|Brentford 2 v 1 Queens Park Rangers|
Friday, 27th November 2020 Kick-off 19:45
Okilly dokilly neighbourino – Preview
Friday, 27th Nov 2020 14:49 by Clive Whittingham
QPR head across to Brentford’s new Lego-dome for the first time tonight for a fixture that has, in recent times, become an annual chastening experience.
Brentford (5-5-3, DWDDDW, 9th) v QPR (4-5-4, 13th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Friday November 27, 2020 >>> Kick Off 19.45 >>> Weather – Cold and dark >>> Brentford Community Stadium, Lionel Road
And so we come to the dubious annual pleasure that is watching Brentford tear our beloved Super Hoops a new arse. A helpful twice-yearly reminder of how the club we used to nick players from and dust down occasional table scraps by way of a money-spinning pre-season friendly or two has now surpassed us in every way. Better scouting, better recruitment, better facilities, better players, better managers, better football, better lovers, better husbands. Probably the best team we’ll play all season. Meanwhile we get wrecked in Vegas and come back with a part-used Jay Emmanuel Thomas on a three year contract. It’s like living next door to Ned Flanders.
I’ll be honest, I’m giving strong consideration to watching the Derby and Forest games rather than the QPR ones for the next few weeks. Even the wins we manage often turn into terrifying ordeals – two nil up against Cardiff and coasting, three one up against Rotherham and comfortable, and yet getting both over the line into actual wins felt like trying to shit out a snooker table. I’ve had more fun negotiating the HMRC website than I got from that last ten minutes the other night. Passing the ball around, torching the full backs, lovely to watch, gorgeous football, glad to be alive, goals going in, lazy lob developing into a full throb and then… I WANT TO PLAY A GAME. “I’d like some more QPR goals,” said Nick London, echoing the general mood, as Chris Willock waltzed around his man with a deft swagger to tee up our umpteenth chance spurned against the Millers. I’d like to go home to Kelly Brook every night, and that seemed a hell of a lot more likely than QPR even hanging on for a point just 15 minutes later. If we promise to treat them well and play with them properly this time, can we go back to having nice things again?
Meanwhile, up in the East Midlands, two clubs for whom brief periods of success under once in a lifetime maverick management a generation ago apparently entitles them to some divine right for a seat at the top table are once again tangled in their own hubris. Derby writing their own ‘how many managers does it take to change a lightbulb’ jokes by adding Steve Schteve McClaren to Wayne Wazza Rooney, Liam Rosenior, Justin Walker and Shay Given – big impact seen in the midweek 3-0 defeat at Middlesbrough. They’ll be exhuming Jim Smith next. Forest at least run their managers on a single rotation, one new man every 45 minutes of so, but are failing in similarly miserable fashion in an equally ridiculous endeavour to sign every professional footballer in Europe, thereby starving the rest of the clubs of bodies and beating them through sheer default. Bournemouth the latest to comfortably rubbish the hypothesis. God if only the cruel and uncaring EFL had allowed them to sneak that crucial sixteenth signing, Kamil Grosicki, through after the deadline had passed who knows how far clear at the top of the table they'd be. Instead, Chris Hughton now two wins from eight – another ‘new Cloughie’ for Christmas perhaps? I can't look away. I know it's wrong, but it feels so right.
If we are looking for signs of progress at our own club, then there’s plenty to be found in those two examples. That was once us, chucking good money after bad, signing and loaning anything that moved, managers coming and going at such a rapid rate the office door had a chalkboard instead of a nameplate. Each problem surely cured by just one more change of boss, just six more signings this window, just one more outlay of owner money, and before you know it you’re getting done 1-0 at Peterborough with Tamas Priskin up front, one of so many loanees they couldn’t all be named in the matchday squad. We’d have absolutely spent £7m on Tom Lawrence seven or eight years ago, based on some dim and distant myth of ability and who his agent is. Not only is it financially ruinous, not only does it destroy the fabric and soul of a club, but it very seldom brings positive results, as we found to our considerable cost, and the Sheep and Florists are now discovering themselves.
Now without parachute payments, much as it pains us to admit it QPR are aspiring to the Brentford model. You recruit sharply, you develop intelligently within a set and consistent ethos and style of play, you sell at the right time for the right price, and you reinvest. Brentford have taken themselves from League One in an ancient stadium to the cusp of the Premier League in a new ground through doing those four things on a loop, regularly bludgeoning the noses of supposedly far “bigger” clubs, with greater resources, spending vast amounts more on transfer fees, loan fees, agent fees and wages. They’re ten years into that development cycle, QPR are five, which is the stock and not unreasonable reason given for the regular shellackings they deal out when our paths cross.
There is progress being made. We used to double Rob Green’s money to get him from West Ham, replace him with Julio Cesar on double that money a month later, and end up with them both hanging around at the end of said lucrative contracts going out on loan or spending Saturday’s watching Esher play rugby and doing tearful puff pieces with the Daily Mail. Now we pick up an outstanding goalkeeper in Alex Smithies from Huddersfield, sell him for a profit, and replace him with keepers we’ve developed ourselves, one of them in Seny Dieng starting to look like a serious prospect. We scout Luke Freeman as a prospect being misused by Bristol City, play him in his correct position and get £5m for him barely three years after paying a tenth of that. Ebere Eze, a £20m player, and among the reinvestments from that there’s great promise in Rob Dickie, Chris Willock and others while Ilias Chair starts to grow into the vacated playmaker role – three goals in three home games now.
It’s tough. It’s galling. It’s gruelling. There have been many, multiple, missteps – Steve McClaren, Ryan Manning, potentially Bright Osayi-Samuel, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Ariel Borysiuk, Tomer Hemed. Huge great long list, opportunities missed, money wasted. But even standing still in the Championship while taking your annual wage bill from £80m to £18m is progress of sorts, and we’ve done a bit more than that. It would just help us feel it a bit more if we didn’t so frequently turn 3-1 leads against Rotherham into a night in a haunted house. Or, for that matter, lose quite so comprehensively to our opponents tonight whenever we meet them.
Links >>> Toney fast start – Interview >>> Memory Lane – Podcast >>> Bircham’s screamer – History >>> Donohue in charge – Referee >>> Official Website >>> Beesotted – Blog and Podcast >>> Griffin Park Grapevine – Forum >>> West London Sport, Brentford – News
Geoff Cameron Facts No.117 In The Series – Geoff would go all that way on two rotten pair.
Team News: Yoann Barbet missed both meetings with his former club in his first season as a QPR player, and was rated as a doubt for this one by Warbs Warburton after taking a hefty whack in the process of denying Freddie Ladapo a goal during the late siege of the School End on Tuesday night. Conor Masterson broke his nose in that game but played through to the end so should be ok. Rob Dickie has trained this week but it remains to be seen if tonight has come too soon with the games coming, cliché klaxon, thick and fast at the moment. If George Thomas doesn’t appear somewhere in the next week or so we’re going to start rolling over all those prizes we have left from the Sean Goss years.
One time QPR transfer target Charlie Goode continues to sit out with a feeling of deep and profound regret, suffered with one look at our red and white halved away kit at the Cardiff game. Christian Norgaard is dealing with lingering feelings of shame and low self esteem. Josh Dasilva went off at half time at Barnsley in the week with a dead leg but after it was pointed out to him that this is something eight-year-old boys give to each other ON FUCKING PURPOSE he’s dried his eyes and made himself available. Prepare a Victoria Cross.
Elsewhere: Without really hitting any kind of performance levels, newly relegated Borussia Norwich and Bournemouth now occupy the top two spots, with their fellow ex-Premier League chums Watford in fifth. All three will be reasonably confident of victory this weekend with the Canaries at home to Coventry, Watford hosting Preston Knob End and Bournemouth heading up to Rotherham.
The other three teams in the top six are enjoying/enduring a mixed autumn. Bristol City, like ourselves, probably did enough to beat Watford in what turned out to be a home draw during the week, but that’s still ten points from 12 for them and they’re third despite missing several players and staff through plague protocols. Swanselona, likewise, in decent touch in fourth, though unfairly denied a late winner in their midweek tie with Sheffield Owls thanks to Chuckles Woolmer’s latest brain explosion in injury time. Reading, on the other hand, have seen an early pace setting run fo results evaporate into a draw and four defeats from five. The Royals and Bristol City meet in the Saturday lunchtime tellybox game, while the Welsh outfit are at basked cast Nottingham Florist on Sunday.
The Thirteenth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour sits poised in seventh ahead of their north-off with Huddersfield, while Stoke are eighth ahead of the Tony Pulis derby at Hillsborough. Go on Jon indeed. There’s a couple of clubs perhaps doing better than expected meeting – Blackburn and Barnsley this week’s exciting game between two teams beginning with B – while Cardiff and Luton are both at opposite ends of the table relative to their pre-season odds ahead of their meeting. Neil Harris ex employers Miwllwawll, facking ‘ell Wawll, are within touching distance of the top six ahead of their 0-0 draw at Aitor Karanka’s Birmingham thrill machine.
Derby at home to Wycombe Wanderers has transpired to be something of a six pointer. However did it come to this?
Referee: As with the Watford game a week ago a fixture you thought may be flagged up as requiring a more tried and trusted referee at this level (not you Stroud) has been handed to a relative newcomer, with Matt Donohue from Manchester just beginning a third season on the league list. Details.
Brentford: From February 1 last season Brentford lost only one, and won ten, of 15 matches. Having beaten Sheff Wed 5-0 in the game before lockdown, they came back behind closed doors with seven consecutive wins leaving them needing just one victory from games away at Stoke, at home to Barnsley and against Fulham at Wembley to win promotion to the Premier League. They lost all three. Now tipped as a promotion favourite, rather than their traditional underdog role, and without Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma, progress has been middling. They currently sit ninth with five wins, five draws and three defeats. Coventry and Huddersfield have been beaten to nil at the new stadium, but Preston won 4-2 here having trailed 2-0, and Norwich, Swansea and Boro have all left with draws in the last three games. There is, amongst this, an impressive League Cup run which has seen them breeze through Wycombe, Southampton, West Brom and Fulham into a quarter final with Newcastle. The Bees have scored 18 times in the league so far, but Ivan Toney has 11 of those and perennial sub Marcus Forss another four. Only five different scorers in the Championship so far, three of those with a single goal each. Ominously though, they’re well in touch with the top six as November ends, and in recent seasons they’ve often started sluggishly after the sale of big name players while the well scouted newbies bed in. They won only three of the first 11 games last season, then eight of the next 11 through this part of the year, including a 7-0 home victory against Luton in this week 12 months ago. The season before they fell short of the play offs after winning just four of the first 15 league games, despite several big winning runs thereafter. Similar story in 17/18 – one win from the first 11 games, eventually six points off the play-offs. By Brentford’s recent standards, this is actually a worryingly good start - they’ve kept four clean sheets in the last five games, including the last three, and are unbeaten in six coming into the game albeit with four draws.
QPR: Rangers are not in dissimilar form from their hosts, with three defeats in 11 compared to their two in 11. Ten points from five games is, whisper it quietly, the magic two points a game marker that play-off qualifying teams aim for, and Rangers arrive into this game in exactly that sort of touch after victories against Cardiff, Derby and Rotherham. Temper that optimism slightly with a look at the league table which shows that Cardiff in eighteenth are the highest placed of the teams Rangers have beaten this season – Rotherham nineteenth, Forest twentieth, Derby dead last. The deserved victory at Pride Park is the R’s only win in seven league and cup games on the road this season, with draws at Bournemouth and Sheff Wed chucked in for good measure. It’s now just three wins in 20 away games for Mark Warburton’s side, a run which includes last season’s 3-1 defeat in this fixture. Coming into 2015/16 Rangers hadn’t lost to Brentford since 1965 – albeit only six competitive fixtures in that time – but in the 11 meetings since the Bees have won eight and QPR only two. We lost our last five visits to Griffin Park, scoring only two and conceding a dozen.
Prediction: We’re indebted to The Art of Football for once again agreeing to sponsor our Prediction League and provide prizes. The squad is updated and you can get involved by lodging your prediction here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s QPR collection here. Last season’s champion Mase offers us this…
“I am hoping for an improved display over our recent visits to Brentford. We seem to be staying in games a lot more this season than last, and with a bit of a fair wind we may be able to give them a bit of a scare. Ultimately I think they have a bit too much for us, with Toney to the fore, but then I thought the same about Bournemouth and Watford. It’s a hard job predicting this topsy turvy team.”
Mase’s Prediction: Brentford 2-0 QPR. No scorer.
LFW’s Prediction: Brentford 3-1 QPR. Scorer – Macauley Bonne
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Letters from Wiltshire #48 by wessex_exile
“And now the end is near, and so we face the final curtain…regrets, we’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention”. Not quite right Paul Anka, probably more than a few, but otherwise a fair assessment of where the U’s are today. It’ll be interesting to see how we perform with the relegation monkey finally off their back – I’m not expecting miracles, particularly with Tranmere needing at least a point to guarantee making the play-offs, but they’ll certainly be more nervous than we will be, so can we make that count? This will be my last blog of the season, and not yet sure what I may or may not do for next season, but suggestions are always welcome.
Letters from Wiltshire #47 by wessex_exile
Here we are, at the penultimate game of the season, and our last game in front of the cardboard U’s faithful at the JobServe. It has been a long, difficult, and definitely strange season, which frankly I’ll be glad to see the back of. That’ll we’ll be here again in August is definitely going to be something to celebrate, but I suspect we’re facing a summer of significant rebuilding both on the pitch, and possibly off it too. I won’t be the only one, but the biggest oddity for me has been being able to watch every single game – not always easy viewing, but something I’ve never done before, and probably never will again. But it doesn’t really make up for not being there in person, the long train journey away-days, meeting fellow U’s and other supporters, and of course sharing a beer or three. Fingers-crossed we can return to the terraces in 2021/22.
Letters from Wiltshire #46 by wessex_exile
That was quite a week for us all then. In the space of four short but remarkably tense days we have gone from having to take shoes and socks off to check how many more points we need to guarantee survival, or whether we would even achieve it, to breathing a huge sigh of relief knowing we’re almost there. But close of play this afternoon, whether by our own actions or the failure of others, I am sure survival will be confirmed. Of course, Tuesday night not only all but guaranteed it, it also virtually condemned local rivals Southend United to non-league football for the foreseeable. Looking at the host of fully professional former football league sides currently battling it out for the two promotion slots out of the National league (including Hartlepool, Torquay, Stockport, Wrexham, Chesterfield and Notts County), it is not going to be a walk in the park for Southend to return any day soon.
Letters from Wiltshire #45 by wessex_exile
Tonight, Colchester United face Southend United in what may not necessarily be the most important game of our respective histories (though it’s certainly very close), but is almost certainly the most important Essex derby ever. However this season pans out, by the end of it there’ll either be only one team in Essex, or worst case scenario, none at all. If the U’s win, then Southend will be 9pts behind with just three games to go, and a minimum of a -12 goal difference to overturn if they want to overtake us. Certainly mathematically possible, but that would rely on a remarkable turnaround in their form, form that they’ve shown precious little sign of achieving so far this season. The stalking horse is Grimsby, with their game in hand, who have rather belatedly shown an improvement in form, so their match against automatic promotion chasing Morecambe tonight is equally important, particularly if we want to avoid the unthinkable, with both Essex clubs dropping out of the league.
Letters from Wiltshire #44 by wessex_exile
So here we are, as the nation mourns the passing of His Royal Highness, Duke of Edinburgh, the U’s face the first of two season-defining moments, with our late kick-off match at home to Walsall. Before then, no doubt many will have been focused on events elsewhere, not least the early kick-offs for Grimsby (at home to promotion-chasing Bolton Wanderers), and particularly Essex rivals Southend United, who faced a tricky visit to Exeter City – still very much in the hunt for at least a play-off spot. As I finalise this blog, I know that Grimsby have beaten Bolton 2-1, and Southend earned a credible 0-0 draw in the West Country. More to the point, the U’s will know this too. Whilst I can’t help but feel that will ought to be to our advantage, it surely must also put additional pressure on a squad whose confidence is paper-thin. We must hope that Hayden Mullins, assisted by Paul Tisdale, get their heads right, and send the lads out this evening fired up with self-belief.
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