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Watford 0 Queens Park Rangers 0 (29/12/2013) 30/12/2013

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

1- Nil-nil draws come in a variety of flavours.  There are the ones where a draw suits at least one of the two sides down to the ground, often the away side, such that if it hasn’t quite been the aim at the outset it’s deemed a more than acceptable eventuality.  There are those where a lack of quality is the dominant characteristic, a nil-nil by default.  There are those much more open games which are nil-nil in name only, by virtue of neither side quite getting around to scoring.  And there are, as my co-editor would wish me to recognise in his continuing absence, occasional total aberrations where even a goalless scoreline flatters an encounter so devoid of anything as to sap the collective will to live of those present – Scarborough (A, 1995) the example most frequently cited in textbooks.  These classifications are not mutually exclusive of course… overlaps exist, and this, whilst always watchable, had bits of several of these characteristics.  In particular, QPR’s apparent lack of a striking option with Charlie Austin injured and both Zamora and Johnson only fit enough for the bench limited their attacking threat;  whether this was down to a genuine lack of options or whether, as has been suggested elsewhere, down to Redknapp peeling back the skin on his “bare bones” as a message to his board with the transfer window about to open, the effect was that an experienced, organised side played without a centre-forward leaving a nil-nil the likeliest outcome from the outset.

2- The first half was a game of kabbadi.  Our own potency was limited… Diego Fabbrini was a threat when he got the ball to feet in deep positions and turned on QPR’s defence but this happened too infrequently, and on the one occasion when he gained a sight of goal he dawdled, permitting a stunning tackle from Richard Dunne.  Recent Rangers reports have described a susceptibility to being harried and hassled in possession, and so the absences of Ikechi Anya and particularly Fernando Forestieri were unfortunate.  This was surely a Fessi game in particular – Rangers’ disciplined midfield, marshalled by the charmless but dominant Barton, shielded a defence that looked fallible when put under pressure, Assou-Ekotto in particular having a distracted-looking first forty-five.  At the other end, however, the visitors did their best to expose the vulnerability behind the wingbacks that a 3-5-2 implies.  Phillips and particularly Hoilett each had their moments and a number of balls were slammed across the face of goal crying out for a striker to attack them. The louche Niko Kranjcar was nominally the front man however, and hurling himself at stuff in the box really isn’t the Croat’s thing.  Nonetheless, the visitors were ahead on points at the break.

3- Second half was much more even.  Encouragingly we came out on the front foot and began to drag mistakes out of Rangers’ backline, not least by mixing up our approach and looking to turn them with longer balls as well as controlled possession.  Thorne was a valuable pivot in a congested midfield, Cassetti again did well at right wing-back with Doyley shielding him and Bellerin dug in well on the left.  However clear cut chances were again thin on the ground… Fabbrini’s neat one-two with Deeney provided the best opportunity but the Italian finished nervously, his low shot lacking power and too close to Rob Green. Ultimately, the game petered out and whilst there were few incidents that had the crowd on their feet you have to feel that, Boxing Day notwithstanding, we’d have taken this at kick-off in the context of Sannino’s stated priority of sorting the defence out first and foremost.  One iffy penalty in his first three games isn’t bad going, whatever the circumstances.

4- What an extraordinary menagerie this QPR side is.  I have friends who pick their fantasy league teams according to a theme… here, life imitates, well, art, kinda, in that Redknapp has forged a side made up of last-picks of Fantasy League teams circa 2008.  Yossi Benayoun?  Nedum Onuoha? Bobby Zamora? You could list the entire team in this fashion and suffix, “wow, I wondered where he had gone” after each of them.  Gary O’Neil? Surely he must be dead by now?  A hulking graveyard of bandits and reprobates with an extraordinary array of silly haircuts. The starting eleven had an average age of 28, a full two years older than our own despite the contributions of Manuel Almunia and Marco Cassetti, and this without 30+ contributions from no fewer than TWELVE other players in their thirties elsewhere in the squad, of whom only Park Ji-Sung’s wages are being temporarily picked up elsewhere.  Not a side with an eye on the future any further than May, then.  God you’ve got to hope they fall on their (ample) arses.

5- So far so good. Today suggested that Sannino can both mix up his approach and influence things positively from the bench – witness the improvement of the second half over the first. Not Vicarage Road’s most rip-roaring ninety minutes of the season, but in the context of the last few months I think we’d all have traded off a bit of excitement for some defensive robustness – albeit against a team without a striker – and if we can continue to beat bad teams and get draws off half-decent ones that’ll do for the timebeing.



1. Ian - 30/12/2013

” occasional total aberrations where even a goalless scoreline flatters an encounter so devoid of anything as to sap the collective will to live of those present”

Bury, home, March 1999

Nashinho - 30/12/2013

Barnsley at home 1977-78. Elton even refunded the ticket price to one Barnsley fan who said the “spectacle” was in contravention of the Trades Descriptions Act as it had been incorrectly billed as a football match.

2. Harefield Hornet - 30/12/2013

ditto Crystal Palace at home – years ago sometime during Easter!

Loved the bit on the FLS when Arry shook hands with one of the new coaches before strolling straight past Sannino! The Italian’s expression following the eventual recognition and backslap was absolutely hilarious.

3. Roger Smith - 30/12/2013

The good news is that we’re getting the ball onto Deeney’s head again. The bad news is that there is never anyone reading the game and anticipating where the knockdown is going to go. How about trying McGugan alongside Deeney, with Battochio coming into midfield?

Matt Rowson - 30/12/2013

Agree that’s a problem, but can’t see McGugan as the solution. He doesn’t work hard enough for that role.

4. David Gray - 30/12/2013

A strange game – one where I would have taken a point before the match but left feeling oddly frustrated. We really missed Anya; too often our counter attacks were so pedestrian that QPR could easily get men back before we got anywhere near their box. This is saying nothing against Cassetti and Bellerin – both fine players in their own way, but neither of them are going to be popping a proverbial testicle to go from full back to striker in 4.2 seconds. It’s not that they’re lazy, just that they haven’t quite got Anya’s quality of testicle (at which point this metaphor shall be brought to a timely, nay, overdue close).

McGugan had an off day – it seemed the only time he played the ball forwards was when he was spanking it into Row Z. Not sure how I feel about this – one doesn’t like to put an outright ban on all ludicrously optimistic long-range efforts – were this the case, Chalobah vs. Leicester 2013, Mahon vs. Portsmouth 2007 and plenty of others would never have happened. But there has to be some balance, and unfortunately McGugan didn’t get it right yesterday. I’d like to see Murray in the most advanced role of the midfield three – it plays to his strengths far more. Whenever he did get forward, he looked lively, but this didn’t happen often enough for me.

Fabbrini’s mum did a good job of picking man of the match too. The jeering as he left the pitch was pretty shameful, but it’s fair to say that he did not have the best of games. Somewhere in a parallel universe, Fabbrini has not yet been tackled; the referee has not yet blown for full time and Diego Fabbrini is still standing on the Vicarage Road pitch with the ball at his feet, yet to release it.

I sound very negative here, don’t I? I don’t mean to. It’s just that there is the potential for a very good side here. It’s not there yet, and the flaws are clear. But if everything comes together, we could be in for another cracking season. I do hope so. Happy New Year everyone.

Roger Smith - 31/12/2013

Thanks for reminding me (as if I needed it) of my favourite goal last season: Deeney’s second at Birmingham. Vydra broke out of our box, and at the bottom of the screen is Anya busting a gut to get into position to take the pass, and cross it first time for Deeney to volley into the net.

5. Mattp - 30/12/2013

Great summary – great to think back to the McCain stadium and the worst game of football I have ever seen – a fight amongst a few away fans being the only action of note I recall?!

I thought Bellerin deserves special mention – they clearly targeted him in the second half under the high ball and he stood up well to it. I actually thought Fabbrini had a decent game – he always showed for the ball and tried to make things happen, okay it didn’t come off but he worked between the lines well – needs to toughen up though for this division.

Quite right to use McGugan and lazy in the same sentence. He doesn’t seem to have learnt that talent has to be coupled with hard work and I doubt he will if he hasn’t by now.i find him v frustrating, being English helps him get more games than he should IMHO.

Big Al - 02/01/2014

I vaguely remember throwing snowballs at Perry Digweed as he warmed up if that counts? Also harbouring murderous intentions towards fellow coach-travellers who insisted on singing “Ray Stubbs, he’s the man who stands in when Des Lynam is away” to the Fantasy Football League tune ALL the way back. Such wonderful memories…

6. hornetboy84 - 30/12/2013

So ‘Arry’s view was that we were given a football lesson. Well his tactics certainly succeeded in silencing the away crowd !

7. Goldenboy60 - 31/12/2013

Just need to mention Fabbrini. A young player who has so much technical ability and potential. Question is how do we get the best out of him? For me he plays too deep. FF has been the same but it was very noticeable against Millwall that FF played a further 10 yards forward getting up much closer to Deeney, and at last going beyond him into an area where goals are scored, and at last he did just that. On the training pitch Fabbrini needs the same coaching. If we can get him on the ball in the box and he can get confidence from a finish he could be lethal as he has such quick feet and close control. Belief goes such a long way towards good individual and team performances. I was disgusted with the booing because he actually tried his heart out. But the coaching needs to put him further forward.

Good to see us defend properly and the wing backs are restricting the opposition getting down the side of us. Good start for the new coach.

8. Boxmoor Jules - 31/12/2013

Maybe I’m mad, but the return of one injured player appears to have got us talking about forward play again, instead of absense of defence. He is far from perfect, but yet another new manager is picking him. Welcome back Lloyd, the ultimate gelling agent. Now we need some gel in the other half of the field, to do the job Abdi used to.

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