|Millwall 0 v 0 Queens Park Rangers|
Wednesday, 10th April 2019 Kick-off 19:45
Same old QPR, new and improved – Preview
Wednesday, 10th Apr 2019 15:16 by Clive Whittingham
After one win from 16 matches QPR, under the caretaker charge of John Eustace, will really start to eat into the cushion between them and the bottom three for real if they turn in another shocker at fellow strugglers Millwall this evening.
Millwall (10-10-19, LLWDLW, 20th) v QPR (12-8-20, LDLDLL, 18th)
Lancashire and District Senior League >>> Wednesday April 10, 2019 >>> Kick Off 19.45 >>> Weather – Sunny, breezy, cold after dark >>> The Den, Bermondsey
What do you say? What can you say? I’m genuinely scared. What are they going to do next? What are they going to do next?
On the pitch, it’ a team now in complete freefall, descending through the air at such a rate it’s starting to whistle. The excuses and valid reasons for the failures in February have evaporated leaving only a disastrous March now bleeding well into April. I wrote around the time of the desperately unlucky home defeat against West Brom that one problem this QPR team has is it needs to be absolutely brilliant to win at this level. Everybody has to be on it, no passengers, every player at their absolute maximum, just to get a 1-0 or a 2-1. Apart from the gimmes against Ipswich the only times we’ve really been comfortable in a win this season were the home games with Sheff Wed and tonight’s opponent Millwall. A trip to The Den, of course, a different kettle of angry fish. We’re not even capable of, for instance, lasting five or six minutes with ten men – as was the case against the Baggies when Luke Freeman had to go off. It doesn’t take much for us to cave. And that’s not ideal right now, because even the best case scenario is the players are so sapped and miserable by this elongated run of horror shows - that did in fairness take root through a series of bad luck and freaky occurrences - that they’ve nothing left to give. It’s a team that needs to be firing on all cylinders to win, but how do they do that when they’re absolutely bereft of confidence, belief and energy? Totally spent.
And that’s the best case scenario. The worst is there’s something more sinister going on here. The team selection for me tonight will be absolutely fascinating – in all likelihood the most interesting bit of what looks a certain away defeat. The last time they left Toni Leistner out we were 4-0 down to Birmingham before half time and had to bring him on from the bench for the second half. To suddenly do that again last week at home to Bolton, and lose, and repeat it again at Norwich regardless, and lose in shambolic circumstances, seems very odd to me. Leistner is the club captain, signed last summer on a three year deal, and he’s sitting on the bench while Joel Lynch, who’s into his thirties and out of contract this summer, is picked to start regardless of what must be his worst run of personal form in his whole career. Responding to criticism on social media post Norwich Leistner said words to the effect that what’s going on at the moment “has nothing to do with professional football” – caught out in a second language trying to say the standards the team is setting aren’t good enough for a professional side, or a suggestion that the reason for these odd team selections aren’t football related? If, after that Norwich debacle, Leistner is left out again tonight, it’s going to set tongues wagging. Likewise the ongoing preference of anybody they find walking past the ground on any given day to Bright Osayi-Samuel. Why are Tomer Hemed, Nahki Wells, Ebere Eze and Pawel Wszolek picked constantly, regardless, while Samuel has to beg and steal a start while looking like our best player when he does get out there? These players aren’t going to make much difference – if any. But the way the team is being picked of late is odd.
As, really, is sacking Steve McClaren to leave John Eustace in caretaker charge. What exactly is the point? I guess caretaker appointments are supposed to be short-lived and temporary by their very nature, and almost always go to the assistant or next in line, whoever’s standing close by at that given moment, so rarely attract a lot of thought or comment. But sacking McClaren to leave his man in temporary charge knowing he’s not in the running for the job and going to be out on his ear shortly as well could go down as one of the worst calls they’ve made yet. Any hope that he’d been sitting there for weeks privately agreeing with the reservations of the senior management about the performance of the man who brought him to the club completely dispelled at the weekend when he went with the same 4-1-4-1 set up that failed so unmitigatedly against Bolton, with the same few senior players used as had been playing for the past few weeks, and the same weird choices to be left out.
His pre and post match comments around the Norwich game were insipid. They bore no relation to what happened on the pitch. Prior to tonight he offers: “We were all disappointed with the result at the weekend. It was against a very good team but we have spoken about that and we are ready to go for Millwall. Everyone knows we are in a tough situation but the way the boys have responded this week and trained, they are ready for the challenge. The players haven’t needed to be lifted, they know what’s ahead. It’s a big four weeks, starting now. We have spoken about the challenge. It is always a very hostile atmosphere there and a tough place to go, and that will be no different this evening. We know the task in front of us, we know what’s required and we will go into the game ready and prepared for the test.”
To a certain extent, what can he say? I’m not sure we particularly need to hear from John Eustace today to be honest but if the world of modern football dictates we do need all these interviews about a game that hasn’t happened yet then really, what on earth is he meant to say? It’s a dire situation he’s in. But, that said, this surely is the last chance for this trite Mark Hughes-like bollocks about understanding challenges, preparing well, first class attitude, showing fight and so on. Because it’s not true is it? The attitude isn’t first class, there isn’t sufficient fight, we’re not responding. I’m not sure what irritates me more, this football cliché stuff they all trot out, or this modern PR-driven attitude that you can make something palpably false true simply by saying it out loud. You cannot show me that first half an hour at Norwich and tell me that is a well-prepared team, fighting for its status in this league, putting in its best effort. What I do know is it’s further antagonising supporters at the worst possible time, with season ticket renewals due at the end of the month. If we turn out tonight and play like we did against Rotherham, Bolton, the first hour at Hull and the whole of the Norwich game then it needs knocking on the head. Stop lying to us please, you’re making it worse.
Off the pitch, the most uninspiring list of candidates for permanent manager I can ever recall seeing in my life. It’s like a who’s who of the Championship ten years ago. The positive from it all is there does seem to be an interview process and a search going on, rather than a coronation. But when you’re talking about people like Steve Cotterill and Billy Davies being spoken to it really does bring it home that the only people who are going to want to take on this incredibly difficult job are only doing so really because they’ll never get another job anywhere else. That’s why you’ll see people, and maybe the club, move towards somebody who does at least want it because they want it, like Gareth Ainworth or more likely Marc Bircham if their first choice(s) say no. Once you look at the alternatives it starts to sound like a good idea – Bircham in particular knows this squad of players and the restrictions he’d have to work under but is gagging for the job anyway. Handily timed piece about his affinity for the club dropped in Munidal this afternoon. It’s a hellishly difficult job for a rookie to take on, but honestly there are dead people I’d pick to be in charge here before I got to Steve Cotterill.
Quite who’s got the final choice out of Les Ferdinand, Lee Hoos, Amit Bhatia, Tony Fernandes and/or Ruben Gnanalingam isn’t clear and that’s another problem we have – too many chiefs, not enough Indians. A timely reminder that even once we get over how uninspiring the list of potential candidates is, and get round to picking one, we never get significantly better or worse for changing the manager which suggests the manager isn’t the main problem here anyway.
Christ it’s a mess isn’t it? It’ll all look better after a (desperately needed) win, but quite honestly if this team has the substance to go into The Den and get that tonight then, as Les Dennis used to say, I’ll give you the money myself.
Team News: QPR are likely to still be without Massimo Luongo and Grant Hall who missed the weekend thrashing at Norwich through illness and ankle problems respectively. The team selection will be absolutely fascinating for this one, with several players who are clearly just phoning performances in and won’t be here next season consistently being selected ahead of players that appear to the naked eye to be playing a lot better and who will be at the club in 2019/20. The Lynch ahead of Leistner and anybody and everybody ahead of Bright Osayi-Samuel picks are mystifying and given what happened on Saturday, and how they played as substitutes, it would be hard to justify doing it again tonight. It just makes it feel like there’s more to this than simply a poor team losing form.
Shane Ferguson is on the naughty step for Millwall but they’re likely to be unchanged after a 2-0 win here against promotion hopefuls West Brom at the weekend.
Elsewhere: It’s a midweek round of fixtures split over two evenings this week. Little to effect us on the Tuesday, although it was noticeable that the Mad Chicken Farmers and Swanselona, who we play in two crucial home games next week, both won and won well. Blackburn beat Frank Lampard’s Derby County 2-0 with plenty to spare – Derby having their annual meltdown at this point of the season – and Swansea beat Stoke 3-1 with 73% of the possession and 32 shots on goal to Stoke’s two.
There was a boost for the Champions of Europe as they won 2-0 at Preston Knob End on a night when West Brom lost 3-2 at in form Bristol City – City were three goals up after less than 20 minutes in that one. Sheffield Red Stripes will attempt to keep pace with an away game at Birmingham tonight. Of the other top six chasers, Middlesbrough finally got a much needed win at hapless Bolton – match officials spotted in the Subway over the road from the ground an hour before kick off after the caterers refused to turn up for the match, what a shambles that place is. Sheffield Owls’ recent good run under Steve Bruce continued with a 3-0 home win against Nottingham Trees who are clearly done for the season and probably eyeing yet another change of manager this summer. Maybe it’ll be a scraped home win against them that saves us again, as it was the season before last.
The real quiz is tonight. QPR desperately need Rotherham and Wigan Warriors not to tackle their respective tough run ins with any great gusto. Rotherham start tonight at home to in form Big Racist John and the Boys before they travel to Stoke and Swansea, then Birmingham at home, West Brom away and Middlesbrough at home. Wigan, meanwhile, are at Allam Tigers tonight which is just about their easiest game left with Norwich at home, Leeds away, Preston home, Birmingham away and Millwall at home to come after that. Rotherham are on 39 points, Wigan on 41 and QPR on 44.
Also in that mix, as well as our opponents tonight, are Reading who are at champions elect Borussia Norwich tonight and then play Brentford at home in their toughest game of the season so far, Bristol City away, West Brom at home, Middlesbrough away and Birmingham at home.
The only game not mentioned is Spartak Hounslow running the rounds of the kitchen through Ipswich Down. The Tractor Boys certainly don’t need a game as difficult as that in their state – probably the best team they’ve played all year.
Referee: We’ve had John Brooks twice already this season and there’s been some odd calls in there to say the least – Angel Rangel getting away with splitting Pudil’s head open in the penalty box v Sheff Wed, the whole Jake Livermore thing v West Brom along with the Tomer Hemed penalty. Wonder what he’s got in store for us tonight. Details.
Millwall: Millwall are two places and one point north of the relegation places after a difficult second season back at this level, but it’s a team that knows its style and is comfortable in its skin. They’re made of tough stuff and a switch to a five man midfield has seen an uptick in form at the best possible time. They beat West Brom here 2-0 on Saturday after winning by the same score at Birmingham to give their survival hopes a shot in the arm. They were 1-0 and 2-1 up at Leeds before losing 3-2 to the promotion chasers in between those and only a last minute goalkeeping howler stopped them beating Premier League Brighton in the FA Cup quarter final having led 2-0 until deep into that one. They had lost four in a row immediately prior to that though, including to Bolton, and six teams have won at The Den already this season. Prior to the West Brom win they hadn’t won a league game on their own patch in five attempts which included losses to Blackburn and Preston and a goalless draw with Rotherham.
QPR: Jesus Christ on a tiny motorbike. QPR’s form is apocalyptic. The worst in the Football League by a thousand miles. Just one league win since the turn of the year, one league win in 16 attempts, six points from a possible 48, and now just five points off the bottom three with six games left to play. Not since Millwall were top at Christmas and got relegated in 1996 has there been a collapse like this at this level of football and it shows no signs of abating with two points from the last six games – a run that includes losses at home to Bolton and Rotherham. Rangers have only scored more than once in a game once in their last eight outings, in a 2-2 draw at Hull. They’ve failed to score in four of those games. This is the 34th season QPR and Millwall have met in the league and Rangers have never completed a double over their South London rivals.
Prediction: Another new leader of the Prediction League, with Woking R moving ahead by a point for a correct call of just how awful Norwich A would be. The winner of our Prediction League this year 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. Reigning champion Elliott reckons…
“Nothing more to say except…”
Elliott’s Prediction: Millwall 2-0 QPR. No scorer.
LFW’s Prediction: Millwall 2-0 QPR. No scorer.
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