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Fans must quell impatience as Rangers head to Preston - full match preview
Fans must quell impatience as Rangers head to Preston - full match preview
Friday, 26th Mar 2010 22:37

QPR travel to a team in similar circumstances to their own on Saturday - Preston are not completely safe, but in all liklihood looking at a season of mid-table mediocrity.

Preston North End (15th) v Queens Park Rangers (15th)
Coca Cola Championship
Saturday March 27, Kick Off 3pm
Deepdale, Preston


Now I know I cannot really talk, having not been at the game on Tuesday against Derby and having pleaded for our club to get rid of Paul Hart almost from the second he stepped through the door at Loftus Road, but I was shocked, saddened and disappointed by the reaction to our draw against Derby on Tuesday night. Five games into Neil Warnock’s reign and there are already some who want to slate him and his style of play. For all the talk of stability and a manager in full control from most fans, it hasn’t taken some long to become almost Flavio Briatore like in their thinking.

Neil Warnock is, for want of a better description, currently polishing turds. Yes QPR were fantastic in this corresponding fixture and for a few weeks after that. But since then we have lost Gavin Mahon and Martin Rowlands to injury, we have sold Wayne Routledge and Ben Watson lost first form and interest and then returned to Wigan. Our manager completely self destructed after tinkering with the team too much and the subsequent winter period was a complete nightmare. We currently have a squad of seven loans in, only two of them any good, and five out. We have no confidence, no presence in attack, no conviction or cover in defence. Four weeks ago I honestly could not pick a single win from our remaining games. I thought we were doomed. Warnock is stuck with this rag tag bunch of no hopers as we’re outside a transfer window.

We have appointed a good manager at this level. Somebody who has achieved unlikely promotions with Notts County, Huddersfield and Sheff Utd and more recently taken Crystal Palace from a relegation battle to the play offs, and then the middle of this division in the face of a financial crisis so acute the player he was asking to die for him weren’t even being paid for it. Vastly experienced and handy in the transfer market Warnock is exactly what we need.

Yes he makes mistakes, the Sheff Utd relegation from the Premiership was his fault in my opinion as he was far too negative in games against teams with little to play for at the end of the season. No I haven’t agreed with his team selections at QPR – why Priskin? Why not Cook? Why not Buzsaky? But let’s be honest here Mick Harford was picking Cook and Buzsaky and getting nowhere. Mick Harford and Paul Hart were both playing two up front and getting nowhere. Buzsaky has been, like our entire squad this season, undercooked to start with, briefly brilliant in the autumn, overweight and ineffective since. The accusations that Warnock is a long ball manager are nonsense – he hasn’t been since he left Notts County. The Palace team he left wasn’t a long ball outfit, and neither have we been so far until, apparently, the last hour against Derby. Paul Hart openly said he wanted us to play basic football up to Agyemang, Warnock has said he wants to see more of the first 20 minutes the other night. But you cannot get a team with Matt Hill, Mikele Leigertwood, Damion Stewart, Kaspars Gorkss, Tamas Priskin etc in it playing even moderately good football. It cannot be done.

The mess created by Flavio Briatore’s chronic mismanagement of this club will take 18 months to recover from – and that’s a conservative estimate. We have an ideal manager and perfect new board to do that. Now it is time for us fans to do our bit – and stamping our feet like spoilt West Ham fans and claiming we have some divine right to wonderful free flowing football just because we managed to play it for two glorious weeks in October 2009 and were bloody awesome in the 1970s is not behaviour conducive to success here. We are supposed to be supporters, so let’s support.

Five minutes on Preston
The Story So Far: On a Thursday night I play six-a-side football between half six and nine, and then afterwards we all go down to the pub for a pint or four. Actually when I say we, I actually mean they. Because normally on a Thursday while my friends are out having a good time I’m sitting here with this computer writing match previews. How do you do it? They ask. Why? A more pertinent question. And I can say that I enjoy it and take pride in my work and have always wanted to write about QPR and so on and so forth. But this fixture is always the hardest. Preston North End. A night out with your mates or long, drawn out hours trying to put together a piece about Preston North bloody End.

What is there to say that hasn’t already been said eight or nine times on LoftforWords? If Preston have a bad run of results and get a few injuries then they flirt with the relegation zone, if they keep everybody fit and string a few results together they poke around in the play offs. Too good to go down, not good enough to go up, they are the division’s longest serving members and there is frankly nothing I can sit here and write about them that I haven’t said before.

The sacking earlier this season of then manager Alan Irvine seemed out of the blue and harsh from a distance. Sure Preston weren’t playing well and had won only one of ten games but when you’re operating with a small, mediocre squad of players on a relatively tight budget that can happen. Irvine had rescued Preston from a relegation battle in his first six months in charge, led them to the play off semi finals in his first full campaign, but it was always likely he would struggle to achieve that again. Preston needed a huge dollop of good fortune, namely the annual hilarious collapse of Cardiff City, to make the top six last season and it’s always a surprise when their steady bob around midtable carries them just high enough at just the right time for them to make the end of season knock out. Having said that Irvine has shown little at Sheffield Wednesday since pitching up there to suggest PNE made a terrible mistake.

Darren Ferguson replaced him and has done little better. Preston are just the same as they have been for a decade – occasionally looking brilliant, occasionally awful, consistently inconsistent. It’s hard to see them ever breaking this cycle without the sudden whim of a sugar daddy carrying them into the top flight. Their crowds and finances restrict progress, their shrewd board and steady transfer policy prevent relegation. They’re just dull. I need a drink.

The Manager: Darren Ferguson was a steady player for Wolves and Wrexham and, of course, is the son of Sir Alex. That alone seems to have qualified him as a bright, up and coming managerial talent. Ferguson’s first job came at Peterborough who had just been taken over by Irish property tycoon Darragh MacAnthony and had fired the late Keith Alexander. Overseen by Barry Fry and backed by Irish money Ferguson built an exciting young team at London Road through good knowledge of the lower leagues and achieved consecutive promotions in his first two full seasons in charge from League Two to the Championship. QPR and Reading were just two of many clubs to be linked with a move for the Scot - such suggestions prompted threats of legal action from Ferguson against the tabloid newspapers that made them.

Ferguson senior is not known as a likeable man, and his son has that same steely glare and no-nonsense attitude that has served Fergie so well during his time at Aberdeen and Old Trafford. His big personality clashed with that of MacAnthony, who fired him midway through this disastrous season for Peterborough and the two engaged in a war of words prior to Preston’s 1-0 win at London Road earlier this year. Peterborough claimed Ferguson was already lining up the job at Hull, to an outsider it looked very much like Ferguson had become a victim of his own success – promoting the Posh too far, too soon and then paying with his job when they failed to cope at the new level.

We’ll get more of an idea about just how good Ferguson is at Preston, a very secure club in this division that can be taken into the top six under shrewd management as Billy Davies and David Moyes have shown, but can equally drop perilously low in the league if things start to go badly.

Three to Watch: The most immediately noticeable thing about the Preston side QPR will face this Saturday is the sheer size and physicality of its strike force whether that be made up of Jon Parkin, Neil Mellor and/or Chris Brown. Jon Parkin is widely mocked by opposition supporters for his build which is more akin to a professional darts player than a Championship centre forward, however the bustling target man was voted North End’s Player of the Season last year when he bagged 12 goals including a hot run of six in eight through January and February. Nicknamed The Beast by the Preston support Parkin began his career as a centre half with Barnsley and then Hartlepool, playing only very occasionally as a centre forward, he was used solely as a striker to great effect by Macclesfield where he caught the eye sufficiently to earn a permanent move to Hull City. Things turned sour for him there when manager Phil Brown questioned his fitness upon returning for pre-season training in 2007 and he was loaned out first to Stoke and then Preston where he eventually signed permanently in September 2008. Parkin could kindly be described as a big handful, and will provide a rough and ready opponent for Gorkss and Stewart to deal with on Saturday. If QPR can prevent the flick ons and knock downs from Parkin without using too many men to do so and leaving space for Neil Mellor in the process then they will have gone a long way to winning this game.

Such is the stature of Parkin that Mellor finds himself in the unusual position of being the ‘little’ man in the front two combination despite standing six feet tall and weighing in at 14 stone himself. A product of Liverpool’s youth academy who is best remembered for a thumping last minute Kop end winner against Arsenal in 2004 he lost his way somewhat thereafter with poor spells at West Ham and Wigan preceding his move to Preston in 2006. Mellor always looks like a very good player when we play Preston - he is averaging a goal every other game so far this season with six in 12 and although he missed last season’s meeting between these sides through injury he scored when they drew 2-2 here in 2007/08.

The creative spark from the midfield, and danger from set pieces, comes from Scottish midfielder Ross Wallace who signed permanently from Sunderland in January after a successful loan spell. A tidy and combative box to box player who started life with Celtic before moving to Sunderland and then Deepdale. While he has only scored once this season he is very dangerous with long range free kicks and scored an absolute pearler to win a game at Birmingham at the end of last season in the last minute. That goal, as good as you’re ever likely to see, was the final kick of the match, kept Preston’s play off hopes alive, sent Birmingham into the last week of the season not knowing their fate and in amongst all this drama and emotion Wallace was sent off for over celebrating in the ultimate kill-joy moment. He therefore missed the match between these sides at Deepdale on the final day of the season.

Links >>> Preston Official Website >>> Preston Message Board >>> Travel Guide

History
Recent Meetings:
Rangers hammered Preston 4-0 earlier in the season in the much talked about, never to be repeated run of free scoring performances that sent us soaring up as high as fourth in the league at one stage. Prior to the game much of the talk was about the season ending injury suffered by Martin Rowlands on international duty during the week but all the post game reaction revolved around a tremendous performance, and oustanding opening goal fropm Adel Taarabt. Collecting a skewed clearance from radek Cerny inside his own half Taarabt turned and run past four Preston players before curling an unstoppable shot into the corner from 25 yards out. Rangers were the better side throughout but the game was well contested until Taarabt won a penalty on the hour, Akos Buzsaky slammed in the second, and Preston imploded. A defensive mistake by Youl Mawene let Jay Simpson in for a third and Wayne Routledge fired a fourth in from long range in the face of meagre defending in front of him.

QPR: Cerny 8, Ramage 8, Stewart 8, Gorkss 8, Borrowdale 8,Routledge 9 (Ainsworth 87, -), Buzsaky 9 (Agyemang 76, 8), Mahon 8, Faurlin 8, Taarabt 9, Simpson 8 (Vine 77, 6)
Subs Not Used: Heaton, Hall, Alberti, Harris
Goals: Taarabt 11 (assisted Cerny), Buzsaky 63 (penalty), Simpson 74 (assisted Buzsaky), Routledge 85 (assisted Faurlin)

Preston: Lonergan 8, Hart 4, Mawene 4, Collins 5, Jones 3, Chaplow 4, Wallace 6, Sedgwick 5 (Parry 64, 5), Shumulikoski 5 (Carter 65, 5), Brown 5 (Parkin 65, 5), Mellor 5.
Subs Not Used: Henderson, Chilvers, Nolan, Elliott.

The sides last met at Deepdale on the final day of the 2008/09 season. QPR’s campaign has long since ended but Preston still had an outside chance of the making the play offs if they could win and other results went their way. The game seemed to be petering out into a typical end of season draw when a mix up between Cerny and Gorkss allowed Parkin to open the scoring for PNE before the break, and then Patrick Agyemang riffled in a leveller against his former club immediately after the oranges. There then came news from Hillsborough however that Cardiff were in fact behind, meaning one Preston goal would move them into the top six. Sure enough from a Parkin long throw St Ledger came up from the back to force a header over the line and lift the roof off Deepdale. A mass pitch invasion followed the final whistle but Sheffield United would prove too strong for Irvine’s men in the knockout semi final.

Preston: Lonergan 6, Jones 6, St. Ledger 8, Mawene 6, Nolan 5, Whaley 7 (Nicholson 79, 6), McKenna 8, Carter 7, Sedgwick 7, Parkin 7 (Elliott 88,-), Mellor 5 (Brown 61, 6)
Subs Not Used: Neal, Chilvers
Booked: Jones (foul), St. Ledger (foul)
Goals: Parkin 37 (unassisted), St. Ledger 74 (assisted Parkin/Brown)

QPR: Cerny 6, Ramage 6, Connolly 7, Gorkss 6, Delaney 6, Routledge 7, Leigertwood 5, Mahon 7 (Balanta 83, -), Ephraim 8, Agyemang 6 (German 75, 6), Vine 8
Subs Not Used: Cole, Hall, Alberti
Booked: Leigertwood (foul), Connolly (dissent)
Goals: Agyemang 57 (assisted Vine)

Head to Head:
Preston wins - 11
Draws – 12
QPRwins – 9

Previous Results:
2009/10 QPR 4 Preston 0 (Taarabt, Buzsaky, Simpson, Routledge)
2008/09 Preston 2 QPR 1 (Agyemang)
2008/09 QPR 3 Preston 2 (Helguson 2, Blackstock)
2007/08 QPR 2 Preston 2 (Blackstock, Ainsworth)
2007/08 Preston 0 QPR 0
2006/07 QPR 1 Preston 0 (Blackstock)
2006/07 Preston 1 QPR 1 (Ainsworth)
2005/06 QPR 0 Preston 2
2005/06 Preston 1 QPR 1 (Shittu)
2004/05 QPR 1 Preston 2 (Furlong)
2004/05 Preston 2 QPR 1 (Santos)
2000/01 Preston 5 QPR 0
2000/01 QPR 0 Preston 0

Played for both clubs:
Danny Dichio
QPR 1993-1997
Preston 2005-2007

I can still see Danny whacking that incredible volley into the back of the net against Wolves back in 1996, a goal which probably got him his move to Italy! It’s still one of my favourite Rangers goals. Dichio rose through the ranks at QPR, and built up a lethal strike partnership with Kevin Gallen at reserve level, which saw them make their first team breakthrough the same season. Danny’s made his debut for the R’s in a 4-2 defeat to Norwich in October 1994 and went on to score just over 20 goals in nearly 85 appearances, with a good majority coming in the top-flight. After a season with Rangers in the First Division Danny somehow signed for Italia side Sampdoria. However his spell in Italy was brief and only made the odd cup appearance with Sampdoria and was farmed out on loan to Lecce. Danny soon moved back to England first with Sunderland, and then WBA where he enjoyed promotion back to the Premier League at both clubs before moving onto Millwall and then two seasons at Deepdale. Recently retired after two successful seasons in the MLS with Toronto - he scored the club's first ever goal on his debut. -AR

Links >>> QPR 4 Preston 0 Match Report >>> Preston 2 QPR 1 Match Report >>> Match Report Archive >>> Connections and Memories

This Saturday
Team News: QPR have doubts over Matt Connolly, who could be out for up to a month with a persistent ankle injury that he has been playing through recently, and Jay Simpson who is struggling with a hamstring niggle. Martin Rowlands and Gavin Mahon are the long term absentees and definitely out. Warnock may give a debut to new signing Dusko Tosic who is a left sided defender who signed on loan from Portsmouth in the week. His situation is an odd one - after signing for Pompey from Bundesliege side Werder Gremen after falling out with the coach over his participation in the Olympics last summer his registration was refused by the Premier League because of Portsmouth's dire financial situation and subsequent transfer embargo. He has more recently been training with Swansea City who were keen to sign him pending his situation at Portsmouth being resolved. After the ruling last week that Portsmouth could offload players early Portsmouth were allowed to register the player, as long as they subsequently immediately loaned him out to a non-Premiership team. Rangers stole him from under Paulo Sousa's nose (bet Warnock loved that) however he is yet another loan - Rangers now have seven, and can only field five in the matchday squad. For Tosic to play only four from Simpson, Taarabt, Bent, Priskin, Hill and Ikeme can join him in the team. Simpson's injury may fill one of those spaces, Marcus Bent is the other likely to miss out as he is yet to play a single minute since Warnock arrived.

Preston midfielder Darren Carter has he will look for a transfer if his present lack of first team action continues. Whether that will implore Darren Ferguson to pick him or not remains to be seen. Youl Mawene, dire at Loftus Road in October but usually veruy impressive against QPR, has a groin problem and Danny Mayor has a hamstring injury but Paul Coutts should return after missing the last two.

Elsewhere: The stand out game of the weekend is live on Sky on Monday night as promotion chasers newcastle and Nottingham Forest clash at St James' Park. Sky also have the Saturday lunchtime meeting of Crystal Palace and Cardiff as Palace look to end their terrible run and climb away from the bottom three - with Mythical Figure of Death Paul Hart in charge that may be easier said than done. Doncaster v Barnsley has the look of a feisty South Yorkshire clash in the middle of the league and there's another derby of sorts as East Midlands sides Derby and Leicester meet at Pride Park. West Brom have a tough task at in form Reading, who may yet push for the play offs, while Sheff Utd host Scunthorpe on Sunday lunch time.

Referee: We have rookie referee Andy Haines in charge of one of our games for the first time this weekend. This is only his second season on the full list and his 13th Championship match in total - unlucky for some. His first ever match at this level was Preston's 1-1 draw at home to Plymouth last season. More, albeit brief, details at the link below.

Links >>> Dean Sturridge Memorial Injury List >>> Arthur Gnohere Discipline Counter >>> Haines referees >>> Big Weekend >>> Betting Preview >>> Referee League

Form
Preston: PNE are in inconsistent form. They are unbeaten in six home games but have won only three of those and lost 4-1 here against Barnsley at the start of February. Away from home they are without a win in six, and have lost five of those matches conceding 16 goals the process. Since Darren Ferguson took over they have won five and lost eight of 17 matches. Overall this season at Deepdale they have won eight, drawn eight, and lost only three - to Barnsley, Newcastle and Reading when Reading were poor.

QPR: It's now no away win in 11 attempts for QPR since beating Sheff Wed before Christmas - the unfortunate defeat to Reading last week was the eighth defeat of that run. After winning Neil Warnock's first two games in charge QPR have not won in the last four, although three have ended in 1-1 draws including the last two. It's one clean sheet from 27 matches now - that's right, we're back to copying and pasting the clean sheet statistic again. Rangers are yet to complete a double over anybody this season and we only have four more opportunities to do so - against Preston, Sheff Wed, Barnsley and Cardiff. We have not won here in seven meetings going back to 1980 and lost 2-1 on this ground on the last day of last season

Prediction: Difficult to beat but not particularly exciting is a description that could be applied to both teams this weekend. Both are still technically in some danger but it's difficult to envisage Palace and a couple of the other sides down there stringing results together to such an extent that either QPR or Preston are sucked back in. Both managers are new to their positions and probably happy to play out time waiting for the summer transfer window so don't expect anything wonderful here, I reckon 1-1 is a decent bet.
Low scoring draw

Links >>> Championship Table >>> Total Form >>> Home Form >>> Away Form >>> Prediction League >>> Fantasy League

Photo: Action Images



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