Penalty pain, Manning improvement, centre back selections - Knee Jerks
Monday, 29th Apr 2019 18:52 by Antti Heinola
Antti#s final round up of talking points from the weekend just gone this season focus on the latest home defeat, this time against Nottingham Forest.
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.
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 four or five 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 least 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.
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 shit - 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.
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.
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 lack of pace, these two looked very good together. A shame it's happened this late in the season.
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.
The full debut cliches:
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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