|Queens Park Rangers 2 v 3 Hull City|
Saturday, 1st December 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Consistency of selection breeds consistency in performance - Preview
Saturday, 1st Dec 2018 08:25 by Clive Whittingham
The difference between a good week and a bad week is a victory for QPR against Hull City this afternoon after successive draws on the road at Stoke and Rotherham.
QPR (8-4-7, WWLWDD, 9th) v Hull City (4-5-10, LWWDLD, 22nd)
Lancashire and District Senior League >>> Saturday December 1, 2018 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Heavy rain >>> Loftus Road, London, W12
Not for the first time, and almost certainly not for the last, Steve McClaren used last week’s fans forum to cite the QPR performance at Hull City last season as an example of a persistent, fundamental problem with the Rangers side over several seasons and different managers – the gap between the best performances of the season and the worst has often been vast.
Under Ian Holloway the problem was particularly acute because the highs and lows often occurred within days of each other. The 4-0 loss to Hull occurred five days after Norwich had been walloped 4-1 at Loftus Road, and three before Sheffield Wednesday lost 4-2 in West London with Rangers three nil up in the first quarter of an hour. The worst performance of the season, a 5-2 loss to Forest, had occurred just a few weeks earlier and sandwiched in between it all was the best, a 3-1 win at Villa. McClaren has made it a mission this season to reduce that gap between the worst and best.
After a disastrous start and wobbly week in September, he’s achieved that of late by settling on a team and system. Barring late withdrawals and illness, we can pretty much name the team that will take the field tomorrow now and that was rarely the case in 2017/18. Between the Norwich win and Hull collapse, Holloway decided to drop Matt Smith and try young Ebere Eze up front by himself in the away game. For Sheff Wed the following week Jack Robinson, Alex Baptiste, Jordan Cousins, Bright Osayi-Samuel, Paul Smyth and Idrissa Sylla all came into the team having missed the trip to Humberside. Despite the win, despite Smyth and Sylla scoring three between them in, those two along with Josh Scowen and Luke Freeman were all dropped for that Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at home to Preston.
With inconsistency of selection came inconsistency of performance. The randomness of the team selections and the effect it had on performances was one of the board’s prime reasons for making a managerial change at the end of the season – director of football Les Ferdinand was particularly unenamoured. McClaren has very deliberately done exactly the opposite, picking Lumley; Rangel, Leistner, Lynch, Bidwell; Cameron, Luongo; Wszolek, Eze, Freeman; Wells whenever it’s available for several weeks now.
That has caused its own problems. Holloway wasn’t wildly rotating his team around for fun. He knew the best three players we had last season were Luongo, Scowen and Freeman and he wanted a system that had all three of them in the team and through the middle of it. But he also knew he had Wszolek, Eze, Osayi-Samuel, Smyth, Chair, Manning and Cousins all available and vying for midfield roles and tried to give them all a fair crack in the second half of the season. Under McClaren Manning has gone out on loan, Wszolek was out of the picture for the first two months, and Osayi-Samuel, Smyth and Chair have all sunk without trace. Osayi-Samuel, in particular, can feel harshly done to – since his Man of the Match performance against Bristol Rovers in the cup he’s had just 13 minutes of league action and there have definitely been occasions (Birmingham away) when he’d have been useful to us for longer than that.
QPR will use the loan market to get games for these boys in January but it’s a careful balance to strike. We can point to Lumley and Eze being first team regulars now – a remarkable progression for a club that basically graduated only Marcus Bean and Ray Jones to its first team between Richard Langley and now – but we don’t want that glass ceiling to reform over the top of a talented under 23 side. For it to be us and them, the seniors and the juniors. This will require careful management moving forwards, and the first major challenge of it will be what to do with Angel Rangel now Darnell Furlong is fit again – spoiler alert, we keep Rangel and McClaren keeps picking him, I’d still be tempted to do the opposite, despite Rangels’ heroics at Stoke last week.
But there’s plenty to back McClaren’s approach at all other than the results. Since the debacle at Swansea the team has been remarkably consistent with just one defeat in nine games. The team looks comfortable in its own skin, like everybody knows their position and their job. Not only that, but they look like they know where everybody else is as well, so passing moves are built methodically and confidently, moving the ball down the field in triangles. They look like they know what they’re doing, and again that may not sound like much but it’s a rapid progression for Queens Park Rangers. I feel like I’ll turn up at Loftus Road today and I know what sort of performance I’m going to get, as opposed to previous years where you might rampantly run four through Norwich City, or take five up the bum from Nottingham Forest, and there was really never any telling which it would be until the game starts.
What is still to be ironed out is the peaks and troughs during the game. We started strongly and faded in the first half at Stoke and gifted them a way back in. We started poorly at Rotherham but spent the whole second half knocking at the door. A lacklustre first half v Brentford gave way to an explosive start to the second. We’re never going to be brilliant all the way through every game but we need to take better advantage of the peaks – several great chances missed at Rotherham before the equaliser – and cope better with the troughs – Stoke should never have been allowed back into that game in the manner they were last Saturday.
McClaren’s certainly shown so far that if there’s something to be ironed out in this team he’s the man to do it though. Fingers crossed for continued improvement this afternoon.
Geoff Cameron Facts # 14 - Geoff became the first person to successfully cross the Atlantic in a motorised bath tub when he completed the feat in a single afternoon earlier this year while trying to avoid coverage of the Royal Wedding.
Team News: As said, we pretty much know the team before it takes the field each week now so don’t expect (m)any changes from Tuesday night for this one. Furlong is pushing for a recall at right back and Nahki Wells and Tomer Hemed continue to compete for the lone striker role but that’s about it. Leistner, Lynch and Luongo all escaped a fifth booking of the season prior to the amnesty during the week so can all play. We’re offering the chance to sing Wheels On Fire with Joe Lumley to the lucky person who sights Sean Goss today.
Fraizer Campbell, of all people., did fall foul of the booking rule and returns this week after one match on the naughty step. Jon Toral is filming a new season of Celebrity Masterchef so is unavailable while the Tigers also have doubts over Eric Lichaj who is suffering after eating a whole block of Cathedral City for his elevenses on Thursday, Reece Burke who’s plagued by a recurring dream of his teeth falling out and Markus Henriksen who’s been bitten by an escaped circus lion.
Elsewhere: Speaking of which, what about our old chum Bradley Johnson during the week eh? Having made a very thorough job of eating all the pies in the East Midlands area, the former Norwich bloater couldn’t stand to wait for them to bake any more for him so decided to take a nice big juicy piece out of Joe ‘Bravest Man Alive’ Allen during the week. Nom nom nom, nice bit of footballer shoulder, beautifully cooked, just fell off the bone. Four match ban for that fat waste, starting with the visit of Swanselona to Frank Lampard’s Derby County this afternoon. What’s left of Allen will travel to Reading with Stoke.
Sky Sports Leeds are showing… Leeds this lunchtime as the Champions of Europe head to the Sheffield Red Stripes in a Yorkshire derby which is the game of the day by some distance. The evening match is Tony Pulis’ free-wheeling, free-styling, free-scoring festival of fun, lights and goals hosting Big Racist John and the Boys which, if it’s anything like last year’s play-off semi-final between the two, will require a good book to get through.
In amongst the 15.00 kick offs Ipswich Blue Sox, one win all season and six points adrift, will travel to Nottingham Trees for their latest defeat. The Trees drew 5-5 with Big Racist John and the Boys during the week for shits and giggles. The Sheffield Owls snapped a six match losing run with a narrow home win against Bolton during the week, prior to that they’d been dropping down the table like a Mark Hughes team with a lead weight tied to it, and they’re away to the Mad Chicken Farmers this weekend. Bolton, meanwhile, haven’t paid their players on time again, which is ideal prep for their derby with Wigan Warriors – Wanderers have won none of the last nine, losing seven.
Borussia’s Norwich’s remarkable run of ten wins from 12 games was stalled slightly by a draw at Allam Tigers during the week, but they’ll fancy their chances of getting back on the horse and extending their lead at the top at home to Rotherham who for all their awkwardness at home haven’t won a single away game yet. Birmingham against Preston Knob End is also taking place this weekend.
Games on Sunday and Monday this week as Sky take a look at Bristol City v Millwall tomorrow, and then West Brom face the tricky task of hosting Spartak Hounslow on Monday. The visitors have won one of their last 13 and lost six of their last seven but it’s difficult to imagine that the Baggies will have faced anybody better all season long.
Referee: Come with low expectations then you won’t be disappointed. Details.
QPR: Rangers had only drawn twice all season prior to this week but ties at Stoke and Rotherham (both 2-2) have doubled that to fourth and leave the R’s ninth, with one defeat from nine games and just three points separating them from the play-off places. They’ve won their last three home games against Villa (1-0), Sheff Wed (3-0) and Brentford (3-2) but have conceded two in each of their last three league games after a run of three clean sheets in a row. In the next six games Rangers play three of the bottom five, and three of the top six. Rangers have won only one of their last nine meetings with Hull – this game last season thanks to Idrissa Sylla’s late winner.
Hull: It’s been another dire season for Hull so far with just four league wins from 19 played which leaves them third bottom as one of four teams on 17 points. Two of those wins came back to back a fortnight ago, a 1-0 at fellow relegation dwellers Bolton and then a surprise home win by the same score against high flying West Brom. They’ve drawn two of three since then, including a 0-0 against league leaders Norwich during the week, so perhaps they’re starting to pull something together belatedly – they arrive at Loftus Road with just one defeat in five games. Away from home they’ve won at Bolton (1-0) and Rotherham (3-2), drawn at Birmingham (3-3) and Sheff Wed (1-1) and lost to Stoke (2-0), Wigan (2-1), Reading (3-0), Sheff Utd and Bristol City (both 1-0). Nigel Adkins has won three times at Loftus Road with three different sides – Scunthorpe, Southampton and Reading.
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. Reigning champion Elliott was three minutes from being right with his Rotherham call, thankfully Luke Freeman intervened. What’s he saying this week?
“On reflection, we probably did enough to win the game on Tuesday night. Going into Saturday’s game having got the equaliser though is big. If we can back those two away draws up with a solid home win Saturday then all in all I think it’s been a good week. If you’d ask me about playing Hull at home a couple of months ago I would’ve said it will be a huge relegation six pointer. Hull haven’t scored in their last two games and I’m not convinced they’ll score here. We have to defend better than we did Tuesday night but I’ll go for a scrappy win with Eze providing a bit of class to win it for us.”
Elliott’s Prediction: QPR 1-0 Hull. Scorer – Ebere Eze
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 2-0 Hull. Scorer – Nahki Wells
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Pictures – Action Images
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