Thursday, 16 January 2014

#27 Waiting to Peak

In my last blog I wrote about our (then) forthcoming run of four big fixtures against top sides in the Championship and how we would be able to tell what we were made of after this run, however sometimes things are not always as clear cut or predictable as we would like. Especially where QPR are concerned.

Recent results
So, how did the R's get on in those four games? They had a dream start by beating Blackpool for an overdue away win. After being second best for the first hour in appalling conditions, a slice of good fortune saw them take the lead and as then dominate for the rest of the game, winning 2 nil, but could have had four or five. Typically, the remaining three games saw an alarming dip in form as we lost at home to Leicester, who out "one nilled" us, albeit in a more convincing way than we have done on numerous occasions this season. The R's followed that up with another defeat at Nottingham Forest where we have never won, so no change there then. In fact my heart sank when I looked at the starting eleven. It was bad enough missing Charlie, but starting Henry and Zamora left me with no hope for this game. Both games were live on Sky and our performances in both games did very little to justify our lofty position in the league to the viewing TV audience.

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
So on to Ipswich away, with a point to prove and nothing less than a win a must. Another healthy away R's following of 1500 plus were treated to away victory that saw the R's score three goals and Austin wasn't one of the scorers! QPR were not overly convincing having been matched and occasionally bettered by our hosts, but they showed strength of character and again made their own luck to eventually come out as comfortable winners. Interestingly Ipswich had the majority possession, as did Doncaster and Bournemouth, but our potency in attack was much better in those games than when we boss the possession stats and we benefit from playing higher up the pitch when we have the ball.  All the more pleasing about the result was getting three different players on the score sheet which in itself is an improvement and a step in the direction we need to be going if promotion is to be achieved.

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
Player wise Henry and Zamora are truly dire and shouldn't be in the squad. Messer's O'Neil, Hoilett, Traore, Jenas, Kranjcar, Phillips and Assou-Ekotto (someone remind him he's paid to be a defender) all have more to give and will have to up their game as mentioned earlier. Green has been OK but still frightens the life out of me, Barton has been diligent and solid, all be it a little overrated and there is room for more from him too. The defence have been solid and Charlie Austin has proved his worth and has not disappointed, but sadly AJ has not got 90 minutes in him although he does make a difference offensively when he 's on the pitch.  A lot of responsibility has been unfairly put on Tom Carroll to be the midfield genius that produce miracles at will. He is a good player but I think he is bullied in the Championship and his game is better suited to the Premiership where refereeing is more sympathetic to his type of player.

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


  1. In some ways I felt the Doncaster win was the best of the season , horrible weather just played loads of matches a recipe for a disaster but second half came out and played to win.
    I agree we always seem only in 2nd gear and I have observed that Tom Carroll is more important than fellow season ticket holders around me believe he is. also we can't play 4 4 2 like everyone around me screams for we are far better playing up field at a higher tempo giving Charlie Austin better support . I also wish Joey Barton stopped doing those cross field hopeful passes when the simple pass forward will suffice.
    The second half we need to simply score more goals and perhaps another striker will encourage other players to score like against Ipswich.