|Brentford 3 v 1 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 11th January 2020 Kick-off 12:30
Do you want the options again? Always the same... Report
Sunday, 12th Jan 2020 15:54 by Clive Whittingham
QPR's last ever visit to Griffin Park brought the sort of comfortable defeat to Brentford that has become an annual occurrence in the last five years.
A result so predictable we actually predicted it, achieved in much the same way as all our other ritual humiliations on this ground in recent years: with a Brentford onslaught, a QPR collapse, an angry away end reaction, and torrents of social media bile. It was only a week ago Rangers won consecutive games 6-1 and 5-1 but you’d never know it on the pitch, on the terrace, or in the dark world of the internet.
This fifth successive defeat at Griffin Park was suffered for a couple of reasons, the first of which is simply that Brentford have a better team than QPR at the moment. They know their shape, style and identity by heart. They’ve been able to dive deep into the world of analytics and scouting far more effectively than most, steadily improving their team year on year to the point where they could now quite easily christen a new stadium springing up by Kew Bridge Station with Premier League football next season.
After a tentative start in which the pornographic possibility of a Pontus Jansson own goal in front of the away end was prevented only by a fine Raya save from the Swede’s botched header, and the Spanish keeper was then incredibly fortunate not to present Rangers with the opening goal himself when needless posing and pisballing about almost saw the ball taken off his toe on the goal line by Nahki Wells, the hosts had an electric half an hour that blew Rangers away and finished the game before it had really begun.
Ollie Watkins had already been in behind the centre half partnership of Grant Hall and Geoff Cameron once – somehow not being awarded a penalty for a fairly obvious trip on him in the area by Cameron who knew he was stranded the wrong side of his man – when Josh Dasilva cut a cross back to the near post and the former Exeter man spun and fired wide via a deflection. They took the lead just after the quarter hour when Ryan Manning’s theatrical fall on the ball routine (rightly) didn’t yield the free kick it usually gets and the Irishman was forced into a foul of his own to rescue the situation. The free kick was cut back low into the area and Said Benrahma arrived right on time to sweep the opening goal of the game through a crowd-scene and into the net.
Rangers, obviously rattled, presented the Bees with a second goal immediately in much the same way they had Fulham in their previous West London derby this season. A needlessly rushed, horrendously executed first time clearance from Lumley went straight to Christian Norgaard who again got a man in behind Cameron all too easily and this time Mbeumo was able to bobble the ball past the despairing keeper and into the far corner.
I was surprised Mark Warburton hadn’t used last week’s FA Cup performance as an excuse to leave Liam Kelly in goal for this one. Joe Lumley’s form had marginally improved over Christmas, culminating in a good display at Reading, but the Cardiff consolation goal was an obvious error whatever anybody says and the mistakes he’s been making have come not only far too frequently but also in a manner that betrays a lack of confidence and creeping self doubt. This is a game that horribly exposes that in QPR players and the manager’s faith in his keeper was misplaced. Lumley slipped horribly and spaffed his next clearance as well – not the only QPR player who seemed to be in inappropriate footwear it must be said – but Dasilva put the resulting chance just wide.
That resulting corner was headed just wide and with the Bees really motoring soon Rico Henry was in down the left for a first time cross that was just out of Watkins’ reach – though he’d been flagged offside. Three nil felt inevitable and when Jensen lofted a free kick to the back post and Pinnock was able to head across unmarked, Watkins did the honours from close range.
Rangers had been absolutely blitzed. Completely blown out of the game by an excellent team with a fearsome forward line. Unable to regain a foothold after conceding the first, wide open in defence and completely mismatched in midfield. It was a carve up, and although there was a late chance for Ilias Chair off a decent Amos through ball that Pinnock cleared up with a ballbusting tackle, and a second obvious penalty shout of the game waved away by referee John Brooks when Jansson cynically and deliberately cleared out Nahki Wells as he threatened to run onto a through ball, there was barely a murmur from a shell-shocked away end.
QPR couldn’t really do a lot about the quality of the opposition. They’re a better run club, and a team further on in their development. But the second reason for this defeat was less forgivable – an abdication of the basics of the game.
It was QPR who won the toss and elected to switch ends, kicking into a fierce wind in the first half, only to concede one and nearly another off lousy goalkeeper clearances into the teeth of it. Several times, including for the Watkins penalty appeal and the Mbeumo goal, simple balls lofted in over the top of Cameron on the breeze got the hosts clean through on goal – just one ball over the top all it took to get them in. Winning the toss and switching the teams around hinted at a strategy to make the most of the conditions, but actually it ended up being little more than us wanting to get playing into the wind out of the way. Well, that went well, by the time we switched back the bloody match was over.
Two of the Brentford goals came from non-existent marking at set pieces – a persistent problem all season for Rangers, who’ve now shipped more goals from dead ball situations (19) than anybody else in the league this year. The second, in particular, was a carbon copy of goals we conceded in a 3-0 away defeat at Cardiff – unmarked centre half at the far post from a straight free kick heading down to unmarked team mate in six-yard box. The first was from a low cut back cross that Brentford had picked out as a weakness before the game and written about on signs placed on the wall of their dressing room. These failings are not new in this defence, the whole division knows about them, but Rangers seem completely incapable of doing anything about them.
And there was the persistent problem in this fixture of it obviously mattering far more to the Brentford players than the QPR ones. To quote Chris Wilder, they ran forwards, they ran back, they tackled hard, they won every first ball, and they won every second ball. Their tackles carried feeling and threat, they were tough and physically dominant as well as classy in possession. Pinnock and Jansson were both towers of strength – aided and abetted by QPR chipping stupid passes up to the much smaller Nahki Wells and waiting until 20 minutes from time to add the presence of Jordan Hugill to challenge them – and Dasilva was the best midfielder on the pitch. Luke Amos, after several impressive performances over Christmas, was back to looking like a nice little academy boy. This is why it winds me up a bit when Warburton keeps bringing up a “lack of academy education” when he’s talking about the merits and failings of Bright Osayi-Samuel – does an academy education include some schooling on tackling for these pretty little boys? Putting a fucking foot in, kicking a few people? There’s more to football than an academy education, and on days like this it’s actually a weakness in players like Amos. Put some fucking minge round it mate. Dominic Ball, himself coming off the back of his best performances for the club, was back to treating the football like it had had an affair with his wife. He was hooked at half time, and things improved for moving Cameron into his position and adding Conor Masterson to the backline.
We were, and are, way too meek. Easily bullied. The final 20 minutes of the game saw a succession of very soft free kicks being given to the home team for stuff we hadn’t been given free kicks for ourselves – nobody said a bloody thing about it. Three Brentford subs walked very slowly off the field milking the applause and running the clock. Again, nobody spoke to referee Brooks about it. Way, way too nice.
Things did improve after half time. They could scarcely have got worse, and it probably owed as much to Brentford kindly taking their foot off our throat than anything we did, but Masterson looked more composed and confident than our other centre backs, just as he had done last week, and Cameron’s outrageously bad first half gave way to a far better second back in midfield. There was still the problem of Brentford being able to double up on Ebere Eze and Bright Osayi-Samuel, stunting their impact, while themselves being able to get the excellent Benrahma and Mbeumo in on Kane and Manning one on one whenever and wherever they pleased, but Rangers did at least regain some sort of competitive hold in the game and when Osayi-Samuel finally escaped Rico Henry’s clutches on the hour he crossed low for Nahki Wells to score from close range.
Who knows what may have transpired had Eze’s turn and finish on the end of a nice move involving Manning and Chair ten minutes later brought the score back to 3-2? Nerves jangling, an epic comeback in the making, I’d have followed that cunt in the camel coat to the left of the away end all the way home and stood in his garden all night banging the world’s biggest drum. Alas, Raya saved well, and Hugill’s impact from the bench was minimal. Eze and Chair both getting in behind Dalsgaard but overcomplicating with too many touches and passes that should have been shots confirmed the defeat.
In truth, it looked more likely to be 4-1 than 3-2. An early Benrahma free kick looked in all the way before it slide into the side-netting. Watkins let Rangers off the hook with a deliberate handball on the corner of the penalty area with Lumley having a little wander out into zone six. Kane, horribly exposed defensively again, was spared embarrassment after believing a ball was going out only for Benrahma to keep it in with an immaculate first touch and cross by Watkins’ header over the bar. More lousy marking from an eighty seventh minute corner presented Watkins with another chance at the back post but he fired it back from whence it came rather than into the net.
On one of the rare occasions Brooks did award QPR a free kick he seemed to immediately change his mind, apologise, and present an uncontested drop ball back to Brentford, who hadn’t had the ball at the time. An odd moment amidst a strange refereeing display.
Twas ever thus. We can only hope a new stadium brings about a change of fortunes in this fixture for our team, if indeed this is a game on our calendar for next year. That won’t happen while we’re ignoring the basics of the sport though. Beating talented teams is difficult enough without leaving players unmarked, repeatedly, religiously at set pieces. Talented teams also know how to tackle, and head it, and win second balls, and get about the field. You don’t beat them if you’re second best at those either, and you don’t need to be particularly brilliant yourselves to be able to get absolute fundamentals of the game like that right.
And it also won’t happen if we keep panicking, making short term decisions based on anger and emotions after defeats like this, and changing tack. The overall message under Les Ferdinand and Lee Hoos has been the right one – reduce the wage bill, reduce the age of the team, develop players, buy low sell high and reinvest. But within that have been a number of about turns. We went from a head coach with a director of football buying the players, to name managers picking their own signings. We went from scouting the lower leagues for Luongo and Washington types, to scouting Europe for Sylla, Polter, Chery and Borysiuk types, to trying to bring in big name players on loan. We went from youth coach to promising lower league manager to club legend to big name – each with enormously different styles. We've gone from Les picking the signings, to Gary Penrice, to Steve McClaren, to Mark Warburton. Brentford’s brilliant team has been built steadily, over years, under one identity and stedfast belief and recruitment strategy. Managers have been appointed carefully to fit within that, and only once when they decided they’d made a poor call with Marinus Dijkhuizen have they jettisoned a boss after a small run of bad results. Dean Smith and Thomas Frank have both survived long winless runs the likes of which have QPR losing their shit and craving more change.
Match Gallery: 26 photos
There are failings in Mark Warburton’s team, and they were brutally exposed in the first half on Saturday, but we’ve come a long way under him in a short period of time. Players are developing and improving, big transfer fees will be received and reinvested, the direction of travel is, generally, the right one. The defence is a joke, but it’s not like he’s not aware of that – he tried to sign Scott McKenna in the summer and wasn’t able to. The centre back and central midfield areas will be particular areas of interest in this window if the right player becomes available, and particularly in the summer. Warburton has had just one window so far, and did a hell of a lot of good in that.
Brentford’s is not a success born out of a lot of chopping and changing, a lot of acting on whims and hunches, a lot of panicking and a lot of placating Twitter trolls. And QPR won’t come close to matching it, and will continue to suffer embarrassing defeats in this fixture, until they pick a course and stick with it, even through disappointing, painful days like this one.
Brentford: Raya 7; Dalsgaard 7, Jansson 7, Pinnock 8, Henry 8; Jensen 7 (Mokotjo 75, 6), Norgaard 7, Dasilva 8 (Marcondes 87, -); Mbeumo 8 (Castillo 81, -), Watkins 8, Benrahma 8
Subs not used: Thompson, Jeanvier, Daniels, Zamburek
Goals: Benrahma, 19 (assisted Jensen), Mbeumo 23, Watkins 33 (assisted Pinnock)
QPR: Lumley 3; Kane 4, Cameron 5, Hall 4, Manning 5; Ball 4 (Masterson 46, 6), Amos 5; Osayi-Samuel 6, Chair 5 (Shodipo 81, -), Eze 5; Wells 5 (Hugill 71, 5)
Subs not used: Wallace, Pugh, Scowen, Kelly
Goals: Wells 61 (assisted Osayi-Samuel)
Bookings: Hall 46 (foul), Kane 56 (foul), Cameron 71 (foul), Osayi-Samuel 90 (unsporting), Manning 90+4 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Conor Masterson 6 Osayi-Samuel was probably the pick of the starters, though far from the blistering form of the previous weeks and I thought Rico Henry handled him better than most full backs this season. Masterson came on at half time and the defence immediately looked more comfortable with and without the ball, aided by Cameron moving from centre half where he was dire into midfield where he did considerably better than Dom Ball who had a nightmare first half. All this with the caveat that Brentford clearly took their foot off the gas second half.
Referee – John Brooks (Leicestershire) 4 Given that he’s getting games like this, and Forest v Derby earlier in the season, it’s reasonable to assume he’s being earmarked for bigger things, but every time I see him he gets big, not particularly difficult, decisions wrong. Sheff Wed at home last year he failed to award the Owls a penalty despite Rangel kicking right through Pudil’s face, splitting his head open. At Millwall away he failed to even award a free kick, let alone the red card it deserved, for Joel Lynch fouling Lee Gregory when he was clean through. And at Hillsborough this year he gave a penalty against Grant Hall which I still don’t understand the reasoning behind four months and a million replays on. Here, both teams should have had a first half penalty – Cameron tripped Watkins having allowed him to run in the wrong side of him, Jansson cynically and deliberately took out Wells trying to get onto a return ball from Eze. Obvious, easy stuff. Having ignored those two blatant fouls he then spent the second half awarding free kicks for every tiny little brush or bit of contact by anybody – unless it was on Jordan Hugill, that was fine apparently. Unbelievably fussy about every little thing that happens outside the penalty area, completely oblivious to serious stuff that happens in the box.
Attendance 12,324 (1,400 QPR approx.)
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