|Queens Park Rangers 3 v 0 Ipswich Town|
Wednesday, 26th December 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Merry Christmas my R's - Preview
Tuesday, 25th Dec 2018 16:05 by Clive Whittingham
Fresh (or perhaps not) from the weekend heroics at Nottingham Forest, QPR could do a very un-QPR thing and capitalise on the position that win has placed us in by registering another against the league's bottom side Ipswich on Boxing Day. Could.
QPR (10-4-9, DDLLWW, 10th) v Ipswich Town (2-9-12, LLLLWD, 24th)
Lancashire and District Senior League >>> Wednesday December 26, 2018 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Cold, overcast, dry >>> Loftus Road, London, W12
Best laid plans and all that. I am, indeed, once again, writing a sodding match preview on Christmas Day.
Still, could be worse. Back in my local newspaper days lucky reporters had to work shifts on Christmas Day, primarily to keep ringing round the maternity wards on patch to find out if any babies had been born on the big day. One of those local paper staples I never quite got my head around that one. I mean, quite apart from pissing off overworked midwives who were already having to work a normal shift of their own with the added irritant of the nervous local hack ringing them every couple of hours to ask if anybody from a certain post code had dropped a sprog yet, what exactly is the point? Are we expecting the second coming of Christ to occur in Derby Royal Infirmary?
It’s a time of year for reflection, so Her Maj reckons anyway, and we’re turning for home in the Lancashire and District Senior League as well. Twenty three games completed, exactly halfway, and our first return fixture against lowly Ipswich at Loftus Road on Boxing Day. A chance to post a sixth successive win against Town on this ground, a chance to win three games in December for the first time since Luigi De Canio was manager, a real chance to move into genuine play-off contention at home to a team that’s won only two games all season.
But, after the heroics of Saturday, a real chance for QPR to get back to being QPR again by stuffing it all up. Form and performances are on the up, but the body count is mounting with Joel Lynch’s annual bout of tinselitis added to Geoff Cameron, Tomer Hemed and Angel Rangel’s long term absences and Mass Luongo’s impending departure to the Asia Cup. At the time of year when you want to have fresh options the most, QPR’s squad is stretched as tight as it has been all year, with only really Bright Osayi-Samuel offering a realistic option as a genuine new starter from Saturday’s bench. Paul Smyth, we hear, is heading out in January, possibly on loan to Peterborough whose director of football Barry Fry watched him play for our U23 side in a recent game at Ipswich.
There’s a happy medium to be struck between Ian Holloway’s tombola machine team selection and asking the same 11 players to try and do 46 league games in nine months and if there is a criticism of Steve McClaren, it’s that we haven’t quite found that medium. No surprise really that Geoff Cameron (33) and Angel Rangel (36) are the long term absentees is it really? Having been asked to play every single minute of every single game. A real relief to see Josh Scowen The Goblin Boy back up to his 2017/18 levels of ratty bastardness at Forest on Saturday, because he’s going to be needed. Jordan Cousins, too, much maligned was excellent in midfield against Boro and as a makeshift right back on Saturday. He’s never once, through a mixture of players ahead of him and his own fitness, been able to string a run of games together in his favoured central midfield position. Out of contract in the summer, deeply unloved by a lot of the support, I still hold a candle for that boy. Big, big chance coming up for him in his favoured position with Luongo and Cameron both away and a transfer embargo in place.
It’s interesting looking back at the preview I wrote for the corresponding fixture at Portman Road (honestly, it is, go with me on this) and just how downbeat it was. QPR subsequently won three times without conceding a goal that week to catapult them up the table and transform the mood and feel of the season.
At the time the overriding theme and question was ‘what exactly is the point?’. We assumed, possibly still correctly, that this was to be another season of kicking around in the middle of the division. Paying big money to loan in experienced ‘name’ players we have no chance of ever signing permanently to accomplish that, while younger players we do own and who were playing last season slip away down the pecking order, seemed like the wrong direction to be going in. Essentially, we seemed to be existing purely to keep Steve McClaren in a job for as long as possible. The boredom was real.
Since then things have changed. First and foremost, QPR are in with a shout of play-off involvement, particularly if they do happen to knock off Ipswich and Reading at home this week – very unlike us but not beyond the realms of possibility. But secondly, if it is to be another midtable season, we’re looking pretty good doing it. There have been genuinely thrilling wins against Sheff Wed, Villa, Brentford, Middlesbrough and now Forest since that piece was written. Darnell Furlong’s return to fitness and fine form lifts us to three youth team graduates starting games – having failed to bring through three first team ready players from our junior ranks in 15 years prior. If you are going to be a midtable side the least you can do is play in an entertaining way – which we are – and bring kids through – which we are to a certain extent. It’s why Ipswich, despite the disaster it’s turned into, were still right to ditch Mick McCarthy’s annual stupefying grind to a lower mid-table position playing football you wouldn’t go in your back yard to watch.
It’s an intriguing second half of the season stretching out ahead of us now, as opposed to the monotony I was expecting/fearing. Another big sign of progress would be us avoiding our usual ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’ routine in these next two games.
Merry Christmas everybody.
Geoff Cameron Facts #17 – While captaining the Milwaukee Marmosets earlier in his career, Geoff ate Christmas dinner at four separate team mates’ houses so as not to offend, then scored the winner on Boxing Day against the Grand Rapids Gophers with a headshot in overtime.
Team News: Joel Lynch continued his record of never having played for QPR between December 20 and 30 by sitting out Saturday’s win at Forest with a dead leg. He’s now missed 14 of the last 25 games he should have been available for between those dates over the last ten years at Rangers, Huddersfield and Forest and is – shock of all shocks – rated as a doubt for this one too. Angel Rangel, Geoff Cameron and Tomer Hemed are the long term absentees. Despite the glut of games, Rangers are likely to be unchanged but it will be interesting to see if players like Bright Osayi-Samuel or Aremide Oteh get minutes as McClaren tries to rest some of his troops with four matches in little more than a week. Paul Smyth is expected to join League One Peterborough on loan as soon as the transfer window opens, however. We’re offering two copies of the Lonely Planet Guide to The Ten Best Christmas Holiday Destinations, signed by Joel Lynch, for any sighting of Sean Goss.
Former Bristol Rovers striker Ellis Harrison was given a first start since September by Ipswich against Sheff Utd on Saturday and responded by scoring their goal so is likely to be retained up front for this one.
Elsewhere: A Dean Smith side losing points from a winning position? Wellety, wellety, wellety. Would you believe it? Big Racist John and The Boys surged into a 2-0 lead against the Champions of Europe on Sunday only to end up beaten 3-2 in injury time. Villa missing star man Jack Grealish who is out with… wait for it…. a shin injury! The shocks just keep coming don’t they, first Joel Lynch injured at Christmas and now this news that the little boy who’s insisted on playing in the Championship with his socks rolled down to show off his legs is out with a shin injury. I’d not so much buy him a pair of shin pads for Christmas as beat him to death with them if he was mine. Swanselona away for them on Boxing Day with Leeds now top and at home to the Mad Chicken Farmers.
Nottingham Trees haven’t scored for three matches now after our historic win at the City Ground at the weekend, and Aitor Karanka has responded by saying they’ll definitely have to spend yet more money on yet more players in January after their summer tactic of trying to sign every player in the professional game thereby depriving opponents of enough bodies to fill their team sheet only got them as high as seventh. They face a tough trip to Borussia Norwich this Boxing Day, who are second after a weekend win against Blackburn.
That’s a lesser spotted fixture between two teams beginning with N and there’s an exciting clash between two beginning with W as Wigan Warriors go to West Brom. Of the other play-off contenders, Boro host Sheffield Owls who took the unusual step of sacking their manager on Friday night last week and are apparently all set to welcome Steve Bruce as the new man in charge shortly. Odd one for him to take, given the transfer embargoes and FFP issues in play there. Frank Lampard’s Derby County go to Sheffield Red Stripes in arguably the game of the day.
In a week of stunning surprises, Preston Knob End’s angelic total football enthusiast Ben Pearson was very harshly sent off at Hillsborough at the weekend for hacking an opponent down at the knee. PNE have rightly appealed that so Pearson will be available to continue his one man wrecking ball routine at home to the Allam Tigers.
Spartak Hounslow got an actual win at the weekend to go with all their pretend ones – buoyed by that 1-0 thrashing of high-flying Bolton they’ll travel to Bristol City in high spirits for this round’s exciting fixture between two teams beginning with B. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they were the best side Bristol City have played this season.
If you’re going to Bolton v Rotherham, or Millwall Scholars v Reading, examine your life choices immediately. Even Birmingham v Stoke looks palatable in comparison.
Referee: Na na na na. Na na na na. Whey hey hey. Keith Stroud.
QPR: If Rangers can win either this one, or the weekend game here against Reading, it will b the first time they’ve won three times in December since Luigi De Canio beat Burnley A 2-0, Colchester H 2-1 and Watford A 2-4 in 2007/08. They haven’t won four matches in December since beating Sheff Utd H 1-0, Tottenham A 2-1, Leicester H 4-2 and Chelsea A 0-3 in 1974. The 2-1 win against Middlesbrough here in our last home game made it four wins and a draw from six matches at Loftus Road, with that irritating 3-2 misstep against Hull the only loss. The clean sheet against Forest was Rangers’ first shut out in eight attempts – they’d conceded 12 in the previous eight games but had kept three clean sheets in a row immediately prior to that including the 2-0 win at Ipswich in October. Rangers now have eight clean sheets for the season, which is one more than they managed in the whole of 2017/18 – they’ve also already won one more away game than they managed all of last season as well. QPR haven’t won on Boxing Day since Adel Taarabt’s humiliation of Joe Allen in 2010.
Ipswich: Ipswich haven’t been in the third tier of English football since 1957 but they’re currently bottom of the Championship with 15 points, four away from the safety line. They come into this match on a rare patch of decent form, with a win against Wigan and draw with high-flying Sheff Utd in their last two matches, but the Wigan success was only their second victory of the season as we reach the halfway stage of the league. Away from home they’ve won one, drawn two and lost eight, scoring eight and conceding 22 – only Millwall have a worse record. They’ve lost four of their last five away games without scoring a goal, with the 2-2 draw at Reading the only deviation in that run. Town have lost their last five visits to Loftus Road, with the last two both finishing 2-1 to QPR.
Prediction: Congratulations to DanRanger who held off the challenge from DerbyHoop to top the Prediction League at Christmas – we’ll be in touch this week about your goodies from our generous sponsor The Art of Football. It’s tight at the top though so still plenty of time to overhaul Dan and be crowned overall winner in May. Get involved here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s QPR collection here. Reigning champion Elliott tells us…
“After doing the impossible away at Forest, you’ve got to look at these next two home games and think we have a real chance of picking up more points. Ipswich are as bad as it comes this season but that could be the problem. We seem to struggle when teams don’t come at us and we have to initiate attacks. I do think we’ll have too much for the Tractor Boys though.”
Elliott’s Prediction: QPR 2-1 Ipswich. Scorer – Nahki Wells
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 2-0 Ipswich. Scorer – Nahki Wells
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Pictures – Action Images
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