|Preston North End 2 v 1 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 25th February 2017 Kick-off 15:00
QPR go looking for green shoots at Preston once more - Preview
Friday, 24th Feb 2017 19:28 by Clive Whittingham
Two wins on the spin for Ian Holloway's QPR means a ten point gap between them and the bottom three and with season ticket prices released thoughts are starting to half turn to what lays in store next season.
Preston (13-10-10, DLDWWD, 10th) v QPR (11-7-15, LDLLWW, 15th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday February 25, 2017 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Absolutely tipping it down >>> Deepdale, Preston
Rarely can a win against a team so abysmally managed they’d probably lose a training ground practice match to their own under 15s, backed up by a narrow home success against a side so poor in the first half of the season they got a new manager and 12 news players in the January transfer window, have been greeted with such euphoric relief as QPR’s routine wins against Birmingham City and Wigan Athletic this week.
The relegation zone was getting uncomfortably close, QPR’s results were not good, the fixtures up ahead looked tough, and for all the moaning about the monotony of Championship life we all agree that another relegation is not what Rangers need right now. You think Lee Hoos penny pinches at the moment? Try him with only League One money coming through the door. Two victories, building a ten-point gap between ourselves and the drop zone, very welcome indeed.
It’s certainly not all over, Rangers could easily get dragged back in again, but the position is much more secure and it would need quite the collapse to see us drop a division now you would think.
Socially (and that’s all we’re talking here before we get all the ‘student union newspaper’ grief again), a couple of years in League One might not be a bad thing. New grounds for us at Rochdale, Shrewsbury, Wimbledon and Bristol Rovers among others. Intriguing trips like Fleetwood (we may get that one anyway) and Carlisle. It might breathe some life into a travelling support that, until Newcastle and Birmingham it should be said, has been dwindling in number, enthusiasm and volume this season. Those early years under Holloway first time around, travelling in big numbers to places like Northampton, Hartlepool and Bury were a right laugh.
That’s not a reason to desire a demotion of course, it nearly killed the club once and could easily do so again, but it is a relevant point to raise this week as QPR, predictably, leapt on the opportunity provided by back to back wins and whacked next year’s season ticket prices out. The Championship is not a fun league, not an interesting league and not a particularly good league to watch these days.
It’s a league overflowing with failed Premier League outfits in the Midlands and the North West. One long, expensive, boring journey out of Euston to a half full new ground with no atmosphere after another. Pride Park, St Andrew’s, Ewood Park, Madejski Stadium, Molineux, DW Stadium, whatever they’re calling that big warehouse in Cardiff these days… bland, lifeless stadiums we’ve been to a thousand times before with middle of the road teams rattling round in them playing dull, attritional football to a gallery of empty seats. It doesn't exactly scream "let's get up at 06.30 and get the early train" does it?
Few home comforts to be found at Loftus Road either – the Wigan win was just the fifth this season, and was immediately followed by the sadly predictable news that for the tenth time this season Sky were moving one of our matches away from a Saturday 15.00 kick off. The Brighton match, now Friday April 7, will be the twelfth home match this season kicking off at a time other than Saturday 15.00 – a significant consideration for people with work commitments, or kids, when they look at the £400-530 bill facing them for a renewal next season. If one or the other restricts you to Saturday afternoon games only, you could well have paid £48 a match this season as a season ticket holder.
There are those of us who will renew regardless, though that’s certainly not me getting up on any kind of high horse and looking down on those who decide not to. The football is dull, the division is boring and the kick off changes are now so numerous, so often, done at such short notice, and switched to times so obviously fucking ridiculous (Thursday night my arse) that this is a severely devalued product. In many ways the die hards amongst us are the stupid ones here.
But what we all want and need to see now, over the remaining 13 games with a bit of breathing space on our side, whether we're a die hard who'll definitely renew or somebody considering whether it's worth the outlay, is some hope that next season could be special, or even simply a bit better than this. The ingredients are there: bad eggs and big earners largely cleared, Ian Holloway and Marc Bircham in the dug out, a much more attacking and attractive style of play is being worked on, we’re scoring goals again, there’s a genuine strike partnership apparently forming, there’s a couple of youth teamers cementing their places in the first team and looking bloody good doing it. Who wouldn’t want to be there for a QPR team led by Ollie and Birch with the likes of Furlong, Manning, Washington, Smith, Wszolek and others tearing it up next season?
I remember when Neil Warnock took over, although he inherited a very poor squad, bloated with seven loan signings when you could only select five in the matchday squad, playing with Tamas Priskin up front, struggling against relegation after a Christmas with Paul Hart and then Mick Harford, you could see signs and flashes of what was to come in the remaining games. Mainly there were functional home victories against Plymouth that nobody remembers, required to get us going up the table again, but there were moments like Adel Taarabt’s second half performance in a 2-2 draw with Preston at Deepdale, Akos Buszaky’s goal and performance in a 2-0 win at Palace, Ale Faurlin’s pass for Matt Connolly’s goal in a 3-1 home win against West Brom… just moments that we saw, and Warnock saw too, that made you think he might be onto something for 2010/11. QPR, of course, started that following season unbeaten in their first 19 matches and won the league.
A title next season might be a tall order, and footballers being human are bound to let their minds drift a little through the latter stages of April if the season is indeed now going to peter out into a midtable finish. But to build on the exciting stuff we saw a week ago, and the grit and spirit we summoned on Tuesday, that’s what we need to be seeing now as we start playing a few better teams than Birmingham and Wigan. Something for us to cling onto with one hand as we take the credit card in the other and take the plunge once more.
It’ll be tough to do that against a massively underrated Preston side tomorrow, but as we’ve already said we’ve seen some green shoots poke through on this ground once before.
Highlights from The Andy Woolmer Show (featuring Preston 1 QPR 1) which we all enjoyed at Deepdale this time last year.
Team News: While QPR would no doubt like to keep the same side after two successive wins, there are a few obstacles in the way of that. Grant Hall was buffeted about by Omar Bogle during the week, and if you see the picture of the tackle on him by Will Grigg (check Hall’s Instagram) he’s lucky not to be nursing a far more serious injury than the bruised shin he’s currently doubtful with. Conor Washington doesn’t need a calf strain right now given his impressive form but he is struggling after coming off early against the Latics. Jordan Cousins (hamstring) and Steven Caulker (shagged out) are missing, as is Jay Emmanuel Thomas who impressed Gillingham with his unique brand of arrogance and laziness so much they terminated his season long loan deal early, outside a transfer window, which means he’s ineligible to play for anybody else now until next season. Swazzy.
PNE have a bit of a headache at right full back where Marnick Vermijl (bit foreign) is a doubt and his natural replacement Alex Baptiste (bit rubbish) is unavailable so step forward Tyias Browning. Paul Gallagher is back in training after a bout of rickets and may make the bench.
Elsewhere: Yes that’s right we’re back, here again as the never ending travelling circus of mediocrity rumbles relentlessly on until the last will to live drains slowly from our blank eyes and we simply can’t muster up another breath to give a monkeys toss about what happens between Brentford and Relegated Rotherham.
Two games tonight, 200 tomorrow, another on Sunday, three on Tuesday and one next Friday. It begins this evening with The Mad Indian Chicken Farmers hoping their radical switch from Owen Coyle to his absolute polar opposite Tony Mowbray suddenly turns their under-funded, long-in decline, shambolic collection of cheap buys and loans into a remorseless winning machine starting tonight at Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion. There’s Wolverhampton Wolves v Gianfranco Zola’s Funeral Procession on offer from our Sky Overlords if you’re single and lacking self worth.
Then tomorrow all hell breaks loose. A veritable smorgasbord of mid-range, average quality football led at lunchtime by The Champions of Europe and Sheffield Owls seeing who can shout “Yorkshire, Yorkshire, Yorkshire” at the other one the loudest. Promoted Brighton v The Great Entertainers is the evening TV game leaving a couple of dozen matches for the 15.00 slot, including our own for once.
Leddersford v Derby Sheep could be interesting – both teams currently in the midst on the sort of runs they’ve made their names on in recent times where you actually start to wonder if they’re losing games deliberately. There’s another north-off between Barnsley and Borussia Huddersfield, who’ve closed the gap on Champions Newcastle to just five points. Fear not, the giant Wonga Advertising Hoarding welcomes The Wurzels this weekend and they haven’t won since the time of the Roman Empire so that should be an easy three points for Rafa and his grossly underfunded squad of lower league bargain buys.
Wigan Warriors against Nottingham Trees will be marked by a minute of mobile phone lights in the air in the seventeenth minute as a mark of respect to Latics fan Bert Millbank who’s been a season ticket holder at the club for nearly seven years now but lost his lucky flat cap at the game on Tuesday evening.
The big news this week is the confirmation of the Eighth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour, which will take place in Cardiff again next season. The Seventh Annual Tour is still in full swing of course, and Tarquin and Rupert have front row centre tickets tomorrow afternoon.
Then it’s the carrot crunching derby with Norwich and Ipswich leathering seven shades of shit out of each other Sunday lunchtime. Never mind the quality, feel the width.
Referee: David Coote is the man in the middle for this trip to Preston. Weirdly his last appointment with both Preston and QPR were for their 1-0 home defeats against Derby earlier in the season, Details of how he got on, and his recent stats, available here.
Preston: PNE have won eight games at home this season, no team below ninth can beat that and Fulham in seventh have won one fewer. They come into this one unbeaten in four, and it would have been three straight wins had they not missed a penalty in a 0-0 at Wigan a week ago. At home they’re unbeaten in five league games, including a win against promotion chasing Brighton, though lowly Ipswich did get a draw here and Leeds won 4-1 at Deepdale six matches ago so it’s not an impenetrable fortress. Taking out a narrow loss to Premier League Arsenal in the FA Cup, Simon Grayson’s side have only lost three of their last 18 matches.
QPR: Two wins in a week have made life and league tables look a lot nicer for Queens Park Rangers – they’ve climbed two places from seventeenth and more importantly increased the gap between them and the bottom three clubs to ten points with 13 games remaining. The win at Birmingham last Saturday was QPR’s sixth on the road this season (more than the previous two campaigns combined) which is higher than any other team in the bottom half of the league, and two of those above halfway (Norwich four and Preston five). Six of QPR’s last seven visits to this ground have ended in draws, but the R’s haven’t won in ten visits going back to 1979/80 when Clive Allen, Paul Goddard and Glenn Roeder scored in a 3-0 win.
Prediction: I said at the start of the week on the message board I thought we’d beat Birmingham and Wigan and lose here, so it seems daft to move away from that after calling the first two right. Preston are very decent, criminally overlooked by Sky and the media as a massive success story on a tiny budget at this level, and just three defeats in 18 matches tells you everything you need to know. They completely outplayed us at Loftus Road and we haven’t won here in ten attempts. But I don’t know, it’s often a draw here and we’re playing well enough to get one again.
LFW’s Prediction: Preston 1-1 QPR. Scorer – Matt Smith.
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Pictures – Action Images
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