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View from the Pu – December
Wednesday, 5th Jan 2022 17:52 by Steve Hardy

Steve Hardy’s monthly review for December looks at a strange month in which QPR lost games to Covid, Stoke and Bournemouth but finished strongly at Bristol.

Here we are, at the end of 2021 in a hell of a better position than we were at the end of 2020. I think we’ll all agree that December was a strange month, so let’s rewind the clock to a month that brought us two defeats, zero draws and thanks to pretty much the last kick of the year a solitary victory.

I don’t know if we can remember as far back as the Stoke game considering everything that has happened since then, but trust me to pick the first league game this season we don’t score in as the first game to take my old man to since February 2019. Being serious for a second this was one of those games where two people can watch the same match but both come away with completely separate opinions. If you look at the stats then I feel it tells a different story to game I witnessed, although they do say that you can prove anything with stats. I felt that Stoke did a complete number on us and once they took the lead it never really looked in doubt, missed penalty aside. The ease at which they played through the middle of us was rather frightening at the time and I can remember coming away from the ground thinking that if they didn’t spend so much time rolling around pretending to be injured that they could quite easily have won that game three or four nil.

Referring back to the stats for that Stoke game and re-watching the highlights I don’t think we were anywhere near as bad as I’m making us out to be and on another day – Chair scores early on, Charlie’s penalty goes in – we could well have been the victors. Not to mention the 478 corners it felt like we had that day. But (there’s always a but) what worried me the most coming away from The Loft that day was that Stoke had a plan on how to play against us and when that happens we never really seem to have an answer. Obviously, injuries played their part that day and with a fully fit squad to choose from it probably would have been a different game altogether. Ultimately I suppose I just feel like that game was an opportunity missed when you consider Stoke’s results since although you can’t win them all, I suppose it just wasn’t meant to be our day.

Moving on, we looked forward to yet another one of our games being played on Sky so it did leave a rather wry smile on my face when this game had to be postponed the day before. Due to the timing of the outbreak it was fairly inevitable that the Swansea game would also be called off, meaning that our wait for a Saturday home 15.00 kick would extend until January 8. Clearly nobody wants games to be called off and points on the board are always better than games in hand, but I do feel that the Sheff Utd game being cancelled may have done us a slight favour in relation to getting players back fit. We really missed the influence of the wing backs in that Stoke game and I did worry heading into the game up in Yorkshire. Time will tell of course but I do feel that it may have worked in our favour the timing of those cancellations, as annoying as it was to go over half a month without any action.

So finally, we returned to action on December 27, again on Sky (Sky Sports Fulham Park Brom) against a Bournemouth side who only a month ago were comfortably sat in the top two of the division. Another game without a goal scored and bar some woeful finishing from the Cherries this game could also have finished three nil to the visitors. However saying all this it was never a free kick for their goal and the officiating across the game left a lot to be desired, as is always the case when Keith Stroud referees a football game above park standard. While I’m having a quick moan about the referee, I do find it strange that both clubs end up being charged by the FA when ultimately if we had a competent official in charge then the type of handbags we saw in injury time wouldn’t happen. Back to the game and this felt a bit similar to the Stoke game albeit without the chances, I reckon we could still be playing now and we wouldn’t have scored in this game. Warburton always talks about fine margins though and on another day with another ref you get to half time at nil nil and then anything can happen and credit to the team for going right to the end, but I just couldn’t help but feel had we scored then Bournemouth would just up in a gear and get another.

The year and month finished with a visit to Ashton Gate and our only win of the month – albeit a shortened one fixtures wise. Not the prettiest of games or most fluid of performances but ultimately the only thing that mattered was the result and there is no better way to win a football match than that. Similar to the Bournemouth game we kept going and it’s always a sign of a side on the right course when you can get late goals, however I do feel that we made hard work of a relatively poor Bristol side. Mitigating circumstances of course, a game three days prior on the back of a three week break which is why the most important thing on the night was the three points. It was also good to see Charlie back on the scoresheet as I’ve spoken in previous reviews about how much better we look as a unit with a happy Charlie Austin leading the attack so hopefully this puts him in a good position to have a second half to the season like we saw from January to May. Most importantly though a last minute winner to sign off the year, you’re not saying no to that.

So as always, where does this leave us now? Halfway point in the season on the cusp of the play offs with games in hand, we’re in an absolutely fantastic position. This time last year we had won just four games and relegation was a genuine possibility, we have already won more games away than we had overall at this time last season. Couple that with the squad we have and players to come back from injury and we’re in a very good position to really kick on in the New Year. However, it is still only the halfway point and using last season as a barometer then anything can happen between now and May, however when you compare not just the league position but the atmosphere amongst the support base to this time last year it is like day and night so credit is due to Warburton for overseeing that turnaround and more importantly to Lee Hoos and Les Ferdinand for sticking with their guy when it would have been very easy to wield the axe twelve months ago. For the first time in many a year I look to the New Year with optimism and excitement for the second half of the season, but that may just be because there are some 15.00 Saturday games in the diary for January.

December grade – C

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 >>> May 20 >>> June 20 >>> July 20 >>> September 20 >>> October 20 >>> November 20 >>> December 20 >>> January 21 >>> February 21 >>> March 21 >>> April/May 21 >>> August 21 >>> September 21 >>> October 21 >>> November 21

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