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Queens Park Rangers 1 v 2 Brighton and Hove Albion
SkyBet Championship
Friday, 7th April 2017 Kick-off 19:45
Tough week, but QPR have come a long way – Preview
Friday, 7th Apr 2017 09:16 by Clive Whittingham

Two defeats this week have halted QPR’s steady progress through 2017 so far, but look back to the first meeting with tonight’s opponents Brighton and it’s clear strides have been made.


QPR (14-8-18, WWDWLL, 16th) v Brighton (25-8-7, LWWLWW, 2nd)

Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Friday April 7, 2017 >>> Kick Off 19.45 >>> Weather – Cloudy, dry >>> Loftus Road, London, W12

Sixteenth and 50 points doesn’t sound like much of an achievement, particularly for a club still receiving Premier League parachute payments, but if you’d told QPR that’s where they’d be after the 3-0 Christmas hammering at Brighton I’m sure they’d very gladly have taken it.

That loss, summed up by the first goal scored less than ten seconds from a QPR throw being awarded in the Brighton half of the field, was a sixth in succession, and a fourth game in a row without scoring a goal. Rangers had gone from attritional and boring, but stable and midtable, under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to a side in complete free fall. The decision to bring back Ian Holloway for a second spell as manager looked a foolish one, all heart and sentimentality and no brains or practicality. Never mind where the next win or goal was coming from, it wasn’t even clear what formation QPR were trying to play in. Whatever it was, it made Brighton look like they had 13 players on the field (12 and Keith Stroud) and Chris Hughton’s well-oiled winning machine will struggle to find an easier three points across this promotion season than those.

But things turned. Four days later, at Wolves, a debut was handed to Ryan Manning and a last minute win was secured at Molineux. Holloway has spoken of Manning’s prodigious ability to cover ground as the reason he was introduced, and a more prominent role was given to Pawel Wszolek for the same reason. “You were trying to play counter attacking football with players who couldn’t run” he said. Frankly, at the time, it looked like us putting all our eggs in the Monday basket, and a cruail home match with Ipswich – in the event we won both, and Manning has become a key member of the first team.

Holloway’s original remit, to “rub off” on the players already here and get them playing some more attacking football, was, largely, abandoned. Several players involved in those two games, either playing or as a substitute, have barely played for QPR again – most notably Ariel Borysiuk and Sandro but also Nasser El Khayati, Mide Shodipo, Osman Kakay and, through injury, Jordan Cousins. Karl Henry was ostracised altogether. Several signings were made and of those Luke Freeman and Matt Smith, in particular, feel integral to the starting 11 already.

Rangers meet Brighton again this evening in much better shape, and with a good deal of optimism around the place despite two 1-0 defeats on the road this week. There’s plenty to fix up, and that lack of a cutting edge seen at Villa on Tuesday where QPR dominated the final half hour but couldn’t score the equaliser they deserved, will be front and centre of mind this summer I’m sure. Can Conor Washington be that clinical Championship striker? If not, can QPR afford somebody who is? And if not, can the rest of the team start chipping in with enough goals to cover for that?

Huddersfield and Preston have shown that you can compete at the top end of this division without throwing buckets of money at the problem, and as previously discussed I’d expect the division to be weaker next season than it is this. But we’ll likely see tonight in Brighton the standard we’re going to have to reach to compete at the top end of it once more.

Brighton, albeit through serious investment from their chairman, have done things the right way – infrastructure, training ground, youth set up, stadium first, to provide a solid base for the club’s future from which a steadily cultivated team has been able to spring forward. If you look at their team it’s been assembled very carefully over several years and transfer windows, and allowed to grow.

It’ll be interesting to see not only how they go in the Premier League next year, but how they go about it. With the stadium and training facilities all in place the bulk of that ridiculous Premier League money is available to them to spend on players, if they and manager Chris Hughton so desire. But in doing so they risk tearing apart everything that’s good about their current squad, as QPR did after promotion in 2010/11, and then again in 2011/12, and again in 2013/14 – ruinous behaviour the club is still slowly recovering from now. Brighton, and Hughton, don’t strike me as the types to make the same mistake.

I did have to laugh at the recent Sunday Times story saying the Premier League were looking to cut parachute payments to relegated teams because they feared clubs were resting on those laurels, not gambling enough money on players to keep them up because they knew there was a cushion for them if they are relegated. That’s exactly the attitude we need isn’t it? All of you should spend all the money and make all the footballers and football agents rich. Three of you will still be relegated, and we’ve taken the parachute away to force you to gamble so you’re now all fucked, but you’re not in our league any more so why would we care? I mean we always knew the Premier League didn’t give a shit about the divisions below it, but rarely has it been expressed so flagrantly.

The highlight of the piece was that Burnley were a club of “particular concern” when really to everybody except that scumbag Richard Scudamore Burnley are a shining example of how to go about it. The “concern” was that they’d used their first lot of Premier League TV money to build a new training ground and secure the future of the club, rather than buy players, and were relegated as a result. That’s bad apparently, even though it’s enabled them to come back stronger two years later and move into midtable – far better, apparently, to do what QPR did and get relegated with a mountain of debt on the slate.

Thankfully, Brighton don’t seem like the sort of club to be overly bothered about making sure Scudamore’s “product” maintains its value in fucking Hong Kong and they’ll likely go about their top flight adventure in a calculated, sensible way. They deserve it, and their standards will be tough for QPR to reach – both tonight, and in the medium to long term.

Links >>> Dave Sexton QPR legend – History >>> Tantalisingly close – Interview >>> Hooper takes Brighton visit – Referee

Charlie Austin scored twice at the end of his QPR career to rescue his side from a 2-0 deficit and a Rob Green special and salvage a 2-2 draw when these sides met at Loftus Road last season.

Friday

Team News: Jordan Cousins is out for the season for QPR, who are likely to make the usual four or five changes following the midweek defeat to Villa, including a recall for Matt Smith up front. Brighton loanee Kazenga Lua Lua is just about fit again, but can’t play against his parent club.

Lewis Dunk can get back to killing and maiming people for the visitors having recovered from illness but his fellow centre half Connor Goldson has had heart surgery (serious, not our usual wind up) and is therefore doubtful. Sam Baldock is hamstrung, so no blooting the ball in from 35 yards this time thank goodness, but Sebastian Pocognoli (plague) and Liam Rosenior (pestilence) are both fit to return.

Elsewhere: Now I do just want you all to steady down and take a moment to make sure your Tena For Men is securely in place before we start our regular enthusiastic sift through the footballing dredge of the Mercantile Credit Trophy… Next Thursday your Sky subscription will bring you Wigan Warriors against Barnsley, live and exclusive from the packed out DW Stadium in Wigan, Wigan. I know, I know I can hardly contain myself either.

They’re warming up for that gargantuan clash by, in Wigan’s case, playing at home to Relegated Rotherham and, in Barnsley’s case, heading across the Pennines to play The Mad Indian Chicken Farmers in this week’s fixture between two sides beginning with B. And speaking of teams beginning with B, look out for hapless Birmingham getting turned over at home by the Derby Sheep and the manager who was sacked with them on the cusp of the play off places and replaced by Gianfranco Zola.

What else can I offer you? Sheffield Owls v Champions Newcastle tomorrow evening live from the tellybox into your eyeballs. Might be alright. Preston Knob End’s unlikely play-off push will be on if they can get a result away to the faltering Champions of Europe (Leeds potentially missing out on the top six continues the piss my knickers theme of the day).

Reading’s quest to bore their way into the top flight reaches Norwich while Tarquin and Rupert’s aversion to the top six shouldn’t be a problem at Ipswich now they’ve dropped to seventh – expect a big win to lift them back into the play-off places, only for a surprise catastrophic defeat to move them back out of them next week. Stones of a Siberian hamster that lot.

Down at the bottom, Wurzels at home to Wolverhampton Wolves. The Bristol City players have agreed to refund those unfortunate enough to be there for the midweek 5-0 bumming by Preston which surely leaves Lee Johnson on the brink of the sack, with QPR lying in wait for the new manager’s first game next week. As per bloody usual.

Nottingham Trees at home to Borussia Huddersfield and Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion at home to Leddersford completes the games with anything riding on them. The Seventh Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour welcomes Brentford in the games that don’t.

All of this a mere pre-cursor to Thursday’s main event though.


Referee: Simon Hooper, regarded as one of the Championship’s best referees (famous last words), is the man trusted with this Friday evening televised clash. He was last at QPR for the annual FA Cup Third Round exit in January, awarding Rangers a dodgy penalty in the defeat against Blackburn. More details of that and his other past appointments with us here.

Form

QPR: Having won five and drawn one of seven, QPR have now sadly lost two in a row without scoring at the start of what always looked like a very tough April on paper. Both of those 1-0 defeats were away though, meaning the run of four consecutive home wins (three of them 2-1) is still intact for now. Those success against Cardiff, Barnsley, Wigan and Rotherham doubled the number of home wins for Rangers in what has been a poor season at Loftus Road to eight. That’s the same as promotion chasing Fulham but still isn’t a good return and only four clubs, including the bottom two, have lost more at home than QPR this season. Tonight is the final match of the season against the division’s top three – Rangers have lost five and drawn one so far conceding 15 goals in the process.

Brighton: Nine points clear of third-placed Huddersfield, Brighton have one foot in the Premier League with just six games remaining – although four of those are away from home starting tonight. They’ve had a small wobble of late, with defeats to Newcastle (2-1), Forest (3-0) and Leeds (2-0) in the last six matches, but crucially they’ve been winning the others rather than drawing and come into this match with two straight wins under their belts and seven wins in the last 11 matches. They haven’t been infallible away from home this season, with five draws and five defeats to go with the nine wins – Newcastle, Preston and Huddersfield the other victors along with Leeds and Forest.

Prediction: For a third time this week I quite fancy us for a draw, even though everything points to a defeat. QPR won’t want to lose three in a week while Brighton would probably be satisfied with a point, moving them ten ahead of Huddersfield with tomorrow’s games still to come. So I’ll back the draw again, and we’ll probably lose again…

LFW’s Prediction: QPR 2-2 Brighton. Scorer – Matt Smith.

The Twitter @loftforwords

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TacticalR added 18:05 - Apr 7
Thanks for your preview.

The defeat to Brighton was a low point, so we will see how far we have come on from there.
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