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Queens Park Rangers 2 Watford 1 (21/04/2014) 21/04/2014

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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1- “Best team we’ve played” was the consensus from the QPR constituency on the train back to Bedford.  Nice blokes, before you ask… civil enough to involve me in their review of events once I’d declared my interest.  Showed enough judgement to make appropriate grimaces as we stopped at Luton and orange shirts flooded in.  And, yes.  “Best team we’ve played.  Have you been doing that all season?”.  A glance at the table answers that… yes, we were a match for Rangers on the day, yes, we looked a good deal better than mid-table fodder.  Yes, we lost anyway.  But this wasn’t yet more wasted points lobbed on the bonfire, we’ll get to that, and it was far better than much of what has preceded it this season.  Too little, too late perhaps, but worth remembering, as ever, that it’s not all about the destination – my travelling companions, faced with the possibility (and only very optimistically a one in four chance, by their own admission) of promotion back to the top flight and a tranche of unwinnable games, were acutely aware of that.  You’ve got to enjoy the journey, enjoy the game for it’s own sake. And this was a belter.

2- Unlike Saturday, we started like a train.  Difficult to separate our own verve from the attitude that I’d mentally superimposed on QPR…  a bunch of has-beens and never-quite-weres, a Fantasy League team from about seven or eight years ago, and already all but sure of a play-off place and therefore less focused, less to play for.  Some of that might have been true… whatever, we certainly DID look more up for it, more hungry, more lively, and immediately swarmed all over the midfield as we would do for much of the game. Tözsér, Abdi and McGugan were everywhere, always a passing option available, overrunning the hoops for the opening half hour.  You’ll have noticed that we didn’t take advantage… McGugan culpable here, for all that he was lively and positive throughout, having one of those games where possession within shooting distance results in the same decision and is often followed by direct feedback from Troy.  As we approached the interval our inability to capitalise on our superiority looked critical… the home side had begun to push up a high line and pen us in, our lack of pace making this a viable approach even if Manuel Almunia only had one save to make – a Kevin Doyle free kick that provoked a comfortable stop.  An ovation at the whistle, but no goals on the board.

3- The atmosphere was tremendous.  Not something we can often claim at the Vic for all the fine efforts of the 1881, and Loftus Road was similarly sleepy.  Except in the away end, which was bouncing.  If you can’t create an atmosphere in these circumstances, away from home in a packed, claustrophobic upper tier in a shit-or-bust local derby then, you know, pack up and go home.  But yes, it was raucous and noisy and – largely – about us rather than them or anyone else.  If only it were possible to translate this bloody-minded noisiness to the Vic… but if I knew how to do that I’d be making a lot of money bottling and selling the trick to a PR company or something rather than writing this nonsense on a Monday night at the end of a Bank Holiday weekend.  Anyway… we got our reward as we started the second half as bullishly as we had the first culminating in Deeney nodding down to Ranégie who rolled Richard Dunne – which, one imagines, takes some doing – to find space and finish.  Game. On.

4- Having struck the vital first blow in what had been a tight game on Saturday by virtue of a little bit of quality, it would be wrong not to acknowledge that Joey Barton’s free kick was a hell of a strike, with enough bend on it to bypass our wall and leaving Manu on the wrong side of his goal looking a bit silly – although I’d like another chance to see quite how aggressively Charlie Austin bullied some space for the shot on the left side of our wall.  There were complaints about it being a soft free kick, complaints about a corner that had preceded it being given the wrong way… whatever.  You don’t take your chances, you run the risk of stuff like this being relevant.  We should have been out of sight.

Psychologically a defeat feels so much worse than a draw would have done… but actually a point probably wasn’t a lot of good to us, so I think you can forgive Beppe for lobbing bodies forward at the death.  The result was us being grotesquely outnumbered on the counter and even then nearly getting away with it as the lively Morrison initially chose the wrong option, but Austin – who had earlier been booked for a brutal challenge on the terrific Riera – finished superbly.  A sucker punch.

5- We might have saved a point had we not overcommitted, should have been further ahead to perhaps kill the game earlier. Critical, though, was the lack of options on the bench.  Not that we had any time to retrieve the situation at 2-1, but the side was screaming out for some pace on the counter at 1-0, something to make QPR look over their shoulders, to occupy the excellent Onuoha, to ease the pressure a little bit.  No striker on the bench (again) was tough on Ranégie in particular who, like Troy, played a second ninety in the space of three days.  He won the majority of his aerial duels, loped around fairly purposefully… but needed replacing midway through the second half.  As the stadium exploded in response to Austin’s winner my attention, ferociously averted from the home stands, was on Beppe who seemed to turn to his bench in agitated frustration, recognise that for all the quality cover in different positions there was nothing to retrieve the game, no new trick.  The lack of available options up front was always going to cost us at some point, it cost us this weekend.  The play-offs recede back into the distance… this was one of many missed chances, but amongst the more forgiveable.  As last season, the critical points were lost earlier in the campaign.  Come August, we go again… and on this evidence perhaps we will have the season we’d imagined next time.

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Comments»

1. drdavewatford - 21/04/2014

“on this evidence perhaps we will have the season we’d imagined next time.”

I guess that depends on who’s left come August, and who replaces those that depart. We can’t discount the possibility that it might feel a bit like starting from scratch next season, with any progress made this term being largely irrelevant. If we can retain Toszer for next season and keep our midfielders fit then there’ll be some cause for optimism, although if Deeney goes then our lack of forward options becomes even more acute and Nani will really have to earn his money if we’re to progress.

Gutting result today given the performance, although at least we gave away the usual last minute goal for the right reasons, for once.

Matt Rowson - 21/04/2014

Sure. I can’t imagine Deeney will stay – that’s the model after all, sell high, buy low – and of course he won’t be easy to replace. As you say, much depends on who else we can retain – I think it’s clear that we’ll try to keep Tözsér if we possibly can. But what’s encouraging to me is how it HAS got better under Beppe. He came in and sorted the defence out. Fine. So what’s next – or is that it? The last few games have suggested that that is very much not “it”.

drdavewatford - 21/04/2014

Quite so. Beppe himself is an interesting one – his appointment had a distinctly temporary feel to it, but I’ve seen enough (both on the pitch and in interviews with the man himself) to sincerely hope that he’ll be at the helm next season and get the chance to build on the work he’s already done.

2. Robin Walters - 21/04/2014

This was one of those games where small refereeing errors ballooned into significance. Twice in the first half, blatant dives by Austin in search of a penalty were rightly ignored by the ref. Either merited a booking on its own. The absence of an early booking for Austin can only have encouraged QPR’s tendency to fall over at the slightest puff of wind – strangely, this tendency only manifested once they started to near the penalty area. Eventually, the law of averages dictated that the ref would start buying such dives. The free kick from which Barton scored was pretty soft although possibly merited on this occasion – but Barton had had the benefit of several sighters by then.

Matt Rowson - 21/04/2014

I thought the ref did pretty well on the whole. “Small refereeing errors” is right. As per the article, we had enough chances for small refereeing errors not to have been critical.

hornetboy84 - 21/04/2014

I think those little ref errors were crticical… E.g. Playing advantage when we had a free kick in “Barton” territory and not pulling it back even though 5 mins earlier he played advantage for qpr and did pull it back . Also just before the goal it was a clear foul / goal kick not a corner.
But – overall good performance which for an Anya / Forestieri we could have won.
Deeney going would be a loss but I would wish him well but he should make sure it’s a good option or stay ! Tozser / Angela / Abdi key for next season but must overload some forward quality to have continued options and bench cover. 2 pacey forwards + also a battler if Deeney goes.

Robin Walters - 21/04/2014

I agree he was OK, and that we could and should have put the game to bed. But I think in failing to book Austin for the very first really rather pathetic dive, the ref gave himself a problem. Which Rangers took advantage of.

3. The Great Big O - 21/04/2014

The football today was the best I’ve seen under Sannino. A welcome return to positive expansive passing.

I can’t help but notice the improvement has coincided with the return of Abdi. (Tozser visibly loves playing with Abdi.) Who knows how results would have gone with Abdi available all season, but the campaign would at least have been a much better watch.

4. Roger Smith - 22/04/2014

There may not have been a replacement for Ranegie on the bench, but there were other midfielders with fresh legs. QPR playing a high back line should have been meat and drink to Riera. If he wasn’t up to taking the opportunity, Faraoni was ready and waiting, as was Merkel for Abdi.

Matt Rowson - 22/04/2014

That’s very different to being able to put on a striker to sit on the shoulder of the last defender. Part of the reason that we were so effective last season even when Vydra wasn’t scoring was that the threat of his pace forced teams to sit deep… they couldn’t afford to leave space in behind. This gave Abdi and co room to play. They couldn’t pile numbers forward either for the same reason.

Needing two strikers – particularly one who’s not played a lot of football – to play two full nineties in three days is a big ask. Riera, Abdi were both excellent yesterday, we passed around QPR’s midfield and DID send players through into the space behind the defence. Thing is, a defender in pursuit has a better chance of retrieving a situation against Deeney / McGugan than he would have had against Anya, say.

The failure to replace Vydra… or rather that type of threat, was the biggest recruitment fail of this season for me.

hornetboy84 - 22/04/2014

Concur fully! And hopefully the lesson Duxbury mentioned they know they have to learn from.

5. Harefield Hornet - 22/04/2014

The thin dividing line between sucess and failure in this division was demonstrated perfectly in this game. Austin carried QPR through their comparitively successful period earlier in the season when they were winning 1-0 every week. We’re not too far short of being a team more than capable of challenging for promotion – lets just pray the summer transfer window passes positively! I travelled to and from the match with mates who support Rangers and they have been despondent about their chances of going up since Christmas and were still so after this game because they knew they had been outplayed, even though they had won! We were actually trying to cheer them up – such was their expectancy this season – and thereby hangs the eternal problem for all supporters – expectancy versus realism.


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