|Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 v 1 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 10th February 2018 Kick-off 15:00
When you just can't win - Preview
Friday, 9th Feb 2018 12:23 by Dave Barton and Clive Whittingham
Massive thanks to AKUTRs and LFW regular Dave Barton who is stepping in for the match previews this month, starting with Saturday’s tough trip to runaway leaders Wolves.
Wolves (21-5-4, DDLLWW, 1st) v QPR (9-9-12, WLWLLW, 15th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday February 10, 2018 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Cold, wet >>> Molineux, Wolverhampton
Last week’s much needed win over Barnsley has just about lifted the panic about relegation for a few weeks as Rangers now sit ten points clear of the drop.
A healthy gap but not one that should see the team become complacent about. Earlier this season Rangers came off a run of one defeat in seven including a win against Saturday’s opponents Wolves, to sit just two points off the playoffs. What followed was five defeats in the next six games and all the good work from the start of the season almost completely undone.
Rangers’ reaction to that has been good with four wins, two draws and three defeats but it does seem clear this team can go on bad runs that are hard to get out of and another one between now and the end of the season would ensure we have a very nervy finish and almost certainly end Ian Holloway's second spell at the club.
That win over Barnsley was more than welcome but it wasn’t exactly a performance to have fans rushing to renew season tickets when next season’s prices were announced this week.
As ever, the prices have been met with several complaints from supporters and it remains impossible to please everyone. The cynical view would be that the announcement of the new super-cheap blue band ticket prices is nothing more than smoke and mirrors and a cynical attempt to gloss the fact that everyone else will be paying the same again for what is likely to be another season of Championship football.
It’s with this that the club can’t really win: many fans have given up season tickets in recent years for a variety of reasons so an attempt to entice them back with cheap deals should be seen as a positive move. Of course, more could be done for those fans renewing tickets but for me paying an average of around £20 a game for my seat in the Lower Loft seems pretty fair.
For me the big problem the club will face with getting people to renew next season won’t be the prices but will be how good the team is going to be and what are the ambitions. At the moment the thought of a fourth season in a row of dull mid table football will be putting a lot of people off but looking at what can be done about it I’m not sure as a fanbase where we see ourselves at the moment.
When we were in the Premier League a lot of talk seemed to be that fans preferred it in the Championship where games were more competitive and the hope was to go away from throwing money at over the hill superstars and sign up and coming players who saw QPR as a step up, bring through youth players and build some foundations at the club to ensure a brighter future.
Of course, now that is all happening I’m not sure many people are enjoying this experience either. As a football fan you want to be able to dream and have something to aim for, that excitement you feel going to game where your team has to win where everything is on the line from promotion, relegation or the chance to bloody the nose of a big club is one we’ve all felt in the past but it’s been a long time since I’ve gone to a game with that feeling which has to change next season.
Whilst I applaud what the club are trying to do at the moment and build something in the long term the lack of any short-term excitement is having a big impact on the mood at the club which I think has a lot to do with so many people being desperate for change. It’s a tough sell to keep people interested in a club whose short-term ambitions are to finish mid table in a pretty dire league.
It doesn’t have to be like this though and clubs like Bristol City, Huddersfield and Preston have shown it is possible to compete at the top end of the division without spending a fortune but it’s becoming increasingly hard to do and is something that feels a long way away from happening at QPR.
Saturday’s opponents certainly have something to aim for as Wolves are currently romping away with Championship and look almost certain to be a Premier League club next season.
They are club gambling on FFP much like QPR did and we should act as warning to them that the gamble doesn’t always pay off in the long term if you find yourself relegated back to this level - but for now at least they will provide formidable opponents to Ian Holloway's men.
A previous manager would have called it a ‘Bonus Game’ and one where few fans will expect QPR to take anything from give our away form this season but it’s a game that Rangers should be relishing. A chance to compete against the best side in the division and one who we beat earlier this season. It’s a real opportunity for the players and manager to show they can toe to toe against the best in the division.
How we approach the game and the kind of performance we put in is important, few will expect QPR to win the game and it's unlikely to have a big impact on where we finish this season but this is a real opportunity to bloody the nose of one of the division’s best sides and show our team is better than recent performances rather than results suggest.
QPR have actually won on their last three visits to Molineux, including an unlikely success over the New Year’s weekend last season when a run of six straight defeats ended with a 2-1 success thanks to goals from Idrissa Sylla and Pawel Wszolek.
Team News: Ryan Manning’s best Samba Diakite impression against Barnsley earned him a three match stint on the naughty step which starts here. He joins long termers David Wheeler, Grant Hall and Jamie Mackie on the sidelines while Paul Smyth and Idrissa Sylla are both still struggling. Wolves are missing Romain Saiss with a hamstring issue.
Elsewhere: The Champions of Europe’s ongoing quest to even try and qualify for the top six of the Championship has seen them make yet another managerial change this week with Thomas Christiansen making way for Barnsley’s Paul Heckingbottom who moves to Elland Road just three days after signing a new contract at Oakwell where he’s won just one of his last 16 matches. That defeat at QPR last week must really have changed the whole picture. Anyway Heckinbottom’s Leeds start at Sheffield Red Stripes tomorrow lunchtime, while Barnsley face Sheffield Owls in their own Yorkshire-off up the road. Bet the police were delighted to see those two games end up on the same day.
Speaking of which, it’s Millwall Scholars tonight for the Eighth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour, and then Big Racist John and the Boys at home to Birmingham on Sunday.
Other slightly less confrontational fixtures this weekend include Bolton at home to Tarquin and Rupert, Brentford against Preston Knob End, Bristol City at home to Sunderland and the Derby Sheep at home to Borussia Norwich. Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion are at Ipswich Blue Sox while Reading go to Middlesbrough in probably the dullest game of this or any other season on paper. Nottingham Trees and Allam Tigers at the City Ground a good test of which one is more farcical than the other.
Referee: Geoff Eltringham is the referee for this one, hopefully continuing his recent run of five away wins from his last five appointments. His only red card this season was given to a visiting player at Molineux though – Leeds’ Ronaldo Viera in a 4-1 defeat before Christmas. Full details of his recent QPR games and stats available here.
Wolves: Wolves have won 21 of their 30 league games this season but one of the four defeats came against QPR at Loftus Road in October. One of the others was in January at home to Nottingham Forest immediately following an FA Cup exit at Swansea. That formed part of a four game winless run that also included a draw at Barnsley – that’s as close to a wobble as they’ve come this season and they’ve responded with wins at Ipswich and at home to Sheff Utd without conceding a goal. Overall at home they’ve won 11, drawn two and lost two. Wolves have also kept five clean sheets in their last seven games.
QPR: Not only did QPR beat Wolves at Loftus Road earlier this season, they’ve also won their last three visits to this ground in 2016/17 (2-1, Wszolek and Sylla), 2015/16 (3-2, Austin and Phillips twice) and 2011/12 (3-0, Faurlin, Barton and Campbell). They arrive into this one on a run of four league wins, two draws and three defeats but as we know precious few of the victories have come away from home this season – just two, at lowly Birmingham and Burton. The clean sheet against Barnsley last week was just the fifth kept by Rangers this season – for comparison, Wolves have kept 17.
Prediction: The winner of this year’s Prediction League (and the person top at the end of February) will be furnished with goodies from The Art of Football, but if you don’t fancy your chances then you can browse their QPR Collection here and purchase something instead. We were spot on again for Barnsley last week (best season ever I think) and this week our reigning champion Southend_Rsss tells us…
“A much needed three points achieved against Barnsley to keep us out of trouble at the wrong end of the table. I’m sure at the start of the month the target would have been two wins against Barnsley and Bolton and hopefully try and pick a point up at either Wolves or Sheffield Utd. Wolves just look too good this season - surely Championship winners elect now. If we do get something out of this game then it will have to be one of our finest performances of the season. While anybody can pull off a shock on their day in this division I just feel it’s going to be one of those long days and the difference in terms of organisation, tactics and class will show. It’s with a heavy heart that I’m predicting a bit of a heavy defeat. Sorry.”
Craig’s Prediction: Wolves 3-0 QPR. No scorer.
LFW’s Prediction: Wolves 4-0 QPR. No scorer.
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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