|Queens Park Rangers 2 v 5 Nottingham Forest|
Saturday, 24th February 2018 Kick-off 15:00
QPR look to banish lasting Forest legacy – Preview
Friday, 23rd Feb 2018 19:21 by Clive Whittingham
QPR will be grateful to be back on home turf after yet another away defeat midweek, but standing in their way is a Nottingham Forest team that did immense damage to their season back in November.
QPR (10-9-14, LLWLWL, 15th) v Nottm Forest (11-4-18, LLLLDD, 17th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday February 23, 2018 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Bright but cold >>> Loftus Road, London, W12
Queens Park Rangers losing to Nottingham Forest in Nottingham is, infamously, nothing new. The very best and worst QPR teams have always lost at the City Ground – this season’s emphatic set back was the fifth time Rangers have conceded four goals there to go with another couple of five goal shellackings. It’s like when David Jason always has to hand his badge in at the end of A Touch of Frost – whatever the circumstances, whatever the storyline, however you think it’s going to end… same outcome every time.
So we’d perhaps be foolish to read too much into the latest debacle by the Trent back in November. We predicted QPR would finish sixteenth this season and they’ve steadfastly kicked around that part of the league for months now, showing few signs of moving very far from it between now and May. They hadn’t won at all away from home before they lost 4-0 to Forest and they’ve only managed it twice since, against two of the worst teams in the league. By all reasonable measurements and standards this is simply how good this QPR team is.
And yet I keep coming back to it in my mind as a big moment for this team and this season. Remember, optimism was high going into that game that this could actually be the one - the first win in that part of the world in 34 attempts. QPR had just beaten big-spending table toppers Wolves, and then their replacement at the summit of the division Sheffield United, in four breathless days at Loftus Road. They were playing well too, with five home wins and two draws from the first eight league games at Loftus Road, and sat just four points shy of the play-off places at that time.
Rangers were playing with good energy, high tempo, finding enough goals to win games despite the obvious deficiencies up front, finding enough within them to win games despite a cataclysmic injury list that sidelined seven defenders all at once. No, they hadn’t won away from home, but they’d dominated Sunderland, Bolton and Barnsley prior to that and missed several gilt-edged chances to win all three, and Kazenga Lua Lua had spaffed an absolute stone cold sitter in the last minute of a draw at Sheffield Wednesday. They weren’t that far off, and with the midfield three in full flight they were pretty decent to watch. I put a late night drunken Tweet out around that time saying if you weren’t coming to watch this team, after years of turning up to watch mercenaries phoning it in under Redknapp and Hughes, then you were missing out. A Tweet that those who like to sit at home and live-Tweet about how terrible games they’re not at are now like to beat me over the head with whenever we lose a game, concede a goal, give away a corner and so on.
We flew at Forest from the kick off as well, looking very strong in the opening minutes, before a sucker-punch breakaway goal from Tyler Walker on 13. Thereafter, it was an absolute Forest onslaught. QPR wilted before our eyes, Forest turned in their performance of the season, the combination of Walker, Kieran Dowell and Barrie Mackay as an attacking three behind a lone striker brutally exposed the spaces that can open up in front of and, especially, to the sides of QPR’s back three formation. It was an absolute carve up. The hottest knife through the softest butter. It was like watching your dad get beaten up.
Something changed in our team that day, and I’m not sure they’ve fully recovered from it. For a start they went from beating the best two teams in the league at the time back to back in four days to going on another six-game losing run, relieved only by the spawniest of spawny draws at home to Brentford.
There have been a couple of away wins since, but given the dire quality of the opposition on both occasions they weren’t exactly excuses to roll the bunting out and parade down the streets of Shepherd’s Bush. By and large the away games have increasingly just been tossed away. QPR simply don’t look like they have the belief that they’re going to win, and often only start playing at all once the game is already lost at 2-0 down and they’ve nothing else to lose other than to chuck a bit of caution to the wind. We’d only really been soundly, deservedly beaten on the road at Norwich prior to Forest, since it we’ve been absolutely out played and deserved nothing from the majority of our road trips – and I count Wolves and Sheffield United amongst those because pulling out all the stops for the last half hour of an away game you’ve quickly gone 2-0 down in isn’t anything to be particularly proud about despite it being repeatedly spun that way.
The home form has held up – QPR’s home record is the same as the teams sitting fifth or sixth, so if we could patch up the away results to the tune of just three or four more wins we’d be right in there. But the performances haven’t really. I appreciate the position the team and the manager are in, needing to put points on the board and keep that relegation zone at arm’s length while only having half as many games as a normal team to do it in. By and large, they’ve done that very well, with dogged wins to nil against Bolton and Barnsley recently perfect examples. But the confident, high-tempo, entertaining displays that started the season against Reading, Ipswich (both much more comfortable wins than the scorelines suggested), Wolves and Sheff Utd haven’t been repeated. Hopefully if another couple of wins are posted and safety is assured we can relax and get back to that, because QPR were good to watch at home in the first few months of the season.
Whether this has all been a direct cause and effect of that afternoon at Forest, QPR have seemed to lack belief in themselves since then. We’re still in ‘any win will do’ territory at the moment as the Trees, under new management and in lousy form, come to Loftus Road for the return fixture. But it would be nice, and somewhat fitting, if Rangers could get back to the confident, entertaining, wins they were producing before the City Ground debacle on Saturday.
Les Ferdinand scores the first of two hat tricks in three days in Easter 1993 as QPR beat relegation-haunted Nottingham Forest 4-3 at Loftus Road in the first season of the Premier League.
Team News: QPR will hope to have Jack Robinson back to bolster a defence that looked decidedly ropey on Tuesday night but Grant Hall is probably done for the season along with fellow long term absentees Jamie Mackie and David Wheeler. Ryan Manning is back from three matches on the naughty step but Idrissa Sylla continues to be troubled with a calf problem. Ian Holloway has hinted at a start for Paul Messiah Smyth.
Forest have young defender Joe Worrall back in the squad but striker Apostolos Vellios and former QPR loanee Michael Mancienne have got the shits. Full back Eric Lichaj is grounded and striker Daryl Murphy remains lost at sea.
Elsewhere: Although Sporting Wolverhampton (who play Tarquin and Rupert in the game of the weekend on Saturday evening) look like they’re going to run away with the division from a position 12 points clear, it’s looking like a genuinely thrilling end to this season’s Mercantile Credit Trophy on three other fronts.
The Eighth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour has a four point gap to Big Racist John and the Boys, five over the Derby Sheep and eight over Tarqers and Rupers but with 758 games left to play that can soon be eroded, particularly with Cardiff’s historic choking tendencies. Then just four points separate Bristol City in sixth from in-form Brentford in tenth with Sheffield Red Stripes, Preston Knob End and Middlesbrough all in the mix for the six.
The Red Stripes go first this weekend with a Friday night game at struggling Allam Tigers. Then on Saturday it’s Brentford away at the Champions of Europe, Preston at home to Ipswich Blue Sox, Big Racist John at Sheffield Owls and Middlesbrough at lowly Sunderland. Cardiff face Bristol City in a big derby game on Sunday lunchtime and the Sheep play Reading.
Plenty going on at the bottom as well with four points separating hapless Sunderland who are now dead last from Birmingham who are fifth bottom despite a 5-0 shellacking at Griffin Park during the week – still waiting for that late run to the play off’s ‘Arry promised the chairman after spending an eye-watering sum on 16 new players back in January. Just above, both on 33 points, Reading and Bolton are four points clear of the drop zone and there’s still some potential for Nottingham Trees (who haven’t won in six) or Sheffield Owls (who’ve been a farce all season) to get sucked in from their position of 37 points. If you follow QPR via Twitter you’ll be convinced that they can be sucked back in from 16th and 39 points too.
Other than those games already mentioned involving those clubs we have a big six pointer between two teams beginning with B – Birmingham and Barnsley – and Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion, fresh from a midweek win, host in-form Millwall Scholars. Bolton are at Borussia Norwich. Watch out too for games in hand on Tuesday with Allam Tigers playing Barnsley in a real six-pointer while Reading host the Red Stripes.
It can actually get quite interesting towards the end, you just have to wade through nine months and 7,000 fucking games to get there.
Referee: Although he booked eight in our defeat at Middlesbrough in September, a season high, we rated Darren Bond highly at the Riverside. His return to QPR action gives us a chance to recycle a terrible headline as well, so all good. Details here.
QPR: Defeat at Sheff Utd in Tuesday, in exactly the same manner we lost at Wolves before that, further set in stone a pattern that, looking at the fixtures, could well continue right through to the end of the season now – win at home, lose away, repeat. Rangers have won three and drawn one of the last five home games, including victories in the last two without conceding a goal. Away it’s four defeats and a draw from the last six, including defeats in the last three. Rangers have won eight home games this season which is the same as Fulham and Bristol City in fifth and sixth. They’ve won only two away games though, the bottom two have won three and third bottom Burton have won five. Only Bolton have won fewer on the road. Sheff Utd’s second goal on Tuesday came during a witching hour that has plagued Rangers all season – rangers have conceded 14 goals between the 40th and 55th minute of games this season including four in first half injury time and six between 50 and 55.
Forest: Aitor Karanka arrived at Forest in the wake of a fabulous 4-2 FA Cup win against Arsenal under caretaker manager Gary Brazil but they’ve been in freefall since with a shock 2-0 win at Wolves their only success in eight games. In keeping with the Spaniard’s desperately dull spell at Middlesbrough, Forest have scored just three goals in ten games and have been shut out in eight of those. They arrive at Loftus Road on a run of six without a win which included four straight defeats prior to two recent draws with lowly Burton and Reading. They’ve won four, drawn three and lost nine on the road this season but that win at Molineux is their only success away from the City Ground in ten attempts. Only Sunderland, Birmingham and Bolton have conceded more than Forest’s 27 goals away from home this season – they’ve conceded three goals or more away from home on four occasions not counting a cup hammering at Chelsea.
Prediction: This is the final round of predictions before our latest prizegiving, and it continues to be neck and neck between our pre-Christmas winner Elliott42 and JB007007 – one will be furnished with goodies from The Art of Football next week. If you’re not in the running you can still browse their QPR Collection here and purchase something instead. This week our reigning champion Southend_Rsss tells us…
“Well not the result we all wanted at Sheffield United. Our away form really needs to be dissected and assessed at great length come the end of the season. However other results went our way and to be honest I can’t see us being in trouble come the end of the season anyway. Looking at the form guide recently over the last five games, we win at home and lose away. Forest on the other hand are 5 without a win. I really hope that over the last few days there has been a moment that the players have remembered what happened at the City Ground and are eagerly up for making amends. We owe them one after the display up there. I want to see us win this one and I hope I see us win this one. I don’t think it will be a win by the same margin. But I’m going for a revenge win nonetheless.”
Craig’s Prediction: QPR 3-1 Forest. Scorer – Conor Washington
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 1-1 Forest. Scorer – Paul Smyth
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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