|Queens Park Rangers 2 v 2 Norwich City
Saturday, 10th February 2024 Kick-off 15:00
When you do good, I use the green pen – Preview
Friday, 9th Feb 2024 20:35 by Clive Whittingham
QPR have once again played their way back into the fight at the bottom of the Championship with seven points from three games – can they finally succeed in crossing that dotted line with another positive result at home to Norwich?
QPR (7-7-16 LLLWDW 22nd) v Norwich (13-5-12 WWWLLW 9th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday February 10, 2024 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Dry at last, briefly >>> Loftus Road, London, W12
One of the more curious trends of modern football is the size of online audience you can build, with all the handsome financial rewards that brings, commenting on games you haven’t been to and players you’ve never seen play.
One of, if not the, biggest YouTube channels in British football is a guy with a voice like Fievel Mousekewitz chatting what’s almost universally accepted to be complete bollocks into his webcam about Manchester United – a team he neither ever goes to watch, nor originally even supported.
Here’s my 37 Tweet thread on the Bundesliga 2 left back we’ve just been linked to, who I’ve never watched and hadn’t actually even heard of until this time yesterday, please subscribe to my Substack.
Mind you, in the real footballing world scouting and recruitment has been moving in that direction for a long time. Many point to Brentford and Brighton while few acknowledge the competitive advantage their owners’ day job businesses give them in this field, but every club has been moving more, to one extent or another, in the direction of data and analytics. Why, when there are platforms like Wyscout which can offer you video libraries of essentially every player, at every level, everywhere in the world, would you rely on the traditional model of a grizzled old human being sitting at the back of the stand at Hayes and Yeading on the off chance of finding a new Les Ferdinand? The Nowhere Men who Michael Calvin writes about in his superb book on football scouting will soon, it seems, be exactly that. Mel Johnson, who features heavily in that book and whose return to QPR scouting made for a nice nostalgia piece after his involvement in putting together the 03/04 promotion winning team, left the club a few months back.
QPR’s pick up of Michy Frey seems to have been at least partly driven by online footballer meat market TransferRoom (or, at least, they’re certainly claiming some credit). Things have come a long way since that DVD of Sammy Koejoe – or, at least, we hope they have. That’s only likely to increase now the CEO and DOF keys have apparently all been handed over to Christian Nourry. It's just you and me now, Pete. We're all in.
And who am I, after 20 years of interrupting gratuitously long stories about dead relatives (Awaydays is back Monday, by the way) and disrupted train journeys to deliver hot QPR takes such as “Steven Caulker is a signing so foolproof even we can’t mess this up”, to be casting aspersions against anybody else’s ‘content’? Besides, this week I’ve no choice but to hop over to that side of the fence. These previews don’t write themselves and, having missed two QPR games in a row for the first time in something approaching 25 years, all I can do is offer you a few things I liked and a few things I did not like while peering at QPR Plus and causing a Joe Hodge-related scene in the lobby of what was really quite a nice hotel.
+ Creative dealmaking The team has shown us repeatedly it’s not good enough to stay up. The thought of going through another half season with this set of strikers, and this central midfield, was a ball ache so painful it sent me to the other side of the world to escape it. The idea it might suddenly start winning the one game in three we need, as opposed to the one game in six it’s presently managing, was fantasy. The FFP situation caused by decisions made previously made January transfer window business highly unlikely, said Christian Nourry in his opening interview as CEO. Perhaps he was just setting expectations nice and low so he’d be praised for any business done at all, but, still, to get four new faces in was very welcome. It had felt for a while like Les Ferdinand and Lee Hoos had both reached the end of the road at the club – increasingly checked out and downbeat, always with a problem to every solution, always a story about FFP or EPPP. You couldn’t even get them to cough to the £6 plastic bottles of Carlsberg taking up the same space as £6 plastic bottles of… a much nicer beer. Most of what they said was right of course, but they’d been thoroughly QPR’d. Other clubs are doing much more than us with far less. Some new impetus, ideas and energy were required at the top and the solutions found here – Frey in dispute with his club and willing to move here for virtually nothing, Andersen in a similar bind after relegation and a series of injuries, Hodge and Hayden needing game time rather than financial contributions to their loans – were exactly that. There’s no use wallowing, we’ve got to get creative and find a way of succeeding in this climate or face extinction. It’s a promising start for our new CEO.
+ Hayden and Hodge And just look at the difference those two made immediately after coming on at Ewood Park. While much of the focus is understandably on our attack, strikers are expensive. Never mind marginal gains, a proper, fuck off major gain to obviously be had from this team was increasing the desperately pathetic output of goals, assists, creativity, forward passes… anything at all really from our central midfield. When Andre Dozzell arrived late in the box to finish a low half chance with aplomb against Leicester that was the sort of goal I felt he should have been capable of getting five or six times a season. Likewise, Sam Field, who missed chances exactly like that at Rotherham, Sheff Wed and Norwich which would have put another seven points on our present total. No surprise that Andre The Friendly Ghost – the ball-playing midfielder with two goals and two assists in two and a half years – was the first to be ditched by this new look manager and CEO combo. It took all of five minutes for Hodge to join the attack from the middle of midfield, running on and past the strikers to provide a wild and dangerous goalscoring threat of his own. Sorcery. That’s a kid with six senior starts in his whole life. It’s nowhere near as difficult and rare as some of ours make it look. Hayden’s positioning, and particularly his forward passing, also put one or two of our others to shame. Field will have to step up when he’s back from his ban – we play forwards now Sam. And they all look so completely unburdened by All The QPR that clearly weighs heavy on the shoulders of so many others who’ve been here across the last two years. Big first impressions made.
+ Players who want to be here. While the story about Hodge choosing to drive straight down from Wolves v Man Utd so he could train Friday and be involved Saturday was typically hyped up – this is how successful clubs and players operate lads, you only think it’s unusual because we’re neither – it was a welcome shift in mood and attitude. Likewise, Hayden’s thoughtful and interesting (print it out for a frame) signing interview where he spoke at length about the importance of personal accountability in relegation battles. All four of the new signings want to be here – in Frey’s case he’s seemingly accepted an absolute pittance just to get back on the football pitch. It’s been attitude and culture as much as ability that we’ve needed to turn around here. Having questioned what quality and character of player you’d even find wanting to come to QPR, in this situation and on this budget, these were promising introductions.
- A shame it wasn’t more To that end, further such deals had been lined up and were scuppered by us being unable to move out any more of our present squad. Deals for the likes of Chris Willock, Osman Kakay and Taylor Richards were all on the table and would have freed up a £30k+ chunk of weekly wage for further squad refreshments. No interest in Willock ever survives a meeting with his reps – even Hull, who are chucking cash at Fabio Carvalho types to try and get them promoted, couldn’t fit the demands within their FFP calcs. Fascinating where he ends up this summer, and on what sort of contract. Richards was… injured. Kakay’s was a loan a long way from London. That’s their prerogative – as a club and a fanbase we’re quick to bitch and moan when people don’t honour contracts, request transfers, or run deals down to free transfers, it’s a bit rich of us to criticise people for sticking with deals we’ve previously offered them. We signed them, we gave them the contracts, nobody else. Kakay, at least, is a good clubman who doesn’t deserve half the stick he gets. Still, given Osman's apparently been mercy killed after the debacle at The Den, Willock has no interest in staying beyond the end of this season and still looks physically shot to me, and Richards hasn’t even been named in our 25 man squad for the second half of the season (as we’ve only named 22 there is space to re-add him at a later date, but still) it’s somewhat disappointing we weren’t able to shift them, or some others, just to see what other weird and wonderful rabbits our new leadership team had ready to pull out of deadline day hats.
- The contract lengths thing. While Nourry has made a big first impression by getting creative with deals to reinforce the team in difficult FFP circumstances, his decision to stop revealing the length of new contracts, and his ‘Shit you read on LinkedIn’-style reasoning for it, is bollocks. It makes it look like you’ve got something to hide – like you’re doing shitty deals (18 months instead of six for an extremely injury prone Andersen) to cover for the other shitty deals (two years for 34-year-old Jack Colback) you did previously. You risk turning one PR disaster (why on earth have they given Albert Adomah’s another year?) into a recurring annual one (fuck me they gave him more than a year!?). It provides zero competitive advantage – if Leeds United are really desperate to know how long Charlie Kelman has left on his deal they’ll just bell his agent and ask, and he’ll tell them. The only people you’re deceiving are the supporters, who will be able to know even less about the direction, finances and FFP situation at their club than they did before. You might say that’s exactly the point but it’s contemptuous to a fanbase which has suffered the last two years of club rot in remarkably good humour and ongoing attendance. Decisions made and deals done by people running the club over the last three years, particularly and especially with regard to contracts given out, have driven this club to the brink of League One. That has been met with precious little dissent and protest relative to what every previous board and ownership in the club’s modern era has faced. Perhaps that’s made the club complacent and comfortable because in reward for that they’re saying they’re going to tell us even less than the tiny scraps of information they provide already about these deals. Undisclosed fee, undisclosed agent, undisclosed wage, undisclosed contract length, but please do keep rolling up to pay, potentially, League One’s most expensive season ticket come August. We should be going for more transparency and cooperation with supporters, not less. It’s bullshit, and they should quietly reverse it for the summer transfer window. Use it as a “see we are listening” PR win if you have to, but into the sea with it.
+ A better feeling. With the performances of the new players, and the first win at Blackburn in 25 years, there’s an upbeat air around the place again with seven points from nine. That’s welcome. A confident team is much more likely to get positive results than one which isn’t. I think you saw how fragile our team’s mentality still is at Blackburn when they conceded an unfortunate goal, completely against the run of play, thanks to a refereeing error. Colback even rocked backwards and forwards and repeatedly described it as an “equaliser” in his post match interview. It needn’t have been a disaster: QPR had looked well on course to go and win the game by three or four prior to Gallagher halving the deficit, and still could have done so – the Blackburn manager was on his last legs, the crowd in open revolt, it was there for the taking. With that one error by Geoff Eltringham and slip by our defence and keeper it was suddenly panic stations, backs to the wall, punting long balls at Frey, trying to cling on through ten minutes of stoppage time. It risked a repeat of our collapse at Hillsborough. Hopefully seeing it through this time, and seeing we are good enough to go and win at other places, will relax and chill them out to cope with that sort of minor set back a bit better. And for the long suffering lot behind the goal, going all that way to the unhappiest of hunting ground’s and the most desolate of places on a train strike day, such brilliant reward to be there for a great win, two goals right in front of them, and that feeling inside which somehow only QPR victories can provide. We need to use it as fuel.
- One swallow doesn’t make a summer (or a wife). The thing our last three matches have had in common are dreadful starts. Tentative, nervous play, mistakes in our own box, misplaced passes, terrifying farce around Asmir Begovic’s footwork, balls kicked into touch… Against Millwall a goal totally out of the blue snapped us out of it, against Huddersfield it manifested itself into a terrible performance, and at Blackburn the hosts missed one terrific chance through Chrisene and we were incredibly fortunate to get away with one pass back that seemed to have played the hosts straight through on our own keeper. Seven points from nine should have given us a bit of confidence and we need to use that to start stronger. We’ve got similar games against teams in woeful form coming up (Stoke, Bristol City, Rotherham) but against Norwich tomorrow, and Leicester, West Brom and Boro beyond February, if we turn in opening 20 minute performances like that we’re going to be out of games before they’ve even begun. It’s worth bearing in mind just how poor Millwall, Huddersfield and Blackburn really are/were. And while Hayden and Hodge in particular look good signings, along with two reasonable punts in Frey and Andersen, they’re nothing startlingly brilliant who are just going to solve all our problems. We're always guilty of losing our shit over new signings. When we put three positive results together in December the attitude became very laissez-faire and over confident, like we were just going to breeze out of this thing. We’re not. Our start to the season under Gareth Ainsworth means we’re never going to fully escape the shitshow at the bottom of the table this season. We’re still really going to have to go some.
+ Sinclair There was much discourse about Sinclair Armstrong’s rocks and diamonds performance at Ewood – as usual, some absolutely savage criticism on social media. His decision making in the final third, touch, and finishing, was at time absurdly bad, I’ll admit. But his speed and power worried Blackburn all afternoon. Centre backs don’t like playing him, and know they’ve been in a game. It’s a persistent bugbear of mine about Dykes - you can say that occasionally about him (Preston A), but not often enough, and you don’t need to be playing well to be an effective handful. Armstrong is a project, learning on the job here because we’re desperate when ideally he’d have been built up through loan deals. He’s going to make mistakes, he’s going to have good days and bad. His improvement over the year is there for all to see – he’s getting caught offside far less after three months with Cifuentes for a very broad and basic start. He kept at it against Blackburn, when his head could easily have dropped after the horrible execution of the one v one chance at the start of the second half. His assist for Hodge’s goal showed exactly the sort of calmness and composure we need him to add to his game – it bordered on deft. I was delighted he got that reward for continuing to plug away. For his critics, we’re a better side with him in it I’m afraid. Looking at Frey’s general mobility and movement in his cameo I’m not sure we’ve got much choice.
+ Our manager. However this season turns out, you’ll have to work hard to convince me we haven’t got a good one here. To be getting anything approaching a tune out of the mess he inherited here is akin to playing a harmonica solo on a piece of dogshit he picked up on the green. He’s made plenty of mistakes already – surrendering the midfield to pack the defence at Sheff Wed, Charlie Kelman and the team selection in general for that big game with Plymouth – but just about everything I see and hear of him, his methods and his tactics make me warm to him more and rate him higher. I saw somebody cut together an amazing reel of Chelsea Fan TV flipflopping frantically this way and that about Pochettino this week so I hope this paragraph isn’t going to come back to haunt me, but I hope Cifuentes sticks around regardless next season. If he does keep us in the Championship that will be some sort of footballing miracle, and I’m excited to see what he’d do with the team from there.
+ Kenneth Paal’s equaliser. The Huddersfield game was atrocious. Rangers couldn’t string two passes together. It made for an excruciating jetlagged watch and by the time Paal did equalise in the fifth minute of stoppage time I barely moved in reaction. Failure to beat a crap Huddersfield team at home was a huge missed opportunity, a draw wasn’t a good result, and we won’t be beating anybody, anywhere, anytime soon playing like that. We may well look back on games like that, and the aways at Rotherham, Sheff Wed and Millwall, as the ones that finished off our chances. Stay up though, and that goal could be looked back on as absolutely pivotal in the success. Scrambling a point where one was scarcely deserved, with the last kick of the game against a relegation rival, keeping the gap to Huddersfield to a manageable three as opposed to a mountainous six. As with the success of failure of the four new arrivals, we’ll only really know come May.
Links >>> Boxing Day belter – History >>> Curioser and curioser – Interview >>> Newbie – Referee >>> Norwich Official Website >>> The Pink ‘Un — Local Press and Forum >>> Eastern Daily Press — Local Press >>> My Football Writer - Norwich City >>> Along Come Norwich - Blog
90’s Footballer Conspiracy Theories No.28 In The Series – Alexei Lalas believes a series of fires at farms and food processing plants across Virginia is part of deep state strong arm tactics to improve public health by continuing the dramatic reduction in the size of Wagon Wheels.
Below the fold
Team News: Bar Rayan Kolli, it’s almost entirely good news. QPR’s recent uptick has been driven by picking a settled team and not having delve into the depth which we know this squad badly lacks. That’s particularly true in the middle of the defence where Steve Cook and Jake Clarke-Salter as a pairing are vastly superior to our other options in that position but have both struggled to put a consistent run of games together – Cook has lost only one of his last eight appearances for Rangers, played in six of our seven wins this season, and only lost six of his 20 outings for the club so far. This coming week, however, ends a nice calm run of Saturday-only fixtures and presents the sort of three-game week Cook, Clarke-Salter and the team in general have struggled with this season. More on that in the Stoke preview.
Getting our best team on the field more often than not will be key to surviving. That will be aided by the four new arrivals at the end of the transfer window. Michy Frey hadn’t played a game of football since last May and, frankly, looked it at Blackburn, albeit while winning more in the air in 20 minutes than Lyndon Dykes has for about three months. How much we’ll expect of Lucas Andersen, who also hasn’t completed a 90 minutes since August, remains to be seen. Isaac Hayden and Joe Hodge, on the other hand, made immediate and notable impact at Ewood Park and must both be pushing for starts here, especially with Sam Field serving game two of his ban and Jack Colback one card away from his own two match spell on the naughty step.
We’re offering a day out at the Henley Regatta with Christian Nourry as this week’s prize for any confirmed sighting of Taylor Richards.
Norwich will likely swap one veteran centre back for another this weekend with Shane Duffy out with a hamstring problem and Grant Hanley his most likely replacement after three starts and a sub appearance in the last month on the way back from his own long term absence. Danny Batth is also back in the squad having not played a league game since the end of December. Top scorer Jon Rowe missed last week’s game against Coventry but is back in training and will travel to London. Bologna striker Sydney Van Hooijdonk (son of…) was Norwich’s only January addition, and the 24-year-old deadline day addition made his debut from the bench in the 2-1 home win against Coventry last week.
Elsewhere: There was real giving with one hand and taking away with the other about Huddersfield’s second half blast of Sheff Wed last Saturday, each goal in a 4-0 victory for the Terriers more defensively farcical than the one that went before it.
On the one hand it meant QPR’s big win at Blackburn failed to move them out of the bottom three, or close the gap at all on the West Yorkshire side who’ve long looked our most likely hope for survival. It also signified a potentially worrying uptick in their form sans Darren Moore – perhaps chairman Kevin Nagle was right in all those video diaries and the manager did just need to be a bit more positive with the group of players he had there. On the other it looks like Sheff Wed’s brief rally over Christmas has well and truly run out of steam, with the previously highly positive Danny Rohl now cutting a more frustrated and disconsolate figure, and a huge hike in season ticket prices for next season (cash or PayPal only, banks refusing to countenance credit cards at that club in its present state) increasing anger towards owner Derek Chansiri.
We’re in a similar boat tonight as Wednesday host Birmingham in the first Sky game of the weekend. After the hilarious Wayne Rooney folly was brought to a disappointingly swift conclusion the perception is Brum are just going to pull away now under Moany Towbray, but they were beaten 1-0 at West Brom last weekend and remain well in it – just four points ahead with a game in hand. Do we want a Wednesday win to keep the Blues involved, or the Sheffield team buried further?
Huddersfield meanwhile are away to an increasingly out of control Southampton – now unbeaten in a club record 24 games with nine wins from their last 11. That starts a run of fixtures for Town that should gladden your hearts (Southampton A, Sunderland H, Hull H, Watford A, Leeds H, Cardiff A, West Brom H) and the R’s simply have to take advantage of through our own coming fixtures with Norwich, Stoke, Bristol City and Rotherham. The Millers, who with just 19 points (nine adrift of QPR and 12 of safety) we’re assuming are just about done for the year, are away at Leeds this weekend.
That pack Marti Cifuentes’ men are now trying to reel in contains a number of more realistic targets than Birmingham, apart from Huddersfield. Stoke, who we travel to face during the week, look in a right state, with no new manager bounce offered by Stephen Schumacher and a 5-0 loss to Leicester last time out making it three defeats in a row. They’re four points ahead as it stands. This weekend they go to another of the strugglers Blackburn. Jon Dahl Tomasson left the club today, the fourth manager to lose his job in the Championship this season after a negative result against QPR (Alex Neil, Matt Taylor, Darren Moore). John Eustace is the new man in at a chaotic Ewood Park, where their appeal against the late filing of paperwork to sign striker Duncan McGuire from Orlando has failed, and they’re now on a run of one win in 11 league games prior to this six pointer.
Millwall and Swansea, too, offer the R’s great hope if only we can stick a few results together. Both on 33 points, five ahead of us, and with just one point each from the last 12 available, they have very difficult away games this weekend. Swansea are at big spending Hull on Saturday, Wawwlll go hunting Marxists in Coventry on Sunday.
Plymouth have stuck another couple of wins on the board, including a long overdue first away win, and are pretty much out of it now ahead of the division’s longest away trip to Honest Mick’s Sunderland. Bristol City will have to go some to drop into trouble, but with six Championship games without a win and a trip to Middlesbrough this weekend they offer hope of another positive day on the road at Ashton Gate for the big following from W12 next weekend.
Three other fixtures to mention, two at the irrelevant end of the division (Champions Leicester away to faltering Watford, Ipswich hosting West Brom in the early Saturday kick off), and Cardiff v Preston Knob End which is of new use nor interest to anybody at all.
Referee: In 2017 Ben Toner was taken off a League One game between Blackpool and Portsmouth in the wake of a High Court ruling against the Oyston family’s deliberate asset stripping of the club. The PGMOL insisted the switch to Premier League Jon Moss was because of the extra scrutiny on the game and the need for a more experienced official, and nothing to do Ben Toner’s name which had caused much mirth among the Pool faithful in light of the verdict. Details.
QPR: After no wins and six defeats in eight games, QPR are once again showing signs of life. They’ve won two and drawn one to take seven points from the last nine available, re-opening the gap on Sheff Wed to five points and reeling back in the pack of lower mid-table teams. It takes their record under Marti Cifuentes to 5-5-6 in the league, the 13th in the Championship over that period. The Spaniard is averaging 1.25 points a game to Gareth Ainsworth’s 0.57 before him, enough for a 48 point finish if it sustains through to May which would have meant survival in each of the last three seasons, though only thanks to Reading’s points deduction in the case of 22/23. The first win at Blackburn in 13 attempts and 20 years last weekend wasn’t, however, enough to escape the bottom three for the first time since September 30 thanks to Huddersfield’s own win which keeps them three points ahead on equal -14 goal difference.
Improving the home form is going to be crucial. At the moment no team has won as few home matches as QPR (three, same as Rotherham) and no team has lost more on their own patch either (eight, joint with Blackburn). Last season’s total of 12 home losses was the club record, and we’re four shy of that with eight games left to come in W12. Only Stoke (11) and Millwall (14) have scored fewer than our 15 at home and our 22 conceded is the worst total in the bottom six. That has all improved substantially under Cifuentes mind you – he accounts for all three of the home wins so far and has lost just three of his nine games in the Bush.
Having picked one bogey at Blackburn last weekend, Rangers will have to discard of another if they’re to move out of the bottom three this weekend. Norwich have already beaten the R’s 1-0 twice this season in League Cup and Championship meaning the R’s are now without a win in eight meetings against the club they’ve played more than any other (131 meetings) – Rangers have only scored three goals across those eight games too. City are unbeaten in four at Loftus Road, winning three, since Ebere Eze and co ran riot in a 4-1 win here for Ian Holloway’s team, Easter 2018. QPR have failed to score in three of the last four, five of the last eight, eight of the last 13, 11 of the last 19 and 13 of the last 23 meetings with this opponent.
Norwich: This second consecutive Championship season ends a five-year sequence of yo-yoing between the top two divisions for the Canaries (they haven’t done more than three straight years at this level since 2005-2009) and it’s been a thoroughly odd season for one of the division’s streakiest teams. They began the season with five wins and a draw, including a 1-0 League Cup success at Loftus Road. They followed that up with two wins from 12, with a winless run of six games amongst it. The Canaries won six and lost only one of the eight games after that before going four without a win. They arrive at Loftus Road with three wins in their last four Championship games either side of a predictable FA Cup thrashing at Liverpool. For it all, they sit three places and one point outside the top six at the start of this weekend’s play.
Like knitting fog then, trying to pick form out for this section. One thing they have been fairly consistent in, however, is dodgy away form. Just four wins on the road in the league all season – the same total as ourselves in 22nd, Stoke in 20th and one fewer than 18th-placed Blackburn. They’ve conceded 30 goals in 15 away matches which is the division’s worst record bar Rotherham who’ve shipped 34 and are yet to win. They’ve won one in their last six away games in the league - albeit an impressive one at Hull – and lost 1-0 at Millwall in that sequence who, as we know, are really not very good. That all said their 25 away goals scored is the division’s third best total behind Boro (27) and champions Leicester who stuck five on their total of 33 at Stoke last week.
Scoring loads and conceding in almost equal measure has been rather a theme of Norwich’s campaign. As well as the division’s second worst defence and third best attack on the road, only the top four sides have scored more than their 48 goals overall while 45 conceded is a total bettered by seven of the teams beneath them in the table including ourselves. Their results include a 4-4 draw at Southampton, 4-0 win at Huddersfield, 6-2 loss at Plymouth and 5-2 defeat at Liverpool. Only Blackburn (17.1) average more shots faced in games than Norwich (16.2). Jon Rowe is the top scorer here with 12 league goals in 25 starts and two sub apps and 13 in all comps.
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.
“Both teams will come into this one in relatively high spirits and I think we'll manage to make it a close game. They're still a decent side with realistic playoff ambitions, but it'll finish 1-1 and Joe Hodge will pop up to score again.”
Aston’s Prediction: QPR 1-1 Norwich. Scorer – Joe Hodge
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 1-1 Norwich. Scorer – Ilias Chair
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Knees-up Mother Brown #20 by wessex_exile
Bill Shankly once said that form is temporary, class is permanent. He was of course correct, but let’s hope never more so than today’s visit to Wetherby Road to take on the form side of League 2, Harrogate Town. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say the Sulfurites have defied the expectations of most pundits, many tipping them to be in another relegation scrap this season. But, long-standing manager (and former player) Simon Weaver has turned things around, and they currently sit just two places and two points outside the play-offs. Weaver was rightly awarded the Sky Bet League 2 Manager of the Month for January – hope he looks after it, because it’ll be Danny’s soon.
Knees-up Mother Brown #19 by wessex_exile
February, and the U’s enter the most pivotal month of the season. Six games in just four weeks, with four of them against sides also in the bottom six. By March we should be either well clear of danger, or even deeper in the sh*t. With Danny Cowley’s U’s still unbeaten, and looking stronger game on game, I’m sure it’ll be the former, but first we have to do our bit to consign Steve ‘Sour Grapes’ Cotterill’s FGR back to non-league. After our shambolic 5-0 defeat at New Lawn, nothing would give me greater pleasure, even if it meant losing one of my closest awaydays in the process. What’s the excuse going to be today Steve – shocking pitch, faking head injuries, Mexican banditry or some other bit of sour-grapery bullsh*t?
Knees-up Mother Brown #18 by wessex_exile
It’s the last Saturday of January, and thanks to a succession of games either not on a Saturday, postponed because of the weather, or me actually being there, this is only the second blog of the New Year. The upside of all that is that Danny and Nicky Cowley have had a full two weeks to continue to work on both the physical and mental agility/ resilience of the U’s squad. It will be interesting to see how they get on against a Morecambe side unbeaten in the league so far this year, their only defeat a 2-0 loss in the FA Cup against Championship side Swansea City. With a game in hand over most above them, and only six points below 7th place, the Shrimps will probably think they still have an outside chance of making the play-offs. I sincerely doubt it, but we’d willingly swap places if we had the chance.
Knees-up Mother Brown #16 by wessex_exile
After another break from blogging, with the U’s getting last Saturday off thanks to our FA Cup first round departure at Shrewsbury, not that there was too much disgrace from that particular performance, KMB15 returns. Heaven knows though, there’s been precious little to smile about in recent weeks, conceding 11 goals in the last three matches alone. Not counting when he was temporarily stood down as interim Head Coach, this is Matty Etherington’s tenth game in charge, and his future as manager is already hanging by a thread. Ironic therefore that today he goes up against his former club Crawley Town, so here’s hoping the WAGMI-owned club fold as easily as their embarrassingly worthless contract clause claim did.
Knees-up Mother Brown #15 by wessex_exile
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