|Brentford 2 v 1 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 21st April 2018 Kick-off 15:00
QPR beaten at Brentford again - Report
Sunday, 22nd Apr 2018 12:22 by Clive Whittingham
A year on from being torn apart by a rampant Brentford at Griffin Park, QPR were back at their neighbours on Saturday for what turned out to be another disappointing defeat.
Being back at Griffin Park on exactly the same weekend as we were here last season, for nearly exactly the same result, made it hard to believe that anything has really changed at all in the last year. There’s a real monotony to this fixture from a Queens Park Rangers’ point of view and for a good 40 minutes of this latest encounter it looked like it was going to follow the script to the letter.
It had the usual opening act – dick swinging over exactly whose “cup final” this is from people with barely enough dick to swing. Then, of course, the usual nonsensical bombast from Ian Holloway, presumably trying to come across as Churchillian, leading his men into the battle of their lives, but actually channelling Frank Spencer. The main event is the game itself which usually involves Brentford running all over the top of QPR who have to expend every last ounce of effort they have just to avoid a total embarrassment.
And, like I say, at twenty to four on Saturday those boxes had been well and truly ticked. Tiny dicks had indeed been swung, Holloway bombast had been bombasted, and the talented team still in play off contention was giving the makeshift one with nothing to play for all it wanted and more.
To be fair, QPR were rather hamstrung from the start of this one, with their collection of the world’s most injury prone centre halves all taking the day off together. Joel Lynch punched his card out a couple of weeks ago, James Perch and Grant Hall hardly punched theirs in in the first place, Nedum Onouha was on game three of three for his brain fart at Hull and Jack Robinson, a 24-year-old apparently so sickly he could have applied for an extras part on Erin Brokovitch, was poorly again.
That left Darnell Furlong and Alex Baptiste as the last men standing in the middle, and a first senior QPR appearance since a Boxing Day game at Brighton last season for young right back Osman Kakay. Against a team that defends narrow and attacks wide, and has had 148 more shots than any other Championship team this season (747 from Norwich’s 599) that was a big ask for both of them but they were arguably Rangers’ two best players. Kakay just about hung onto the coattails of Brentford’s outstanding winger Sergi Canos, actually getting the better of him for much of the second half, while Furlong’s aerial ability meant he could acquit himself well in a more central role. They messed up once, both getting drawn out at once allowing a ball to be played inside for Ollie Watkins to strike the post, but it wasn’t the carve up it could have been. Baptiste, the senior man on campus, was by far the worse of the three of them.
But Brentford were better, and in front, by the time Watkins struck wood. The first quarter of an hour, especially, was one way traffic. Romaine Sawyers had a shot deflected just over after a minute and then when Josh Scowen, unusually poor all afternoon, got caught playing out from the back Sawyers drew a save from stand in keeper Matt Ingram. That was after five minutes and there was still time for Chris Mepham, a QPR fan scandalously and callously released from the club’s youth system and told he didn’t have a “single strength we can work with”, to volley at Ingram from a corner before another wide set piece was nodded down at the back post for Canos to finish into the roof of the net from close range.
QPR not at the races then. Holloway was right, his team were chasing them all over the place and Brentford were doing all sorts of stuff. Over the next 20 minutes or so Brentford mixed near misses for a second goal with horrible tackles that luckily found referee Andy Madley in lenient mood. First Woods cracked Luongo with an elbow in an aerial challenge, then Watkins flew into a two-footed horror show on Furlong as he cleared down the left flank – both were only booked. As per usual, not a single QPR player spoke to the referee about either decision. We’re so nice and accommodating it’s untrue.
On the ball the Bees were rather more attractive. Ingram saved from Watkins when he tried his luck from a narrow angle, then when Rangers were caught pisballing about in midfield again the former Exeter striker glided past two defenders and shot wide from the edge of the box. He looks some player. Then came the post strike and when Watkins surged through on goal again and was obviously upended by Ingram in the area, slightly slow off his line and paying a heavy price for it, the game looked well and truly up.
But this was to prove something of a turning point the other way. Ingram required lengthy treatment to a head knock after the incident which gave Watkins a long time to think about what he was going to do with the spot kick. Madley, again rather generously in my view, interpreted the new double jeopardy rules for this season to mean Ingram should only be booked meaning he had the chance to take his place back in goal and redeem himself. He did, saving low to his left, although in truth you’d probably have saved it yourself.
Just as well the spot kick was so completely lousy as Ingram obviously wasn’t fit to continue and sure enough was helped from the field in a very groggy state looking like he was about to throw up a couple of minutes later. One fat sex case made it his business to run all the way along the front of the main stand to try and attack the injured man on the way off and had to be held back by four stewards. Probably somebody’s father that. Fuck me.
Now while Brentford are obviously the perfect team at the perfect football club and perfection is, by its very definition, notoriously hard to improve on, may I be so bold as to suggest they haven’t responded particularly well to adversity this season. The two goals conceded in injury time to draw at Loftus Road contribute to a total of 24 points lost from winning positions this season which mean, despite being the best team anybody at this level has played all season, possibly the best team ever to have played at this level full stop, they were only tenth at the start of play.
Rocked by the penalty miss far more than they should have been after dominating the first half, Dean Smith’s men fell in a bit of a hole and instead of being two or three goals up at the break contrived to go in level. Mass Luongo and Pawel Wszolek, barely in the game to this point, worked space and good ball down the right channel setting up a chance for Luongo to shoot, Dan Bentley to save and Idrissa Sylla to oblige with one of his trademark sizzling six yarders into the open net. Just how the Guinean likes them. Somehow, 1-1 at half time.
And there was more to come. Not for the first time, QPR lined up and started the second half exactly how they should have approached the game in the first place. Out of possession Sylla was detailed to drop a bit deeper and stand with Brentford’s metronomic central midfielder Ryan Woods at all times. Rather surprisingly, Sylla did this job with great diligence and concentration to begin with and having thrown a wet blanket over Woods QPR found that Brentford’s fires didn’t burn nearly as brightly at the start of the second period. The former Shrewsbury man really does make them tick, with so many of the passes they use to stretch the play right and left coming from there, and with him man marked they suddenly struggled to function.
With the ball Sylla looked at one point like he was going to burst through one on one with Bentley but he was flagged offside before he could get a shot away. Then Luongo drew the save of the game from the home keeper when given two attempts at a shot from the edge of the box. There were some bad moments too – Scowen the latest to put a tackle in that was probably a yellow and a half after giving the ball away, Bidwell booked on his former stomping ground for deliberately ending a dangerous counter attack by felling Canos (something else we don’t do enough). But Rangers looked better, almost comfortable.
Which makes what happens next all the more frustrating. Yes Brentford are a better team with something to play for, yes QPR had a defence held together with elastic bands and chewing gum, no we can’t be too disappointed with the performance given the circumstances, but having worked that position in the game after such a ropey start it was face tearingly frustrating to see just how easily we gave it all up again. Now whether Smith in the home dugout decided to move Woods further forward away from the man marking detail, or whether Sylla just got a bit slack and lazy with it, I’m not sure – probably a bit of both – but as the game entered its final quarter the carrot topped central midfielder suddenly started influencing things again. Too much time, too much space, and with that came the incisive passing into attacking wide channels again. QPR had found the answer, and then forgotten it, and Woods was at the centre of everything as Brentford put together a lovely move which ended with Florain Jozefzoon finishing brilliantly around sub keeper Alex Smithies and into the far top corner.
After that the game was pretty much up. Smithies had already made one excellent save to keep out Canos’ header and made another to stop Sawyers making it 3-1 from the edge of the box. It is notable that with Mepham really coming into his own, Brentford’s propensity to blow leads has reduced somewhat – three 1-0 wins in the last four matches – and while an out of sorts Luke Freeman looped a late header over and Sylla failed to convert a close range from a goal mouth scramble when it looked easier to score, they never really looked in that much danger having gone 2-1 up. QPR put Matt Smith on, who’d caused Brentford so many problems in the first game, but took Paul Smyth off to do it wrecking the best supply line the strikers had. Ryan Manning for Jake Bidwell was probably to stop Bidwell, on a card, getting sent off, but felt like a wasted sub as well.
QPR weren’t nearly as bad as they’d been here last season, but then again Brentford weren’t nearly as good – they really ripped us apart that day. Having gone in with a makeshift defence expecting a sound beating it was easy to be philosophical about a narrow defeat but then our former charge Clint Hill’s recent podcast comment about allowing standards to fall with expectations, and the dangers of accepting that, sprang to mind. You should never be happy with a defeat of any sorts and after riding a difficult first half out and coming in at 1-1, QPR then realised how they could combat Brentford, by taking Woods out of the game, but went away from the gameplan at the most crucial time of the afternoon. When you look at Preston last week, how doggedly they stuck to their task, how grimly they saw it through for an away win, I couldn’t help but once again conclude we are a soft touch on our travels. Senior players we’ve relied on this season like Freeman and Scowen had poor games, and the injury issues at centre back were plainly obvious, but that grit to dig in and see it through for a point wasn’t there and that was the most costly thing in the end.
Just the two games to go now. Mercy.
Brentford: Bentley 7; Dalsgaard 6, Egan 7, Mepham 8, Barbet 6; Woods 8, Sawyers 7; Jozefzoon 7, Macleod 6 (Mokotjo 65, 6), Canos 7 (yennaris 81, -); Watkins 8 (Maupay 45, 7)
Subs not used: Bjelland, Mceachran, Clarke, Daniels
Goals: Canos 15 (assisted Barbet), Jozefzoon 69 (assisted Mokotjo)
Bookings: Woods 26 (foul), Watkins 33 (foul)
QPR: Ingram 7 (Smithies 45+5, 7); Kakay 7, Furlong 7, Baptiste 5, Bidwell 6 (Manning 74, 6); Scowen 5; Smyth 6 (Smith 72, 6), Wszolek 5, Luongo 6, Freeman 5; Sylla 6
Subs not used: Cousins, Perch, Eze, Osayi-Samuel
Goals: Sylla 45+2 (assisted Luongo)
Bookings: Ingram 42 (foul), Bidwell 50 (foul), Scowen 52 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Osman Kakay 7 Tough choice, not many candidates, between him and Furlong for me, given the talent Brentford have in wide areas and his lack of senior football I thought this was a very creditable effort.
Referee – Andy Madley (West Yorkshire) 6 Calm head and a lenient approach to a derby game when on a different day Watkins, Woods, Ingram and Scowen could all have seen more than yellow from a different referee. Not too bad overall, if a little generous in several situations, especially with Ingram for the penalty.
Attendance – 12, 367 (1,100 QPR approx) The long walk across the front of the away end to the tunnel can be quite the gauntlet for QPR managers at half time and full time when it’s not going well here, as Ian Holloway found out last season and Chris Ramsey before him. Sylla’s goal was perfectly timed to stop that in the first half and overall the visiting fans seemed quite understanding with their team at full time as well. When it transpired afterwards that Ian Holloway had sadly lost his mum during the week I was doubly grateful he didn’t cop a load of abuse from his own side. It’s only football at the end of the day, something the Brentford fan trying to attack a goalkeeper suffering from concussion might like to remember. Condolences to Ian on his loss.
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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