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|Carabao Cup Draw Fun|
at 12:03 17 Jun 2019
This year, the draw won't be in Malaysia at 4.30am BST so that the Far East can be the first to update their Carabao Cup wallcharts with the word that Northampton are playing Swindon (obviously I'm talking nonsense there - we'll be drawn against Northampton of course). No, it will be in London. At a Morrison's, obviously, and I know what you're thinking: 'Of course! Why has no one thought of that before?!' Maybe you're right - maybe it *is* too much of a cliche. But I applaud their willingness to do the draw in the country in which the matches will be happening. That takes real guts.
The draw will be made by John Barnes and Brian Borrows, who have to open packets of cereal and find the toy in the cornflakes/rice krispies/muesli. That toy will denote a club in some way, and the results of the draw will be carved into a specially baked extra-large loaf of wholemeal bread.
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Sheffield Wednesday v Queens Park Rangers prediction logged
|Antti's Six Knee Jerks: QPR 0 Forest 1|
at 10:19 29 Apr 2019
Watching the players walk around the pitch at the end for the Lap of Appreciation was a true 'I was there moment'. I wasn't there, though. Not because I was angry. Just disappointed.
1. THE GAME: Last week Clive wrote brilliantly about how QPR were finding ever more creative ways to lose matches. Turns out, though, that even our creativity for losing matches has its limits, so we looked back through the archive for one of the old ways to lose a match and used that instead.
Truly, this match was a microcosm of the second half of the season. If you had stopped going to games in early January (and God knows, we all wish we had), you could've simply turned up to this game, watched it, and it would have told you everything you needed to know about the second half of this season.
It wasn't a dire performance, but it wasn't much good. It was frequently dull. But at the same time, there was some fight and the odd flash of skill and in the end we should've taken at least a point. And, finally, we threw away our biggest chance to get a point with something involving a penalty. This description sums up about 4 or 5 games over the last few months, and take away the penalty and it sums up almost every other game. We may have been creative at losing, but the fact that we kept losing has become monotonous in the extreme.
But finally, barring the and inevitable turning over at Sheffield Wednesday next week (when our collection of loans, out-of-contracts and youngsters loses by at least three there, it'll be the ;east surprising thing since... well, see Jerk 2), this wretched season is over. Now I can enjoy my weekends again for a while.
There is/was some justifiable anger on this board over the weekend, but I think for most fans that stems from where we were at the turn of the year. Because after the first four games of this season, I would have snapped your hand off to be safe with two games to spare. The really annoying, frustrating, anger-inducing thing is that it really, really could have been so much better, so much more comfortable and enjoyable. But we totally, alarmingly, fcked it up. And that's what is so galling.
2. THE PENALTY: I have not been so sure someone would miss a penalty since Paul Furlong grabbed the ball to take the first fateful penalty in front of me and a few hundred other incandescent fans against Vauxhall Motors nearly 20 years ago. At that time (sorry Furs) Paul was not the cult hero, possibly even club legend, that he is today. He was Chelsea scum, permanently injured and completely unable to convert penalty kicks. He missed and I lost my sh!t - it was so obvious he'd miss, but he took it anyway. Still, soon, I felt bad about that, because I came to love Furs - he was brilliant. He was just no good at penalties.
On Saturday, when we got the penalty generously handed to us by diplomacy's Jack Robinson (by the way, if ever a song showed how bored our fans are by this second-half-of-season-sh!t-show, it's the Q Block chant - 'Robbo, you're a C***, Robbo, Robbo you're a C***' . Bit route one, lads?) I immediately looked around for who was going to take it. That's not Nahki Wells walking towards the ball is it? Yes. Well, surely he's fetching it for someone else - Ryan Manning, perhaps, or Josh Scowen. Oh, no, he's placing it. Yes, he's taking it. Unbelievable.
I mean did *anyone* think he was going to score? What on earth was he playing at? What was the manager doing? I know Eze and Hemed were off the pitch, but still. We saw earlier this season that he failed to convert a high pressure, last minute penalty. I'm all for redemption, but this is a team game and Wells, much as I like him and cannot fault his attitude, should not have been near the ball. I won't bore you with my list of who I would've picked to take that pen from 1-11 of those left on the pitch, but Wells was somewhere above Leistner but below Gary Cameron.
If Wells had missed a penalty earlier this season that occurred in the 60th minute of a game we won or maybe drew - then, maybe. If he had recently been in superb form, then, okay, maybe. If he had even come onto the pitch and not had two shots, both of which ballooned so far over the bar that the Upper Loft fans started trying to sort themselves out some accident insurance, then, maybe. But none of these things applied. He is a sadly dreadfully out of form, low-on-confidence striker who has already missed one massive penalty this season - a penalty that, had he scored, might have seen us have quite a different outcome for the rest of this season. And that's before you realise that he had previously, according to the excellent Jack Supple, missed his last FOUR penalties. Nahki. WHAT THE FK WERE YOU DOING?
Only one player on the pitch in hoops has scored penalties this season - Ryan Manning. And he should've had the ball. He'll also be with us next season, he'd had another good game at left back, and he deserved it. Absolutely infuriating.
3. MANNING: Another good performance full of skill and deftness and intelligence. He may not be positionally brilliant - that will have to be learned - he may not be the best defender, but that can be learned too - but he has quality and showed it again on Saturday. Once more his delivery and passing was, in the main, very good. His ability to get himself out of tight situations is admirable. He prefers to find a pass and takes responsibility to do so rather than just firing it up the pitch. He feels unflustered and unhurried, and maybe he will convert more fully into a left back. I could also see him playing left midfield. He doesn't have searing pace, but he can beat a man and his crossing is probably the best at the club. A rare encouraging sign.
4. CENTRE BACKS: Clive said it last week - it looks like we probably should have tried George Cameron at CB earlier than we have. He looked totally at ease there, alongside Leistner, whose sheer strength makes us look a better side when he plays. Few players use their arse quite as well as Leistner when in a tight spot. Gallen-esque. OK, so we did concede a fairly sloppy goal, but on the whole, and particularly when bearing in mind their lac of pace, these two looked very good together. A shame it's happened this late in the season.
5. SHODIPO: I frequently forget about Shodipo. It's sad to think the player that JFH thought so highly of, who had a couple of tremendous assists to his name, has had such a tough time over the last couple of years or so. Particularly when he produces cameos like the one on Saturday. It was nothing complicated - get ball, run with ball, beat man, cross ball. Sorted. In my fanciful world where we don't finish bottom next season, I imagine us finding a Bielsa-like coach able to wring the very best out of our talented youth; Smith as a static spearhead, with three from Bright, Smyth, Eze, Chair and Shodipo buzzing around him and chucking crosses in for him. I stress this is fanciful. But I am allowed to dream if I want to and you can't stop me.
Anyway, he was a pleasure to watch. I didn't even mind when he beat the same player six times before finally crossing the ball. Who cares? We were losing, but my God it was nice to see a bit of fun on the pitch. I dunno - he'll probably end up in non league or league two, but it feels like there's something there. Make or break season for him next time out.
6. WALKER: The full debut cliches:
Dream Debut? Nope.
Looked sharp? Not really.
Showed some nice touches? Maybe.
Quiet debut. Yep.
I thought Eze had his best game for a while - the difference when he was moved into the centre was stark. Whoever does come in now really needs to be able to inspire these young players. We have two or three (Chair, Eze, Bright) who really could be very, very good players at this level. But they need to be trusted and inspired. It's a big ask.
And that's that. Thanks to all - see you next season! Hurray! Cannot wait. Pulis might be available soon...
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Queens Park Rangers v Nottingham Forest prediction logged
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Queens Park Rangers v Blackburn Rovers prediction logged
|Antti's Six Knee Jerks: QPR 4 Swansea 0|
at 11:11 15 Apr 2019
Back by no demand, it's the Knee Jerks. Sorry to anyone who's vaguely missed me, but work commitments mean I've either had to miss games or not had time to do write-ups. Still, what a game to come back to. I'd like to say that result was coming, and I knew we'd do it eventually, but I can't. In fact, I was already mentally spending the £550 I was convinced I'd be winning in a few weeks when our relegation was finally confirmed. I hate myself for making that bet, but I renewed my ST in January - if we're going to play League One football, at least I'll be doing it for free.
1. EUSTACE: I think we all still use the term 'caretaker manager', but these days clubs eschew the imagery of a bloke in a long brown coat carrying a broom and smoking rollies in a little shed, and prefer the term 'interim manager'. Same thing, but grander title. We've had loads that I can remember. Frank Sibley on around 37 different occasions, Marc Bircham and Steve Gallen (a few seconds away from a memorable win at West Brom, them two), John Hollins, Gareth Ainsworth at least three times, Chris Ramsey, Mick Harford, Iain Dowie, Neil Warnock, Bowen and Niedzwiecki... and now John 'Eusty' Eustace.
How much do you know about Eusty? I knew less than I thought. I thought he was captain for yonks at Derby, but he only played about 60 games for them. In fact, his career only spanned about 300 games and was sold for a grand total of £250k, according to Soccerbase, and mainly played for Watford. Then he managed Kidderminster pretty well. So, all in all, we were allowed to be be underwhelmed by his presence as our boss, particularly after his first result. But then, suddenly, a recovery.
On Wednesday last week, he played horses for courses and made sure we were big and strong against Millwall and was rewarded with a rare clean sheet. On Saturday, he switched it up to great effect, picking a team full of energy to worry Swansea into mistakes, which we pounced on time and again in a performance that brought to mind both Adel Taarabt's demolition of Swansea (in apparent homage, BOS even replicated Adel's flicked pass to Clint Hill in the seconds before he nutmegged a completely broken Joe Allen - and in almost the same spot of the pitch too) and Mark Hughes's ultra-rare tactical masterclass (I know, right?!) in a 3-0 win on our way to safety back in 2012.
This was probably our best performance of the season, certainly our most dominant, and while you might argue Swansea were bloody awful and never helped themselves and have nothing to play for, they were on a run of four successive wins and had given us a good hiding earlier this season, so let's not belittle the achievement. It was a performance built on hard work and organisation topped with skill and (fairly) ruthless attacking play (we should really have had six or seven). From the outset, we never let them settle, we pressed them high and sensibly. At the back we were strong and fast, playing safety first, yes, but we haven't looked that confident in defence for months. Everyone knew what to do, and Swansea, while occasionally knocking about some pretty geometric shapes with their passing, simply couldn't handle it.
On top of that, Eusty and his team of scientists had clearly noted that the Swans keeper, Nordfeldt was not a fan of high balls - particularly in-swingers. In fact, the Swansea team as a whole would definitely have preferred we didn't keep swinging those in, because it made them feel very uncomfortable. But we kept doing it - Freeman only took corners from one side so that the superb Scowen could swing them in from the other. It almost worked after about a minute, and when it didn't, we pulled the same trick again and this time they weren't so lucky. And so it went on. Almost every cross could've been a goal. Actual tactics, actually realised during the game. It was like sorcery.
And all the while, Eusty was on the touchline, clapping his hands, urging the tireless Scowen, the relentless Cousins, the snappy Manning to keep pressing, to keep tackling, to resist the urge to drop deep. And they all responded.
It was very, very good. I haven't been that relaxed watching the Hoops since the early demolition of Sheff Wed a year ago, and even that got a bit nervy when they came back to 4-2. But Eusty is an interim manager, and at the moment that's all it is. Three games - one poor, one better, one very good. A personal goal difference of minus four has been dragged back within two games.So we can't get carried away, no one should (or is) demand that he gets the job. But maybe he might, after all, have given himself a chance of it.
2. HEMED: One huge risk Eustace did take was picking Tomer Hemed. Not a popular decision. And quite rightly it wasn't popular, because he's really not been a good signing. A decent start, followed by injury, followed by some pretty poor and, let's say, laid back appearances. I think most of us would have been happy not to see him for the rest of the season. When the teams were announced, his name was greeted with a muted murmur.
So God knows what happened, but this was like a different player - not quite Heidar in his 2011 pomp, but not that far off either. He won more headers in one game than he won in the rest of the season put together. He tried. He chased. He barreled about. He bullied Swansea. He scored two fine goals and could easily have had a hat trick. Where has this guy been? It was, and by some distance, his best performance of the season and was pretty much exactly what you want from your lone loan striker. I don't know what the difference was. Was it Eustace? Was there a scout in the crowd? Was the possibility of a contract dangled in front of him? Or was it just a early goal that gave him some confidence and some fight? Who knows. Fact is - great performance, well played.
3. RETURN OF THE RAT: I'd read from Clive's report that apparently the Rat seemed to be back. He was there at Hull and a little bit at Millwall. But on Saturday, he was properly back, for a whole game. But this wasn't just ratting. Yes, he harried, he won the ball, he kicked Swansea players, he was perpetual motion, recalling his best displays of last season. But there was also skill there too.
At the start of the season there was a story that he'd pointed out to McClaren that at Barnsley he ahd been an '8' - a box-to-box midfielder with license to get forward. The stats bear that out - 10 goals in 80 games there compared with 2 in 60-odd for us. But McClaren, and not unreasonably, told him he was a deep lying midfielder with the job of protecting the back four and giving it to our better players.
On Saturday I think it's fair to say he looked liberated. Yes he was tackling, but he tackled everywhere, from the front to the back, and combined that with some perceptive passing and some impressive tricks and flicks that Freezy would have been proud of. He was allowed to take free kicks and corners to good effect too. You do wonder, already, if Eustace sees more in him than McClaren (who barely used him) did, and that's in turn an encouraging sign that Eustace is his own man with his own thoughts on the squad. Scowen was likely man of the match in a performance that was not only back the highs of last season, but possibly his best ever in a Rangers shirt.
4. CENTRE BACKS: Whether or not Eustace was responding to fans feelings by dropping Lynch is difficult to tell. Last week, it was Leistner who sat it out, but he came back in the week and then Lynch was out by Saturday. I haven't read Clive's report yet, but I suspect he felt Furlong and Leistener needn't have changed out of their club suits on Saturday on what must've been their easiest game of the season. That was partly, of course, because of the phenomenal tackling and harrying by the midfield in front of them, but also because they looked comfortable and organised. We had experience with Leistner and Rangel, youth with Manning and Furlong, and pace with Furlong and plenty of aerial ability. Again, as you might've felt at the back end of last season, Furlong does seem to be more comfortable at centre back. He sees himself as a right back, I think he said years ago he wanted to be a Kyle Walker-like marauder, but maybe it's time to re-assess that. He looks more comfortable there. His pace is useful. He has a great leap. And he seems to complement Leistner well.
Toni himself had a very comfortable game. Poor Routledge tried going up against Furlong, and got little change, so switched to Toni, who easily bullied him out of the game, while the willing McBurnie lurked far too deep to trouble either of them. When McBurnie did, in frustration, have a little kick out at the BFG, he was, moments later, comprehensively cleaned out. We never heard from him again. Do not mess with Toni. Some hope in defence for us, there, perhaps, because a lot of work needs doing there this summer.
Also, so happy for Darnell to finally, after shots cleared off the line and headers hitting the bar, to get his first goal for the club. He should be a bigger danger from set pieces and hopefully he'll get them a little more regularly now.
5. MANNING: Which side of the Manning fence do you sit on? The one where he's overrated, and gets better the more he's out the side? Or the one where he's the answer to all our problems and has been treated badly by both our last two managers. I'm on the fence. I think he had a superb impact when he got in the side over 2 years ago, but then I thought Ollie left him out of games he should've played him in and played him in games he probably shouldn't. I think he hasn't been consistent. I don't think he's better than Freeman, Luongo or Scowen. But I also think he does have a lot to offer. He's tenacious, skillful, he has energy and stamina and passion.
On Saturday, as with the Millwall game, he was really good - so good, Dyer, a frequent scourge of ours down the years, was removed at half time after Manning not only marked him out the game, but also tricked round him on at least two occasions. You can't have your winger being mugged off by a full back all day. Ollie experimented playing Manning as a left wing back and I always liked him there. He is a great passer and a very good crosser and he has the energy to get up and down the line all day. Where he scores above Bidwell comfortably is his ability on the ball - if he could improve defensively I genuinely think he could turn into a quality left back. Some will not like this. Some believe a player has a position and that's it. To them, I say: Clive Wilson.
Manning is not the answer to our worries, but he is a good player and perhaps he isn't our long term left back, but for this game, he was excellent and a joy to watch.
NEW MANAGER: What Eusty has given the club is time. We're not safe yet, but it will take a pretty incredible run from Rotherham (and a couple of other teams) for us to drop now. You'd also hope that we might actually put a couple of results together ourselves because the confidence must be back after Saturday. Had we lost the last two, there would be full-on panic and the need to appoint someone - anyone - would be driving a decision that could easily be the wrong one. Now, no such rush exists. The club can wait until the summer. Do a thorough job. Maybe even consider Eustace if results keep improving. Amazing what one win can do.
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Queens Park Rangers v Swansea City prediction logged
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Millwall v Queens Park Rangers prediction logged
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Norwich City v Queens Park Rangers prediction logged
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Hull City v Queens Park Rangers prediction logged
|Antti's Six Knee Jerks: QPR 1 Rotherham 2|
at 21:37 14 Mar 2019
Well, if you weren't one of the 19,000 that crammed into Loftus Road last night, you'll be regretting it for the rest of your lives. A scintillating game, played between two cavalier sides at their absolute best, play swinging from end to end like a basketball game where all the players are on speed. Tough tackles, incredible goals - everything you could want from a game at this hallowed level. Breathless stuff from the ref's first powerful blow of the whistle, which seemed to set the tone for the excitement ahead, to his final, exhausted blast - a man as dead on his feet as the rest of us having witnessed a match for the ages, one that will be talked about for years and will surely go down as one of THE greatest 'nights under the lights' at Loftus Road. Absolutely superb - everyone was hoarse at the end as we piled out into the night sky, smiles beaming, limbs aching, eyes disbelieving. This, friends, was pure football.
1. INEVITABILITY: I was going to do all six jerks like that, but truth is, I can't. Because that was truly a pile of dreadful crap played between two God-awful sides, the only surprise being somehow, between them, they managed a shot on target at all. Rotherham were utter garbage - hard working and full of honest endeavour - but garbage. Three months ago we'd have swept them aside as we did Ipswich on Boxing Day. How happy we were back then. The fact that we contrived to lose to them - and deservedly so - tells you all you need to know about the utter poverty of this excuse for a performance.
And of course you knew we'd lose this. Lloyd Doyley, Swindon Town, Daniel Amokachi, John Jensen... any team on a bad run, any player who hasn't had a goal for 10 years, roll up, roll up, roll the fk up to Loftus Road, or invite us to your place, and get that giant monkey off your back - and without hardly trying! The ultimate soft touch once again, the ultimate team to face when things are really bad. If only we were playing QPR on Saturday.
2. MCCLAREN: I've seen people on the board ask for 'McClaren lovers' to come out and defend him and while I can't really understand the apparent glee some fans have when their opinion of a manager is eventually proved, somehow, correct (the fact is, you could say every manager we've had for the last 25 years has, in the end, been 'proven' to be wanting - even the rare good ones), there really is no defence anymore.
No one has ever 'loved' McClaren at this club. He had a couple of songs sung in late December, but otherwise, fans have never warmed to him. I and others were, rightly, pleased with his job even as late as the end of January. Sure, league form had tailed off, but we were still in the FA Cup and December in particular had been a great month, despite losing three of our four loan/free signings to injury. There was a settled side that worked, we played 4-2-3-1, we got goals, we could defend sometimes. There were plenty of positives. Players at least seemed to know their roles and while the talk of play-offs at the start of the year was always likely to be fanciful, a decent final position looked nailed on. Job done. Look to next season.
But the wheels haven't so much come off as spontaneously combusted. And the rest of the car is on fire too. It seemed unthinkable even two weeks ago after the Leeds win, but we are, somehow, genuinely in danger of being spectacularly relegated. This is an appalling run, worse than any last season. Our home form is dreadful, our away form is worse. The players looked knackered and completely devoid of confidence. And while I don't think changing manager is a good idea (when has it really worked for us?) you do have to ask how many games this one can possibly lose before he's shown the door. Because something has to change and at the moment he doesn't look as if he is the man to do it. He's tried 3-5-2 and 4-4-2, he's gone back to 4-2-3-1 but, Leeds apart, none of it is working.
Circumstances have conspired to some degree - a long run of tough games that featured some particularly cruel luck has led to some dispiriting results. The players have looked tired for a while, and you can't blame them really when they had that tricky run of 11 games in 30-odd days or whatever it was. And yet, some of that is of McClaren's own making. You can understand wanting to keep the same team, especially when it's winning, but everyone thought he didn't do enough to rest key players over Christmas and he's paid for that dearly.
Last night we looked as lost as we did in that shellacking at home to Forest last year - the game that, for me, spelled the end of Olly's reign. In fact, we looked worse. McClaren's dug out some big results when he's needed to this season, but he's starting to look as if that's beyond him this time. Nothing last night suggested he knows how to turn this around - in fact, several decisions (BOS skinning their left back, getting him booked and then immediately is told to go and play on the other side of the pitch, for example) suggest the opposite. We are in serious trouble here, and if we lose the next couple - which seems likely - I'm not sure how he can survive. And then what? Thoroughly depressing.
As I sit here now, he's on Sky talking about his career, and despite it all, I like the guy. He seems nice. I think the players like him too. But it was probably recorded a few weeks ago and he ends the show referring to our recovery from the terrible start to the season, before adding: 'Things change quickly in football.' Yep.
3. FURLONG: I love Darnell. I thought he did so well to come back from injury and take Rangel's place and for a month we never missed him. He's a great professional by all accounts. He works hard, he's a great person, he speaks well, he always wants to improve. But currently he sums up our plight more than anyone. It's just gone. Bereft of belief, scared to make a mistake, stopping doing the things he was doing so well, wanting to just get rid of the ball as soon as he gets it. It's absolutely painful to watch. The problem is, with so many players out of form, there's no hiding place.
4. HEMED: Eight touches in the second half. I didn't count first half, but I suspect it was a similar total. Offered almost nothing, hid behind his man, never attacked the ball, never moved into space, never showed for the ball, never chased adequately, never harried. Nothing. Thanks Tomer.
5. LATE GOALS: One of the many signs of a poor side is blowing it late in games. Not having the nous, or the skill or the stamina to get the result that you should get. Bristol, Albion, Birmingham and now Rotherham. Points chucked away for whatever reason so late in the game. Points that would have given us four more points and definite safety. It's not good enough and each time it happens it gets harder for the players to pick themselves up again. And now, understandably, the fans are losing sympathy.
6. THE BRIGHT SPOT: Mr Osayi-Samuel. At least he tried. At least he wasn't scared. At least he kept going. And he got a goal (which, to be fair, was a very good move). I mean, it wasn't great, he was a 6/10 MOTM, but then when everyone else is about a 3 or a 4, 6 seems pretty good. A meagre positive to take.
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Queens Park Rangers v Rotherham United prediction logged
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