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Wigan Athletic 2 v 1 Queens Park Rangers
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 2nd February 2019 Kick-off 15:00
QPR head to Wigan while the kids are at school - Preview
Friday, 1st Feb 2019 18:34 by Clive Whittingham

After a host of the club's promising young players departed on loan this week, QPR start a hectic and difficult looking February with a paired down squad for the trip to Wigan.

Wigan (8-5-16, DLLWLL, 20th) v QPR (11-6-11, DDWLLD, 14th)

Lancashire and District Senior League >>> Saturday February 2, 2018 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Frightful, fire delightful, etc >>> DW Stadium, Wigan

Well I hope none of you compulsive gambling types had money on QPR’s U23 side to win their league this season. That team’s going to resemble a creche between now and the end of the season after eight of the mainstays departed on loan this week.

The fact the second string have been doing so well in their division and yet the eight members of it have departed on loan these last few weeks have just 11 starts and 12 sub appearances for the first team between them (mostly in the League Cup) really does highlight the problems created by the lack of a serious, competitive reserve grade competition.

It is, now, fairly patently, a pointless exercise for Aramide Oteh, Paul Smyth and Ilias Chair in particular to keep ripping apart Colchester and Coventry’s kids teams. But with Ebere Eze, Luke Freeman, Pawel Wszolek and Nahki Wells justifiably ahead of them and others like Bright Osayi-Samuel, Tomer Hemed, Matt Smith and Ryan Manning also with them in the queue and no reserve team the only way we can test whether they can cope consistently with grown up ball is by loaning them out.

It’s a less than ideal solution to a problem that shouldn’t exist, but it is at least a good sign that clubs in League One and Two want our young players as opposed to the days of scratching around trying to get them work experience loans deep in the non-league pyramid. Joe Lumley, Darnell Furlong and Eze have all gone onto become first team regulars from similar spells in recent times.

It would take a run of 1996 Millwall proportions to relegate QPR this season, and sadly several missteps since Boxing Day have made the play-offs a distant pipe dream once more. When faced with the same scenario last season Ian Holloway bit the bullet and started picking a host of the kids for the first team with, in the home games at least, some spectacular results. It’s a shame, in many ways, that we’re not going down the same road this season but with McClaren basically going through the season using the same 13 or 14 players every week it’s probably best they all go out and we see how good they are while being booted around by Lower League Defender 2.1. Some (Oteh, Smyth, Chair) feel like they’re playing for spots for next season while others (the lesser spotted Sean Goss, Hamalainen, Owens) are maybe more looking to catch the attention of other clubs for their next move.

It does leave us short though, despite Steve McClaren’s comments today about still having a squad of 23. A number of those are injured, several others have basically played every minute of the season, and in a February that features five very difficult looking league games and potentially two FA Cup ties that’s a big ask. That knockout competition has opened up for a surprise run this season with almost all of the bigger clubs knocked out and being handed potentially two games at Loftus Road for a quarter final place is a moment the club simply must grasp with both hands – by loaning out Oteh they have however left themselves one Nahki Wells injury away from trying to beat Portsmouth and then Premier League Watford with Matt Smith alone up front. One can only hope Wells is indestructible or Tomer Hemed is ready to grace us with his presence again because it would be an unforgiveable shame not to have a seriously big swing at those two cup games.

With that considered, and Portsmouth surely the priority on Tuesday, it makes tomorrow’s trip to a Wigan team in desperately poor form an interesting proposition. It’s cold and up north against a team that’s won two of 17 games which usually means a defeat, but it’s against Wigan in Wigan which for QPR since they started coming here in 2001 has usually meant at least a point – just one loss in eight visits.

One of those that even now, a day out, feels like you’d be wiser staying in the pub than attending.

Links >>> QPR win first visit to Wigan – History >>> A typical Wigan winter – Interview >>> Tracksuit from Matalan – Podcast >>> View from the Pu – January >>> Duncan takes Wigan trip – Referee

Geoff Cameron Facts #24 – During an early career stint at the Wyoming Wizard Sleeves, Geoff restored communication and access to the small town of Fort Laramie by clearing eight tonnes of snow from the road with his bare hands in a single evening.

Saturday

Team News: As if QPR’s team selections under Steve McClaren weren’t predictable enough anyway, the loaning out of eight players from the U23 set up this week makes it even more so. Up front there is now only Nahki Wells with Matt Smith as cover until Tomer Hemed returns later this month. Only Bright Osayi-Samuel remains of the challengers to the regular three behind the striker. There’s more competition for the two midfield spots with Ryan Manning returning from Rotherham and Massimo Luongo back for this game after a stint away at the Asia Cup with Australia. Geoff Cameron is nearing a return there, likewise Angel Rangel at right back, but with Alex Baptiste now at Luton only Grant Hall exists as genuine cover in the middle of the defence without moving Darnell Furlong inside. Mide Shodipo is also back in training after a long lay off.

Wigan have been busy in the January transfer window with former QPR striker Leon Clarke arriving from Sheff Utd, former West Brom centre back Jonas Olsson returning to this country from Sweden, Danny Fox coming in from Nottingham Forest and Beni Baningime arriving from Everton. Anthony Pilkington, signed from Cardiff at the start of the window, starred in the win against Aston Villa and could feature here along with the four new boys after recovering from an ankle issue. Will Grigg had only scored once in his last 14 club games but is denied the chance of a grant from the Queens Park Rangers Charitable Committee by a £4m move to Sunderland – game’s gone mad no.458 in the series. Nick Powell (beard lice) and Gavin Massey (day of rage) are both out.

Elsewhere: Now the Sky-construct that is deadline day is out of the way, it’s back to the more mundane and less important business of actually playing some football matches. Begrudgingly, they’re going to show Preston Knob End against Frank Lampard’s Derby County tonight. Fat Frank doesn’t seem to have quite got the hang of this transfer window malarkey yet having gone in prioritising a centre back and come out with The Marlboro Man emerging from retirement (not fit to start tonight shock) and attacking midfielder Andy King from Leicester.

On Saturday the game of the day is undoubtedly The Champions of Europe at home to Borussia Norwich in the evening, although Spartak Hounslow v Mad Chicken Farmers has the duel attraction of being this weekend’s exciting fixture between two sides beginning with B, and undoubtedly the toughest game Blackburn will have faced all season.

Sheffield Red Stripes will surely take advantage of whoever drops points at Elland Road with a home win against Basket Case Bolton, while West Brom host Middlesbrough and their old boss Tony Pulis.

Bit of a fire sale at Swanselona on deadline day with Tom Carrol (Villa), Jefferson Montero (West Brom) and Wilfried Bony (two bit Middle Eastern nonsense league) all departing and a move for our old relegation specialist Leroy Fer falling through at the eleventh hour. They face a tough trip to Bristol City with their newly stripped down squad. Nottingham Trees have added another couple of signings to the three dozen they made in the summer ahead of their trip to Birmingham.

Steve Bruce is finally back from the cricket and able to turn up for a Sheffield Owls match, which is nice, and cannily timed for a trip to Ipswich Blue Sox. Fellow strugglers Millwall Scholars and Rotherham meet at The Den while Reading host Big Racist John and the Boys. Stoke, who swapped Peter Crouch for Burnley’s Sam Vokes yesterday, are at Allam Tigers.

Referee: Scott Duncan, who awarded a controversial game winning penalty to Sheff Utd at Loftus Road back in August, is the man in the middle for this one. Details.

Form

Wigan: When Wigan beat promotion chasing West Brom 1-0 at home in mid-October it was already their sixth league win of the season marking them out as a surprise package in the division following promotion. But they’d lost a derby game 4-0 at Preston the week before that and since then they have lost 12 of the 17 games they’ve played in all comps, winning just twice. That spell has included two separate four match losing streaks and having looked to have turned a bit of a corner with a 3-0 home win against Villa last month they arrive in this game looking to avoid a third straight defeat after losses to Sheff Wed (1-0) and Forest (3-1) on the road. Almost all of the heavy lifting this season has been done at home with seven wins, three draws and four losses to date compared to just one win, two draws and 12 defeats on the road. Leeds, Derby, Birmingham and Sheff Utd are the four teams to have won here so far.

QPR: Rangers haven’t won a league game since beating Ipswich comfortably at Loftus Road on Boxing Day, slipping from the edge of the play off picture to fourteenth with two draws (Reading H, Villa A) and two defeats (Sheff Utd A, Preston H) either side of an FA Cup win at home to Leeds (2-1) and a draw at Pompey (1-1) last weekend. The Portsmouth replay leaves Rangers nursing seven fixtures in the short month of February – a run that includes league games against four of the top seven sides in the division. Away from home Rangers have won four, drawn four and lost six this season, including a first win in club history at Nottingham Forest. The R’s have a good record historically against Wigan, with eight wins and just two defeats – they’re unbeaten in four games on this ground and have only ever lost one of eight visits, although five have been drawn. They’ve kept clean sheets on their last three visits here for a 1-0 win and two 0-0 draws.

Prediction: Woking R remains two points ahead of DanRanger in our Prediction League after the Preston defeat, despite having predicted a game fewer. The winner gets goodies from our generous sponsor Art of Football. Get involved by lodging your prediction here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s QPR collection here.

I haven’t heard from our reigning champion this week so you’re stuck with me for the last bit and wile Wigan’s abysmal form should give cause for optimism, QPR’s own drop off in January coupled with the obligatory cold afternoon in the north and all the new signings they’ve made makes me a bit nervous if truth be told.

LFW’s Prediction: Wigan 1-0 QPR. No scorer.

The Twitter @loftforwords

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