Strangers 0, Rangers 1
Over an enjoyable pre-match brunch attended by Frankie Valley, Charlton North Downs, Blackheath Addick and other esteemed guests, the legendary blogger Frankie admitted (in Legends) that he'd never placed a bet in his life. He also confessed to a mental block against car washes, but I'll allow him to elaborate perhaps on his own blog.
We did agree however that by deciding upon a lifetime of devotion to Charlton, he had inadvertently taken an enormous gamble, one never more apparent than during today's dire defeat. Charlton fans have learnt through bitter experience to take nothing for granted, but three horrible defeats in seven days is difficult to swallow.
Walking back up Floyd Road after the game, my Dad and I accepted that QPR deserved to win, but it wasn't immediately obvious to us at least why our form has suddenly taken a dip. We have a group of very talented players, and it's basically the same group which took 18 points from 8 games, so either those results hugely overstated our true quality (possible), or we are just in the midst of an inevitable, but hopefully brief spell of bad luck and form (probable).
In the absence of any obvious explanations, I decided to seek some more esoteric ones. Why for example were only two of our starting eleven wearing black boots (Weaver and Reid)? Given that they would probably be the two players you'd most want to go for a pint with, do we need more players with a 'black boot' mentality? Why meanwhile does Pards tend to wear a tracksuit for home games but a suit for away games? Even from where I was sitting at Wolves, I could tell his suit fitted him immaculately (and was a lovely cut too), so why the casual approach to home games?
Both Sam Sodje and Lloyd Sam were handed starts, the first time we have begun with players that shared a first name and surname, since Thomas Mhyre and Jerome Thomas took the field against Portsmouth on 17 Apr 2006. We won that day, so I can't claim that might have been a contributory factor either. More interestingly, Grant Basey was handed a debut and generally did enough to justify the claims of those like me, who argued for his promotion.
The first half was fairly comfortable defensively, whilst we created the two outstanding chances for Varney and Zheng. Lloyd Sam looked threatening whenever he got the ball, and whilst Andy Reid was relatively quiet, the game was not yet crying out for him to be moved into a more influential central position. Pards however felt otherwise, substituting the defensively-minded Semedo for Thomas at half-time. Perhaps removing Zheng would have been less destabilising option, but if we'd gone on to win the game, we'd have been declaring Pards a genius. As I mentioned on Friday, it's a game of small margins.
Unfortunately we rarely threatened in the second half, whilst QPR used the extra space created by the departure of Semedo to counterattack with purpose. Their goal came after both a penalty and shocking miss (after an awful mistake by Mills), so one could hardly begrudge them their lead, which frankly they threatened to add to thereafter. They were a footballing side throughout and did not play like a team worthy of 24th place.
At the other end, we were unable to get the impressive Sam into the game, whilst the removal of Chris Iwelumo deprived us of any remote attacking threat, such was the inefficacious performance of Luke Varney alongside him. Based upon that performance, he is very far indeed from justifying his lofty transfer fee (and if rumours are true, lofty wages). In fairness, he ran into more channels than Rupert Murdoch, and on one occasion in the first half delivered a wicked cross for Iwelumo, but on that performance, we actually need a fox in the box. Maybe Chris Dickson will prove to be the joker in the pack?
Pardew appeared to imply we were a little over-indulgent, but from my perspective we did not play enough football, rather than play too much. We look most dangerous when we maintain possession and open up some dangerous angles, not when we just deliver crosses for the sake of them. With players like Reid dictating affairs, we are good enough to open teams up to create genuine chances, not just hope for knock-downs or 'second-phase' ball as the rugby folk like to say. More worryingly, perhaps only Reid aside, we lack leaders on the field.
Oh well, let's look on the bright side. I'm leaving the country on Sunday and returning to New York, from where I seem to bring the team better luck. Over the course of a 46-game season, this three-game spell could seem like a meaningless drop in the ocean if those underperforming players stand up to be counted.