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Preston North End   v   Queens Park Rangers
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 4th August 2018 Kick-off 15:00
This time last year - Preview
Thursday, 29th Mar 2018 21:16 by Clive Whittingham

For the second year in a row QPR have had a great March going into an international break. Their quest to make sure a second collapse doesn't occur starts at Reading on Good Friday.

Reading (8-12-18, DLDDLL, 20th) v QPR (12-11-15, LLDWWD, 15th)

Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Friday March 30, 2018 >>> Kick Off 17.30 >>> Weather – Chucking it down >>> Meccano Stadium, M4

It was Spanish philosopher George Santayana who said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” and rarely will it be more applicable to the drudgery of Championship football than Queens Park Rangers’ forthcoming April fixtures.

March was good, March was better than good, March could be great if it’s finished off with a win at Reading tomorrow. Derby lucky to escape Loftus Road with a point, Sunderland dispatched with another goal on full league debut from one of our U23s, large sword run through Big Racist John, Fulham clinging on at 2-2 last time out. Three tough games and a gimme, eight points on the board, switch to a back four working wonders, Ryan Manning revitalised, Darnell Furlong making the right back spot his own, Ebere Eze doing bits. Lovely stuff.

If you’d said at the start of the season that going into April we’d be as close to the play-offs as the relegation zone points wise, that we’d never have been any closer than six points to the bottom three all season, that the accounts would show losses halved and another £10m off the wage bill, that another load of top earners including Caulker would have been shifted, that we’d have a home record identical to the team in fifth, that we’d have won five and drawn one of eight games against the top four, that we’d beat the league leaders twice in four days at Loftus Road including moneybags Wolves, that we’d absolute thrash Aston Villa at Villa Park and spend the whole night winding up Big Racist John, that seven players from our U23s would get first team minutes, that several of them would establish themselves as first team regulars, that three of them would score winning goals on their full debuts, that Eze and Smyth would breakthrough and impress, that Scowen will turn out to be an absolute find, that Freeman will continue his form from last season all the way through this… Everybody would have gone for that when you think how negative the general consensus was last summer.

But then, March was good last season as well, and previews like this one returning from the international break and looking forward to April were just as positive as that outlook. Here’s our preview for the Derby match we played at this point of last season which followed four wins and a draw by looking ahead with optimism to the end of the season and a prosperous 2017/18 campaign ahead…

“April (Derby A, Villa A, Brighton H, Bristol City A, Sheff Wed H, Brentford A, Forest H) looked bloody terrifying when the relegation zone was looming large in the rear-view mirror. Now it feels like an excellent chance to follow up the recent fine show at Leeds and see just how good this team is, how much more room for improvement it’s got in it, and what Holloway needs to still add to make sure we’re playing competitive games that Sky might want to justifiably televise this time next season.”

… we concluded.

Yeh, that worked out well. QPR lost all six of them, starting with an insipid showing at Pride Park spent mostly punting hopeless long balls up to Matt Smith. What followed was a series of wild team selections: Sean Goss suddenly in from the start at Brentford, Michael Petrasso rattled round three positions in 45 traumatic minutes against Sheff Wed then taken off at half time, Ravel Morrison randomly started in the centre of midfield against Brighton. It was a nonsense - a nonsense that nearly got us relegated, a nonsense that could and maybe should have cost Ian Holloway his job, a nonsense that set a section of the support against the manager where they remain to this day, a nonsense that created a real doom and gloom around the place for the whole summer, a nonsense that has set nerves on edge on and off the field whenever a couple of bad results happen consecutively.

The fixtures are kinder this time. Reading have a new manager, and you have to fear that a team forced into playing Jaap Stam’s anti-football sludge for the last two years will respond enthusiastically to being freed from those shackles, but they’ve only won three times all season and have only won once anywhere since the start of December. Norwich are coasting to the end of a poor season; Birmingham, Sheffield Wednesday and Hull City are poor teams playing poorly; Leeds will be all done and dusted by the time we get there. The team must, surely, have taken much-needed confidence and belief for the away games from the fine showings at Villa Park and Craven Cottage.

But many similarities do exist between now and 12 months ago. QPR have all but played themselves safe with those March results and the omnipresent threat of a team with nothing to play for heading off to the beach early exists. We’re also, as we were at Derby a year ago, coming back off an ill-timed international break. QPR haven’t been particularly good at these off late – just two wins from seven games played immediately after the fortnight off in the last two seasons. A big part of that has been Massimo Luongo flying off round the world and coming back tired or not able to play and that shouldn’t be the case this time as Australia played their game at Fulham during the week, but it is still a factor.

What happened last year cannot happen again. The scattergun team selections, the players clocking off, the long run of defeats. For the sake of Holloway, the supporters, the season ticket sales, the summer, the team and next season it cannot happen again. And it cannot start with a repeat of that rubbish we served up at Derby a year ago tomorrow at Reading.

Links >>> Stam pays price – Interview >>> Routledge wins it – History >>> Coote flies in – Referee >>> Tattoo two – Podcast

One of QPR’s better performances of last season came in a televised 1-0 win at the Madejski Stadium against Reading in January, secured by Jamie Mackie’s well-worked first half goal.

Friday

Team News: Rangers have Jack Robinson back after the bad dead leg he suffered against Sunderland and striker Idrissa Sylla is finally available again for the first time since injuring his calf in December. Jamie Mackie is back in training but not yet fit to return, David Wheeler and Grant Hall are long term absentees.

Jon Dadi Budvarsson doesn't fancy it and Paul McShane has sunburn.

Elsewhere: Ten games on Friday, two on Saturday, and then a full programme on Monday. Cop that.

The matches are scattered far and wide across Good Friday starting with Millwall Scholars, who are staging a 12-match unbeaten run towards the play-off places, against Nottingham Trees, who are not, at 13.00.

Bit much of a muchness at 15.00, although the Eighth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour will surely take another step towards the promised land with a home win against Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion and Tarquin and Rupert need a win at Borussia Norwich to keep up the pace. Barnsley v Bristol City is this weekend’s match between two teams beginning with B while Brentford will no doubt be the best team Sheffield Red Stripes have ever seen. The Champions of Europe are at home to Bolton and Sheffield owls face Preston Knob End.

During us in our shits and giggles kick off time of 17.30 is Middlesbrough v Sporting Wolves, although at least they’re doing it for the benefit of television rather than the sheer hell of it. Derby Sheep v Sunderland in the evening could be an entertaining farce given their respective form.

Saturday it’s Birmingham v Ipswich Blue Sox, who have announced Mick McCarthy will leave the club at the end of the season, and later Big Racist John and the Boys travelling up to face the Allam Tigers.

Quick nap and a bite to eat and then we do it all again on Monday. You’ll never see the end of the road while you’re travelling with me.

Referee: David Coote from up north is in charge of this one, his first QPR game since he harshly dismissed Luke Freeman for an alleged stamp in a 2-1 defeat at Preston more than a year ago. He’s had Reading three times this year, two defeats and a draw. Details and stats here.

Form

Reading: The Royals have won just one of their last 18 league matches dating back to December 2. As that was away from home, 3-1 at lowly Burton, they’re without a home win in the league since a 3-0 victory against Barnsley at the end of November – they’ve played nine games at the Mad Stad since then drawing four and losing five. They haven’t won a home match on a Saturday yet this season and their overall home record is three wins, seven draws and nine defeats – Villa and Forest the other sides beaten here so far. They arrive into this game on a run of nine games without a win during which they’ve conceded 22 goals, including three goals in a game on four occasions.

QPR: Having taken 12 points from 17 away games all season long, Rangers suddenly stuck four on the board in 180 minutes prior to the international weekend including just a third road win of the campaign at Aston Villa. That, and the draw at Fulham, extended an impressive run against teams in the top four this season which shows five wins and a draw from eight games. The R’s are unbeaten in four coming into this, their best run since October.

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, who was spot on v Fulham, tells us…

“After two really great performances from the lads that got deserved results, we then found ourselves going into the international break. Some people will see this as a bit of a pain, that we had a bit of consistency going and now the break could affect that. However some will also say that it also gives a chance for the players to recharge the batteries and also time for injured players to hopefully get back to training and make themselves available for selection.

“But confidence and morale seem really good around the club right now, so I’m sure the break has come around at a good time. It’s also been really good to see some of our youngsters performing well on the international scene. Manning and Shodipo (remember him?) with the Irish U21’s and Smyth with Northern Ireland, where he continued his recent good form and got a debut winner. Brilliant stuff!

“So there’s certainly confidence within the side right now and that should bode well for us going into the games against Reading and Norwich. Unfortunately for us Stam has departed Reading and now we find ourselves in the situation of the players wanting to prove themselves for new manager Paul Clement. The new manager bounce that everyone seems to get bar us.

“I don’t like Reading, I don’t like the fact they copied our hoops (even though now at least ours go all the way round) I’m not a fan of the ground either, one of the first editions of the modern day Meccano bowl stadiums that you see clubs having these days..

“Back to the game. I called it right against Fulham with the Desmond prediction, however not actually getting it logged. I’m feeling confident that we will get the result against a pretty poor performing Reading side..

Craig’s Prediction: Reading 1-2 QPR. Scorer – Ebere Eze

LFW’s Prediction: Reading 1-1 QPR. Scorer – Matt Smith

The Twitter @loftforwords

Pictures – Action Images

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TacticalR added 22:16 - Mar 29
Thanks for your preview.

On the QPR Podcast Lee Cook pointed out that we actually had three more points at this stage last season. I don't think the only reason we had those bad runs was because Holloway's tinkering. We've had a goal-scoring problem for ages, which has made us vulnerable to losing streaks. For example in Holloway's first bad run in 2016 not only did we lose six games in a row but we only scored one goal. This season things were still looking serious until the last two games (with Washington and Smith having pretty much dried up), when out of the blue we have had five different players scoring (Manning, Bidwell, Freeman, Luongo and Wszołek). If we can get those kind of players plus Smyth on the scoresheet then we should be OK.

I'd rather be facing Stam than Clement, but it looks like Stam's time was well and truly up.
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