Bring your boots, get a game - Preview
Tuesday, 21st Nov 2017 10:57 by Clive Whittingham
What remains of QPR's injury ravaged squad heads to Derby County tonight looking for a first away win since February.
Derby County (7-5-4, WWWWLD, 8th) v QPR (5-6-6, DDWWLL, 15th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Tuesday November 21, 2017 >>> Kick Off 19.45 >>> Weather – Hammering it down >>> Pride Park, Derby
The news that Massimo Luongo, and most of the rest of the team as it turns out, is unavailable this evening is undoubtedly a blow. His performances alongside Luke Freeman and Josh Scowen in a three man midfield have been a highlight of a season where goals feel hard to score and easy concede, points hard to post and easy to surrender.
It does, however, give QPR an opportunity to try something a little different at Derby, where they’re going for a first away win of the season at the ninth attempt, a first away win at all in 15 road trips since February. However good that midfield three has been, and it certainly has been impressive, it hasn’t translated into anything other than substandard performances and poor results away from Loftus Road.
By having a three-man central midfield as the first names on the team sheet, which I don’t think many would argue is the right thing with this squad of players at Ian Holloway’s disposal, it does limit you and require sacrifices elsewhere. I think most would also agree that a switch to a 4-4-2, with probably Luke Freeman on the left wing, would be a waste of Freeman, and also remove Josh Scowen from his protective role in front of the defence which I think we do at our peril, particularly with the defence itself in such bad shape.
Most teams would respond by going to one up front, either as a 4-1-4-1 or a 4-5-1, but we know how popular is among the QPR supporters when our managers do that and it’s highly doubtful that Conor Washington, Jamie Mackie (both too small, not enough goals, no hold up play), Matt Smith (mobility of a fine Victorian town house) and Idrissa Sylla (work rate, bit mental) could play that role effectively.
So maybe you go to 3-5-2, as we do already, except the two on either side of the five are actually wingers, not wing backs as now. That would be tempting. QPR have seven wingers in their squad, excessive for a team that doesn’t play with any, and also has two big strikers who are at their best when attacking quality service from wide, which Pawel Wszolek and others have shown themselves capable of delivering. But that is incredibly attacking and leaves a defence that's already getting exposed in wide areas even more vulnerable down the flanks. It could work down the right, where Wszolek has shown he has the engine to get up and down and do both jobs, but we don't have anybody who can do that wide left, which is why Jake Bidwell is currently there.
In the end I think a slight switch to a 4-3-3 may help us on a number of fronts. Firstly, a back four, with a proper right back, preferably Furlong, would stop this problem we have at the moment with Baptiste getting dragged out exposing him and Lynch. By all means go back to a back three when Onuoha and Hall are both fit again, but teams have sussed us now and are going to keep visiting that spot. Secondly, it keeps the midfield three together. Thirdly, we could play any of our seven wingers either side of Smith and Sylla and have them pulling wide as wingers. Wszolek, Shodipo, Samuel and particularly Wheeler would all suit that really well.
Sadly Luongo’s injury, which does open up some more flexibility with only two of the midfield three available, has also coincided with half a dozen others. Bright Samuel, in particular, is a loss tonight. Derby are a decent team at this level but they’re a one-paced outfit, and it’s not a quick pace. I’d have started Samuel tonight, and Furlong, and tried to inject a bit of pace into things in wide areas. Sadly, both are injured, as is everybody else it seems. And, as I always say, I've never taken a coaching session or picked a team in my life, so I don’t know what I’m talking about – just a football supporter with a craving for a bit of width, and a few crosses.
Still, this may now look like a comfortable defeat on paper, we may be about to get absolutely soaked to the skin on that long traipse through the retail park, but there is something very gratifying about sitting among the commuters on the tube knowing you’re going for a long boozy day at the football.
Ten minutes of Jim Magilton’s QPR cutting Robbie Savage and Derby to pieces in a 4-2 win on this ground back in 2009. Though the game was part of that weird tear in the fabric of reality through which Rangers scored four times in three successive games inside a week, the R’s did used to win at Pride Park quite regularly until recently.
Team News: QPR continue to have big issues in defence with the first choice centre back trio of James Perch (knee knack), Nedum Onuoha (hamstring a go go) and Grant Hall (tendon mcshmendon) all on the long term injury list. Joel Lynch (aggressive brain fart) is now also rated as a doubt for this evening which would leave Alex Baptiste and, ostensibly, Jack Robinson as the only fit senior centre backs, and even Robinson is actually more of a left back. Ian Holloway has also said today that Massimo Luongo, who was taken off at half time at the weekend, is out, as are two of the options for the right side of defence Jordan Cousins and Darnell Furlong. Bright Samuel also isn’t travelling. Bring your boots and get a game.
Derby could be without Sports Personality of the Year-elect Bradley Johnson whose trip to the barbers has overrun.
Elsewhere: The Eighth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour has, naturally, included a cold Tuesday night in Barnsley among its dates, although judging by the forecast it’s a cold and wet Tuesday night just about everywhere today.
The first clue as to just what on earth Chris Coleman is playing at comes at Villa Park. Whether you rate Coleman or not, his stock remains high after last year’s European Championship performance with Wales and he would have been in the running for most middle or lower Premier League jobs that come up, and everything in the Championship – Michael O’Neill favourite for the West Brom job a case in point. To take on the shuttle disaster at Sunderland seems a bit odd/desperate/crazy unless the financial package is so unbelievable regardless of performance he couldn’t say no.
The Allam Tigers, mostly thanks to the Allams, are also fading fast and facing a second consecutive relegation as they head south to the Millwall Scholars. Typical Shaun Harvey idea of a perfect Tuesday night fixture that one, just the 400 mile round trip, and there’s similar in store for Preston Knob End away at Bristol City, Tarquin and Rupert away at the Sheffield Red Stripes, Reading at Relegated Bolton and Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion down at Brentford. On behalf of everybody taking a day or two off work to traverse the country in foul weather to follow their team this Tuesday may I say fuck you Shaun, I hope you step on a plug.
Borussia Norwich against Nottingham Trees is also tonight, then three more local derbies tomorrow with the Sheffield Owls at Ipswich Blue Sox live on the tellybox, Birmingham trekking up to Middlesbrough and the Champions of Europe heading to Sporting Wolverhampton.
Referee: Paul Tierney is in the middle for this one, not usually good news for QPR or the game itself but he’s been added to the Premier League list this season so somebody somewhere likes him. Recent QPR history, including that incident with the squirrel, and his stats, available here.
Derby: The Rams are eighth going into this game, two points shy of the play-offs after the weekend draw at Fulham where Scott Carson rather treated the hosts to an equaliser. At home this season they’ve won four (Preston 1-0, Hull 5-0, Forest and Sheff Wed both 2-0), drawn one (Birmingham 1-1) and lost two (Wolves 0-2 and Reading last time out here 2-4). The Reading loss at Fulham draw snapped a run of four straight wins and seven matches unbeaten which had lifted them up towards the top six. QPR were something of a bogey team for Derby when they first moved into Pride Park, unbeaten in their first six visits (three draws, three wins), a run which included the 4-2 under Jim Magilton and the 2-2 Jamie Mackie game. However Rangers have now lost their last three visits here 1-0.
QPR: Rangers’ away form is becoming more of an issue with each passing week. It’s 15 matches since they last won on the road, at Birmingham in February with four losses and four draws so far this season and ten losses and five draws overall. The 1-0 loss at Derby in April forms part of that run which is the worst in the country as it stands – Everton and Bury are without an away win in 14 attempts, Rochdale in ten. Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at home to Aston Villa having lead 1-0 took QPR to 13 points lost from winning positions this season, second only to Brentford who have surrendered 14 – the two meet at Loftus Road on Monday night.
Prediction: Sadly, another correct call from our reigning champion Southend Rsss at the weekend as Rangers lost to Villa. The winner of this year’s Prediction League will be furnished with goodies from The Art of Football, but if you can’t wait that long or predict QPR matches then you can browse their their QPR Collection here and purchase something with 20% off this Black Friday week using the code BF20 – don’t say we don’t do anything for you.
“A bit of a frustrating afternoon at Loftus Road and to be honest I really couldn’t see anything other than a victory for the away side – the depth of their squad and the money spent showed. It’ll be another tough game against Derby and even more so away from home where we are yet to win this season. I do think we will score, but again I can’t see us getting a result. Heart says a score draw, however head says the same result against Villa.”
Craig’s Prediction: Derby 2-1 QPR. Scorer – Idrissa Sylla
LFW’s Prediction: Derby 1-0 QPR. No scorer.
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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