Having gone into the Christmas period sitting on top of the league with a good opportunity to consolidate our top dog status against our closest rivals, two defeats and goalless draw against Watford pushed the R's to 4th and then back to 3rd in the league as form side Derby joined the mix at the top. With the exception of the Forest game (in which we were awful) we hadn't really played much different to most of the season, i.e. plenty of meaningless possession, little creativity and a shortage of clear cut chances, however the big difference was not being able to score a goal and hold out, having drawn four blanks in the last five games. It would be fair to say we were far from convincing when push came to shove, but having said that, despite the dip in form, we are still up there, with as good a chance as anyone of achieving automatic promotion.
Just as I was about to conclude that maybe we don't have enough to get out of the first gear I waxed lyrical about in my last blog, the mighty Super Hoops turned their fortunes around in an almost complete reversal of the away fixture at Doncaster when he played host to them on New Years day. This time it was the R's turn to turn a one goal deficit into a victory with a superb late winner from Charlie Austin. Again, not a very convincing victory but we made our luck that day and I can't help feeling that last gasp winner could be a significant turning point in our season.
The R's confirmed their annual early exit from the FA Cup as they succumbed to a heavy defeat against a buoyant Everton side with the R's dismal display difficult to relate it to their league form. Despite whatever Harry may have said about "taking the cup seriously", I very much doubt they were and I would imagine motivation for this game was not on par with the league games this season, resulting in a display reminiscent of the misery of last season. Harry waxed lyrical about unacceptable displays, not being happy with the performance and how the team had to do better but, remember, this was the FA Cup and we are QPR. Was it ever going to be any other way, especially with the R's hierarchy hell bent on returning to the Premiership at the first attempt and now the club have announced the new stadium plans at Old Oak a lot of the clubs planning rests on where we end up at the end of this season. (More on the new stadium in future blogs)
|Charlie Boy's last gasp winner v Doncaster|
The victory leaves QPR in 3rd place five points behind Leicester and one behind Burnley, but five ahead of Derby who are 4th. The important run of games proved not to be a conclusive as I was hoping but I can conclude that we are still up there challenging, without having reached the potential we have been waiting for all season. Some have commented that we may already be in our top gear (after my last blog "Stuck in first gear") but I still believe there is the potential for more to come from this team. It has been well documented that we have a quality squad with players that come with big reputations. A lot of these players are still to live up to these reputations and potential. If they do, (If they still can) then I would like to think we will see something much more acceptable in terms of performances to go with improved results and maybe even a touch of class. I have to stress that this will not happen unless the squad perform to their capabilities and stop doing "just about enough" - because we are going to need more than that. Harry and his staff are going to have to be more inventive and we will need to strengthen in the transfer window particularly up front.
|Nico celebrates QPR's opener at Ipswich|
So there we have it, into the second half of the season and still in the mix and we haven't got going yet. Or have we? It's a difficult one to call but I can say we have not been the best team in the Championship so far, but we could be and I think we should be. The pressure is on Harry to get us back up at all costs, so results take priority over style, I'm sure Harry doesn't like it but he knows what has to be done. I would like to think that it is all going to plan and this is where Harry wanted to be come the turn of the year ready to turn it up as the final chase begins. We could be following that tried and tested template of not peaking to early but waiting to peak at the right time, the business end of the season. As it stands now that is a possibility and although some of the football has been sterile it has been an enjoyable season so far and our expectations have not been extinguished... not yet anyway. Surely there's some good stuff to come yet. I just get the feeling that last minute winner against Doncaster was the turning point in our season. (not rational, just a feeling) Maybe things will be more clearer come the end of the month, I doubt it though, this season is going to go all the way to the end.
Come on you R's
The Bush Ranger