|Preston North End v Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 4th August 2018 Kick-off 15:00
About that pitch invasion - Preview
Friday, 27th Apr 2018 16:43 by Clive Whittingham
QPR's final home game of the season sees Birmingham, still needing a point to be sure of survival, visiting and the local jobsworths getting busy about Rangers' 'traditional' end of season pitch invasion.
QPR (14-11-19, LWLWLL, 16th) v Birmingham (12-7-25, WWDLLW, 20th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday April 28, 2018 >>> Kick off 15.00 >>> Weather – Dull overcast >>> Loftus Road, London, W12
It’s difficult to argue against the pinnacle of Ian Holloway’s first spell in charge at Queens Park Rangers was the League One promotion, achieved on the final day of the season at Sheffield Wednesday, and the remarkable seven match winning streak that followed at the start of the following Championship season. But for many of us nothing will ever quite beat the play-off semi-final the year before, when Oldham were beaten 1-0 by a late Paul Furlong goal.
That was some night under the lights at Loftus Road that one. A steamy, early summer evening with a packed house, an atmosphere few of us had ever experienced at Rangers before and have arguably never felt again since. A night when we knew the recovery was real, when we knew we were on our way back, when victory was achieved through sheer collective will of everybody in the ground that night bar the away fans. The noise when the goal went in was biblical. Rarely have we felt as strong and together as a club. It was glorious.
When you think back to that night and start listing the memories, Furlong’s goal and Chris Day’s wonder save apart, a good few of them are after the final whistle. Furlong sinking to his knees, redemption complete, from Chelsea wanker to local hero in six months. Gino Padula, who’d started the season in the reserves, dancing in front of the R Block, now a cult hero. The suspended Richard Langley with his video camera running after Day shouting “what a fucking save”. Ian Holloway on the microphone, when he was upbeat and playful and funny. None of us ever wanted to leave. I’m surprised I’m not still there now. If ever you wanted to freeze a moment in time.
And do you know who wasn’t out there? Us lot. To a man, woman and child we were still in the stands. Despite the barren years, despite everything it meant, despite the outpouring of emotion, despite the sheer unbridled joy of it all, there was no mass invasion of the pitch at full time, and the experience was all the better for it – the players able to celebrate with us long after the final whistle. If ever a moment called for a pitch invasion it was that, and yet we wanted to enjoy it with the team, so we behaved ourselves bar a handfull of people right on the whistle who were quickly returned.
So, do tell me again about this supposed “tradition” of running on the pitch after the last match of the season.
I’ve had a moan about this minor irritation before. The embarrassment of seeing grown men charging onto the pitch under some weak excuse of it being “for the kids”. The cringe of people rushing to surround mediocre footballers to ruffle their hair and demand items of their clothing. The pity for people so devoid of thrill in their lives that they want to go and stand behind a police line and make wanker signs at 1,500 supporters of another midtable Championship side. There is barely any need for this when we have achieved something – it still grates that the Championship trophy never made it all the way around the pitch in 2011 because those who’d already seen it selfishly re-invaded the pitch after it had gone past them denying half the ground the chance to see it up close and thank Neil Warnock and his players for winning it for us. But when you’re fifteenth in the league and the season has been over for months, it makes us look like mugs.
But that’s all it has been really – a minor irritation. Something else to have a bit of a moan about, fill out some more copy, tick another week off on LFW.
This season it’s a bit different. The club has been told in no uncertain terms that this pitch invasion, tradition or not, has to stop, and if it doesn’t then there will be a five-figure fine coming our way and potentially a reduced capacity for the final home game of next season with the front rows of the stands all the way around the ground fenced off. For clarity, it’s not the league or the FA threatening this, it’s the police and the local authority, and while Paul Morrissey’s tannoy announcements pleading for people not to go on the pitch are usually a source of some comedy, this time it’s serious business.
Heaven forbid we go into the last home game of next season needing something to get in the play offs or stay out of the relegation zone and find that 2,000 seats are fenced off. Remember the bleating from people who couldn’t get tickets to that Leeds game and imagine how much worse it would have been if the front three rows were fenced off. And at a time where money is tight and getting tighter, do we really want to be chucking money that could be used to strengthen the squad for next season into the pot for the local authorities’ staff Christmas party? If you complain about a declining playing budget and then deliberately do something you know could damage it further you’re a rare deep water moron.
Whether you think it’s a tradition or not, whether you think it’s fair or not, whether you think it’s for the kids or not, whether you think QPR are being unfairly picked on for something that happens up and down the country at this time of season, and whether you think the authorities have got a point or are just being a bunch of jobsworth’s with nothing better to do with their time… isn’t really relevant this time. We can cope a lot easier with not going on the pitch than the club can with the consequences if we do.
QPR secured their first away win of the season, their first away win at all in 18 attempts, thanks to two Jack Robinson goals at St Andrew’s in December.
Team News: It looks like we’ll be getting a first sight of boy wonder Joe Lumley in goal this Saturday after he was recalled from a loan spell at Blackpool early. Matt Ingram sustained concussion giving a penalty away at Brentford last week so must sit out for a mandatory seven day period and Ian Holloway has been keen to give his other goalkeepers game time in he final few games with Alex Smithies ever present prior to that. Lumley kept nine clean sheets in 18 games for Blackpool in League One.
With the World Cup beckoning and a place in Australia’s squad virtually assured, Massimo Luongo has been given his annual leave early so that he can return to pre-season training as soon as possible after then tournament. Holloway has been hinting at gametime for Ilias Chair for sometime so he may fit into Luongo’s spot. Nedum Onuoha returns from three games on the naughty step for what could be his last appearance for Rangers at Loftus Road. Jamie Mackie and James Perch are also leaving this summer and may be granted gametime by way of a farewell. Joel Lynch, Grant Hall and David Wheeler are all out.
Birmingham’s Craig Gardner is expected to recover from swimmer’s ear in time to play.
Elsewhere: I would have stuck my whole house on the Eighth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour including a win at the Derby Sheep during the week – particularly with the bad blood over the postponed fixture, Derby’s recent form and penchant for choking, and Cardiff taking the lead. Players breaking Warnock’s golden rule of not playing around at the back cost them dearly and they’re now in a straight two game shootout with Tarquin and Rupert for second spot. Tarquers goes first, against relegated Sunderland tonight, then Cardiff have Allam Tigers away tomorrow. Next week it’s Reading at home for Cardiff and Birmingham away for Fulham. In six of the last seven years, the points total they’ve both already achieved would have been enough for promotion.
Everybody down to eleventh still has a play-off shout, although it’s more than likely two from Boro, Derby, Millwall and Brentford to join Big Racist John and the Boys and Fulham or Cardiff in the end of season shoot out. Big Racist John and the Boys are playing Derby Sheep this weekend giving the rivals around them chance to make ground on the loser. Boro, one point ahead of Derby in fifth on 72, play Millwall in the Saturday evening game – Millwall are seventh on 69 points. Brentford will undoubtedly be one of the best teams Barnsley have played all season, but the Tykes need a win to stand a chance of escaping relegation after losing their game in hand at Nottingham Trees during the week. Preston Knob End on 67 points and Sheffield Red Stripes on 66 need snookers, and are playing each other this weekend. Bristol City also have 66, and they’re at the Trees.
Sunderland are already gone, and they’ll be joined by Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion if they lose this weekend. They are at home to Bolton though who have only won once away all season and are just two places and two points ahead of the Brewers. Winner stays up there? If Burton were to do it it would be three consecutive wins at this level for the first time in their history, at exactly the right moment to escape. Reading still mathematically not quite safe on 43 points host Ipswich Blue Sox.
The rest of it means nothing to anybody so quickly rattling through Borussia Norwich v Champions of Europe and Sporting Wolverhampton, already champions, against Sheffield Owls.
Referee: Stephen Martin is our referee this weekend, his fourth QPR appointment of the season which gives us another chance to flog that Stephen Martin = Steve Martin joke again here.
QPR: It’s four wins, four defeats and two draws in the last ten matches for QPR, though they’re more consistent than that scatter suggests – they tend to win at home (11-5-6) and lose away (3-6-13). The R’s have scored 35 goals at home this season which is more than anybody else in the bottom half apart from Hull (41). The defeat to Preston last time out at Loftus Road snapped an unbeaten run of four at home that included three wins and ten goals scored. Rangers haven’t kept a clean sheet in eight since beating Sunderland here and have only kept seven in the league all season. Ian Holloway’s side have only won four away matches since the turn of last year, but two of those were against Birmingham at St Andrew’s.
Birmingham: Although Birmingham are twentieth and looking reasonably secure in this division for next season, five points clear of the drop zone with two to play, they have lost more matches than anybody else in the league this year. Their 25 defeats puts them behind three of the four teams below them who have lost 22 and Burton Albion who have lost 24. They are one of only two teams (Burton being the other) with a worse away record than QPR having won three, drawn four and lost 15 on the road this season – Reading, Sheff Wed and crucially Bolton are their away wins to date. A run of seven straight defeats through February and March looked like curtains for the Blues until they won three in a row after Garry Monk arrived to climb clear of the drop zone, and they’ve maintained that cushion with a further draw and a win in the last four games, including from behind against Sheff Utd 2-1 last week.
Prediction: A correct score prediction at Brentford last week looks to have pushed Elliott42 over the top of this year’s Predicition League sponsored by the Art of Football. You can view their QPR Collection by clicking this link. This week our reigning champion Southend_Rsss tells us…
‘Well here we are then. The last home game of the season. Playing a Birmingham side that need a point to guarantee Championship football next term. We don’t have anything to play for and that’s shown with some tinkering over the past few games. It would be nice to sign off the season by winning at home in what’s been a pretty decent return from games at HQ. We normally roll over for teams that need something. But I really hope we put them to the sword and that other results go against them. Nothing personal, just makes the last weekend of the season more interesting. A spirited performance from us.”
Craig’s Prediction: QPR 3-1 Birmingham. Scorer – Idrissa Sylla
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 1-1 Birmingham. Scorer – Ebere Eze
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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