I’ve been ill. Proper ill. A throat infection has seen me lose my voice and, I don’t want to be dramatic, put me off my food and made me struggle to swallow. As a result, I gave my ticket for this game away (I know, I’m a thoroughly good egg) as I knew, deep down, that I wouldn’t be going in my current health condition.
With that out of the way, where to start? Firstly, I don’t like QPR. I’m not even sure QPR fans like QPR. As such, I’m always eager to get the +3 against the Westfield Wanderers. Last season’s home game in particular left a horrid taste on the palate and the absolute thrashing we received in January did nothing to improve that.
That said, within the context of this season and recent games, I’ve never been less interested in winning against them. Now before you start pouring slander on to me like fresh cream on a warm sticky toffee pudding, let me explain why.
Tuesday’s result was the best we’ve had this season, no question. The physical and mental exertion on a group limited numbers would have been huge. So to play again on Friday, away from home (I know it’s close, but still) against a very good side was always going to be a challenge. If we were to win, it would be a smash and grab job.
I think this was reflected in the team selection. Resting/dropping both Ince JNR and The Royal Prince of Canada was bold considering they were our star performers from midweek. What was even more telling was not swapping Ejaria in for Ince - if Ince SNR can get Ovie to be more direct in an attacking sense, we might have found his “forever home”. That felt to me like we were trying to limit their attacking threat rather than impose ours. More on that later.
I settled down with water (no beer for Benny) and a blanket to watch our gladiators battle out. I don’t care what anyone says, that pink kit is an outrageous piece of fashion that deserves all the credit it gets. The players really do look like modern gladiators in it and it’s one for the ages, it really is. What always makes me chuckle about QPR’s ground is the tightness of it all. No room in the tunnel, no room in the stands, no room on the pitch. It’s like it was made by hobbits or something, hobbits that eventually grew into full humans. Ridiculous.
The early exchanges were to be expected: we were absorbing pressure in the same way a scrub daddy absorbs limescale (oh, side note: if you are into cleaning, buy a scrub daddy - it’s America’s number one cleaning sponge, but is versatile in both cold and warm water. It won’t scratch tiles, but instead lifts dirt and grime at an excellent rate, leaving surfaces and areas clean and hygienically fresh. Available at B&M and all good retailers, NOW!), soaking up casts amounts of their possession.
The ref let us off with a blatant handball from Hutch before giving us a pen up the other end. The main points from that are a) the refs are still terrible and b) the only purposeful attack we had resulted in a goal. We then had another let-off when Andy Carroll tried to be billy 10 men in the tackling department and, on another day, should have been shown a red. QPR also scored but I don’t remember how or when that happened.
Half time was torturous (yes, more tortuous than watching me organise grown men to kick footballs at the corner flag) because Jamie Mackie was in full flow in the “studio”. There surely has to be some sort of test to get on the screen for Sky and if there isn’t, there needs to be quickly. As much as I like Jobi, Mackie made him look like flipping Socrates with the nonsense he was coming out with.
To the surprise of no one, the second half began shortly after and that’s where the fun started. We were much better in getting a handle on the ball and imposing ourselves, looking for those little bits in and around the box, and as the half wore on, I felt like we might take a point.
Loum had other ideas however when he committed the cardinal sin of making contact in a nothing tackle to give away a 12-yard death kick. Why he felt the need to commit a challenge, with the player heading away from goal on the outside, only he will know, but as a defender myself (yes, I had trials, don’t go on about it) I always knew to never, ever, ever commit to that type of challenge. Dykes popped up to get his second of the night. It was his birthday too, but I don’t think anyone mentioned that…
A fair result then, all things considered. Can you be happy with a loss? Probably not. But it’s another game that I look at as progress within this season. We now have a proper goalkeeper in the net (would have been three or four with another GK in goal), players are growing in fitness and we are starting to have options across the team (we brought on Ince JNR, Junior and Ovie for flip’s sake). I’d imagine the players and Ince SNR will be disappointed to not take a point - that in itself is also progress.
Quick word on QPR - you have to respect the job Ian Beale has done since he came in, especially after their iffy start. They are a different proposition now and will be there or thereabouts come the end of the season. I don’t like them, but I do respect them on the pitch.
For us, we’ve now got a week to rebuild, refocus and work on the game next week. This is all good news for a squad that is stretched but very much together. If we can be safe by Christmas, that’s a great season in my book.
Until next time.