|Queens Park Rangers 4 v 0 Swansea City|
Saturday, 13th April 2019 Kick-off 15:00
QPR looking to turn the tide on Swans - Preview
Friday, 12th Apr 2019 18:23 by Clive Whittingham
Beleaguered Queens Park Rangers have another two home games to try and end their season with over the next six days, starting with the visit of in form Swansea City on Saturday.
QPR (12-9-20, DLDLLD, 18th) v Swansea (16-8-16, LLLWWW, 13th)
Lancashire and District Senior League >>> Saturday April 13, 2019 >>> Kick off 15.00 >>> Weather – Sunny spells, cold >>> Loftus Road, London, W12
It’s now one win in 17 league matches for Queens Park Rangers, not far off half a season of Championship football. At one point on Wednesday night - with Rotherham, Wigan and even bloody Reading at Norwich winning – this thing looked like it was going to go nuclear on us. In the event, two of them lost and Reading got a draw while QPR took a point at Millwall. The depths we’ve plumbed since Christmas, the darkness of the place we’ve put ourselves into, mean that even a 0-0 draw at The Den feels like some sort of cleansing achievement.
However, it has to be pointed out that Millwall, for all their recent uptick in form and weekend win against West Brom, are absolute fucking bobbins this season. Total crap. Still well in the relegation mix, they’re one of only three teams (Shef Wed, Ipswich twice) that we’ve managed to outplay and beat by more than a single goal. We’d have done so again during the week but for poor finishing from first Nahki Wells, then Matt Smith, and finally Bright Osayi-Samuel, but the draw we ended up with has to be seen in the context of two poor teams, playing poorly. Like two monkeys in the bottom of a cage, tossing bits of poo at each other. It was a relief, it was much needed, it was a better display, and I’ll see Josh Scowen’s best Dennis Bergkamp impression in the centre circle in my sleep for weeks to come. But however starved of excitement we may be this was nothing to get excited about – mere crumbs from the table.
That said, you can’t come out breathing fire over a team for not making sufficient effort, as we did post Norwich, and not acknowledge when those levels return to something more acceptable, as they did during the week. “All we ask is that they try” is one of those trite things football supporters trot out a lot but don’t mean – a team that tries its best, isn’t good enough, and loses every week, will still cop abuse from its crowd. But the very bare minimum we do demand is a fair effort, and I don’t think we got that against Rotherham, Bolton or particularly Norwich. We did at Millwall – Josh Scowen and Mass Luongo setting a stall out early with two crunching tackles in the first five minutes – and that’s worthy of some praise in this strange place we find ourselves.
While you shouldn’t take too much by way of analyses from the footballing equivalent of two drunks trading missed punches outside a flat roof pub, two things I would say is the improvements were brought around having tilted the team selection more towards players that will be here next term, and more towards players that haven’t been flogged to death this season.
If you subscribe to the idea that Luke Freeman will likely be sold in the summer in the ongoing quest to comply with FFP, then the team at Norwich at the weekend featured eight of the starting 11 who either definitely won’t be here next season or are out of contract with no renewal in sight – Lynch, Bidwell, Rangel, Cousins and Wszolek are out of contract, Wells and Cameron are at the end of their loans and Freeman, like we say… Only Joe Lumley, Darnell Furlong and Ebere Eze from that starting 11 are players you would say are likely to be here on the opening day of next season. On Wednesday, at Millwall, by introducing Matt Smith, Josh Scowen, Mass Luongo, Toni Leistner and Ryan Manning back into the team that balance tipped the other way with seven of the 11 invested in the future of the team and the club. I repeat, you can’t read a lot into the respective performances, because Norwich are very, very good and Millwall can’t find their own arse with both hands, but you saw, particularly in the performances of Scowen and Manning, the value of at least giving a toss about what you’re doing. It’s a trend I’d like to see continued in the remaining team selections.
The changes also introduced players who weren’t flogged to death through the first half of the season to the team. Scowen, Manning and Smith have had prolonged periods of inaction this season so, again, it shouldn’t really be a surprise that the team looked a bit fresher and more energetic. I’ve seen a few people pointing out that Norwich’s team last weekend was unchanged for an eighth game in a row, all of them wins, and using this to suggest the idea that QPR’s precious little darlings are exhausted after big bad Steve McClaren made them play every match through to January is nonsense. It’s not. Norwich are far better than us anyway but by managing their squad better through the first half of the season they now have the legs and energy to pick an unchanged side for weeks at a time at the business end of the season if they do want to – and even then they hit the buffers themselves against lowly Reading during the week. It is a unique situation to get to the first week of January with five ever presents in your team as QPR did this season (well, three and two who’d missed a game each), especially when none of them are the goalkeeper. As I wrote during the week and previously, this QPR team needs to be at its absolute best to win games at this level, and any dip from it results in defeat – tiredness, on any level, would certainly count as a slight dip. Our squad, Luke Freeman chief among them, was mismanaged in the first half of this season. No surprise to me that Freeman’s all-conquering match winning performance against Leeds came after he’d actually missed the trip to Middlesbrough and had a long overdue rest.
But, as said, I don’t read too much into Wednesday and I’m wary of expecting any big shifts in performance or form at home to Swansea tomorrow. Firstly because Swansea, despite a thunderously midtable record of 16-8-16 for thirteenth place, are actually quite a decent side at the moment and come into this game having won three in a row scoring three times in each. They beat Stoke during the week with just shy of 80% of the possession and 31 shots on goal to Stoke’s two. In Daniel James they have the quickest thing you’ll have seen on a football pitch for a very long time and the idea of him running at, frankly, any of our defenders, and particularly any of our centre backs, is terrifying. We lost 3-0 to them earlier in the season and it was a thick 3-0 too.
And, secondly, because I’m wary of allowing myself to believe we’ve even turned half a corner after the midweek performance. The last half an hour at Hull seemed to be a bit of an epiphany for the team, the moment when it all made sense again and we realised how to get results at this level and kicked ourselves out of this prolonged funk. Next thing you know, after two weeks of rest it should be added, we’re losing 2-1 at home to Bolton and absolutely deserving it. Like Hull had never happened. So would it be a big surprise if the positives scraped together on Wednesday night are washed away in another home defeat tomorrow? For me, not particularly. The main interest could well be which out of work managers are hanging around the director’s box, and the results of the four teams directly below us.
Team News: Jake Bidwell remains out with the calf strain that saw him miss the Millwall game so expect Ryan Manning to continue at left back having dealt with Jed Wallace so well at The Den – Swansea’s wide players a different kettle of fish altogether though. Grant Hall is also still sidelined but Mass Luongo returned from illness during the week with no adverse effects. The team in the week seemed to have been picked very specifically for the unique challenge Millwall present, with an emphasis on physical strength and grit down the spine. Whether that means there’ll be widespread changes for an altogether different challenge posed by Swansea remains to be seen. You’re more likely to be starting than Bright Osayi-Samuel though so bring your boots just in case.
Maverick penalty miss enthusiast Bersant Celina is a doubt with wounded pride for the visitors while defender Mike van der Hoorn is having an existential crisis and is unlikely to travel.
Elsewhere: Three of the teams we’re most concerned about play at the same time as us, so you can ignore whatever dross is served up on the pitch at Loftus Road by glancing nervously at your phone every five minutes instead. What fun.
Luckily Reading are at home to Justice League leaders Spartak Hounslow. That’s almost certainly going to be their hardest game of the season and result in a defeat – moral or actual – so there’s a chance for us to put some daylight between us and them there. You can’t really say the same about Rotherham who are away at a dreadful Stoke side, but Millwall Scholars won’t be fancied for much up at the Sheffield Red Stripes. Wigan Warriors play Sunday lunchtime at home to Borussia Norwich. It’s getting close to the time where the fat of Ipswich Down and Bolton are confirmed – they have games at home to Birmingham and away to Frank Lampard’s Derby County respectively this week.
Up at the top end, apart from the games already mentioned, Sky Sports Leeds are showing Leeds this weekend on Saturday night as the Champions of Europe welcome Sheffield Owls. No love lost between those sides, but given it’s Sheffield United fighting with the spy who loved me for the second spot do Wednesday really even want to win? Slim play-off hopes remain for Steve Bruce’s team so, probably.
Big Racist John and the Boys at home to Bristol City is a meeting of two in form play-off chasers. Nottingham Trees v Mad Chicken Farmers is not. Middlesbrough against the Allam Tigers is this week’s fixture you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. West Brom are falling apart at the worst possible moment ahead of a tricky home game with Preston Knob End – for whom a third red card of the season for Ben Pearson during the week means he’ll have missed a third of their fixtures this season through suspension. I am shocked at this, shocked I tell you.
Well, not that shocked actually.
Referee: Andy Madley only lasted until half time when last he officiated us, in a 2-0 loss at Middlesbrough – withdrawn at the break suffering from the effects of acute boredom. Details.
QPR: It’s now just one win in 17 league games for QPR, following the midweek draw at Millwall. It’s seven matches without a win at all since the victory here against Leeds, with four defeats and three draws in that time. At Loftus Road since the turn of the year Rangers have lost to Preston, Birmingham, Watford, West Brom, Rotherham and Bolton with only a draw against Stoke (who had ten men for 80 minutes) and the Leeds win to redress the balance. Nine teams have come to Loftus Road and won this season overall.
Swansea: The Swans had a nightmare run of fixtures through March with away games at Norwich, West Brom and Forest around a cup match against Man City. They lost all four, predictably, though looked pretty good against Pep Guardiola’s side and led 2-0 at one stage. Subsequently faced with three consecutive home matches they arrive into this game with three straight wins under their belt with three goals scored in each. They beat Stoke during the week with 78% of the possession and 31 shots on the goal to Stoke’s two. As 2018 turned to 2019 they won consecutive away games at Reading (4-1) and Villa (3-0) in league and cup but have since drawn one and lost six on the spin away from the Liberty Stadium – albeit in tough fixtures against Preston, Bristol City, Leeds, Norwich, West Brom and Forest. Overall on the road this season they’ve won five, drawn four and lost 11. The only teams to have lost more away games than the Swans this season make up five of the bottom six (Ipswich, Bolton, Rotherham, Wigan, Millwall). Swansea’s 5-0 win here on the opening day of the Mark Hughes disaster season is their only win at Loftus Road in 21 visits – D10, L10, W1.
Prediction: Another new leader of the Prediction League, with Woking R moving ahead by a point for a correct call of just how awful Norwich A would be. The winner of our Prediction League this year gets goodies from our generous sponsor Art of Football. Get involved by lodging your prediction here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s QPR collection here. Reigning champion Elliott reckons…
“A better than expected performance and result Wednesday. However, Saturday is a completely different test. A team that plays good football and is currently flying (surprise surprise). I actually think it’ll be a good game Saturday but we won’t quite have enough to win it.
Elliott’s Prediction: QPR 2-2 Swansea. Scorer – Matt Smith
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 1-2 Swansea. Scorer – Matt Smith
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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