|Preston North End v Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 4th August 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Can nervy QPR take advantage of annual Derby melt? Preview
Tuesday, 6th Mar 2018 09:14 by Clive Whittingham
QPR and Derby County, two teams scared of their own shadow at this time of the season, meet in West London tonight looking for three points to boost their respective causes and settle growing nerves.
QPR (10-9-15, LWLWLL, 16th) v Derby (16-12-7, WDLDDL, 5th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Tuesday March 6, 2018 >>> Kick off 19.45 >>> Weather – Normaler >>> Loftus Road, London, W12
Do you remember how we all used to laugh at Cardiff City? In happier, more innocent times where QPR had money to spend and strikers to pick from it was always our friends in South Wales who provided the end of season entertainment, finding more and more elaborate ways to fritter away a seemingly unassailable position in the promotion race each year.
I think the 2008/09 blow out was always my favourite. They lost one of their first 14 and, incredibly, just three of their first 29 league games to, seemingly, plot an unwavering course towards the Premier League. There were a few too many draws after that, but still not many defeats, and with four games to go they were still well in the automatic promotion picture. They then, randomly, quite without warning, lost 6-0 to Preston North End at Deepdale four games away from the finishing line. Two defeats and a draw followed meaning that on the last day of the season they surrendered sixth-place to Preston by a single goal. Had they only lost 5-0, they’d have been in.
That was, of course, until 2010/11 when it was our good selves benefitting from their end of season jitters. Dave ‘no smoke, no fire’ Jones spreading his misery across the airwaves all season, bemoaning QPR’s good fortune for signing Adel Taarabt and how rubbish they’d be without him (quite apart from QPR being the only club willing to take a chance on Taarabt, Jones was spending £40,000 a week on Craig Bellamy at the time) made it all the more satisfying when they not only shit out in the play-offs again, but then had to sit and watch their bitter rivals Swansea take the final promotion spot. In between, in 2010, they lost the play-off final to unfancied Blackpool 3-2. They were the choker’s choker, and we loved them for it.
Cardiff have been to the Premier League since then, dragged there kicking and screaming by Malky Mackay when he was the bright young managerial prospect in this country prior to the contents of his mobile phone being made public. More recently their mantle as the Championship’s bottle jobs in chief has been taken by Derby County, a trend which really took hold and started to fester when Bobby Zamora swung his left boot at a half chance in the 2014 play-off final. Derby had battered away against ten men for the full 90 minutes, repelled by Robert Green, Nedum Onuoha and particularly the colossal Richard Dunne, only to lose to QPR’s only shot on target. It should, however, be pointed out that their £18m wage bill was playing QPR’s £80m – Rangers still tied up in the Financial Fair Play repercussions of that flagrant breach of the rules to this day.
Derby seasons since then have slipped into a sorry pattern of fine starts being completely blown apart by a collapse in form around February/March time leaving them to face another season at this level, despite some hefty transfer fees being paid for proven players. In 2014/15 they only lost three games between the opening day and the end of November but won only two of the last 13 and were beaten 3-0 at home on the final day by a Reading side with nothing to play for to miss out on the top six entirely.
They were fifth the following year when they sacked Paul Clement in that bizarre “not the Derby way” moment from maverick chairman Mel Morris. Although they did still make the play-offs that year under Darren Wassall they subsequently blew up in spectacular fashion in the first leg, losing 3-0 at home to Hull. A deficit they couldn’t recover in the second leg, another season over.
Last season, after a brief and unsuccessful flirtation with Nigel Pearson, it happened all over again. Their 1-0 win at Loftus Road before Christmas, bizarrely with Steve McClaren back in the hotseat, was their seventh win in a row, catapulting them right into the mixer once more. They beat Reading and Ipswich back to back scoring six times in the last two league games of January but, once again, February hit with four defeats in five matches and they finished the season eighth, and onto another new manager.
That man, Gary Rowett, was meant to be the solution to all of this. Highly rated, brilliantly successful at Burton and disgracefully sacked by Birmingham City when they were seventh, his steady hand and pragmatic approach, coupled with an influx of highly experienced players, including the addition of Cameron Jerome in January, was meant to be the cure. And yet here we are again – second at Christmas and a 2-0 win over QPR once more forming part of a streak of seven wins from nine matches, they’re now wobbling big style through February once more. They haven’t lost two consecutive games for 47 matches, something QPR will have to overcome if they’re to win tonight, and they remain second in the Championship form table for away results, but they arrive in West London with no wins in five and one win in eight.
Rowett says all this talk of ‘it happening again’ is “bollocks” and it really should be. The fact that the great QPR teams of the 1970s, 80s and 90s (and all the rubbish ones in-between and since) couldn’t win at Nottingham Forest should make no difference to today’s crop, and yet there we were again in November getting our arse handed to us by the Trent for the 34th time. Barnsley have been rich, poor, League One, Premier League, good, bad and ugly over the last few decades but the one constant throughout has been their tendency to lose at Loftus Road.
Past form, previous history, should just be something saddos like me draw on to try and populate 50 match previews a season, but when it’s as pronounced and dramatic as QPR’s record at the City Ground, or Derby’s recent tendency to explode into a thousand pieces as spring arrives, it does weigh heavily on the mental state of the players. The evidence is there in front of us every week.
Ian Holloway has spoken about it a lot this season – the nervousness around Loftus Road whenever we’ve got a game like Bolton or Barnsley at home. Still scarred by last season’s near miss with relegation, when six weeks out from the end of the season it looked like an absolutely impossible set of results to relegate us, many QPR fans are still panicking about dropping this season, despite the big cushion to the bottom three, despite the bottom three’s rank awfulness, despite us never being closer than six points to it all season. Beat an out of form Derby and Sunderland at home this week and we’re just about there, and yet there’s still nervousness and outright panic whenever news comes through of a Hull, Burton, Bolton or Sunderland goal.
There’s good reason for that. When you’re as prone to setting off on six-match losing runs as this QPR team you can never be totally confident until you’ve got the points on the board. In amongst the shuttle disaster that was last week’s Forest clash I neglected to mention that Matty Cash’s goal was his first for Forest in 43 senior appearances – typical Rangers indeed. But we do risk talking ourselves into a problem, and there’s no better example of a team doing that than tonight’s opponents.
Footage of an early Dave Sexton QPR team sticking four brilliant goals through Derby County in 1975. Derby went on to win the championship that season regardless but QPR, as we all know, came within a game of beating Liverpool to the title 12 months later.
Team News: With the snow gone Joel Lynch’s body clock is back in March so he’s available again, and Jamie Mackie and Idrissa Sylla have returned to training this week although neither is likely to be considered. Grant Hall and David Wheeler remain on the long term absentee list.
Derby are without Chris Baird who is on the naughty step and George Thorne who was withdrawn from the Fulham game early doors and looks set to miss the next three matches. Curtis Davies has a foot problem but is expected to play.
Elsewhere: Garry Monk is the latest brave soul to step into the hotseat at Birmingham City following the weekend dismissal of Steve Cotterill. He’s an odd one Monk, tremendous reputation intact despite not making the play-offs at Leeds and then getting fired by midtable Middlesbrough after spending a small fortune, but then chooses to go into Birmingham when you would have thought he’d get linked with better jobs. All sorts of rumours about financial problems and FFP breaches at St Andrew’s swirling around as well. Anyway, typically, his first game is tomorrow night against… Middlesbrough.
Other games for the more nervous among the QPR fan base to concentrate on include Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion at home to Brentford, the Allam Tigers at home to Millwall Scholars, Barnsley away to the Eighth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour and freefalling Sheffield Owls at home to Ipswich Blue Sox. Sunderland’s latest Stadium of Light catastrophe will feature Big Racist John and the Boys. Bolton and Reading is a six pointer at the Mad Stad.
Up at the top end there’s an attractive fixture between in form Tarquin and Rupert and Sheffield Red Stripes, and likewise play-off chasing Preston Knob End and Bristol City. The Champions of Europe welcome Sporting Wolverhampton to Elland Road on Wednesday.
There will also, for want of something better to do with their time, be a meeting between Borussia Norwich and Nottingham Trees.
Referee: Not that it’s really been his fault, but QPR are on a six-match losing run with Tuesday night’s referee Simon Hooper. He was last in charge for the 2-1 loss at Cardiff in August. More info here.
QPR: It’s been one thing or the other for Rangers since Christmas, with four wins and six defeats from ten league games. That was alternating quite nicely between home wins and away losses until the thrashing by Nottingham Forest at Loftus Road last time out. The Villa postponement leaves Rangers with consecutive home games against out of form sides and if they could put six points on the board and lift themselves to 45 leaving the likes of Barnsley, Hull and Birmingham to find half a dozen wins from their final 11 games to catch us. Wishful thinking perhaps.
Derby: The Rams won 11 and drew two of 15 games prior to Christmas to burst into the automatic promotion picture but, not for the first time, have died on their arse as February has turned to March. They arrive without a win in five, one win in eight and two wins in ten in the league. They’re shipping goals as well, with nine going in against them in the last four games - remarkable considering they kept 11 clean sheets in 14 league matches prior to that. A defeat at QPR on Tuesday night, following the weekend loss to Fulham, would be the first time in 47 games that Derby have lost consecutive games, going back to Steve McClaren’s second spell in charge. They are also pretty decent away from home, taking 15 points and losing only once in their last eight away games. They’ve won seven, drawn seven and lost just the three away games this season – the defeats coming at Sheff Utd, Bristol City and more recently Sheff Wed.
Prediction: Elliott42 held on to win The Art of Football Prediction League goodies for the second third of the season and will now set off down the home straight hoping to make it a clean sweep. If you’re not in the running you can still browse their QPR Collection here and purchase something instead. This week our reigning champion Southend_Rsss tells us…
“Well no game on Saturday could either have been a good thing or a bad thing. A heavy defeat could have really destroyed our spirits and morale. Whereas because of the postponement, we have now had more time to work on stuff and really focus on tonightt. Derby will be tough and I reckon we will be lucky to even squeak a draw in front of what’s certain to be a really low attendance."
Craig's Prediction: QPR 1-2 Derby. Scorer - Matt Smith
LFW's Prediction: QPR 1-0 Derby. Scorer - Matt Smith
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Pictures – Action Images
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