the second one like that that Wells has had this season, actually, after the one at Millwall. Beautifully finished too - I always like to see a player go round the keeper, you rarely see it these days. Unfortunately, it happened just a bit too late, but when the ball dropped to Leistner from the corner soon after for a fraction of a second I thought we were going to rescue it.
11,800 apparently, which was not too bad. We probably could have opened the Ellerslie with that, which would have saved the ludicrous crush in the SA Road stand at half time. Well done to the Wednesday fans who came in such great numbers, and enjoyed their deserved win, but I'm in agreement with Warbs, it really felt like we didn't have a proper crack at it and we never really managed to get the crowd going.
Pictures – Action Images
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