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Antti's Six Knee Jerks: QPR 3 Brentford 2
at 21:56 12 Nov 2018

Said it before, but is this the same season. From a feeling of absolute and understandable apathy only a few weeks ago, suddenly this is properly exciting - good football, goals, excitement, and success. Winning from behind, holding on to leads. Big Friendly Germans. Pav! As Clive said so superbly in his report, games like Saturday are so rare, but they remind you of being a kid again - you can forget everything except the drama in front of you. Nothing else matters - a great game, except for the fact that I feel really sorry for Real Brentford, who were certainly the best team we played this season, if not this decade, and would've won, were it not for all the goals we scored.

1. TWO HALVES: I think there was a bit of a feeling both at the game and on the venerable match fred that QPR did not play particularly well in the first half. There was no booing, no real murmuring, but, still, the feeling was that we hadn't done well. And, correspondingly, that we were much better in the second half.

I'm not so sure about this. As my predictions in the equally venerable as the match fred Prediction League bear out, I am not an optimistic man. I rarely predict a win. Although, this is not really about optimism or pessimism, it's more about superstition. But still, I rarely predict a win. But at half time on Saturday, I wasn't worried. Brentford's defence, to me, looked undeniably shaky. We were causing them problems and while admittedly early on we had struggled to cope with their movement, as they often seemed to find players in wide open spaces concerningly close to our box, as the half progressed we took more control of the game and probably should have gone in on level terms. I felt sure we were going to come back and win the game.

True, the first few minutes of the second half, where we contrived to give the ball away with almost every kick, played against that, but once we settled down, we tore into them and my instinct was, for once, correct. I was pretty certain we'd equalise, very confident we'd score our second from Freeman's free kick, but was, I admit, surprised about the third, especially coming that quickly.

So in some senses, the second half was better, but my jerk is that even in the first we were not bad at all. For the first time in quite some time, we matched Brentford and, ultimately, were the better side - even if our unfair tactics of shutting down their defenders high up the pitch was unscrupulously poor sportsmanship.

2. FREEMAN: Having said all the above, one player who really did have the cliched game of two halves was Luke Freeman. What I love about Lukey is, usually, the fact you can give him the ball in almost any circumstances and he'll keep it. even under great rpessure he'll trick his way out or toe it to a teammate. Not in the first half on Saturday. Passes went out of play, he was continually tackled, passes went to red and white shirts, he kept it too long, he tried to get rid of it too quickly, he dribbled when he should have passed and he passed when he should have dribbled. Nothing, nothing went right.

What character, then, to come out and reverse his performance. This was the Freeman we're more used to. Ludicrous energy, tenacious yet skilful on the ball, dangerous in attack, constantly demanding the ball and moaning when others did the wrong thing (Bids, if you listen to the official podcast, seems pretty resigned to that). And some trademark deadball delivery. At the heart of our first two goals. Despite the doubters, he's proving very much that he can affect games from a wide area.

3. PAV: OK, I'm doing Pav every week, I know, but he's replacing my previous Massive favourite as my new favourite this season as he hits what must be his best run of form in a Rangers shirt. Good in the first half, excellent in the second and another man of the match display. Finally, a manager is playing a system that suits him and giving him a run and it's paying off. His role in the third goal was excellent: winning the ball high up the pitch, then a mix of power, skill and speed to carry it forward before the ball into Wells for another assist. Poor BOS - he's the next cab on the rank for the wide positions, but when you have Freeman and Pav in this sort of form, you can understand SM having to leave him on the bench. I just can't help but love the guy.

4. KEEPERS: Interesting to watch the two keepers on Saturday. Bentley would have been a QPR player had Southend not quoted too much and forced us to sign our second choice, but who really should not be second choice, Alex Smithies. Plenty said at the time Bentley was the superior keeper. Well, he's looked good before, but currently those two aren't even on the same planet. He looked awful on Saturday: hugely susceptible to the high ball (witness Rangers crowding the six yard box for every corner), unhappy with the ball at his feet, and generally looking uncomfortable. Meanwhile, Joe Lumley wouldn't lose confidence if he let two goals in that he really should have kept out. And that is half the battle. Because despite his error early on - which was an error, not a terrible piece of keeping or anything - it never affected him. He still shouted, he still backed himself, he still came for crosses and he also dealt with some very tricky low, bouncing shots on a skiddy surface with great handling. So important to have that confidence, and that's why he may be our keeper for some time. He's young, though, and it's worth remembering that young keepers often come in, do well, then have a poor patch, before kicking on. We should be patient. And he's better than Bentley.

5. LUONGO: Gradually, slowly, he's fighting his way back to form. A second goal of the season (not the first he's got against Brentford, if memory serves), and an improved display. His role is not easy. With Greg Cameron doing a very fine job in front of the defence and with Freeman and Pav hugging touchlines, there is a lot of ground for him to cover. It's ok to say Cameron covers his errors, but that is his job. Mass has to get up there and snap against the opposition, and win it, and start attacks and get n the box when he can. A lot is being asked of him there, and his World Cup hangover clearly took a lot of fighting, but hopefully we're starting to see the player of last season.

6. EXCITEMENT: Mentioned it in the intro, but this is great isn't it? The fourth really, genuinely entertaining game in a row at LR. Goals flying in, games under the lights, hard work, some lovely passing, some great finishing, and a steady climb up the table. Only thing missing really is a goal or two from Eze - but that'll come.
Memories of 2002/3 season
at 13:56 9 Nov 2018

Clive's article about Birch's goal v Brentford brings back memories of that incredible season - I honestly think it was the most intense few months of football I've ever experienced. Our run was incredible, but everyone else kept winning too, including Tranmere who just kept chasing us the whole time and we couldn't shake them off.

I remember at the time my whole life got engulfed with it, the games were unbelievably intense - the amount of times we scored late seemed crazy (Gallen v Hartlepool, Birch v Brentford etc) and any slip up felt like it would be fatal.

I really believe the insanity of that run caught all our fans at the time. The hardcore had remained after relegation and then Ollie made us all engage with the club again. We all felt like one - I suddenly had loads of friends who were Rangers from that season, whereas before I didn't really know anyone. And it all culminated in the Oldham game - months of pent up frustration and desperation poured out that night - if not years. In retrospect I'm amazed Oldham did as well as they did. Other teams would've been blown away.

Great times, cheers Clive.
Prediction Logged by at 11:49:29
Queens Park Rangers v Brentford prediction logged
Favourite Moments of favourite players
at 13:43 6 Nov 2018

Can't face work at the moment, so here's a little bit of fun. 5 cult favourites - what was your favourite single memory of each of these below? I've kicked it off...

1. Danny Shittu
Still think the day, think it was against Norwich, he got elbowed. Went off, changed his shirt, looked furious, came on, immediately scored with a header from a corner. Good luck stopping him when he's in that mood.

2. Adel Taraabt
Always the Swansea goal after the nutmeg of Joe Allen. The fact you can hear the crowd make a weird 'oooh' noise before it goes in, not believing what they're seeing does it for me.

3. Kevin Gallen
Very tough, so much to choose. But his first goal v Sheff Wed, even if it was scuffed, was amazing for me. We're the same age, and I thought he was the next Gary Lineker.

4. Danny Maddix
Gingerly warming up before the Palace 6-0. He was very doubtful, but vital to us. He played, he was magnificent. As always.

5. Lee Cook
Continually taking the piss out of Butterfield I think it was v Palace in a game we won 4-2. Absolutely unstoppable that day.
sorry if posted, but fan interview with Freeman
at 10:49 3 Nov 2018

Really great interview this - Finley's better than quite a lot of people who get paid well to be football reporters!
Prediction Logged by at 21:19:28
Blackburn Rovers v Queens Park Rangers prediction logged
Antti's Six Knee Jerks: QPR 1 Villa 0
at 14:03 27 Oct 2018

This can't be the same season can it?

Special shout out to Dean Smith, who has taken to big club management absolutely perfectly already. Very different game when expectations are so high, Deano. Grealish may have been fouled a lot (deal with it), but the idea his players didn't, as he said, 'tag team' Eze all night is laughable. Watched the Sky after game stuff on TV this morning too, which was interesting stuff, apart from their assessment of the possible pen on McGinn. Two things, lads. One, he ran across Lynch, there was almost zero chance of there not being a collision. Two, he wasn't 'too honest' - the contact was so slight he was able to reach the ball with his stride barely halted and get his cross in. Keith Andrews said 'his side were punished for his honesty.' What? Punished because they failed to take their chance? Idiocy. Anyway.

1. S-MAC: Ian Holloway had a bit of a gift for turning round hopeless situations. That awful time around the turn of the century (yeah, we can say that now), plus various almost endless winless runs. But I'm not quite sure I've ever seen such a turnaround as this, from consecutive absolute thumpings a few weeks ago, and the abominations at Blackpool and Swansea, to this remarkable run. Three wins in a row, Steve? This is QPR, mate. This is verging on witchcraft.

Perhaps what's most impressive, as many others have noted, is S-Mac's willingness to change - to spot the problems and mistakes and act accordingly, even if it means leaving very good players on the bench. He said on Sky last night that originally he wanted to play a possession game, but realised that wasn't going to work. I wouldn't have blamed him for continuing to plough that furrow, to be honest, hoping that things would improve. But, possibly out of necessity for his livelihood, he took the very brave decision of ripping up his pre-season plans and starting again. It was slow at first, with solidity returning, but finally the switch to 4-2-3-1 and the introduction of Pav has resulted in a system that suits the players we have perfectly.

Earlier this season, there was confusion on the pitch (as there often was last season - I can remember several occasions of Scowen or Freeman having long conversations with the bench during matches as they tried to work out exactly what they were being asked to do). Now, like the last time McClaren was here and also during Warnock's reign, every single player on the pitch knows and understands their job. Of course this is a side now shot through with experience, yet at the same time there a rookie keeper and perhaps our most important player has barely been playing first team football for a year. But it's also work rate. Last season, that was our primary plus - players who worked bloody hard for the team. That has now returned only with, at the moment, a defence far less likely to concede goals.

McClaren has had a really tough time. As Brian McCarthy pointed out, we are not an easy fanbase to please, but last night the crowds were returning and in good voice (especially near the end) and the love is beginning to spread. I still strongly suspect, particularly based on the first 20 minutes of last night, that we'll end up closer to 16th than 6th, and I still think, eventually, it will end in tears for us and McClaren, if only because, or us and McClaren, it seems, it always does. But this is wonderful for now and great fun to watch.

2. POSSESSION: We now allow the opposition to dominate possession at times, but we don't panic and simply ensure we keep our shape and trust that at some point we will win the ball back. Leo Beenhakker would call it his 'house' - 'give me my house' he would yell. Players in position, areas covered, players knowing their jobs. You could see that last night and on Tuesday, and while it can be uncomfortable to watch at times, even frustrating as we funnel back and allow teams to pass and pass and pass, as the game wore on its effectiveness was undeniable. We ground them down, disallowed them space, harried them, fouled them, stopped them. We don't have the lightning pace of a Jamie Vardy, but it's not a million miles away from Leicester's title-winning style, and as we've seen this week, even with 35% possession, it can be entertaining stuff when done well.

3. DEFENCE: Last time SM was here, our promotion push was built in the first half of the season and was characterised by two things: a mean defence (just two conceded in the first 10 league games, and 8 consecutive clean sheets) and the goals of Charlie Austin. That all seemed a distant memory after Albion and Bristol, but now it almost feels familiar again. Yet, it's different. That excellent run came in part because other teams saw us as a big challenge with all our big signings, and didn't attack too much, also I remember several games where teams were missing their main goalscorers. Our defence played well, but at the same time, they weren't exactly over-worked. No one can say that about the defence for the last two games. In both they have been put under huge pressure, and in both they have refused to buckle even after three games in six days that must have been sapping their strength.

In goal, Joe Lumley continues to delight and baffle. He'll pluck one cross out the air like Gordon Stewart in his comic strip heyday. The next time he'll come, stop, pause and we'll all gasp for breath. Clive said in his last report that he's not sure if Lumley is good or lucky. I think he's probably both. He's confident, which is half the battle, and he looks beatable, yet he keeps keeping clean sheets. Last night his fortune reached new heights when he waved a Grealish free kick wide with all the confidence in the world, only to see it cannon against the post. Didn't phase him, of course. He can ping a ball out to Bidwell's chest from 50 yards, or he can shank a drop kick straight to an opposing midfielder. A bizarre keeper, but he has all the potential. And i love him.

At right back, I can only think Swansea have some amazing players, because at this level at least Rangel is just getting better and better. Against really tough opponents with pace to burn, he was unruffled, positionally brilliant, and so comfortable in possession. His late tackle to deny what looked a certain goal was only bettered by his Andy Murray-style fist clench of celebration, a reaction that epitomised the determination in this side last night.

At centre back, we have The Wall, as they were dubbed last night. Two players who have been hammered on these pages (I count myself in that, although I've liked Toni from the start - perhaps our scouts do know something after all?) but who have formed a formidable partnership at the back that kept Villa frustrated all night with tackles, fouls and block after block.

And at left back, Bidwell seems to be in the form of his QPR career. Reliable in possession, willing to get forward, strong in the tackle. The bloke even seems to have won over Lynch.

Some incredible work has been done with these five and its a real testament to both the coaching and the hard work of the players that they have been able to turn in performances like this.

4. FREEMAN: As others have said, it's almost impossible to pick a man of the match. Eze, Cameron, Rangel, Lynch all have great shouts, but Freeman was right up there too. Some felt he couldn't be as effective out wide, but he's playing really well there. Last night I thought he and Eze combined much more fruitfully than they did on Tuesday, which helped, but Freeman's real value is as an outlet. When we need some pressure off, someone to hold the ball, qe can give it to him and he looks after it. OK, sometimes he may look after it a little too long, but overall he does a superb job. Despite not being particularly quick, he does have astonishingly quick feet - one move in particular you see time and again from him is skipping from one challenge and just as you think he'll lose the ball in the follow-up tackle, he gets a toe to it, keeps his balance and zips, with the ball, into space and starts to exploit dangerous areas. Obviously, his ability with the dead ball is great, we almost take that for granted, but at the moment he is working phenomenally hard, doing a great defensive job with Bidwell, while still not limiting himself when we're on the attack. Credit again to McClaren for finding a way to get him and Eze into the same side, and getting good performances out of both of them - even if it is at the expense of Wells.

5. SUBS: I thought both subs were excellent. Both were enforced - Wells for the visibly knackered Hemed, and Scowen for the limping Cameron. Wells was marvellous, giving us vibrancy up front and putting Villa's vulnerable backline under real pressure. Hemed had caused them some problems, but Wells' harried them constantly, forcing them into going backwards or making mistakes. Scowen was also great - McClaren actually had a wealth of choices for that sub - the energy of Cousins might have been tempting, and Hall would probably be the player most similar to Cameron. I worried when Scowen came on, not because I don't think he's a good player (he is), but that we would really be lacking height against a big side. But Scowen gave us a new dimension - his phenomenal work rate and relative pace meant Grealish had less time on the ball, and not only did Scowen win plenty of it, he also played some key passes and had a couple of very decent efforts on goal.

6. PAV: Pav!
Prediction Logged by at 13:42:17
Queens Park Rangers v Aston Villa prediction logged
Antti's Belated Six Knee Jerks: QPR 3 Sheff Wed 0
at 10:56 26 Oct 2018

Due to work commitments and in-law commitments that limit my laptop time, these are very late. Probably irrelevant. Sorry. But anyway.

1. PAV: I would just like to reiterate after my last set of jerks that I love Pav. He might be starting to become my favourite player, which I know will upset people who loved me going on about Luongo for the last couple of years. There’s just something so endearing about his non-stop running, his weird limpy gate that makes you think he might be injured half the time and the fact that he’s simply got on with the job at our basket case club for a couple of years now as players come and go and managers come and go without a word of complaint. Or maybe he has been complaining, but none of us speak Polish. Anyway, it doesn’t feel like he complains. He just meets a new manager, who normally doesn’t fancy him, then he plays his way into the side, plays well, then gets inexplicably put in and out of the side in all manner of positions except right wing until the coach forgets why he picked him in the first place.
A few weeks back when Stevie Mac went back to his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, that while Cousins was doing well it seemed daft not to play Pav on the right of those three attackers. And, after a fine performance as sub before the Christmas break, in he has finally come. And we’ve been rewarded with two more fine performances. Not only does he give us industry, drive and determination; he also gives an added attacking threat. One thing he does need to do is add more goals to his game, but on Tuesday he went close: his shot was parried for the first goal; his cross was headed in for the second, and he had a proper humdinger palmed away by the Wednesday keeper too. All hail Pav.

2. LYNCHINHO: It can’t be denied anymore. He’s playing really well. We’ve always seen it in occasional patches, but always it ends quickly, either through loss of form, or because of injury or because of suspension. But finally, next to the glowering presence of the BFG, he’s playing very well. Winning it in the air. Not jumping in. Not giving away those stupid free kicks. I particularly enjoy it when he ploughs (fairly) through an attacker, lays it off, then thinks, ‘sod this, I’m making a run’. Few things please me more than centre backs throwing caution to the wind and joining an attack on a whim. It’s like letting a goat loose at a Rotary meeting – some people find it funny, and some just act confused and a little afraid. It should happen more often. Not enough centre backs do it these days.

3. RANGEL: Been some interesting debate about the man with the rhyming name on the board this week. Personally, I wasn’t thrilled with his signing, but at the same time I knew we had to get someone because we were so short with Furlong’s injury. He’s done far better than anyone might’ve expected, and while perhaps he wasn’t at his best on Tuesday (there were quite a few sliced passes, and that moment where he took a nap as the ball was played across the backline was a bit worrying, but that’s to be expected at his age. I’m older, and I too appreciate naps), he was still very fine indeed. All teams should have a player with a rhyming name. I think and hope that Furs will, when fully fit and firing, fight his way back fairly ahead of Rangel in the pecking order, but like everyone else in the team (and like Hemed and Wells are doing) he must fight for it. At the moment, it’ll be difficult to displace Rangel, who seems to be properly enjoying himself. The new Clint Hill?

4. GOALS: Finally, they are coming. On Saturday, despite dominance, they weren’t the prettiest. But Tuesday, they were very pretty. OK, the first was a bit more down to Luongo’s bloody-mindedness, but it was still a nice finish. The next two were lovely. Eze, of course, heavily involved with both. Naturally, while some appreciate Eze (almost everyone on here, it seems) I had to sit through the start of the game listening to the bloke next to me saying he was ‘up himself’ and ‘lazy’. Word of warning to all young footballers: don’t dare to be talented, particularly if you’re, you know, not white. He is beautiful to watch, the way he never panics when he gets the ball, the way he takes his time to make the right decision, as he did for both the second and third goals. He doesn’t always get it right, but who does? Another encouraging performance from him and with Pav joining the attack and Freeman getting on the scoresheet we’re starting to have goal threats from different areas. Tougher challenges than Wednesday’s generous defence lie ahead, but still, three goals is three goals.

5. WELLS: I wonder what he was thinking as he sat on the bench and watched Hemed get his second in two games. Here he is, a quality player who’s really done nothing wrong except be unlucky not to score goals. But, he came on and played well. First chance he got he seemed to snatch at a bit, and you could tell not scoring was weighing on his mind. When he did score, a sublime goal, taken early with a thundering left foot strike, his relief was clear. Reminded me of Roy Race scoring that goal against Carford in one of the 80s annuals (84?). Racey thought their keeper (who was out of retirement due to a goalkeeping emergency) had a hoodoo over him, and whatever he tried, the ball wouldn’t go in. Finally, he just smacked it as hard as he could and he scored. That was like Wells. Forget the worry, just get a chance and hit the bloody thing. Lovely goal. Tough decision for S Mac tonight.

6. WEDNESDAY: In the end, they were well beaten, but three was probably a bit unfair. I thought they played some nice stuff and Bannon in particular was excellent on the ball – he must’ve had more touches than anyone and hardly ever gave the ball away. Yet Rangers were happy to let him have it when he was deep. There really wasn’t anyone to pick him up, so they backed themselves to deal with whatever clever balls he could muster and to be fair, with the L Boys supplemented by the growing presence of George Cameron in front of them, that’s exactly what they did. An entertaining game, after a good game with Derby. Slowly, the tanker is being turned.
Prediction Logged by at 13:36:42
Queens Park Rangers v Sheffield Wednesday prediction logged
Prediction Logged by at 21:20:14
Ipswich Town v Queens Park Rangers prediction logged
Antti's Six Knee Jerks: QPR 1 Derby 1
at 12:49 8 Oct 2018

For the second time this season, S-Mac steps back from the brink. I often think about managers in terms of being on the edge of a cliff, facing inland. After Bristol City, Steve had actually fallen backwards, but his pants got caught on a small branch, and with the victories that followed he had scrambled back up, and was lying on his belly, breathing heavily in relief. But then after Blackpool and Swansea, he'd fallen again, not as far as last time, mind, but bodily he was still over the cliff, just perhaps with both hands clinging to a small, sturdy bush. Now, after a win and a draw, he's back on his belly again. Let's see if he can get to his feet after the international break.

And if anyone can beat that for a tortured introductory metaphor, I don't want to read it.

1. GOOD GAME: People often talk about the drudgery, the relentlessness, the combativeness of the Championship. I saw someone, possibly on here, and not unreasonably, saying all 24 teams merely represent different degrees of averageness. Clive is forced on many occasions during a season to summon up a metaphor about the game he's witnessed that might involve two bald men fighting over a comb, two tramps scrapping over half a can of White Lightning or two mangey foxes battling over a rancid cocktail sausage. Now, it's difficult to argue with that point of view most of the time. The idea of watching a Championship game not involving QPR is nearly enough for me to turn over to the quilting channel (there is one), but on Saturday, I really enjoyed that game.

The pressure in the Championship has become so great that even early in the season we've seen teams getting a goal up and then doing everything they can in terms of niggling, feigning injury, breaking up play, stopping the game and good old fashioned blatant time-wasting to hang on to that slender lead, as if survival in this division depended upon it. I swear this league used to be more fun. And I don't absolve us from this either. Some people praise it as 'being professional' and 'learning from what others did to us'. But by Christ it's dull. Doing it from the 85th minute onwards - fine. These days it feels like teams will do it from the 10th minute if they're one-up. Anyway, point is, on Saturday, possibly because the scores were equal for the majority of the game, we saw two teams both going for the win. And it was really good. Exciting, nerve-wracking, hopeful. OK, neither team looked brilliant, but both sides wanted to win and both managers made changes to try and get the win - not to simply shore things up for a point. A draw was about fair, although we had the better chances to win it, while overall they looked a slightly better side. Good. All good. Well done everyone. Except the ref, who was a bit of a dick.

2. SHAPE: There may be a lot of fuss right now about the impact of the so-called 'Premier League players' (of course, none are. Cameron has been let go by a Championship club, and the other two have barely played in the top division. They're Premier League players in the sense that Jamie Mackie or James Perch were Premier League players), but the last two games have shown that we can't accommodate both Wells and Hemed into the team at the moment. We are simply far more suited to a lone striker with other players bombing on behind them.

Saturday was a classic case in point. Derby, with their win over Man Utd and various other decent results and their England squad member, would've fancied a win at Loftus Road, but found us to be a match in all departments. Everyone looked happier playing in this was, just as they did when Ollie finally made the switch at the start of spring earlier this year. Luongo looked better, Freeman looked better, Eze didn't have a great game, but still looked better than wehn stuck on the wing. All in all, everything just worked better, because of the shape. It helped, of course, that everyone worked really hard too and that heads, for once, did not go down after the opening goal. This was the first point we've picked up all season after going a goal down.

The trick now is in keeping Hemed and Wells happy - probably the former more than the latter, as Wells is clearly first choice. But S-Mac has to do what's best for the team, and at the moment, it is this.

3. PAV: I love Pav, who I wish would do at least half as many step-overs as Freeman, because then we could call the trick the Pavlova. In fact, most fans love Pav. And yet managers don't. Three managers in a row now have looked at Pav and his odd ways and his strangely wooden way of moving (although Zidane looked a bit wooden too, and he was amazing), and decided they'd probably not play him much, or only when they had to. Has he ever had a run of more than five games in a row playing as a right midfielder? I don't think so. He's been wing back, right back, left mid, even central mid, but mostly on the bench. But he's Pav and you can't help asking why he doesn't start more. Particularly in this formation which sees the ever-willing (and improving) Jordan Cousins played out of position in the exact position we all feel Pav would excel.

For Pav, the international break may have come at the wrong time. With Bidwell out for a while and Rangel likely to switch to left back, the right side has opened up for him and he must be in line for a run in the side at last, even if it's at right back. And it would be deserved, because he was probably man of the match on Saturday once he came on for the unlucky Bidwell.

That in itself was a courageous substitution for Macca. While the stadium panicked and fretted that we hadn't got a sub ready, Steve took a moment to consider his options. Initially, Baptiste was ready. But using that sub would mean later on only two of Hemed, Smith, Pav and BOS could come on - it would be a severely limiting choice. So he gambled with Rangel on the left and Cousins on the right. It worked really well, not least because Pav gave a great display typical of Pav: winning 40-60s, chasing lost causes, somehow bumbling past defenders, using his skill, and also playing a smart, disciplined role ahead of Cousins. In this formation, a place should be found for Pav more often than not. When he first came here people worried a Prem club would snap him up - that always seemed unlikely to me and it still does - but he is a good, effective, hard-working player, and some of our best performances in the last few years have come when he's on song. He just don't get to sing much.

4. G-CAM: Jeff had until not made much of an impression on me, and, yes, the other week I openly mocked him in these very pages, because I didn't know who Graham Cameron was. But he made me at least partially eat my words on Saturday with his best game for the Hoops so far. Bosh said in another good post that he was 'on a different planet' and while the only way Gerry Cam is on a different planet is in his apparent support for the tw@t in the White House, he did have a good game on Saturday. He broke play up well, screened the defence and largely used the ball intelligently. I don't hold with the 'helped out Luongo' type thing as a barb against Mass - this is a team game, and in his position, that's exactly what he is there to do - he wasn't doing him a favour.

I also liked his passion, his belief. It feels like he's stepping up a bit, giving us a bit of the old USA! USA! Number One! type of leadership that any side without an American in it is sure to lack. I loved his reaction after his goal - a real, 'we can win this, yo!' type thing. He seems fitter now, which helps, and hopefully that will improve over this break after he's had a rest from his exertions. Took his goal beautifully. Good stuff, G-Cam.

5. COUSINS: This is classic Cousins. He's got a run in the side. He's improving, starting to show us what we can do as he gamely plays wherever he's told to. He nearly scored and should've scored against Reading. He's holding off challenges to his places. He drops back to RB to help out the team and does it pretty well. He's dogged, determined and surely now things are finally looking up. Yep, I have a feeling Jords is going to be alllll right. Oh, he's injured again. Let's hope it's not serious, the poor bugger.

6. EZE: Released into his favour number 10 role at last, but it wasn't Eze's best day. But, QPR fans being QPR fans will accept that as a 20 year old who's only been playing first team football for a year and only playing first team football at this level for a few months, he won't always be brilliant and judgement will be fair and not fall into dull stereotypes or harshness.

'He's been really poor today.'
'He thinks he's better than he is.'
'He's not learning.'
'He's not working hard enough.'
'He thinks he doesn't have to do any defending, it's already gone to his head.'
'He thinks he's made it because of that England call-up.'

Yep, all that and more, and worse, said within my hearing distance on Saturday. Profoundly depressing, full of the usual baseless projections about what's going on in a player's head. The usual cliches about young, skilful players that pervade a certain type of fan's thinking. The same fan who'll go on about how much he loves mavericks, too.

So what really happened, Saturday? He didn't have a great game, but it wasn't terrible. He didn't give up, he kept asking for the ball, he kept making space for himself, he kept trying things, and never hid despite the fact much of it wasn't coming off. That's it. It will happen. Having said all that, I do believe McClaren should feel he can take him off. Saturday I felt shifting Freeman into the centre and getting BOS on for Eze would have been a good move with 15 mins left. On the other hand, Eze can turn a game for you. Never easy taking a player off like that.
Prediction Logged by at 13:14:30
Queens Park Rangers v Derby County prediction logged
Antti's Three Knee Jerks: Reading 0 QPR 1
at 11:56 3 Oct 2018

I only made it home from work for the second half of Sky's one-camera, no replays job, so it's only half the number of knee jerks. That's fair isn't it?

1. LEISTNER: Frequently referred to as 'a German second division defender' in a deliberately disparaging way. I'm not quite sure why this is. Had we signed a centre half from our league, no one would be saying 'we tried to replace Onuoha with a player from the Championship.' The inference seems to be that the 2. Bundesliga is some kind of footballing backwater; when in fact, from what I've seen it's at the very least comparable to our league. He was, rightly, ripped a new one by a lot of fans after the WBA debacle, but overall I've been impressed.

Reading are, of course, a different kettle of fish to Swansea (and by different, I mean stewed, overcooked and boiled to the point where there's no taste left, just mushy bones and slimy skin), so I have no doubts that even if Leistner had played on Saturday we would still have lost, but at the same time, we do look better with him in the side. I like his strength, his calmness, and while a little slow, he's a smart defender who manages to adapt to that. We've signed a lot worse for a lot more money.

And I found it interesting when he scored. Some have suggested, and it wasn't beyond the realms of possibility, that some players might have been unhappy about him being parachuted in as captain, but the reaction from the players (apart from Luongo, actually) to his goal was a clear sign of his popularity. It happens every now and again when you can see players are particularly pleased for a teammate getting a goal, and it happened last night. A calm finish too, after, surely, a handball on the line?

I'm not going overboard here, I still think our defence has big problems, but the fact is in Leistner's last 5 games, we've conceded just two goals.

2. WELLS: Worked really hard again, technically very good, a lovely ball he played to Eze first half before he had a shot saved. But he needs a goal. We may have spent a lot of money bringing in two loans, but in terms of goals, it hasn't hugely helped, despite the fact they're better than what we had. We've scored just eight goals in 11 games. Towards the end of last season, Ollie had us scoring fairly freely, particularly at home, and partly because contributions were coming from elsewhere, not just the strikers. It's now turning into a huge issue. This isn't a dig at Wells, who's probably, on average, been our best player since he arrived, but someone - and preferably more than one person - needs to step up to the plate. Last night we actually should have scored three goals. Cousins' header first half was a bad miss, and Wells own strike, while you can see what he was aiming for, was a bit too weak. Hemed then missed a very presentable chance late on. This has to get better. It's OK saying how wobbly our defence looks, but every defence in the world will struggle if the rest of the team doesn't put away relatively decent chances on a fairly regular basis. Even Reading have scored 6 more than us, no one's scored less and West Brom have more than three times as many. With no more transfers coming in, SM needs to solve this, and fast.

3. REFEREE: It takes a brave man to book not one, but two players for diving in the box. He appeared to be right on both occasions, despite the moans from the crowd, but in fact, Meite was lucky to stay on, because he dived again (I think it was him - no replays, remember) late on and probably should have been sent off. Can't ever remember seeing a player sent off for diving twice, but it might have happened. Overall, it was nice to have a ref who seemed to favour us a bit if anything.

Quick question, though: if it was handball on the line just before Leistner scored, should that player have been at least booked anyway for at least temporarily denying a goal?
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