|Queens Park Rangers 2 v 0 Millwall|
Wednesday, 19th September 2018 Kick-off 19:45
QPR's fragile recovery faces Millwall test - Preview
Wednesday, 19th Sep 2018 11:29 by Clive Whittingham
Now unbeaten in four and with a rare away win under their belts, QPR will hope to kick on with two home games in four days. That starts with tonight's always challenging visit from Millwall.
QPR (2-1-4, LLWWDW, 19th) v Millwall (1-3-3, WLLWLD, 20th)
Lancashire and District Senior League >>> Wednesday September 19, 2018 >>> Kick Off 19.45 >>> Weather – Blowy >>> Loftus Road, London, W12
The two fixtures with Millwall last season, in many ways, highlighted everything that was good and bad about Ian Holloway’s second spell in charge of Queens Park Rangers.
The home game was a riveting watch, one of a clutch of genuinely entertaining games played at Loftus Road in the early part of 2017/18 that saw Reading, Hull, Ipswich, Wolves and Sheff Utd beaten in some style, Brentford and Millwall pegged back from two goals down to draw, and Alex Smithies almost equalising with his head to complete a similar comeback against Fulham. Only Brentford had more shots on goal than QPR in the division last season as Holloway managed to drag enough goals for a comfortable midtable finish out of a strike force of Conor Washington, Jamie Mackie, Idrissa Sylla and Matt Smith. A strike force Steve McClaren took one look at and demanded loan signings. Against Millwall at Loftus Road, Rangers had 30 attempts on goal, one every three minutes, and deserved their point despite the visitors going 2-0 up and playing a big chunk of the game with ten men. The defending wasn’t good enough, but the never give up, never say die spirit that brought an 86th minute leveller for Matt Smith that night also brought important late goals against Hull, Brentford, Wolves and others.
The away match was like eyeball cancer. A weird and wonderful team selection, a listless and insipid performance, an inevitable Millwall goal that would have happened much sooner but for lovely Alex Smithies and then a mind blowing last 20 minutes when QPR attempted to plunder an equaliser against the division’s most direct and physical team by going narrow in attack and punting it long to Matt Smith – like trying to escape from a lion’s cage by waving a piece of raw meat around in the air. Braindead. That performance, those tactics, the ongoing failure to win at all away from home, and Holloway’s all round behaviour on the evening when he responded to goading from fans of his former employer by basically trying to incite a riot – really helpful for those of us who already find the annual palaver in the demilitarised zone behind The Den’s away end after the match a demoralising chore – went a long way towards sealing his fate at Rangers. The final decision to move him on and replace him with Steve McClaren was made a long, long way out from the end of the season when it was announced.
McClaren was supposed to bring greater stability and calmness. He was to continue developing the youngsters Holloway had blooded in the team, and they would benefit from his supposedly renowned coaching ability and a more consistent approach to team selection – no more incidents like Paul Smyth scoring and getting Man of the Match against Sheff Wed only to then be dropped for Preston, or likewise with Bright Osayi-Samuel against Birmingham and then not against Leeds.
That ideal looked pretty ridiculous to begin with, as Rangers made their worst start to a league season in the history of the club culminating in two defeats in four days and ten goals conceded against West Brom and Bristol City. Said youngsters have largely been bombed out – Smyth nowhere to be seen, Samuel regularly benched including at Birmingham when he’d been Man of the Match in the cup against Bristol Rovers during the week, Ryan Manning out on loan at Rotherham. Signings have been demanded, and made, at considerable expense – what Holloway wouldn’t have given for Nahki Wells and Tomer Hemed up front in his team last season.
But there have been some green shoots in the last couple of weeks, and an away win at Bolton on Saturday was achieved in much better style than the 2-1 scoreline suggests. The team selections are consistent, and while there are parts of that which grate (Luongo and Cousins continued selection despite poor form while Manning is tearing the place apart at Rotherham, who are above us in the table) it is clearly benefitting other parts of the team. The back four has gone from a porous mess to something resembling a functioning unit inside a month. Luke Freeman and Ebere Eze looked stilted and out of position when asked to fill in on the wings, but were two of our three best players there at the weekend and scored a goal each. Eze and Joe Lumley are now first choice, which is really something for a club that hasn't brought a regular first teamer through its ranks since Richard Langley and Marcus Bean - though it doesn't detract from the justified disappointment at the lack of action for Smyth and Samuel. Wells looks bloody great, and even went as far as telling The S** today that he thinks we might be capable of a promotion push – steady on Nahki, we’ve all had a drink.
So it’ll now be interesting to see which direction we go in. Millwall, despite their poor results early on, will be very difficult tonight. Their hang em, flog em style of play always poses us problems and while it’s all well and good the defence looking competent against Christian Doidge, Josh Magennis or Lukas Kutkiewicz, and getting very lucky on several occasions against Wigan, let’s see how they cope with the sort of siege Millwall are capable of laying against an opponent’s goal. It’s a really big chance for us, with two struggling sides at Loftus Road inside four days on the back of a win on the road, to kick start the season. And with winnable away games to come in the next few weeks, we’ll also see whether McClaren has solved the biggest problem his predecessor had and never got close to working out – regularly bringing points back to Loftus Road from other grounds. But, equally, they’re games that could re-affirm just how much trouble we’re potentially in this season. It’s a creditable recovery since that West Brom-Bristol City debacle, but it’s a fragile one as well.
I am at least pretty excited to find out, which is more than I could say a month ago when frankly I’d rather have been forced to watch ITV’s Saturday night primetime line up than any more QPR games. See you all there tonight.
Geoff Cameron Facts #2 – Geoff doesn’t want to be fed, he wants to hunt.
Team News: QPR are likely to stick with much the same team as won 2-1 at Bolton at the weekend, though Josh Scowen The Goblin Boy is pushing for a recall from the bench after recovering from his recent knee problem. Mide Shodipo’s thigh strain and Darnell Furlong’s knee operation leave them on the long term absentee list and God knows when we’ll ever see Grant Hall again. Although it is the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur today, we understand Tomer Hemed will play tonight. We’re offering two front row seats at Andy Sinton’s next TED Talk on the power of positive thinking for any sighting of Sean Goss.
Shaun Hutchinson thought the game was Tuesday and has double booked himself, but Millwall have no other injury concerns. Tom Bradshaw is pushing for a start.
Elsewhere: A nice bonus round of midweek action from the Lancashire and District Senior League, to go with next week’s bonus round of midweek cup action from the Zenith Data Systems Trophy, and then another midweek round of league games after that with three Saturday fixtures chucked in between. And then another two weeks off.
More tales of woe for poor, destitute Steve Bruce last night as he was forced to bring on £25m winger Yannick Bolasie as a substitute to get his Aston Villa team over the line with a second goal against the grotesque wealth and swagger of Rotherham United. Rumour has it Bruce is about to spend some more money on a part used Steven Caulker if he can keep him out of the gutter long enough to pass a medical. What can possibly go wrong?
West Brom are up to third after a 4-2 home win against Bristol City, who must have been fearing a QPR-style shellacking when the Baggies went 3-0 up inside 20 minutes. Preston still haven’t won since they beat us on the opening day and were comfortably dispatched 3-0 by the Champions of Europe. Brentford probably should have done likewise to winless Ipswich Blue Sox but missed a catalogue of chances and settled for a 1-1 draw. Stoke got a much needed win thanks to an offside goal from the bravest man in football against Swansea. Even those who attended Derby 0 Blackburn 0 have already forgotten it ever happened.
Five more games this evening including our own. Nottingham Trees are playing Sheffield Owls, presuming Aitor Karanka hasn’t been allowed to continue hoovering up all the professional footballers in the world and Wednesday are still able to field a team as a result. Birmingham look like cannon fodder going to Sheffield Red Stripes but Reading finally got a first win of the season at the weekend and might fancy their chances against Borussia Norwich. Middlesbrough and Bolton promises to be one for the purists.
Referee: Rob Jones from Merseyside is in his third season on the Football League list, and given that he’s already been given this game and the Ipswich v Norwich derby he’s clearly well thought of in high places. Anybody who was there for his decimation of our home game with Preston last year will wonder quite how, particularly Ebere Eze. Details of that and his recent stats here.
QPR: The weekend win at Bolton made it four unbeaten for Rangers in all competitions, three of them wins, and only two goals conceded. It was the first away win in almost exactly six months and nine attempts. Rangers have been better at home, losing only three of 11 going back into last season and winning the last two against Bristol Rovers and Wigan Athletic. They haven’t beaten Millwall in six attempts though, since Gary Waddock managed it with a Marc Nygaard goal in his first game in charge back in 2006. Four of the six meetings since have finished as draws, including this fixture last year – 2-2 with late goals from Mass Luongo and Matt Smith.
Millwall: Millwall’s post Christmas run last year was extraordinary for a newly promoted side. After losing at Norwich on New Year’s Day they went 18 games unbeaten to move to the cusp of the play-offs before defeats to Fulham (3-0) and Middlesbrough (2-0) in the final three games scuppered their promotion ambitions. That string of results contributed to a creditable 7-8-8 away record with the victories all coming after January 20 at Leeds, Reading, Birmingham, Burton, Hull, Barnsley and Bolton. This season hasn’t been so great so far, although to be fair they’d only won one of their first seven by this stage last season when the teams also met at Loftus Road in a midweek game and drew 2-2. So far it’s one win (2-1 at home to Big Fat Frank’s Big Fat Derby), three draws and three defeats in the league, with defeats at Rotherham and Sheff Wed and a draw with Blackburn to show for their away trips. Late goals have also been a problem – they began the season conceding on 87 and 90 to blow a 2-0 lead against Middlesbrough and have since conceded on 73 against Derby, 76 and 85 against Swansea and 89 against Leeds at the weekend.
Prediction: Elliott Cooke (@cookiee42, Elliott42) won last year’s Prediction League to claim the merch from our sponsor Art of Football, and he was spot on with his 2-1 victory call for Bolton at the weekend too. Get involved here or sample the merch from our sponsor’sQPR collection. They’ve kindly agreed to provide prizes to the overall winner AND whoever is top at Christmas. Reigning champ Elliott tells us…
“Finally a correct prediction! I’m expecting a very tough game against Millwall. It’s one of those games that you want to get done ASAP and move on. I think it will be a lively game with both teams probably happy with a point. I’m going to go with an outside chance as my goal scorer. BFG is due a goal and I fancy him to get off the mark against Millwall.”
Elliott’s Prediction: QPR 1-1 Millwall. Scorer – Tony Leistner
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 2-2 Millwall. Scorer – Nahki Wells
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Pictures – Action Images
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