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Has Holloway just had his Newcastle moment? Preview
Friday, 25th Aug 2017 18:50 by Clive Whittingham
QPR have made a far better start to the season than almost everybody anticipated, but Tuesday night’s League Cup tonking by Brentford could easily derail that if Rangers aren’t careful.
Cardiff City v Queens Park Rangers
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Ian Holloway’s assertion that ten changes were necessary for the visit of Brentford in the week because “the league campaign is absolutely vital for us” fundamentally misunderstands how league and cup competitions work.
If QPR lose at Cardiff on Saturday, even very badly, they have 40 more matches over the next eight months to recover from it. There are 120 points to play for after this, and just three available in South Wales. It is not, by any stretch of anybody’s imagination, a massive match. It’s not even that important. Unless something genuinely extraordinary happens, we’ll barely remember it ever happened. Be honest, if I asked you how we got on here last season do you remember the score? Do you remember who scored?
Tuesday night, regardless of who it was against, was very different. That loss means the competition is done and over with for the year. No recovery, no second chance. One of only three things QPR can win this season and we’re already out of it before the end of August. QPR are never going to win the Premier League so by deliberately opting out of both cup competitions every season we’re basically condemning the club to not winning anything for the rest of time. Which is a bit miserable and “what’s the point of it all”.
Holloway is far from alone in treating the cups with contempt, and when you’re genuinely in the running for a league title then perhaps focus should be entirely on that – Cardiff rested players during the week and lost to Burton. But not then it should have been a first team on Tuesday and ten changes for tomorrow – if indeed the professional footballers just five games into their season, and off the back of a “ruthless pre-season/toughest pre-season of all time” aren’t fit enough to cope with both. The cups are within reach – Bradford City and Tranmere have been to finals relatively recently – and should be attacked. Rest players for the never ending league games if you must – and you musn’t, actually, because for the last four seasons a League Cup quarter finalist has gone on to win promotion from the Championship so any idea that it’s a horrible distraction or unworkable simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
That’s without getting into who the game was against. The QPR Brentford rivalry isn’t as severe as the Brentford QPR rivalry, but it’s still chastening to get beaten on your own ground by a near neighbour in such comprehensive fashion. You can say it’s only the cup and we’re not bothered about it, you can say it was an entirely different team, you can say we’re not that fussed about Brentford, but for all manner of reasons you don’t want to be getting done 4-1 at home like that. Damages confidence, damages momentum, damages the mood around the place, changes the perception of a good start to the season (which is what we’ve had). He got it badly, badly wrong in my opinion and not in a way that was difficult to foresee – the back four of one kid, one alcoholic, one bloke who wasn’t very good five years ago and has since broken his leg in two places and one bloke with knees so bad he qualifies for shop mobility was never likely to stand up to much examination was it?
It should not distract from what has been a very encouraging start to the season. Seven points from four games is four more than I thought we’d have at this stage, and seven more than many others hoped for. QPR have been playing well and picking up good results from difficult fixtures. September looks kinder on paper so it’s a nice platform to build from, regardless of what happens at Cardiff where I think we’ll get our arse handed to us.
But Holloway burnt off a lot of credit with supporters last season, particularly during the long losing run that ended the campaign, and it only took that one bad performance on Tuesday to bring the fury back to Twitter and the message boards. I just hope this isn’t his equivalent of the Newcastle home game for Jimmy Floyd Hasslebaink last season. I said at the time that whatever the circumstance, you can’t get done 6-0 at home and JFH never really recovered from it in my opinion – despite also making quite a decent start to the season with three wins in August. Losing 4-1 at home to a local rival is a similar faux pas and just because the cup (for some reason) isn’t a priority, don’t think it won’t be included in the prosecution case if Rangers now go on a little dip.
The home games we have coming up look winnable, but we’ve already picked up injuries to key defenders. Talk of sacking the manager, after making a good start to the season, is typical reactionary rubbish but I’ve lived in fear that we’re going to do that stupid October managerial change yet again since May and the complete over the top reaction to Tuesday’s defeat online did show how thin the ice Holloway is skating around on still is.
Team News: QPR’s promising start to the season has come at some cost, particularly in defence where Joel Lynch (hamstring) is now joined on the sidelines by James Perch who played the last 20 minutes last week with a dislocated knee cap and is now out for several months. Grant Hall is still struggling with tendonitis and Steven Caulker gave another demonstration on Tuesday of just how many thousands of miles short of being ready for a regular return to action he is. Jordan Cousins is a long term absentee further forwards. Josh Scowen was due to be assessed for an ankle injury he suffered at Perch’s hands last weekend but with Ryan Manning playing for the U23s against Barnsley today it suggests they expect he’ll be ok.
Cardiff rested Sean Morrison, Aron Gunnarsson, Kenneth Zohore and Nathaniel Mendez-Laing for their cup match in the week and will recall all four for this one. Summer signing Calum Paterson is yet to make a debut after signing from Hearts and getting injured in pre-season – his return is set for the end of September.
Elsewhere: When life is stringing you along let the Championship come and cut you loose – starting tonight with Big Racist John and the Boys visiting Bristol City live on Sky Sports Sunderland. The Allam Tigers have also had their game with the Bolton Brassics brought forward to tonight as Hull FC are at Wembley in the Challenge Cup Final tomorrow.
So ten games tomorrow then, finishing in the evening with the Nottingham Trees against the Champions of Europe on the tellybox.
A more run-of-the-mill list of 15.00 kick offs you’ll struggle to find but Sporting Wolverhampton have gone off well and could heap further misery on bottom side Brentford at Griffin Park. The Ipswich Blue Sox have also come out of the traps looking surprisingly sprightly and they’re welcoming Tarquin and Rupert this weekend.
Champions Middlesbrough are at home to Preston Knob End, Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion face the Sheffield Owls and the Birmingham Bad Knees, who lost at Burton last week, are back at home against Reading.
The Millwall Scholars and Brentford are the bottom two in the league despite having the most shots on goal – maybe some will start hitting the net for Neil Harris’ men against Borussia Norwich. Barnsley v Sunderland, and the Sheffield Red Stripes against the Derby Sheep, complete the weekend list.
Then we get a fortnight off for another crucial round of international fixtures. Rejoice.
Referee: QPR are on a five-match losing run with referee Simon Hooper, not that it’s had anything particularly to do with him. Details of his recent appointments and stats are available here.
Cardiff: Cardiff have started the season with four wins from four games. Including last season, they’ve now won their last five matches and haven’t won six in a row since 2000 when they were in what is now League Two. At home in the league they’ve beaten Aston Villa and Sheff Utd 3-0 and 2-0, but they’ve struggled more with scratchy teams out in the cup – narrowly beating Portsmouth 2-1 then losing to Burton during the week.
QPRSeven points from four games played represents a decent beginning from QPR, but they’ve only taken one point from a possible six away from home – drawing with Sheff Wed and losing to Norwich. That continues a winless run on the road from last season which now stretches to nine matches (seven defeats and two draws) since the 4-1 win at Birmingham in February. Rangers completed the double over Cardiff last season, winning 2-0 in Wales (Caulker, Chery) and 2-1 at Loftus Road (Ngbakoto, Smith).
Prediction: This year’s Prediction League is being sponsored by The Art of Football and we’ll be handing out prizes from their QPR Collection at the end of October, January and to the overall winner. Last year’s winner Southend_Rss tells us…
Although QPR have started the league season well, they’re yet to win away and Cardiff are flying under Neil Warnock at the moment so this one looks tough.
Craig’s Prediction: Cardiff 2-1 QPR. Scorer – Matt Smith
LFW’s Prediction: Cardiff 2-0 QPR. No Scorer.
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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