Two in the bush - Preview
Tuesday, 13th Apr 2021 09:27 by Clive Whittingham
QPR head to struggling Rotherham this evening as part of the Millers' ridiculous catch-up week of four home matches in a day and a half.
Rotherham (10-6-21 WLWLLD 22nd) v QPR (15-11-14 LWDWLW 11th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Tuesday April 13, 2021 >>> Kick Off 19.00 >>> Weather – Bright but cold >>> New York Stadium, Rotherham, South Yorkshire
It was Billy Davies who taught us all about games in hand – specifically that they’re the greatest thing ever.
Games in hand are always won, never lost, so whatever so-called “league” “table” the rest of you dark age dwellers are using, with only the points that have actually been accrued so far, is incorrect. In fact, the psychological effect of rival lurking just behind you on said table – which, as we’ve established, isn’t worth the paper it’s written on – can be so overwhelming to teams that think they’re so big and hard by playing their matches when they’re supposed to, that games in hand actually become worth more than a win.
You can have your Adel Taarabt and Ale Faurlin and Neil Warnock. You can have your 19-game unbeaten start to the season, and Heidar Helguson and Paddy Kenny. Hell you can even go out and add Tommy Smith, Wayne Routledge and Kyle fucking Walker to all of that if you like. None of it, but none of it, will be a match for a Billy Davies side getting a point at Loftus Road with ten men while six points back with two games in hand. That’s fist pump time. That’s on the pitch at full time time. Thou shalt wither on the vine, bow down before the majesty, and cower in the face of a threat that burns so brightly you cannot stare directly at it. Davies’ Law: Game In Hand = Nine Points. Sometimes more than nine.
Rotherham, therefore, should be absolutely fine. Having failed to install undersoil heating at their new stadium, and then spent the winter taking it in turns to exit the SuperTram by licking the door-open button, they still have nine games left to play while the rest of the league has six. Coventry, Huddersfield and Wayne Rooney’s Derby County can all be caught by the Millers without being able to do a thing about it. Mwahahaha. The next four games are all at home as well, starting with our visit to South Yorkshire tonight. As far as Billy Davies is concerned, the play-offs are still a possibility – probably why the Rotherham official website decided to carry an announcement of the confirmed dates for the end of season knockouts earlier this week. Clever girl.
The reality, naturally, is somewhat different. QPR did win the league in 2010/11. Forest finished sixth, got booted out of the play-offs by Swansea, and Davies had one of his trademark, brain-exploding flounces off into unemployment. Rotherham not only have games in hand, but games in hand at home, and very winnable ones at that on paper, but they’re understandably struggling with a schedule that sees them play Saturday-Tuesday-Thursday-Sunday-Wednesday this week. While Covid-19 isn’t anywhere near as dangerous to young, fit, footballers as it is to older, fatter, mortals, there is a little bit more to it for most than simply testing positive and having to sit in the house for a week. This is a squad running on fumes – eight defeats from 11, five home defeats on the spin, no goals in the last three games, beaten 3-0 here by Wycombe last week. There’s some question as to whether Paul Warne might sack this particular game in hand off entirely, lump it all on Thursday night’s crunch homer against the Coventry side they’re most likely to overhaul if they are going to escape.
Quite what Queens Park Rangers will do having been parachuted into this chaos is anybody’s guess. This looks absolutely prime Charity Park Rangers territory, and frankly if it helps get us a trip to The New York Stadium next year rather than the absolute living fucking hell that is the Ricoh Arena maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
Not going up, not going down, there’s certainly a temptation to start eyeing what 2021/22 might look like for the R’s. Warbs Warburton was quoted recently saying a promotion push would be possible if the current squad is kept together, which felt like a rare pointed remark from him towards his superiors, about the futures of Charlie Austin and Stefan Johansen in particular. He’s since rather forcefully made it clear that’s not what he was saying at all, and gone back to his standard position of understanding the financial situation the club is in. Headline not quite backed up by the copy and quotes classic.
Charlie Austin meanwhile, having given it the big ‘un about his connection with the club, the importance of having a purpose, and even that “the money doesn’t matter” on his recent Soccer AM appearance, seems to have realised he might have talked himself into actually bloody signing for a team assembled on one of the Championship’s bottom five budgets. At 31 this is likely to be the last big contract opportunity of Austin’s career and the idea that he’d use to go from whatever handsome sum West Brom have him on in the Premier League to whatever pitiful amount our budget stretches to out of some sort of sense of romance is fanciful. Lo, the rhetoric changed last week to him absolutely wanting to come back and sign here, but only if it’s for a promotion push, laying the table nicely for a win-win summer where he either stays and is hailed as an absolute raving hero, or he leaves for the sort of £30k p/w deal Sheffield United will probably be cobbing around and the board, CEO and DOF at QPR find themselves buried under a tidal wave of anger and bile about lacking ambition.
If you think Warburton is going to start looking towards next season, experimenting, throwing kids in, then you haven’t been paying attention. I come back, again, to West Brom on the final day of last season, when even many QPR fans didn’t want to win because of the Brentford situation, and he picked his strongest possible team and got a result regardless. That team included Ebere Eze, on whose sale the very future of the club rested – I bet Lee Hoos winced every time somebody went to tackle him. There’s also, as mentioned in the weekend match report, the issue of bonuses – a top ten finish means a good deal to these players financially if nothing else. Don’t expect a weakened team, or lack of desire. Whether QPR fall in a hole regardless, as they so often do on such occasions, remains to be seen.
Links >>> Two in the bush – Interview >>> Rowlands wins it at Millmoor – History >>> Whitestone remains in charge – Referee >>> Rotherham United official website >>> Sheffield Star – Local Press >>> Millers Banter – Forum
Geoff Cameron Facts No.141 In The Series – QPR have won 11 of 18 since their season turnaround began with a 2-0 victory at Luton on January 12, losing five of the other seven, for a win percentage of 61%. Geoff has only played in three of those defeats, giving him a record of W9 D2 L3, and a win percentage of 64%. Sometimes the Geoff Cameron Facts will be actual facts.
Below the fold
Team News: Geoff Cameron remains sidelined for QPR along with long terms Luke Amos, Little Tom Carroll and Charlie Owens but other than that it’s a fully fit squad with Jordy De Wijs coming through his latest comeback at the weekend unscathed. Charlie Austin serves game 2/3 of his suspension for an off the ball stamp at Nottingham Forest.
Matthew Olusunde is a doubt for Rotherham who, for the second time this season, and considering bringing Joe Mattock straight back from a multi-month lay off into a game with QPR. Didn’t go too well against Bright Osayi-Samuel earlier in the campaign, let’s see if Chrissy Willock can have as much fun here. The big debate, really, is whether Paul Warne may target the game against fellow strugglers Coventry on Thursday and sack this one off entirely – would be very QPR indeed for him to do that and win the thing anyway.
Elsewhere: Two other games tonight with plenty hinging on both. Bournemouth look to be coming good at exactly the right time, usurping Reading from the play-off picture at the weekend with a fourth league win in a row and sixth in eight. They can put daylight between themselves and the Royals with a win at Sporting Huddersfield tonight – the Terriers haven’t won in four, scoring two and conceding nine, since their 1-0 win at Loftus Road. Bastards.
Swanselona steadied their four-game losing wobble with a 3-0 away win at Millllllllllllllll at the weekend, and they can move back above Spartak Hounslow into third with a win at home to Sheffield Blue Stripe tonight. Wednesday, seven points adrift with six to play, are getting to the point of requiring snookers and surely need something from this match.
Referee: Dean Whitestone was down to referee the postponed fixture, and remains so. He hasn’t refereed the Millers since 2017/18 but has squeezed in QPR’s 1-1 draw at Reading in the meantime. Details.
Rotherham: Thanks to bad weather and Covid postponements, Rotherham infamously still have ten matches to squeeze into these remaining four weeks of the season and they go Saturday-Tuesday-Thursday-Sunday-Wednesday this week. They are six points back from Coventry, who they play at home on Thursday, with three games in hand, and they’re seven back from Derby having played four games fewer. They are eight points shy of Huddersfield with three games in hand but missed a big chance to reel them in on Saturday with a 0-0 draw that featured a number of missed sitters. This is also the first of four consecutive home matches against midtable sides QPR and Boro, and fellow strugglers Coventry and Birmingham, but whatever Billy Davies may tell you, games in hand are not guaranteed wins and playing four times at the New York Stadium isn’t necessarily a benefit for a team that has lost its last five home games. The Millers have won just two of the last 11 games, both of them away at Bristol City (2-0) and Sheff Wed (2-1), and come into this one without a win, or even a goal scored, in their last three matches. Wycombe (3-0), Watford (4-1), Reading, Forest (both 1-0) and Cardiff (2-1) have all won on this ground in that sequence and the Millers have failed to score in seven of those 11 games. 4-3-11 is by far the worst home record in the league, with only Birmingham losing more (12) and nobody winning as few. Paul Warne’s team have missed three penalties so far this season, the joint most in the league with Blackburn and Reading, and conceded five goals after the 90th minute at a cost of six points. They have, however, also scored three injury time goals of their own to win four points so don’t tune out early.
QPR: Rangers really clock the miles up this week, playing three of their six longest trips of the season in the space of seven days (Boro 506 miles round, Swansea 372, Rotherham 324). In theory it’s a chance to match or surpass the 58 points we managed last season (currently 56), and catch up on the 2019/20 total of seven away wins (currently five). They’re also now on 12 clean sheets following the Coventry win, which is two shy of the 14 managed in 2018/19 and three away from the 15 we secured in 2015/16 which is our best total since the last relegation. The 47 goals we’ve conceded compares favourably to the 66 we’d shipped after 40 games last season, and this will now certainly be the first time in four attempts that we’ve kept the goals conceded under 70 across a campaign, but it is still the worst defensive record in the top half of the division and 14 teams have conceded fewer goals than us including Derby and Forest from way down the table. It’s now six games since Rangers matched the same result in consecutive games -LWDWLW. Yoann Barbet remains the only outfield player in the Championship to have played every minute of league action for his club this season. The defeat at Nottingham Forest on Easter Monday was just a second away loss in 11 outings. The Sheff Wed’s win moved Rangers out of negative goal difference for the first time since October 21, six games into the season.
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. Let’s see what last season’s champion Mase offers us this week…
“We have struggled this year with midweek games following a Saturday fixture but with Rotherham facing a fixture pile up we should be mindful of complaining too loudly. I'm hoping the new goalscoring Lyndon Dykes is here to stay and it would be great for him to notch a few more before the end of the season. Not sure what kind of team the hosts will field with other games in mind, and feel kind of gutted for them that they are going to struggle with this fixture list having looked spirited in survival earlier this season.”
Mase’s Prediction: Rotherham 1-2 QPR. Scorer – Lyndon Dykes
LFW’s Prediction: Rotherham 1-1 QPR. Scorer – Ilias Chair
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Letters from Wiltshire #48 by wessex_exile
“And now the end is near, and so we face the final curtain…regrets, we’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention”. Not quite right Paul Anka, probably more than a few, but otherwise a fair assessment of where the U’s are today. It’ll be interesting to see how we perform with the relegation monkey finally off their back – I’m not expecting miracles, particularly with Tranmere needing at least a point to guarantee making the play-offs, but they’ll certainly be more nervous than we will be, so can we make that count? This will be my last blog of the season, and not yet sure what I may or may not do for next season, but suggestions are always welcome.
Letters from Wiltshire #47 by wessex_exile
Here we are, at the penultimate game of the season, and our last game in front of the cardboard U’s faithful at the JobServe. It has been a long, difficult, and definitely strange season, which frankly I’ll be glad to see the back of. That’ll we’ll be here again in August is definitely going to be something to celebrate, but I suspect we’re facing a summer of significant rebuilding both on the pitch, and possibly off it too. I won’t be the only one, but the biggest oddity for me has been being able to watch every single game – not always easy viewing, but something I’ve never done before, and probably never will again. But it doesn’t really make up for not being there in person, the long train journey away-days, meeting fellow U’s and other supporters, and of course sharing a beer or three. Fingers-crossed we can return to the terraces in 2021/22.
Letters from Wiltshire #46 by wessex_exile
That was quite a week for us all then. In the space of four short but remarkably tense days we have gone from having to take shoes and socks off to check how many more points we need to guarantee survival, or whether we would even achieve it, to breathing a huge sigh of relief knowing we’re almost there. But close of play this afternoon, whether by our own actions or the failure of others, I am sure survival will be confirmed. Of course, Tuesday night not only all but guaranteed it, it also virtually condemned local rivals Southend United to non-league football for the foreseeable. Looking at the host of fully professional former football league sides currently battling it out for the two promotion slots out of the National league (including Hartlepool, Torquay, Stockport, Wrexham, Chesterfield and Notts County), it is not going to be a walk in the park for Southend to return any day soon.
Letters from Wiltshire #45 by wessex_exile
Tonight, Colchester United face Southend United in what may not necessarily be the most important game of our respective histories (though it’s certainly very close), but is almost certainly the most important Essex derby ever. However this season pans out, by the end of it there’ll either be only one team in Essex, or worst case scenario, none at all. If the U’s win, then Southend will be 9pts behind with just three games to go, and a minimum of a -12 goal difference to overturn if they want to overtake us. Certainly mathematically possible, but that would rely on a remarkable turnaround in their form, form that they’ve shown precious little sign of achieving so far this season. The stalking horse is Grimsby, with their game in hand, who have rather belatedly shown an improvement in form, so their match against automatic promotion chasing Morecambe tonight is equally important, particularly if we want to avoid the unthinkable, with both Essex clubs dropping out of the league.
Letters from Wiltshire #44 by wessex_exile
So here we are, as the nation mourns the passing of His Royal Highness, Duke of Edinburgh, the U’s face the first of two season-defining moments, with our late kick-off match at home to Walsall. Before then, no doubt many will have been focused on events elsewhere, not least the early kick-offs for Grimsby (at home to promotion-chasing Bolton Wanderers), and particularly Essex rivals Southend United, who faced a tricky visit to Exeter City – still very much in the hunt for at least a play-off spot. As I finalise this blog, I know that Grimsby have beaten Bolton 2-1, and Southend earned a credible 0-0 draw in the West Country. More to the point, the U’s will know this too. Whilst I can’t help but feel that will ought to be to our advantage, it surely must also put additional pressure on a squad whose confidence is paper-thin. We must hope that Hayden Mullins, assisted by Paul Tisdale, get their heads right, and send the lads out this evening fired up with self-belief.
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