|Preston North End v Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 4th August 2018 Kick-off 15:00
That old chestnut - Preview
Friday, 5th Jan 2018 20:25 by Clive Whittingham
Saturday sees QPR's annual brief sojourn into the FA Cup and, as usual, it's MK Dons waiting to receive us.
QPR (7-9-10, LWDDLW, 17th) v MK Dons (7-8-11, DDLLWL, 19th)
Simod Cup >>> Saturday January 6, 2018 >>> Kick off 15.00 >>> Weather – Bloody freezing >>> Loftus Road, London, W12
Here it is again then, our annual blink-and-you’ll-miss-it flirtation with the world’s most historic knock out cup competition, sponsored these days by a Middle Eastern airline that fires its cabin crew if they fall pregnant. Greeted with about as much enthusiasm in Shepherd’s Bush as the arrival for Christmas dinner of the seedy uncle with the bottle-top glasses who hangs around the school gates despite not having any kids. An annual, unavoidable, trauma for all the family.
We all know the numbers. Here they are again… QPR haven’t won an FA Cup game without the aid of a replay since Trevor Sinclair’s bicycle kick knocked out Barnsley in 1997. As it needed a replay to beat Huddersfield in the Third Round that year, they haven’t won a game without a replay at this stage of the competition since 1996, when then Premier League Rangers won 2-0 at Tranmere.
Only Plymouth Argyle (49) have been knocked out of the FA Cup at the Third Round stage more than QPR (48). Four ties have been won with replays in the 21 years since – Torquay 2000, Luton 2001, MK Dons in 2012 and West Brom in 2015. Other than that Rangers have exited the world's oldest knockout competition at the first possibly opportunity to the following opposition in this order: Middlesbrough H (97/98, Third Round replay), Huddersfield H (98/99, Third Round), Swansea A (01/02, First Round), Vauxhall Motors H (02/03, First Round replay), Grimsby A (03/04, First Round), Forest H (04/05, Third Round), Blackburn A (05/06, Third Round), Luton A (06/07, Third Round replay), Chelsea A (07/08, Third Round), Burnley A (08/09, Third Round replay), Sheff Utd H (09/10, Third Round replay), Blackburn A (10/11, Third Round), Everton A (13/14, Third Round), Sheff Utd H (14/15, Third Round), Forest A (15/16, Third Round) and Blackburn H (16/17, Third Round). QPR have therefore won four matches out of 33 across 21 years, scoring just ten goals in that time and conceding 55. Five of the defeats were to teams from at least one division lower.
The pain only exacerbated by a random draw chucking out the same half dozen deathly dull ties for us to lose in. This is the third time we’ve come out of the hat with MK Dons in six years to go with three separate meetings with Blackburn, three with Sheff Utd, two with Chelsea, four with Luton, two with Forest. I’M SO BORED. MAKE IT STOP.
It’s not the losing, it’s the boredom now, the monotony of it. Look at Crystal Palace getting Dover away the other year, I’d bloody love Dover away. West Ham at Shrewsbury this time, lucky sods. A new ground, a non-league club, somewhere different, somewhere new. We’d still lose, obviously, but we’ll gladly lose at Macclesfield Town, we’ll enjoy it.
Actually, it is the losing.
Here’s another stat for you. If Bristol City are promoted this season it will be the fifth campaign in a row that a team has reached at least the quarter finals of the League Cup and won promotion from the Championship (Newcastle 16/17, Middlesbrough and Hull 15/16, Bournemouth 14/15, Leicester 13/14). A clear, obvious indication that far from being some great inhibitor of league form, momentum and confidence gained from cup runs can be a great boon to the season as a whole. City have beaten four Premier League teams this season, including Man Utd, which can only breed confidence and self belief. QPR, meanwhile, suffered the ignominy of losing 4-1 at home to Brentford with a weakened team in round two, angering supporters, eroding Ian Holloway’s credit, and apparently doing nothing for the players because when the rested ones were recalled they lost that weekend to Cardiff anyway thanks to a string of defensive howlers.
Ian Holloway will point out that last season QPR had a league game on the Thursday after the cup tie with Blackburn, and having rested players and exited the competition a stronger QPR side turned in its best performance of the season and won 1-0 at Reading in the next game. But as we look back through the years, this idea of resting players so they’re fit for the league games to come doesn’t hold much water at all – in fact it was only the fourth occasion QPR have won the match after one of their FA Cup debacles in 16 attempts. So we rest players, go out the cup, and lose the week after anyway.
Let’s have a look at the two possible scenarios for this week, which ends with a very important away match at Burton, one of the few teams below us in the league and one in quite decent form for the first time this season. Not a game we really want to be losing. Beat MK Dons and we’ll be going there with three wins from six, one defeat from six, two straight victories, pretty confident. Lose to MK Dons in our usual manner and much of the optimism built by the manner of the Cardiff victory will have been forgotten, those that are on Holloway’s back already will be there big time again and a few new ones will have joined them. The QPR boss will quickly have gone from looking like a genius for the Paul Smyth gamble, to getting knocked out the cup by a poor lower league team and then potentially losing to a relegation rival in the same week. Even if there wasn’t a very vocal group of QPR supporters on social media that seem happier when the club loses, as it proves them right and puts Holloway under more pressure, he doesn’t need that.
Sure, there are players that need a rest: Massimo Luongo looks shagged, Josh Scowen has had a quiet Christmas since a great first half at Birmingham, Luke Freeman looks a million dollars but having maintained such a relentlessly high tempo and quality for a full 12 months now must be running on fumes.
Whether QPR could win without some or all of them is debatable – Rangers have won 14 games since Freeman signed last January and he’s played in 13 of them, including the League Cup win against Northampton in August. But one thing is for sure, we’ve found out over 20 ball acheing years that making wholesale changes, throwing a team together that’s never played with each other before and never will again, and expecting it to gel and play, not only doesn’t work but is also harmful to the players. Ryan Manning, for instance, has barely had a look in since he was hooked after 51 minutes of the Brentford debacle.
And this is all without getting into why exactly the league should be taking priority over the cups – particularly for a team that’s nowhere near the promotion picture. Why are we, and others like us, in such a rush to dip out of the knock out competitions to focus on our thrilling quest to finish sixteenth in the Championship? It’s bollocks. And it’s gone on waaaaay too long.
Highlights from the 1995/96 win at Tranmere Rovers, the last time QPR won an FA Cup Third Round tie without the aid of a replay.
Team News: Even more of a lottery than Ian Holloway’s team selections usually are this week, though given his pre-match comments I think it’s fair to say there will be numerous changes with Massimo Luongo and Luke Freeman front of the queue for a week off. Ebere Eze, fresh back from his loan at Wycombe, is looking likely to start with more game time for recent youth team graduates Paul Smyth, Aramide Oteh and Ilias Chair also likely. Joel Lynch and James Perch both came through 60 minutes of a behind-closed doors match with Watford on Wednesday.
MK Dons have added Chelsea vowel enthusiast Ike Ugbo on loan until the end of the season in time for this match. The 19-year-old scored once in nine starts and nine sub appearances for Barnsley in the first half of the season. Joe Wash is back after one match on the naughty step, but Osman Sow has replaced him there with a three game grounding. Callum Brittain (grotesquely swollen jaw) and Aiden Nesbitt (run in with the law) are both back in contention.
Elsewhere: Simod Cup swings into action tonight with Liverpool Reserves v Everton Reserves, and Man Utd Reserves against the Derby Sheep – the first Man Utd Reserves cup tie not to be televised since the Queen Mum stopped putting out.
Big load of games tomorrow, starting with Jamie Vardy’s return to Fleetwood with Leicester Reserves at lunchtime and ending with Chelsea Reserves at Borussia Norwich in the early evening. Some real classics among the 15.00 – if you don’t moisten up over Birmingham Reserves v Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion Reserves or Bolton Reserves v Huddersfield Reserves then there’s something wrong with your pipes.
Meticulous Mark could be read his last rights if Stoke Reserves get done at Coventry Reserves – although that would increase the chances of us having to go to Coventry in the unlikely event of us making the next round. Another loveable manager who can’t buy a win is everybody’s favourite talented, humble, down-to-earth fella Alan Pards Pardew, and he won’t be relishing West Brom Reserves' trip to Exeter Reserves much. Nor Mauricio Pellegrino Southampton Reserves' game against Fulham Reserves.
Watch out for 8,000 Luton fans stretching right round the top tier of St James’ Park at Newcastle Reserves, and for Sporting Wolverhampton Reserves pummelling Swansea Reserves. The Mad Indian Chicken Farmers meet the Allam Tigers in he battle of the criminally irresponsible, dodgy foreign ownership.
Referee: James Linington from the Isle of Wight is the man in the middle for this on. He refereed our home win against Hull and draw at Bolton earlier this season, and has never officiated a QPR defeat in the league in eight outings – he was, however, in the middle for a cup exit to Carlisle under Chris Ramsey. Full details here.
QPR: One defeat, two draws and two wins from the five games over the festive period was QPR’s best Christmas since nine points were won from four games under Luigi De Canio in 2007/08. It snapped a six match run without a win and potentially sets QPR up to match what they did this time last year with three wins either side of an FA Cup defeat against Wolves, Ipswich and then Reading. The win against Cardiff gives Rangers a home record of 6-4-3 this season, identical to Leeds who are up in sixth place. Matt Smith’s header against Cardiff was his seventh headed goal since arriving at the club last January – no other Championship player has scored more headed goals in that time. Luke Freeman remains top of the division’s assists chart with eight.
MK Dons: Ignoring the absolute nonsense that is the Football League Trophy, MK Dons have won just two of their last ten games. One of those was in the league, a 1-0 success against Peterbrough over Christmas despite having players sent off after nine and 35 minutes. The other was against Maidstone (4-1) in the second round of this competition. They beat non-league opposition in the First Round too – a 4-0 win at Hyde. In the league they’ve won just two of the last 15 and are currently nineteenth in League One, two points north of the relegation zone. Away from home in the league they’ve won three, drawn two and lost eight this season.
Prediction: As QPR seem so bloody stubborn with their rancid cup traditions, I’m going to stick to mine. What’s the only thing worse than a defeat at home to MK Dons, who are nineteenth in League One? Why, a draw of course, and a replay up there in front of 30,000 empty seats a week on Tuesday.
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 1-1 MK Dons. Scorer – Idrissa Sylla.
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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