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Preston North End 1 v 0 Queens Park Rangers
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Saturday, 4th August 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Bristol debacle ramps up pressure on Barnsley visit - Preview
Friday, 2nd Feb 2018 18:27 by Clive Whittingham

QPR will hope to continue a 24-match unbeaten run at home to Barnsley on Saturday and keep the relegation battle at arm's length.

QPR (8-9-12, LWLWLL, 17th) v Barnsley (6-9-14, DWLDLL, 20th)

Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday February 3, 2018 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Cold, damp >>> Loftus Road, London, W12

There were a couple of reasons last week’s dire performance and deserved defeat at Bristol City, who played with ten men for an hour, was a proper ball ache besides the obvious.

The first, is what it means for us medium and long term.

Now there is a school of thought, which I think I still just about subscribe to, that Ian Holloway has been handed an incredibly tough job to do at QPR - one that will take time to accomplish to any degree of success, one in which a lower midtable finish this season while vastly reducing the size of the squad and the wage bill would represent progress of sorts. It’s about getting to 52 points as quickly as possible and getting as many players out of the door as we can so there is room in the budget to try and do half a dozen Scowen or Freeman-type signings this summer, and in that scenario there are going to be plenty of defeats and it’s important not to act like the sky is falling in and everything needs to be torn up and started again after each of them. Sacking a manager in September/October/November, as Rangers do all the time, would have been massively counter productive to that, as that’s partly how the squad got so big in the first place – layers and layers of signings made by half a dozen different managers all with different ideals and styles.

But as we draw towards the end of this season we need to see signs that Ian Holloway and this coaching team are the ones we trust with that situation in the summer where some signings can be made. It cannot simply be about balancing the books and getting to 52 points every season, we have to aspire to more than that eventually, hopefully starting next season. The time to be deciding whether we have the right manager in place for it is March, April and May so any potential new man has the summer – rather than giving the summer budget to somebody we’re not sure of and then sacking them early next season. The signings of Freeman and Scowen give hope, and are basically what Holloway has hung his hat on in interviews – give me a chance next summer when loads are out of contract to trade and I’ll give you a team. But performances like last week sap faith.

It saps faith because all those comments afterwards about “not my team”, “worst I’ve ever seen”, “big meeting on Monday” just don’t ring true to anybody who’s followed QPR away from home even semi-regularly since Holloway returned to the club. It absolutely is his team, it plays like that frequently, it loses away from home religiously (five ins, seven draws and 18 defeats on the road since he got the job) and in the case of Bristol City, it lost in exactly that manner just last April – pumping long balls down the field to Matt Smith for Aden Flint to head straight back at us. Even the kick off at the start of the game, before Smith had been desperately introduced, was lofted forward aimlessly onto Flint’s head. QPR did that at Ashton Gate last season, they did at Millwall at the end of January, and they did it again on Saturday. For Holloway to act so surprised, like his team doesn’t do that a lot, like it’s never happened before, insults the intelligence of those who travel to watch the team and doesn’t inspire much hope that it will change in time.

It’s absolutely a difficult situation, and at the moment he’s fulfilling his remit for this season of staying up and offloading players, but when you look ahead to next season we have to believe we won’t simply be back at Ashton Gate knocking long balls up for Flint to head back at us again.

The second, more pressingly, is what it means short term. QPR need five wins and a handful of draws to stay up, and have 17 games left to get them. It’s not a tall order, and despite only winning twice away from home all season the R’s have never been closer than six points to the drop zone all season. You’d never guess it with the amount of “League One beckons” stuff being thrown at the club on social media, but we’ve never been that close to trouble all season. A win against Barnsley tomorrow moves us nine points north of them, and leaves us needing four wins and a few draws between now and May.

But by being so shit away from home, by passing up a real opportunity last week against a team in poor form that was exhausted after midweek exertions and only had ten men, we’re putting what could prove to be intolerable pressure on the home games.

The fixture list, and QPR’s disgusting performances on the road this season, means we’re all automatically writing off everything except Hull and Reading away as any chance of more road points. That shouldn’t matter with a succession of poor sides coming to Shepherd’s Bush, starting tomorrow and continuing with Bolton, Sunderland, Norwich, Sheff Wed and Birmingham. That should be more than enough to get us to 52 points, but as we saw when Harry Redknapp proclaimed all our away games as “bonus matches” and lost 13 of them in a row, it’s very tricky to achieve your aims in any league if you’re only competitive in half your games. It makes the odd surprise defeat or drawn game, which happen to even the best teams, a big problem. Were QPR, who you could kindly describe as fragile, to lose to Barnsley for the first time in 25 games on this ground tomorrow then they go to league leaders Wolves next week on the back of three defeats and suddenly we’re off on another of those runs again.

We need a win tomorrow to calm those short term concerns. For the medium and long term ones, it could do with being a good one.

>Links >>> The Trevor Sinclair goal – History >>> Unbeatable QPR (eSports) – Podcast >>> Harrington gets Barnsley game again – Referee

Highlights from this fixture last season which Rangers won 2-1 thanks in part to a classic Idrissa Sylla goal that flew in from eight yards out after he’d accidentally trodden on the ball.

Saturday

Team News: With the shine fading somewhat from the second Messiah since he opened the scoring at Burton Albion, now seems as good a time as ever to return to the first Messiah who’s recovered from his thigh injury and will hopefully just smash Barnsley and everybody else to bits like he did Cardiff. We should know, we’ve followed a few. Idrissa Sylla is out with a calf injury, David Wheeler is done for the season with a chipped ankle bone, if anybody’s seen Grant Hall or James Perch do let us know. Pawel Wszolek is in line for a return at right wing back with Jordan Cousins still struggling.

Barnsley manager Paul Heckingbottom has signed a new contract with the club this week and added three players on deadline day to try and snap a run of one win from 15 games – the most Scottish name in the world, Oli McBurnie, has joined on loan from Swansea and everybody’s favourite backseat referee Matt Mills joined on a free transfer from Forest. They’ve also added Austria U19 midfielder Christoph Knasmullner on a two and a half year deal from Admira where he’d scored 12 goals in 18 games after stints with Inter Milan and Bayern Munich. A dodgy Wikipedia entry, or another one of those days at Loftus Road? Either way, Dimitri Cavare is on the naughty step for one match so won’t be there to see it.

Elsewhere: Round 2,458 of the Mercantile Credit Trophy is that time of the year when all 68 clubs in the league get to show off the shiny new toys they saddled their balance sheet with on deadline day, starting tonight with a divorce-inducing televised meeting between Bolton, who have got Zak Clough back from Nottingham Trees and somehow raked in £6m for notorious troublemaker Gary Madine, against Bristol City.

It’s Uncle Neil who’s spent the ridiculous sum on Madine – never was much of a spotter of strikers – and he’s added to the squad for the Eighth Annual Farewell Tour’s date with the Champions of Europe tomorrow. Omar Bogle, who QPR were pilloried for not signing in the summer when he went to Cardiff, has been loaned down to Peterborough as a result. Our old favourite Lee Camp has also left Cardiff after just six months to join Sunderland who welcome Ipswich Blue Sox in their latest crucial game at the bottom. If you are nervously glancing over your shoulder expecting another QPR implosion in the closing months of the season then Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion are away to Big Racist John and the Boys, Allam Tigers are at Preston Knob End, Reading are at home to the Millwall Scholars, and Birmingham are at Sheffield Owls.

Up the top end, Sporting Wolverhampton and Sheffield Red Stripes meet ibn the game of the day, with the Derby Sheep ready to strengthen their position in the wake of whatever the result is there with a home game against Brentford.

Tarquin and Rupert v Nottingham Trees and Borussia Norwich against Middlesbrough are also taking place this weekend.

Referee: In an appointment showing a chronic lack of imagination, Tony Harrington is in charge this weekend just as he was for this fixture last season. That finished 2-1 to the R’s, as did his last game with us at home to Wolves in October. Full details here.

Form

QPR: After a better Christmas period which brought three wins and two draws from six league games, QPR have promptly lost two in a row without scoring, conceding five in the process. That included a 3-0 loss to Middlesbrough here last time out which was the fourth home league defeat of the campaign following set backs against Leeds, Villa and Fulham. Rangers do have a fantastic record on this ground against Barnsley though – Rangers have won this fixture ten times in a row and haven’t lost it in 24 attempts dating back to a 5-0 win for the Tykes in January 1950. Three of those 24 games have been drawn with 21 QPR wins.

Barnsley: The Tykes are outside the relegation zone as it stands, currently sitting twentieth, but they arrive on a run of one win (1-0 at Sunderland) in 15 matches in all competitions. Nine of those games have been lost, including the last two both 3-1 to Villa and Fulham. Away from home they’ve won one, drawn two and lost five of the last eight and overall this season they’ve won three times on the road (Sunderland, Burton, Millwall). They haven’t scored more than a single goal in a game in 15 attempts and have been shutout completely in seven of those games. Barnsley are yet to win a game this season having gone behind.

Prediction: The winner of this year’s Prediction League (and the person top at the end of February) 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. Our reigning champion Southend_Rsss, who was unfortunately spot on with his Bristol City call, tells us…

“A very disappointing outcome at Bristol City last weekend. My prediction was spot on, however my heart thought we would at least give it a go. Losing 2-0 after gaining an advantage was a bitter pill to swallow. The two home games against Bolton and this weekend’s opponents Barnsley, will be classified as those dreaded ‘6 pointer’ clashes. There are worse teams than us that will drop this season, however the in game tactics from Ollie need to improve to avoid us becoming sucked in to a fight we just shouldn’t be involved with. I actually think the game against Barnsley will be quite open and entertaining (famous last words) so I’m gonna go for a much needed home win to ease a bit of tension before the tougher upcoming fixtures arrive.”

Craig’s Prediction: QPR 2-1 Barnsley. Scorer – Matt Smith

LFW’s Prediction; QPR 1-0 Barnsley. Scorer – Luke Freeman

The Twitter @loftforwords

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TacticalR added 20:20 - Feb 2
Thanks for your preview.

'There are going to be plenty of defeats and it’s important not to act like the sky is falling in and everything needs to be torn up and started again after each of them'. We all do it, myself included. On the one hand, nobody likes to lose to ten men. On the other hand Bristol City looked a very good outfit, even with ten men, and we don't have a God-given right to beat them.

We struggle against the taller, well-organised teams, particularly on corners as we have trouble defending them against taller players. Also, we tried to pick the lock around the edge of the Bristol City box, and we just don't seem to have a player who can do that in tight games.

I do worry about the impact Smith has on the team. I don't know if it's due to Holloway's orders, or the players lacking ideas, but if Smith's around we go straight into 'boot it forward' mode, and it just doesn't work.
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Myke added 00:25 - Feb 3
The fact that Bolton beat Bristol City tonight is further indication that we were tactically inept last Saturday. It's difficult to completely dismiss Holloways nous when he has masterminded victories over Reading (twice) and Leeds in the past 12 two seasons, but as I have said previously he needs to stop resorting to route 1 to Smith as a 'Plan B'. Fine if you're a goal down with 10 minutes to go and you have exhausted all other avenues, but not otherwise.
Not sure Clive if you are advocating sacking him before the season ends? I can see the logic in that in the sense of getting someone in for the entire pre-season, but it would be horribly risky if we are knocking around the 45 point mark with a handful of games to go - better the devil you know and all that.
Another longer term issue would be if we survived, sacked Holloway and the new man oversaw the ins and outs of ten /twelve players and they didn't gel so we found ourselves back to square one again. I don't think anyone expected Koeman to not be in charge of Everton by Xmas. With the squad he had assembled I thought they were a decent outside chance for the Champions League spot. What I'm saying is there is no guaranteed success whichever way we approach it and I think I'm 'steady as she goes ' with regard to Holloway for the rest of the season anyway.
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DavieQPR added 00:46 - Feb 3
It is up to the DOF if we need loads of new players or to tell a new manager what the boundaries are.What is needed is tactics that work.
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Tomo_5 added 01:34 - Feb 3
If Holloway only read one column a week I hope it's yours Clive, because Ollie might actually learn a thing or two, maybe even realise that tactically he needs a lot of improvement. I've said it many times, Smith is not a good header of the ball. I would be interested in seeing how many headers he has actually converted, I bet it's less than 5%. So for Ollie to rely on putting the ball up to him in hope that he'll do a Van Persie is just crackers.

Wouldn't it be great if you could write our match reports on the QPR website as truthfully and colourfully, wouldn't that be refreshing.

Les might say the owners have made mistakes, but isn't his job to stop them making more? Yes blood the youngsters, but do it with someone who actually knows how to do it....OR get someone in to assist Ollie where it's needed - Like McClaren....
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