Pragmatism meet idealism - Preview
Friday, 19th Feb 2021 20:26 by Clive Whittingham
QPR, finding a voice and an edge, have five wins from six ahead of their Saturday home game with Bournemouth.
QPR (9-9-10 WWLWWW 16th) v Bournemouth (13-10-7 LLWWDW 6th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday February 20, 2021 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Grey but mild >>> Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, Loftus Road, London, W12
There were things to like about beating Brentford at Loftus Road on Wednesday night other than beating Brentford at Loftus Road on Wednesday night. Miranda Hart could only dream of writing 90 minutes of comedy so perfectly executed, but let’s try and be grown ups about this for a moment.
It was very gratifying to see QPR turn around a poor first half into a good second. I can only really think of the 1-1 draw at home to Watford where we’ve been crap before half time, and then rallied afterwards. More often than that it’s been the other way around, with good first half showings against Bristol City, Brentford away and Rotherham melting away into second half ordeals. Similarly, seeing Warbs Warburton change the game, and then change the game again, both in our favour, by first introducing Sam Field for the maverick stylings of Dom Ball, and then Free Chris Willock for the badly out of his depth Lyndon Dykes, also bucked a trend of his substitutions frequently making things worse in games this season – Millwall away a particularly egregious example.
I sympathise with him, because when you look along that bench it doesn’t exactly scream game changers. And, as I’ve said a few times, QPR have, so far, done relatively brilliantly for injuries and Covid-19 issues in this difficult, compacted season. That tells you they’re getting the sports science, injury monitoring and squad management exactly right. We’ve still, touch wood, only lost one first team player long term (Amos), one medium (Little Tom), and had one isolate for plague issues (Dykes). They don’t get nearly enough credit for that. I can be properly contrary by wondering whether, if you’re 1-0 up at Millwall, you couldn’t perhaps push your two best players on the night, Carroll and Chair, through to the 90 and then rest them the next game. What real sports science benefit do we get hauling Austin off with nine minutes left at Watford? But, like I say, the results speak for themselves, and we’re getting those both medically and football-ey (Jesus Clive) at the moment so I’m wrong and he’s right, as is usually the case. Two brilliant, game-altering changes, at exactly the right time, when it really mattered on Wednesday night. Stand up Warbs, everybody look at Warbs.
The other, and the more talked about, is the ‘shithouse’ element of the of the game, which really seemed to boil over in that second half as QPR scored two in four minutes, celebrated raucously infront of the Brentford bench, and then did a clock running job on the final ten minutes that the entire population of Preston would have stood and applauded were they not trying to conceal the collective erection they’d assembled out of respect. Charlie Austin clearly heard as full time approached informing the opposition bench how “over” it was and what he thought of one particular gobshite.
It was clear from the social media reaction of Austin, Hogan Ephraim, Jack Collison, and others, when Brentford lost the play-off final to Fulham last season, just how much their brand of social media and public-facing self-belief gets up people’s nose in a country and sport used to self-deprecation and tame, media-trained responses. That, the injustice of the refereeing in the first meeting, and QPR’s years of abject failure in meetings with the noisy neighbours, perhaps boiled over into stuff you could justifiably brand both ‘small time’ and ‘a bit much’. Brentford are still highly likely to be promoted, QPR are still sixteenth as always.
However, QPR have lacked that nasty element. As the likes of Clint Hill, Paddy Kenny, Shaun Derry, Jamie Mackie, Marc Bircham and Ian Holloway have drained away, and even people like Gabriele Angella, Toni Leistner and Josh Scowen have fallen by the wayside, we have become a ‘nice’, quiet team. There isn’t a meeker midfield in this league than Luke Amos, Tom Carroll and Dom Ball, and Sam Field quietly explaining in a soft Brummy accent how you can get to Shepherd’s Bush from Snow Hill for £6 off peak and he “just wants to play football” with the other excellent young boys, isn’t going to do a lot to bolster that. It has become a team without an edge, and a team without a voice, bullied and talked out of games frequently this season. The first meeting at a suspiciously well populated Brentford ground, and the away game at Norwich, stand testament to the redundancy of keeping quiet and expecting referees at this level to do the right thing, and controversies to even themselves out over the course of a campaign. This is a dog league, appallingly refereed. Darren Bond’s reward for his shambolic handling of our away game at Cardiff mere weeks ago is… another QPR game tomorrow. What reward QPR quietly sitting through him ignoring a Cardiff player punching the ball out of his own penalty area, or accepting Charlie Austin having a goal disallowed for a ‘high boot’ when the defender was attempting to execute a diving header off the floor? Same referee three weeks later is what. Cheers.
I’ll be honest, quite a lot of what went on during that game on Wednesday, and afterwards, sat rather uncomfortably with me. I feel like we should be better than that. I feel like it’s small time. I feel like it’ll be Tweeted to death when Brentford do win their promotion, and we’re left to compare this year’s 13th-19th finish with all the other 13th-19th finishes we’ve managed these past many years. But I’ve also watched QPR managers troop across infront of that away end at Griffin Park, after insipid defeats, against a better team that wanted it more, often enough to be little short of ecstatic to hear that somebody shouted “I hope you don’t shit the bed like you did last season” at Brentford as they headed for the temporary dressing rooms the other night (Austin 4/6 fav, Lumley 5/4). I’ve stood in that away end and heard Peter Gilham refuse to say the words “Queens Park Rangers”, even when introducing some frightened eight-year-old from the away end to read our team out. Talk to me again about ‘small time’. And I also accept the pragmatic realities of the Championship. Fuck him, and them, and it. This isn’t fucking chess. Warbs has said himself we’re getting less than zero reward for playing by the spirit of the game, a point he regularly makes to fourth officials for absolutely no return. I don’t think it’s any coincidence the addition of Austin to the attack and Johansen to the midfield has yielded a sudden and dramatic upturn.
The key is the balance. Could you watch Millwall, or Cardiff, or Wycombe, or Birmingham every week? I couldn’t. I’d find it dispiriting. What’s the point? There has to be more to life, and football, than that. But then going away to Cardiff, as we did last season, and losing 3-0 with 70% of the ball and 99% of the chances, and coming out afterwards and claiming it as some sort of moral victory, and points for a justice league, isn’t for me either. In 2010/11 Neil Warnock’s QPR struck the perfect balance. With Adel Taarabt, Ale Faurlin, Wayne Routledge, Hogan Ephraim, Tommy Smith, Kyle Walker, Akos Buzsaky, and others, we played some of the best, most exhilarating football in that league. And with Clint Hill, Paddy Kenny, Shaun Derry, Kaspars Gorkss, Danny Shittu, Bradley Orr and others we could bloody mix it as well. That’s how you succeed in this league, getting the blend, rather than entrenching yourself in a pure total football or dogs of war philosophy.
This turn about in results has come partly from Warbs, under apparent threat of losing his job, ceding a bit of Warbs-ball in favour of pragmatism. How happy he, and we, are about it, isn’t really relevant.
Links >>> Bircham, Bees, Bahamas – Podcast >>> Brian Bedford goal machine – History >>> Woodgate keeping Cherries in touch – Interview >>> Bond in charge – Referee >>> Bournemouth official website >>> Bournemouth Echo – Local Press >>> Up The Cherries – Forum >>> AFCB – Blog
Geoff Cameron Facts No.131 In The Series - Geoff knows what it’s like to fall in the mud and get kicked in the head with an iron boot.
Below the fold
Team News: Much of Warbs Warburton’s pre-match Warbleton related to the sport science element of picking your team and substitutions when the fixtures get congested. QPR are going from five league games and one cup match in 50 days to 12 league games in the next 50, with five in a fortnight immediately after that – 17 fixtures in little more than two months. Captain of Glasgow Rangers Lee Wallace departed Wednesday’s victory against Brentford early for his Covid-19 vaccination appointment, while Geoff Cameron’s late cramp was genuine rather than Preston apparently so another game so soon may be a bit much. Niko Hämäläinen and Jordy De Wijs are the natural replacements, though the former is in poor form and I’m still not convinced the latter is actually a thing. Watch out for left-footed debutant goalscorer Sam Field potentially being used, initially, as an option at left wing back. Both he and Chris Willock are surely pushing for starts after impressive midweek cameos. George Thomas had some indiscriminate knock and misses out again here, Macauley Bonne had the trots but things have solidified sufficiently for him to return.
Ben Pearson the goblin boy (nobody knows how he was born) swapped Preston for Bournemouth in January, and typically spent most of his welcome interview coating off everything about his former employer. A perennial scourge of QPR’s midfield, one thing that does seem to have followed him down from the north is a troublesome ankle injury which forced his early withdrawal from the bore draw at Forest last week, though he was back on the bench for the midweek win at home to Rotherham. Dominic Solanke hasn’t played since February 2, not that you’d notice, and will continue to be replaced by Southampton loanee Shane Long. Jack Stacey is tired of London and tired of life, Steve Cook is old as fuck.
Elsewhere: You’d probably have backed Watford for their second managerial change of the season after we won there in January but they’ve suddenly stuck three wins on the board, including a 6-0 at home to Bristol City, after a formation twist, and they kick us off this weekend at home to Wayne Rooney’s Rooney County tonight on Sky Sports Leeds.
All eyes tomorrow on three teams in freefall. Birmingham, frankly, have got everything they deserve for appointing Aitor Karanka as manager and his latest successful protection of a 1-0 defeat at Millwall during the week leaves them second bottom with one win from 14. Sheffield Blue Stripes away for them this weekend and a further failed attempt to bore his way through to a nil nil there will surely deprive us of the pleasure of booting his miserable arsehole into unemployment next weekend. Bristol City have already bitten the Dean Holden bullet prior to our visit, a sixth successive defeat at home to Reading during the week, featuring a second goal the likes of which I assumed only QPR teams concede, put paid to another hopelessly optimistic appointment – Paul Simpson is in caretaker charge for Barnsley at home tomorrow, with Paul Cook the bookies favourite. Swear to God if I put an ad in the paper for somebody to come and clean my wheelie bins Paul Cook would be the bookies’ favourite. Huddersfield gave their Bielsa Bud a new contract just after Christmas, but then also saddled him with the signing of Richard Keogh, whose return to Championship action is looking as shrewd a signing now as it did at the time with seven defeats and two draws from the last nine games. Good luck with Swanselona at home tomorrow you goggle eyed freak.
We watch with interest to see if Big Mick McCarthy can make it five wins on the spin for Cardiff at home to Preston Knob End. Wycombe were singularly unfortunate to not only not win against Derby in the week, but then lose in injury time, and their uphill battle continues away to Miwllwawll (fackin’ ‘ell’ Wawwll’) on Saturday. Borussia Norwich at home to Rotherham is a tough assignment for Paul Warne’s men, Stoke v Luton marks the first time in 13 years that Ryan Shawcross isn’t part of the Potters squad as he heads to the MLS, and it’s Reading’s turn on the Thirteenth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour. Nottingham Florist’s cast of a thousand footballers host Blackburn.
Audrey Roberts showed her players just one clip from Spartak Hounslow’s midweek defeat to QPR, of them all running forwards as one to do something magnificently insignificant in the 37th minute, which he believes if they continue to do this Saturday will make them the best team Coventry City have played all season. It’s the Sky lunchtime game, so look out for the harsh, cutting, critique of their approach from Brentford B coach and former Brentford midfielder Sam Saunders.
Referee: Well I hope he’s in a better frame of mind than he was at Cardiff in January. Details.
QPR: From just four wins in 24 league and cup games from the start of the season, QPR have now won five out of six, and have conceded just three goals in the process. It means not far off half the points Rangers have for the season (15 out of 36) have come in the last four and a bit weeks. At the turn of the year Rangers hadn’t won in ten league and cup games, but in 2021 Rangers’ record of 16 points from seven games is bettered only by Swansea who have taken 17. Four other teams have won more points in that period, but all from more fixtures. Charlie Austin’s winning goal against Brentford during the week was his 33rd in 50 games at Loftus Road, the best record since Les Ferdinand did exactly the same in his first 50 games on this ground. That result leaves QPR eight points clear of third bottom Sheff Wed The clean sheet in the nil nil at Bournemouth in the corresponding fixture is one of eight this season, already surpassing last season’s total of six. Only Hull (87) and Luton (82) conceded more than our 76 last season, but QPR are currently tracking to concede 56 goals this season and their 33 conceded so far is better than nine other sides and level with three others (Cardiff, Blackburn, Stoke). The draw at Dean Court is also part of an unbeaten season against the sides relegated from the Premier League – Rangers drew at home and won away against Watford, and drew away to both the Cherries and Norwich.
Bournemouth: The Cherries currently occupy the last play-off spot, and with plenty to spare as well – six points clear of seventh placed Cardiff. That’s mainly based on a home record of 9-3-3, with just four away wins so far (3-1 on both visits to St Andrew’s, 4-0 at Barnsley, 1-0 at Stoke), seven draws and four defeats. Only Huddersfield (two, 19th), Coventry (two, 20th), Sheff Wed (three, 22nd) and Wycombe (two, 24th) have won fewer than Bournemouth’s four victories away from home. Only Stoke (eight, 9th) have drawn more than their seven on the road. Jason Tindall was sacked as manager after a shambolic 2-1 home defeat by basement dwellers Sheff Wed which at that point was a fourth league defeat in a row, scoring just twice, part of a run of one win in eight Championship fixtures. Since his departure caretaker manager Jonathan Woodgate has won three and drawn one of four league and cup games in charge, keeping clean sheets in the last three prior to this one. When Bournemouth do click they can be rather potent – only Brentford (56) have scored more than their 44 league goals this season. They’ve put five through Huddersfield, four through Barnsley and Oldham, and three through Blackburn, Coventry and Birmingham twice. Since that 4-0 win at Oakwell, however, they’ve won just one of seven games away from home and drew 0-0 at Nottingham Forest last weekend in a real artery hardener. Since Bournemouth’s 4-0 win here in 1958/59 they haven’t won in 13 visits to Loftus Road, losing ten, scoring just four and conceding 28. This run includes nine QPR wins to nil (3-0, 1-0, 2-0, 4-0, 2-0, 5-0, 1-0, 1-0, 2-0). Ten draws makes Bournemouth one of only five teams to have tied more games than QPR’s nine this season – Millwall miles out in front with 14.
Prediction: We’re indebted to The Art of Football for once again agreeing to sponsor our Prediction League and provide prizes. You can get involved by lodging your prediction here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s QPR collection here. Last season’s champion Mase offers us this…
“I wonder if the exertions of Wednesday will have taken their toll on our squad. Warbs' post match comments during the week reflected that the demands are intense, the playing staff few, and the recovery time short. I hope we aren't found to be flat like we were against Derby last month. I would be happy with another low key point and a second goalless draw this season against a decent but faltering Bournemouth.”
Mase’s Prediction: QPR 0-0 Bournemouth. No scorer.
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 1-1 Bournemouth. Scorer – Charlie Austin
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When Saturday Comes #7 by wessex_exile
Well that didn’t go as planned at all – after a stirring battling performance full of grit, character and togetherness with the small band of travelling supporters at Barrow, the U’s then finally returned back to the JobServe and completely failed to turn up against bogey side Crawley. They weren’t the only ones either, Hayden Mullins was absent as well, and we have since learned he has Covid-19 and will also miss tomorrow’s game at Swindon too – I know we all wish Hayden a speedy recovery. Fortunately, I won’t be missing the match, with tickets arriving last weekend – first live game for best part of 18 months, and I can’t bloody wait!
When Saturday Comes #6 by wessex_exile
After over a month of absence, the U’s finally make a welcome return to the JobServe for a home league fixture. Sutton seem to have quickly got over their Covid-19/ injury crisis/ international call-up woes, fielding a team the following Tuesday that was strong enough to push Cardiff City hard in a narrow 3-2 defeat to the Championship side. But enough of that, I haven’t seen the outcome of the EFL investigation, but I don’t doubt the decision has either already been or will be rubber-stamped. Gamesmanship – maybe, but I hope at least the EFL are now a bit more alert to the fact that some might think they can treat them like chumps when it suits their purpose? Still – it’s great to be back home isn’t it!
When Saturday Comes #5 by wessex_exile
“Well, I can tell u my son was stood nearer the back of the Holker Street end and although he couldn't see who was responsible, he was disgusted and was very clear in telling me that the 'N' word was used by someone stood directly behind the goal nearer the front. I'm sick of hearing this, no one but the player being abused heard anything so maybe he was mistaken crap. This shite still exists despite everything that the authorities try to do because unfortunately there are still racists in every, city, town, village and hamlet in this country. [SwearFilter] scum of the earth.”
When Saturday Comes #4 by wessex_exile
I start with an apology for the no-show last weekend, but for all the right reasons. My nephew and his fiancé finally managed to tie the knot on Friday, at the fifth time of asking (previous four attempts falling foul of covid restrictions unfortunately). It was a fantastic afternoon and evening over in Essex, but meant it just wasn’t possible to get a blog produced. A significant proportion of the wedding party were U’s supporters, including the groom, but any thought of live-streaming the Rochdale game at the evening celebration might have resulted in the fastest divorce on record, so we contented ourselves with surreptitious glances at the BBC Sports updates – and what an own goal it was! Different circumstances, but I was (painfully) reminded of Aidan and Kevin’s howler at Blackburn – golden rule, never, ever pass the ball directly towards your own goal.
When Saturday Comes #3 by wessex_exile
The goalless U’s have eventually got that monkey off their backs, with the Frank and Freddie show combining to win a somewhat dubious penalty, in the 5th minute of injury time, allowing Freddie to get his new goal account at the U’s off and running (all in all he now has 37 goals, five of them penalties). It was tight though, and on another day the goalkeeper would have got a hand to it, but they all count, whether it’s a 25 yard peach or one off the arse. Everyone has rightly said that without doubt Mansfield were the best side we’ve faced so far – I’ll go so far as to say they’ll probably be one of the best sides we face all season. Though it wasn’t comfortable viewing at the time, some of their passing and movement, particularly on the break, was breath-taking at times. But enough of the love-in, however good they were, the U’s stood up to them, kept them out for the most part, and eventually got the point we deserved.
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