|Queens Park Rangers 3 v 2 Millwall|
Wednesday, 17th March 2021 Kick-off 19:00
Insert Championship cliche here - Preview
Tuesday, 16th Mar 2021 17:24 by Clive Whittingham
QPR, so good at Bristol City, so poor against Huddersfield, continue their relentless schedule against Millwall at Loftus Road on Wednesday night.
QPR (12-10-13 DLLWWL 13th) v Millwall (11-16-9 DDLWLW 10th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Wednesday March 17, 2021 >>> Kick off 19.00 >>> Weather – Dry, winds subsiding >>> Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, Loftus Road, London, W12
The trite ‘anybody can beat anybody in this league’ sporting cliché does seem especially true of the Mercantile Credit Trophy.
QPR’s second defeat of the season to Huddersfield Town equalled up our record against the bottom seven and the top seven – three wins, three draws, five defeats from 11 games played against the seven best, and the seven worst, teams in this league. For every impressive performance and result against Watford, Norwich or Brentford there have been an equally dispiriting off-days against Huddersfield, Birmingham or Derby.
Rangers are very solidly midtable now, rapidly accelerating towards the point where it’s impossible for them to go up or down. They’re behaving exactly as midtable teams do in any football competition, but particularly the Championship and especially the Championship when they’re trying to cram an already unworkable calendar into a period of time six weeks shorter than the status quo. You look down the fixture list and think Norwich A, Watford A, Brentford H looks tough and they take seven points, you look further down and think Wycombe A, Derby H and Birmingham A should be a chance to put points on the board and they take one. They play and win superbly at Bristol City, and then literally one week later don’t even look like the same team against Huddersfield. Maddening, of course, but exactly what teams like us in divisions like this do at this time of the year.
It’s frustrating when you look at the points dropped in games like Coventry A, and think where we’d be with them added, but that works both ways - take away the points we’ve won in matches where we ‘shouldn’t have’ we’d be bang in it at the other end of the table. And lest we forget that at the turn of the year if you’d offered us midtable, and almost certain safety, with 11 games left to play, we’d have snapped your arm off. I wasn’t sure when QPR were going to win again, never mind eight successes from 12 and annoyed not to make it nine from 13 at home to Huddersfield.
What would be dispiriting is if gratitude over things not being far worse is the best thing we take out of this season. It’s difficult to maintain levels when there is less at stake and you’re coming to the end of a more intense and physically demanding season than we’ve had before in modern times, but QPR have looked a good side since it was switched to a back three and had Charlie Austin and Stefan Johansen added and it would be nice for a long suffering fan base to have more Bristol City-like performances to take away into the summer with them than Huddersfield debacles. For QPR to lose Ebere Eze, Bright Osayi-Samuel, Ryan Manning, Grant Hall, Marc Pugh, Nahki Wells and Jordan Hugill from last year’s team, replace them on a budget, and get better, would be remarkable. At the moment we’re level pegging with our 35-game totals from 2019/20, in itself an achievement, but I’d love to see us really push on, get that top half finish, beat that points total, show genuine progress is being made under trying circumstances. It was gratifying to hear Warbs Warburton talking that up pre-match as well – by no means a race to 50 points and the beach, at least not for the manager anyway.
Millwall at home last year was a rip roaring 4-3 thriller, but it was one of only two wins QPR managed in the final nine games of the season after we’d come back from lockdown. Then, as now, there was a good deal of optimism after promising results and performances in the first couple of months of the year, and a lot of talk about how many so-called favourable fixtures Rangers still had to play, and it all drained away through dire defeats to Barnsley, Charlton, Wigan and particularly Sheff Wed. Loads of extenuating circumstances there – the three month hiatus, the lack of preparation before the restart, the Marc Pugh and Grant Hall situations, the Jordan Hugill injury, several of the star names perhaps having heads turned over summer contract and transfer situations, getting used to the all-round strangeness of it all, and more.
If it goes south in a similar way from here there will be loads of valid reasons for that as well – small squad, the talented players who have left, injuries to key midfielders, ridiculous schedule, pitches carving up, fatigue, intensity of the season catching up with them. But while some of that is unique to this Covid-19 situation, a couple of problems QPR have had this season will be there waiting for them again in August. Warbs likes to straight bat the question about losing to teams down the bottom with his “show me an easy game in the Championship” line, but we’re never going to get anywhere further than where we are now without being more ruthless in games like the recent losses to poor Birmingham and Huddersfield teams. The Terriers defeat also continued a trend of failing to back up from midweek games – W2 D2 L7 on Saturdays after Tuesday/Wednesday matches this year, compared to W3 D3 L0 when given a break of eight days or more. Last week we were backing up from Wycombe on Tuesday, while Huddersfield had an eight-day break, and you could tell. Next season there will be fewer midweekers as we go back to August-May but, again, you’re never going to get much further than we are now in this league if you can’t back up better than we have in this admittedly unique and trying season.
As I wrote in another recent preview, supporters may be feeling apprehensive about being part of crowds or on public transport again in August. They may also have got out of the habit of even streaming the QPR games on television and will no doubt have noticed how much extra cash they have in their pockets not dropping £150 going to bloody Preston North End on a Saturday. A few more showings like we gave at Ashton Gate might get the juices pumping a bit and see that season ticket renewed again; many more like we turned in on Saturday and they’d be forgiven for wondering what the point is. The footballers may be tempted to start eyeing Mykonos from this point on, but the CEOs won’t be.
Links >>> Wilson’s penalty – History >>> All the draws – Interview >>> The best a ref can get – Referee >>> Millwall official website >>> South London Press – Local Paper >>> News at Den – Blog >>> North Stand Banter – Forum >>> News Shopper – Local Paper
Geoff Cameron Facts No.137 In The Series - Geoff can’t believe things have got so bad in this city that there’s no way back.
Below the Fold
Team News: QPR’s nursing of Jordy De Wijs back to full fitness saw him switched out in favour of Osman Kakay at the weekend to face Huddersfield’s quicker, more mobile forward line. Expect to see that change reversed here as we go up against a traditionally more physical, direct threat from Millwall, although the news that Big Posh Matt Smith has been playing with a broken foot for four games and is now out for the season perhaps tempers the aerial threat from Wawll ever so slightly. Kenneth Zohore, another big acquisition for the forward line in every sense of the word, also hasn’t played since Valentine’s Day. Murray Wallace had only played once since December 19 prior to the weekend win at Derby – and he was sent off in that game against Coventry in January – but he got 67 minutes in at Pride Park as he also recovers from a broken foot. Luke Amos, Little Tom Carroll and Charlie Owens are the long terms in the QPR squad. Ryan Leonard (tennis elbow), Maikel Kieftenbeld (swimmer’s ear) and Connor Mahoney (wanker’s cramp) all continue to sit out for the Lions.
Elsewhere: Six tonight and six tomorrow in this latest midweek blob of stodge volleyed directly into your gob by the Mercantile Credit Trophy. The big news is that Rotherham are gracing us with their presence for a game at last – 14 games left to play and only 13 slots available for them, it remains to be seen what happens with their most recently postponed fixture against Coventry. They start this formidable task at home to second placed Watford this evening.
The team they’ll have their eye on most is Birmingham. They’re three points behind the Blues with four games in hand and a home fixture against them still to come. Brum’s 3-0 home defeat to Bristol City at the weekend finally called time on the charmless Aitor Karanka’s disastrous spell in charge but any hope of an immediate lift under incoming Charlton boss Lee Bowyer might be tempered by their fixtures. After Reading H tomorrow night they have Watford A, Swansea H, Brentford A and Stoke H leading into that bug six pointer in South Yorkshire. Coventry, six points ahead having played three games more, are next in the Millers’ sights ahead of an away match with Lutown this evening.
Wayne Rooney’s Derby County are seven points ahead having played four more, probably going to be ok but isn’t it remarkable how the media coverage of “Wazza’s” first big gig has died away from a 24-hour jizzfest to the point where you’d be forgiven for forgetting they’re even in the league. A run of five without a win and four without a goal doesn’t quite fit the desired narrative it seems, and that’s unlikely to improve much tonight with probably the toughest game they’ll face all season at home to Justice League leaders Spartak Hounslow.
Swanselona await slips from either them or Watford, they’re at seventh-placed Bournemouth whose midseason managerial change doesn’t seem to be doing anything to cure the splutters in their promotion drive, now four points adrift of sixth-placed Barnsley who won at Dean Court at the weekend and face eminently beatable Wycombe on Wednesday. Cardiff finally lost under Mick McCarthy for the first time at the weekend, beaten by Watford in his eleventh game in charge, and they’re seven points shy of sixth in eighth – if you’re still following. Seasons that at one point or another showed varying degrees of promise for the Thirteenth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour and Preston Knob End appear to be draining off into midtable finishes as they prepare to meet on Teesside tonight.
Of those not mentioned on tomorrow’s list we have Nottingham Florist’s cast of a thousand footballers hosting league leaders Borussia Norwich, Last Chance Saloon dwellers Sheffield Blue Stripe at home to Sporting Huddersfield, and Blackburn v Bristol City is this week’s exciting fixture between two teams beginning with B.
Referee: As for the game at The Den, and our Monday Night Football win at Watford, Australian Jarred Gillett gets the call this week. Probably the best referee we’ve had in our games this season, and a first outing for him at Loftus Road. Details.
Prediction: We’re indebted to The Art of Football for once again agreeing to sponsor our Prediction League and provide prizes. You can get involved by lodging your prediction here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s QPR collection here. Last season’s champion Mase offers us this…
Mase’s Prediction: QPR 1-1 Millwall. Scorer – Charlie Austin
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 1-1 Millwall. Scorer – Charlie Austin
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Letters from Wiltshire #43 by wessex_exile
Well, that has been a lively week for Colchester United in the press, and not least for Robbie Cowling, with not one, or two, but kind of three club announcements in rapid succession to try and put the record straight. First, we had Tribunalgate, which certainly looked very poor according to the initial press reports, but which on closer inspection when some of the ‘fact gaps’ were filled in wasn’t anywhere near the story that some would have us believe. Then of course we had the ‘leak’ that the U’s were about to go into administration, despite all the reassurances we’d been given in previous statements from Robbie. Not so said Robbie again, and particularly angry at what he believed to be the source of the story. Hence statement #3, repeating his assurances, but this time after passing through the lawyer filter to remove his thoughts on the source. To paraphrase Robbie’s conclusion to that statement, let’s hope we can all have a day off from this sort of media shenanigans and enjoy our game at Oldham tonight!
Letters from Wiltshire #42 by wessex_exile
Well, these sure are strange times at Colchester United, particularly for a club (nor a Chairman) not usually associated with the ‘managerial revolving door’ approach. With results not matching expectations or even minimum requirements, and a brief spell after being appointed Interim Head Coach, Wayne Brown has been released to return to the Jammers, for whenever their pandemic-interrupted football restarts. In comes not one, or two, but three new ‘appointments’. Hayden Mullins steps up as Head Coach to the end of the season, Joe Dunne apparently comes back to the U’s in a sort of unofficial coaching/ team-spirit sort of role, and exceptionally experienced lower-league former Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale arrives to provide Hayden with advice and support – crikey!
Letters from Wiltshire #41 by wessex_exile
This afternoon the U’s take on Bradford City in a bid to gather sufficient points to stay clear of the bottom two. It’ll be a tough gig though, even if (as I suspect) Bradford City have left it a bit too late to challenge the play-off spots. They were on a decent run of form, that is until defeats at Newport, Carlisle, Scunthorpe and a goalless draw at home to Oldham put paid to any lingering promotion hopes. For us, it’s simple, to stay out of the bottom two, for all intents and purposes we only need to gain half (or more) of the points that Grimsby or Southend do. Sounds easy, just wish I felt more confident we will…
Letters from Wiltshire #40 by wessex_exile
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Letters from Wiltshire #10 - the missing edition by wessex_exile
As I rather expected, work has been somewhat manic in recent days, so I'm not going to have time for a blog ahead of the match tonight, so soz about that.
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