Here we go again? Preview
Tuesday, 31st Dec 2019 19:01 by Clive Whittingham
Ahead of the New Year's Day game at home to Cardiff City we compare and contrast the state of the QPR team now with the one that went on a horrendous run of results from this point 12 months ago and find plenty of reasons to reassure us it won't happen again.
QPR (9-5-11, WWLDLL, 15th) v Cardiff (9-10-6, WLDDDW, 10th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Wednesday January 1, 2020 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Dark and cold >>> Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, Loftus Road, London, W12
Another game is it? Very well.
As Ian Holloway becomes the latest man to try and revive the fortunes of Grimsby Town I was reminded of something he kept repeating in his second spell in charge here about downturns in form and losing runs becoming a bit of a self-perpetuating thing at Queens Park Rangers.
We’ve become so downtrodden over the last five years, and had so many instances where the team starts losing and just can’t stop (including three separate spells of six matches each under his reign) that we’ve become nervous and jumpy about it. Is there another club that reacts to losing a couple of games by gazing off down the fixture list and wondering if we’ll ever win another one again in quite the same way we do? I don’t blame us for doing it, it’s happened so often to us and it’s perfectly reasonable to think that if we can’t get a win tomorrow against Cardiff after failing to beat Barnsley, Charlton, Reading and Hull you wouldn’t particularly fancy us to fetch much back from games with Brentford, Leeds and bogey side Blackburn at Ewood Park. But I do wonder how much the “here we go again” mentality not only feeds back to the players, but also potentially exists within the dressing room.
Last year’s run was the worst by far. Three wins from the final 23 league games, including one in a dead rubber on the last day at Sheffield Wednesday that didn’t really count for anything. It started, much like the dip we’re experiencing now, out of the blue after we’d actually won a couple of games really well in December (Boro 2-1, Forest 1-0, Ipswich 3-0 12 months ago, Preston and Birmingham 2-0 each this time). It also featured a poor result against Reading – this time a 1-0 loss despite creating half a dozen really presentable chances to score, last time a 0-0 home draw when the win we were highly fancied for would have moved us into genuine play-off contention.
This got me thinking (these previews don’t write themselves you know) about what other comparisons could be drawn, or not as the case may be, as we seek to avoid another collapse in the second half of the season and the inevitable managerial change, rip it up and start again fall out that would no doubt follow.
A year ago QPR faced a uniquely difficult set of fixtures. Through January and February we played seven of the top eight in the division (Villa A, Sheff Utd A, Preston H, West Brom H, Leeds H, Middlesbrough A, Brentford A) and a Premier League Watford side in the FA Cup. They’re not kind this time, and Brentford and Leeds look daunting immediately the other side of the Christmas period, but Cardiff, Bristol City and Stoke at home isn’t that intimidating in their present form and it’s Derby, Birmingham and Barnsley to come after that. Blackburn, Swansea and Forest away are difficult for us, but there’s Huddersfield and Charlton and later Boro and Wigan after that and none of them are up to much at the moment.
Those fixtures were also horrendously congested. Ludicrously, we played ten games between January 26 and March 3 last year, a run exacerbated by a rare run to the fifth round of the cup achieved via a replay with Portsmouth that crammed another three games in at the worst possible time. There are, once again, seven fixtures in February this year, and we await to see just how much of a fuck up or otherwise we make of the cup this year with Swansea in town on Sunday.
Further to that problem, the team looked absolutely knackered. Steve McClaren’s method of picking the same starting 11 every week got us to the turn of the year with Ebere Eze, Luke Freeman and Jake Bidwell all ever present on 25 appearances, with Toni Leistner one back on 24 and Joel Lynch missing his usual Christmas game but otherwise playing 23 times. Eze’s form subsequently went off the side of a cliff, while Freeman became plagued by a stress-induced hip flexor injury which forced him out of a West Brom game we were drawing only to lose with ten men when he was forced off, and a 2-0 loss away at Middlesbrough. To further hammer the point, that rest at the Riverside immediately preceded his best performance for the club, dragging us to a 1-0 win against Leeds. This season Mark Warburton has been much more in favour of rotation and while he’s taken some stick for that it does mean we’ve only got Ryan Manning and Ebere Eze who’ve played every game so far, and we saw the benefit on Saturday of taking somebody like Ilias Chair, or Dom Ball, out of the firing line for a month or so and bringing him back in fresh. We’ve got players like Chair, Luke Amos, Dom Ball and Josh Scowen who haven’t played all that much in the first half of the season who can come in and freshen things up – we didn’t have that, or use it, last season. Big test for Eze this year to see if he can maintain his performance level through to the end this time.
Possibly a related point, but we became plagued by absentees post Christmas. Tomer Hemed, Geoff Cameron and Angel Rangel all went down for prolonged periods around the same time. Mass Luongo went to the Asia Cup. Freeman had that hip flexor problem, Lynchinio had one of his sabbaticals. Touch wood, Yoann Barbet is the only first team player currently missing from action.
Last January we had a transfer embargo preventing reinforcements. That’s not the case this time and there’s already talk of Jan Mlakar and Matt Smith heading back early from unsuccessful loan spells freeing up a couple of spots for other players to be borrowed. There is also a small amount of headroom under the FFP limits, carved out through player sales and wage bill reduction last summer. We went to £3m and no further for Aberdeen’s Scott McKenna in the summer – be interesting to see if we return for him, or look elsewhere. Dave Mc reports that Les Ferdinand was up at Dundee United last weekend watching their 21 goal striker Lawrence Shankland in action.
The bad luck seems about the same, judging by what happened against Charlton and Reading, but it’s also worth remembering we were on the end of a series of refereeing decisions in the first couple of months of 2019 that were highly unusual, both the sheer amount of them and just how blatantly wrong they were. Jonathan Kodija deliberately booted Joe Lumley in the face at Aston Villa, didn’t get sent off for it, we ended up drawing a game we were leading 2-2. We lost 2-1 at Wigan – Ryan Manning had a goalbound shot saved by a defender with two hands and no penalty was awarded. When we did get a last minute spot kick against Birmingham City we missed it, but half the Birmingham team was inside the box when it was struck including one defender who was level with Wells as he kicked it and no retake was ordered – lost 4-3. The last minute penalty at Bristol City was a scandalous decision that lost us the game 2-1. Jake Livermore should clearly have been sent off for West Brom at Loftus Road with the score at 2-2, he stayed on with a yellow and scored a last minute winner after Luke Freeman’s injury had left Rangers as the team playing with ten men. Nil nil at half time at Brentford, Keith Stroud gives them a soft penalty straight after half time and we lose 3-0. It's unlikely – again, touch wood – we’ll have to endure quite as much ridiculous shite as that over the coming weeks.
So while there are similarities, there are also differences. We’re a better team this year than last, in my opinion, with plenty of goals in us. Just need a nice comfortable home win against Cardiff tomorrow to keep the ‘here we go again’ mentality at bay and stop it becoming a self perpetuating thing.
Hear that lads? A nice, comfortable, home win, against Cardiff. Tomorrow lads. Please.
Happy New Year everybody.
Links >>> Harris impact – Interview >>> Bowles and Givens – History >>> England in charge – Referee >>> Official Website >>> Three Little Birds – Blog >>> CCMB – Message Board >>> Wales Online – Local Paper >>> Mauve and Yellow – Blog
Geoff Cameron Facts No.81 In The Series - ….
Team News: Liam Kelly was back on the bench for QPR at the weekend for the first time since suffering a groin injury in November. Given Joe Lumley’s latest howler against Hull it wouldn’t be a great surprise to see the Scot get a start here. Yoann Barbet is still on the missing list. Matt Smith and Jan Mlakar are likely to have their season long loan deals cut short now the transfer window is open again.
Cardiff have defender Sean Morrison back after three games on the naughty stop for a red card at Leeds but Lee Peltier (overindulged) and Joe Ralls (some spurious excuse about a wrist problem which is blatantly a repetitive strain issue caused by excessive masturbation) are unlikely to feature.
Elsewhere: For the second time this season the Championship’s host broadcaster has deigned Millwall v Lutown as worthy of live television coverage, so we ring the New Year in with that absolute cracker at lunchtime tomorrow. One presumes this is because Millwall razed Kenilworth Road to the ground in the 1980s and it helps Sky News out of there’s a lot of cameras there on the off chance they decide to have another tear up.
Tomorrow night it’s the battle of the top two with Sky Sports Leeds showing the Champions of Europe’s trip to West Brom. The Baggies looked leggy in a weekend 2-0 loss at home to Boro while Leeds fought out an improbably injury time 5-4 win at Birmingham City. Tarquin and Rupert wait back in third for any slips, ahead of their game at home to Hayes and Yeading, but in truth the Baggies and Marshmallow Bielsa’s side are miles out in front and this meeting will merely go someway into deciding which of them lifts the title in May.
The other play-off spots are currently occupied by Spartak Hounslow, Nottingham Florist and Sheffield Owls. The Justice League Leaders will probably be the best side Bristol City have faced all season when they meet in this week’s exciting fixture between two teams beginning with B at Ashton Gate – Lee Johnson’s men randomly on a four match losing streak. Garry Monk’s side can bounce back from a home defeat to Cardiff with a more positive result at home to Jarrod Bowen FC, Florist are at home to the Mad Chicken Farmers.
And now a list of things that are happening but probably shouldn’t be – Birmingham City v Wigan Warriors, Huddersfield v Poke, Preston Knob End v Middlesbrough.
Two games for you on Thursday including Mr Potato Head’s long awaited debut for Wayne Rooney’s Derby County at home to Grimethorpe Miner’s Welfare, and Swanselona at home to luckless Charlton.
Referee: Darren England, whose first Championship fixture as a referee was QPR v Cardiff back in 2016, gets this fixture once again to see in 2020. Details.
QPR: Over the course of 2019, QPR have won just six times at Loftus Road. Their overall record for the calendar year places them 85th out of 91 Football League teams with only Bolton and Southend losing more matches. Rangers are currently fifteenth in the league. None of the nine teams below us can match our five away wins so far this season (Birmingham and Huddersfield have three each) but at the same time only one side (Barnsley, three) have won fewer home games than our four out of 13. We’ve also conceded more home goals (26) than anybody else in the division, with Barnsley next on 25. Rangers arrive into this game with three defeats and a draw from their last four games, and with just two wins from their last 13.
Cardiff: City have lost only one of nine matches since Neil Harris took over in November (2-1 at Brentford, best team they’ve played all season). Four of those have been drawn, including three of the last four, which means their 2-1 success at Sheff Wed at the weekend is actually their only win in the last five. The win at Hillsborough was only their second away from home this season in 13 road trips, the other coming at Nottingham Forest at the end of November. Of the other 11 away games they’ve drawn six and lost five. Cardiff have lost 2-1 on three of their last four trips to Loftus Road with the other game finishing 2-2. Their last win here was 1-0 in 2009/10 with a Joe Ledley goal.
Prediction: The 2-2 draw with Charlton sees both MancR and Simply Nico topping Our Prediction League at Christmas with 41 points each. They both win goods from this year’s sponsor The Art of Football. Get involved by lodging your prediction here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s QPR collection here. Last year’s champion WokingR says…
“Well, Christmas is quickly going down the pan and I can't see anything changing against Cardiff. We are still creating chances but Cardiff on a very good run at the moment with some great results of late.”
Woking’s Prediction: QPR 0-2 Cardiff. No scorer.
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 2-2 Cardiff. Scorer – Ebere Eze
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Letters from Wiltshire #28 by wessex_exile
It’s difficult to think about quite how to write this editorial, without appearing mawkish. On Sunday 17th February 671 people succumbed to coronavirus, with the 7-day average creeping just above 1,000 deaths. On that day, one of those was someone very dear to me, who died in Watford General Hospital of Covid-19 pneumonia. Idiots and conspiracy-theorists will tell you there’s no plague, or that masks infringe their civil liberties, or some other form of spurious non-science bullsh*t, so do me a favour – if they say this to you, please punch them on the f’cking nose for me, and say that’s from Wessex – thank you.
Letters from Wiltshire #27 by wessex_exile
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Letters from Wiltshire #26 by wessex_exile
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Letters from Wiltshire #25 by wessex_exile
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Letters from Wiltshire #24 by wessex_exile
Welcome to our last match before Christmas. With South Essex going into Tier 3, by the time we take to the pitch at Roots Hall, it’ll be another behind-closed-doors match. With the Tier 3 boundary creeping inexorably closer, one wonders how long the JobServe will hold out and still be able to allow fans to attend. Robbie is doing all he can to make it possible for supporters to attend, and I confess I’m seriously considering our January 2nd match against Tranmere. In other news, I’m relieved to read that the FA will not take disciplinary action against Colchester United after a shameful minority chose to boo players and officials taking the knee, in the words of the EFL “as they highlight the inequality and injustice experienced by the Black Community”. I noticed a tiny minority chose to boo at our mid-week match at the Abbey Stadium, but I was pleased to hear they were immediately drowned out by the remainder of the 2,000 cheering and applauding. I admit I’m a little anxious about today…
Queens Park Rangers Polls