|Derby County 1 v 1 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 30th November 2019 Kick-off 15:00
The six game winless run survival guide – Preview
Friday, 29th Nov 2019 21:07 by Clive Whittingham
Here we are again then, as we've been many times before, but how can QPR snap their latest run of games without a win when they travel to Derby on Saturday?
Derby County (6-6-6, WLWLWL 14th) v QPR (7-3-8, DLLDLL, 16th)
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I had hoped, by looking back at the multiple times we’ve gone on these losing streaks over the past four seasons, to come up with some definitive answers for how to get out of them. Alas, just as randomly as we fall into them, so we completely accidentally come out the other side.
When Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink took over he won none of his first eight games, a run broken with a 3-0 win at Rotherham. Not a lot to learn there, QPR had just been relegated from the Premier League with a squad that still contained Matt Phillips, Charlie Austin, Junior Hoilett and others while Rotherham, at that point in the season, were the division whipping boys. We almost couldn’t help but win.
When he failed to win for six successive games the season after, including a 6-0 home shellacking by Newcastle, the run was broken with a 2-1 success at Fulham. Again, unless we’re adding “hope the opposition miss multiple penalties in the same game” to the list of solutions, I’m not sure there’s much here for us. Ian Holloway, his replacement a few weeks later, lost six in a row almost immediately and broke that sequence by shaking the team selection up for a New Year’s game at Wolves. Four changes, including a senior debut for Ryan Manning and a return from injury for influential Jamie Mackie, propelled Rangers to a 2-1 win and another by the same score a couple of days later at home to Ipswich.
Of course, it would happen again later in the season, and this time it stopped in the final home game of the campaign against Nottingham Forest – a game Rangers absolutely had to win, against a poor opponent with nothing to play for, to avoid taking their survival down to the last day where they promptly lost 4-0 to Norwich. Twice in the first half of the following season the team embarked on long winless runs. Seven between mid September and October (admittedly including five draws) broken with performances of the season against the top two Wolves and Sheff Utd that yielded two wins. Then five defeats and a spawny draw, snapped by a 2-1 win at a crap Birmingham side with two goals from a centre half.
And finally, Steve McClaren’s nadir, which never really did end. One win in 17 games, achieved against promotion chasing Leeds by Luke Freeman playing by himself, that eventually stretched right through to three from 23 into the end of the season once you included the caretaker spell of John Eustace. A stubborn, back-to-basics point at Millwall and, again, a completely weird and unexpected win out of nothing against Swansea, a brief cough into life before another couple of home defeats to finish with.
So there we have: hope the opposition miss multiple penalties; hope your fixtures pitch you against the worst team in the league; throw the team selection up in the air and see where it lands; boil it down to an absolute must win game and see who the real men in the dressing room are; keep plugging away and hope you randomly beat somebody you shouldn’t; hope your best player has the night of his life. Note, amongst it all, how little difference changing the manager three times made.
Which leaves me in a dilemma, because I’ve started the bloody preview on this theme now and it’s been a hectic week and I’m tired and I want to watch Greta and Sebastien’s Extinction Rebellion take on Swanselona with something masquerading as dinner. Having sat through all of the games in all of these clusterfucks in turn I would say a common theme is QPR beating themselves. So here’s a few tips to hopefully avoid us doing that again.
- Don’t lose sight of the big picture. The general consensus in the summer was that we were in trouble, would be lucky to stay up, were attempting a very bold and quite likely foolish complete transformation of the squad in one transfer window and so on. People said they would “snap your hand off” for twentieth in the league but, as Millwall proved last year, you can finish twentieth in this league with as few as ten wins and once the process of actually grinding your way through a season with ten wins begins exactly the same people who said they’d take that suddenly get uppity. Even in sixteenth, with seven wins, four of them away, we are tracking ahead of what just about everybody expected of us this season. So what’s your problem?
- Take the mitigation into account. All seven teams we’ve beaten are ninth or lower, three of them are in the bottom four. The eight teams we’ve lost to are first, second, third, fourth, sixth, seventh, eighth and eleventh. This very strongly suggests we’re a lower midtable team (which, again, is the most anybody expected of us) and it just so happens that we’ve had a run of fixtures through November that looked tough on paper and have proven to be so. They’ve coincided with an injury to Yoann Barbet, who for all his defensive mentalness is crucial to the way we play out from deep positions, and a knock to Liam Kelly at a time when Joe Lumley is struggling for form and confidence. If Barbet and Kelly come back, and we still don’t put wins on the board through a December of Birmingham, Barnsley, Charlton, Reading and Hull then come back to me.
- Pragmatism. I talked about it after Middlesbrough, and again after Fulham, so I won’t do this one to death. Nor will I jump on the Mike Bassett bandwagon about 4-4-fucking-2 and full backs being defenders and nothing else and get it up to Hugill and so on. But on Wednesday night, early in the second half, 1-0 down, Joe Lumley played a blind pass out from his own six yard box that literally rolled over the toes of Lewis Grabban standing all alone in the middle of the QPR penalty area. If he’d got it under any sort of control, the result would have been exactly what it was at Fulham on Friday when the goalkeeper was again caught doing something silly at a time in the game when Rangers were not having things their own way. Even if it goes perfectly, even if the pass is completed, even if it’s executed well, the net gain is that QPR now have possession in the right back area, five yards in from the touchline and ten off the byline. On the risk and reward scale, this simply isn’t worth it. When you’re on a bad run of form, and your goalkeeper is going to pieces, and your ball playing centre half is injured, and you’re losing the game or having a sticky moment within it, there is nothing wrong with a bit more pragmatism. While I completely accept the theory about playing in your own half and drawing teams onto you, I also think there’s a time and a place for it and mediocre Championship teams trying to take it to the nth degree are often trying to be clever for clever’s sake. Again I come back to ‘don’t beat yourself’ – at least twice in this run (Boro, Fulham) we’ve done exactly that.
- Basics. Similar point, but if you can’t get the advanced stuff right, at least make sure you’re not running an amateur hour open mic night. Mark Warburton was at pains to point out that the red card given to his golden boy Lee Wallace was harsh, and it was, but two experienced central defenders couldn’t cope with one long ball down the field and just head it back where it came from. You deserve no sympathy for stuff that happened after you let a routine ball bounce in your own half. Nor for the first goal, caused by Figueiredo running round to the back post at a corner and piling in over the top of a much smaller man in Todd Kane. To let that happen once is daft, to just quite happily let it continue all night is criminal – we only escaped another goal from it courtesy of a clearance on the line in the second half. Each Forest goal was more defensively shambolic than the last, both Fulham goals were abysmal defensive mistakes, both Middlesbrough goals and so on. Do the basics, build a platform from which the rest of it can grow. Again, you’re not abandoning your values and suckling at the withered teat of Tony Pulis by just defending properly.
- Know your history. Since Gerry Francis replaced Don Howe as QPR manager ahead of the 1991/92 season, Rangers have gone through 21 permanent managerial changes (and about that many caretaker spells besides). Francis > Wilkins > Houston > Harford > Francis > Holloway > Waddock > Gregory > De Canio > Dowie > Sousa > Magilton > Hart > Harford > Warnock > Hughes > Redknapp > Ramsey > Hasselbaink > Holloway > McClaren > Warburton. John Gregory was an improvement on Gary Waddock, temporarily at least. Luigi De Canio a step up again, albeit with serious money to spend. The only occasions on that list that a change brought about serious, sustained improvement in results was when Ian Holloway revitalised the club from 2001 onwards, and when Neil Warnock arrived in 2010. In every other case things stayed the same or, more often, got worse. Among them are six occasions when we went for a Gareth Ainsworth type who’d excelled here as a player. And two when we brought back a manager who’d done brilliantly in a previous spell – as some are now advocating with Neil Warnock – only to find it wasn’t the same club they’d left behind and they weren’t able to work their magic to the same extent. Changing the manager, particularly midseason, hardly ever works for QPR. Particularly, as is the case now, where you’ve given over your budget to a manager and let him sign a whole load of players in the summer suited to his style and ideal. I warned about this repeatedly in the summer as Warburton added 16 new faces, but we’ve done it now and to get rid of him at the first sign of trouble and expect a less idealistic, more rudimentary manager to come in and take this squad on doesn’t feel like a recipe for success.
- Do your bit. I’m wary about this one for a few reasons. Firstly, I’m an absolute gobshite at football matches. I can’t help myself. The frustration of it is all too much for me. I can’t stand not being able to influence or control it. I lose the plot and shout all manner of ridiculous stuff. Secondly, I run this website, and a Twitter account, which on occasions says some particularly harsh things about the QPR players, staff, management, owners and club. So who am I to talk? Nobody, that’s who. Thirdly, as somebody who spends a small fortune following this club around the country, I too know just how annoying it is when you see players making basic mistakes, getting caught out being too casual on the field, lacking for effort, and/or mooching across at full time with a half-hearted clap and a bit of a hand of apology for their error that’s just ruined your weekend. I’m annoyed too. And fourthly, obviously, I respect the right of anybody who’s paid their money and seen the game to have an opinion on it and express that opinion - it's what being a sports fan is all about. If a player goes out of their way to read a message board, or search their name on social media, or listen to a phone in, or read a match report, and then objects to what they hear, well that’s kind of their fault. However… deliberately going out of your way to contact the player personally and call him “scum” or tell him to “fuck off out of the club”? Really? What do you get out of further demoralising one of our own players? Do you expect him to get better for it? Do you expect him to think “oh, I was going to pass the ball to their centre forward here just for jolly japes but @UltimateIlias or @ClinicalWells or @MentalEbere called me a cunt on Twitter so I better not”? I’ve seen some try and justify it with “they need to hear it”. Do they? Do they really? Do they really need to know that some angry, sweaty, spotty, teenage virgin who’s never achieved anything in their life thinks they're "scum" or "the worst fucking goalkeeper we've ever had"? No, they don’t. And it’s not helping. Stop. Beating. Ourselves.
Anyway, about that dinner…
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Geoff Cameron facts No.76 in the Series – Geoff was originally cast as the lead for the 1999 remake of The Thomas Crown Affair but left the project at the eleventh hour after a row with director John McTiernan and the role went to Pierce Brosnan. He later stole The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse for real, just to prove that he could, hanging a forgery in its place. The original now resides in the downstairs bog at his Newcastle-under-Lyme holiday villa.
Team News: Liam Kelly and Yoann Barbet are both back in training, but are both highly doubtful for a return here, which isn’t ideal given Joe Lumley’s rapidly declining form and confidence and Lee Wallace’s one match ban for the Nottingham Forest red card.
Graeme Shinnie and Mason Bennett are the latest Derby players to be ruled out with medium term injuries, although we’re assured Bennett’s latest issue is nothing to do with him drinking himself into such a state he vomits into a urinal before deciding he’s fine to drive home, smashing the car up, almost killing a team mate, and then pleading with a judge not to jail him because he’s a model father to a three-year-old who was, presumably, amusing herself while all that was going on. Matt Clarke (doesn’t like the cold), Ikechi Anya (can’t be arsed) and Tom Huddlestone (fat, old) are all also missing. Richard Keogh (sacked) awaits an agreed date with Andy Sinton for his Forever R’s induction.
Elsewhere: As stated, Swanselona are currently embroiled in the Friday night match with Tarquin and Rupert.
That kickstarts a weekend which continues with Charlton, finally under new ownership, at home to the Sheffield Owls in the Saturday lunchtime televised game.
The three o’clock kick offs are, not going to lie, a tough sell. A first home game for Gerhard Struber as Grimethorpe Miners’ Welfare manager against Jarrod Bowen FC. Millwall Scholars away to Birmingham – oh how clever we thought we were avoiding the strike and the engineering work by going to Derby via Birmingham. Cowley sisters Danni and Nikki take their revitalised team to Bristol City.
The Champions of Europe can push their former high street vigilante Jonathan Woodgate closer to the exit door by beating his hapless Middlesbrough side at Elland Road. Nottingham Florist and their cast of a thousand footballers are at home to Cardiff, Poke City host the Mad Chicken Farmers and Wigan Warriors are at home to Hayes and Yeading. There’s Monday night football between Preston Knob End and West Brom.
No signs of life. Apart from, of course, at the Vicente Grifferneron where Justice League Leaders Spartak Hounslow, fresh from a wholly undeserved 1-0 loss at Blackburn, will almost certainly be the best team Lutown have played all season.
Referee: I must say, all those nice letters we got from the PGMOL last season apologising for mistakes made by officials that had cost us points do start to ring rather hollow when they appoint exactly the same referee to exactly the same fixture he previously bollocksed up royally. Details.
Derby; The Rams are on a curious run of five consecutive home wins (the last four without conceding a goal) alternating with four consecutive away defeats in which they’ve failed to score. The home wins have at least lifted them up to thirteenth in the league after a troubled start to the league season in which they won just one of their first eight games having lost Frank Lampard and his parade of Premier League loan stars over the summer. Only Bristol City have won at Pride Park so far this campaign though – wins against Middlesbrough, Luton (both 2-0), Birmingham (3-2), Preston and Wigan (both 1-0) and draws with Cardiff, West Brom (both 1-1) and Swansea (0-0) make up their 5-3-1 record. Overall, rather ominously, they’re on 6-6-6. There have been three key injury time goals in Derby games this season – winning a point at Leeds, losing two at Barnsley, and winning two at home to Wigan. Derby have scored three and conceded three penalties so far.
QPR: After six wins from eight league games had lifted them as high as fourth, now it’s another of QPR’s infamous six-match winless runs to contend with - four defeats and two draws dragging us back down to our spiritual home of 16th in the Championship. Three of those wins in the prior run had been away (Sheff Wed, Millwall both 2-1, Hull 3-2) but the R’s have lost two on the road since at Leeds (2-0) and Fulham (2-1). They’ve won only three at home, drawing another three and losing four. The R’s have conceded at least two goals in a game for the last ten matches, equalling the club record which stretches back to 1951 and will be surpassed if it happens here again. They remain the only club in the Football League without a clean sheet and their total of 36 conceded in 18 league games is the worst in the league bar bottom placed Barnsley. Only four teams have scored more than our 27, mind. Having won three and drawn three of their first six visits to Pride Park, Rangers have now lost five games in a row here without scoring a goal (three 1-0s and two 2-0s). That Jamie Mackie goal was the last one we scored here. Only West Brom (16) have won more points from losing positions than QPR (11).
Prediction: Our Prediction League this year is sponsored by The Art of Football, and they’ve got a Black Friday sale on like all the cool kids. Get involved by lodging your prediction here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s QPR collection here and use the code BF20 for a 20% discount on us. Last year’s champion WokingR says…
“Whatever reaction we are hoping to see after Wednesday, I can't see us getting it on Saturday. We are now bottom of the current form table while Derby just do not lose at home. I'm sitting looking at my Derby tickets thinking "why the fuck did I buy those?" After a tough November at least our December fixtures look a bit easier.”
Woking’s Prediction: Derby 3-0 QPR. No scorer.
LFW’s Prediction: Derby 2-0 QPR. No scorer.
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