|Swansea City 0 v 0 Queens Park Rangers|
Tuesday, 11th February 2020 Kick-off 19:45
Bring the fun - Preview
Tuesday, 11th Feb 2020 11:30 by Clive Whittingham
Swansea (12-10-9, LDWLDL, 9th) v QPR (11-5-15, LWLLLL, 17th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Tuesday February 11, 2020 >>> Kick Off 19.45 >>> Weather – Bright but extremely windy >>> Liberty Stadium, Swansea
During the night on Thursday I woke up with a particularly sore throat and high temperature which I very much hoped might be Coronavirus. Two weeks in quarantine sounds bloody excellent to me. No work, no social interaction, no commute… sign me up mate I’m all in, bring on the boxsets. But then I’m also of the opinion that those raving dangers who win the Euromillions and insist they could never possibly give up their job cleaning the local comprehensive school because they’d miss the delinquent children and their unflushable turds too much should have the money taken off them and given to somebody who would do proper things with it, like have a really good sit down.
Anyway, it wasn’t bloody Coronavirus, it was a supermarket own brand imitation Mexican virus which was just enough to make me feel like shit and wake me up 83 times a night, but not enough to really keep me from working, or indeed going to Huddersfield QPR, which was very much like work except I didn’t get paid for it and I didn’t enjoy it as much. All the way up there I went, with a head as thick as Jamie Mackie, arriving just in time to see that rancid second half performance, and all the way back I trundled, greeted by the sight of tickets to Nottingham Forest on the doormat and my back fence disappearing off down the road. I then wrote a report on it all when I neglected to mention the second goal came off another of our lousy goalkeeper clearances, and gave Dom Ball man of the match without mentioning the best thing he did in the game – a goal saving tackle in the first half to bail Grant Hall out of some shit of his own making. Truly the weekend that kept on giving.
Now I’m nice and refreshed and recovered just in time to go back to work on Monday – deep joy – and take in this evening’s game at Swansea City where our non-clinical team need to start being more clinical apparently. Now four defeats in a row and well on the way to another of those six-straight runs we love clocking up so dearly, it’s no goals scored for two and a half matches because of the lack of clinicalness and if only we were more clinical and not less clinical then the clinicalness would solve this and many other problems besides because clinical teams score goals and pets win prizes.
Now you may be labouring under the misapprehension that being clinical is a bit of a skill – Kevin Phillips clinical, Dean Coney not clinical, Harry Kane clinical, Dominic Iorfa not clinical and so on – and now that Nahki Wells clinical is playing for somebody else and we’re left with Jordan Hugill not clinical that simply repeating the mantra “we need to be more clinical” is about as much use as pointing at somebody who isn’t a tree surgeon and saying “you need to be a tree surgeon” repeatedly. That although there are training drills and things you can work on to improve finishing and tree surgeoning, Hugill, Ebere Eze and Bright Osayi-Samuel aren’t going to become clinical in front of goal or tree surgeons overnight, or in time for this match in South Wales, and it therefore might be an idea to work on some other, quicker fixes like our goalkeepers not constantly passing it to opponents on the edge of our box or our defenders not hanging out lazy legs when they get into the area. You may also think I’m saying clinical rather a lot, and you’d be right. Can I interest you in a few lines on how we need to defend as a team?
While a lack of goals may have been the problem in the last two games, as we stare mournfully at our framed photo of our dearly departed Lego man, it has not been the issue overall. QPR have scored 47 league goals this year which is more than Leeds in second and Fulham in third, and only fewer than West Brom who are top and Brentford who are fifth. And yet we’re seventeenth. The problem clearly lies elsewhere, and while you can no more point at our rag tag collection of defenders and goalkeepers and demand they suddenly become more competent anymore than you can demand our forwards become more clinical, we desperately need to be a little bit more pragmatic and sensible back there. You don’t need to be a particularly good defender or defence to not concede that second Huddersfield goal, that Bristol City goal, that first Sheff Wed goal. It may have been doable to go into every game requiring two goals for a point when Nahki Wells was up front, but it’s not any more.
Of course the counter to all of this is the FA Cup game we played against tonight’s opponents little more than a month ago where, without Wells, we ran a five goal sword through them. Much changed teams on both sides that day though, and I’m not sure how sustainable it is to be basing a gameplan around Jordan Hugill chesting and volleying in from the edge of the box, Lee Wallace scoring from long range on his wrong foot, and Josh Scowen channelling Marco Van Basten.
The big thing I remember from that match, and the Cardiff one before it, wasn’t that we suddenly took all our chances, but that they were fun. We attacked in big numbers, at great speed and with enormous belief in those games. Osayi-Samuel, Eze and Hugill were all unplayable in a way they haven’t really been since. Bar the last 15 minutes against Bristol City we’ve looked a little sad and forlorn in the more recent games, hungover from the way the transfer window turned out for us. We look like a team that can’t wait for the season to be over all of a sudden, like we’ve given up, and that’s a dangerous thing.
It’s dangerous for Warburton because he needn’t think that just because he’s done everything the board has asked of him that he’s safe. Don’t think because he successfully dismantled the squad and put it back together again on a tighter budget in one transfer window over the summer, has subsequently improved several players into sellable assets, has given big first team opportunities to young players the club wants to develop and sell, has provided an exciting and entertaining brand of attacking football, has kept us safe in the middle of the Championship, has helped them reduce the budget again in January and sat by watching his squad diminish without a single cross word and simply got on with the job… that they won’t sack him anyway at the first sign of trouble or supporter unrest. Because they will. It’s what they do. Ian Holloway followed his brief to the letter and was dismissed as soon as somebody they’ve heard of in Asia fluttered his hair island at them.
It’s a big couple of games remaining this week. Swansea are a strange team, propped up in a lofty league position by a fantastic start to the season where they won seven of their first eight games, but in something approaching relegation form ever since then. Forest, Stoke, Millwall, Fulham, Derby and Brentford have all won here this season while Blackburn, Barnsley and Reading have left with a draw. There’s something here for us if we smart, aggressive and attacking enough to go and get it. Then it’s an absolutely dire Stoke side at home on Saturday in a re-run of the game with them last year which we needed to win but actually messed up against a team playing with ten men for 80 minutes – a result and performance that pushed Steve McClaren onto the precipice.
As I said a fortnight ago, taking fans with you on an accounting exercise is going to be difficult to do, and people in the away end on Saturday were increasingly aggy, particularly about the defence and the manager’s outward refusal to do or say anything about it other than “we need to defend as a team”. Personally I don’t think you’re ever going to get a lot of defensive competence out of that back four, goalkeeper and, more importantly, those defensive central midfielders and all we can do is muddle through and hope to sign better players than them in the summer. But, at the same time, the way we started the game at Huddersfield was suicidal and stupid and I’m sick of seeing us concede entirely preventable goals from goalkeepers pissing around trying to play sweeper.
Bringing the fun back might be a start. Perhaps the sight of Swansea will remind them how good they can be…
Links >>> Questions over Cooper – Interview >>> Robbie James – History >>> Chuckles Woolmer – Referee >>> Official Website >>> Planet Swans – Blog and Forum >>> Wales Online – Local Paper >>> The Jack Army – Forum >>> SOS - Fanzine
Geoff Cameron Facts No.88 In The Series – The reason the Holy Grail has never been found is because the staff at Harlington are too afraid to ask Geoff for his favourite coffee cup back.
Team News: QPR are certain to recall Geoff Cameron to either the base of the midfield or the centre of defence after losing both matches of his suspension. Angel Rangel is also pushing for a recall against his former club as Mark Warburton searches (he must be, surely, whatever he says) for an answer to the steady stream of goal concession from his team this season. Jack Clarke and Marc Pugh both came off the bench to try and spice the attack up at the weekend and did nothing of the sort so whether that’s enough to bag either of them a start remains to be seen.
George Byers, who scored the Swans’ consolation in the FA Cup tie between these sides, was forced out of the Derby loss at the weekend early with an ankle injury and is unlikely to play. Bersant Celina (blown away) and Mike Van Der Hoorn (minor women’s whiplash) are also doubtful. Jordan Garrick is a long term absentee.
Elsewhere: A fifth defeat in six matches for the Champions of Europe at Nottingham Florist at the weekend finally wiped their one-time 12-point gap in the automatic promotion places down to zero. Tarquin and Rupert drew level with them on 55 points with their weekend win at the Mad Chicken Farmers and Marcelo Bielsa’s men could be as low as fifth after this midweek round of games should results go a certain way.
Bielsa has taken the blame for the drop in form, and shown some rare willingness to compromise. January signing Jean-Kevin Augustin was given a whopping 19 minutes from the bench to make an impact at The City Ground instead of the hapless Patrick Bamford. Whether he’ll get any more tonight away to Justice League leaders Lokomotiv Gunnersbury remains to be seen, but that’s likely to be the toughest game they’ve faced all season and the Bees will go above them in the table with a win. Sky Sports Leeds, having force fed us every fucking Leeds match played over the last five years, have elected to show Swansea v QPR tonight instead. Couldn’t make it up.
Forest can also go above the Whites with a win tonight, and that’s pretty likely as they welcome Charlton to Nottingham – the Addicks have quietly slipped to fourth from bottom with two wins from 19 games and a 3-1 loss at Poke City at the weekend. Fulham are up tomorrow against Millwall. Leaders West Brom steadied their own recent nerves with a hard fought win at The Den in the teeth of the storm at the weekend, and they’re down at Reading tomorrow evening.
The final play-off spot is currently tied on 50 points between Preston Knob End, who are at Stoke tomorrow, and Bristol City, who took the lead inside a minute against Birmingham but still lost at the weekend and now face Wayne Rooney’s Derby County at Ashton Gate.
Down at the other end Lutown look dead and buried having lost ten of their last 13 league games. They host Sheffield Owls tomorrow night ahead of away trips to Middlesbrough and Charlton which will probably make or break their season. Grimethorpe Miner’s Welfare have a good deal more hope next above them, but could do with a win at home to Birmingham tonight. Wigan Warriors make up the bottom three ahead of their home game with Middlesbrough.
Huddersfield climbed further away from trouble by beating QPR on Saturday and now host Cardiff, who are only four points shy of the top six remarkably. Blackburn v Hull complete the midweek lineup in the battle of the nightmare foreign owners.
Referee: As if things weren’t dire enough there’s Andy Woolmer waiting for us down the other end of the M4 tonight. History and details.
Swansea: The Swans started the season with seven wins and a draw from their first eight games, including a 3-1 win at Loftus Road in the league, to set the early Championship pace. They’ve since won only seven in 27 in all competitions, including the 5-1 loss to QPR in London in the cup, and arrive into this game on a run of one win from six played. Their 3-2 home defeat to Derby at the weekend was their sixth loss of the season on this ground (as many as we’ve lost at Loftus Road). It was, however, their first defeat in six at the Liberty Stadium. The Swans are a team you need to stick with to the bitter end – there have been seven injury time goals scored in their games this season, including winners at Leeds and Wigan, an equaliser against by Reading, and a bizarre situation at Sheff Wed where both teams scored in added time and it finished 2-2.
QPR: Having equalled their total of away wins for the whole of last season (five) with a 2-0 success at Birmingham in mid-December, QPR have now lost five away matches in a row for the first time since August 2018, scoring just two goals in the last four of those. It sets them on a run of four straight defeats at exactly the same time of year they lost five in a row last season (Birmingham H, Bristol City A, Watford H, West Brom H, Middlesbrough A, February 9 to 23). With 47 goals scored QPR are the third most prolific team in the division behind West Brom and Brentford, but they haven’t scored in more than two and a half games now since Jordan Hugill briefly equalised for them at Blackburn. Rangers haven’t beaten Swansea in Swansea in eight attempts both here and at the Vetch Field dating back to 1981, and have lost their last three visits to the Liberty Stadium conceding nine goals in the process.
Prediction: This year’s Prediction League is sponsored by The Art of Football. Get involved by lodging your prediction here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s QPR collection here. Our down in the dumps reigning champion WokingR says…
“I can't see us turning anything around just yet. Swansea's home form is good, our away form is abysmal and they will have a point to prove after the recent spanking we gave them. It also doesn't matter how creative we are or how many chances we make unless someone finds the confidence to start putting them away.”
Woking’s Prediction: Swansea 3-0 QPR. No scorer.
LFW’s Prediction: Swansea 2-1 QPR. Scorer – Jordan Hugill
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