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QPR look to avoid vintage slip against bottom placed Forest – full match preview
QPR look to avoid vintage slip against bottom placed Forest – full match preview
Friday, 17th Oct 2008 01:42

After a poor run of form QPR have a great chance to get back on track this weekend as the league’s bottom side comes to Loftus Road however Rangers fans will be well aware that it is rarely that simple when it comes to our team.

Queens Park Rangers (11th) v Nottingham Forest (24th)
Coca Cola Championship
Saturday October 18, Kick Off 3pm
Loftus Road, London, W12


Being at a QPR match but not cheering when QPR score is a strange sensation. Sometimes it happens out of necessity, other times through apathy. I can recall three such occasions when I have had to sit in the home end at QPR away matches through various ticket related restraints – at Fulham when Rob Steiner got sent off, at Tottenham when Trevor Sinclair scored twice, and at Oldham for the play off semi final first leg.

On the first occasion, at Spurs, I failed badly and jumped up very excitedly when Tricky Trev slammed in the winner, I was only ten in fairness, but my Dad was advised that would be a good time to leave all the same. At Fulham we didn’t score, and I had to sit through another special performance from Rob Styles in complete silence for the most part, although by the end I was able to join in with the Fulham fans’ abuse of that self centred prat. At Oldham when Langley scored I nearly snapped Northern the Elder’s hand off and spent the last ten minutes in the bog because I just couldn’t sit silently through the torment any more.

I can recall my Dad remaining seated and misery stricken when Les Ferdinand scored against Swindon Town in 1994 – we’d been poor and continued to be so, losing 3-1 and giving Swindon only their sixth win and first and only double of the entire season. As a kid who loved QPR goals I couldn’t understand how he could do that however there have since been occasions when I have remained seated and silent through a QPR goal when the opportunity to go mad was actually there.

I remember Kevin Gallen scoring against Bradford City to make it 1-2 in the late nineties and I barely flinched such was the piss poor nature of the performance and the inevitability that we’d still lose. The last time was Danny Shittu’s equaliser against Leicester at Loftus Road in Ian Holloway’s last home match in charge. We’d been so utterly terrible, against a bottom three and managerless Leicester side that I just couldn’t bring myself to even get out of my seat when Danny scored – it did mean I got a good view of Leicester’s late and deserved winner from the kick off but then according to Olly it was our fault anyway for predicting a defeat on the message board.

The reason we had predicted a defeat that night, to a Leicester team whose last win came in a match where the kick off was delayed so they could move stray dinosaurs from the field of play, was because QPR have always been the same. Just like that Swindon match where my Dad stood motionless and unhappy as the team he loved smacked home an equaliser QPR love nothing better than to give a helping hand to those less fortunate than ourselves.

Whether that be a team without a win in months, a striker without a goal in years, a manager whose future prospects are measured in hours rather than days – if there’s a basket case out there QPR are always on hand with the footballing equivalent of spare change. John Jensen, Swindon Town, Leicester City, Dean Bowditch – the list is bloody endless and grows every year. Fans of teams long since relegated and forgotten about recount their one highlight of their relegation season; a thumping good win at Loftus Road.

This season bottom of the table Nottingham Forest have played five away games and lost five away games.

Five minutes on Nottingham Forest
It has been a tough start to life back in the Championship for Nottingham Forest. Regular readers will know never to trust my predictions, particularly when it comes to Forest – I didn’t expect them to go down, I’ve been tipping them to fail in their quest to get back ever since, and I fancied them to do the best of all the promoted sides this season. In fact it is even worse than that, I still have tucked away in a dark corner of my football room a betting slip that confirms Northern the Elder and myself once staked a sizeable wedge on Nottingham Forest winning this league outright, nine months later they were relegated at Loftus Road.

The bet wasn’t without foundation in logic in our defence. Forest had yo-yoed between the Premiership and First Division for some time, it is often forgotten amongst all talk of European Cup wins and Brian Clough’s green sweater that they finished third in the Premiership under Frank Clark in 1994 with a front line of Stan Collymore and Bryan Roy. The thought of Forest, or anybody other than the big four, making the top three in that manner so soon after promotion is now unthinkable – Ipswich went reasonably close to matching it but eventually settled for fifth.

In 2002/03 Paul Hart led Forest into the Championship play offs where they were extremely unfortunate to lose a heart stopping two legged semi final against Sheffield United. After drawing 1-1 at the City Ground the two sides fought out a memorable 4-3 epic at Bramall Lane, United moving through to the final despite Forest leading 2-0 with half an hour to play. Hart had a good young team playing excellent football at that point, recovering the club from the ashes of the David Platt era, but a poor start to 2003/04 saw Hart leave the club to be replaced by Joe Kinnear.

Kinnear had done a terrific job with Luton and was unlucky to be removed from Kenilworth Road in the phone vote farce that the board of the time forced upon that club. He did a good job with Forest as well, lifting them clear of relegation danger into a 14th place finish with eight wins and only two defeats from their final 17 matches. In my opinion, they looked a good bet for the following season.

In the end the exact opposite turned out to be true. Forest started badly and got steadily worse, Kinnear resigned in December after defeats to Gillingham and Derby, either side of their obligatory win against QPR at the City Ground, left Forest in the bottom three. Things picked up briefly, both results and performance wise, when Mick Harford was put in caretaker charge and that’s something we have experienced ourselves but, like QPR, Forest overlooked Big Mick in favour of a supposedly bigger name. The ever detestable Gary Megson, fresh from a good spell in charge of West Brom, was chosen as the new man but the poor form continued, just three wins from their last 15 games, and the Reds were relegated with a game to spare at Loftus Road after a 2-1 defeat.

Megson was allowed to stick around for the League One campaign but after a disastrous start left them contemplating an unthinkable spell in the bottom division he was shifted on and replaced by Frank Barlow and Ian McParland for the rest of the season. Megson always comes across as an odious git and the relief of not having to come to work every day and look at his ugly mug seemed to rejuvenate the Forest players who spent the last third of the season first recovering, then pulling away from the bottom, then making an unlikely late bid for the play offs before eventually finishing seventh and narrowly missing out. Had the season been a week longer they probably would have made it and nobody would have fancied playing off with a Forest team in that sort of form.

Despite the turnaround McParland and Barlow were not given the job permanently, they didn’t seem to want it much in fairness, and Forest turned to former Spurs and Villa centre half Colin Calderwood. He’d forged a good lower league reputation with two near misses and a promotion triumph in League Two with Northampton Town and although he could have stayed at the Sixfields for their League One campaign he chose to head up the M1 to Forest. Things started very well, top of the table by some seven points a third of the way through 2006/07, but a mini collapse left them in the play offs and despite the bookies making them odds on favourites the former European champions were deservedly humbled by a far more attractive and effective Yeovil Town side. Calderwood’s response to this was to go out and buy Arron Davies and Chris Cohen from the Glovers in preparation for a fresh tilt at promotion in 2007/08.

Calderwood as a manager has always come across to me as a poor man to have leading you under pressure. Northampton choked twice under him before finally making it out of a poor division at the third attempt and after his play off failure with Forest in his first City Ground season thigs didn’t look good in mid-Match 2008 when a home draw with Walsall left them fourth, nine points behind the second placed team Doncaster. For once though Forest and Calderwood came good at the right time. I loudly predicted they would stay exactly where they were but seven wins and two draws from the final ten games was enough to pinch second spot at the death – ironically it was Yeovil beaten 3-2 at the City Ground on the final day to seal it all.

Calderwood lost star midfielders Kris Commons and Sammy Clingan straight after the promotion but brought in Rob Earnshaw and Andy Cole and that double swoop hinted that Forest would not only have the firepower to survive, but possibly even push on to bigger and better things this season. It may still happen of course but at the moment Forest look low on confidence and naïve, an inexperienced team misfiring and there is already talk of Calderwood being replaced soon – Sam Allardyce’s name has been mentioned. It looks to an outsider like the loss of two quality players from the midfield four without real replacements being brought in has hit them harder than Calderwood expected. They have won just one league match so far this season and currently sit bottom.

Men to watch
The star turn at the City ground these days is Welsh international striker Rob Earnshaw – a man who has scored a hat trick in all four English leagues, the FA Cup, League Cup, JP Trophy and international level. The League One part of that record was of course against QPR at Loftus Road in a 4-0 Cardiff win back in 2002 and he has always enjoyed a goal against the R’s either for Cardiff or latterly Norwich. In fact the only time QPR got a proper hold on the pacy forward was in the 2003 play off final in Cardiff where Shittu marked him out of the game for 70 odd minutes only to see him replaced by Andy Campbell who scored the winner in the last minute of extra time. Earnshaw has been out recently with a hamstring injury but is back for this one.

Earnshaw would probably like to be partnered by Andy Cole, who also scored a hat trick at Loftus Road for Burnley last season, however age seems to be catching up on the former Man Utd man is yet to get off the mark in three starts and five sub appearances this season. When you look at those two big names, that are bound to be earning big money, and you then find Forest are without a win in eight matches and have only scored four goals in that time you could be forgiven for thinking that they have put all their financial eggs in the basket of two proven strikers but that is not the case. Calderwood can also select Joe Garner and Nathan Tyson in attack – two much sought after and impressive strikers from the division below. For me it’s hard to put a finger on why there is a drought in both points and goals, although early season injuries to all four strikers probably has something to do with it.

The summer upheaval in midfield is also a factor. I didn’t rate Sammy Clingan as highly as everybody else as he earned rave reviews for performances in a Northern Ireland shirt but there’s no doubt Forest are missing him since his move to Norwich. Likewise Kris Commons, terribly one footed and with an arse the size of a Trent barge but creative and lively all the same and a big miss for them as they struggle to create for their forward line.

Clingan has been replaced to some extent by Frenchman Guy Moussi, think Papa Diop only more physical and you’re about halfway there, and the QPR midfielders will certainly know they have been in a game after an afternoon at his hands. Chris Cohen is a decent player as well but is not having the same impact he managed in League One and consequently Calderwood has turned to Man Utd’s Lee Martin on loan to pep things up in the wide areas. I say our old friend because Martin has made a career so far out of joining Championship clubs on loan just before the play QPR – Plymouth, Stoke, Sheff Utd and now Forest. His diving, cheating and play acting in previous games against the R’s will make him a target for the boo boys fairly quickly on Saturday if he starts flopping about again. A good player, when he feels able to remain upright for any length of time.

At the back Forest have an outstanding goalkeeper in Paul Smith who started with Brentford at a time when the West London derby between the Bees and the R’s was a semi regular occurrence. His form at Griffin Park earned him a move to Premiership side Southampton but he had to sit behind Anti Niemi in the pecking order as the Saints declined and then drop a division further with Forest to get first team football – he’s unlikely to have to go that low again after a string of impressive displays and if QPR really are looking for a replacement for Camp and Chuckles between the sticks they could do a lot worse than asking Forest to name their price.

Sadly for Smith he plays behind a somewhat leaky back four that is clearly lacking experience. Wes Morgan is a decent centre half but Ian Breckin is getting on somewhat in years and the other options back there are made up of kids ranging from those with a chance to no hopers. Still, last time they came to W12 John Curtis was the right back so things have improved considerably since then.

Previous Meetings
Nottingham Forest were relegated on their last visit to Loftus Road, crashing to a 2-1 defeat in a must win match thanks to a stunning Marc Bircham strike at the School End just after half time. Rangers had taken the lead just before the break thanks to an own goal from John Curtis, we really should have known back then, and were pretty comfortable in victory despite Eugen Bopp pulling a goal back with just over ten minutes still to play – Darryl Powell’s first half sending off added to the QPR comfort zone. To compound matters for the travelling thousands a signal failure on the main line back to Nottingham meant passengers leaving London at 18.25 weren’t even hitting Derby until 1.30am. I know because I was on one of those trains, but I hadn’t been relegated so it didn’t really matter. Poor sods.

QPR: Rossi, Bignot, Shittu, Santos, Padula, Rowlands, Gallen, Bircham (Bean 89) Cook, Thorpe, Furlong
Subs not used: Day, Edghill, Cureton, Miller
Booked: Gallen, Rossi
Goals: Curtis (og) 45, Bircham 51

Nottm Forest: Gerrard, Curtis, Morgan, Taylor, Melville, Robertson (Louis-Jean 67) Gardner, Evans (Bopp 62) Powell (sent off 32) Commons, Dobie (Harris 56)
Subs not used: Doyle, Hjelde
Bookings: Powell
Sent off: Powell 32
Goals: Bopp 77

Attendance: 17,834

QPR have never, ever won at the City Ground so it is no surprise that even though Forest ended up relegated and were in a run of form in December 2004 that would shortly cost Joe Kinnear his job they still managed to beat Rangers 2-1. Adam Millar made his QPR debut wide right after signing from Aldershot and the R’s looked good value for at least a point as the game approached the hour mark – Georges Santos had equalised Andy Reid’s effort just after half time. However a typically poor piece of QPR defending let Jack Lester in for a winner with half an hour still to play. Forest also won 3-0 at Loftus Road against one of Ian Holloway’s specially selected and motivated QPR cup sides in January that year.

Nottm Forest: Gerrard, Thompson, Hjelde, Morgan, Robertson, Reid, Evans, Lester, Rogers, Taylor, Johnson (Gardner 84)
Subs not used: King, Doyle, Doig, James
Booked: Reid, Rogers
Goals: Reid 15, Lester 58

QPR: Day, Bignot, Santos, Shittu, Padula, Ainsworth (Cureton 68) Furlong, Bean, Cook (McLeod 68) Gallen, Miller
Subs not used: Cole, Branco, Johnson
Bookings: Santos
Goals: Santos 49

Attendance: 26099

Head to Head:
QPR wins – 13
Draws – 15
Forest wins – 24

Past QPR v Forest results:
2004/05 QPR 2 Forest 1 (Bircham, Curtis OG)
2004/05 QPR 0 Forest 3 (FA Cup)
2004/05 Forest 2 QPR 1 (Santos)
2000/01 Forest 1 QPR 1 (Wardley)
2000/01 QPR 1 Forest 0 (Crouch)
1999/00 Forest 1 QPR 1 (Ready)
1999/00 QPR 1 Forest 1 (Kiwomya)
1997/98 QPR 0 Forest 1
1997/98 Forest 4 QPR 0
1995/96 Forest 3 QPR 0
1995/96 QPR 1 Forest 1 (Sinclair)
1994/95 QPR 1 Forest 1 (Barker)
1994/95 Forest 3 QPR 2 (Allen, Ferdinand)
1992/93 QPR 4 Forest 3 (Ferdinand 3, Wilson)
1992/93 Forest 1 QPR 0
1991/92 Forest 1 QPR 1 (Sinton)
1991/92 QPR 0 Forest 2

Team News
QPR have only Rowan Vine definitely unavailable through injury, his recovery from a broken leg has ground to a halt completely and he is unlikely to be seen this side of Christmas now. However Iain Dowie does have the travelling commitments of several internationals over the last week to consider – Damion Stewart has been halfway across the world and Kaspars Gorkss and Akos Buzsaky have also been clocking up the air miles. Expect Connolly to start with Hall at centre half and the other two to make the bench at best. Sam Di Carmine picked up a knock in the reserve match on Wednesday and is doubtful. Rangers are working hard to bring in a striker on loan with Caleb Folan of Hull the latest name linked – the BBC reports that the R’s would like to have a loan deal tied up in time for this match.

Forest welcome back a past scourge of QPR Rob Earnshaw who has missed three matches, plus the Wales games last week, with a hamstring complaint. Apparently he hasn’t trained particularly well this week and has suffered a reaction but he could still feature – here’s hoping he doesn’t. Colin Calderwood hopes to have a loan deal tied up for Palace’s Carl Fletcher in time for the former West Ham man to play in this game. Forest have loaned Liverpool winger Paul Anderson ready to make a debut after recovering from an injury picked up in the summer but Joe Garner is unlikely to feature. Jullian Bennett and Gareth McCleary are fit again but Lewis McGugan is still sidelined. Frenchman Guy Moussi is struggling with an ankle inury.
Injury List

Referee
Leniency is the order of the day this Satuday as Fred Graham returns to Loftus Road for the first time since our 0-0 draw with Wolves last season during which he blew his whistle once for the kick off in the first half, once for the kick off in the second, and that was about it. He loves to allow a game to flow and keep the cards in his pocket so expect a physical encounter this Saturday.
Details

Elsewhere
The clear stand out match of the weekend is the Sheffield derby, liver on Sky on Sunday from Hillsborough – I shall be locking my doors and battening down the hatches all week. Palace v Barnsley is the somewhat bizarre choice of evening match. Two unlikely form teams Derby and Plymouth meet at Pride Park while high flying Wolves face Coventry in a Midlands derby.
Tony’s Championship Preview

Form
QPR are in poor touch all of a sudden, without a win in four league games and down to eleventh in the table from fourth. The 1-0 set back at Coventry was seen as unlucky as the team played well but just couldn’t score the crucial goal – that was followed with a 1-0 win at Aston Villa but since then poor performances against Derby, Blackpool and Birmingham have yielded just one point and one goal. Since sticking four through Southampton in September the R’s have mustered just three goals in six matches and are now scowering the loan market for strikers.

Forest are in what you would call dire form. Since beating Watford at the City Ground 3-2 in September they are without a win in eight games across two competitions. They haven’t scored a goal for four matches and have lost their last three games. On the road this season they have played five and lost five against Swansea, Wolves, Preston, Plymouth and Sheffield Wednesday – 12 goals conceded and only three scored in those road games. My man at Sheffield Wednesday said they looked a beaten side from the off at Hillsborough and definite relegation candidates. I put my fingers in me ears and sang Human League hits until he went away.
Form Guide

Prediction
Teams don’t go through entire seasons losing every game. I remember Ron Feruson, author of the wonderful ‘Helicopter Dreams’ a tale of following Cowdenbeath home and away, telling a radio audience during a book review that for those uninitiated in football accomplishing such an unwanted feat in football is “quite a difficult thing to do, even if you actually set out to do it.” Nottingham Forest are no Cowdenbeath – they are a side currently struggling to adapt to a new level but they have good, young players and a smattering of talent including Rob Earnshaw who always loves to score against us. This Nottingham Forest team will not go through the entire season without picking up a point away from home and, as is the tradition at QPR, we may just be the ones to set them on their way.
QPR 1 Forest 1

Remember to log your predictions in the LoftforWords Prediction League to stay in with a chance of winning a QPR season tickets for next year.

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