|Queens Park Rangers 2 v 2 Middlesbrough|
Saturday, 9th November 2019 Kick-off 15:00
True to form? Preview
Friday, 8th Nov 2019 19:42 by Clive Whittingham
QPR are back at Loftus Road on Saturday to face a Middlesbrough side desperately low on form, goals and players, which usually only means one thing.
QPR (7-2-6, LWWDLL, 9th) v Middlesbrough (2-6-7, DLLDDL, 22nd)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday November 9, 2019 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Water falling from the sky >>> Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, Loftus Road, London, W12
I’m genuinely starting to believe that Queens Park Rangers are going to beat everybody in the bottom half of the Championship this season, lose to everybody in the top half, and finish slap bang in the middle of it.
Whenever we play one of the division’s many lesser lights we look young and vibrant and full of running and fireworks and goals. On the odd occasion we happen upon one of the few good teams in this league we look meek, and lacking in belief, scrambling around in the drawer next to the bed for a blue pill.
Should we continue on this path and wind up in the middle of the league come May then, relative to the pre-season expectations of both QPR fans and neutral observers of our team, it would be a right touch. Whether it’s runs of games against poor teams propelling us up the table and building expectations, or a few trickier fixtures offering chastening defeats and downward trajectory, we should never lose sight of what we, and everybody else, expected of this squad during its summer overhaul on a tight budget.
When you’re shovelling 20 players through an exit door and trying to replace them with free transfers from Rotherham people throw around comments like “if you offered me 21st now I’d bite your hand off”. But you can finish 21st in this dreadful excuse for a competition with just ten or 11 wins (Millwall 2018/19, 10-14-22) and you’ll find the same people who make broad, throwaway comments like that in the summer are the first to lose their appetite for human flesh when the process of grinding out a dozen miserable victories over 46 games and nine months actually starts to take shape. Watch the message boards and social media channels tomorrow night, for instance, as the drooling meathead element of our support comes out to feast upon our own players and manager should they happen to lose to Middlesbrough despite tracking well above expectation in the first four months of the season.
At the moment, from what I’ve seen of us at our best against Wigan, Luton and Blackburn, and at our worst against Brentford, West Brom and Leeds, the most likely outcome is a midtable finish which I believe the majority would be happy with. But it really wouldn’t take that much to tip it one way or the other from there.
I’ve gone on about why I think this season’s Championship is the most dire thing since Theresa May fought an election campaign on the flagship policy of “we’re going to take your house to pay for your death on the bathroom floor of some filthy privatised nursing home” often enough already and I’m not going to bother copying and pasting it here – see the West Brom preview if you want it laid out again for you. That said, Saturday’s opponents Middlesbrough are a prime example of why it is even more grimly lacking in quality than usual.
This is a team that was in the Premier League three years ago, that has an excellent and benevolent chairman, and is still receiving handsome parachute payments. It should be a threat, and yet like Stoke, and Huddersfield, it’s circling the drain. Boro handed the bulk of their relegation windfall to Garry Monk and charged him with promoting them straight back only to find him – they allege – backchannelling said riches into overpayments for players they didn’t actually want or need who just so happened to be represented by Monk’s agent. Panicked, they then did that thing where clubs sell their soul to pragmatism and accept 18 months of watching a Tony Pulis side Tony Pulis its way through a season while Tony Pulis stands on the touchline in a grubby tracksuit pointing into the sky and yawping “go on Jon” (whether Jon Walters is playing or not) in exchange for a ground-out promotion. Except that this time Pulis not only bored them rigid (as they expected) and spent the remainder of their money on Aden Flint, Paddy McNair and George Saville (stop it, you’re making me wet) but didn’t get them up either. It was all Shawshank and no Redemption. And now they’re in a right state, in the bottom three, as the lowest scorers in the league, without a win in seven, or a goal in four, with Jonathan Woodgate in charge who, bless him, never really struck you as being cut out for this while he was shagging Big Brother contestants and being convicted of booting Asian lads up and down Leeds High Street did he?
If QPR could start troubling the few half decent teams in this league more than they did a wholly dominant West Brom when they played at Loftus Road, or show a bit more belief than they did at Elland Road last weekend where - against a fairly mediocre host, certainly far inferior to the Leeds of 12 months ago – they looked beaten the moment they stepped off the bus, they could be in here. Heck, if they could somehow find a way to not concede two goals a game they’d already be in the play-off places – not since Ready, Morrow and Rose “stood guard” at Loftus Road have I seen the likes of what’s going on back there at the moment.
But, similarly, it wouldn’t take much for it to slide the other way either and we’ll get some sort of indication on the direction of travel tomorrow against Boro. Have QPR really changed for the better this season, or is it still a Rangers side at heart?
Because it would be very QPR to lose to Middlesbrough. They haven’t won away all season, they’ve got almost an entire starting 11 out injured, they’re the league’s lowest scorers, they haven’t won in seven, they haven’t scored in four… it’s written right? We’ve seen it before. Paddy chuffin McNair suddenly starts writing the theme tune and singing the theme tune; Britt Assombalonga, who literally went all the way round the goalkeeper at Derby last week and somehow still missed, has an epiphany; some no hoper QPR rejected as a youth team player scores the only goal of his professional career in this his 600th appearance. This is a team with a player whose parents actually, genuinely, named Anfernee. Anfernee. Let that sink in. Say that out loud. And yet they could easily beat us. That prick will probably score.
And should that come to pass, you just watch it. A two-week international break stretching out ahead of us - with Fulham away waiting on the other side - where absolutely everybody will be on the block. Is Warburton all he’s cracked up to be? Is Manning as good as people are making out? Is Eze overrated? What does Chair actually do? Nobody does self immolation like QPR: the team has shown an uncanny ability to embark on lengthy losing runs under successive managers; the board has shown chronic impatience and short termism with those managers; and the supporters are ready to jump down their throats at the slightest sign of trouble. Home games we’re meant to win make me nervous.
Win or lose tomorrow, and honestly I do think it will be a win (which is a bad sign), I do hope people hold their reaction to it long enough to remember what they expected from us in the summer.
It wasn’t so very long ago we were being well beaten by Boreham Wood.
Links >>> Six goal thriller – History >>> Shot-shy Boro – Interview >>> Snap, crackle and flop – Podcast >>> Coote in charge – Referee >>> The view from the Pu – October >>> Middlesbrough Official Website >>> Teeside Gazette – Local Paper >>> FMTTM – Message Board >>> One Boro – Forum
Geoff Cameron Facts No.73 in the series – Geoff is Middlesbrough’s fourth top goalscorer this season on nought.
Team News: QPR have issues in defence where Yoann Barbet isn’t fit to return after missing the last two and Toni Leistner is also likely to sit out after leaving the field early in the loss at Leeds last Saturday. Options available to Mark Warburton include a switch to a back four with Grant Hall and Lee Wallce (home debut) at centre back, or the back three that finished at Elland Road – Rangel, Hall, Wallace – flanked by Ryan Manning and Todd Kane, who impressed as a substitute, at wing back. Geoff Cameron could play centre back in either of those set ups, with Dom Ball and Josh Scowen then left to fight over the defensive midfield position. I’d be surprised if we don’t see Luke Amos on Saturday, either from the start or as an early substitute, as he’s been pushing for a return to the side for several weeks after shaking off a hamstring injury. Jordan Hugill missed Brentford with a ban but returned against Leeds and will probably start against his boyhood club, who he scored seven goals in 24 starts and 17 sub apps for on loan last season.
Middlesbrough’s casualty list is similar to that of the US forces at the end of the Vietnam War, and a whole reem of injured players have now been joined by George Saville who is on the naughty step after a red card in the 2-0 loss at Derby last week. There are problems in goal where first choice Darren Randolph has been out for a number of weeks and his replacement, young Aynsley Pears, is now 50/50 with a finger injury. Loaned third choice Tomas Mejias stands by. Rudy Gestede (back), Ashley Fletcher (front), Ryan Shotton (side), George Friend (top) and Marcus Browne (bottom) are all also unable to travel. Ben Liddle has got the squits. Tyrone O'Neill, a local 20-year-old striker, has been recalled from a seven goals in 14 appearances loan spell at Darlington.
Elsewhere: The new man in through the door at Poke City is Northern Ireland’s Michael O’Neill, although quite what it was about the job in the Potteries that made him decide this was to be the one he left the national job behind for is unclear. He couldn’t really ask for a kinder start mind – away to Grimethorpe Miners’ Welfare, who are second bottom just above Stoke and have the worst defensive record in the league.
That’s among the thrilling 15.00 kick offs in this crucial “matchday 487” of the Mercantile Credit Trophy this season. The weekend gets underway with the East Midlands clash between bitter rivals Nottingham Florist and PSV Derby, who at the time of press had got through the week without killing or maiming anybody – though there is still a big Friday night ahead. Sky Sports Leeds will also be showing Bristol City’s appointment on the Eleventh Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour on Sunday lunchtime.
League leaders West Brom go to Allam Tigers, who have followed up a 3-2 home loss to QPR with three consecutive wins while the R’s haven’t won since. Second placed surprise package Preston Knob End are at home to Huddersfield Imps, where the Cowley sisters Danni and Nikki are starting to work their magic on a seven game unbeaten run. The Champions of Europe, in third, are at home to the Mad Chicken Farmers while fourth placed Swanselona go to fellow play-off chasers Sheffield Owls.
Of those top half teams not mentioned so far, Charlton have a London derby at Millwall Scholars, and Sebastien and Ajay take their extinction rebellion humous festival to Birmingham City.
Reading v Luton.
Spartak Hounslow, as only they could, crawled so far up their own arsehole on a three-match winning run they accidentally lost 1-0 at home to Huddersfield. Nevertheless, the Justice League leaders will almost certainly be the best team Wigan Warriors have played all season.
You want more? Well you can’t have it. Two-week international break. Then, 11 games in five weeks. #Championship.
Referee: David Coote, one of those half and half officials who splits his time equally between the Premier League, the Championship, and annihilating matches with the Stockley Park computer of doom, is the man in the middle for this one. He was last with us for a 2-0 home win against Portsmouth in the FA Cup last season. Deets and beats.
QPR: QPR sit ninth in the Championship after 15 games, and that’s a very fair reflection given that they beat just about everybody below that line and lose to everybody above it. Their seven wins this season have come against Stoke (24th), Luton (21st), Wigan (20th), Millwall (17th), Blackburn (16th), Hull (11th) and the exception Sheff Wed (7th). There have also been draws with Huddersfield (18th) and Reading (19th). Their six defeats have come against West Brom (1st), Leeds (3rd), Swansea (4th), Bristol City (6th), exception Cardiff (14th) and Brentford who are thirteenth but are almost certainly the best team we’ve played all season. By that form, and the state Boro are in, this should be a home win but QPR’s results at Loftus Road only place them 16th in the league for home form. Rangers have won three, drawn two and lost three here, compared four wins and three losses on the road. They arrive into this game without a win in three, and have lost the last two, while at home they’ve only won one of the last four. Warburton’s side have conceded at least two goals a game in each of their last seven and remain the only team in the league without a clean sheet to their name this season. Their last shut out was the 4-0 home win against Swansea in April – 21 league games ago. Only the top two have scored more than our 24 goals (more than double what Middlesbrough have managed) but only second bottom Barnsley have conceded more than our 28.
Middlesbrough: It’s been a dire start to the season for Boro who have won just two of their first 15 league games and scored only 11 goals in the process – the lowest total in the division. Six of their games, including both their wins, have finished 0-0 and there have been a pair of 0-0 draws on top of that. Only four of their games have featured more than two goals. They come into this game without a win in eight (four wins, four draws) and haven’t scored a single goal in any of their last four games. Only six players have scored league goals for them this season and of those only Britt Assombalonga (four) and Paddy McNair (two) have managed more than one. And all this from a team that drew 3-3 at Luton on opening night. Away from home they’re yet to win, with four defeats and three draws from seven road trips. Their last away win was 2-1 at relegated Rotherham on the final day of last season.
Prediction: Our Prediction League this year is sponsored by The Art of Football. Get involved by lodging your prediction here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s QPR collection here. We were spot on at Leeds last week sadly, this week last year’s champion WokingR says…
“With no wins, three draws and four defeats from their last seven away games and very few goals in the 'for' column, could this finally be the week we achieve the long awaited clean sheet? No, I don't think so either, as we've been pretty poor at both ends ourselves recently. 2-1 to the R's though with Eze hitting a screamer for our first.”
Woking’s Prediction: QPR 2-1 Middlesbrough. Scorer – Ebere Eze
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 3-0 Middlesbrough. Scorer – Jordan Hugill
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