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Posh Tommy aims to banish jigsaw nightmare on Loftus Road return - full match preview
Posh Tommy aims to banish jigsaw nightmare on Loftus Road return - full match preview
Friday, 11th Sep 2009 09:53

QPR return to action after a fortnight off when Peterborough United, Tommy Williams and all, come to Loftus Road on Saturday hunting for their first win of the season.

Queens Park Rangers (15th) v Peterborough United (21st)
Coca Cola Championship
Saturday September 12, Kick Off 3pm
Loftus Road, London, W12


It is a moment still talked about in the Shepherds Bush pubs and QPR message boards to this day. Square it Tommy, square it, SQUARE IT YOU FOOL. Alas, poor Tommy did not square it, Paul Furlong did not get his tap in, and QPR were made to endure half an hour of extra time before a last minute winner went in at the other end. Neither Tommy Williams nor QPR have ever been back to a play off final since that grey day in 2003 when Cardiff City beat the R’s in Cardiff by a single goal to nil.

Both Rangers and the player, who was on loan at Loftus Road at the time from Birmingham having impressed against us for Peterborough the season before, are now playing at the higher level they aimed for that day anyway but the pain of seeing Williams skip round two Cardiff defenders on his way to the byline only to skew a hopeless shot wide when a simple pass would have resulted in a winning goal for a Rangers legend still burns bright. No doubt Williams will be subjected to a frosty reception in W12 on Saturday although Rangers fans would do well to remember that he was actually a pretty successful loan signing for us that season, and in 2003/04 in the promotion campaign.

Williams always looked to be a player with great potential and while the odd jibe about jigsaws (falls apart in the box) or chocolate (melts in the box, I know, somebody stop me) would perhaps be understandable I’d advise against winding him up too much as he did look very good against Crystal Palace last week and will be extra keen to impress this weekend in his attacking left back role against one of his former clubs.

That game against Palace finished 1-1 sending Peterborough into the international break, and subsequently this match, still searching for their first league win of the season following promotion. QPR avoided a similar fate by scraping a narrow 1-0 win against a poor Scunthorpe side at Glanford Park and players and coaching staff have all spoken this week about the importance of winning home matches as two eminently beatable sides prepare to visit Loftus Road in the next four days. QPR must banish their past trait of gifting teams on bad runs that much needed morale boosting win against the Posh this Saturday if they are to kick on and push up the table.

For me personally it will be nice to be back in a real football ground watching real football. International football bores me at the best of times but when plans for an article on goalfood.com led me into a bizarre 15 hour football marathon last Saturday that included, in the middle of the night, Paraguay v Bolivia I have to admit I was ready to force my own eyes out of their sockets with a tea spoon just to prevent the torture going on any longer. I didn’t think it was possible for me to be bored by football, it turns out I was wrong. Hopefully this clash between two of the Championship’s more attractive sides will rekindle the fire in me - if not, writing match previews and reports for seven games in the next three weeks is going to be something of a ball ache.

Five minutes on Peterborough
Recent History: I think it was at London Road that QPR fans were first treated to a chorus of “you’re not famous any more” following our relegation back in 2001. Rangers were abysmal that night, crashing to a 4-1 defeat against a tidy looking Posh side. By the time Rangers had returned to the Championship in 2004 Peterborough had lost many of the promising young talent that destroyed the R’s three years earlier and were on their way down to the bottom division once again under the increasingly unpopular guidance of larger than life manager Barry Fry.

Fast forward to 2006 and Peterborough were thrust into the national media spot light as the subject of a Sky One “documentary” called ‘Big Ron manager’ where another larger than life character (it’s kinder than saying idiot) Ron Atkinson breezed into the cash strapped club to “trouble shoot” the team. The problem was, Peterborough didn’t really need ‘trouble shooting’ just the £100k fee from Sky for making the programme. Yes, Mark Wright had been sacked by the club for gross mis-conduct in January for alleged racist remarks made to a staff member (Wright has always denied this) but Peterborough, under his replacement Steve Bleasdale, were looking a good bet for the League Two play offs, if not one of the three automatic slots.

Bleasdale fell out repeatedly with Atkinson; over the appointment of coaches, potential signings and his presence in the dressing room. Footage of players brawling between themselves was aired, as was poor behaviour from the likes of Sean St Ledger. Peterborough’s form nose-dived, Bleasdale walked out with two games remaining, the top seven was missed altogether and Big Ron wandered off into the sunset. By that time Fry actually owned the place, but regularly said the club was permanently on the brink of financial ruin and was almost impossible to run. Few could blame him for taking the £100k to make the programme, even though Swindon Town had earlier seen the warning signs, stopped the filming after four weeks and asked Sky’s camera crews to leave.

Ultimately, though not for Bleasdale who did not come across well in the show, the programme turned out to be a master stroke. Property tycoon Darragh MacAnthony saw it, bought the club, and has since bankrolled intelligent squad building a successive promotions into the Championship. MacAnthony is a bit like an Irish Simon Jordan - pink shirt, aviator shades, forthright opinions, but no tan. He persevered with lower league long ball merchant Keith Alexander for a while at first, before appointing Alex Ferguson’s son Darren in January 2007 since when Posh have won two promotions in 18 months to take their place at this level for the first time in 15 years.

Rather than spend big on players from higher divisions Peterborough have achieved great success in plucking stars from the non-league game. Craig Mackail-Smith and Aaron McLean scored 40 league goals between them last year as the Posh won promotion from League One and the pair of them were snapped up from Dagenham and Redbridge and Grays Athletic respectively. George Boyd came from Stevenage Borough. Peterborough are a very attractive side to watch under Ferguson, getting the ball wide early and delivering quality into the penalty area, but have started the season slowly to the manager’s clear irritation. He has made it clear, with no wins from their first five league games, that he will not tolerate being known as an attractive football side while not picking up wins.

Although the tip came from Chris Kamara and is therefore about as reliable as Smooth Jimmy Apollo’s ‘Lock of the Week’ Peterborough were backed in the Sun this year to win the play offs, and a third successive promotion into the Premiership. That looks fanciful as things stand a month in but it says much for the quality and reputation of the team, the manager and the chairman at London Road these days. They will be dangerous opponents in this league once they find their feet.

The Manager: When MacAnthony took over Keith Alexander was the manager of then League Two side Peterborough, but even when he had Posh high in the table the fans were not overly keen on the shamelessly direct and physical style of play that took his Lincoln side to the play offs, unsuccessfully it must be said, on four occasions. Alexander was sacked in winter 2006 after a run of six straight defeats and replaced by Darren Ferguson who had been a steady player for Wolves and Wrexham and, of course, is the son of Sir Alex. Overseen by Barry Fry and backed by Irish money Ferguson has built an exciting young team at London Road through good knowledge of the lower leagues and has consecutive promotions in his first two full seasons in charge to his name. Ferguson’s achievements have not gone unnoticed with QPR just one of many clubs to be linked with a move for the Scot - such suggestions prompted threats of legal action from Ferguson against the tabloid newspapers that made them. At the moment he seems to realise he is better continuing to build a reputation at a small club with big money to spend, rather than make the Paul Ince mistake of going too high too soon, but Peterborough will surely struggle to hang onto him if their recent success continues.

Ferguson senior is not known as a likeable man, and his son has that same steely glare and no-nonsense attitude that has served Fergie so well during his time at Aberdeen and Old Trafford. Before last week’s televised match with Palace Ferguson admitted to clashes with MacAnthony but while the pair seem to share a fiery relationship it has so far proved to a be a fruitful one for Peterborough.

Scout Report: Peterborough are quite an old fashioned team in style in that they rely on getting the ball wide early and putting quality crosses into the box. It’s a tactic we are seeing less and less at the top end of the game. They are well set up for this with quality wide players like Williams, Boyd and Rowe to choose from however they are a very small team with no conventional target man in attack and while the quality of the crossing against Crystal Palace from both open play and the inswinging corners they use was outstanding, Palace were able to deal with most of it comfortably either with headed clearances or commanding goalkeeping. Initially against Crystal Palace Peterborough’s attacking intent came almost exclusively down their left flank. Tommy Williams did far more attacking than defending from left back and stayed very tight to the touchline while George Boyd often cut inside from left wing to form a three pronged attack with Mackail-Smith and McLean. Williams put in several good crosses that Palace keeper Speroni did well to field and also possesses a long throw which they tend to look to play into the chest or feet of McLean at the near post. He’s a small man but has a decent leap and good upper body strength so can do that job. When they did go down the right Shaun Batt showed tremendous pace and power and opened the scoring with a typically direct run – there’s not a lot of skill in his game, just raw pace and a kick and rush style that may expose Borrowdale’s lack of speed. They looked ropey and lacking in confidence at the back, without a genuine leader and all too keen to retreat right back to their own 18 yard line when under pressure.

Three to Watch: While Peterborough’s strikers Aaron Mclean and Craig Mackail-Smith deservedly attracted most of the headlines and speculation during the meteoric rise through two divisions the player I always rated the highest at London Road was left winger George Boyd. Having sat and watched them for the first time as a Championship side against Crystal Palace last week I have seen nothing to change my mind.

Boyd, a tall hairy lad, was signed by Peterborough in 2007 from Conference side Stevenage for a fee of £260,000 – a record amount paid for a non-league player in this country. As well as a sweet left foot that enables him to produce superb crosses from the left flank (a rare talent in the British game) Boyd has also developed an eye for goal since being released by Charlton as a teenager. He can easily play as a centre forward and when I saw Peterborough last weekend he regularly cut in from the left flank to provide much needed height to the Mackail-Smith and McLean forward line. Scored 25 goals in 120 games for Stevenage and has 34 in 133 for Peterborough since moving. Recently called up to the Scotland B squad after manager Darren Ferguson tipped the selectors off to Boyd’s grand parents from north of the border and George Burley (if he’s still in charge this morning) has a great player on his hands there – one I am sure will be playing in the Premiership in the next three years. Peterborough look to him at every possible opportunity and he is the main threat to us.

With McLean, Mackail-Smith and Boyd at their disposal, and Shaun Batt not looking half bad against Palace either, you would have thought another attacking wide player would have been fairly near the bottom of the Ferguson shopping list this summer. Nevertheless their most astute signing during the break, in my opinion, was winger-turned-striker Tommy Rowe from Stockport. Prior to the latest cash crisis at Edgeley Park Rowe, a former Man Utd trainee, was an impressive figure in Jim Gannon’s team that won promotion to League One via the play offs 18 months ago. The baby faced looks mask an already accomplished player who I was disappointed QPR were not at least having a look at before he was snapped up by Peterborough taking advantage of County’s spell in administration. Once he has found his feet at this level I expect him to be a really top quality performer.

That just leaves our old friend Tommy ‘jigsaw’ Williams - so called because he falls apart in the box. QPR fans remember Williams for one thing and one thing only – him skipping round several Cardiff defenders in the play off final only to poke a tame shot wide when a simple squared pass would have resulted in a tap in for Paul Furlong and all night rave/riot in the Welsh capital. If it is possible to look beyond that Williams was always quite a reasonable player in my opinion. He ripped us to pieces playing for Peterborough against us at London Road in 2001 when we lost 4-1 and was pretty decent for us during his spells on loan as well. A spell with Birmingham did not work out but he was in flying form in an attacking left back role, regularly overlapping Boyd to great effect, when I saw Peterborough against Palace. No doubt the usual suspects at Loftus Road will give him a rough reception but I shall refrain, and hope we can deal with his forward runs and crossing better than Palace did – possibly by making sure Wayne Routledge sees plenty of the ball to keep him going the other way where he is not so strong.

Links >>> Peterborough Official Website >>> Peterborough Message Board

History
Recent Meetings:
The last time these teams met QPR were heading for promotion from the third tier and Sky Sports were in town to cover the game live. Rangers were heavy favourites to beat lowly Peterborough but were poor in the first half at Loftus Road and the visitors took a deserved lead through Clive Platt just before half time. QPR manager Ian Holloway made three early switches in the second half but wa then almost immediately robbed of the services of Clarke Carlisle through injury. Carlisle, despite barely being able to move, went up front for nuisance value for the final half hour and it was his flick on in stoppage time that sent Kevin Gallen through for a toe poked equaliser that would prove to be crucial come the end of the season.

QPR: Culkin, Forbes, Gnohere, Carlisle, Padula ,Rose (Cureton 59 ) Bircham, Palmer (Johnson 60) McLeod, Gallen, Furlong (Thorpe 59)
Subs not used: Sabin, Marney
Goals: Gallen 90
Booked: Culkin

Peterborough: Tyler, Newton, Burton, Legg, Arber, Jelleyman (Williams 25) Thomson, Jenkins, Woodhouse, Clarke (Farrell 75) Platt
Subs not used: Kanu, Logan, Willock
Goals: Platt 44
Booked: Woodhouse (Peterborough)

QPR were below par in the corresponding fixture at London Road as well – lucky to escape with a goalless draw despite playing against ten men for the thick end of an hour. Former Palace defender Sagi Burton was the man sent off after half an hour, but Rangers rarely looked like taking serious advantage and Peterborough were good value for their point.

Peterborough: Tyler, Gill, Arber, Burton (sent off 29) Legg, Newton (Willock 79) Woodhouse (Jelleyman 48 ) Thomson, Farrell, Clarke (Kanu 34) McKenzie
Subs not used: St. Ledger, Logan
Bookings: Burton, Legg

QPR: Day, Barton, Forbes, Palmer, Padula, Rowlands (Ainsworth 72) Bircham, Bean, McLeod (Sabin 73) Gallen, Furlong (Thorpe 49)
Subs not used: Carlisle, Culkin
Bookings: Bean, Forbes, Palmer

Head to Head:
QPR wins -9
Draws -8
Peterborough wins – 6

Previous Results:
2003/04 QPR 1 Peterborough 1 (Gallen)
2003/04 Peterborough 0 QPR 0
2002/03 Peterborough 0 QPR 2 (Langley, Carlisle)
2002/03 QPR 2 Peterborough 0 (Gallen 2)
2001/02 QPR 1 Peterborough 0 (Thomson)
2001/02 Peterborough 4 QPR 1 (Palmer)
1990/91 Peterborough 1 QPR 1 (League Cup)
1990/91 QPR 3 Peterborough 1 (League Cup)

Links >>> Match Report Archive >>> Big Weekend >>> Betting Preview

This Saturday
Team News: QPR are without in form defender Fitz Hall and young striker Angelo Balanta who have both picked up grade one groin tears in training. Martin Rowlands is back in contention for the first time since he injured his ankle on the opening day of the season and Magilton is set to give a full QPR debut to ben Watson and a home debut to striker Jay Simpson who both arrived on loan right at the end of the summer transfer window. Heidar Helguson withdrew from the Iceland squad on Wednesday as a precuation and is a doubt for this game with knee problems. Lee Cook is a long term absentee.

Peterborough have winger Chris Whelpdale back in conrention for the first time this season after he made a scoring return from a hernia operation in the reserves midweek. Jamie Day also impressed for the second string and will also travel to London with the squad.

Elsewhere: The Championship returns from a two week international break with a full round of fixtures this weekend and then again on Tuesday night. The televised game is on Sunday lunch time, Cardiff v Newcastle (yes, again) sandwiched in between two Premiership matches. There are some attractive looking fixtures, Sheff Wed v Forest and Preston v Swansea for instance, but few standout games. Second from top West Brom welcome third from bottom Plymouth to The Hawthorns and with defender Marcel Seip, one of Plymouth’s best players, fined and transfer listed for breaching club discipline it is clear that Paul Sturrock has an unhappy camp on his hands which does not bode well for a team that looks quite poor on paper anyway. If you’re doing an accumulator this weekend, stick West Brom on there as a banker.

Referee: We have another newbie this weekend as Oliver Langford takes charge of a Championship match for the very first time. Obviously this is his first QPR match in this his second year on the FL list, however he has taken charge of Peterborough before. The Posh drew 1-1 at Crewe last October with Langford in charge, a game they led until the 88th minute before conceding.

Links >>> Dean Sturridge Memorial Injury List >>> Arthur Gnohere Discipline Counter >>> Tony’s Championship Preview >>> Langford moves into Championship >>> Referee League

Form
QPR: QPR finally got their first win of the season in the league at Scunthorpe a fortnight ago, just before the international break. That was their first away win since January. Despite much hand ringing and teeth gnashing over the perceived poor start to the campaign for a team with play off aspirations Rangers have actually only lost once this season in all competitions - 1-0 at Bristol City when they had the chances to have won. They were unfortunate to only draw with Blackpool and Plymouth and lucky not to lose to Nottingham Forest and Accrington Stanley who they took a draw and a win from respectively. The 5-0 first round cup win at Exeter is the obvious anomaly. QPR’s home form needed to be good last season with only relegated Charlton winning less on the road, 12 wins and seven draws would certainly stand the R’s in reasonable stead if they can replicate it this term. Rangers have only won seven of the 33 games Mikele Leigertwood and Gavin Mahon have played together in for 45 minutes or longer.

Peterborough: Beware everybody, Peterborough are yet to win in the league this season. Like QPR Posh have won many plaudits for their style of play but few points for their results, o the frustration of manager Darren Ferguson. Normally in these circumstances QPR die on their arse for no good reason whatsoever and treat the opponent to three easy points, possibly as a charitable act. This is their third away game of the season in the league and they have already lost 2-1 at derby and 2-0 at Preston, they did win 4-0 at Wycombe in the league Cup though on the same night we stuck five through Exeter City in the same competition. At London Road they have drawn 1-1 with Sheff Wed and Palace and lost to West Brom 3-2. As well as the Wycombe win they have another success n the knockout competition - a 2-1 home win against Championship rivals Ipswich who did miss a penalty that would have put them 2-0 up before half time before they went on to collapse in the second half. Peterborough ended last season with just one defeat from their final 12 matches as they went on to secure promotion behind Leicester City. They won 12 and drew five of their 23 away matches in the league last season, a formidable record.

Prediction: Despite the inconsistent performances and the fact we are playing a team yet to win which usually means catastrophe I just think we should have too much quality on the pitch against Peterborough not to win. Players will be playing for their places against Chelsea as well and even when I thought Peterborough would do reasonably well this season I could not see them getting much joy on the road. I’ll add my curse to the ancient Chinese proverb ‘team on bad run rook for QPR in fixture wrist’ and back us to win.
QPR 2 Peterborough 0

Links >>> Championship Table >>> Total Form >>> Home Form >>> Away Form >>> Prediction League >>> Fantasy League

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