|Preston North End v Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 4th August 2018 Kick-off 15:00
QPR face tough test of progress – Preview
Friday, 17th Nov 2017 17:16 by Clive Whittingham
QPR return from the international break with three games against sides who all did the double against them last season, starting with Aston Villa at Loftus Road on Saturday.
QPR (5-6-5, LDDWWL, 15th) v Aston Villa (7-5-4, WLWDWL, 6th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday November 18, 2017 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather - >>> Loftus Road, London, W12
A great weekend of shit football is always preferable to a shit weekend of great football, and so while the standard was almost as non-existent as the goals scored I did quite enjoy the heavy slog of the World Cup qualifying play-offs last weekend.
The scandalous officiating in the first leg of the Northern Ireland game, the tactical collapse in the second Republic of Ireland match, no Italy at the World Cup since 1958… zero quality in any of it, but loads of context that made it strangely compelling. Much like the Championship in fact, where many of the players involved reside.
And that’s unusual. Ordinarily the international break holds as much interest for me as the activities on Priti Patel’s family holiday do for her kids.
Still, there isn’t another one until March, which I’m very thankful for despite last weekend’s distraction, leaving the Championship to force feed you its footballing gruel in ever more unmanageable quantities between now and then. QPR play ten times in the next 45 days, starting with Aston Villa at home tomorrow afternoon.
Previously on QPR… In a manner the church has become accustomed to over the years the R’s stretch a winless run to seven matches by drawing games against the worst two teams in the league, Bolton and Sunderland, before returning home to play out of their skins and defeat the best two, Wolves and Sheffield United, in four days. Relief coursing, optimism soaring, platitudes flowing, they subsequently suffer their annual defeat at Nottingham Forest – a bloody big one too, bastards.
So far, so midtable, which it’s worth pointing out just about everybody, to a man, who talks about QPR on message boards, Twitter, Facebook and down the Crown said they’d be delighted with back in August. Not a lot of delight around as it turns out, colour me shocked.
It’s a season that could yet develop into more than that, if Rangers were to sort out abysmal away form that sees them without a win since February. Conversely, it could go very wrong very quickly if the so-far-impressive home form were to dry up. We saw in the 2014/15 Premier League season the perils of writing the away matches off and trying to get everything you need from half as many fixtures as everybody else. Loftus Road is a tricky place for teams to come, but it’s not Fort Knox. If you’re one of the stayaway supporters then you’re missing out on some good stuff in the home games; if you’re one of the diehards that does the away matches as well, it’s as bad as it’s ever been.
We’ll get a further indication of which way the campaign might swing - if indeed it is to swing at all rather than continue down it’s most likely path which ends with QPR somewhere around where they are now come May - over the next week. Rangers went on two six match losing runs last season and the three teams we play this week were involved in both. QPR lost 1-0 home and away to Aston Villa and Derby County during both runs, while the 3-1 loss to Brentford at Griffin Park was part of the second set of results and a 2-0 win for the Bees at Loftus Road was Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s last home game in charge just prior to the first.
As ever, there was no one reason why either bad run occurred. There were injuries, a change of manager, Ian Holloway trying to change too much too soon and more besides in the first run through December. The players clocked off thinking they were safe, the team was messed about with too much, Grant Hall got injured and more during the April collapse. But, fundamentally, it boiled down to QPR simply not being good enough.
The April fixtures, in particular, had been flagged as looking very tough on paper well in advance, and so they proved. Brighton, who were promoted, also, like Villa and Derby, contributed two defeats to both runs. QPR finished eighteenth last season and that was a fair reflection of how good the team was. They took one point from four matches against the top two, two wins (one of them very flukey at Fulham) from eight games against the play-off qualifiers, and two wins from ten matches against the five teams immediately below the top six. The majority of the 53 points QPR did get last season came against teams placed 14th or lower. That was just how good QPR were last season, for all the talk of individuals to blame or the importance of certain injured players over others.
The general consensus seems to be that QPR are a better team this season. The defence still leaks, albeit with four long term injuries to cope with, and the attack still misfires, albeit with Idrissa Sylla boasting a better goals-per-game ratio than many Championship strikers supporters would walk barefoot over broken glass to have here. The midfield has improved no end, from the clogging, plodding rubbish of Hasselbaink’s reign, to a vibrant and energetic engine room now. But we’ll get an indication of how true that is, if it it’s true at all, over the next seven days.
Three defeats, as this could easily quickly turn into, and you’d have to conclude that any progress made has been limited – although as we keep repeating, standing still while slashing the wage bill is progress of sorts.
Don’t think that other managers, particularly those as experienced as Steve Bruce or as talented as Gary Rowett and Dean Smith clearly are, won’t have noticed what Mark Warburton had spotted before we went to the City Ground last week. We’re not playing a Harry Redknapp team this week, the opposition manager will have bothered to scout us, and he’ll have seen that if you can beat the high press and get in behind the wing backs, then you can drag the left and right sided centre backs out into some deep water where they don’t want to be. Alex Baptiste is particularly vulnerable to this, as brutally exposed by Jota for the Wolves goal, and then all afternoon at Forest by Barrie McKay.
Sheffield United did it for ten minutes at the start of the second half and Holloway fixed it up quickly by introducing Darnell Furlong. As said at the time, it’s mystifying why he didn’t do that again at Forest and he’ll need to be hot on that change again if the same thing starts happening tomorrow, and maybe consider a permanent change of tack away from home where the press is beaten easier and the centre backs dragged out further on bigger pitches than Loftus Road’s.
Chances are it’ll be a three or four point week, with the win and defeat(s) met by equal levels of total overreaction depending on whether you’re a QPR supporter who likes it when QPR wins, or one of those weirdoes that seems to take sadistic pleasure in their own team losing because it proves whatever grievance you have with Holloway/Hoos/Ferdinand/Fernandes correct and you can on the internet and tell everybody how right you were.
We’ll have to get used to all of this. It’s what finishing in midtable is all about.
Gentle reminder, the club is collecting for the Hammersmith and Fulham Food Bank (Britain, 2017) tomorrow at various points around the ground. If you can bring canned goods (full list of what they want is on the official website) please do.
Les Ferdinand scores one of QPR’s two goals in a 2-1 home victory against high-flying Aston Villa towards the end of the inaugural 1992/93 Premier League season. Bradley Allen got the other.
Team News: QPR have Nedum Onuoha back on the training pitch five weeks ahead of schedule as he recovers from a torn hamstring. James Perch is also back on grass for the first time since dislocating his knee. Grant Hall’s woes worsen, however, with surgery now being considered on his long standing tendonitis issue that would rule him out for the rest of the season according to West London Sport. Massimo Luongo has circumnavigated the globe with Australia for their successful World Cup play-off with Hondurus but did train on Friday.
Villa, who spent £12m on strikers on three separate occasions last season, come into this one with 19-year-old Keinan Davis as their only fit striker – no doubt some coming-of-age double goal salvo story waiting to happen. Jonathan Kodija irritated an existing ankle injury by persistently telling it bad jokes while on international duty with Ivory Ghost during the week. Former Brentford frontman Scott Hogan is having a gastric band fitted and is out for a month. Gabby Agbonlahor has been distracted by a shiny piece of paper. Better news for Gentleman Jack Grealish though – he’s recovered from whatever it is that cocktail waitress gave him and he’s pushing for a first start of the season. And, as we all know, Big Racist John broke his big racist foot last week so we don’t get the opportunity to welcome him back to the ground where he was caught calling a fellow professional a “fucking black cunt” during a match and hammered with a not-in-any-way-inadequate suspension of four whole games.
Elsewhere: Mercantile Credit Trophy roaring back into our lives like it all comes back to Celine Dion. Thank me later for the reminder that Preston Knob End v Relegated Bolton is available for your viewing pleasure this evening. Who needs enemies with friends like this? Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion are playing the Sheffield Red Stripes tonight instead of tomorrow as well – cos they fancied a change.
If you can cope with more, and nobody would blame you at all if you couldn’t, then there are nine matches for you on Saturday, with Tarquin and Rupert hosting the Derby Sheep in the evening TV game.
Sunderland, still without a manager, can set an all-time British league record of 20 consecutive home matches without a win if they fail to get three points against the Millwall Scholars at 15.00.
The Allam Tigers aren’t far away from joining them in full on crisis, with the club’s reprehensible Egyptian owners continuing to antagonise supporters with a series of stunts and the fans responding in kind with protests of increasing ferocity while the team has suffered three straight defeats. This week the Allams agreed to restore concession tickets, which they removed 18 months ago contrary to Football League regulations. A whole £6 will be deducted from OAP and Junior tickets, but only when bought alongside an adult ticket which, guess what, has been increased by £6. Talk to me about your fit and proper owner test again Shaun Harvey, fucking shitgibbon. Ipswich Blue Sox are their visitors this weekend.
Of the early highflyers, Sporting Wolverhampton are at Reading and while The Eighth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour welcomes Brentford. Surprise package Bristol City are away to a Sheffield Owls team underachieving against pre-season expectations. The Champions of Europe and Middlesbrough are the Sunday TV offering.
That only leaves Brum v Nottingham Trees and Borussia Norwich against Barnsley, God bless them and all who sail etc etc.
Referee: Darren England, once a prominent Premier League linesman, is in charge of this one as he continues to make strides in his first full season on the Championship list as the main referee. His first ever game in the middle at this level was QPR’s 2-1 home victory against Cardiff City on this ground last season. Details of that and his recent stats can be found here.
Opta’s QPR supporting editor Jack Supple pitches in with…
QPR: QPR, who lost 1-0 to Villa at Loftus Road last season, haven’t lost back to back home league games against the Villans in their league history. Ian Holloway has lost four of five previous meetings with Aston Villa during his managerial career, drawing the other. Luke Freeman has created more goalscoring chances than any other player in the Championship this season (38). Since making his QPR debut in February, Freeman has provided more assists than any other Championship player (10). Despite that, Rangers haven’t scored more than twice in any of their last 24 matches in the Championship, scoring just 25 goals in the process. The R’s have conceded in 21 of their last 25 matches in the Championship. QPR lost six games in a row on two occasions last season – Villa, and Tuesday’s opponents Derby, both contributed two 1-0 defeats to those sequences.
Villa: Aston Villa have only lost once in their last nine league matches against the Hoops (W4 D4) and beat them twice last season, with both games finishing 1-0. Steve Bruce has won eight of his last nine league encounters against the Hoops (D1). Bruce has won five of six league visits to Loftus Road against QPR, losing the other in August 1999 against a QPR side managed by Gerry Francis. A win for Aston Villa in this match will equal their tally of away wins for the whole of the last league season (4) – the Villans have won three of the last five on the road (D1 L1). Villa have recorded a shutout in four of their last five away games in league competition. Conor Hourihane has had a hand in more league goals than any other Aston Villa player this season (five goals, one assist).
Prediction: Elliot42 topped the Prediction League at the end of October by three points, so goodies from The Art of Football are heading his way – click here to view their QPR Collection. Reigning Prediction League champion Southend Rsss tells us…
“Aston Villa have moved into play-off contention with six wins since mid-September and although they were beaten last time out by Sheffield Wednesday they represent a very stern test for QPR as the R’s look to bounce back from the Forest mauling. I think we’ll come up just short.”
Craig’s Prediction: QPR 1-2 Aston Villa. Scorer – Idrissa Sylla
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 1-1 Aston Villa. Scorer – Idrissa Sylla
The Twitter @loftforwords, @JTSupple
Pictures – Action Images
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