QPR v Scunthorpe United Match Preview
Thursday, 13th Mar 2008 22:43
QPR will be looking for a third consecutive home win when lowly Scunthorpe United visit W12 on Saturday
Queens Park Rangers (13th) v Scunthorpe United (23rd)
There comes a time for all exiled R’s that the Super Hoops come up against our ‘home town teams’. This Saturday, for the second time this season, it’s my turn.
The game at Glanford Park, played out in typically disgusting northern weather that I’ve been subjected to since moving up here in 1996, wasn’t an altogether comfortable experience for the Whittingham family. Mum, nursing a hatred of football and of QPR in particular, was babbling on all weekend about how good it is for the town to have a Championship football team, my younger brother Paul sat throughout the game frozen with fear and white as a sheet dreading the treatment he’d get back at John Leggott College on Monday if we happened to lose while I was just about as angry and animated as I’ve been at any game this season as our circus act back four desperately tried to hand the game to the home side.
Like Northern the Elder going to his snooker matches after QPR had lost at Grimsby in years gone by, so myself and Paul would have had to take stick from all sides had we turned up to that game without Akos Buzsaky and lost. In the end a draw was fair for everybody, and we were able to sample the drinking ‘establishments’ of this dreary northern outpost that evening in relative peace. Or as much peace as you can have when you go out with my brother.
In my days at secondary school in this part of the world, a school that was usually on fire it has to be said, the other kids would always promise a sound beating for QPR at Glanford Park if only the local team could get within striking distance of us in the league or a cup competition. We survived that and now we face them at home.
For all QPR’s failings at Blundell Park, and the humiliating mickey taking that used to earn us lot up in Lincolnshire, we did tend to turn them over back at Loftus Road and with QPR climbing the league more and more with each passing week and Scunthorpe gasping for air down at the bottom this looks like it could be a similar case. For Paul’s sake, he’s back at college in Scunny first thing Monday, I hope we manage it.
Five minutes on Scunthorpe United
It’s perfectly understandable. Playing at this level for the first time since 1963 Scunthorpe have been attempting to stay in the league with a budget that is not only the smallest in this league, it’s probably not even in the top half of the division below. Chairman Steve Wharton says with some justification that he can’t see any reason to splash cash and gamble the future of the club on staying in this division.
However that sort of ignores the reason they’ve come this far – by selling high and reinvesting in the team. In 1999 Scunthorpe left the bottom division thanks to a play off final victory against Leyton Orient at Wembley. Brian Laws was midway through a lengthy spell as manager at Glanford Park by this stage and controversially dropped keeper Tim Clarke for the final – recalling Tom Evans to great effect as the keeper had a blinder and Alex Calvo Garcia netted a deserved winner.
That success was built on a wonderful forward line of John Gayle, Jamie Forrester and John Eyre however after promotion Forrester immediately left for Utrecht and Eyre for Hull. It wasn’t until well after Christmas when Laws attempted to replace either of them – the signings of Steve Torpey and Brian Quailey came too late to recover from a first half of the season with Ian Ormondroyd leading the line and the Iron returned to the bottom division at the first time of asking, going close to dropping into the Conference within two seasons as decline set in. Victims of their own lack of ambition.
Laws briefly left the club only to be reinstated as a board room struggle effected the club but once he returned he really made the most of a second opportunity. With Martin Hayes’ son Paul bagging 20+ goals a season after being plucked from the Norwich youth set up and Peter Beagrie enjoying an Indian summer United were promoted second behind Yeovil.
True to form as soon as the promotion was sealed Paul Hayes, like Forrester and Eyre before him, jumped ship and joined a supposedly bigger club – Barnsley in his case. Hayes scored on the opening night at Glanford Park for his new club but the Iron won 2-1 and it soon became apparent that Laws had learnt from his previous mistakes. Hayes was replaced by Andy Keogh – plucked from Leeds reserves initially on loan and then on a permanent. He was followed through the entrance door by Billy Sharp in similar circumstances from Sheffield United.
After a season of consolidation in 2005/06 the Iron, fired by their two young strikers, took the division by storm last year and cantered to a title success. Laws left for Sheff Wed halfway through and while the decision to replace him with physio Nigel Adkins looked crazy to an outsider, Adkins had been at the club a long time, had the respect of the players and simply picked up where Laws left off – leading them to a wonderful league title success.
Keogh, with his contract coming to an end, was sold to Wolves for £600k in January but they didn’t repeat their previous mistakes again – immediately replacing him with Sheff Wed’s Drew Talbot on loan and then, when Wednesday sold him to Luton, Jermaine Beckford from Leeds. With Beckford and Sharp up top they were easily the best side in the league and won it by six points away from Bristol City in second.
But then that lack of ambition came back to haunt them. Sharp was sold for £2.5m back to Sheff Utd, but the Iron refused to meet the relatively meagre asking price Leeds wanted for Beckford. It would have cost them less than half what they got for Sharp to net beckford permanently and although they did bid for both him and his Leeds partner Tresor Kandol it wasn’t an offer that even cash strapped Leeds had to take seriously.
The chain was broken – Hayes had left but been replaced by Keogh who left but was replaced by Beckford who was the ideal replacement for Sharp if only they’d increased their offer just that little bit more. Consequently they’ve been out of their depth. Martin Paterson, a cheaper striking option that they picked up from Stoke, has done a wonderful job but he’s been battling by himself and they’ve really struggled at both ends of the pitch.
You can understand Wharton’s caution, but would it really have put the club in so much peril to splash out the money Leeds wanted to net Beckford and play him with Paterson? Looking at the quality of the sides down there around them in the table, and at Beckford’s form for Leeds since returning to Elland Road, it might well have been enough to keep them in this league.
As it is on a tiny budget and with an average crowd of little over 5000 for home games the Iron have struggled and look all but doomed as we enter the business end of the season.
Who to watch out for
A tribunal set the fee at around £300k, a fee Scunthorpe grumbled about, but that looks like a bargain for a man who has struck 14 goals in a struggling side from 32 starts this season. That includes a goal against us at Glanford Park of course, a close range strike from a corner. He scores all types of goals though and he’ll be the main threat to our defence this Saturday if he’s passed fit with a groin complaint. He was added to the Northern Ireland squad for their forthcoming friendly with Georgia this week.
Paterson is being partnered in attack at the moment by big Geoff Horsfield who needs no introduction after his long career with Fulham, Halifax, Leeds, West Brom, Sheff Utd and others. Horsfield scored on his last visit to Shepherds Bush for Leeds in a 2-2 draw at the start of last season but, ominously, he’s yet to get off the mark for Scunthorpe in six matches so far.
Another man who’ll be familiar to the QPR fans there on Saturday is Ian Baraclough. Yes he’s still going, now 37 years old, and playing either left back or central midfield for Nigel Adkins men. Marcus Williams has been the first choice left back this season but Baraclough replaced him against Plymouth on Tuesday for his 600th career appearance (138 of which came in Hoops) an may well get the nod again.
At the opposite end of his career is Chelsea youngster Jack Cork who scored a flukey winner against Coventry last week from out by the corner flag. He’s another full back come midfielder and looks to have a very bright future – he was certainly Scunthorpe’s best player when we played up there in December. He was almost joined at Glanford Park this week by Jimmy Smith who spent last season on loan with us – that move has fallen through though.
Grant McCann has arrived from Barnsley to strengthen the midfield and Andy Crosby is over achieving by playing at this level at the age of 34 at centre half. Andy Butler, who regularly partners Crospy and former West Ham man Izzy Iriekpen at the back, almost joined QPR when Ian Holloway was manager three summers ago but he picked up an injury and we went for Evatt instead. He spent time on loan with Grimsby after struggling to regain fitness and his place in the side but was top man by all accounts in the Plymouth win on Tuesday.
For me though Scunthorpe’s star player is keeper Joe Murphy. He showed great promise early in his career with Tranmere but very much like Barnsley’s cup hero Luke Steele he lost is way at West Brom and ended up enduring spells out on loan and an ill fated move to Sunderland before Scunthorpe rescued him in 2006. Murphy was awesome in the promotion season and has worked hard to keep them in games this season – he deserves Championship football more than most of their players and despite plenty of interest sure to be created if they do go down he’s already said he’ll be staying with the Iron for next season regardless of what league that may be in.
Scunthorpe: Murphy 6, Cork 8, Crosby 7, Butler 6, Williams 6, Forte 6 (Morris 89, -), Goodwin 7, Sparrow 6, Hurst 7, Hayes 6 (Ameobi 78, 5),Paterson 7
QPR: Camp 6, Malcolm 3, Stewart 4, Rehman 4 (Timoska 73, 5), Barker 4, Buzsaky 9 (Ainsworth 90, -) Rowlands 5, Bolder 7, Leigertwood 5, Sinclair 5 (Nygaard 76, 4), Vine 6
Head to Head
Past QPR v Scunthorpe results
Ian Morris, scorer of the only goal in their midweek win against Plymouth, has a sickness bug that’s going around up here this week (believe me it’s no fun) and he’s joined speaking to God o the great white telephone by Jim Goodwin. Both are doubts for this match. Andy Crosby left the Plymouth game early with a knee injury and Martin Paterson has a groin complaint but I’d back both to play – everybody plays with knocks at this time of the season and both are crucially important to Scunthorpe’s hopes of survival. Adkins will travel with a full squad and give late fitness tests where necessary in an effort to get as many of his first team players passed fit for this massive match for the Iron.
What’s going on elsewhere?
Scunthorpe have won two and drawn one of their last four – improved form at a crucial time of the season for them. Both the victories, against Coventry and Plymouth, have come at Glanford Park though. Away from home they’re without a win in seven matches since a 1-0 win at Preston over Christmas. That run has included blowing a two goal lead to lose at Stoke City and a 5-0 defeat at West Brom – although some seriously questionable refereeing decisions went against them in that game. More recently they were beaten 2-0 at Hull in the Humberside derby.
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