|Preston North End 1 v 0 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 4th August 2018 Kick-off 15:00
A striking problem - preview
Friday, 14th Mar 2014 21:29 by Clive Whittingham
QPR welcome Yeovil Town to Loftus Road for the first time on Saturday, still struggling to find anything like a replacement for injured Charlie Austin in attack.
Queens Park Rangers (4th) v Yeovil Town (22nd)
Old First Division, Old Old Second Division >>> Saturday March 14, 2014 >>> Kick Off 15.00 (yes, really) >>> Loftus Road , London , W12
Fans of Yeovil Town making the journey to Loftus Road for a first competitive meeting between their team and Queens Park Rangers in West London will probably think this is all a right hoot.
The Glovers were promoted from League One last season against the odds. In fact given their League Two-standard budget for players, lack of resources and previous performance in the third tier, many learned League One observers were tipping them to exit the division in the opposite direction. But in Gary Johnson they have one of those managers who just seems to fit well at a club – achieving promotions at Huish Park effortlessly across two spells as boss either side of failures at Northampton Town and Peterborough United. QPR have had a few bosses like that in recent and past times – Neil Warnock, Ian Holloway, Alec Stock who we belatedly come together to remember this weekend – but they usually sack them.
They beat much-fancied Brentford in the play-off final at Wembley in May, which if you’re looking for positives at least spares Rangers the ignominy of losing at home to a better run club with a better managed team and a more committed group of players from just own the road this weekend. If this season’s nadir is to be a home defeat by lowly Yeovil Town it will at least be a comparatively private grief.
Johnson’s side did so thanks in no small part to the goals of Irish striker Paddy Madden – 24 in 42 including a spectacular long ranger against the Bees in the final match – who was subsequently named in the top 20 players outside the Premier League by FourFourTwo magazine. Madden is one of those players who is spotted by scouts in somebody else's reserve team, and brought into a team with a clear idea of how it wants to play, so even though he didn't fit elsewhere - Carlisle in this case - he's a roaring success at the new club, just like QPR's... ummm..... errr......
Few gave Town a prayer in their first season in the Championship but those who did based most of their optimism on Madden replicating his form in the new league. Depending on who or what you believe Johnson treated him unfairly and made him a scapegoat for early season failings, or he got all Bertie big potatoes and started asking for silly money and behaving poorly having had his head turned. Either way he’s now back down in League Two having been allowed to leave for a pittance to join Scunthorpe United.
So Yeovil, because it’s all their budget allows, spent the first bit of the campaign picking wingers as centre forwards, before finally loaning in Ishmael Miller from Nottingham Forest. QPR fans remember the giant striker fondly, for a crucial last minute winner against Leicester while on loan at Loftus Road during the R’s 2010/11 promotion campaign, but even the W12 faithful would admit that a man who seems to have all the raw, physical attributes to be an absolute monster of a centre forward often flattered to deceive.
The Yeovil fans we spoke to for this week’s http://www.fansnetwork.co.uk/football/queensparkrangers/news/34368/do-yeovil-hav profile said Miller is lazy, prone to not bothering at all in away games, and can frustrate. But Johnson has dragged seven goals in 15 appearances out of him. One perennial loanee, widely said to be completely bone idle, and Yeovil are giving themselves a fighting chance of staying in this league with that as their only serious striking option.
QPR currently have on their books: Bobby Zamora, two full England caps; Andy Johnson, eight full England caps; Charlie Austin, who cost more than £4m; Manchester United academy graduate Will Keane; Mobido Maiga, 31 caps for Mali and a £5m transfer fee hanging over him from his move to West Ham last summer; and Kevin Doyle, 56 caps for the Republic of Ireland. They also have Angelo Balanta and Tom Hitchcock who, while completely ignored by Rangers, would almost certainly be getting regular game time if they were full time pros at Huish Park. Duane Holmes - who QPR fans in attendance at last season’s Under 18s play off final with Huddersfield at Loftus Road will remember as the tiny, long haired, central midfield player who ran the show - has been brought in on loan from West Yorkshire. Not a single Rangers player from that team, which won the game on the night, has had a sniff of the first team at Loftus Road this season and game time in total for youth team graduates in the first team at the Rangers this season doesn’t even reach 30 minutes, and it’s shared between Tom Hitchock and Max Ehmer.
QPR fans, justifiably, say it was folly to try and go through an entire promotion campaign relying solely on Charlie Austin – especially given his previous issues with knee and shoulder injuries – and so it has proved. But just stop and think for a moment how much money this club is committing every single week to that collection of strikers. I’d be willing to bet that Zamora and Johnson take home between them as much as the entire Yeovil squad put together.
Zamora and Johnson typify QPR’s Premier League transfer policy more than most. Well known names, well into their 30s, well past their best, with well documented chronic injury problems, paid massive money to move to a club they’ve since contributed little to. Johnson, to his credit, makes the right noises about repaying Rangers’ faith but he’s every bit as physically shot as his former Fulham colleague and, in hindsight, it’s a shame that deadline day move to Palace didn’t come off back in August. I’d like to say QPR learnt their lesson, but they've since signed Yossi Benayoun.
Maiga is vintage modern day Rangers. A transfer deadline day signing for the sake of making a transfer deadline day signing. Nothing about it made any sense whatsoever. He’d looked wholly uncomfortable with English football at West Ham who were desperate to be rid of him, his first touch and game management is akin to that of somebody who has never even seen the game played before on television, he’s living off past glories at Sochaux, he’s another loan signing when Rangers already had two too many to pick, and he’s no doubt expensive. These loan signings don’t come free you know – Will Keane apart where’s the incentive for the parent club if they were? He might score on Saturday, he might score on Tuesday and he might score next week at Middlesbrough, and I’ll be delighted if he does even though it makes me look silly. But he’ll still be crap, and a signing that says so much about the lack of forward planning, and the total submission to everything the football manager wants caused by a lack of football experience at board level that is crippling our club at the moment.
Kevin Doyle was, is, a reasonable signing to make in the short term to cover the Austin injury. It’s a shame he is now hurt himself because I’ve liked almost everything I’ve seen of him so far: excellent work rate, brave, good in the air, not bad in front of goal despite his record at Wolves. All that said, why QPR showed no interest in Connor Wickham, after eight goals in 11 appearances on loan at a poor Sheffield Wednesday side, is intriguing given that he subsequently joined mid-table Leeds on a similar temporary deal. Wickham’s physical presence would seemingly make him ideal for the way Rangers like to set up with a lone striker, and given that he’s already told Sunderland he won’t be renewing a contract that expires in 18 months time he’d be available for somewhere in the region of £2m-£3m this summer permanently if he did well, it seems odd that Rangers, who are lazily linked with every player going in the press, haven't been mentioned in relation to him once. Too young and fit for QPR’s right sort revolution one presumes?
I'd be interested to know whether any current QPR employee actually saw any of Wickham's 11 Sheffield Wednesday appearances in the flesh. Chief scout Ian Broomfield, a Redknapp confidante, is leaving to join either Arsenal or Spurs - who is leading the scouting operation in his absence? Does our scouting operation actually exist? Or are we simply working off a to do list that numbers two jobs: 1 - see who our favoured agents have kicking about; 2 - see what Crouchy is up to?
Which leaves us with Will Keane, the latest kid from a Premier League team QPR are happy to give game time to in order to develop their game, while steadfastly refusing to do the same for their own players. Josh Laurent was every bit as good as Duane Holmes in that youth game last season – composed on the ball, instinctive with his touch, intelligently planning his next move before possession had even arrive with him – but while Holmes has clocked up 18 first team appearances at Championship level this season I’m starting to think Laurent was a figment of my imagination, presumably buried under a mountain of Gary O’Neils and Karl Henrys and Jermaine Jenass.
Keane was an easy scapegoat at Brighton on Tuesday night because Rangers dominated the match, and the possession, and looked a far better side than Albion going forwards and yet when the reached the penalty box they often had to shoot from long range. They lacked that presence that Austin, and Doyle to be fair, can provide. That experience, that nastiness, that determination, that needle factor that means no defender gets an easy ride even when they’re first to the ball and clearing comfortably, was missing.
Of course it was. First and foremost Keane is not a lone striker. Playing him there and yelling at the poor results is like sticking a camel into the Gold Cup and whipping it until it bleeds. Secondly, while I’ve been pulled up for calling him a “kid” given that he’s 21 and a whole clutch of players like Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Wayne Rooney, etc, ect, etc, have clocked up three figures in professional appearances by the time they get to that age, Keane is indeed a “kid” in football terms. He has so far played just ten senior matches for QPR, Man Utd and Wigan in his entire life, and you can throw in nine months spent recovering from an ACL injury last season into that equation as well.
This is the problem with the Premier League academy system. I don't know Keane's background but I suspect he's been in the Manchester United set up since he was about 10/11/12 years old. He's been playing alongside all the other outstanding boys his own age. He's been training in top notch facilities. He's been playing matches against all the other outstanding boys from all the other Premier League academies on all the other manicured training pitches. Because these Premier League teams at the top end very rarely move anybody from their academy to their first team - why pick Tom Carroll when you can spend £30m on Erik Lamela? - you just have all these kids growing old in academies never playing any actual football. On Tuesday Keane was sent out, on his own, against Matthew Upson, who whatever anybody says can still play in a dinner jacket at this level, fed poor service and then criticised for not leading the line correctly.
Given the options, I’d stick with him. Well, no, actually, I’d pick Tom Hitchcock, because even though I strongly suspect he’s nowhere near good enough, I’d rather see QPR giving their own a run so we can make informed decisions – what, exactly, are we going to base decisions about contract renewals for Michael Doughty, Max Ehmer, Michael Harriman etc on? – about them and perhaps even, wonders never cease, develop them into first team players than do all of that for Manchester United players. But, as we seem determined not to do that, and seeing as the only alternative at the moment would seem to be Mobido chuffing Maiga, and because I believe Rangers are currently suffering just as much from chopping and changing personnel and systems as they are from losing key players to injury, I’d pick Keane again, and again, and again until Doyle or Austin is fit.
Whatever decision is reached, whatever team is picked, you’d surely think it will be enough to scrape past Yeovil Town at worst. But if you’re tempted, during tomorrow’s match, to bemoan QPR’s bad luck, to point to injuries to key players, to lament the absence of Charlie Austin, to grumble about second placed Burnley’s extraordinary run of games without a single injury or suspension, then look down the field at the School End…
There’s a club working on a League Two budget, but with a very clear identity, ethos and plan, with a manager who knows he’ll be there in August come hell, high water or League One, who spend less than anybody else in this league and yet, with home games to come against Barnsley, Bournemouth, Bolton, Huddersfield and Middlesbrough, as well as a trip to Charlton, might actually stay in it with a strike force that consists entirely if Ishmael Miller, on loan.
It’s odd to feel jealous of a club third bottom of the table but that thirst to be a likeable, well run, shrewd, canny club that scouts players well, develops talent and sells it on for profit, promotes its youth players, plunders gems from other club’s reserve teams, picks off the best discarded talent from higher up, knows where it’s going, and what it’s doing, and why, and doesn’t throw good money after bad, or loan in eight players at once, grows drier every day.
Bobby Zamora indeed. See you all tomorrow.
Links >>> http://www.fansnetwork.co.uk/football/queensparkrangers/news/34368/do-yeovil-hav Profile >>> History >>> Podcast >>> http://www.fansnetwork.co.uk/football/queensparkrangers/news/34358/first-qpr-app >>> http://www.fansnetwork.co.uk/football/queensparkrangers/news/34375>Betting
French midfielder Alex Bonnot battles for possession during a Football League Trophy game between these sides at Huish Park back in 2001. Rangers, then of the Second Division, were beaten 3-0 by their hosts, a Conference team at the time. This is the first ever competitive meeting between the two at Loftus Road.
Team News: So this week the R's must choose from Will Keane, Mobido Maiga or the allegedly fit again Bobby Zamora to lead the attack ahead of Ravel Morrison. Very much last up to the buffet stuff this. Charlie Austin has apparently resumed light training as he recovers from his shoulder injury, likewise Danny Simpson with his back problem, but this rather smacks of desperately rushing players back. Kevin Doyle hasn’t recovered from the knock he got at Birmingham and Andy Johnson is just permanently knackered. Ale Faurlin and Matt Phillips are the other long term absentees. Who knows whether Benoit Assou Ekotto will feel able to grace us with his presence this weekend?
Yeovil have winger Joel Grant, so impressive in the first meeting between the sides this season, out with a back spasm and Joe Ralls is also missing from the midfield through suspension.
Elsewhere: As your intrepid LFW reporting team basked in the baking sunshine/huddled together for warmth and watched the young lovers of Brighton grind against each other on the beach on Tuesday afternoon – day 100 of the Daily Express' predicted "100 DAYS OF SNOW" – we couldn't help but think that people really should stop buying the fucking Daily Express.
Yes indeed, summer is here, and as the Championship inches match by match, week by week, day by day, Saturday Tuesday Saturday Tuesday Saturday Tuesday, towards what will no doubt be an instantly forgotten dramatic end to the monotony in May, it's mandatory shirts v skins in the second tier this weekend in a league-wide initiative to draw in more women and gays.
All 12 games kick off at 15.00 on Saturday this weekend, gladdening the hearts of curmudgeons everywhere, and I dare say there'll be a few approving nods from under flat caps at Huddersfield v Blackburn, if we're into northern stereotypes, which we clearly are. Watch out for seven million Leeds fans marauding across to Burnley on the two carriage rattler to Burnley Manchester Road belting out nonsense about their fictitious conquering of Europe as well.
I personally think I've done remarkably well to get to paragraph four without mentioning that Champions Elect Bolton have finally come out of lulling mode and, having built quite some sense of security among the rest of the division, are now rampaging towards the league title. Unbeaten in five and averaging more than two goals a game in that time their sail is soaked and they're roaring home, thrashing Brighton and Hove Something Or Other comprehensively this weekend at the dodgy trainers arena.
Quickly sweeping up a few games nobody cares about in order to get this bit over with – Udinese v Barnsley (one probably going down, the other probably irrelevant now they're a feeder club), Sheffield Wednesday v Birmingham (both of whom everybody stopped giving a toss about a long, long time ago) and Bournemouth v Middlesbrough (Britain's great railway journeys volume three) are also taking place this weekend.
Of the stuff that matters a bit, Millwall can pour some cement on top of the nailed coffin lid and tonnes of soil Charlton inflicted on themselves earlier this week with a win when we awl go daghn to the Den and Reading v Derby is a battle to the death to discover once and for all (or at least until this game takes place again) who in fact does play in the best retail park. Nottingham Forest , injury hit, stumbling slightly, host Doncaster . Blackpool won for the first time at the nineteenth attempt during the week against Millwall but are up at run away leaders Leicester this weekend where they're likely to be properly filled in. Yeovil will be targeting the Seasiders as a team to potentially rope into trouble in the coming weeks.
Wait, there's more? But I'm full. Oh yeh, that Uwe Rosler chap and his tactics and motivation and skilful management. Wigan at Ipswich this weekend, looking all threatening and ominous. Damn them.
Referee: For the second time in as many games Rangers are officiated this weekend by a referee in his fourth year on the list who has never taken charge of one of their games before. The difference is Tuesday night's man at Brighton, Robert Madley, has already been fast tracked to the Premier League and showed why with an excellent display in the middle, while Saturday's Mark Brown has had a much more low key start to life in the middle and this is only his sixth Championship fixture of the season so far. More details on his stats, and news of interesting appointments for the big Premier Leaue games on Sunday, available http://www.fansnetwork.co.uk/football/queensparkrangers/news/34358/first-qpr-app
QPR: Tuesday night's defeat against Brighton against the run of play means it's now just one win in seven matches for Rangers who were 15 points clear of seventh at Christmas but are now within striking distance of the chasing pack. For so long this season I've been able to write here that the R's have the division's outstanding defensive record, but a clean sheet for Albion while sticking two through Rangers at the other end at Falmer means Oscar Garcia's men are now level on 28 goals conceded. Still, Rob Green's record of 15 clean sheets so far this term remains the best in the Football League, even though the R's have only had one shut out in 12 attempts in all competitions. More worryingly the R's have not won in three attempts at Loftus Road.
Yeovil: Gary Johnson's side looked like brown bread a month ago but promptly went on a five match unbeaten run – three draws and two wins – to lift them off the bottom and to within two points of safety. A disappointing performance midweek brought a 1-0 defeat by Ipswich but they're showing more resilience of late – conceding just three goals in their last six outings and keeping three clean sheets. With five home games left against Bolton, Barnsley, Bournemouth, Huddersfield and Middlesbrough survival doesn't look out of the question, although this is the first of three consecutive tough away games with Wigan and Leicester to come. On the road this year the Glovers have won three, drawn four and lost nine – the victories coming at Birmingham , Watford and Millwall on the opening day of the season. They were reduced to eight men in their last away match at Reading but miraculously held on for a 1-1 draw. They have, however, won just one of their last eight away games, losing five.
Betting: Professional odds compiler Owen Goulding, fresh from the away end at Brighton , tells us…
"As I left the Amex on Tuesday night, I couldn't help but wonder how Rangers had managed to lose that game. It was a game dominated by the Super Hoops but they defended appallingly in the last ten minutes to guarantee a defeat that should never of happened. That said, in truth, I never felt at any time during the game we would score. QPR's problems are highlighted by the fact Armand Traore, a player who has played over 100 career games, the majority as a 'defender', and has scored a total of two goals, is looking our most likely source of a goal behind Ravel Morrison. Harry can bleat on as much as he likes regarding injuries, but he brought in Maiga, Keane and Benayoun among others, yet still chooses to play Traore instead (rightly so in my opinion), but therefore you have to question his tactics/transfer policy. For me, he has a lot to answer for.
"I feel a bit sorry for Morrison - you can tell from his touch and desire to be on the ball all the time, he deserves to be playing at a higher level than we currently offer him, and he is on a different wavelength to most of the players surrounding him. It would be excellent to see him alongside Austin but it's not going to happen in the near future and as such, he is going to have to take the goal scoring burden firmly on his own shoulders.
"They have only kept two clean sheets in their last sixteen games and even with QPR's toothless attack at the moment, Paddy Power go 12/5 Morrison scores at anytime. That equates to roughly a 30% chance of scoring. I make the true odds based on the likely team Harry will put out as nearer 40% so therefore that is the bet for me"
Recommended bet: Ravel Morrison to score at anytime - 12/5 (Paddy Power)
Prediction: Reigning Prediction League champion Mase – who has had his shoe laces and sharp objects taken away – tells us…
"My office this week held a charity raffle, for VIP backstage tickets to some show or other. When the knock came at my door I dutifully handed over my £5, without bothering to check what or when the show was. I never win anything, even as a kid getting lucky with a free pack of crisps when some packs of Walkers contained a 'lucky blue envelope' was beyond me. I think that was when bags of Salt & Vinegar were blue, and Cheese & Onion were green. That is how long and bitterly I remember things, folks. I may as well just hand the money over and forget about the contest. I was never destined to win anyway. See any parallels, Mr Fernandes?
"So it is with some trepidation that I look ahead to this week's supposed "gimmie", as Rangers seem completely incapable of locating the hole at the moment. Yeovil have been on a decent run of late and have turned over some of their relegation rivals on the way. Yes there is no way this game should be a proper contest given the resources of the clubs, but you can be damned sure that Rangers will do their best to mitigate any advantage away. That said, I still fancy us to get through this one, despite ourselves so I am making a rare positive prediction amid a difficult period on and off the pitch for the club and its board."
Mase's Prediction: QPR 2-0 Yeovil. First scorer - Will Keane. No, seriously - Ravel Morrison.
LFW Prediction: QPR 2-0 Yeovil. First scorer – Ravel Morrison.
The Twitter - @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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