All Bark; No Bite!
On Saturday, 'Pool handed Tony Parkes and Steve Thompson their first victory since taking charge after Mr. Grayson decided to walk away from the club just a few days before Christmas (how lovely).
It was a glorious performance, there was passion to be first to every ball, the players closed down the opposition at every chance and - on at least one occasion in the second half - thwarted a counter-attack and pressed the Birmingham players so much that they ended up passing the ball straight back to Maik Taylor in the City goal.
There aren't enough superlatives to describe what 'Pool fans felt during and after that game. Everything just seemed to fall for them and, a team who were in the Premier Division last season with household names all across the team-sheet, were taught a lesson in football.
What a difference 3 days make.
Obviously - and as I said to a couple of people bemoaning the performance last night at the game - QPR hadn't played for 10 days. The reality of it is that we had only played 3 days prior because both ourselves and Birmingham were knocked out of the FA Cup and the initial tie was postponed due to a frozen pitch - much to the chagrin of a hypocritical Karen Brady and Alex McLeish. Do they need reminding that a club of their 'stature' failed to play their initial FA Cup tie with rivals Wolves for the same reason a matter of a week prior? People in glass houses...
Getting back onto last night's game and it was said to me during the game that it was the worst performance in a long, long time. I actually thought further back than last season's worst performance (Southend at home in the Carling Cup First Round - almost fell asleep during that one!) to the days when a certain Colin Hendry was in charge. Obviously, it's a bit extreme to say that a Championship side played like League One relegation fodder, but I couldn't have been that far off the mark, surely??
It's good to know that Tony Parkes has identified the reason why he believes we looked sub-sub-sub-sub-par last night as he told the Official Club Website;
'We looked as though we'd spent all our energy beating Birmingham and couldn't lift ourselves to be honest. We had no complaints about the result - the best team won.'
Well done, Tony. I was saying the same myself during the first half, so I couldn't have been the only fan to have seen it?
Speaking of which, was I the only fan in the ground who KNEW before a ball was kicked that playing Ian Harte - a player who was run ragged against Wolves by Matt Jarvis - up against Wayne Routledge on the 'Pool left hand side was a seriously, seriously bad idea? I couldn't have been, surely?!
As Jack eluded to in his post 'Simple Game' on the forums last night after the game, it wreaked of a lack of preparation - as did the tactics all night. We played to their strengths and our weaknesses. Not exactly the best way of going about a football match, really.
One of the main grievances last night was the centre of midfield. David Fox has his critics and, for all the rare good he does, he cancels it out by being soft in the challenge and by over-hitting free-kicks! David Vaughan came in for Keith Southern (more on him in a second) and while he tried his best, was much the same. Weak in the challenge, a couple of passes were pin-point but others were either too long, too short, or completely wayward all together. I thought he was our best player - which doesn't exactly say much - but others have disagreed which is par for the course really.
Now, Keith Southern doesn't have the nickname 'Gnashers' for no reason. He seems to be the only midfielder at our disposal that can, and will, actually throw himself into a tackle and break up an attack. As we saw during Saturday's game, too...he can score when he wants to, also!
The news coming out of the club today via the Blackpool Evening Gazette is that he is scheduled to be out of action for around a month, possibly more, with ligament damage in his ankle picked up during Saturday's victory. He'll be seeing a specialist on Friday to determine the extent of the injury, but obviously it isn't good news.
With Claus Jorgensen suspended for his scrap with Lee Bowyer for a further 2 games, that leaves us with 1 natural central midfielder. David Fox.
Joe Martin can play there, as can Vaughan...and Stuart Green (in action for the reserves tonight, no doubt!) but it is crucial that a tough-tackling, ball-winning midfielder is brought in before Saturday's game with Crystal Palace. If the stand-in management duo have been trying since the weekend to bring in re-inforcements, then they only have a matter of days left before the game and ultimately, the end of the transfer window, to bring someone (preferably 2!!) midfielders in. Not forgetting, that elusive target man that they have seemingly been after since Ben Burgess' injury against Coventry.
Another injury victim, once again, seems to be Stephen Crainey. Having taken a knock in a challenge with Routledge, he tried to play on, but couldn't fight through the pain for much longer and had to limp out leaving us with 10 men. Joe Martin had been replaced at half time for his dire first half by Graeme Owens whom himself, didn't exactly have the best of second halves. That, for me, seemed like a wasted substitution. Martin could've used the negatives from the first period to give himself a kick up the backside and spur himself on - Harte could've then been replaced by Owens with Martin dropping back into defence. There again, it's all in hindsight.
The over-riding feeling during and after last night's game (as belted out by a gentleman sat around me in the ground last night) there was no fight, no battle, and no passion for the cause. A complete reversal from this past weekend.
As Parkes has said, we seemingly used up all our energy in that fast-paced, fired-up performance against Birmingham City (whom themselves only just scraped past Derby County last evening) and we paid the price against a very fresh Rangers side who barely had anything to contend with all game.
The question that I posed at the end of last night's match review still remains. Have Parkes and Thommo done enough to remain in charge?
After Saturday's game, the pendulum was hovering somewhere between 'unsure' and 'yes' on Karl Oyston's desk. Last night's true capitulation may have well swung it right back to 'unsure'. But with only a few days remaining in the transfer window, one can imagine that, with no word coming out of the club otherwise and with the players' own backing, that they will indeed remain in charge until at least the end of the season.
Whether it is, or will be the right decision in the long-run, remains to be seen for me.