Warnock’s perfect timing

Bringing in Dan Shittu and Fitz Hall was a bold decision – and the right one – by Neil Warnock, but maybe not as much of a risk as it seemed.

After the draw at Preston, Warnock initially decided to take one of his centre-backs out of the side. He later opted to go the whole hog and take both of them out.

The fact Shittu and Hall had played together in recent reserve matches meant Warnock possibly took less of a chance by replacing both centre-backs rather than dropping one of them.

I know from speaking to Shittu that he was slightly nervous about his return, and felt Hall’s inclusion was a definite bonus for him as it did not mean a new partnership being formed at the back in such an important game.

It was still a big call by Warnock though. I certainly wouldn’t have made it.

But if you are going to put Shittu in, Tuesday’s match was exactly the right time to do it. Warnock’s timing may have seemed strange, yet was spot on.

A home game under the floodlights, the crowd instantly lifted by Shittu’s appearance and then his every header and tackle;  it was the right way to reintroduce him and give Rangers a lift at a time when there were signs of anxiety –  and maybe some fatigue – creeping in.

Shittu was, as always, a colossus in both penalty areas, and his boundless enthusiasm was just what the team and fans needed at this vital stage of the season.

If he’d scored, it would have brought the house down and probably have sent Shittu into orbit. We’re talking here about a man who even got carried away while scoring in a reserve match last week, shouting “have it!” as he slammed the ball into the net and then “that’s how you score a goal!” to other, bemused, players on the pitch.

If Shittu keeps his place, there will be bigger tests to come for him. Especially away from home, when games are likely to be much more stretched and very different to Tuesday’s battle in both boxes.

That will reveal more than last night’s adrenaline-filled performance, which was the perfect reintroduction for him at the perfect time.

I’ve always seen Gorkss and Connolly as decent individual defenders at Championship level, but not a good partnership, and this Rangers side as much more defensively vulnerable than the stats this season suggest.

Even so, with the team on course for promotion I’d have been reluctant to turn to two defenders whose fitness and form have been a concern. I’d have solidered on.

It would have been the wrong decision. Not because of their performances last night – neither player did anything they haven’t done before, and some questions remain unanswered – but because, with hindsight, at least one of them was always likely to be called upon at some stage during the run-in.

That means the alternative to Warnock’s decision could have involved having to put them in for some godforsaken away match, on a bigger pitch and possibly with even more riding on the result.

That type of game would be very different to the kind of compact, congested one against Ipswich, which was ideal for a centre-back with Shittu’s attributes to go out and play like his life depended on it.

There will be games, especially away, where there’ll be more ground to cover, more snap decisions required, and much more potential for Shittu to be isolated and left one-versus-one. That’s a very different assignment, and not one for a new addition to a back four, who’s had hamstring trouble and lacks match practice.

Shittu can now go into that kind of situation having had his sharpness and morale boosted after storming it in front of his adoring fans and gone off to a standing ovation.  That’s why Warnock was right to pick him sooner rather than later.

6 Responses to Warnock’s perfect timing

  1. daveB says:

    Shittu has one major thing in his favour in that he won’t have the crowd turn on him if he makes a mistake, a luxury Hall and a few others don’t have. It was a great call by Warnock last night he really lifted the crowd everytime he came forward

  2. DMc, you have finally presented me with a quandry. I have never been one of your fans, due to the fact that your articles always seem to be about something negative at QPR. You have always struck me as a “Negative Ned”, the sort of “fan” that clubs could do without, due to having enough enemies already.

    The problem that I have with this article is that I cannot see the backhanded compliment that normally surfaces when you write about the R’s!

    Maybe, you are turning over a new leaf, but, the impression that you belong to the Daily Mail school of journalism is clouding my view.


  3. Agree DaveB. I’m sure if Shittu had exactly the same game Hall did and vice versa, everyone would still be talking about how great Shittu was and overlooking Hall.

    Hi QPR4Me, believe it or not I’m also sometimes accused of being a mouthpiece for the club, but I think you and others are closer to the mark with the ‘negative’ tag. I’m not concerned about being positive or negative, only accurate. It’s not my job to be a cheerleader for the club.
    I can say for sure though that I’ve given QPR more positive press in the last 10-12 years than every other journalist on the scene put together.

  4. Jim Frayling says:

    John – think you’re being a bit harsh. Dave calls it as he sees it but has a natural pessimism has been bred into him as any Rangers fan of long term standing will. And when you’ve seen a lot of empty promises and false dawns at the club you become a little more sceptical. Which is only right – we need to have people cutting through the rubbish.

    Dave I’ll take this as one long ‘you were right on the list Jim’ post and gratefully accept your humble (and veiled) apology.

    You’re right too about Hall though and about away games where it’s more stretched. At least everyone will be a bit more relaxed when either Shittu or Hall features in future games.

    Interesting to see how Warnock handles it now. Does he stick or twist? Gorkss and Connolly will be feeling a little fragile so their reaction in training will be telling.

  5. John says:

    David… do you know if there is any update on Troy Hewitt. I see the reserves won today, but did not see him on hte score sheet, as in previous ressie games. Is he still with the club?

    Be good to know if we’re close to confirming him as an R.
    Cheers David

  6. Hi John. As far as I know he is. His move is agreed but as far as I know hasn’t been registered yet.

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