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Queens Park Rangers 0 v 1 Norwich City
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 22nd September 2018 Kick-off 17:30
The demon hope returns - Preview
Friday, 21st Sep 2018 19:56 by Clive Whittingham

Two wins in a row has QPR believing again after a dire start, but they'll surely have it tougher against Norwich on Saturday than they did with Birmingham, Bolton and Millwall.

QPR (3-1-4, LWWDWW, 16th) v Norwich City (3-2-3, WLWDWW, 12th)

Lancashire and District Senior League >>> Saturday September 22, 2018 >>> Kick Off 17.30 :-) >>> Weather – Wet and windy >>> Loftus Road, London, W12

Here we go then. Here we bloody well go. Two wins in a row, the demon hope coursing through our veins like smooth, nourishing heroin once more. That’s the problem with winning, and smack… it’s terribly moreish.

A blip, soon to be snatched from in front of our ravenous, success-starved chops? Or the start of something? Not something like a Neil Warnock something, something like a twelfth placed finish as opposed to sixteenth. But something all the same. I’d have taken anything after West Brom away to be honest. Cyanide pills felt like a good option that day.

There are signs both ways. In the throw-off-your-clothes-and-dance-around-Batman-Close column, Ebere Eze. Now I feel like I have to put a huge disclaimer ahead of everything I write about this lad because yes of course he’s only started 35 games of professional football in his life and there are literally thousands of footballers who burst onto the scene early doors and amounted to somewhere between nothing and cocaine addict. Remember Leon Jeanne. QPR are so desperate to see somebody come through the youth set up that we all frequently overblow anybody who threatens to do so – remember my Shabazz Baidoo phase? Or Tom Hitchcock? We all lusted after some weird stuff when we were young.

But with all that back-covering-in-case-it-turns-to-shit out of the way, the boy looks pretty special to me. Sure, there are corpses with more idea of what’s going on behind them than Eze, and he’s taking frequent bollockings about letting men run off him from his team mates. He benefits, particularly when used wide, from having a pair of experienced full backs on either side of our defence as babysitters. But his ability on the ball is something else. He’s got a strong core that makes him very difficult to remove from the ball once he’s planted his feet in that wide stance, and ability on both feet which means he can go either way. He glides past players in an Adel Taarabt way, rather than simply relying on pace to burn them away like a Wayne Routledge type. And like Taarabt he has an ability to draw fouls, often in dangerous areas, frequently at very intelligent times of the match when his team needs a bit of a breather. His game intelligence belies his lack of experience.

Nahki Wells, too, looks the absolute bollocks. You sort of always knew he was good, and whenever you forgot he tended to pitch up in a Huddersfield kit and whop one in the School End net to remind you. I’m not here to jump up and down on Conor Washington’s grave but watching Wells, who is of very similar physical stature, play lone striker on Wednesday night to that standard, against an enormous and physical back four, really did highlight still further how far away from this level of football Washington was. We used to blame Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink for misusing him when he frequently tried to play him alone up front, and that is true, but Wells showed on Wednesday that it doesn’t matter if you’re that good. All of those things that Washington wasn’t good at but you couldn’t quite pinpoint – never quite in the right place, always back on his heels – crystal clear now you’ve seen how it should be done. Interesting to see whether the exuberance and deftness of touch continue once the enthusiasm of playing regular football again and joining a new club wear off. Loan signings can lose interest quickly, particularly if that lack of a goal thing manifests. Intriguing. But wonderful so far. Fringe like a Lego man.

In the ah-steady-now-you-soppy-bastard column, the defence. Now that may seem perverse given the stats – Joe Lumley has kept four clean sheets in five games. But I don’t think we should ignore just how poor Birmingham, Bolton and Millwall all were. If you told me that ends up being the bottom three, even without Brum’s apparent Redknapp tax of 15 points, I wouldn’t be at all surprised. I know it’s a very modern football fan thing to do to keep saying “they were poor” after every game, and the Championship is by its very nature a bit of a basic bitch, but still I’d have fancied myself against Steve Morison on Wednesday night. I like Lumley, I like his angry northern dad yelling, I like his confidence, I like his boisterous celebrations and I like his ability. But he’s a lucky little sod as well isn’t he? That one off the bar on Wednesday case in point. Nothing wrong with being a lucky goalkeeper, better than being an unlucky one, but will it last? And will that defence look quite so good when we start playing better teams than the shambolic park outfits we’ve faced over the past couple of weeks?

I’m not sure where Norwich fit on the Lancashire and District Senior League’s line of mediocrity. I’ve long held the opinion that there’s a bit of an emperor’s new clothes situation going on there, where they’ve hired the sporting director who did so well for Huddersfield and he’s immediately returned to Borussia Dortmund B and brought in David Wagner’s successor and expected the same results, except that Wagner’s freakishly good, and Farke’s a bit crap. They had arguably the outstanding player in the league last year and barely made midtable while losing 4-1 at Loftus Road. But they, like us, have recovered from a poor start to post two wins this week – albeit, like us, against a team of over 80s walking football standard in Reading on Wednesday.

They can’t possibly be worse than Millwall were so intriguing tomorrow to see how the defence copes, where Eze plays and if he and Wells maintain the standards they’ve set in the last 180 minutes, how Norwich set up and play us, whether we can make it three wins out of three and also whether, by 17.30 on a Saturday night, any of us are able to see straight enough to tell.

Links >>> Norwich recovery – Interview >>> Reciprocal piece with MyFootballWriter – Interview >>> Reciprocal piece with Along Came Norwich – Interview >>> Victory for Stock’s QPR – History >>> Bond in charge – Referee >>> Jan Stejskal on the Bannister – Podcast

Geoff Cameron Facts #3 – Geoff Cameron once finished third in a Geoff Cameron look-a-like competition.

Saturday

Team News: QPR have Tomer Hemed back available to start after starting on the bench on Wednesday night due to fasting for Yom Kippur. Whether Steve McClaren elects to put him straight back in and revert to the 4-4-2 system, after 4-2-3-1 worked so well against Millwall, remains to be seen but he may be influenced by Geoff Cameron’s lack of match fitness which makes two games in four days a stretch at the moment. Darnell Furlong is pencilled in for the end of October and Mide Shodipo is sidelined for four months with a torn thigh. This week’s prize for any sighting of Sean Goss is a punting tour of the waterways around Cambridge University with Matt Smith and Tom Cairney.

Onel Hernandez has undergone a hernia operation and is out but Ben Marshall, who missed the midweek win at Reading with a bead stuck up his nose, has had that removed and is available to play. Young goalkeeper Aston Oxborough’s hand has swollen up (dirty boy, it’ll fall off if you keep doing that) so Michael McGovern will travel to cover Tim Krul, who Joe Kinnear discovered. Louis Thompson has returned to training after that unfortunate incident with the polar bear and Ivo Pinto’s post traumatic stress disorder in the wake of the Cromer Carnival has subsided enough for him to also rejoin his team mates, but this Saturday comes too soon for him to face sparse crowds again.

Elsewhere: Imagine your other half’s delight when you inform them that it’s Wigan v Bristol City on your tellybox this evening. Reward them for their ongoing patience with a ticket to Stoke v Blackburn tomorrow.

Now the Football League have finally, rather belatedly you may think, moved to clarify exactly what the punishments are for breaking their latest attempt at Financial Fair Play rules and, it turns out, it’s up to 21 points. First up on the block, naturally, Birmingham City who face losing six points for breaching spending rules, and then a further nine for what’s being described as an “aggravated breach”. Aggravated breach presumably code for hiring Harry Redknapp. Not ideal preparation for their trip to the Champions of Europe this weekend. Sheffield Owls will be fearing similar when they release their third year set of accounts early next year. Already under an embargo, they’re at Aston Villa this weekend who continue to throw good money after bad and brought a £25m winger off the bench to make sure of the points against Rotherham during the week. Those extravagant, rich, big city types from South Yorkshire will hope to recover from that blow away to Nottingham Trees and their cast of thousands.

Middlesbrough 2 Bolton Wanderers 0 sounded good didn’t it? Like being employed as the page proofer at Garage and Forecourt Monthly. Swansea are heading to Tony Pulis’ palace of earthly delights this weekend while Bolton are at Ipswich Blue Sox – and if Ipswich can’t get a first win of the season against them they you really do have to fear for them. Brentford battered them 1-1 during the week and take their promotion push to Big Fat Frank’s Big Fat Derby this Saturday.

What else? Well Millwall Scholars are four defeats in five now after we handed them their cards during the week. Still, at least the locals are taking it well… (stay tuned for the twist at the end, and the guy in the background calling one of their players a “fucking nonce”).

They’re at West Brom this weekend who’ve already put seven through us and four through Bristol City at The Hawthorns so you’d have to fear for them there.

What else do I have for you? Sheffield Red Stripes, trying to decide whether they’re any good or not, against Preston Knob End, who’ve surprisingly only won once.

And I know every Reading game looks like a bit of a ballache on paper but fuck me if you’re going to watch them play Hull City tomorrow you deserve everything that’s coming to you. As President George W Bush once said “fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled a second time”. Who’d ever have thought we’d look back on those as the good old days.

Take care. Martin.

Referee: Darren Bond is our referee for this one, and we got dicked on 5-2 by Nottingham Forest last time he was here. Nothing to do with him of course, but less of that please. Details here.

Form

QPR: Rangers lost their first four league games of the season for the first time in the history of the club, conceding 13 goals in the process. They’ve won three and drawn one of the next four, keeping three clean sheets. Ian Holloway failed to win any of his nine London derbies in charge of Rangers, but Steve McClaren got that first victory against a capital team since Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink beat Fulham in October 2016 on Wednesday night against Millwall. It leaves Rangers with two wins and two defeats from their four home league games this season, as well as a pair of League Cup wins against League One sides on this ground. There have been 14 goals in the last four games between these sides with the home team winning on each occasion. Joe Lumley has kept four clean sheets in five appearances in all comps so far this season. Prior to Wednesday QPR had the worst record in the league for goals scored (five), different scorers (four) and attempts in the area (39), and the second worst for touches in the opposing area (109) and corners won (25). The victory against Millwall boosted those figures, and extended an unbeaten record when leading at half time to 27 games (21 wins, six draws) dating back to December 2015.

Norwich: The Canaries’ start to the season has been remarkably similar to ours, without the 7-1 shellacking in August though of course. Daniel Farke’s side lost three and drew one of their first five with only a 2-0 home win against Preston to show for their efforts. They’ve since won three of the last four, including two games this week like ourselves (1-0 v Boro H, 2-1 v Reading A). They’ve scored at least once in every game so far, bar a 3-0 defeat at home to Leeds. Away from home they’ve drawn at Birmingham (2-2) and Ipswich (1-1), won at Reading (2-1) and Cardiff in the cup (3-1) and lost just the once at Sheff Utd in the very last minute (2-1). Striker Teemu Pukki has been directly involved in five of Norwich's last 10 league goals (four goals, one assist), scoring two of their last three.

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…

“Wow, six points in five days. This is more like it. We looked really good against Millwall, especially in the first half. A settled back five has now resulted in three clean sheets in five which makes such a difference. I hate Norwich, but they’ve scored every away game they’ve played so far so it’s going to be tough. I just cannot see us making it three from three for the week. And I’m not sure I’ve ever known us to win two Sky Sports games in a row. For that reason I’m going to sit on the fence again and go for a draw.”

Elliott’s Prediction: QPR 1-1 Norwich. Scorer – Nahki Wells

LFW’s Prediction: QPR 2-1 Norwich. Scorer – Nahki Wells

The Twitter/Instagram @loftforwords

Pictures – Action Images

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Burnleyhoop added 23:06 - Sep 21
I haven’t seen a player that excites me the way Eze does for a long time. His style and composure is a joy to watch for someone so young and relatively inexperienced. His ability to drift past players is uncanny and he does it in a way that I have never seen before.

The fact that he is doing it in a QPR shirt is fab. He should be filling Loftus road by himself. The number 10 shirt is in very good hands.
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Myke added 23:13 - Sep 21
Corpses who see more behind them then Eze was a laugh out loud moment so cheers for that. Been a difficult couple of days, lost a friend unexpectedly with a heart attack yesterday. Expect a tougher examination of our defence than we got at Milwall when we still looked shaky at times. Lynch missing the ball completely leading to a very stupid yellow from Leistner . Disappointed with some of Rangel's positional sense and distribution too for a man of his experience. Still, as you said, we got away with it, not sure we would again. Going for 1-1 as well
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timcocking added 02:10 - Sep 22
And Eze has a lovely eye for a pass...
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timcocking added 02:13 - Sep 22
Redknapp tax, ha
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jobley added 08:35 - Sep 22
Watched the game back on sky and I’ve discovered a new source of entertainment. Angel Rangel mannerisms. Try pausing your sky box when the opposition take a shot at our goal and he is in frame or watch a replay of him defending or walking away after an attack at our goal. The shaking of the head, the puffing out of his cheeks, the phwoars and shaking of fingers... all done so stereotypicaly Spanish and his face so animated. Makes great viewing for me, especially after the comfort of knowing we have won 2 nil.
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scheza added 08:49 - Sep 22
Best Spot the Goss prize yet. Has the whiff of a future BBC 4 documentary.

Sorry to hear about your friend Myke, hope we get another result for you today.
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francisbowles added 13:50 - Sep 22
Thanks for getting all this material out in such a short time around your other commitments including copious Peroni supping!

Usual high standard and very amusing.

Have you ever considered doing stand up?
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TacticalR added 15:27 - Sep 22
Thanks for your preview.

I agree absolutely with your note of caution about the teams we've played recently. Having already jumped to the conclusion that McClaren was a disastrous appointment I don't really want to jump any other conclusions just yet. I think a huge factor in the morale of the teams in this division is who you've got playing up front, and none of the teams we have played recently have had a lot up front.
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