QPR well positioned to face a pair of Bristols – Preview
Tuesday, 13th Aug 2019 08:04 by Clive Whittingham
The bad memories of last season and a summer of angst and pessimism risk being blown away completely by QPR’s positive start to the season, though two matches with Bristol City this week will be the sternest test of a fragile new era so far.
Queens Park Rangers v Bristol City
Rumbelows Cup, first round >>> Tuesday August 13, 2019 >>> Kick Off 19.45 >>> Weather – Gorgeous evening >>> Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, Loftus Road, London, W12
When you’ve been forced subsist on thin gruel for months, somebody offering to nourish you with a nice sandwich can seem heaven sent. That’s all that’s happened, a win at Stoke and a draw against Huddersfield is no steak dinner, but compared to what went before it’s nectar from the gods.
QPR won just three of their final 22 league games last season and while there was some bad luck and curious refereeing amongst it, there was also Bolton and Rotherham at home and Norwich away. Rangers were, frequently, bloody abject. By contrast, both to the last few months and the first few weeks of last season, they’ve started the new campaign quite nicely. Four points from two awkward looking games against well-monied sides both very recently in the Premier League is probably more than most dared hope for after a summer in which the squad was completely torn apart and started all over again from fresh. There’s optimism around the place again, and the team was warmly applauded from the field on Saturday having only drawn the game.
A word of caution to begin with then, because if there’s one thing QPR fans are a sucker for it’s taking their abusive partner back time and time and time again thinking he’s changed when he hasn’t. Month down the line, slipping into the early relegation picture with defeats to Luton and Millwall, we’ll be sobbing back down the phone to mum again saying he’d promised it would be different this time.
After losing to us on day one, Stoke were subsequently beaten at relegation favourites Charlton on Saturday. Years of overspend, mismanagement and decline are proving difficult to snap out of in the Potteries and they’re showing one or two early signs of being a team in serious trouble this season. England goalkeeper Jack Butland is in odd form. Huddersfield are in better nick, but still only won three games in the whole of last season and having lost their opening match to Derby came to Loftus Road with a safety-first, do-not-lose approach which in the end nearly got them all three points despite posing zero threat to the home goal for the vast majority of the second half.
Don’t get me wrong, QPR have looked good. It’s refreshing to see our team wanting possession of the ball, wanting to pass it and attack, looking comfortable doing it, sending full backs flying forwards, getting the likes of Eze and Chair involved with good ball in dangerous areas. It’s night and day from just a few short months ago and it’s all looking very promising. We couldn’t beat anybody at all in the spring, regardless of how good they were. But there is a possibility that the fixtures have just tossed a couple of very friendly games to start the season with.
That’s why it was gratifying to hear Mark Warburton after the game on Saturday turning down the chance to trot out managerial platitudes about a positive start and instead say that we should never be happy to only draw at home and given the balance of play across the game it was two points dropped. Yes please Mark, and one for yourself as well. That ‘loser’s mentality’ that John Eustace talked about at the tail end of last season taking a firm kick to the bollocks there from the new manager. We should never be happy with a draw at home, even if it was a vast improvement in every possible way from the 11 shambolic, club-record-setting defeats we suffered on our own patch last term.
The next question is how Warburton goes about tackling this Tuesday night cup tie with Bristol City – a team we’re playing again in the league at Ashton Gate on Saturday. There are several first team players short of minutes after a truncated pre-season – Toni Leistner, Marc Pugh, Todd Kane, Nahki Wells – and others absolutely itching for a start to showcase what they might be able to do for the team in the league – Ilias Chair was wonderful for half an hour on Saturday. Whatever he decides, I find myself looking forward to going back and watching them play, as opposed to seeing it as a bit of a chore. I enjoyed Saturday, and I like the direction of travel.
Keep the same team and try and build momentum, make a few changes to get those currently on the fringes in, write the whole thing off and play a bunch of kids… it is the dilemma all managers face in this competition at this time of year. In many ways it’s sad that this is the case. Loftus Road will, as usual, be half closed for this match with the crowd doing well to make it to 5,000. This in the only major domestic trophy we’ve ever won. It has been completely devalued and eroded by the attitude that the Premier League is the be all and end all and anything other than getting to it or staying in it is an unwanted distraction. I quite liked Ian Holloway’s suggestion of putting the first round on the last Saturday in July, which is currently used for a final friendly match usually with the strongest team out. Make that a competitive game, on a Saturday afternoon, with strong teams, and you may see the first round, at least, start to garner bigger crowds and better games.
But it would only be a small thing, for one of the rounds. You can’t really point the finger at clubs for not taking the competition seriously and damaging its status, reputation and image when the organisers of the bloody thing seem hell bent on doing the same themselves. From the embarrassing shambles of botched draws being held in the small hours of the morning in the Far East, streamed if we were really lucky on a social media site, this year we had the ridiculous sight of John Barnes doing the first round draw from a Morissons in Colindale apparently for no other reason than you can buy whatever sugary sludge this competition’s sponsor is churning out at Morrisons in Colindale.
If the organisers of the tournament clearly give so little a shit about it then why should anybody else?
Links >>> Davies takes cup tie – Referee
Geoff Cameron Facts, No.58 in the series – After captaining the Pawtucket Porcupines to an inter-state knockout title in his early career, Geoff was allowed to take the trophy home for the night to pose for the obligatory photograph in bed with the silverware. The trophy later gave birth to triplets.
Team News: As ever it’s the team sheet that provides the most intrigue in these things. I suspect the game has come too soon for Lee Wallace but you’d think Liam Kelly, Todd Kane, Toni Leistner, Dom Ball, Matt Smith, Ilias Chair, Mide Shodipo, Nahki Wells and others will all fancy their chances of a start to push their first team cases tonight. There’s also the issue of not flogging players like Geoff Cameron, Angel Rangel and Ebere Eze to death, as we did last season, to consider. If you think you can predict tonight’s starting 11 you’re a braver man than me. We are, nevertheless, still offering a trip to the Bavarian Beerhouse in Tower Hill accompanied by Toni Leistner as this week’s prize for any sighting of Sean Goss.
Bristol City lost left back Jay Dasilva, an expensive summer recruit from Chelsea, to a stress fracture of his shin after one game (to be fair, marking Pablo Hernandez can be a stressful experience) and made five other changes to the team for Birmingham away at the weekend, including four debutants. Adam Nagy, Benick Afobe, Pedro Pereira and Tommy Rowe all arrived at the very end of the transfer window so it remains to be seen whether they’re given further minutes or the players they replaced – Jack Hunt, Taylor Moore and Famara Diedhiou – come back in.
Elsewhere: Oh my, prepare the extra large wet wipes will you. I’m not sure there’s enough absorbent material in the world to cope with the televised jizz fest that will be Sky Sports Leeds’ coverage of the first competitive meeting between Salford and the Champions of Europe this evening. It’ll look like the aftermath of a dairy explosion. They’re controlled by the “Class of 92” you know. Did you know that? The class of 92? Maybe Becks will be there. Or GNev. They’ve been promoted 36 times in three seasons you know. Shall we keep cutting away from the action to show you Paul Scholes picking his nose at the back of the stand? Shall we? Scholesy.
What else can I offer you in less vomit-inducing news? Well, not a lot really. Portsmouth comfortably beat a scratchy Birmingham side last week and there could easily be further Championship exits at lower league hands with fragile Borussia Huddersfield at home to flying Lincoln City, Nottingham Florist’s cast of a thousand footballers hosting St Josephine’s in form Fleetwood Fish, Lutown hosting Ipswich, Reading going to Wycombe and Allam Tigers heading over to Tranmere. Derby Sheep are up at Sunny Scunny but given how the Iron have started the season that shouldn’t be too much of a problem for them.
There’s the ultimate grudge match between Wimbledon and Franchise FC that you’d think would make a better television spectacle than the Salford Leeds circle jerk but apparently not. West Brom and Millwall Scholars suffered the same fate as us, drawing the team you’re also playing in the league this week – Matt Smith got off the mark for the Wall at The Hawthorns on Saturday to secure a 1-1 draw.
Blackburn v Oldham, Rochdale v Bolton and Grimsby v Donny are local derbies of sorts. Southend v Stevenage is this week’s exciting fixture between two teams beginning with S.
Straight to penalties with no extra time should it finish as a draw remember.
Referee: Andy Davies refereed QPR three times last season and we won all of them. A remarkable record given how the season panned out, and the fact that he awarded two controversial penalties against us in the final one at Sheff Wed on the last day. Details here.
QPR: Rangers have taken four points from their first two league games, winning at Stoke and drawing with Huddersfield, after a pre-season in which they only won once away at Oxford – Austria Vienna, Boreham Wood and Watford all beat QPR over the summer. The R’s brezed through a couple of rounds of the League Cup last season, beating League One sides Peterborough and Bristol Rovers relatively easily, before making wholesale changes and getting beaten in the third round at Blackpool.
Bristol City: The Robins have started the season with a comfortable 3-1 home loss to Leeds and hard fought 1-1 draw at Birmingham in the league. This after a pre-season which included a 4-3 win down at Forest Green Rovers, and comprehensive 5-0 home stuffing by Crystal Palace. They were dumped out of this competition at the first stage last season, losing 1-0 to then-League One Plymouth in extra time. The year before, however, they got to a two-legged semi-final with Manchester City by beating the Pilgrims 5-0 first up and then knocking out Premier League sides Watford (3-2), Stoke (2-0), Palace (4-1) and Man Utd (2-1).
Prediction: So difficult to call these, with QPR’s penchant to turning in horrible performances in the cup coupled with the randomness of the respective team selections. I actually quite fancy us for an Ilias Chair-inspired win, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see a tight game end up in a penalty shoot out, which given Joe Lumley’s record with spot kicks since he ascended to the first team you’d probably fancy City for. So I’ll go with that and hope for better.
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 1-1 Bristol City. City win on penalties.
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