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More in hope than expectation, QPR hit the road again - full match preview
More in hope than expectation, QPR hit the road again - full match preview
Friday, 12th Feb 2010 13:46

QPR's latest attempt to halt an alarming slide down the league comes at Coventry City on Saturday. Rangers were fifth in the league when these sides met at Loftus Road in November but come into this game in a relegation battle.

Coventry City (14th) v Queens Park Rangers (17th)
Coca Cola Championship
Saturday February 13, Kick Off 3pm
Ricoh Arena, Coventry

My first season with a season ticket at Loftus Road was 1992/93 – I was nine and we finished fifth in the Premiership. I know, I know brings a tear to your eye doesn’t it. Apropos of nothing Norwich and Blackburn were third and fourth and Sheffield Wednesday seventh, Arsenal were tenth, Chelsea eleventh and Wimbledon twelfth. Coventry were 15th. How times change.

Since then I have seen QPR promoted once, fighting for promotion twice, and engaged in both successful and unsuccessful relegation battles on seven occasions not including this season – though we surely must count ourselves as deeply involved in this season’s scrap for survival in the Championship. We could be in the bottom three by 10pm on Tuesday night. In two of those battles against the drop the fixture list has contrived to send us to Coventry City late on in the campaign.

The first of those encounters was in 1995/96. Les Ferdinand had been sold and replaced by Mark Hateley with predictably disastrous results but Rangers had staged a late rally with wins against Everton, Southampton, Sheff Wed and, but for a bent referee and his broken watch, Manchester United. Ray Wilkins’ men needed a win at fellow strugglers Coventry three games before the end of the season to stand any hope of staying up at all. QPR fans travelled to Highfield Road in their thousands but when Kevin Gallen hit the bar and Eoin Jess scored late on they had only Andy Impey’s sweet right hook and subsequent red card to cheer them on the journey home. A 3-0 home win against West Ham a week later was too late, Coventry stayed up on goal difference, Rangers finished five points adrift of them and were left to rue poor signings, missed penalties and blown leads through the campaign.

Fast forward eleven years, almost to the day, and Rangers were back in the Midlands, at the Ricoh Arena this time, for another vital clash with the Sky Blues. John Gregory was the manager this time, left to pick up the pieces left by Ian Holloway’s messy departure and Gary Waddock’s difficult spell in charge. Gregory had taken over a QPR side deep in the bottom three in the autumn and initially led them on an impressive run of form with victories at Southampton, Luton and Cardiff, and home wins against Palace and Hull. However lousy form through the winter, including a televised 5-0 drubbing at Southend, meant relegation back to League One three years after promotion from it looked likely.

Gregory turned things around though. He signed cult hero Lee Camp on loan from Derby and classy midfielder Inigo Idiakez from Southampton. Rangers drew at Derby when they should have won, won handsomely at Leicester with a superb Marc Nygaard strike living long in the memory, and crucially picked up three points in a home game against Preston that was a game in hand on all those teams around us. That set up a loud and proud travelling army of Rangers supporters for another trip to Coventry where Jimmy Smith’s scrambled effort and Danny Cullip’s titanic defensive display sealed three points - match report. Home wins against Luton and Cardiff followed and QPR, remarkably, survived with something to spare.

Now, slightly earlier in the season and in a less dire situation than on those two occasions admittedly, Rangers are back in Coventry desperate for points. Since drawing 2-2 with the Sky Blues at Loftus Road in November Rangers have lost eight and drawn four of 13 matches, sacked two managers and dropped from fifth to seventeenth in the table.

The R’s are now just two points ahead of the bottom three and while lack of action for four of the five teams directly below us saves us further damage on the league table this weekend just how we fair in this latest trip to Coventry could have a huge impact on what league we will be playing our football in next season.

Five minutes on Coventry City
The story so far: When Coventry arrived at Loftus Road in November it looked like QPR were in for a season of high achievement, while City would battle against relegation. The R’s were fifth and Coventry 17th at the time, now it’s us struggling down in the lower reaches of the division while City have pulled clear somewhat.

I have said before and will reiterate again that in my opinion Coventry’s current position of 14th is about the best they can hope to achieve under their current set up. Paying rent and losing money just to play at home in one of the division’s most soulless, atmosphere-less stadiums they are frequently forced to flog their best players to keep the finances on a relatively even keel. Scott Dann and Dan Fox left in the summer for Birmingham and Celtic respectively – Dann is excelling, Fox is not. Then in January top scorer Leon Best was shipped off to Newcastle – although any club, whether they have to sell their best players or not, would have been foolish to turn down any money on offer at all for a player coming to the end of his contract and hardly outstanding enough to go on and play at any level higher than this.

City spent some of the £5m+ they go in during the summer, but by no means all of it, and people like Michael McIndoe and Sammy Clingan have strengthened them enough to keep them out of relegation trouble. That eight game run without a win leading into the match at Loftus Road coincided with Clingan’s absence through injury underlining his importance to the team, and City have lost just one of their last six games in the league with him in the side.

It’s just hard to see where City’s long term ambitions lie, other than trying to make themselves hard to beat in this division. They have flirted with the bottom three for at least parts of the past few seasons and may well do so again this term if they pick up one or two injuries. “Saving to buy the ground” is something my Coventry mate has ventured to suggest is the reason for this sell and tread water policy, and if that is true then that would certainly help as the Ricoh has proved to be a millstone round the club’s neck as far as I can see. Half empty, expensive and about as intimidating as an IKEA distribution centre.

Wherever Coventry are destined to finish this season, chances are it’s going to be a good deal higher than us.

The Manager: The Premiership’s youngest manager when he was entrusted with the post at Fulham following Jean Tigana’s departure, Coleman has proved himself to be a solid, safe pair of hands, if a little uninspiring in his style of play. He was a classy centre half in his day with Blackburn, Palace, Fulham and others but his career was cut short by a nasty car accident. At Fulham ultimately I felt he was harshly treated as he maintained their Premiership status despite being forced to sell his best players season after season – during his spell Fulham sold £26m worth of players and lost Van Der Sar for nothing while Coleman spent little more than £10m on replacements. The subsequent mess Lawrie Sanchez made of things after replacing him, a mess only retrieved by a world class coach as good as Roy Hodgson, should tell you everything about how well Coleman did to keep that club where he did.

While Sanchez was running a wrecking ball through his hard work Coleman went to Real Sociedad on the recommendation of John Toshack following their relegation from La Liga but struggled to settle and get his message across to the Spanish players and returned to England with Coventry coming up to two years ago succeeding Iain Dowie. Coventry have made little progress on the league table since then and really it is hard to see just where they can go other than where they are now or lower.

I got a fair bit of grief from QPR and Coventry fans for saying that I rated Coleman highly earlier in the season, but I stand by it. He has had nothing by way of serious finance to work with in either job he has had in this country and been forced to sell his best players on both occasions. The football he plays is ugly, without ever getting to a Kevin Blackwell scale of evil, and he comes across as a whinging, arrogant idiot in interview – I had to laugh at his assertion that playing six minutes of stoppage time at Ipswich recently was acceptable (Coventry equalised in the sixth) but seven was absolutely outrageous (Ipswich scored again in the seventh.) But with the resources he has been given at both Fulham and Coventry, to not have a relegation to his name is some achievement in my book.

Three to Watch: Rangers could well end up facing two strikers this Saturday who both love nothing more than scoring against QPR. Firstly City’s top scorer Clinton Morrison. The former Palace man has nine to his name this season, but none in his last four, and has scored five goals in his last nine appearances against QPR and seven in total across his career. For some reason he has always thoroughly enjoyed playing against us. Morrison is, rather farcically, an Irish international although he has not been selected since Giovanni Trapattoni took charge. He’s a character; constantly grinning and winding up opposing players and fans. He works very hard for his team and will always be loitering around the penalty box trying to take advantage of some slack marking or poor defending and the way the QPR defence has been playing recently he might not have to wait too long for either on Saturday.

I think Morrison is often under rated by fans. Last summer when it looked like Iain Dowie was going to bring him in on a free transfer from Crystal Palace, the reaction was mixed at best and yet I would have said that as it transpired with us failing to score 23 times last season he was exactly the kind of player we should have been looking at. Morrison, let’s not forget, went to Birmingham City after their first promotion to the Premiership for £4m plus Andy Johnson and while Palace clearly got the better end of that deal it reinforces my point that he has been, and probably still is, a very decent player and big threat to us on Saturday. He eventually moved back to Palace for £2m to play with Johnson after three mediocre seasons in the premiership at St Andrews. Incidentally, and this is only according to his Wikipedia profile so may be rubbish, his middle name is Hubert.

Morrison was partnered in attack by former R Leon Best until his January transfer window move to Newcastle which has left City rather short in attack. Step forward Jon Stead. Now this is a bit of a first for LFW, including a player as one to watch when he hasn’t actually signed yet, but a deal has been agreed with Ipswich and Stead is in Coventry for talks as I type this on Friday lunch time. Stead shot to fame as the teenage star of Huddersfield who made it big in the Premiership with Blackburn Rovers. However Mark Hughes didn’t rate him and he spent an unhappy spell on loan at relegated Sunderland where he scored just once in an entire Premiership season. Since then he has bumbled around the Championship showing decent record but poor goal scoring records at Sheff Utd, Derby and Ipswich. Poor scoring records except that is when playing against QPR – Stead has five in his last three starts against the R’s including two for Ipswich in a 3-0 win at Christmas this season. Perhaps he could forge a career in joining clubs about to play QPR on loan.

Finally, while he may have irritated the hell out of the QPR fans with some flagrant time wasting tactics at Loftus Road, young goalkeeper Keiran Westwood is certainly one to watch for the future. Signed from Carlisle after impressing in their resurgence under Paul Simpson and then John Ward Westwood beat Burnley’s Brian Jensen to the Championship’s goalkeeper of the season award last season and has continued to impress this season. Quite small for a goalkeeper but with a surprisingly long kicking game and a good shot stopper – a dearth of good young English goalkeepers at the moment bodes well for him in the future.

Links >>> Coventry Official Website >>> Coventry Message Board >>> Travel Guide

Recent Meetings:
These sides shared the spoils at Loftus Road earlier this season, just before the implosion at Loftus Road that continues to this day began with a 5-1 home defeat by Middlesbrough. Coventry scored early when Leon Best rose above Matt Connolly to send a header looping into the net but it was all Rangers from that point on and goals from Jay Simpson and then Akos Buzsaky were nothing more than the hosts deserved. Coventry had engaged in some cynical time wasting and fouling tactics when in front and level in the game and had captain Syephen Wright sent off late on for the second time in as many meetings at Loftus Road – he lengthened the subsequent ban by throwing his armband at the referee on the way off. But Coventry started to hurry up a bit after Buzsaky had scored and they got the equaliser their play scarcely deserved when more rank defending allowed Richard Wood to steal in for an equaliser from a free kick eight minutes from time.

QPR: Cerny 6, Leigertwood 6, Hall 5, Connolly 5, Borrowdale 7, Watson 8, Faurlin 9, Buzsaky 6, Taarabt 8 (Reid 80, -), Routledge 7, Simpson 7
Subs Not Used: McWeeney, Ramage, Agyemang, Pellicori, Gorkss, Williams
Goals: Simpson 35 (assisted Faurlin), Buzsaky 69 (unassisted)

Coventry: Westwood 7, Wright 6, Wood 6, Barnett 6, Van Aanholt 7 (Clarke 72, 6), Bell 6 (Eastwood 74, 6),Gunnarsson 5 (Madine 80, -), Cork 6, McIndoe 6, Morrison 6, Best 7
Subs Not Used: Ireland, McPake, Cranie, Grandison
Sent Off: Wright (two bookings)
Booked: Wood (foul), Van Aanholt (foul), Westwood (time wasting), Cork (foul), Wright (foul), Wright (foul)
Goals: Best 16 (assisted Van Aarnholt), Wood 81 (assisted McIndoe)

Believe it or not Iain Dowie was actually the QPR manager the last time we played on this ground, in September 2008. QPR came away from the Ricoh Arena last season wondering just how they had contrived to lose the game. The home team took the lead after a quarter of an hour when Jay Tabb beat Mikele Leigertwood to a Fredy Eastwood through ball in the penalty area and then hit the deck under a heavy challenge. It was a blatant penalty but Radek Cerny almost came to Leigertwood’s rescue – in the end Ward’s spot kick carried just too much power for the Czech keeper to save it. After half time though it was all Rangers with Blackstock and Ledesma both missing several chances. Rangers were very good value for three points but ended up with nothing.

Coventry: Westwood 7, Osbourne 7, Ward 8, Dann 8, Fox 8, Tabb 7 (Beuzelin 85, -), Gunnarsson 5, Doyle 5, Morrison 6, Eastwood 6 (Best 76, 5), McKenzie 5 (Mifsud 80, -)
Subs Not Used: Marshall, Hall
Booked: Tabb (foul), Doyle (handball), Ward (foul), Osbourne (foul)
Goals: Ward 15 pen (assisted Tabb)

QPR: Cerny 6, Ramage 5 (Parejo 56, 6), Gorkss 7, Stewart 7, Delaney 6, Mahon 5, Leigertwood 6, Ledesma 6 (Buzsaky 53, 7), Rowlands 8, Cook 7, Blackstock 5 (Agyemang 77, 6)
Subs Not Used: Camp, Hall
Booked: Mahon (foul)

Head to Head:
Coventry wins - 43
Draws - 28
QPR wins - 34

Previous Results:
2009/10 QPR 2 Coventry 2 (Simpson, Buzsaky)
2008/09 QPR 1 Coventry 1 (Blackstock)
2008/09 Coventry 1 QPR 0
2007/08 Coventry 0 QPR 0
2007/08 QPR 1 Coventry 2 (Buzsaky)
2006/07 Coventry 0 QPR 1 (Smith)
2006/07 QPR 0 Coventry 1
2005/06 QPR 0 Coventry 1
2005/06 Coventry 3 QPR 0
2004/05 Coventry 1 QPR 2 (Cureton, Santos)
2004/05 QPR 4 Coventry 1 (Cureton 3, Furlong)
1995/96 Coventry 1 QPR 0
1995/96 QPR 1 Coventry 1 (Barker)
1994/95 Coventry 0 QPR 1 (Sinclair)
1994/95 QPR 2 Coventry 2 (Penrice)
1993/94 Coventry 0 QPR 1 (White)
1993/94 QPR 5 Coventry 1 (Allen 2, Barker, Ferdinand, Impey)
1992/93 QPR 2 Coventry 0 (Peacock, Pearce og)
1992/93 Coventry 0 QPR 1 (Impey)

Links >>> QPR 2 Coventry 2 Match Report >>> Coventry 1 QPR 0 Match Report >>> Match Report Archive >>> Connections and Memories

This Saturday
Team News:
QPR welcome back Peter Ramage from his one match ban for his sending off at Peterborough a week ago, but Mikele Leigertwood still has two games of his suspension to run so is not available until we play Doncaster at home next week. Martin Rowlands and Gavin Mahon are long term absentees. Marcus Bent wasted no time at all in staying true to form and getting injured, he lasted just eight minutes of his home debut on Tuesday and is not surprisingly not fit for this game. Tamas Priskin was ineligible to play against his parent club Ipswich on Tuesday but returns however impressive cameos from Adel Taarabt and Akos Buzsaky against the Tractor Boys really should push them ahead of the Hungarian in the pecking order.

Coventry could give a debut to striker Freddie Sears who they signed on loan from West Ham earlier this week, and our old foe Jon Stead if a deal to bring him in from Ipswich can be tied up in time for kick off. Derby’s Rob Hulse rejected the chance to join them though.

Elsewhere: Only eight games in the Championship this weekend rather than the usual twelve because of team’s continued FA Cup commitments. Thankfully only Scunthorpe of the team immediately below us are in action for had Sheff Wed, Palace, Ipswich and Reading all played and won we would actually be in the bottom three by the end of the day. As it is this may only be a stay of execution because of course all four will now have games in hand on us come 5pm. Scunthorpe themselves are at Leicester and Doncaster, level with us on 34 points, host Nottingham Forest so neither have easy games. Just for a change Newcastle are on television, Saturday lunch time at Swansea though I’d think most people would rather watch Southampton v Portsmouth kicking lumps out of each other in the FA Cup on ITV. Watch out for some gratuitous violence at Deepdale as well where Preston and Blackpool fight out a local derby at 1pm.

Referee: On the ground where Amy Fearn nee Raynor made history on Tuesday night by becoming the first woman to referee a Football League game in this country, David Foster takes charge of Coventry v QPR on Saturday. Foster, from Tyne and Wear, is a relative newcomer to the league list and this will be his first QPR appointment. More details at the link below.

Links >>> Dean Sturridge Memorial Injury List >>> Arthur Gnohere Discipline Counter >>> Foster in charge >>> Referee League

Coventry: When these sides met at Loftus Road it was QPR in wonderful form and Coventry struggling badly. The Sky Blues were without a win in seven matches going into that game but come into this return fixture unbeaten in four. They beat high flying Nottingham Forest on Tuesday to bring an end to a run of three successive draws and five without a win. Coventry have only lost two of their last ten in the league, and have won four and drawn one of their last five at home. Overall at the Ricoh this season they have won six, drawn six and lost three – Newcastle, Reading and Swansea have won here so far.

QPR: The numbers just keep getting worse for QPR. They are now without a win in six games in the league, eight in all competitions, which is the worst run in the division. They haven’t kept a clean sheet in 21 attempts (again the worst record in the league) and have won only one of their last 15 matches. They have won four times away from home this season but haven’t won any of their last eight and have drawn only two of those. They have lost five of their last six, including the last four.

Prediction: As I said in the match report on Tuesday it would be lovely to think that the second half against Ipswich represents something of a turning point where the players saw just how far a bit of effort and hard work could actually take them. However we thought the last ten minutes against Sheff Utd was a turning point didn’t we? And the second half at Blackpool. The fact is that after every one of these mini half hour revivals we have immediately reverted back to being absolutely bloody awful in the next game. And I expect us to do just that here.
Coventry by two

Links >>> Championship Table >>> Total Form >>> Home Form >>> Away Form >>> Prediction League >>> Fantasy League

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