The West London derby, really only 2/3 of a game

Brentford vs QPR, FT 1-0

[English Championship, 30-10-2015]

Timing, they say, is everything. In comedy, in love, and what is football if it isn’t both of those things, crammed and compacted together like a dirty snowball, sheer luck dictating whether you’ll get a soft thud of exploding freshness breaking over the back of your head or a hard chunk of cold ice bruising your ear. Thus it was timing that led to me switching this game on at the exact moment that it started being an actual football match, rather than the non-event it had been until the 35th-ish minute, judging by the complete absence of discussion at half-time on this long half hour which, for all anyone really knows, might not have actually happened before. It’s not like anyone’s going to remember it.

It was not as if anything of any real interest happened from the time I started watching to half-time. There were a couple of things which the 3 man team in the Sky ‘studio’ classed as ‘highlights’, which really just fell under the category of shots. It was that kind of half. QPR’s centre-backs (the almost amusingly called Hall and Hill) looked relatively tidy, Tardowski of Brentford did too though partly through lack of anything to do, and Brentford’s other CB Dean looked a bit like the personification of Neville Longbottom’s personality from the first few Harry Potter books before he gained any defining features other than ‘a pushover’.

The second half immediately made up for the first, Tardowski having seemingly watched clips of The Karate Kid and The Matrix during the break, leaping at a low bouncing ball and completely missing it, though nothing came of his bizarre error. I am slightly exaggerating the situation. I am not used to watching Championship football.

Within the same minute a legitimate chance happened, both QPR centre-backs being caught out by a quick Brentford throw, the striker Hill should have been marking getting in front of him to cross to the striker Hall should have been marking, the shot forcing a save from Rob Green, the Rangers keeper.

A few minutes later, in the 50th, it was the Brentford central defenders’ turn to look the fools, both of them allowing their strikers to get in front of them. Neither looked like they were aware of where their man was or were strong enough to pressure them out of getting on the end of the ball. Much later in the half – after Hill had been subbed off injured – Onouha, filling in at CB for Hill, showed them how it was done, holding off his striker after being caught out by half a step to manoeuvre the opposition run. It’s this type of intelligent and able defending that the Brentford CBs looked like they were lacking. In fairness to the team, they are missing their record signing Andreas Bjellend in that position.

Hill had a bad few minutes from the 55th-56th minute. First, after a slip by Hall, he could have given away a penalty, charging across to cover his partner in the penalty area on Brentford’s left-hand side. As the striker cut inside back onto his right Hill held him slightly too much and the Bees man went down. It would have been a soft penalty, but he should have been more in control of his speed coming in, so that he didn’t have to hold back the forward.

About a minute later, he was essentially responsible for the only goal of the game. Brentford had the ball on the left with Alan Judge who, by rights, should probably be a player from the 1970s. Hall came across to the near post area on Brentford’s left to try and cut out the cross, which was fair enough, leaving Hill in a one-on-one with Djuricin. The problem with this was that Hill was the wrong side of the striker, who had drifted between the QPR centre-backs a few seconds earlier, and not quick enough to be in a position to muscle the forward onto a path away from the very good cross that would come his way.

Generally, Hill exhibited some decent subtle positioning, but he was off-the-pace in that one moment and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. Hall, his partner, was also generally pretty good during the match, though occasionally the movement of Djuricin was such that it could have caused them problems, had it been exploited.

Tarkowski was the better centre-back of the Brentford pair, winning a couple of strong headers and broadly being ok in his general defensive work. He again misjudged the flight of a ball at midriff-height in the 65th minute, a long QPR goal-kick ghosting past him and almost playing in Charlie Austin, the ball instead just skidding through to the Brentford keeper.

Dean was not quite as average, inhabiting the spirit of a boy in the top of two PE groups but who’s always picked last and has a spare compass in his pencil-case. And is still the type of guy that has a pencil-case. Twice in the final third of the match he LET a QPR striker drift between him and Tarkowski who, facing play on the Brentford left, was unable to fully see what was behind him. It was not a case of failing to track the striker, more of not making a presence felt in any way; either physical to move the forward away from a dangerous area or just to do enough to put doubt in his mind and put him off, or verbal to inform his partner that there was a threat between them.

Hill was injured in the 72nd minute, Hall moving across to the left-hand side of central defence, Onouha moving from right-back to right centre-back. Onouha largely did quite well, as was shown in the moment mentioned earlier, though there was one notable moment where he was rendered lost by a lot of movement by Brentford forwards around him in the box.

I’d like to see Bjellend play because, if Brentford really do want to work towards promotion, they look like they’ll need him.

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