|Queens Park Rangers 1 v 3 Leeds United|
Saturday, 9th December 2017 Kick-off 15:00
Holloway hoping history repeats as Leeds visit - Preview
Friday, 8th Dec 2017 23:04 by Clive Whittingham
QPR, five games without a win, face an important home game with Leeds on Saturday - an opponent that always seem to crop up at important times.
QPR (5-7-8, WLLLDL, 18th) v Leeds United (9-3-8, LLWLWD, 8th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday December 9, 2017 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Sunny but freezing >>> Loftus Road, London, W12
It’s rarely been dull when Leeds United have come to Loftus Road in the modern era. The emphatic 4-1 win against Howard Wilkinson’s eventual title winners in 1992 is one of the iconic nights of the Gerry Francis era, and Rangers beat the reigning champions in Shepherd’s Bush the following year as the Premier League came into life as well. A team ahead of its time, with two midfielders converted into attacking full backs much like we see from Pochettino’s Spurs these days, Clive Wilson and David Bardsley were key (the former assisting, the latter scoring) in a 2-1 win in 1993.
Leeds won 4-0 at Loftus Road the year after, a game delayed for some considerable time by pitch invasions against the reigning chairman Richard Thompson and his alleged asset stripping of the club. Darren Peacock had just been sold - and replaced by Karl Ready - with Paul Parker, David Seaman, Andy Sinton and others gone before him. A week later at Sheffield Wednesday - another defeat despite a Devon White special - my grandfather told the young lady who’d started the pitch encroachment that day with a topless (but, crucially, not bra-less) streak across the halfway line that we were “all proud, but disappointed”.
“We want Thompson in” the Leeds fans chanted on their way down South Africa Road that evening. They’d get their wish. The first in a catalogue of questionable boardroom appointments at a club that has been bankrupted by Peter Ridsdale, taken into administration and immediately back out again for his own benefit by Ken Bates, led on a ridiculous circus by Massimo Cellino and much more besides. Leeds’ scandalous dip into admin, which lasted barely a day and saw Bates retake the club debt free costing local businesses a fortune in the process, was overseen by Shaun Harvey, who’d previously done the same at Bradford City, and is now in charge of the whole Football League. Should the much-needed and still insufficient harsher Fit and Proper Owner regulations come into being, Harvey, the league’s CEO, would fail them himself.
Ray Wilkins seemed like a sounder appointment as Francis’ replacement at QPR, when the Rodney Marsh director of football episode finally tipped him over the edge into resignation. There was no other man for the job and he started with a typically-QPR 3-2 home win against Leeds that included a Ferdinand goal, a farcical own goal, a lead surrendered, a nail biting finish, and eventually a win supplied by Kevin Gallen. Wilkins’ 1994/95 conclusion was excellent, and included an FA Cup Quarter Final appearance – Rangers have never been as far since. For 1995/96 he lost Ferdinand to Newcastle, Wilson to Spurs and Bardsley to injury.
The money from the Les transfer was spent appallingly, crucially on Wilkins’ crusty old mate Mark Hateley who arrived for the signing ceremony on crutches, and left Rangers relying on youth team graduates Danny Dichio and Kevin Gallen to replace one of the country’s outstanding centre forwards of the time and keep the team up. One of the finest moments in that attempt, with Dichio at his absolute best, was a 3-1 win at Elland Road, but in the return game on a Tuesday night at Loftus Road a recurring problem resurfaced. Rangers missed penalties that season, big penalties at big moments: Simon Barker drilled over against Middlesbrough, turning a 2-1 win into a 1-1 draw; Bradley Allen shot wide against Chelsea in the FA Cup when Rangers had just got back to 1-2 from 0-2; then Kevin Gallen saw a shot saved by John Lukic from 12 yards as Rangers rallied from the same deficit against Leeds and were attempting to come together at 2-2 once more. Hateley would later briefly escape the relegated Rangers to play on loan for Leeds in the Premier League with similarly meagre returns.
More recently QPR have gone six unbeaten against Leeds. Neil Warnock eeked out a 1-0 win during a caretaker spell in charge which, had his wife not been ill, may have resulted in a permanent appointment. How different things might have been.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s promise of a ruthless pre-season followed by a high press and high intensity season looked like it would come to fruition when Garry Monk’s brave new Elland Road era was skewered on a 3-0 defeat on the opening day of last season. Robert Green’s hopeless flap for the first goal after four minutes seemed symbolic – old, over-paid, big name guard giving way to new, younger, more humble QPR. How on earth was Alex Smithies second fiddle to that clown for the first six months of his career here?
When that dawn turned out to be false another mid-season managerial change occurred, but by the time QPR got to Elland Road last season Ian Holloway’s QPR were playing well, scoring goals and winning games. They’d won four of five going up to Yorkshire, were very unlucky to only draw 0-0 that day, and subsequently beat Rotherham 5-1 the following week. Rather than springboard the club forwards, those results kept QPR up. The team relied on them in the following two months when things collapsed. But at the time, once again against Leeds, it felt like we were really on the cusp of something.
And so we come to Saturday, with the manager under pressure again. Ian Holloway knows all about that against this opposition - dragged off his sick bed into the dugout to prove he wasn't taking the Wolves job in 2004 he watched his in-form side beaten 6-1 at Elland Road.
The news that Nedum Onuoha may return, and that James Perch and Grant Hall are back in training, starts to ease the defensive injury crisis somewhat. But at the back of your mind you wonder whether somebody - however stacked, athletic and fit he may be – should really be back in contention less than three months after ripping his hamstring clean off the bone. Put your manager under pressure and don’t be surprised if he makes uber short term decisions to the detriment of the medium and long term.
Ian Holloway needs another memorable result against Leeds tomorrow. Then he needs it to be significant and pivotal, rather than another false dawn. Good luck Ian, we’re all counting on you.
Full backs Clive Wilson and David Bardsley in full flight here as QPR come from one down (Strachan) to beat reigning champions Leeds 2-1 at Loftus Road – Bardsley and Les Ferdinand with the goals towards the end of the 1992/93 season.
Team News: Light at the end of the defensive injury crisis tunnel comes in the form of Nedum Onuoha, back in full training and in the matchday squad for the first time in three months after ripping his hamstring clean off the bone against Millwall. For all the talk of his super-human strength, miraculous recovery powers etc, that does seem a remarkably quick return from that particular injury – Jordan Cousins hardly played at all for a year with the same thing. We can only hope and pray that the pressure being heaped on the manager isn’t contributing to short term decisions with long term consequences. James Perch is also back on grass after dislocating his knee, and Grant Hall is trying again with contact training – one more breakdown with his tendonitis and it’s surgery which would rule him out for the season. Neither are fit enough for this weekend’s game though, which isn’t ideal with Alex Baptiste’s suspension leaving Jack Robinson as the only other fit, available, senior centre half. Jamie Mackie is also banned after his red card at Preston last week.
Leeds will be without Pablo Hernandez who says it’s far, far too cold to be considering wearing shorts outdoors. Kemar Roofe bloody loves it, he’s planning on replacing him in just a leotard. Eunan O’Kane (wanker’s cramp) is back in contention.
Elsewhere: Now, obviously, the whole thing where the randomly, computer-generated Premier League fixture list has miraculously churned out Man Utd v Man City, Liverpool v Everton and West Ham V Chelsea for the TV companies on the same day – God bless that computer, what a stroke of luck eh? – is just a build up to Monday night’s spectacular between Reading and the Eighth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour. If you cannot stand the wait for any of it, try Sheffield Red Stripes against Bristol City this evening. One would expect Chris Wilder’s team to need a win here or risk losing touch with Sporting Wolverhampton who have a banker with Sunderland tomorrow.
There’s Borussia Norwich against Sheffield Owls and their increasingly unstable manager Carlos Carvalhal tomorrow evening as well leaving nine games for Saturday at 15.00. The Nigel Adkins era at Allam Tigers starts with a visit from Brentford – Adkins has heavily lost his first game in charge of his last three clubs.
Other than that, not a lot to get excited about. Big Racist John and the Boys host Millwall Scholars – although of course Big Racist John is injured at the moment so is back at Cobham, in Chelsea training gear, getting treated there, which is a big show of faith and solidarity in the medical staff at his current employer.
Barnsley are hosting the Derby Sheep, Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion are at home to Preston Knob End, there are 4,000 Birmingham fans heading round Tarquin and Rupert’s gaff for some reason, and Middlesbrough host the Ipswich Blue Sox. Can the revival of Relegated Bolton continue at the Nottingham Trees? And more importantly, who cares?
Referee: Chris Kavanagh is in the middle for this one, his first QPR appointment since the 1-1 draw at Sheff Wed in August. Details here. He’s from Manchester and everybody from Manchester hates Leeds right? Right?
QPR: A run of four defeats and a draw, extended in cruel circumstances at Preston last week, leave the consecutive victories against the top two last month, which lifted QPR to within four points of the play offs, feeling a long way off. Those are now Rangers’ only two wins in he last 14 games. QPR are yet to score more than two goals in a game this season but are unbeaten in heir last six games against Leeds, including four points and no goals conceded from last season’s two meetings. Now eighteenth, Ian Holloway’s side are six points above the drop zone prior to this weekend’s games.
Leeds: Under any of their previous recent owners Leeds would probably be looking for a new manager round about now after a promising start to the season – no defeats and seven wins from the first nine in all comps – gave way to a run of eight defeats in ten games through October and most of November. They looked good in victory at Barnsley and a home draw with Villa in the last two though so come into this game having taken four points from the last six available. Only Cardiff and Wolves (current top two) have won more than Leeds’ five away from home this season – successes at Barnsley (2-0), Bolton (3-2), Sunderland (2-0), Forest (2-0) and Bristol City (3-0) have helped lift the Yorkshire side to eighth despite the recent run of defeats, five points shy of the play-offs. Leeds are on a winless run in London dating back ten games to 2015 (six defeats, four draws). The Whites have lost all seven games this season when conceding the first goal.
Prediction: The winner of this year’s Prediction League will be furnished with goodies from The Art of Football, but if you don’t fancy your chances then you can browse their QPR Collection here and purchase something instead. Reigning champion Southend Rsss tells us…
“A strong performance from QPR at Preston, even more so after Mackie’s somewhat harsh sending off, left us very unlucky to come away without a point to show for the hard work. It’s just not happening right now away from home. Leeds on Saturday will bring a strong away following and a good atmosphere, I’m sure we’ll raise our game for this one. I can see the game panning out the same as the Wolves and Sheff Utd home games did. I’m not sure how we’ll do it, probably be playing an uglier style of football, and I was tempted to go for 1-1 but I’m saying…”
Craig’s Prediction; QPR 2-1 Leeds. Scorer – Idrissa Sylla
LFW’s Prediction; QPR 1-1 Leeds. Scorer – Matt Smith
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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