|Rotherham United 2 v 2 Queens Park Rangers|
SkyBet League One
Tuesday, 27th November 2018 Kick-off 19:45
Managing expectation - Preview
Tuesday, 27th Nov 2018 13:16 by Clive Whittingham
QPR's week on the road continues tonight at newly promoted Rotherham, who are unbeaten at home in seven and gave Sheff Utd a good going over at the weekend.
Rotherham United (DDDWDD, 19th) v QPR (WWWLWD, 9th)
Lancashire and District Senior League >>> Tuesday November 27, 2018 >>> Kick Off 19.45 >>> Weather - >>> New York Stadium, Rotherham, South Yorkshire
If there’s one thing Queens Park Rangers have managed successfully in recent years it’s the level of expectation.
This doesn’t include social media, naturally, where a rabid hoard of unreasonable weirdos continue to demand victories from every game, signings from every window, sackings of every manager and the heads of ‘Evil Les’ Ferdinand and ‘His Mate’ Chris Ramsey on a stick. A place where everything everybody else does, says and thinks is wrong and everything the poster does, says and thinks is gospel.
It also doesn’t apply to the chap sitting behind me at Ipswich who repeatedly suffered the sort of breakdown rarely seen outside the Question Time studio every time Luke Freeman or Ebere Eze did anything other than immaculately control the ball, beat two men and pop it neatly into the top corner, demanding McClaren “get them fucking off” on a dozen occasions across the 90 minutes of a comfortable 2-0 away win.
But overall, around the ground, around the pubs, and even around the message boards, there’s a general acceptance, understanding and empathy of the situation the club has worked itself into and the work of people that are trying to dig us out of it. This is a club that was in the Premier League a little over three seasons ago, and is still receiving a parachute payment from that stint, after all. You’d expect successive bottom half finishes in this dog of a league to at least be turning over the odd car, looting the odd shop.
It’s taken a while to get to this point. I still recoil in mortal embarrassment at the crowd setting upon Ramsey during a 3-0 home win against MK Dons to such an extent that opposition manager Karl Robinson felt compelled to walk down the touchline and tap his opposite number on the shoulder as a gesture of solidarity and support. When you’re behaving so badly even MK Dons have moral superiority over you it’s time to put down the gun. That the three goals that won the game all followed the substitutions that Ramsey made that got everybody so het up only makes the whole thing look even worse.
The calm that has descended on the place isn’t entirely positive. It’s come, partly, at the expense of several thousand on the gate, as people have lost interest or become bored with the team and the club as it grinds its way through a financial restructure. A feeling I was starting to get myself in mid-September. As CEO Lee Hoos says himself, you can’t put the balance sheet up on the big screen and have everybody cheering and for some watching a team go from the highs of the Neil Warnock team and having players like Adel Taarabt and Charlie Austin rampaging around in our colours to trying to eek blood out of the Conor Washington stone has been too much to continue committing excessive amounts of money to watch. And with a lowering of expectation comes a potential lowering of standards – it’s not acceptable to only win three times away from home every season and simply write it off as “we’ve always been a bit shit away”, for example, but the away ends rarely turned on the side last season despite some of the horrors served up. Clint Hill spoke of the danger of allowing standards and expectation to drop over a long period of time when he appeared on the Open All R’s Podcast at the end of last season.
It is, however, helpful to a long term project, and the development of young players, that the supporters who remain are willing to allow the players a little more room to breathe before leaping down their throats. It’s better for Eze that he’s being allowed a run of games, and some fairly rudimentary errors amongst the brilliance, with my Ipswich moron in a minority. And it’s good for the manager to know that he can pick these youngsters and know they won’t be annihilated by their own crowd – something Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was critical of when he heard Mide Shodipo and others copping grief from the Paddocks during his time in charge.
What will be interesting over the next couple of games at least is whether the tide starts to shift the other way again. QPR have been good, at times very good, over the last couple of months and moved not only into the top half of the table but into genuine play-off contention as a result. Only league leaders Norwich have picked up more points than Rangers since the end of August. At last week’s fans forum there were questions about whether we were ready for a promotion, how we were preparing for the potential and so on. As McClaren said at the time, three defeats in a week and it’s a very different meeting.
In that environment of renewed optimism, games away at newly promoted Rotherham and at home to struggling Hull start to look like gimmes. Nineteenth and twenty-second in the league respectively, they’re the sort of games teams at the top end expect to win, the sort of games teams that get promoted at the end of the season will win. Expectation that hasn’t been there for a long time suddenly returns. How this team copes with the changing dynamic and pressure shifting towards them will be interesting, particularly tonight against a team that hasn’t lost at home in seven games and looked excellent against Sheff Utd on Saturday when they were very unfortunate not to win. Rotherham are a far better, more awkward opponent than several other more storied names at this level as it stands, whatever image their patronised with by people who haven’t watched them this season.
A seven point week would be fantastic, and leave us beautifully positioned going into Christmas, but three very tough games lay beyond this and it wouldn’t take very much to go wrong tonight and then on Saturday to start the panic again. Little wonder that McClaren has used the phrase “feet on the ground” so much in the past fortnight I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d started reciting it in his sleep.
Geoff Cameron Facts #13 – Geoff was the original choice of Ivan Reitman, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis to play Venkman in the Ghostbusters movies before Bill Murray finally checked his voicemail messages and called them back.
Team News: Geoff Cameron is back after being refused permission to play against his parent club at Stoke on Saturday and will replace Jordan Cousins alongside Mass Luongo at the base of the midfield. Tomer Hemed returned from his groin injury with a half hour substitute outing at the weekend so will now resume competition with Nahki Wells for the lone striker spot. Joel Lynch and Toni Leistner are both one booking away from a one match ban after being carded at Stoke on Saturday. Mide Shodipo is the only other injury absence and we’re a week away for two at the Grant Hall Rest and Recuperation Centre for any sighting of Sean Goss.
Even QPR aren’t stupid enough to allow players we’ve loaned out to play against us so no Ryan Manning for the hosts who are also without Darren Potter who is a long term absentee with a torn security blanket. Sean Raggett is back in light training after his brush with bubonic plague but isn’t fit to start.
Elsewhere: Live on Sky Sports Leeds this evening… Leeds. Against Reading. A sure fire thriller.
Sheffield Red Stripes were lucky to escape from a weekend battering at Rotherham with a draw and it will only get tougher for them this evening at Spartak Hounslow (one win in 12, five defeats in six), who will almost certainly be the best team they’ve played all season.
You’d fancy both Borussia Norwich, who are absolutely flying with 11 wins from 12 and another four goals scored on the road at Swansea at the weekend, and Middlesbrough, who won at Brentford despite them being the best team they’d played all season, to capitalise on any slips with games at Allam Tigers and Preston Knob End respectively. Not sure if it’s the most Tony Pulis thing ever to win 2-1 away from home with 30% of the possession or the most Brentford thing ever to lose 2-1 with 70% of it. Just as PNE seemed to be getting their season together, a succession of long term injuries have struck their squad with Daniel Johnson and Callum Robinson out until the New Year and Josh Harrop out for the season.
Sheffield Owls have only one point from the last 18 available so pressure on against Bolton at Hillsborough tonight.
Six games tomorrow night including Big Racist John and the Boys, fresh from a weekend derby win against Birmingham, going again at home to Nottingham Trees. Birmingham attempt to recover away to Millwall Scholars.
It’s getting towards do or die time for Ipswich Blue Sox, with one win all season and five points adrift at the bottom of the table, as they prepare to face Bristol City. Swanselona v West Brom has goals written all over it, Wigan Warriors v the Mad Chicken Farmers is a geographical derby, Stoke City against Frank Lampard’s Derby is the Gary Rowett derby.
Referee: Andy Woolmer was the veritable Bantersaurus Rex when he turned our trip to Preston into a national catastrophe back in 2016, and he’s barely been back in the Championship since. But he’s back tonight and aren’t we the lucky ones to be thrown at his mercy? Full case history here.
Rotherham: The Millers’ late show to win a thoroughly deserved point against high flying Sheffield United on Saturday extended their unbeaten run at home to seven matches dating back to August. Since losing 3-2 on this ground against Hull City on August 21 they’ve beaten Millwall, Derby (both 1-0) and Swansea (2-1) while drawing with Bristol City (0-0), Bolton (1-1), Stoke and Sheff Utd (both 2-2). They’ve lost only one of their last nine matches but seven of those have been drawn including the last two and five of the last six. They have only won three of the last 17 in all comps, losing seven. They’re one of only three sides in the division still searching for a first away win along with Millwall and Brentford (despite them being the best team anybody’s played all season).
QPR: The draw at Stoke on Saturday leaves Rangers with just one defeat in their last eight matches – five of those have been wins. It was the eleventh point (three wins, two draws) picked up on the road this season by Steve McClaren’s side, compared to 15 won in the whole of last season (three wins, six draws). Stoke were fourteenth at the start of play on Saturday, Rotherham are nineteenth ahead of tonight and Saturday’s opponents Hull are twenty third – after this Rangers face Leeds in fourth, Middlesbrough second and Forest in seventh before Christmas. Rangers have taken 27 points since losing the first four games of the season, only league leaders Norwich have done better with 32.
Prediction: Our Prediction League this year is sponsored by The Art of Football, with prizes available for the Christmas leader and overall champion. Get involved here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s QPR collection here. Both of us right to call a draw at Stoke, but neither went with 2-2. Let’s see what reigning champions Elliott thinks for tonight...
“Another tough away trip up north. I had the pleasure of watching Rotherham v Sheffield United Saturday lunchtime and was secretly impressed with Rotherham. Paul Warne is doing a good job with very limited resources and we’ll have to be bang on it in order to get a result. It’ll be typical Rangers to go and lose both our next two ‘winnable’ games after the run we’ve been on. Add to that, Rotherham haven’t actually lost at home since August so I’m going to go with a disappointing loss.”
Elliott’s Prediction: Rotherham 2-1 QPR. Scorer – Tomer Hemed
LFW’s Prediction: Rotherham 1-1 QPR. Scorer – Nahki Wells
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