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The view from the Pu – May
Wednesday, 3rd Jun 2020 17:59 by Steve Hardy

As we enter a fourth month of lockdown, but with the return of football on the horizon, Steve Hardy uses his monthly column to look at the winners and losers of QPR’s season so far.

Another month passes without a ball being kicked, we are now steadily approaching three months since ten man Rangers won up at Preston for the first time since the early 1980’s. I still wanted to write something for May and it would have been very easy to go down memory lane again and conjure up flashbacks to Hillsborough, Oldham, Leeds, Palace or Richard Keogh’s finest hour, but with (fingers crossed) a restart now on the horizon I thought it would be a good opportunity to analyse the season to date…

Game of the season (so far)

Looking back over our results this year we have certainly had a lot more entertaining games than we did the season before under Super Schteve, in particular there was a nil nil at home to a Stoke side that played near enough the whole game with ten men that had to be seen to be believed. Rather ironically I have decided to opt for the corresponding fixture this season as my game of the season (so far) and maybe part of this choice is down to the two games being polar opposites when compared, yet they were only played 11 months apart.

If you had to draw up a specification for your ideal football match then it would more than likely include goals galore and a comeback of some kind which this game delivered in spades, the only thing really lacking was a last minute winner but that would just be being greedy. I can remember being two nil down early on and it feeling like quite a defining moment as we hadn’t won for around six games at the time and you could feel the doom and gloom creeping in, luckily we pulled a goal back almost instantly after going two down and didn’t look back from that point onwards and managed to go in all square at the break.

The performances of Bright and Eze after the break was something else and one of the reasons why we are so enjoyable to watch this season and also why we can be such a threat going forward. A breath-taking afternoon in W12 and exactly the type of game that you are happy to pay your money to go and see, the only real dampener on the day was the weather. If I remember correctly we were in the midst of storm Dennis and it pissed it down all day.

Oh to go back to the days where a poorly named weather front was the headline story on the evening news, feels like a lifetime ago.

Goal of the season (so far)

So many to choose from, we really have been spoilt for choice. From Bright’s solo special at Birmingham to Josh Scowen’s impression of Marco Van Basten in the cup to Ryan Manning’s screamer at Deepdale we really have been treated this year. However, I’m going to go for the second goal from the opening day of the season as my winner for this section.

The type of team goal that hoops fans have been treated to a fair few times over the years - think Francis opening day goal against the Scousers - but not one we have become accustomed to in recent times. A fluid goal starting with the goalkeeper and even ending up going back to the goalkeeper before ending up in the back of the Stoke net. Even watching it now it is a thing of absolute beauty and Stoke couldn’t get anywhere near us at time, Eze showing his deceptive pace and strength to breeze through the Potters’ defence and find the net. It felt like a real statement at the time considering Stoke were clear favourites for promotion and a certain sign of the type of football that the breadman would want us to be playing this year and ultimately how effective that style can be when it all goes to plan, doesn’t work quite so well when you’re squaring the ball to the other teams striker on the edge of your own box though. If you need cheering up at all during these uncertain times I suggest watching this goal again, it’s an absolute delight.

Performance of the season (so far)

I can imagine that for many people this would be the Cardiff home game at the turn of the year but I’m going to go for a game that in all honesty is probably a microcosm of our season to date. Saturday 14 September, Luton at home. The sun was shining, the beer was flowing, three nil up inside half an hour. Exactly the sort of entertainment that you are happy to fork over your gold and silver for. For a lot of people this was a game that we ultimately nearly threw away from a very comfortable position but even at 3-2 we were still piling forward looking for another goal and if Jordan Hugill could manage to keep his head over the ball then the nervy finish that we endured would have been negated. When you have Toni Leistner pinging 80 yard diagonals and Ebere Eze hitting the bar with headers you know you are performing as well as you can but that opening 30 minutes really was some the best football that I have seen in my twenty plus years of travelling down to W12.

Surprise of the season (so far)

This could so easily go to man at the helm who I think has surprised a lot of people with not only where he has us in the table, the football we have played and the way he conducts himself but he hasn’t surprised me, I think I was in the minority who knew what to expect. So for me the biggest surprise of the season has been the performances of Dom Ball in holding midfield.

A player I knew nothing about when we signed him and following a bit of research it didn’t fill me with a great deal of hope when you can’t even force yourself into a poor Rotherham team. Throw into the mix a ‘jobs for the boys’ narrative and it didn’t seem to be a particularly exciting signing, but rather like Sean Derry (my lord) he has forced himself into the team with committed, no nonsense displays in the middle of the pitch. Not perfect by any means but I love his energy in midfield and he is also pretty handy of the ball and his attitude can also drive the team forward when required. The Stoke home game in particular he was one of the real reasons that we turned that game around. When signed I thought he would be a squad player at best but he has turned out to be a real surprise, someone who can hopefully really kick on next season - whenever that is.

Player of the season (so far)

To quote Liam Kelly from a recent podcast, ‘What a ridiculous question.’ There is only ever going to be one answer to this question and that answer is Ebere Eze. A real breakout season for the youngster, kicking on from last season and showing a real maturity in his play. It does pain me that we have ultimately seen him play live for the last time but at least we got to see him at all, another genius to add to the list of number tens for the R’s. Easily our most important player with the stats of 12 goals and eight assists for the season (so far) and in all honesty I’m surprised that we managed to keep him past January. Still nine games to go of course, so hopefully we still get to see a lot more magic from the lad but best of luck to whichever club he ends up at, I look forward to seeing him tearing up the Premier League next season.

Season (so far) Grade - B - I would have snapped your arm off in August to be six points off the play offs with nine games left.

Links >>> Follow Steve’s match-by-match reviews on Instagram >>> August 18 >>> September 18 >>> October 18 >>> November 18 >>> December 18 >>> January 19 >>> February 19 >>> March 19 >>> April 19 >>> 18/19 Season Review >>> August 19 >>> September 19 >>> October 19 >>> November 19 >>> December 19 >>> January 20 >>> February 20 >>> March 20 >>> April 20

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Myke added 09:56 - Jun 4
Cheers Steve - very good piece. We all have our favourites of course although hard to disagree with many of your choices. However, for the purpose of discussion I will throw in my ha'penny worth with regard to 'game of' and 'surprise of' the season so far.
I get where you are coming from with Stoke at home, but for me it was Wigan at home. I know it seems ridiculously early to be talking about 'season defining moments' only a handful of games in, but we have seen at first hand how quickly things can go pear-shaped and mass-hysteria can set in, especially when the key-board warriors get in gear. So after a bright start to the season things had gone a little flat with successive defeats to Swansea (who as it happened were flattering to deceive) and Bristol City ( who have stayed the course) and suddenly we found ourselves 0-1 down to relegation favourites Wigan. That second-half comeback, with all our main goal-scorers on target was very significant, and even though it's being your quintessential 'roller-coaster' of a season since, I still think it helped to settle the natives at the time.
For me the surprise of the season has to be Ryan Manning and I not just saying that because he is Irish. I agree Ball has been impressive (as much due to Amos being less so, as to his own ability) but he has, for the vast majority of the games he has played in, being played in his preferred holding midfielder role. Manning, by contrast, has being deployed in an unfamiliar left back/wing back role and he has been a revelation. I know he played as a left-winger for Galway and he is clearly comfortable going forward, but he has also adapted well, for the most part, to his defensive duties too.

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