|Preston North End 1 v 0 Queens Park Rangers|
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QPR face daunting trip to the beach – Preview
Monday, 26th Dec 2016 22:20 by Clive Whittingham
QPR, never much good over Christmas at the best of times, face a bang in form Brighton side live on Sky tomorrow morning. And these are far from the best of times.
Brighton and Hove Albion (14-6-2, 2nd) v Queens Park Rangers (6-5-11, 20th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Tuesday December 27, 2016 >>> Kick Off 12.30pm >>> Weather – Bright sunshine, cold, seagulls >>> Falmer Stadium, Sussex
Here’s me jumping ahead to the annual task of digging out new and inventive statistics to summarise QPR’s FA Cup record – no wins without the aid of a replay since the cretaceous period – and it turns out there’s a whole other cave of horrors over here on Boxing Day too.
Rangers have won only 19 of the 71 fixtures they’ve played the day after Christmas Day in their history, a success rate of just 26.76% and the worst record of any team in the country apart from Newport County (who lost again today having led 2-0) and Wycombe (who got a draw at Plymouth). That stat courtesy of our Sky overlords, who to be fair to them have given us the best possible chance of beating Brighton tomorrow (still not a snowball’s chance in hell) by shifting the game to Tuesday breakfast time.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise really. Though that 4-2 against nine-man Everton when Andy Sinton got a hat trick was December 28, and at the risk of stealing the ‘Famous Jewish Sports Legends’ joke from Airplane, a book of Famous QPR Christmas Wins wouldn’t have made much of a stocking filler for anybody.
Even Neil Warnock’s title winning team of 2010/11, which went unbeaten through the first 19 games of the season and ended up winning the division having lost only five league games all season, managed to lose to Watford, Leeds, Norwich and Blackburn during the Christmas break, and have Jamie Mackie snap his leg in half into the bargain. Since then we’ve played 27 times between December 18 and January 3, losing 16, drawing eight and winning just three – although I’m sure if somebody had offered you that record on the understanding that one of the three wins would be a 1-0 victory at Chelsea, as it was, we’d have been inclined to take it. Bitter, small minded monkeys that we are.
None of which bodes particularly well for tomorrow’s visit to Brighton. Brighton who’ve only lost twice all season. Brighton who’ve only lost once at home all season. Brighton with the most clean sheets (13), averaging two goals a game on their own patch, unbeaten in 16. Brighton who are making the Championship look so easy this season you wonder whether they might be made to play the second half of the season in plimsolls, or only allowed to kick with their weaker foot, or blindfolded and we’ll use a ball with a bell in it. That Brighton.
Especially as Rangers arrive on a run of five straight defeats, in which they’ve scored just the one goal. Snap that run with a win here and it’ll knock the birth of Jesus into a cocked hat as far as miracles at this time of year go. Shove your bible, the matchday programme will be the new bible. Alex Smithies our Lord and saviour. Somebody get that man a manger. And an extra-large pair of novelty goalkeeper gloves in time for kick off.
Probably best we cling to the New Year fixtures with Wolves and Ipswich. Not only because Wolves and Ipswich are nowhere near as good as Brighton – though Wolves are improving and Ipswich might, annoyingly, be so shite they could change their manager before they get to us – but because New Year tends to be much kinder. Apart from our propensity to bring shame on the family name in the FA Cup, there have been odd good times as the year ticks over – the 3-1 win at Arsenal in the John Jensen game was New Year’s Eve 1994, the 4-1 success at Old Trafford was New Year’s Day 1992.
Yeh, that’s it, we’re more of a New Year’s sort of a team. Keep chanting that to yourself as Brighton release the hounds at first light tomorrow.
The famous last-minute Matthew Rose fluke which won this fixture 3-2 for Rangers in the 2004/05 season. There’s a rare bit of Jamie Cureton genius in QPR colours after it as a bit of a bonus as well.
Team News: QPR have Jamie Mackie back fit (for now) and pushing for a start after a typically swashbuckling cameo against Aston Villa before Christmas. Jordan Cousins, however, continues to be dogged by hamstring problems and Tjaronn Chery is also out. Just a week to go until the transfer window opens and we can dispense with the notion that Steven Caulker is carrying a hip injury.
Kazenga LuaLua is grounded for the hosts while Uwe Hunemeier has a hand injury following an encounter with a particularly lively with a Christmas cracker. Laim Rosenior’s in laws haven’t buggered off home yet so he might have to stay home while Beram Kayal will be available as long as he can find the broken bulb in his Christmas lights this evening. Jamie Murphy is a doubt after a Christmas Day incident with the Pie Face game.
Elsewhere: A second consecutive morning match on an odd day thanks to our Sky Overlords means QPR have been able to get properly tanked up over Christmas and watch almost all of round 3,978 of this year’s Mercantile Credit Trophy play out already. The exception is the Tuesday afternoon encounter between the Derby Sheep and Brum. Boxing Day often adds a sprinkling of high scoring games to make the second tier gruel more palatable for the festive period and we saw a little bit of that today. Relegated Rotherham secured a second home win of the season, 3-0 up at half time and eventually squeezing through 3-2 against second-bottom Wigan Warriors. Neil Warnock thought he’d got a late win as his Seventh Annual Farewell Tour reached Brentford this morning, but the Bees scored in the 90th having conceded in the 89th and escaped with a 2-2. And the Wurzels continued their recent crash in form by blowing a 2-1 lead to lose 3-2 at Wolves, though an apparent injury time equaliser was wrongly ruled not to have crossed the line.
What else can I tell you about today? Well the turkey curry was half decent but is now having a similar effect to yesterday’s roasted parsnips, a minute of silence prior to Leddersford’s 2-1 win against Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion in memory of Ross McCormack’s cat Mrs Whiskerson was impeccably observed, and pretty much everything else went as you’d expect.
The Mad Indian Chicken Farmers were beaten 2-0 at Barnsley in today’s match between two sides beginning with B, Michael Mancienne’s dalliance with the Christmas sherry did him little good as an own goal and red card set Nottingham Trees on their way to a 2-1 loss at Borussia Huddersfield, Tarquin and Rupert continued their relentless march towards the end of season masked ball with a 2-0 win at beleaguered Ipswich, and the Champions of Europe made it eight wins from ten with a worryingly impressive 4-1 success at Preston Knob End.
Oh and Reading. How could we forget Reading? Fascinating place. 3-1 against the Carrot Crunchers today, Alex Neil looks like he’ll be gone long before the decorations come down.
Piss taking aside, Sheffield Owls were seriously impressive in winning 1-0 at Champions Newcastle this evening - only their second win against a top six side in the last 18 months. Sadly, another reason for Brighton to go into tomorrow's game hungry for blood.
Another full round of fixtures is scheduled to begin roughly 25 minutes after this one has finished.
Referee: If you feel like you’ve only just recovered from Keith Stroud’s monumentally shambolic handling of our recent trip to Nottingham Forest, then I’ve got some bad news. That’s right, the man who’s refereed QPR more than anybody else on the league list, who’s already in three figures for yellow cards this season, is back again. His last Brighton appointment was only a month ago too, just the eight cards in that one v Fulham. Extensive case history and stats here.
Brighton: This is going to make fairly terrifying reading. Brighton have only lost two games all season (league leaders Newcastle have lost five) and only one of those (Brentford 2-0) has been at home where they’ve won eight and drawn two of the other ten. Albion have only lost one of their last 21 home league games. They’ve scored 22 goals on their own patch this season – two a game on average – and conceded just six. Albion have won their last three matches and are unbeaten in 16 league games coming into this one – a run that includes 12 wins and four draws. Since that Brentford defeat they’ve won six and drawn two of eight home games scoring 16 and conceding only four. Chris Hughton’s side has kept seven clean sheets on their own patch already in the league this season, including three shut-outs in the last five matches here, and have 13 clean sheets overall which is the best record in the division. They’ve beaten QPR to nil, scoring six, in the two meetings between the sides on this ground since it opened.
QPR: Rangers, as we know, are on a five-match losing run and they’ve failed to score in four of those. The last three games have all been lost 1-0 which means it’s 270 minutes since the R’s last found the net, and even that one from Joel Lynch turned out to be mere late consolation against Wolves. Extending the horror out, Rangers have won three of the last 17 in the league having initially started the season with three wins from the first five. Goals are an issue – Rangers have scored the joint fewest in the league (20) with Wigan, Rotherham have four more and Ipswich two. The away record of three wins, two draws and five defeats isn’t that bad – sixth-placed Sheff Wed have also only won three times on the road and 13 teams in the division have won three or fewer away from home. But, again, a total of just ten goals is equalled or bettered by all but four of the other Championship sides.
Prediction: Reigning Prediction League champion Dylan Pressman kindly took time out of his Christmas break to offer us…
“There is no point pretending that, on current form, we have any chance against high-flying Brighton. It is possible that there could be a surprise (that's why they play the games, as they say) but 2-0 seems a reasonable guess.”
Dylan’s Prediction: Brighton 2-0 QPR. No Scorer.
LFW’s Prediction: Brighton 3-0 QPR. No Scorer. Sandro substitution sweepstake 55 mins.
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