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Queens Park Rangers 1 v 1 Huddersfield Town
SkyBet Championship
Sunday, 28th January 2024 Kick-off 13:30
Room with a view – Preview
Friday, 26th Jan 2024 17:14 by Clive Whittingham

It’s an old fashioned six-pointer at Loftus Road this Sunday as QPR look to draw level with nearest rivals Huddersfield and desperately avoid dropping two full victories behind them.

QPR (6-6-16 LDLLLW 22nd) v Huddersfield (5-12-11 WLLLDD 21st)

Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Sunday January 28, 2024 >>> Kick Off 13.30 >>> Weather – Bright and breezy >>> Loftus Road, London, W12

Those incarcerated at Alcatraz said the worst cells of all were the ones with the view of the bay and the city beyond. So physically near, so figuratively far away. Pure torture.

Each morning the On This Day – QPR account opens up a porthole and lets the light of the past stream through into our dark present. Les Ferdinand rampaging around, Andy Sinton and Trevor Sinclair tormenting full backs, that day at Ipswich where Andy Impey turned into Luis Figo, and oh so many Chris Kiwomya goals from half a yard out, each described in turn by the fella who used to do the club commentary as “magnificent”. You remember how good John Spencer was, how privileged we were to enjoy Ray Wilkins and Roy Wegerle, and how big your soft spot for Rob Steiner still is today.

This week it was 27 years (27 years) since Trevor Sinclair leapt twelve feet into the air and casually stuck the greatest goal ever scored in the history of the sport into the roof of the net in an FA Cup tie with Barnsley. Saving it for a cup game, which Rangers won, so it would count towards (and of course win) the BBC’s Goal of the Season competition, rather than just fade away with so many other First Division highlights, was very un-QPR indeed. But, scoring a goal like that in a game in which Tony Roberts let a 30-yard free kick roll through his legs and into the net, and Andy Impey got sent off for punching a man to the ground, was seriously on brand.

It all, generally, makes you realise how far we’ve sunk – if I hadn’t seen such riches etc – but it also brings home how, in previous bleak periods, games quickly blur into one and get lost in the memory.

When we were relegated from the Premier League in 1995/96 there are moments I remember as vividly as if I was still there suffering them: going 2-0 up at home to Spurs on Monday night football only for Teddy Sheringham to cheat a penalty out of David Ellery to spark a comeback to 3-2; Karl Ready cutting Juergen Sommer out of the game at home to Newcastle with a suicidal backpass; the infamous Eric Cantona equaliser which I may have mentioned a time or two before. But there are also vast swathes of that season I’d clean forgotten about. It wasn’t until a message board discussion recently that I remembered freezing my little bum off in the Clock End at Highbury on Boxing Day, losing 3-0. The heartbreaking Bradley Allen penalty miss in the cup against Chelsea, yes – the far more damaging 1-0 league loss at home to Blackburn the week before, no. The heartbreaking Kevin Gallen penalty miss in a 2-1 home loss to Leeds, yes – the 4-2 loss at Villa Park three days later, no.

It's a similar story from the 2000/01 campaign which was the last time Rangers were relegated from the division we’re in now. The big difference between then and the present day is how quickly and vitriolically the fans turned on the team. Given we’d finished the 1999/00 season in midtable, and good form, and started the new one with just one defeat in our first six league games, I remember QPR fans trying to charge the tunnel and get at the players from the away end at Barnsley when we went 3-0 down in the first half. We won the game after too, 2-1 at home to Wimbledon. We then embarked on a run of 13 without a win and within that I remember, painfully, getting beaten against my local side Grimsby Town, and Bradley Allen telling our group afterwards QPR were the worst team they’d played. And getting done 5-2 at Sheff Wed. But a 2-2 at Stockport, 3-1 defeats at Watford and Bolton? I mean, I was there, but… Kevin Gallen coming back to score against us at Loftus Road, and us using our match sponsorship package to insist on voting Jude the Cat as man of the match – big yes. But a 1-1 at home to Palace with a Peter Crouch goal, or another tie at home to Bolton with Michel Ngonge scoring? Only when they pop up now on my feed do I think ‘hmmmmm, yeh, vaguely’.

It got me thinking about the games that will stick in the memory/craw from 2023/24 if it does indeed end with us dropping back into League One for the first time since then. The humiliations at Watford and home to Blackburn probably yes, the 2-0 at West Brom and 1-0 at Leeds probably not. Although there was that Albert Adomah long throw. It is the long winless runs of those forgettable, mundane, fixtures that do for you though. In 2000/01 we had winless sequences of ten and 13 games. In 1995/96 (a shorter Premier League fixture list) we had one of seven and another of eight. Already this term we’ve had a 12 and an eight. You’ll remember the heartbreak of those two last minute goals at Sheff Wed until the day you die, burned onto the back of your retinas by whichever cruel god it is that thinks that’s an acceptable way to treat people. It’s arguably starting Charlie Kelman instead of Sinclair Armstrong up front against Plymouth and playing an hour against ten men at home without scoring that’ll sink us just as much, and you’ll never remember that.

Mayhaps there’s worse to come, but for me it’ll take a lot from here for me to forget Huddersfield and Millwall away. For the former we battled storm and a collapsing rail system to stand two and a half hours up to Doncaster, cadged a lift from there, finally made it to the game through what felt like an absolute mission only for the team to collapse immediately into a 2-0 deficit. Afterwards Gareth Ainsworth said it had statistically been one of our best performances so far. Millwall was arguably even worse. A richly deserved 2-0 defeat against a dreadful, out-of-form side, with two of the most defensively shambolic goals ever conceded. It was a despicable performance and if there does happen to be anything in this week’s clickbait that Jimmy Dunne could be next out of the door then, with Andre Dozzell already gone and Osman Kakay taken up into the woods and left there, it feels like Marti Cifuentes is mercy killing each player involved in that debacle in turn whether there’s a replacement for them available or not. Here for it.

The Millwall result was avenged at Loftus Road last weekend, though for all the relief it brought around the place it was another game much like the first between two very poor sides – won as much by the dire quality of the losing team as anything the winners did particularly well. Millwall were laughably bad, and it still took us a horribly nervous 20 minutes of panicked play and much kicking the ball out to realise that and do anything about it. We’ll need to be better, and much faster off from the start, to repeat the revenge dosage for Huddersfield at Loftus Road on Sunday. Darren Moore needs a result to save his job, and four new signings have been provided to him by increasingly impatient American owner Kevin Nagle. Rangers’ recent record against this opponent is dire.

Lose and you’ll probably file it away with that Wigan match where Loic Remy scored the goal of the season only for Shaun Maloney to equalise with the last kick from a ridiculous foul by Stephane Mbia right on the edge of the box in stoppage time. Win, for the second game in a row, with woefully out of form Blackburn to come next week, and maybe we can start thinking about 2006/07 again, or 2011/12.

In the former there was, at one point, a sequence of 11 defeats and two wins in 14 games. Can you recall them? We lost 1-0 at home to Coventry, 2-1 to Sunderland, 1-0 to Wolves – any ideas? Probably not, but you’ll remember Marc Nygard’s ridiculous volley at Leicester, Dexter Blackstock’s 30-yard scorcher at home to Preston, and Paul Furlong’s last gasp diving header to relegate Luton on Easter Monday – part of an unlikely run of five wins from seven that kept us up. God bless Inigo Idiakez.

In the latter there was, again, a run of ten without a win in the Premier League in which Neil Warnock was sacked. Amidst a string of increasingly farcical games, beset with red cards and dire refereeing mistakes, Mark Hughes’ team then lost a succession of supposedly ‘must win’ games at home to Wolves and Fulham, away to Blackburn and Bolton. What you remember most though is the incredible end – a run of home wins against Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs, Swansea and Stoke which saved us regardless. Samba Diakite scoring against Arsenal, Jamie Mackie completing a comeback from 2-0 down against Liverpool. You’ll never forget those, but I bet you can’t tell me what we did on Boxing Day (drew at Swansea) or New Year’s Day (2-1 home loss to Norwich).

We’ll wait and see what Sunday’s result is, what significance it has to the season overall, and how long in the memory it lives. It’s certainly a game that looms large.

Links >>> Jermaine Darlington – History >>> Moore on the brink – Interview >>> Muscle Mary – Referee >>> Official website >>> Ground Guide >>> Down at the Mac — Forum >>> And he Takes That Chance — Podcast

90s Footballer Conspiracy Theories No.26 In The Series – John Salako cuts a lonely figure on the side of Route 285, New Mexico as he lays a single rose down for the lives lost in the Roswell spacecraft crash of July 1947. This is an annual pilgrimage for him.

Below the fold

Team News: Difficult to imagine anything other than same again in the team selection following the Millwall win. Paul Smyth was meant to start that game before withdrawing in the warmup so he may come back in having trained this week. Might not be a bad idea to unleash him and Sinclair together against one of the division's slowest defences. Other than that, there’s only really Elijah Dixon-Bonner to push the central midfielders, and Jimmy Dunne or Morgan Fox at the back, by way of competition in this desperately thin squad. January rumours about Royal Antwerp striker Michi Frey coming in or potentially Jimmy Dunne going out haven’t materialised into anything real. Taylor Richards has managed to make it as far as the grass at Heston judging by the latest set of training photographs – which is good of him. Rayan Kolli is the only confirmed absentee.

Huddersfield have been more active than most this January with strikers Rhys Healey (£2m, Watford) and Bojan Radulovic (£1m, Helsinki) signed along with centre back Radinio Balker (£1m, Groninegen) and midfielder Alex Matos (Chelsea, loan) all through the door. Balker missed out against Blackburn last week with Covid but will debut here alongside top scoring centre back Michal Helik. Healey only scored twice in two starts and ten sub appearances for Watford in the first half of the season, and played poorly for the Hornets against QPR just a week ago, but gets another swing here.

It's quite a list of absentees Darren Moore is wrestling with. Ollie Turton has been out for a year with a nasty ACL explosion and has suffered a setback in his comeback from that so unlikely to be seen at all this season. Ruffles the Gentleman Full Back, who improbably scored twice in this fixture last season, has been out since the start of November. Second top scorer Delano Burgzorg hasn’t played since Boxing Day at which point he had four goals in eight games. Centre back Matty Pearson (calf), veteran target man Danny Ward (ankle), Chris Maxwell and Kian Harratt (both hamstring) Jacob Chapman and Jaheim Headley (both ankle) are also out. Yuta Nakayama is at the Asia Cup with Japan.

Elsewhere: QPR have exited the FA Cup at the third round stage on 52 occasions – more than any other club in the country. That, and Huddersfield’s away draw at Man City, made this a pretty safe pick for Sky on fourth round weekend and so it has proved. There are only three surviving Championship fixtures this weekend, and six spread out across the week.

On Saturday there’s a bracing encounter in store at The Den where Millwall, who I thought were just about the worst side we’ve seen all season in their performance last weekend, host Preston Knob End. Up in the North East, Honest Mick’s charm offensive on the locals has this week included sarcastically talking about the “crisis” of being three points off the play-offs, accused them of “heaving their negativity at the youngest squad in the league”, and railing against perceived criticism of his Bromley accent by claiming he hasn’t worked in London for ten years. Shepherd’s Bush, of course, a suburb of Barnsley. While he tries again to open his mouth without saying something untrue, his team are at home to Stoke.

Not much for QPR to get teeth into among the Tuesday catch ups as Coventry host Bristol City and Champions Leicester play Swanselona, but the R’s could certainly do with favours from Watford away to Sheff Wed on Wednesday night.

Referee: Steve Martin starred as George Banks in the Charles Shyer-directed 1991 comedy Father of the Bride and its subsequent 1995 sequel. Details.

Form

QPR: Last Saturday’s desperately needed 2-0 victory against Millwall was QPR’s first win in nine attempts after a sequence of DLLLDLLL. It keeps the R’s just about in touch with their opponent this weekend – a win will put them level on points with Huddersfield and above them on goal difference, the first time they’ll have been outside the bottom three since mid-September. Lose and Huddersfield will obviously be six points ahead having beaten Rangers twice. The Millwall game also snapped the latest winless run at Loftus Road which had stretched to five games including four successive defeats since they beat Stoke and Hull here back-to-back at the start of December. Since taking over, Marti Cifuentes has taken 16 points from 14 games in charge, the Championship’s fourteenth best record in that time. Only Rotherham and Stoke have taken fewer than Huddersfield’s 13 over the same period.

Sinclair Armstrong’s late goal against the Lions was his second in three appearances after just one in his first 46 appearances for the club. Lyndon Dykes also has two in three after two in his previous 21 (both against Stoke). Steve Cook has played in five of QPR’s six wins this season and Rangers have shipped just three goals in his last eight outings. The clean sheet against Millwall was the sixth in 14 games under Cifuentes after six in the previous 40. Still only two goals scored from corners this season though – the division’s lowest total.

QPR unfortunately have a terrible recent record against Huddersfield. The R’s haven’t beaten the Terriers in four attempts, including the 2-1 loss in West Yorkshire in October. The 1-0 win here in November 20-21, supplied by a late Luke Amos goal, is the only QPR success in 12 attempts going back to 2015. If Huddersfield win this game it’ll be the third time in six seasons they’ve completed a double over us. Town have won three and drawn two of their last six visits to Loftus Road.

Huddersfield: There’s an odd look to the bottom of the Championship table where Huddersfield are currently outside the bottom three despite winning fewer games (five) than everybody else in the division bar bottom-placed Rotherham (three). The Terriers will drop into the relegation zone with a defeat this Sunday despite currently sitting on just 11 defeats – fewer than any of the rest of the bottom eight, as well as Preston (12th), Boro (11th), Sunderland (10th) and Norwich (8th) who have all lost 12. That’s all because, through power of deduction, the Terriers have drawn more than any other Championship side – 12 ties, including the last two, only Rotherham, Coventry and Watford come close with ten.

Town’s American owner Kevin Nagle seemed to suggest in his latest video diary that Darren Moore’s cautious approach and difficult-to-watch football will cost him his job if a win isn’t forthcoming in W12 on Sunday. Moore’s team arrive in West London without a win in five matches in which they’ve failed to score more than one goal in a game and conceded 13 goals (albeit five of those in the FA Cup at Man City). They have just one win from their last 11 and two from 17 since they won the first meeting between these sides back in October. Away from home its no wins in six (D3 L3) and one win from 12. Only Rotherham and Plymouth (both still on zero) have won fewer than Town’s two away victories this season. Thirteen away goals scored is the division’s worst total outside the bottom three, bar Plymouth.

Given QPR’s dire record at set pieces, it’s something of a concern to be facing a team with a centre back as their top scorer. Michal Helik headed in the equaliser at Blackburn last week, his third goal in five outings and eighth in 28 starts this season. Delano Burgzorg with six in 15 starts and five sub appearances is the next biggest threat statistically. Jack Rudoni’s goal in the first meeting was his third in eight games, but he’s without a goal in nine appearances since and missed a sitter at Ewood Park.

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.

“I'm going for a 1-0 win to QPR this time round. A far scrappier game than we would have liked it to be but one that we come out on the right side of for a change. Sinclair Armstrong to score it.”

Aston’s Prediction: QPR 1-0 Huddersfield. Scorer – Sinclair Armstrong

LFW’s Prediction: QPR 1-1 Huddersfield. Scorer – Sinclair Armstrong

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Lofthope added 19:33 - Jan 26
Mick Beale has not worked in London for 10 years is true.

He has been employed in London during that time but certainly never worked here.
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Myke added 23:04 - Jan 26
Pretty remarkable that after finally managing to snap a 7 match winless last week, we now have an opportunity to climb out of the bottom 3 in our very next game. - surely that should be motivation enough? Sadly it looks like one of Ainsworth's final aspirations (after he had given up on 'surprising a few people'), finishing top of a mini-league of four is our best chance of survival.
With none of the players in the final six months of their contract ( bar Dozzell and possibly Dunne) leaving this window it looks like there will be a massive clear-out this summer regardless of what division we are in next year.
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TacticalR added 23:09 - Jan 27
Thanks for your preview.

One of the things that has made our games unmemorable is our lack of goals. Goals are a landmark.

Periods without a win are getting longer. 'Already this term we’ve had a 12 and an eight'. Remember when everyone was tearing their hair out when Holloway or Warburton went six games without a win?

We can only hope that the strikers that Huddersfield have brought in won't solve their goal-scoring problems, at least for now. As Cifuentes hasn't been able to bring anyone in, can he continue to reshuffle the pack and chip away at the gap between us and the teams above us?
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