|Queens Park Rangers 1 v 2 Preston North End|
Saturday, 14th April 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Preston next up in QPR's crazy fortnight - Preview
Friday, 13th Apr 2018 19:27 by Clive Whittingham
QPR have won 4-1, lost 4-0 and won 4-2 in the last two weeks leaving fans unsure exactly what to expect from tomorrow's home game with Preston.
QPR (14-11-17, WDLWLW, 15th) v Preston (16-15-11, LWLLLW, 11th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday April 14, 2018 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Travel – No Overground through the Bush, no District from Richmond >>> Weather – Light rain and wind >>> Loftus Road, London, W12
Well we’ve clearly put our cards on the table now – we’re fully intending to have a bat shit crazy end to the season for the sheer hell of it. Win 4-1, lose 0-4 and win 4-2 inside ten days – such a QPR thing to do. Be 0-0 tomorrow now you watch.
I’ve mentioned this a time or two before but trying to sling 50 of these previews out a season, even when your club is as accident-prone as QPR, isn’t easy. I was bitterly, bitterly disappointed a week ago to see us capitulate in that manner at Hull for so many reasons. It wiped away much of the good work, and hope that we’d learnt a style of playing away from home that suited us, from the Vill and Fulham games. It came against a really poor side, far worse than the Sheff Wed and Norwich teams we wiped the floor with either side of it. It came on one of our longest away trips of the season, skant reward for the loyal 700 who went up there with nothing to play for. It was so unnecessary and preventable, had we picked a proper strike force and not kept passing them the ball. And it hinted at the ‘on the beach’ mentality we see from midtable teams around this time of the season which I so despise – because the bloody ticket prices don’t go to the beach with them do they?
And then four days later we’re 3-0 up and flying inside the first quarter of an hour against Sheff Wed. Everything you want to see, with us on the front foot and attacking from the first whistle, two kids Bright Osayi-Samuel and Paul Smyth ripping into a creaky defence. It leaves you wondering where we’d be if we’d moved to the back four earlier – we’ve won four, drawn two and lost two since the switch and scored four goals at home twice having not managed more than two in a game all season prior to that. And whether people like Smyth and Ebere Eze could have come in sooner. But then maybe it’s working so well now exactly because they, along with Darnell Furlong and Ryan Manning, have been eased in a bit at a time rather than all thrown in together at the start of the season when the pressure was on and everybody thought we were in for a relegation battle. Questions we’ll never know the answers to for certain – unless you’re one of those people that thinks Ian Holloway is an idiot in which case you know for definite, of course.
Despite the sudden goal rush, we need to find a way to keep more clean sheets. The back four looks a lot better than the back three did, and Alex Smithies is still making outstanding saves, but we’re still conceding goals – seven in the last three games despite us winning two of them. This may seem an odd (and probably completely incorrect) thing to say of a team that has recovered a league-leading 15 points from losing positions this season, but there can be a mental fragility about us sometimes.
That stat about almost half (26/61) of the goals we’ve conceded this season coming immediately before or after half time (including six now in first half stoppage time) speaks to that – at important points of matches we’re losing concentration. As does the away record, where Villa and Fulham apart we just don’t look like we believe we can win – Ian Holloway said himself after the win against Big Racist John and The Boys that he’d told the players afterwards they didn’t believe how well they could play. At Hull we were far too easy to score against and even at 4-0 up on Tuesday night we quickly shipped two to a poor side and I would not have enjoyed the closing minutes if they’d got it back to 4-3 – granted these things always look worse and more stressful on TV/stream than in person and sadly I was reduced to that option by a work trip this week. Finding that ‘thou shalt not pass’ attitude that Neil Warnock’s team had in spades down here is a key improvement for next season, we have to make teams work harder for goals against us.
But at home at least, what’s not to like about the way our team is progressing at the moment? I was positive about Nedum Onuoha before Hull and he lost the plot the following day so no overboard praise this week except to say that Smyth, particularly with his goal, and Osayi-Samuel really looked the part against Sheff Wed, just as Ebere Eze did against Norwich. More of the same tomorrow would be lovely – who knows, we may be able to move above fifteenth place.
Highlights of QPR’s crucial 1-0 win in this fixture in April 2007 which went a long way to securing the R’s place in the Championship that season. Dexter Blackstock with the spectacular winner.
Team News: What we know for certain is Nedum Onuoha is out serving game two of three on the naughty step for his Hull sending off, and Joel Lynch has probably turned it in for the season now with his latest hamstring issue. Jack Robinson and Alex Baptiste are likely to continue at centre back although Ian Holloway has been hinting at a farewell run-out for James Perch this week, with his contract not being renewed in the summer. Likewise Jamie Mackie who is feeling his way back from back surgery. Chay Tilt and Ilias Chair are also the latest from the U23s to push for their first team chance. Idrissa Sylla scored twice in the week but may have his place threatened by the returning Matt Smith. Bright Osayi-Samuel and Paul Smyth were brilliant against Sheff Wed but Ebere Eze had done little wrong and could also push for a start. Grant Hall and David Wheeler are the long term absentees.
Preston’s Sean Maguire doesn’t like to come back to London because it reminds him too much of his time on Grange Hill while full back Darnell Fisher is feeling the after effects of a dodgy lamb bhuna.
Elsewhere: Trouble right at the end of the Eighth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour with two successive defeats to promotion rivals coinciding unhappily with Tarquin and Rupert’s storming form – Cardiff now third with a game in hand (at the Derby Sheep) going into their match at Borussia Norwich on Saturday. That gives them a chance to move back into second and apply the pressure to Tarquin and Rupert who play the Saturday evening game against Brentford, who will almost certainly be the best team they’ve faced all season.
Five points back in fourth, Big Racist John and the Boys can temporarily close the gap with a win on Friday against the Champions of Europe which, naturally, is being shown live on Sky Sports Leeds. Plenty going on at the other end of the play-off picture as well with the Sheep clinging onto fifth under increasing duress from the Millwall Scholars who are 16 games unbeaten, into sixth and eyeing further gains when they go to Sheffield Red Stripes Saturday 13.00. Boro and Bristol City, the two teams sandwiched between Millwall and Brentford and therefore the only others with a really realistic shout, meet each other at the Riverside.
See this is actually good stuff. Just a shame we have to wade through 8,674 rounds of stodge over eight months to get to this point really.
Down at the bottom, there are 12 points left to play for for Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion who are seven adrift of safety ahead of their derby match with the Sheep. Must win. Likewise, you would think, for Sunderland, six back with 12 to play for, away at Reading. Barnsley have a more realistic chance of survival, they’re on 37 points, two behind Bolton with a game in hand, and meet Wanderers at home this weekend – Phil Parkinson’s team, with only one away win all season, has set off on a four game losing run at just the wrong time. Birmingham’s win at Bolton in the week has lifted them to 40 points (maybe this is the late play-off run ‘Arry promised while buying 16 extortionately expensive players last summer?) but they’re at title-chasing Sporting Wolverhampton this weekend.
In the ‘wonder why we’re bothering’ sector we have Nottingham Trees v Ipswich Blue Sox, with Mick McCarthy bowing out early during the week, and Allam Tigers v Sheffield Owls.
Referee: Robert Jones made his first appearance at a QPR game last month in the home win against Sunderland, sending off the visiting goalkeeper Jason Steele for an Ademole Bankole-style brain fart straight after half time. He makes a quickfire return this Saturday as he continues to rapidly stack up Championship fixtures in this just his second season on the league list. Details here.
QPR: Trying to pick patterns in QPR’s form at the moment is like trying to knit fog – other than the season-long trend of above average home results and abysmal performances away from home. The last three games have finished 4-1, 0-4 and 4-2 so good God only knows what they’ve got in store for us against Preston. Rangers’ record of 11-5-5 at Loftus Rad is the ninth best in the league, though another win here to take it to 12-5-5 could push it as high as fifth and it’s already better than Derby and Bristol City who are in play-off contention. Only Birmingham and Bolton, however, have worse away records. Rangers have won 15 points from losing positions this season which is the best record in the division. The R’s hadn’t scored more than twice in a home match all season prior to the visit of Norwich but have now bagged eight in 180 minutes at Loftus Road.
PNE: Preston have a very good recent record against QPR – they’ve won the last three, are unbeaten in six, and have kept clean sheets on their last two visits to Loftus Road. Ian Holloway, meanwhile, has won only one of his last 18 games against Preston as a manager, back in 2007 when he was at Plymouth. The R’s have had three players sent off in the last two meetings with PNE, although Alex Baptiste’s came after the final whistle in December. North End won 3-1 at home to Leeds during the week to keep their faint play-off hopes alive. Prior to that thought they’d lost three in a row, four of five and five of eight including defeats to some of the division’s most out-of-form sides – Ipswich, Sheff Wed, Derby and Reading. They’ve won eight, drawn eight and lost only five away from Deepdale this season – only Derby and champions-elect Wolves have lost fewer away games.
Prediction: After leading the Prediction League all season, Elliott42 was finally usurped by JB007007 after Saturday’s loss at Hull with the finishing line in sight. If you’re not in the running you can browse the QPR Collection at competition sponsor Art of Football and purchase something instead. This week our reigning champion Southend_Rsss tells us…
“Well, another prediction blown out of the water by an unbelievably solid start that see us three up after 20 minutes and we could have maybe even got more. Wednesday looked completely shell shocked and it’s just a shame we seemed to ease up. Second half we just seemed to sit back like most teams would have done being three up, then even going four up. If they had got a third goal with five minutes plus injury time to play, I just could have seen them getting a fourth such is the way or results have gone recently. I wouldn’t doubt any outcome in this league anymore.
“Preston had a solid result Tuesday against Leeds and they keep themselves in with a small shout of challenging a playoff place. I reckon they’ll come down here with pressure on them knowing that a win is needed to keep that chance alive. We have nothing to play for and games like this could see us getting turned over easily. However, we are scoring goals for fun at home and it’s certainly been entertaining stuff. All this entertaining football with he season ticket renewal deadline approaching. Coincidence?
“I think we will draw this game. But the way results have gone recently, this game could finish by any scoreline. Another entertaining game please R’s.”
Craig’s Prediction: QPR 2-2 Preston. Scorer – Idrissa Sylla
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 2-1 Preston. Scorer – Matt Smith
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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