|Queens Park Rangers 2 v 1 Barnsley|
Tuesday, 7th March 2017 Kick-off 19:45
QPR hope to continue long Barnsley hoodoo - Preview
Tuesday, 7th Mar 2017 11:23 by Clive Whittingham
Although Barnsley's excellent young team have been one of the division's big success stories, they come to QPR tonight without a win in 22 attempts at Loftus Road.
QPR (12-7-16, LLWWLW, 16th) v Barnsley (14-8-13, DDWLDL, 11th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Tuesday March 7, 2017 >>> Kick Off 19.45 >>> Weather – Cloudy and mild, rain later >>> Loftus Road, London, W12
This idea that Neil Warnock has retired, and the caricature we see before us today is actually a man in a rubber – eyebrow-less – mask doing a bloody good impression was only furthered by the final five minutes of Saturday’s home win against Cardiff City.
Warnock, losing, spent the final moments of the game aggressively berating the fourth official for perceived injustices, then sent on Greg Halford (one of those professional footballers that makes you think you could have been a professional footballer) to launch long throws into the QPR penalty box, then came out afterwards and smirked that Rangers are a long ball team these days, exclusively reliant on Matt Smith.
It was such a Warnock comment that you had to double check it was him making it, and not some Rory Bremner type on a wind up. As usual 25% (and no more) of it was true, QPR are quite direct to Matt Smith these days. A further 25% of it was a wind up – Cardiff scored their goal by sending Sol Bamba, a truly awful footballer but absolutely massive, up to head in a corner and then tried to plunder a second off Halford’s long throws. Another 25% of it was distraction – if QPR are so bad and rudimentary (and they certainly were on Saturday), how come Cardiff lost having led? And the final quarter of it was bitterness – Warnock will have hated losing that game to the club that sacked him unjustifiably in 2012.
Meanwhile, in the other manager’s press conference, Ian Holloway was crafting some weird and wonderful analogy to explain why Ravel Morrison hasn’t been playing (as if his farcical cameo on Saturday wasn’t explanation enough). When Holloway’s kids do as their told they get ice cream, apparently, and if they don’t behave then they don’t get ice cream however much Holloway wants to give them it because he loves them. Back in the real world: if Morrison gets fit like he’s been told to he’ll get picked, and if he doesn’t he won’t. At least, I hope that’s what Ollie meant because judging by Saturday’s - frankly quite embarrassing - run out, the last thing Ravel needs is some more fucking ice cream.
Again, as with the famous quote about taking a bird home in a taxi, attention was sufficiently distracted, this time away from a team selection that was obviously a little awry, and a victory QPR scarcely deserved.
This all comes back to an oft-repeated adage on this website that we get the sport and the footballers we deserve. Why do managers trot out bland platitudes, or say things that are blatantly untrue, or try to distract our attention with answers we know are bullshit? Well, because they know that even if they win the Premier League on a 5,000/1 shot they’ll be sacked at the first sign of things not going quite right the following season. They could be presented with a squad of very highly paid recently-relegated players who don’t want to be there, told to shift just about all of them to reduce the wage bill while maintaining results and league position, do all of that and still get hounded out because they’re “Les Ferdinand’s mate” or “too Tottenham” or “not experienced enough” and so on. There’s not a lot of incentive here to tell the truth, talk long term, stick to plans and so on is there? You bite and fight and lie your way into keeping the job long enough to try and do something with it. Come out once and say “yeh I got that wrong today” and you’ll win friends, come out and do it twice and people will write you off as incompetent and start talking about Nigel Pearson still being available.
Warnock’s an absolute master at this – as well as being a bloody good football manager – and, much like Sam Allardyce, has adapted his style, persona and game to suit the hideous modern sport that has left others from their era (Peter Reid, Bryan Robson, Howard Wilkinson) behind. As well as being tactically good they both know how to play the game and the politics, they know you don’t get anywhere throwing tea cups around and screaming at molly coddled millionaires, they know they’re expendable at an affordable price and the players are not, they know four defeats on the bounce equals “crisis/manager under pressure” regardless of what’s gone before and they know how to buy time and distract attention. It’s loathsome, but this is the sport we have now.
There’s no better reminder of all of this than Barnsley coming to Loftus Road tonight and Shaun Derry being presented to the QPR fans at half time.
Derry is a hero at Rangers because he was a wholly committed player, vastly underrated as an actual footballer, a straight talker in an era of Flavio Briatore’s £200 slippers in the club shop, a key figure in one of only eight QPR teams to win promotion, and somebody who subsequently came back in and helped rescue the team on the pitch and the club off it when Mark Hughes, Tony Fernandes and Kia Joorbchian floated us off down a very unpleasant river on a boat made of their own money and ego.
But let’s not forget that none of us were really that happy that we signed Derry. He’d been absolutely torn apart by Adel Taarabt and Akos Buszaky in a game at Selhurst Park the previous season, when Rangers won 2-0 early in Warnock’s reign, and was into his 30s. Similarly, Clint Hill had also been dire in that game and furthermore had an ankle “like a cement mixer” – there was some reasonably founded objection when Rangers decided not to sign Dusko Tosic permanently from Portsmouth despite him impressing on loan and bring in Hill instead. Throw in Big Fat Leon Clarke, Paddy Kenny after a year out with a drug ban, and some kid we’d never heard of from Plymouth called Jamie Mackie and all in all it wasn’t a particular inspiring summer.
It would be easy to say that was all blown away by a 4-0 home win against Barnsley on the opening day of the season but that wasn’t the case either. Barnsley had one blatant handball penalty turned down, before having two awarded against them. Paddy Kenny came out for a long ball and missed the thing entirely – Barnsley fluffed the subsequent own goal. But whether they were flattered or not, Rangers tucked a 4-0 under their belt. A week later they played a bad Sheffield United team under a dreadful manager who should have been sacked six months before he was finally dismissed that night, and won 3-0. A week after that they were 2-0 down and playing like chumps at Derby only to scramble two goals in injury time and draw. And so momentum was built, and in the end Rangers went 19 matches unbeaten at the start of the season and won the title.
Neil Warnock is obviously a brilliant manager, you don’t get eight promotions by accident. And that was a wonderful team, full of excellent players, deserving winners of the division despite nobody fancying them pre-season. But if Barnsley had scored twice when they should have done, Sheff Utd had sacked Blackwell when they should have done before we got there, and Derby had beaten us when they should have done, Warnock probably would have been sacked in mid September amidst a hail of criticism about signing his mates and past-it old pros – because that’s how QPR were/are and that’s how modern football is. The idea you might give a manager two or three seasons to get things right – which should be how things are looked at in the transfer window era where you’re only able to trade players in two short periods of time each season – is laughable. Instead, couple of lucky breaks in a very decent start to the season and off we went – Warnock, Derry, Hill, Mackie and others now all heroes.
Derry, we should add, wasn’t even meant to play. Warnock had earmarked Ale Faurlin and Akos Buzsaky as a dreamy deep lying two in the 4-2-3-1 set up but couldn’t get the Hungarian fit – for Barnsley, or in general. Derry stepped in and was the perfect foil for both Faurlin, and the mercurial Taarabt further forward, but if everybody had been fit for day one that crucial prism could have looked very different and probably not worked nearly as well.
And so we welcome Barnsley to Loftus Road again on Tuesday night. Their record in W12 is nearly as bad as ours at Nottingham Forest’s City Ground – however bad QPR are, we usually win this fixture – but they’re bringing an excellent team with them this time. All aged 24 and under, barely missing a beat despite having the excellent Conor Hourihane removed from them in January, Barnsley are not only one of the division’s big success stories this season, they’re also bloody good to watch – Tom Bradshaw, in particular, stepping up from League One Walsall with aplomb. Win, somehow, against a good side, to make it four wins from five games, and so Ian Holloway’s momentum continues to build. Lose, and all people will see is “Tuesday night defeat at home to Barnsley”, which looks and sounds awful regardless of context.
We’re not interested in context any more. We’ll already have forgotten Saturday’s win if we don’t win again tonight. You can’t expect a lot of honesty, forward thinking and planning from managers when that’s the situation they’re faced with.
Highlights of that opening day victory from the 2010/11 title winning season.
Team News: Rangers are still without Kazenga Lua Lua and Jordan Cousins thanks to ankle and thigh injuries respectively but do have Luke Freeman back from suspension. Ryan Manning should have recovered from his ankle knock to be pushing for a start and Pawel Wszolek may also come back into the team having been on the bench at the weekend.
No new injury and suspension worries for Barnsley although Adam Hammill (disturbance in the force) and Gethin Jones (far too Welsh) are both doubts.
Elsewhere: I remain convinced that if you reduced every club’s fixture list in the Mercantile Credit Trophy down to 30 games and replaced the 16 lost fixtures with a simple random draw out of a hat (QPR win, draw, Barnsley win) you’d not only improve the quality of the 30 games that remained, you’d also make no material impact on the league table as it stands presently whatsoever.
Saturday’s game with Cardiff was the latest QPR match this season that finished one way when it could easily have gone to either of the other two outcomes with exactly the same players playing exactly the same game in exactly the same way. We’ve taken four points from Fulham this season and could have ended up with zero, as another example. Preston at home, Newcastle at home, Reading away, Birmingham away, Leeds at home – these games were comprehensive. Every other match you may as well have tossed for it.
You’d also do away with the need for QPR to play Barnsley on a Tuesday night twice this season – honestly, who in their right fucking mind thinks this is an appropriate fixture for a midweek? Leeds are at Fulham tonight, Cardiff are at Blackburn, Norwich at Bristol City, Brighton at Rotherham and Newcastle at chuffing Reading. This is so ridiculous even the idea of replacing football matches with a tombola drum makes more sense.
There are another six fixtures besides all of that as well. Veritable local derbies by comparison – Ipswich at Wolves, Nigel Clough’s Burton at Sheffield Owls, Derby Sheep at home to Preston, Birmingham at home to Wigan, Borussia Huddersfield v Ledersford and Nottingham Trees v Brentford.
Referee: Tony Harrington’s appointment to this game, barely a month after that catastrophe at Blackburn where Conor Washington had a perfectly legitimate goal not spotted by the officials, isn’t good news on the surface. However that shambles was mostly down to the linesman Tony Peart and Harrington, from Cleveland, has actually been pretty good in his QPR games to date – famous last words. Details of his history with us, and his recent stats, available here.
QPR: Rangers have been erratic at home this season – consecutive wins against Wigan and Cardiff lifting them to a still-barely-respectable total of just six wins on their own patch this campaign. But they have a formidable record on this ground against Barnsley who haven’t won at Loftus Road in 22 attempts (losing 19 and conceding at least once on every visit) dating right back to 1950 when, to be fair, Barnsley did win 5-0.
Barnsley: Following the departures of Sam Winnall to Sheffield Wednesday and Conor Hourihane and James Bree to Aston Villa in January, it’s perhaps understandable that Barnsley’s form has trailed off slightly from the highs of December when they won seven, drew two and lost one of ten in the league. Their only win in the last six was away to Villa, which must have been satisfying and they come into this with two defeats and a draw from the last three games. Away from home they’ve won two and drawn one of the last four and have won an impressive eight matches on the road so far this season – the same as Brighton, Huddersfield and Leeds, more than anybody outside the top four and bettered only by Newcastle. Those victories have come at Preston, Wolves, Brentford, Birmingham (scoring 11 and conceding one in the process), Cardiff (4-3), Forest, Rotherham and Villa. Only Newcastle, Brighton, Fulham and Norwich have scored more than Barnsley’s 53 league goals this season but second bottom Wigan have conceded nine fewer than their 50.
Prediction: Wasn’t far wrong with my 2-2 prediction on Saturday and against a bright young team with a great attack I’m going to go for the same again.
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 2-2 Barnsley. Scorer – Matt Smith.
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