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A fair result by unfair means - Knee Jerks
Monday, 25th Dec 2017 13:34 by Antti Heinola

Would have settled for a draw before, wouldn't have settled for a draw at half time, annoyed that we drew in part thanks to an awful penalty decision, but, let's be honest, a draw was fair.

Ollie’s XI

Well, apart from a fully fit Hall in for Baptiste and, well whoever Ollie thinks are his best options up front this week, that was Ollie's best XI. And for the first half at the very least, you could see why. QPR were much the better side than the much-vaunted but perhaps hungover City, and a 1-0 half time lead was the very least the team deserved.

With the back three all playing in their most comfortable roles, Onuoha already looking fitter, Scowongoman back on song, Pav happier being allowed to attack more and Osayi-Samuel's pace clearly worrying City's defence, we suddenly looked like the upper mid-table side we might have been if not for debilitating injuries at the back.

Granted, the second half saw us pegged back, especially for the last 20 minutes, but you'd expect that for a team in the top four chasing an equaliser. It's kind of worrying that with a squad this big, you realise that it's only our top 14 or 15 players who genuinely seem to have the quality we'd need for a comfortable season, but at the same time our proper first XI probably is a match for most sides in the league. Any sort of result against Cardiff in January will underline that - Wolves, Sheff U, Cardiff and Bristol will have all been to LR and none will have come away with the three points.

Wszolek

He's been a little frustrating this season. He started really well, then his form drifted, then he was in and out the side in a variety of positions, none of them his strongest. But he's stuck with it, manfully committed to a role at right back and yesterday he was more of a wing back, but with license to really go forward. This was due to the experience and confidence of Baptiste, who covered him well, and got forward very effectively himself. In the first half in particular, the pair of them really pushed back the Bristol left side, so that very little came down their left, but most of our best play came down their right, particularly with one lovely move that ended with Baptiste attempting a backheel on the edge of the six-yard box when he might have been better taking a swing at it.

Yesterday I thought Pav was brave, smart, strong, skilful and dangerous. The problem was his crossing. Always good with a pull back from the byline, his crossing from deeper wasn't good enough, and too many decent opportunities went begging. Hopefully, though, he's coming back to his best and a settled role as an attacking wing back (I thought defensively, especially in terms of positioning, he improved yesterday too) could pay some dividends - we badly need someone other than Freeman to create decent chances.

Osayi Samuel

Bit of a curve ball thrown by Ollie to play BOS up front, but it overall worked pretty well. He enabled us to break a little quicker than normal and unlike the confidence-free Washington he was always looking for the ball. Early on, he battled well and ran through to force the Bristol keeper into a good save and afterwards was neat and tidy in possession and gave Scowongoman another option for some of the quick passing through the centre of the park.

I have to agree with other views on here that taking BOS off contributed to our gradual fading from the game. Bristol had been clearly worried by his pace throughout the game and while he wasn't exactly battering down the door to score, he was a concern. Once he went off, that threat receded and Washington never managed to carry the same kind of threat. There's been a couple of patronising things thrown round about BOS, including from our own manager, but the guy's played a few Championship games for Blackpool, 26 at League One Level and a full 42 at League Two - a great record for someone his age. Bought for the future, but he certainly has a great upside.

Smithies

A rare rick from Smithies last week, but back to his absolute best again this week. I just re-watched some of his superb saves, but the one from the header has to be the pick of the bunch - superb reactions. Also, after spilling the shot last week, the way he clung on to the skiddy, deflected strike was first class. that's the sign of a strong keeper - one who can put mistakes behind him. As Clive says in his match report, he deserved a clean sheet for that performance, even if Bristol deserved a draw for the chances they created.

Subs

I also agree with the general feeling on here that the subs made by Ollie, who often affects game positively with his changes, made us weaker. Washington for BOS seemed needless - he wasn't tiring and he clearly looked disappointed to come off, especially so early. Smith for Sylla was a little more understandable, but despite the tiresome moaning about Sylla for the entire game from people around me when he failed to get his head on balls nine feet in the air, Smith was even less effective. And that was predictable. Smith is a good player to bring on when you're chasing a draw or a win - not when you're defending a lead. He was never going to get the service he needed and he's not great at holding the ball up. In the end it felt like as much a decision to have an extra decent header at the back for their set pieces than any hope he might score. To that extent, it worked, but once Freeman went off too (to be fair to Ollie, he had been feeling his leg a bit before that, so it may have been precautionary) any hope of late attacking intent went out the window.

Still, I felt the team worked extremely hard and were very resilient. Once again, this is not a team that looks like it's not playing for the manager. And Bristol, for all their much-vaunted passing game, were outplayed for about an hour, with the whole team working to shut them down and give them no time on the ball. Three times in the first half they played aimless balls straight out of play because we had closed down all the options. Only the switch to route one stuff aimed at the effective, if niggly, centre back Flint, brought them into the game.

6. REFEREE: I'm not one to blame referees for results. The decisions they make rarely totally influence a game in my opinion. Good teams get more decisions because they attack more and put themselves in areas and create pressure that leads to rash challenges. Look how many pens we got the year we won the league - and not always because of Adel's theatrics.

But this was a strange performance. I thought he was very good first half, refusing, on the whole, to give easy free kicks and allowing the game to flow. He even did a drop ball, which is always welcome. Second half, things began to unravel. A few odd decisions led me to predict he would award a penalty - and three seconds later he did just that. I've watched it again now and there is a bit of a melee in there, but I'm still not quite sure what he thinks he saw. One Bristol player (Flint, I think) launches himself into the air, misses the ball, crashes to earth and appeals for a pen, another may have had a minor push, but it was nothing he wasn't doing too. It doesn't look a pen to me, and if it had been us, I don't think I'd have been on my feet demanding one either.

Still, any anger I had was tempered by the fact that Bristol deserved a point in the end and that we showed great heart throughout the match.

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