A peculiar lethargy – preview
Saturday, 12th Apr 2014 00:36 by Clive Whittingham
QPR, with two defeats in the last week and seven losses in their last 13, face a Nottingham Forest side without a win in 12 attempts at Loftus Road this Saturday. Fun times.
QPR (4th) v Nottingham Forest (10th)
Old First Division, Old Old Second Division >>> Saturday April 11, 2014 >>> Kick Off Sometime after 12 >>> Loftus Road, London, W12
QPR have worked themselves into a rather odd situation in what, in previous years, tends to be one of the most competitive leagues in Europe. Usually at this stage we’re pouring scorn on a Manchester United-dominated Premier League and trumpeting our own triumph of a division as eight teams fight tooth and nail to try and grab the three promotion spots.
But this year Leicester have run away on an unbeaten run of 21 games that has carried them to the league title with six games left to play – the celebrations were clearly raucous, as they lost 4-1 at home to Brighton during the week after the league win was confirmed, completing a nice symmetry given that Oscar Garcia’s side were the last team to beat them in the league way back at the start of December.
Burnley, too, look like they’re going to fall over the line having done enough earlier in the season before they picked up their recent injuries to key players.
Although a chasing pack behind the play-off spots is picking up pace, QPR and Derby look safe in their positions, while harbouring no hope of catching the teams above them. Which kind of renders the remaining half dozen games irrelevant, and as I wrote prior to the midweek surrender at Blackburn the attitude to those remaining matches will be intriguing.
I have to say, when I penned that, I didn’t think it would be quite as intriguing – if that’s the right word – as a start for Luke Young for the first time in two years at centre half against Jordan Rhodes and Rudy Gestede at Ewood Park. Luke Young wasn’t a centre back when he was a half decent player a decade ago, and he’s certainly not one now. Harry Redknapp’s decision to start him there was absolutely disgraceful, and his post-match comments that he “thought it would be a tough night” seemed to suggest he’d given up the ghost before QPR even took to the field. The whole thing was an insult to the loyal QPR fans who continue to make these long journeys to away matches to be served up this dross time and time and time again.
I’ve done plenty of those trips myself over the years, and this season, but a work event abroad meant, thankfully, I’ve missed the two away defeats this week. Usually when that’s the case I’m climbing the office walls, trying to eat into the trip at both ends, asking for a late departure or early return to make sure I miss as little of Rangers as I possibly can. On the rare occasions I have no choice but to miss the match I’ll commandeer a bar in a far flung land and threaten to start executing hostages unless they find a feed of the QPR game for their screen immediately – amazing how much my foreign language skills improve in any corner of the world when it comes to getting football on the television – or I clear my work diary for the period during the game and find an internet connection to listen to a commentary.
That was the plan on Tuesday as well, and at a little after 19.00 UK time I did indeed slip away from the various events I was supposed to be covering for the day job and curled up in quiet corner of Cannes to listen to events from Ewood Park. When the team was announced, something happened to me that I cannot recall in 20 years of being a QPR season ticket holder. I actually stopped caring. It was a starting 11 that looked like it was drawn out of a tombola machine, a white surrender flag before kick off, a side selected with not a single care about anything other than getting showered and getting out of there really quickly. I fumed, for ten minutes, and then I went on Bet Victor and placed £10 on Gestede to score first at 7/1, and then I went out. And I still haven’t watched the goals now four days later. I’ve spent the money on things other than tickets to Leicester away as well. I’m not going. Luke Young at centre back indeed. Do me a fucking favour.
What QPR essentially have here is a series of pre-season friendlies before three massive play-off games that could potentially return them to the Premier League at the first time of asking. Given the difficulties Wigan and Reading have had this season, the huge turnover of players at Loftus Road, and everything else that’s gone on in W12, that’s a remarkable achievement. There could yet be a QPR win at the new Wembley to celebrate this season, and just imagine that. Who could have dreamt of such a thing 12 months ago? The strategy seems to be getting as many of the following starting eleven fit and ready for May – Gree, Simpson, Dunne, Hill, Assou-Ekotto, Barton, Carroll, Phillips, Morrison, Kranjcar, Austin. If Rredknapp gets that team on the pitch for three play-off games, it will take a strong side to stop Rangers, and anything that occurs over these remaining dead rubbers is largely meaningless. Not worth getting het up about.
But, medium and long term, this isn’t a team being built for any kind of future. Whatever happens, in the summer it will require another complete overhaul, and under Tony Fernandes’ chairmanship QPR have shown themselves to be utterly clueless in the transfer market, signing the wrong kind of player for the wrong reason. Eight loan players currently obstruct the likes of Mike Petrasso, Tom Hitchock, Michael Harriman and others from first team action – in August, they’ll all be back at their parent clubs and QPR will still have a collection of their own kids with zero first team Championship experience. Could Coll Donaldson not have started instead of Young at Blackburn? Could it have gone any worse? Would it have done any harm?
And, perhaps more worryingly, when an obsessive like myself is being overwhelmed with apathy having watched a team that doesn’t seem – with a few notable exceptions – to give that much of a toss about what it’s doing, how are all the other potential season ticket purchasers feeling? If QPR do stay in the Championship, what have the floating voters been offered this season to encourage them to return next year? The football has been mostly dire, the manager and his coaching staff never fail to give the impression – both with their touchline behaviour and interviews – that they’re a bit bored and not really that interested, the team looks like a retirement home for players who weren’t that good in the first place. I just don’t like the club very much at the moment, and the way the players and management behave they look and sound as if they don’t like a lot of us supporters either – usual complaints about lack of acknowledgement for the travelling support on Tuesday quickly filtered back over the wires.
This season could yet end brilliantly, in a day we’ll remember for the rest of our lives. But momentum is a big thing in play-offs and at the moment QPR have all the forward motion of a lump of dry clay.
Kingsley Black celebrates his second goal at the School End in a clash between QPR and Nottingham Forest at Loftus Road on Easter Saturday 1993. Black scored twice in quick succession after half time to put Forest 3-2 ahead but the first of two Les Ferdinand hat tricks in three days sealed a 4-3 win for Gerry Francis’ wonderful side.
Team News: After several difficult weeks, QPR finally seem to be seeing some light at the end of the tunnel with regards to injuries. Charlie Austin is in line for a start after two substitute appearances – which may well be a risk given the amount of strapping around his shoulder, but will come as a relief to fans tired of paying to see Mobido Maiga and Will Keane Offside. Nedum Onuoha, Niko Kranjcar, Aaron Hughes and Jermaine Jenas have all returned to the squad and can start. Andy Johnson and Ale Faurlin are the long term absentees while Joey Barton remains sidelined with a thigh strain.
Forest have also been lacking the majority of their preferred starting 11, with pinches in defence and midfield in particular. Defender Danny Collins is suspended and Radoslaw Majewski, who was sent off on his last visit to this ground, is ill to add to that but midfielder David Vaughan is back from a knee injury. Andy Reid, Jack Hobbs, Chris Cohen and Eric Lichaj are all out but Henri Lansbury and Kelvin Wilson may return.
Elsewhere: There was a young man from Herts, whose balls were made out of brass, in windy weather, his balls rubbed together, and sparks flew out of his arse. Burnley face Middlesbrough this weekend.
After more than 7,000 rounds of Championship irrelevance, the authorities have realised fans are becoming bored. As a result, they have ordered all the teams in the division to pick a side.
Option one is to collapse inwardly, sucking everybody and everything within striking distance into a deep, black vortex of despair, sacking managers and executing underperforming players. Four of the clubs who have opted for this method of finishing the season early and getting off to the beach – QPR and Nottingham Forest, Leeds and Blackpool – meet each other this weekend in what could, if they stay true to form, turn into an English equivalent of that infamous Barbados v Grenada Caribbean Cup match (stay with me) where both teams were trying to lose for a period of time.
Option two is to win every game you play from now until the inevitable apocalypse which we’re assured will arrive no later than 2016. Bournemouth have signed up this enthusiastically, roaring towards the play offs with five straight wins and eight wins from their last ten games. This week they go to Yeovil who, God bless em, look dead and buried. Ipswich are also pressing ahead – five wins and a draw from nine games with Donny Rovers in town this weekend.
Two away wins mean Millwall are also mucking in ahead of their home game with Udinese, who have themselves beaten Sheff Wed 4-1 and Leeds 3-0 in the last two games.
Other things that are happening this weekend include Champions Elect Bolton at home to Barnsley.
Best of luck to the Globetrotters in the FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal.
Referee: Oliver Langford gets his second QPR appointment of the season following the R’s disappointing 2-1 defeat at Doncaster prior to Christmas. Langford has only sent off four players this season, and two of them came in the same Watford v Middlesbrough fixture including our own resident mentalist Samba Diakite – which at least shows that Mr Langford has the power of sight I guess. Anyway, full case history and stats available by clicking here.
QPR: To the beginning of February, QPR had lost four league games in 28 games. Since then they have lost seven of 13, including the last two, and won just four. Their hoe record remains decent – two defeats all season, just one of the last nine – and only Brighton have kept more than QPR’s 17 clean sheets. QPR haven’t beaten Forest in six attempts, but are unbeaten against them at Loftus Road in four meetings.
Forest: Nottingham Forest’s fall from grace this season has been as dramatic as we’ve seen from any team for some time. On Tuesday February 11 they won 3-0 at Huddersfield to climb into the thick of the automatic promotion race – it was a sixteenth consecutive game without defeat of which nine had been won and they’d beaten QPR 2-0, Blackburn 4-1, Watford 4-2 and Premier League West Ham 5-0 in that sequence. Since then they’ve gone 12 matches without a victory, of which seven have been lost including a 5-0 defeat by local rivals Derby and a 4-1 hammering at home to Wigan. They’re now tenth, four points shy of the play offs. They’ve only lost five away games all season – compared to the nine losses QPR and Wigan have suffered while maintaining play-off places – but ten draws mean they’ve only won five on the road, less than anybody else in the top ten.
Betting: Resident professional odds compiler Owen Goulding tells us…
“QPR welcome a free-falling Forest to Loftus Road for the lunchtime kick-off. Forest are in what can only be described as abysmal form and their last victory actually came thirteen games ago. I know a number of QPR fans who think this run will end on Saturday.
“Redknapp's unfathomable team selections continued apace in midweek with the selection of Luke Young at centre-half. A number of QPR fans made money backing Blackburn on the back of Redknapp’s bizarre team sheet and I think a number will be jumping on to back Forest here at a best priced 13/5. However, this represents little value in truth. QPR, for all their poor performances, have only lost two games at home all season- this equates to 10% of games lost at home. 13/5 represents a 27 percent chance of Nottm Forest winning and so you can see there is no real value in this price when using your head instead of your heart.
“The value happens to be in the draw price. I would think Rangers would happily take a point as they stumble over the play off line. The draw is available at 5/2, which converts to a 28% chance. QPR have drawn 25% if their home games with Forest drawing a whopping 50% of their away games. With the average chance of the draw based on these two stats being 37.5%, the 5/2 is definitely the bet for this one. Although as per usual, I’d probably wait for Redknapp to use his lottery machine to pick his starting line up before getting involved...”
Recommended Bet: QPR v Forest - Draw @5/2 - Bet365.
Prediction: Reigning Prediction League champion Mase tells us…
“The difference between Forest and QPR this season has been the marginally better start Rangers got off to, which is now sustaining us as we do all we can to get off to the Caribbean before mid-May and avoid the play-offs altogether. I think we have timed our bad run just a little too late, and will make the end of season knockout despite ourselves. The same is not true for Forest who were once comfortably ensconced in the top six, before their alarming series of defeats gathered apace. They must now rank as outsiders for that last place, with other sides finding their form all of a sudden.
“Two vaguely rudderless teams playing out a game while low on confidence but both needed some sort of pick-me-up. All the makings of a classic. Our home form has remained pretty good despite our away results being so lamentable, so let's go for a narrow home win here.”
Mase’s Prediction: QPR 2-1 Forest. First scorer - Ravel Morrison
LFW Prediction: QPR 1-0 Forest. Scorer – Charlie Austin
The Twitter @loftforwords
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