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Rangers seek response in Millwall game in hand - Preview
Tuesday, 15th Feb 2022 12:08 by Clive Whittingham

QPR can go third in the league if they're able to bounce back from the weekend humbling at Barnsley and pick up a win in one of their games in hand at Millwall this evening.

Millwall (10-10-10 LLWDLW 15th) v QPR (15-7-8 WDWLDL 4th)

Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Tuesday February 15, 2022 >>> Kick off 19.45 >>> Weather – Damp and windy >>> The Den, London, SE16

I’ve always found it a weird quirk of football, and fairly terrifying for somebody whose job it is to write about what happened, that two people can go to the same match and come away with such vastly different impressions of it.

I left the Middlesbrough draw last week thinking Sam Field had been the best of our outfield players and a borderline 8/10, then I read the match ratings on West London Sport and saw he’d been given a five. I stuck him down for a seven in the end and blamed the Peroni intake. There’s been some message board comment post Saturday’s debacle at Barnsley that Moses Odubajo wasn’t “that bad” when, for me, the bloke couldn’t find his own arse with both hands. Still, I’ve never pretended to know what I talk about, just an untrained fan in the stand point of view, and I guess it keeps talk radio and football message boards in business.

Seeking solace in the Whoscored.com match analysis from Oakwell, there was some reassurance on points we did all agree on. Andre Gray touched the ball just 12 times in his hour+ on the pitch. As I said in the match report, not so much could he have done more as was it possible for him to have done any less? And if you thought QPR used their 63% possession in the game to mainly faff around passing it between the centre backs and goalkeeper, then you’d be right as well.

I’m doffing my cap to travelling companion Aussie Nick on this one because he’s trawled through the data for us and even just taking the passes from the tone-setting first quarter of an hour the problem is immediately obvious. Dickie: seven to Dunne, one to Barbet, three to Field and six elsewhere of which three were successful. Dunne: eight to Dickie, seven to Barbet, one to Marshall, five to Field and four others of which one was successful. Barbet: two to Dickie, seven to Dunne, two to Marshall and seven others of which four were successful. Marshall: three to Dunne, four to Barbet and five others of which three were successful. Field: three to Dickie, two to Dunne, three to Barbet, one to Marshall and three all successful others. So, of the first 84 possessions between them in the game, 59 or 70% were passed to one of the other four. In total 73 of 84 or 87% were successful. Of those passes to others only 14 of 25 or 56% were successful.

That was the case all afternoon, Rangers played backwards and sideways, and when they tried to go forwards they lacked penetration, presence and frequently lost the ball. Chris Willock is the obvious miss here, with a hand in eight of our last ten goals, but the lack of any sort of hold up and back-to-goal game from the strikers also felt key to me, as did the lack of midfield numbers higher up the pitch. Given the form of the strikers at present, even if Willock and/or Chair aren’t available I’d like to see an extra advanced midfielder now, and just one striker, to help us play 20-30 yards further up the field. We’re at our best when we’re doing that ice hockey powerplay thing, maintaining possession for a prolonged period of time around the penalty area, switching sides, probing for gaps. Exactly what Middlesbrough did to us at Loftus Road last Wednesday. Sideways and backwards, recycling the ball, isn’t a bad thing when you’re doing it 30-40 yards from their goal, it’s when you’re doing it 30-40 yards from your own and playing around in front of a team that it can become problematic.

Since Warbs took over, with his distinct style and very firm view on how the game should be played, there have been teams that suit us and teams that don’t. Barnsley have been chief among our struggles, now five defeats and a draw from the six meetings having previously W22 and D3 of 25 home games with them. Previously it’s been their high press that has done for us, but they didn’t offer that (or anything much at all really) at the weekend and seemed as surprised as anybody by still being in the game at half time. Cardiff, Luton and tonight’s opponent Millwall are all coming up in the fixtures and have all suited us a good deal better. Rangers are unbeaten in five matches against the Lions, and three trips to The Den. A positive result tonight, in one of our games in hand, would be a very welcome response to what happened on Saturday. We’ll have to play a good deal better, and in a different part of the pitch, to get it mind.

Links >>> Definition of midtable – Interview >>> Linington in charge – Referee >>> Millwall official website >>> South London Press – Local Paper >>> News at Den – Blog >>> North Stand Banter – Forum >>> News Shopper – Local Paper

Below the fold

Team News: Obviously it’s all eyes on Chris Willock, who has been involved in eight of QPR’s last ten goals and was keenly missed at Oakwell at the weekend. Warbs Warburton was playing that one cagily in the pre-match press conference. If he misses out then whether to persist with the two strikers joins the Marshall v Dieng debate as the manager’s key decisions. Albert Adomah will surely return at right wing back. Full games for Dom Ball, George Thomas and Andre Dozzell, along with another 77 minutes for Sam McCallum, in yesterday’s remarkable U23 game at Blackburn doesn’t immediately scream wholesale changes to the first team tonight. The youngsters needed a three goal win to progress in the Premier League cup and somehow snatched exactly that, 6-3, with the last kick in the game, despite conceding five minutes into injury time themselves.

The home team could be short of attacking options with Benick Afobe definitely out after pulling his hamstring against Cardiff at the weekend. Loanee Oli Burke was substituted midway through the second half after the third of three physical clashes with Alex Smithies, but is expected to be available here. Daniel Ballard, on loan from Arsenal, completed 45 for the second string last week, but is still a way off his return from a knee problem picked up before Christmas.


Elsewhere: As if the Barnsley result wasn’t annoying enough, the amount of teams dropping points around us this weekend has made it a huge missed opportunity. West Brom continue to reward Sky for their infatuation with 0-0 draws – five already this season and now four games since they last scored a goal following last night’s draw with high flying Blackburn. Rovers themselves now haven’t scored in four games either, and have fired blanks in six of the last eight, with Ben Brereton-Diaz limping out last night with a worrying looking injury. With Bryce Samba’s latest brain explosion leaving Forest to settle for 2-2 against Stoke, Sheff Utd and Huddersfield cancelling each other out, and Luton suffering their Birmingham bogey again, Saturday really was a proper balls up by Rangers.

Sheffield Red Stripe go again tonight, with an eminently winnable home fixture against a Hull City side who were bloody awful at Derby last week. Hopefully if they’re going to roll over again tonight they do likewise at the weekend. Cardiff v Coventry is an exciting fixture between two teams beginning with C. Peterborough v Reading tomorrow is an absolute goat rodeo. Then we’re back into the weekend where, again, teams around us will be taking points from each other as Bournemouth host Forest, Fulham welcome Huddersfield and Lutown return home against West Brom. Hopefully Rangers make more of that opening than they did the last.

Referee: Isle of Wight official and Rangers regular James Linington gets this one. Usually a very calm and sensible referee, though made rather a mess of a big call at Huddersfield v Sheff Utd at the weekend. Details.

Form

Millwall: Wawll are about as midtable as it comes. Fifteenth, nine points and places off the play offs, 20 away from the relegation spots, with an overall record of 10-10-10. Only Derby, Preston (12 each) and Huddersfield (11) have drawn more than their ten – there have been eight 1-1 draws in Millwall’s season so far. However, the 0-0 with Preston three games back is the only draw in the last 12 games. Gary Rowett’s side lost six of eight through Christmas but have rallied slightly of late with two wins at home to Cardiff and West Brom and the PNE draw in the last four games. At The Den this season they’re 7-5-3 – only four teams (Fulham, West Brom, Preston, Derby) have lost fewer home games. Fulham, Luton and Forest the three teams victorious here so far. Only Barnsley (19), Peterborough (23) and Hull (26) have scored fewer than Millwall’s 31 league goals – Tom Bradshaw is top scorer here with seven.


QPR: The defeat at Barnsley at the weekend was QPR’s first in eight league games, and eighth overall in the league so far this season. It brings them into this game on a winless run of three following the cup defeat at Peterborough and draw with Middlesbrough. The last time we went three without a win was in October and again involved a loss at London Road as well as draws at home to Sunderland and Forest. Rangers responded to that with a hard fought 1-0 away win at Cardiff that sparked a run of four wins and a draw in five games. That was the start of an unbeaten run of six on the road, which included four consecutive 2-1 wins through Christmas, but has now been ended by two defeats to nil against the worst two teams in the division – Rangers have contrived to lose three and draw one of four matches against Peterborough and Barnsley this season. The R’s have now had six cracks at Barnsley without a win (L5 D1) since Mark Warburton took over, but Millwall have tended to be a team that suits the team better – three wins and two draws in five games under Warbs, and unbeaten in seven meetings going back to 2017/18. Rangers are unbeaten in their last three visits to The Den. Having scored in every away game this season, 22 away games going back to Preston away last season, Rangers have now been held scoreless for two away matches in a row. Chris Willock didn’t start either of the Peterborough games or at Barnsley at the weekend – he has direct involvement (six assists and two goals) in eight of the last ten Rangers have scored.


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 year’s champion Mick_S says…

“This is a very enjoyable season, in the main, but I’m starting to get confused by some of the teams that are beating us. So, predicting this lovely friendly derby is a tricky one. I’m now not sure where we are - a result v Barnsley would have had me going for a 1-2; I think I’ll try a 1-1 with Willock to score, if he’s fit. But if he is, should I go 1-2?”

Mick’s Prediction: Millwall 1-1 QPR. Scorer – Chris Willock

LFW’s Prediction: Millwall 1-1 QPR. Scorer – Ilias Chair

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TacticalR added 18:16 - Feb 15
Thanks for your preview.

Tonight should give us an indication of whether recent results have been a blip, whether we've been derailed, or whether we are back on track. Above all we need a performance and some decent goal-scoring opportunities.

Millwall aren't having a great season, but they have some players that we need to keep an eye on: Jed Wallace who scored against us at Loftus Road, not to mention a certain Luke Freeman.
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