Despite His White Boots

Football, football, football and, if the mood takes me, more football.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Barnet 3 Dagenham & Redbridge 1

A comfortable win for the Bees against a very poor Dagenham outfit. Jason Puncheon had already had two free runs from the half way line, forcing two saves from pantomime villian keeper Tony Roberts, when he was scythed down in the box five minutes before the break. Puncheon slotted home himself from the spot. The visitors had their best chance of the game (prior to the pointless consolation goal) when a corner was headed onto the bar and the rebound volleyed wide by, er, someone, I was in the terrace by the opposite corner flag. Despite this I had a good enough view of Ishmael Yakubu's idiotic two-footed lunge in a position of no danger while already on a yellow card. I think he might have been given a straight red but in any case the Bees were down to ten men for the second half (on a day of sending offs it would seem).

Fortunately though Puncheon, the game's outstanding player by a country mile, secured the points. After five minutes of half-hearted Daggers pressure in the second half, a neat move ended with Adam Birchall feeding Puncheon inside the box, and he lifted his shot over Roberts for 2-0. That was pretty much that as you'd never have guessed Barnet were down to ten men, so poor were the opposition. Nonetheless Puncheon completed his hat-trick with an arcing left-foot shot into the top corner. An excellent hat-trick from a player who is way too good for this division. There was still time for Dagenham to scramble a consolation and Barnet sub Giuliano Grazioli to fire against the post.

Hats off to Puncheon and also stand-in centre halves Joe Devera and Kenny Gillet, both of whom have featured more often at full-back this season. The visitors were pretty desperate overall and I wouldn't bet against a return to the Conference. Nice to hear "Still Out" resounding around Underhill again, that took us back.

Elsewhere it was a shame that Rangers were knocked back by yet another injury time goal at Plymouth, but all the same, one less game to go before the transfer window opening and while I don't expect an entire new team to come in, we should be looking at half a defence at the very least, and ideally a goalscorer although everyone wants one of those and there aren't too many to go around. We'll see.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Cat Amongst The Pigeons

With all the takeover and changes at QPR, is anyone at the club safe ? You might have thought that the mascot would at least have a chance to prove himself to new management, but news comes in that Jude The Cat is under threat, as follows :

Alejandro Agag [1] : "[The new owners] are very superstitious and worry about having a black cat as a mascot and don't want any bad luck. [He] suggested that rather than banishing Jude The Cat, that he's rebranded in a different colour."

Man of science that I am, you can kind of see their point, is a black cat really the lucky mascot you want ? Further according to the source article though, Rangers are trying to model the club after Sunderland. Nickname : The Black Cats ! Well now I don't know what to think.

Slightly more seriously, some interesting claims in there about the quality of players coming in next month, we'll see.

[1] Chairman of Queens Park Rangers Holdings PLC apparently, although I'm sure he was also the character in Hitch-Hikers who was repeatedly reincarnated and killed by Arthur Dent.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

QPR 0 Wolves 0

Not a lot to say about this one ; unlike the previous 0-0 against Sheffield Wednesday this game totally merited the scoreline, it was quite dull. And freezing cold. Rangers had the better of the first half, Dexter Blackstock missed from close range, albeit under heavy pressure, and a few hopeful long-rangers were comfortably dealt with by Wolves keeper Wayne Hennessey.

The referee, who it transpires was taking a game at this level for the first time, let an awful lot go (which is better than blowing up too much as long as he's consistent), but sadly for the home team missed what looked like a clear penalty as Marc Nygaard was hauled down near the goal-line. Wolves then had their best spell of the game for about 20 minutes and really should have scored when Stephen Elliot slid the ball wide from close range, I was certainly expecting the net to bulge from where I was. Hennessey saved well from Martin Rowlands, Akos Buzsaky couldn't quite direct a couple of 25-yarders and that was about it.

It's perhaps a platitude to say that we would have lost this game in September, because we would have lost it yesterday if it hadn't been for Elliott's miss. 7 goals from 11 home games tells the story, but although we're still bottom you can look at the table now and see how any team could zoom out of the bottom six with a couple of wins. The closer we get to the transfer window the better as long as we're still in touch ; it would be a lot harder to attract quality players to the club if we were 6 points adrift at the bottom. This is a bit like saying cheers Zesh, well done, now we can get a real centre-half [1], because some of the squad players are putting in a good shift right now despite their lack of quality, but we'll have to see. I must add that I was shocked to see a report this morning that the manager's job was already under threat prior to the win at Burnley, surely that can't be true, come on we have to put together some stability at some point, Christ alive.

[1] And equally substitute in "Marc" and "centre-forward"

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

QPR 1 Crystal Palace 2

Blech. This was really disappointing, although no surprise even though we were 1-0 up for 50 minutes. When Damion Stewart headed in from a corner on 10 minutes, it clearly lifted the team and Rangers created some decent opportunities. Rowan Vine and Scott Sinclair were both denied by keeper Julian Speroni, and Ben Sahar should have done better from 12 yards but inexplicably tried to lob the keeper. After that 15 minute spell though, Palace exerted a grip on the game that they never gave up.

Even though Lee Camp didn't have a lot to save, the visitors had so much possession and so many opportunities to put set-piece deliveries into the Rangers box that I really felt it was only a matter of time, and I think that feeling was shared around the ground. On the hour mark, Clint Hill touched in from a chipped free kick, and barely a minute later Clinton Morrison scored his customary 1-yard screamer against Rangers after a corner was headed onto the bar.

And that was just horribly that. Speroni wasn't called into action for the entire second half as Rangers basically fell apart. Sahar was invisible, Sinclair not much more prominent and Vine increasingly isolated and frustrated. The worst thing for me was that we just completely lacked any leadership on the pitch. Martin Rowlands, as a head-down right winger, seems a strange choice as captain until you look around and wonder who else could do it, as we had to when Rowlands was withdrawn 20 minutes from time. It said it all that joke basketballer-cum-occasional-target-man Marc Nygaard strapped the armband on himself.

While recent injuries haven't helped, seeing Rehman and Stewart resume their comedy central defending double act makes it look like we've made no progress at all in the last year [1]. Unless there was something happening that we don't know about, it seems bizarre that Danny Cullip has not only left, he's actually been paid off, i.e. we could have kept him for at least another couple of months without it costing us any more. I know he wasn't the best player, but he was a leader, and you can't tell me he's worse than Rehman or Bob Malcolm, who both played 90 minutes tonight.

We're just in a mess, we play really well for one game, draw it 0-0 at home, and then get muscled out of 3 games for no points, no problem for the opposition. Adding to the lack of leadership, it can't help how many loan players we have right now. The transfer window is going to be massive for us and, as I said earlier in the season, with so many games still to play this month (away trips to Scunthorpe and fast-improving Burnley in the next week alone) we could be cut off at the bottom by the time the window opens. Worrying times.

[1] Although actually Stewart probably emerges with as much credit as anyone from the game, and Rehman wasn't too bad by his own standards. The defence was simply bound to crack sooner or later because 80% of the game was played in our half.

Update : It's a bit disturbing to read the manager talking about missing chances early on and loss of concentration on the goals. Maybe he's trying to put a positive spin on it in public, but we lost that game because we were rubbish for an hour, that's the bottom line.

In the cold light of day : It's worth taking a moment to think about what deep shit we would be in right now if the takeover hadn't gone through. Most likely in administration and on negative points. At least the worst case now is relegation rather than going busto. We're all going to have to stick with it for now because we really need to build something long-term, it's all been short-term fixes ever since we came up to be honest.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Vicious ? Take This !

You may have heard Joey Barton describe the Newcastle United fans as "vicious". Possibly a bit much coming from someone who stuck a lit cigar in someone's eye at a Christmas party [1], although I have to say I warmed to Barton after he joined up with the England squad. You might remember that he had a pop about players bringing books out after their showing in Germany 2006. When Barton sat down for his first meal with the team, Frank "Vote Conservative" Lampard picked up his tray and moved to another table, only to be sent on his way with "Don't worry, I'm not going to steal your breakfast, you fat twat". Barton 1, Lampard 0.

Anyhoo, what I really love about this Barton vs Newcastle fans spat is the official response from the jumped-up fans association guy :

"For him to then turn around and criticise the fans is totally wrong. He should have kept his mouth shut. He will learn what happens after you criticise Newcastle fans. It takes a long, long time for us to forgive. I would be very, very surprised if he doesn't get a reaction at Blackburn today."

So there you go Joey, they're really not vicious at all, as you can see.

In other news, that schneidster Harry Redknapp is at it again ; whatever comes out of this investigation, he's already banging on about how it has "cost him the England job". Expect to hear this forever. Redknapp was (perhaps understandably) not happy about tabloid reporters turning up along with the police ; then again, it should be easy enough for him to clear this up. He can ask the paper in question (The Sun) about it next time he writes his regular column for them.

Finally today I know this is just fans being idiots but I loved the comment on the BBC Sport feedback section that says "An England player has to be exceptional to gain any recognition from FIFA". That's right. Wayne Bridge & co aren't on the FIFA Player Of The Year shortlist because of a global conspiracy, not because we couldn't qualify as one of the best 16 teams in Europe. Happy times. Anyway, no live game for me today (I was tempted by Orient until I saw they were playing Millwall) so Forza QPR and Go-orn the Barnet.

[1] Although having just been out Christmas shopping, I could have used a lit cigar to jab a few people out of my way.