|Preston North End v Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 4th August 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Pressure eased, now what? Preview
Friday, 16th Mar 2018 17:45 by Clive Whittingham
With Fulham in blistering form QPR will no doubt be delighted to have put seven points on the board and lifted clear of safety prior to Saturday’s trip to the Cottage.
Fulham (19-11-7, WDWWWW, 4th) v QPR (12-10-15, WLLDWW, 15th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday March 17, 2018 >>> Kick Off 12.30 >>> Weather – Freezing, snow again, unbelievable >>> Craven Cottage, London, SW6 >>> Live on Sky Sports Leeds
When you have to write 50 of these things a year, and 50 match reports (Tuesday’s was quite fun), and 23 programme pieces, the well can often run a little dry.
Don’t get me wrong, QPR make it easier to do than most clubs. Rapid fire managerial appointments, rotating door on the playing squad, frequent financial collapse, occasional trips to the crown court, an odd propensity to recover from 4-0 down at half time, a horrible tendency to concede to players who haven’t scored for 600 games playing for teams that haven’t won since the days of the Empire… There’s plenty of material. But often it’s about trying to extrapolate patterns, opinions, meaning and predictions from sludge and dust.
I’m fascinated by Tuesday’s win at Aston Villa. Where did it come from? How did it happen? I’ve watched QPR away from home all of this season and last, and they’ve been utterly hopeless. Devoid of ideas, incapable of scoring, porous in defence, totally lacking in belief that they could get anything from the game. I’ve watched Aston Villa just lately and they’ve been on fire. And then suddenly we turn up on Tuesday and do that to them. Inexplicable nonsense, a fluke probably, but like I say we’ve got to churn these previews out so here we go.
I firmly believe we’d have lost the game had it been played on its original date. Many of the factors in Tuesday’s upset would not have been present – Ebere Eze wouldn’t have started, QPR would have been coming in on a low after the Forest defeat rather than the high of improvements and four safety-sealing points against Derby and Sunderland, the team selection would have been different, Villa maybe wouldn’t have been as complacent, Rangers wouldn’t have been angry with their hosts about being made to spend seven hours on a motorway for a game that was obviously going to be postponed.
And in that parallel universe where the game was played on the original date and Rangers lost comfortably, where would we be now? Would we have played the way we did, in the shape we did, with the team we did, against Derby – a fine performance which built confidence and drew a line under the Forest debacle? And if not, what sort of showing and result would we have produced against Sunderland with the pressure on and the bottom three looming in the rear view mirror? Would Holloway have been confident enough to give Eze a go from the start in such circumstances? I wonder whether I’ll be writing this rubbish in six months’ time pinpointing that postponement and the subsequent win in he rearranged game as a pivotal moment?
Instead, Rangers have put seven more points on the board to banish all fears of relegation (we’re actually closer to the play-off places points wise now) and we’re starting to dare to believe the end of this season might actually not be too bad. With home games to come against Norwich, Sheff Wed and Birmingham (each more hapless than the last) and away games at Reading, Hull and Leeds could we absolutely come home with a wet sail, in stark contrast to last season?
Probably won’t happen, another week or so and the cue will go on the rack I’m sure – although hopefully not to the extent it did in 2016/17. And almost definitely won’t happen tomorrow at Craven Cottage, an unhappy hunting ground for us even when Fulham aren’t breathing fire over the wheat fields of the division as they are now. But a nice hope to have, and one that would have felt like pure fantasy if you’d suggested it post Forest collapse.
If you’d said at the start of the season, when people were queuing up to tip QPR for a struggle and a swift passage to League One, that actually we’d finish midtable with a play-off standard home record, losses would be reduced, wage bill would be reduced, Caulker would be shifted, seven U23s would play for the first team, three of them would score on their full league debuts, Freeman would maintain his form for the full year, Scowen would be a POTY candidate, we’d spend a whole evening getting to rip the piss out of John Terry as our team make him look completely past it… I suspect many would have taken that, including those that are still moaning like hell regardless.
Highlights from Comedy Central’s 90-minute one off special, Fulham 1 QPR 2, which aired in October 2016 to critical acclaim.
Team News: Devouring a whole Jack Grealish on Tuesday night hasn’t done Josh Scowen much good – he’s now out with a burst appendix. Jack Robinson’s dead leg picked up against Sunderland keeps him out of a game with a team the jungle drums suggest he may be playing for next season. Paul Smyth is a doubt with a toe injury, Idrissa Sylla and Jamie Mackie are working their way back from long term problems, David Wheeler is out for the season.
Tomas Kalas (fell down a well) has missed the last three and will be assessed but Fulham have no new injury concerns. Bastards.
Elsewhere: With Storm Sally-Ann or Blizzard Bartos or whatever the fuck we’re calling winter this weekend blowing in we once again prepare ourselves for a veritable flurry of mediocrity from the Mercantile Credit Trophy, starting with our trip to Tarquin and Rupert’s Riverside Abode and quickly followed by Barnsley v Millwall Scholars which has been bumped forward a couple of hours by the po po.
Eight games at 15.00, including one of the biggest bankers/potential coupon busters of all time as big spending Sporting Wolverhampton host Nigel Clough’s Little Engine That Could. It’s surely getting towards now or never for Burton’s fellow bottom dwellers Birmingham, who are at home to the Allam Tigers, and Sunderland, who host Preston Knob End.
In the promotion race Big Racist John and the Boys will hope to have digested and recovered from the bag of dicks they were fed by the finest football team the world has ever seen on Tuesday night in time for their evening match at Bolton.
There’s a Yorkshire-off between two teams fighting to make the biggest pig’s ear of their season – Champions of Europe v Sheffield Owls – and then a TV game on Sunday between the division’s two chokers supreme. Derby Sheep look like they’re in the mood for another collapse, but the Eighth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour looks like having a much happier outcome.
Games also taking place between Brentford, who’ve lost three of the last four despite being the best team anybody’s ever seen at this level, and Middlesbrough, who’ve got a big fat dose of Pulisball to shove up them. Mick McCarthy described the open revolt in the stands during Ipswich Blue Sox’s midweek home loss to Hull as “disgusting” so might be grateful for an away trip to Bristol City this weekend. Borussia Norwich are playing Reading for want of something better to do with their time.
Fortnight off* for good behaviour after this kids.
* - May contain Joe Hart.
Referee: Chris Kavanagh, newly promoted to the Premier League list in his fourth season as a senior referee, steps back down to the Championship for the first time since QPR’s home loss to Leeds in December for this one. Details of his stats and QPR case history here.
Fulham: Fulham are absolutely flying – winning more games (10), registering more points (32), scoring more goals (29), and conceding fewer (six) than anybody else in the league since the turn of the year. They’re unbeaten in 15 league games going back to the middle of December when they, miraculously, lost to bottom-placed Sunderland 1-0 – one of only five wins Sunderland have managed all season. They’ve won four in a row approaching this game and their home results are, frankly, terrifying. They haven’t conceded a goal here in five league games while banging in 15 at the other end beating promotion rivals Wolves and Aston Villa 2-0, Sheff Utd 3-0, Forest 2-0 and Burton 6-0. They’ve won their last nine league games at the Cottage, a run interrupted only by an FA Cup defeat against Southampton – a remarkable record for a team that won only one of their first nine on their own ground. The Whites have missed four penalties in their last three meetings with Rangers – W1 D1 L1. Loan striker Aleksander Mitrovic has scored seven goals in his last five appearances.
QPR: The win against Aston Villa on Tuesday was the fifth time (out of seven attempts) QPR have beaten a team that started the matchday in the top four of the Championship. It was, however, only their third away win of the season – only Bolton (one) and Birmingham (two) have a worse record on the road. It was the first time they’ve won two in a row since defeating Wolves and Sheff Utd back in October and if they somehow manage to make it three here it will be the most consecutive wins since January last year when Wolves, Ipswich and Reading were beaten at the turn of the year. Those results were interrupted by an FA Cup loss to Blackburn – likewise the wins against Wolves, Rotherham and Huddersfield in August the previous season by a League Cup exit to Carlisle. You have to go back to January 2014 (Ipswich A 3-1, Huddersfield and Bolton H both 2-1) for an uninterrupted one. The goals from Ryan Manning and Luke Freeman during the week were the tenth and eleventh Rangers have managed from central midfield this season - Freeman five, Luongo four, Manning one, Scowen one. That compares with four in the whole of last season (Freeman two, Luongo one, Manning one) and four the season before (Fer two, Henry one, Toszer one).
Prediction: The winner of this year’s Prediction League 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…
“Well what a performance that was and what a way to blow pretty much everyone’s predictions (including mine and LFW’s) away!! Such a boost and it’ll no doubt go down as a season highlight. Very deservedly too. Maybe we caught Villa at the right time after their demolition job on Wolves and brought them back down to earth with a bump.
“Well Saturday lunchtime we will find ourselves in the same situation as Villa did against us the other night: our heads held high and we go into a very tough derby fixture away at Fulham. A side capable of taking anyone apart in this division with a very talented youngster in the ranks in the form of Sessegnon. We will have to keep him quiet as he will feed and supply Mitrovic, who I believe is just too good for this division and will end up getting Fulham to a playoff final come the end of the season.
“I would love us to put one over this lot. I gave us no hope before the Villa game and felt the same about the Fulham game. However the Championship throws out some right old results from time to time and now I just don’t know. We have nothing to lose by going to Fulham and having a right go. The same as how we set up and played against Villa and reaped the rewards. I’ll go for a draw and sit on the fence.. But please please R’s, give us a bit of bragging rights for a change!
Craig’s Prediction: Fulham 2-2 QPR. Scorer – Ebere Eze
LFW’s Prediction: Fulham 3-0 QPR. No scorer.
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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