|Queens Park Rangers 2 v 0 Bolton Wanderers|
Saturday, 17th February 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Dilemmas for Holloway ahead of Bolton visit - Preview
Friday, 16th Feb 2018 23:14 by Dave Barton and Clive Whittingham
Dave Barton looks ahead to Saturday's home game with Bolton, which QPR could do with winning if they're to continue keeping the relegation battle at arm's length.
QPR (9-9-13, LWLLWL, 16th) v Bolton (7-9-15, LLDWDL, 19th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday February 17, 2018 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Brighter, still cold >>> Loftus Road, London, W12
Following on from a decent performance but ultimately a defeat away at champions-elect Wolves, the latest of Rangers’ must win home games is upon us as Bolton come to town.
Well ‘must win’ might be stretching it a bit as we currently sit eight points clear of the drop and six clear of Saturday’s opponents but given our away form this season another win here will keep us at arm’s length from danger and inch us closer to safety.
Bolton arrive in decent form (two defeats in the last seven) and have really improved after a dreadful start to the season but this is a game QPR really need to be winning if we’re going to have a more relaxed end to the season than we did a year ago.
Last weekend’s improved second half performance should have seen QPR come away with a point and leaves Ian Holloway with a bit of a dilemma. The performances of youngster Eberechi Eze has put him into contention to start as our latest Messiah and Saviour although recent saviours Manning, Smyth, Oteh and any sort of winger could still be turned to if this latest one doesn’t work out.
Eze does seem to have something about him and after impressing on loan at Wycombe this season he’s shown some quality when given the chance off the bench. Holloway has been consistent in sticking with the Luongo, Scowen and Freeman trio in midfield this season but with Luongo only just returning to training there could be an opening for him to start this weekend either in that midfield three or playing off a lone striker.
At times Eze does look like the game drifts past him a bit but that’s to be expected from a youngster and that’s not a part of his game that will improve unless he is playing. If he does get a start it’s important not to expect miracles from a kid with very little experience at this level. He’ll be going up against our former player Karl Henry who will no doubt be keen to impress against a manager he publicly fell out with and a fanbase who never really took to him despite him doing a pretty good job for the team over his four years with us.
Rangers do need to be a little careful in the hyping up of these kids and are certainly guilty of going overboard when one plays well but the current plan to give youngsters a chance is a positive one and Holloway must be pretty encouraged by the fact that none of them have let him down when he has given them a chance. Manning was excellent last season and the likes of Smyth, Oteh and Chair haven’t looked out of place or let the team down when they have been given a chance which will hopefully encourage Holloway to put some faith in the youngsters alongside the more established players in the first team.
Another big decision for Holloway is what formation to start with. He again started with the much maligned three/five at the back last weekend but the team’s lack of width continues to frustrate many supporters, especially at home.
There is much debate to be had over what formation the team should play be it three at the back or play with more width in a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-4-2 but more important than that for me is the intensity the team play at. Too often at home in recent years we’ve had to wait twenty minutes for our first shot on goal so putting a youngster in who you would hope would show no fear and help to set a fast tempo to the game helps to get the fans involved in the game rather than have us all talking among ourselves waiting for a half time pint. It would also get the team on the front foot making it uncomfortable for a Bolton side whose record on the road is as poor as ours.
On paper it doesn’t look the most exciting game going and will more than likely be just as dull on grass but it’s a game QPR have to take something from to build on a good performance last week and continue that slow climb to mid table mediocrity.
Team News: Ryan Manning is still on the naughty step for this one while Massimo Luongo and Paul Messiah Smyth continue to be assessed for niggling knee and thigh injuries respectively. Grant Hall, Jamie Mackie and David Wheeler are on the long term list while James Perch continues to struggle and Idrissa Sylla is still trying to untangle his neck.
Bolton could have Darren Pratley (swimmer’s ear) back in contention after he returned to training this week but Craig Noone is at a wedding.
Elsewhere: A slightly curtailed list of Mercantile Credit Trophy fixtures this weekend (just the 56 games) because of something called the FA Cup Fifth Round (I know, I was surprised too).
Amongst them, the friendly derby between Birmingham and Millwall Scholars which I’m sure West Midlands Constabulary are really looking forward to. Birmingham reeling from the news that at the age of 76, Paul Robinson has finally decided to hang up his hatchet and stop burying it in the shins of more talented footballers.
The Nigel Clough derby sees Nottingham Trees head to Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion, who really do need a couple of wins from somewhere if they’re not to sink beneath the waves of mediocrity washing around above them. Speaking of which Sunderland host Brentford.
A trio of interesting looking games between promotion candidates sees Middlesbrough heading to the Eighth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour, Big Racist John and the Boys visiting Tarquin and Rupert and Sporting Wolverhampton going to seventh-placed Preston Knob End.
Sunday brings the Old Farm Derby between Borussia Norwich and Ipswich Blue Sox to Carrow Road while the Champions of Europe host Bristol City. There’s then another load of games on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Of course there is.
Referee: QPR have only had one penalty this season, on the opening day against Reading, and Scott Duncan was the man who awarded it. Given that he gave Rangers a spot kick within 30 seconds of his previous game on this ground kicking off (Norwich H last season) perhaps he’s the man to finally spot Matt Smith being dragged to the ground by the throat in the six yard box. Details of his previous QPR appointments and stats here.
QPR: The only constant in QPR’s form remains their absolute inability to win away from home – the loss at Wolves made it 2-5-9 on the road this season. That puts pressure on the home results which have so far held up ok – seven wins is the same as fifth placed Fulham have managed at Craven Cottage and one more than seventh placed Preston have at Deepdale. But with four wins, five defeats and two draws from the last 11 games it’s hard to pick exactly what kind of form QPR are in at all. Rangers’ total of just five clean sheets this season is the league’s joint worst total along with Sunderland and Reading. Luke Freeman’s assist for QPR’s equaliser at Bolton earlier this season was one of nine he’s managed so far – the most in the league. Massimo Luongo (109) leads the division’s tackle stats.
Bolton The Trotters looked absolutely dead and buried when they failed to win any of their first 11 league games (drawing two) - a run that included eight straight defeats through September. But they’ve since lost only six of 20, winning seven, to climb three places and two points above the relegation zone prior to this one. They’ve lost two and won three of their last seven league games prior to playing us but have lost five of their last six away – albeit at Cardiff, Brentford, Middlesbrough, Forest and Wolves which is a tough run during which they did win 1-0 against Sheff Utd at Bramall Lane. That remains their only away win all season though, with five draws to go with the nine defeats – a worse record on the road than even our own.
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. This week our reigning champion Southend_Rsss tells us…
“A good showing from ourselves up at Wolves deserved more. The same old story of missing/not taking our chances, yet again showing that in a league where anyone can beat anyone on their day, taking those chances matter. I wonder whereabouts we would be if we had been more prolific with our chances this season. A mixed bag of results for both sides recently and looking at the head to head record between us..There are goals in this fixture too. I actually thought that out of Barnsley and Bolton, that this would be the harder of the two home games. However, after the Wolves showing, I’m confident of a win here – I’ll back us to get a result, plus what the hell a clean sheet into the mix too…”
Craig’s Prediction: QPR 2-0 Bolton. Scorer – Luke Freeman
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 2-1 Bolton. Scorer – Matt Smith
The Twitter @loftforwords, @david_barton76
Pictures – Action Images
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