|Blackburn Rovers 1 v 0 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 3rd November 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Too good to check - Preview
Friday, 2nd Nov 2018 18:19 by Clive Whittingham
Steve McClaren has improved the away form, the defence and the clean sheets, but can his new, tougher, QPR side get him a result at an unhappy hunting ground like Ewood Park?
Blackburn (5-7-3, DLWWLD, 12th) v QPR (7-2-6, LWDWWW, 10th)
Lancashire and District Senior League >>> Saturday November 3, 2018 >>> Kick off 15.00 >>> Weather – Cloudy, cold, wet later >>> Ewood Park, Blackburn, Lancs
One of my first editors (imagine having to edit this shit) in my local newspaper days was a quality, experienced master of the art of making 32 pages about Ripley and Belper interesting to the people who lived there. Julie, God bless her for putting up with me, introduced the news room to the phrase “that’s too good to check” for particularly salacious tales about council CEOs we’d heard down the Red Lion and were considering printing single (drunken) sourced. I think that’s where I learnt “if it’s a paedo it’s a leado” as well, before moving to another publication where the editor had a bell on his desk to ring whenever the court reporter called in a local perv that would take up pages one and three meaning we could all go home.
Too good to check is basically industry parlance for ‘why let the facts get in the way of a good yarn?’ Never mind the quality, feel the width. Particularly prevalent in these times of clickbait, fake news and the burgeoning myth that big nasty Queens Park Rangers deliberately and systematically belted Ickle Jack Gwealish out of last Friday night’s match with tiny, brow-beaten Aston Vanilla. The poor loves have been bleating about it all week, conveniently distracting attention away from three defeats in three games for their new manager while simultaneously making it clear to the referee of their match with Bolton this evening that Ickle Jack will squeem and squeem until he is sick if he isn’t awarded free kicks and penalties at the merest hint of anybody daring to venture within 20 feet of his spray on shorts.
Perhaps some shin pads may help? Is it three points John? John? John? He’s not heard me.
Anyway, we’re willing to concede that Joel Lynch did make an attempt on Gwealish’s life midway through the first half, and then loomed over the twitching carcass to check whether it was dead for reasons we couldn’t quite fathom at the time. Joe Lumley calmly let the resulting free kick bounce back into play off the base of the post. Greeno’s ball (#greenosball). I appreciate that didn’t look good, but Villa need to place that in context. Joel Lynch is a bit of a wrong ‘un lads, prone to moments of gratuitous violence, brain explosions, eye-popping pass backs, extravagant crossfield balls, turnstile-like defence, man of the match performances and dire tattoos. Somewhere out there a couple of employees from a secure unit are looking for him muttering about how they knew day release was a mistake in the first place. Don’t judge us by Joel, we keep that guy in a tiny cage and feed him raw eggs for goodness sake.
The actual facts of the case are that Grealish, according to the BBC minute-by-minute text (we have watched it through again ourselves but we were drunk and singing and the neighbours were yelling), was fouled in the sixth minute and then the 29th when Lynch tried to kill him and then the 39th, 44th and 66th. And that was it. I’m not saying he isn’t targeted, because he is – he’s been fouled 74 times this season which is 28 times more than anybody else in the league which tells its own story. But quite apart from this being partly Villa’s fault for playing him too deep, allowing teams to trip him in neutral areas and concede non-threatening free kicks, I didn’t notice any particularly special treatment for Grealish last Friday. In fact, Smith’s case is rather undermined by the facts of the night. Ebere Eze, the second most fouled player in the Championship on 46, was fouled on 23, 42, 51, 70, 72, 73 and 79. Two more fouls on Eze, despite QPR having only 32% possession, than there were on Grealish, playing in a team with 68% of the ball. Who, exactly, is being targeted here?
Doesn’t quite fit Dean Smith’s narrative that though does it? Gwealish is being bullied – too good to check.
Do you know what, even if it was true that QPR had gone after him in a calculated way, which I absolutely don’t think they did, it would be no bad thing. A recurring point about even some of the very good QPR teams, but certainly the QPR teams we’ve been watching in recent times, is they’re too bloody timid. Either because the players couldn’t be arsed, or the team was full of nice quiet boys, we have become a soft touch even by our own mediocre standards.
We all remember going up to Grimsby to see a QPR team with the likes of Trevor Sinclair, Alan McDonald and Andy Impey in it lose 2-0 to a 35 yarder from Tommy Widdrington. We’ve stood in that old uncovered stand at Blackpool, or the terrace behind the goal at Stockport, or that freezer box at Oldham often enough over the years to know that QPR can be the dictionary definition of southern softies, even when sporting players of the quality of Ray Wilkins, Les Ferdinand, Roy Wegerle, Andy Sinton, Clive Wilson, David Bardsley, David Seaman, Jan Stejskal and so on.
But just lately it’s stretched to every away game, everywhere. Indeed, to any vague hint of adversity. When the going gets tough QPR either don’t want to know, or do want to know but aren’t brave enough to put their hands up and ask. It’s why Preston, led by that little gremlin child Ben Pearson, have beaten us religiously. Incidentally, if Dean Smith does want to see a player being genuinely kicked out of a game, The Adventures of Ebere Eze against Preston North End last season might be worth a bedtime watch. Not one for the kids though.
Steve McClaren has already started to tick two of his easy win boxes: QPR weren’t winning enough away games, and weren’t keeping enough clean sheets. Already, as October becomes November, we’ve matched last season’s totals for both. Another was to make us more difficult to play against. Tougher. More street wise. And it feels like we might be making progress that way as well, though we've still folded to West Brom, Swansea and Bristol City already this season.
QPR kept three clean sheets in three games last week and talked a lot about defending their box – Angel Rangel’s fist pump to the crowd after another successful tackle and clearance late in the Villa game potentially a defining moment of the season when we look back in May. The Championship statistics show Rangers at the top of some league tables we don’t usually trouble: headed clearances Toni Leistner (84) and Lynch The Mental (77) are one and two for the whole league, while Massimo Luongo (40) leads in fouls. Lynch (124) is first in the league for “getting rid of the fucking thing”. And it’s been done without resorting to Preston and Pearson levels of shithousery, whatever Dean Smith, and his foul-mouthed mother may think.
Now comes another test of that. Failure to win at Blackburn doesn’t necessarily mean failure overall, particularly with a key figure in the recovery like Geoff Cameron missing, but it would be nice to see a bit of that backbone in evidence again on Saturday - and certainly no repeat of the all-too-recent, all-too-easily forgotten Swansea debacle. Rovers have a good team on paper, even allowing for recent injuries, and have started the season exceeding expectations after promotion. They’ve lost one of 27 at home in the league. It’s also a team we’ve struggled with (no wins in 13 meetings) and a ground we’re without a win on in eight matches dating back to 1999. It has been one of those places where we’ve been pure QPR, often losing in meek circumstances, often conceding crucial late goals, often fannying about with good chances when having periods of pressure. It’s just not been one of those grounds that QPR do very well on, and it’ll be a sign of significant progress if that changes tomorrow.
Systematically kick Dack out of the game like we did Grealish and we’ve got it in the bag I reckon. Mwahahahaha.
Final push for sponsorship of our legendary former player Don Shanks who, at 66, is doing the bloody New York Marathon on Sunday to raise funds for his former team mate and best friend Stan Bowles in his ongoing battle against Alzheimer’s. The effort from both of them deserves your support, however big or small, and you can pledge that here.
Links >>> View from the Pu – October >>> The house that Tony rebuilt – Interview >>> Gallen and Wardley at Ewood – History >>> Shanks a million – Podcast >>> Bankes in charge – Referee >>> Reciprocal interview with Rovers Chat – Interview
Geoff Cameron Facts #10 – In 2002 Geoff invented the world’s first silent Velcro, but he has refused to manufacture the product or sell the patent for fear it will be utilised by military in conflict situations.
Team News: Darnell Furlong is off the long term injured list and back in the travelling party, though the form of Angel Rangel at right back and the defence as a whole means he’s probably going to have to bide his time and wait to get back in. Geoff Cameron, on the other hand, is struggling to recover from the hamstring strain picked up in the win against Aston Villa, so Jordan Cousins and Josh Scowen stand by to replace him at the base of midfield. Or Grant Hall? No, you put your drink down. The rotation of Tomer Hemed and Nahki Wells looks set to continue, toss a coin to see which one he goes with – probably Hemed given the three wins in three games last week. This week’s prize for any sighting of Sean Goss is a free consultation with Harry Redknapp’s miracle working knee doctor – you too can go from not being able to stand up at all to a stint on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here with absolutely no surgery whatsoever.
Blackburn are starting to stack the injuries up rather, with impressive Spanish goalkeeper David Raya the latest to be ruled out with a broken face. Second choice Jayson Leutwiler or youngster Andy Fisher stand by to take his place, though Mowbray has said this week it’s much more likely to be the former despite only making five appearances since singing from Shrewsbury in 2016. Pugh, Pugh, Charlie Mulgrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grubb are on call at the fire station this weekend and Darragh Lenihan faces a late fitness test on a fractured imagination.
Elsewhere:Well, we get a front row seat tonight to see whether Dean Smith’s week-long attempt to influence Championship referees into giving Ickle Jack Gwealish more free kicks/distract attention from him losing his first three games has worked. Big Racist John and The Boys, fresh from kicking Eze off the pitch last week (7 fouls suffered on 35% possession, compared to Gwealish’s five on 65%), are at home to Bolton in the Sky televised thrill fest.
Sky Sports Leeds are showing Leeds, shockingly, at Wigan on Sunday. They’ve also cleared enough schedule space for the Tony Pulis derby between Stoke and Middlesbrough. Also available – tearing your own arm out and eating it.
Some genuinely intriguing ones on Saturday at 15.00. Two in form sides clash at Pride Park as Frank Lampard’s Derby County meet Birmingham City – Frank Lampard’s Derby County lost at lowly Bolton after their last big Leaue Cup exploit so will be keen to avoid a repeat following the midweek near miss at Chelsea. Another Richard Keogh disaster cost them that one, it really is a wonder that bloke is allowed out o the house unsupervised. Brentford have lost all three games since Dean Smith left but will still almost certainly be the best team Millwall have played when they meet in a sort of London derby at Griffin Park.
Paul Lambert gets to work on his Ipswich Blue Sox rescue mission with a tough home game against Preston Knob End who’ve recovered from their own dire start to the season with two wins and three draws from their last five matches. Among the other strugglers, Reading and Allam Tigers both have tough looking home games against Bristol City and West Brom respectively. Rotherham are sliding ahead of their home game with Swansea.
Nottingham Trees didn’t fancy a League Cup quarter final, so made ten changes for a midweek loss at Burton Albion. Let’s see if their rested players do any better against leaders Sheffield Red Stripes than ours did after phoning the Blackpool game in last month.
We round the weekend list off with Sheffield Owls against Borussia Norwich. For those in peril on the sea.
Referee: Peter Bankes from Merseyside is the man in the middle for this one. He was in the middle for the August debacle at home to Bristol City and I’s been quite a turnaround for the R’s since then. Details here.
Blackburn: Rovers’ 2-0 loss to Sheffield United at Ewood Park at the start of October is their only home defeat in the league in 27 games. So far this season they’ve beaten Brentford (1-0, although they were the best side they’ve played), and Leeds (2-1) here while drawing with Millwall (0-0), Reading (2-2), Villa (1-1) and Forest (2-2). Overall, Rovers have only lost three times in the league this season in 15 games but their seven draws is second only to Nottingham Forest. Seven of the teams above them in the league have lost more games, including leaders Sheff Utd with four. They’ve been a bit inconsistent of late though, winning two, drawing two and losing two of the last six.
QPR: Rangers arrive at Ewood Park on the back of three wins and three clean sheets in a week against Ipswich (2-0), Sheff Wed (3-0) and Aston Villa (1-0). That takes them to three away wins and seven clean sheets in the league this season, which equals both totals for 2017/18 after only three months of the season. Only Middlesbrough have kept more clean sheets than Rangers this season, but that nightmare August where 13 goals were shipped in four games continues to hamper the goal difference which still stands at -4. Since losing three in a week in September against Norwich (0-1), Blackpool (0-2) and Swansea (0-3), Rangers are unbeaten in five with four wins and four clean sheets. QPR haven’t won at Ewood Park in eight attempts going back to 1999 and haven’t beaten Blackburn anywhere in 13 meetings.
Prediction: Our Prediction League this year is sponsored by The Art of Football, with prizes available for the Christmas leader and overall champion. Get involved here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s QPR collection here. Last year’s champion Elliott tells us…
“What a night last Friday was. It seemed to all go to plan and didn’t John Terry know it. I didn’t think we’d keep the levels of performance up with it being the third game in six days but we did that and more. A tough trip this weekend to a team that’s surprised quite a few. I predicted a loss against Villa but I’m going to with the same outcome here. I keep saying our run is going to come to an end very soon every week and hopefully I continue to be wrong.”
Elliott’s Prediction: Blackburn 2-0 QPR. No scorer.
LFW’s Prediction: Blackburn 1-1 QPR. Scorer – Luke Freeman
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Pictures – Action Images
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