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Queens Park Rangers 2 v 0 Millwall
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 20th January 2024 Kick-off 15:00
Somebody's going to Birmingham, somebody's going to jail - Preview
Friday, 19th Jan 2024 20:18 by Clive Whittingham

QPR have warmed up for Saturday's do-or-continue-to-die clash with Millwall by having their best player accused of assault with a lump of rock, and loaning one of the few midfielders they've got left to a relegation rival.

QPR (5-6-16 LLDLLL 23rd) v Millwall (8-8-11 DWWWLL 16th)

Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday January 20, 2024 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Sunny, freezing >>> Loftus Road, London, W12

Okaaaaay, who had Ilias Chair doing two years in a Belgian jail for twatting a geezer in the head with a big rock in a row over a bus stop queue on their card? Come forward silent rogue and receive thy prize.

If I’d been beaten up by Ilias Chair I’d be too ashamed to take it to court but we’ll wait and hear more details on the case and have fun reading up on the Belgian legal system in the meantime. Given the alleged offence was in 2020, the police seem to have shown no interest at all, Chair’s so far only been required to submit a written statement and they’ve let him avoid questioning in Belgium because he’s “too busy being a footballer”, and he’s been flying all over the world in the meantime, including to last year’s World Cup, without being arrested, it’s probably a bit early for panic stations.

Could be a load of old tat lost in Google Translate, could be the reason potential buyers have been put off; could have been a big rock, or could have looked big because it was Illy holding it; could be some chancers who’ve seen a money-making opportunity, could be one of the last half decent players we’ve got going to prison. Frankly nothing comes as much of a shock from QPR in its current state and during this excruciating ball-ache of a season we’re enduring with/from them. Every week, something new. I barely look up from my desk now: “Ilias Chair’s wanted for assault with a deadly weapon in Antwerp”; “Is he darling? That’s nice.” As LFW Patreon editor (not a salaried position) Jas says: “Crisis? That wasn’t a crisis, that was a Tuesday.”

It says something that it’s potentially not even the weirdest thing we’ve done today. What other club in our position, and with our midfield options, would loan a CM who’s made 27 appearances to one of the few other teams left on the league table who are vaguely catchable?

Still, anybody who’s watched Andre Dozzell play for QPR might conclude we’ve done it deliberately to undermine their chances. It will surprise neither regular reader to know I’m less than traumatised by his departure.

Thursday was an afternoon of particular torment, when the Telegraph’s John Percy broke the news of his impending move Birmingham City and I found myself torn over whether it’s possible to host a celebratory barbecue in these temperatures, and if we’d even have time to marinate the meat anyway what with all the driving him there myself I was going to be doing. Still, an impromptu trip to St Andrew’s would have provided me the chance to sit down with whichever absolute danger it is up there who watched QPR’s class of 22/23 thinking “fuck me, this lot are the full package”. Who’s looking at QPR’s recruitment muttering “these guys are making all the right moves”? Like watching the Fyre Festival documentary and thinking ‘maybe I’ll order some of those cool tents’.

I’ll declare my bias - Dozzell is the sort of player I dislike anyway, before we even start. I think the academy system in this country, and the disgusting EPPP system that feeds it, creates too many of the same type of player over and over again. Physically slight, technical lads who, when you ask what their purpose is and what they actually do (tackle people, defend, score goals, get crosses in?) will tell you they play “ten”. Or, sometimes, “six”. Or “double pivot”. They play on pristine pitches against all the other excellent young boys, same opposition and same boys year after year, they do their little no-look passes and step overs, all their mates make that high-pitched screechy noise, and they’re referred to, by their peers and often themselves in the third person, as “ballers”. The rigours of actually playing football in a dog league like the Championship are completely alien to them. They emerge from that system entirely unsuited to it, and when it comes to sinking or swimming very few of them float. See the fates of Charlie Owens, Mide Shodipo, Luke Amos and others since they were released from their stupidly handsome contracts here.

Dozzell, however, should have a major advantage over these Sean Goss types, who never play any proper football until their early- to mid-20s and find themselves physically and mentally incapable of adapting to it when they finally do. I much prefer players like Bright Osayi-Samuel, who got 80-odd games under his belt in a frozen backwater like Blackpool, being kicked up and down by League One and Two cloggers, and Dozzell did this too. Ipswich, perhaps motivated by the name and pedigree, got him in their team good and early, he scored on his debut at just 16, and he had just shy of 100 appearances racked up for them by the time he was 21. That’s incredible, and should have been enough to break him out of that tippy tappy academy ‘baller’ phase.

And yet that problematic stereotype just kept coming back, every time I watched him. What is he doing? What is he there for? There were frequent occasions I’d come to do the ratings in the match report and have to WhatsApp around for opinions because it would turn out Dozzell had done 70 minutes and I’d forgotten entirely that he was even there. West Brom away he was on the field 71 minutes and played eight passes. Anonymous? I was looking for a picture of him to send to the milk carton manufacturers. We had Ian Randall on a bonus for any snap of him participating in something/anything.

I like my midfielders to score goals. One of the biggest problems QPR have had for years is a lack of goals from central midfield to cover for the lousy quality of their strikers. Dozzell has been an enormous part of that problem with just two goals in two and a half seasons. He’s scored five goals in 191 career appearances – Kenneth Paal’s got three from left back in this team in this season. Until Dozzell bagged against Leicester in December he’d scored the same amount of goals for QPR as Seny Dieng. I like my midfielders to provide assists for goals for others. Again, he rarely did this. The no-look pass to put Andre Gray in for a winner at Cardiff in 2021/22 is one of only two assists he’s managed in total. Pop it in the drawer with the Moses Odubajo goal against Man Utd. Until Jake Clarke-Salter headed in a Dozzell corner at Huddersfield he had the same number of assists for QPR as Joe Lumley. He went through the whole of 2022/23 without one at all. Two assists in two and a half years, 66 starts and 32 sub appearances, from your supposedly ball playing central midfielder? That’s borderline criminal. In Spain they put you in prison for that. No wonder he hasn’t lasted long with Cifuentes.

If you’re not going to do either of those things then I’d like you to tackle, break things up, hurt people, protect the defence. Dozzell hid. Constantly, but particularly when the going got remotely tough. He was/is a coward. The only times he did ever get involved with actually tackling somebody he reacted so badly to the experience the referee sent him off for flapping his handbag around in retaliation. He finishes here with as many red cards (Bournemouth H 21/22, Leicester H 23/24) as he does goals or assists.

His faithful Twitter fanclub would erupt in a fountain of TOLDJA whenever he drew his boot back and played the best pass you’d seen since Ray Wilkins was alive to set up Andre Gray at Cardiff, or belt one into the top bins from 30 yards at Middlesbrough, or arrive late in the box to score expertly against Leicester. The Boro goal, to be fair, is almost certain to be our best this season. But this, in actual fact, made it a lot worse. Worse because those are the only three notable things he’s done in three years here, and even if he’s not capable of reproducing the classy contributions against Cardiff and Boro he should be more than able to arrive late in the area for four or five of those Leicester goals a season and would solve a lot of our problems if he did. And worse because it showed he could do it, he did have the ability, he just applied it so seldom.

I remember when we were really struggling in the latter days of Warburton and the promotion push was falling apart, we got a half decent result at play-off bound Huddersfield based largely on Dozzell actually getting on the ball and moving us through the thirds with his passing. He could do it. His passing accuracy was always around the best in the team, consistently up north of 85%, which is probably why our analytics and recruitment people liked him in the first place. He was/is capable. We’ve had, and have still got, some absolutely terrible players in this present day QPR squad – proper cloggers, absolutely stealing a living at this level, completely incapable goons. I get more upset with the ones that do have the talent, but don’t have the brain, heart and/or arse for it. Dozzell is king of those gutless wonders. The quintessential modern footballer for the online-only modern football fan - “cooks” in TikTok clips, shits his Calvin’s as soon as you expose him in 90 minutes of Championship.

Let’s get real here though – Andre Dozzell’s not the problem. Moany Towbray might get him going, as Liam Manning is doing with Rob Dickie. And we'll look stupid again. This piece will do the social media rounds. We have waved goodbye to an ever-escalating number of people in recent years with a “good fucking riddance” message. We’ve started burning through managers again, with five in the last two years and few tears shed when any of them left. The team continues to lose every week regardless. Those who still have faith in us staying up this year tell me that if Steve Cook could just get fit, or Ilias Chair was used in a slightly different way, or we went to a back three, or Osman Kakay and Lyndon Dykes were taken out into the woods and left there, we’ll be fine. I’m telling you we won’t be. This team has been losing consistently for two years straight, and in that time loads and loads of people who were supposedly the problem here (Les Ferdinand, Mark Warburton, Rob Dickie, Neil Critchley, Gareth Ainsworth, Stefan Johansen, Charlie Austin, Wallace, Odubajo, Lee Hoos…) have left. Then Saturday rolls around and the team loses again anyway. It’ll be the same here. Your problems are deep-seated, and they’re based around culture, attitude, standards, leadership, absenteeism, blame rather than responsibility… They're not based on any one crap individual, and it's been going on here for a long time now.

In many ways, and through absolutely no fault of his own, Dozzell encapsulates so much of that in his pathway here.

He was one of the intake we spent the Ebere Eze money on. What that money should have enabled us to do is add five or six prospects to the squad with the hope and idea that one or two of them go on to be the next big sale – if not at Eze £20m levels, then certainly at sort of Chris Mepham/Ezri Konsa £10m-£12m price points. It should not have been an excuse to go out and splash cash on Charlie Austin, Stefan Johansen, Andre Gray, Dion Sanderson, Sam McCallum, Jordy De Wijs, a new contract for Lee Wallace etc chasing a promotion. That comes in time for non-parachute payment clubs, and that time is spent regularly selling players for big money – Brentford flogged Scott Hogan, Neal Maupay and Ollie Watkins before they got to Ivan Toney and the Premier League. Dozzell was actually one of the prospects we were meant to be bringing in to fulfil that, along with Jimmy Dunne who came at the same time and Jake Clarke-Salter later. But the summer before we’d added Lyndon Dykes, Macauley Bonne, George Thomas, Chris Willock, Luke Amos, Charlie Kelman and Rob Dickie who were all of that ilk and ethos. When we actually got money we went mostly for the shiny things people had heard of, and only brought in Dozzell, Dunne and arguably Field as part of ‘the model’.

That we started spending daft money on senior pros again, and at the same time haven’t managed to sell a single one of any of those ‘projects’ on for any kind of money at all, are the two reasons we’re in the shit now.

I fully accept that this ideal and model is better suited to a pre-Covid era where you could still get good money (£8m for Gary Madine, Karlan Grant, Kenneth Zahore) for your mid-range Championship prospect. Apart from when Scott Parker chucks his toys out of the pram and makes some monied idiot like Bournemouth buy him another six players at the end of January to go with the 40 he’s already got, that market for mid-range Championship players (which categorises most of our prospects over the last few years) has largely gone away. Nevertheless, Middlesbrough have put a set of accounts out this week with an FFP-busting £29m loss on them for a single season, and yet they’re fine because it’s offset by £23m in player sales. It can be done. It has to be done. You have to be closing. Always be closing. QPR haven’t sold anybody for decent money since Eze. The club actively resisted interest in players when they were at the peak of their powers to chase an unlikely promotion in 21/22. Since then we have had them run contracts down (Bright, Manning, Willock), we've paid them up (Thomas, Bonne), we've offloaded them at cost (Dieng, Dickie) or watched them rot (Chair, Willock, Dozzell, Dykes, Dunne).

We have to ask why this has gone universally badly, for every one of these players, or it will keep happening. It does keep happening. It’s not just Andre Dozzell, however much you, or I, may dislike him. Dozzell’s departure is not a film about a shark.

We have to look at how they were identified and recruited in the first place. Chris Willock was brought here as an advanced replacement for Bright Osayi-Samuel because the club knew Bright’s dad was playing silly buggers over a contract extension and it would likely never be signed. That looked a very shrewd move to begin with and Willock has been unlucky to be hit with a succession of bad injuries, but he’d been something of a pain to deal with himself when signing here in the first place which should have flagged you’d have exactly the Osayi-Samuel situation all over again when his contract came up, and even when he did have two working hamstrings he was still only about as quick as my front porch. The team has been completely without pace since Osayi-Samuel left, making us easy to play against. Jake Clarke-Salter was brought in as a reasonable stab at a younger, left-sided, ball-playing centre back, with excellent pedigree, to provide a sellable asset replacing Yoann Barbet, who was on a good contract and heading into his 30s. But Barbet had shown himself capable of playing 97 games in a row, and willing to do so for the club with things like a broken shoulder or a massive hole in his head, whereas Jake Clarke-Salter had never played 30 games in a season before in his life and constantly gives off the vibe that he thinks he should still be tarting about at Cobham in Chelsea gear. Dozzell was brought in to be the next Stefan Johansen after the Norwegian had shown the value of a left footed, deep lying central midfielder to the team in his initial loan in early 2021. But they signed Johansen on an astronomical three-year deal anyway, and he’s a player who scores and assists goals and kicks people, whereas Dozzell does none of that.

You’re not replacing like with like here, and the players we're bringing in are consistently not good enough. All the time you’re missing the primary aim of actually getting a team on the field that is difficult to play against and competes at Championship level. Things like pace, physical strength, mental fortitude, quality of character, have been absolutely ignored, leaving us with the slow, weak, easy-to-play, ill-disciplined rabble we’ve got now.

We also have to look at our player development. Why are we constantly signing players who then get worse? Rob Dickie looked a great signing to me, from a soundly run club. By the end of his time here he looked like a dog on fireworks night, and we were lucky to get what money we did recoup from Bristol City. Seny Dieng went from what I felt was one of the best goalkeeper prospects outside the Premier League, interesting Everton and others, to whatever that fucking mess was we saw at Blackpool and West Brom at the end of last season. It’s happening now to Jimmy Dunne. Lyndon Dykes has all the same failings and problems he did when he arrived as a project from Scotland three years ago. Chris Willock basically looks physically done to me. Ilias Chair is regressing rather than progressing. Sam Field. Luke Amos - who, whatever you thought of him, had a reputation as a consummate pro at Spurs - was released and still doesn’t have a club.

Dozzell, whether you think he’s the only progressive midfielder we’ve got, or you think he’s Jermaine Jenas MkII and you’re sick of watching him floating around like Patrick Swayze looking for Whoopi Goldberg, is just the latest in a series of players who has come here and either stagnated or cratered. Can you name a single player who’s come here and improved in the last three years? Players either leave here the same as when they arrived, or more often much, much, much worse. Sam Field couldn’t shoot when he arrived, and he still can’t. Jake Clarke-Salter was fragile as fuck when he arrived, and still is. Lyndon Dykes is identical to the player who turned up here from Livingston. Sinclair Armstrong was fast, aggressive and raw but couldn’t finish two years ago, and he’s still that – he also still can’t do more than an hour without getting cramp. Jimmy Dunne makes the same mistakes every week. Kenneth Paal takes the same poor corner every week. That’s on us. That’s because of where we are, how we are, how we’re operating, the standards that we accept, the things that are deemed ‘ok’ at QPR. Where’s any kind of player development going on here? If there was the odd success story to point to then fine, but since Eze walked out of the door there hasn’t been one in three years. Every single player here has either plateaued or died on their arse.

The more immediate concern, of course, is putting a team together that can keep us up this season.

The loss of Dozzell will make precisely jack shit difference to the midfield – it didn’t score, assist, defend or function with him, and it will continue in that vein without him. It is, however, one less warm body. You’re now picking from Sam Field, who is one more of his mind-blowing fourth minute yellow cards away from a two-match ban, and the artist formally known as Jack Colback, who’s been carded in nine of his 14 outings so far and his also now teetering on the brink of a two-game ban for ten yellows or a four match absence if he succeeds in killing anybody to death for another red. After that it’s Elijah Dixon Bonner and nobody else, unless Albert Adomah’s pathetic cameo against Bournemouth has somehow persuaded what we could only conclude would be a drug-addled Cifuentes into believing he’s a genuine option there rather than just something else to make us a total fucking laughing stock. The best of the B Team players in that position, Alex Aoraha, has suffered a serious injury. Taylor Richards is about as likely to play for QPR this season as I am, given that I turn up at Heston more than he does.

The hope is shedding what will now be one of our top earners will free up wage and FFP headroom to make an addition in what’s left of the transfer window. Cifuentes has spoken recently of the club getting “creative” with its budget. I suspect, with Dozzell out of contract in the summer, this is a loan in name only and actually a repeat of the situation when Sheff Utd just took over the remainder of the contract on another of our brilliant recruitment success stories Conor Washington. Worryingly, even before you get to what quality and character of player would be allowed to come here, and want to do so at this stage, you’ve also got to contemplate whether we’re actually just tossing stuff overboard trying to drag ourselves back below the FFP line.

The idea of going through the next 19 games with Field and Colback as plans A, B, C and D in midfield almost as much fun as trying to do a whole season with Dykes, Kelman, Armstrong and Kolli as your strikers. Or picking your way through the annual blockade of Bloemfontein Road to facilitate this week’s group of three thousand ecstatic away supporters.

Links >>> Light at the end of the tunnel? Analysis >>> Wilson’s cliffhanger – History >>> Madley in charge – Referee >>> Millwall official website >>> South London Press — Local Paper >>> News at Den — Blog >>> North Stand Banter — Forum >>> News Shopper — Local Paper

90s Footballer Conspiracy Theories No.25 In The Series – Ian Woan believes Earth was swallowed into a black hole when CERN turned on their Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in 2008 but nobody has realised yet. He maintains this is why you see fewer stars in the night sky.

Below the fold

Team News: All the usual things we’ve come to expect from this group in the Watford game – Sinclair Armstrong cramping up, Chris Willock blowing out of his arse, Jake Clarke-Salter substituting himself – but Marti Cifuentes says in his pre-match that everybody apart from Rayan Kolli should be available for this game. A booking for Sam Field in the first few minutes, and another for a lunge by Jack Colback which could easily have been red with another referee, were also nothing we haven’t seen many times before. Field now has ten yellows for the season but as one of those was in the cup he’s still one away from a two match ban – give it another five minutes or so. Colback has been shown a card of one colour or another in nine of his 14 QPR appearances and six of the last eight games. He is two yellows away from a two-match ban, and if he picks up a second red card of the season that will either be a two or four match ban depending on the offence as you get an extra game for your second red in a season. It’s not inconceivable that having been unavailable for 16 of the 31 games we’ve played so far our midfield ‘culture guardian’ could easily miss another six through suspension in the final 19. Field is joint third for most Championship bookings, and Colback is joint fourth. QPR have had four red cards this season, more than any other team in the league. In happier news, we’re offering a kayaking weekend in France with a woman in a green bikini for a confirmed sighting of Taylor Richards.

Jophet Tanganga, a 24-year-old defender with 50 senior appearances for Spurs, who spent the first half of this season on loan at Augsburg, signed for Millwall this week on loan from the Premier League club but they say he won’t be fit to start this one. Tom Bradshaw, who opened the scoring with a defensively shambolic goal right on half time in the first meeting last month, is out for five weeks with a hamstring injury. George Saville, who set that goal up aided and abetted by the QPR defence, returns from a three-match ban. George Honeyman was forced out of last week’s game with Boro injured but should make it. Speculation about Joe Bryan and Zian Flemming also missing out seems to be based entirely on getting our hopes up and their absence from the weekly set of training session photographs.

Elsewhere: Well it’s that bit of the week where we go through the rigmarole of looking at what the teams in our immediate vicinity on the league table are doing this weekend in the forlorn hope it matters for a team that is once again on a winless run of eight matches.

The good news is bottom-placed Rotherham are almost certain to extend their winless run away to 30 matches, dating back 18 months, when they head up to Middlesbrough. If they do that keeps them three points and currently ten goals back from us. The bad news is Sheff Wed, currently a point and a place ahead of us, have an eminently winnable game against Coventry at Hillsborough where the Owls have lost only one of the last six and won four.

Huddersfield remain the most/only realistic catchable target above the dotted line for our beleaguered troops – fourth bottom, five points ahead and at Loftus Road next Sunday. They’ve been convinced enough by Rhys Healey’s two goal start to life at Watford to shell out £2m on the former Toulouse striker – hopefully he plays next week as he did last – and tomorrow go to Blackburn. Sadly, it’s only really us who find trips to Ewood Park some monumental, unconquerable task. Rovers have come crashing down the Championship with seven defeats and one win from the last nine games and drew at home with Rotherham last time out at home before going down 4-1 at West Brom. If you’re looking for favours, and QPR surely are, they’re not the team you want to be relying on for one.

In between Blackburn and Huddersfield on the table are Birmingham, settling into life with Moany Towbray and with 29 points in the bag ahead of a trip to Stoke, and Plymouth, who’ve stopped winning and suddenly draw a lot but do have Morgan Whittaker on seven goals in seven games ahead of a homer with Cardiff.

At the irrelevant end of the table Ipswich could drop out of the top two for the first time since August this weekend. They go last with a fiendishly difficult Monday Night Football at Champions Leicester, while third placed Southampton have the early game on Saturday away at Russell Martin’s former club Swanselona. The Saints are three points back from Ipswich with a superior goal difference and are currently unbeaten for a club record run of 20 matches. In between those two games is another outright cruel Sunday breakfast kick off from Sky for fourth placed Leeds at home to Preston – there’s a seven point gap between second and Leeds.

The play-off picture is currently made up by West Brom who travel to Norwich, and Coventry in sixth who we’ve already mentioned. They can be usurped tonight depending on which version of Honest Mick’s Sunderland turn up at home to Hull in the Friday TV game. Beale used his pre-match interview to state his biggest learning from the last 18 months was "the importance of stability". Yeh, cheers for that Mick. Hull are part of a clutch of teams on 38 and 39 points which also includes Boro who have that Rotherham gimme, and Watford who play cup heroes Bristol City.

Watch out next week – the FA Cup fourth round has scattered seven Championship fixtures across seven days starting with Leeds v Norwich on Wednesday. Sheff Wed are the only one around us involved, at home to Watford in ten days’ time.

Referee: Brentford’s 1-1 draw with Wolves last autumn, in which Diego Costa was sent off in stoppage time, marked Robert Madley’s return to Premier League refereeing for the first time since his dismissal four years ago. Madley was sacked by the PGMOL after a video he took on his phone mocking a disabled person hobbling past his car and shared with a friend, was then forwarded onto his employer and became public. After time living away in Norway, where his wife is from, Madley returned to refereeing in League One and Two in 2020/21 and has been working his way backup since then. This will be his first QPR game since the opening day of the 2015/16 season at Charlton, and his first trip to Loftus Road since we beat Sunderland 1-0 in the Premier League the years before. And he’s a Huddersfield fan, which I thought I’d just chuck in there to cheer you up. Details.

Form

QPR: Rangers are quickly building up yet another long winless run – it’s now eight matches and getting on for two months since Rangers beat Hull 2-0 at Loftus Road in what was then a third successive victory and best performance of the season giving great hope for a climb away from the bottom three. After six defeats and two draws the R’s are now second bottom, five points adrift of safety, with 19 games left to play. The gritty 1-0 win against Watford here in March was QPR’s only home win in 23 attempts across an entire year. They’ve since managed to add Hull and Stoke to that tally, but are again getting themselves ever deeper into a dreadful set of scores at Loftus Road – now a draw and four consecutive defeats on our own ground. Every team in the league has won more home games than us this year (two) and nobody has lost more than our eight. Only Stoke (ten) have scored fewer home goals than our 12. After 12 points from his first seven games in charge, Marti Cifuentes has added just one from his next seven.

These dire runs have come along so often over the last few years you scarcely even notice them happening or building up anymore. Already in the first half of this season alone we’ve had a sequence of 12 games without a win, and now another of eight. We finished the second half of last season with runs of 13 winless games, and another of seven. If you look back to 2015/16 when we returned to this level, in the nine seasons that have followed we have had one run of 13 without a win, one of 12 without a win, one of ten games, two eight game sequences, five separate occasions where we’ve gone seven games without a victory, a further five runs of six games without a win and another five occasions where we were winless in five. It’s something of a miracle we haven’t been relegated long before this. No team in the EFL has lost more games than QPR over the last five or ten years.

One of the many great frustrations of the Watford defeat was QPR finally stemmed the bleeding from set pieces, and lost the game anyway. Only Blackburn (eight) have allowed more goals from corners than QPR (seven), seven of the nine goals Rangers had shipped prior to Watford have been from dead balls, and nine of the 14 conceded under Cifuentes had been from set pieces. The defending of those was a lot better against the Hornets, only for us to concede two in open play to Jake Livermore – three in his previous 103 appearances and his first double since May 2016. In open play Cifuentes had successfully tightened what was previously one of the league’s worst defences. We had kept five clean sheets in 13 games after five in the previous 39. We had conceded just five goals in open play in Cifuentes’ 13 matches, after conceding 21 in the prior 13. But that all fell apart against Valerien Ismael’s team and, if we’re honest the improved defending at set plays owed as much to Watford’s deliveries being every bit as pathetic as ours as it did any great rearguard action on our part. The whole debacle has rather overshadowed just how bad we are at our own dead balls – no team in the Championship has scored fewer goals than QPR from corners (two), although again its our near-future opponents Blackburn who fare next worse with three.

It must be January again because Lyndon Dykes suddenly has two goals in two games after scoring two in his previous 21 and three in his previous 29.

Millwall: There was a feeling around Millwall that the ever reliable, pragmatic and uninspiring Gary Rowett had perhaps just come to the end of the road with the club after four years in charge and a mutual departure would provide a required refresh for a team that had started the season with four wins from its first 15 games and was in danger of sinking into relegation trouble., When trendy, young, Chelsea academy-type Joe Edwards breezed in and won his first match 4-0 away at Sheff Wed that seemed very much the case but the Lions then went on a run of seven without a win including four defeats and only one game where they managed to score more than one goal. That meant QPR could have pulled within a point of them with a win at The Den on Boxing Day, but an insipid performance by the visitors opened the way to a 2-0 win and started a run of three successive victories and clean sheets that have lifted Edwards back off into the comfort of midtable. They come into this having lost the last two, and conceded three in each, but given they were against Champions Leicester in the cup and Middlesbrough you’d perhaps expect that.

Millwall don’t lose every often away from home. Just four defeats from 13 road trips so far this season, easily the lowest total in the bottom half of the league, better than two of the four teams currently in the play-off positions, and bettered only by the top three teams in the league who’ve each lost two. They do draw a lot away though – five is the division’s joint highest total along with Huddersfield. Kevin Nisbet is the top scorer here with five.

QPR did a double over Millwall in 2019/20, Mark Warburton’s first in charge, for the first time in the club’s history. The Nahki Wells-inspired win at The Den that year was Rangers first in an away meeting with the Lions since Simon Barker and Roy Wegerle scored at the old ground in a 2-1 win in 1989/90. By the time these two teams drew at Loftus Road 1-1 in the first game out of lockdown at the start of the 2021/22 season QPR were unbeaten in seven meetings and had lost only one in 11 and two in 21. Since then, however, Wawll have won three and drawn one of five, including this season’s pathetic Boxing Day surrender at The Den.

Prediction: We’re once again indebted to The Art of Football for 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 newly extended QPR collection here. Reigning champion Aston says.

“Things seem to be clicking a bit for the new Millwall manager, I suppose the same way they initially did for us under Cifuentes. This one could really go either way but I think the usual will happen, we'll concede from a set piece and then the heads will go and we'll concede again. Prove me wrong Rangers.”

Aston’s Prediction: QPR 0-2 Millwall. No scorer

LFW’s Prediction: QPR 0-2 Millwall. No scorer.

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TacticalR added 00:02 - Jan 20
Thanks for your preview (and review of the sorry state of our recruitment policy).

It seems that the ACL injury Dozzell got at Ipswich completely derailed his career (when Dozzell arrived Phil Ham told you that Ipswich fans had originally expected him to move to a Premier League club). The problem with Dozzell at QPR was there right from the beginning: Warburton had to take him off after 30 minutes when we were getting steamrollered at home by Valerian Ismaël's Barnsley. I agree that it was easy to forget he was on the pitch as he could totally disappear from a game.

One of the worst things about last season was not the disappearance of Beale's cohort, but the catastrophic loss of form of formerly reliable players like Dieng and Dickie (which seemed to be related to Warburton's departure). I hope that's not going to happen to Field, who held us together last season.

Our recruitment hasn't worked. It seems we were trying to go down the road of getting in skillful lightweight players. The problem is that we are often up against teams of athletes or teams of giants (or both), and you need pace and power against those kinds of teams.

'You’ve also got to contemplate whether we’re actually just tossing stuff overboard trying to drag ourselves back below the FFP line'. Yes, although everyone seems pleased at all the departures (Bhatia, Ferdinand, Ramsey), you have to wonder if this is a new dawn or simply rats leaving a sinking ship.

We desperately need a win from somewhere.
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062259 added 05:10 - Jan 20
“The club actively resisted interest in players when they were at the peak of their powers to chase an unlikely promotion in 21/22. Since then we have had them run contracts down (Bright, Manning, Willock), we've paid them up (Thomas, Bonne), we've offloaded them at cost (Dieng, Dickie) or watched them rot (Chair, Willock, Dozzell, Dykes, Dunne).”

As you say, criminal.
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KonashKi added 11:13 - Feb 1
I've never liked the inbuilt weather forecast app on my phone. Because there was never any clear information there. Now I only use this https://365weather.us weather forecast website. Because the information here is always checked by professionals. Now when I'm going to work I always check what the weather is like and this site doesn't deceive me. I use it with pleasure.

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