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Queens Park Rangers 1 v 0 Blackburn Rovers
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 6th February 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Moving day/month - Preview
Friday, 5th Feb 2021 19:31 by Clive Whittingham

QPR's away form is keeping them afloat, but they'll need to improve on a winless run of six games at Loftus Road, five of them scoreless, if they're to keep an awakened relegation whirlpool at bay.

QPR (7-9-10, DDWWLW, 17th) v Blackburn (11-6-9, LWLDWW, 8th)

Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday February 6, 2021 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – You’ve had your day of sun and that’s your lot >>> Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, Loftus Road, London, W12

There’s something odd occurring at the bottom of this year’s Mercantile Credit Trophy. Queens Park Rangers, with three wins in their last four games, all of them away, find themselves just four points outside the bottom three. That’s closer to the dreaded drop than they were after round 18 of this year’s nonsense, a 1-0 defeat at home to Reading which made it five without a win for Mark Warburton’s side, four of them defeats.

By common consensus QPR are significantly better now than they were a month ago, when they were rather shambolically blowing a scarcely deserved 1-0 lead at Wycombe, suffering a complete outclassing on their own patch by Swansea, and then cursing their own missed chances in a 1-1 draw at high flying Norwich. At that point Rangers had gone 10 without a win. They had just four victories to show for their efforts through the first half of the season and while they’d been the better of the two sides in beating fellow strugglers Forest and Derby both games could have gone another way on the day, and 3-2 home victories against Cardiff and Rotherham quickly descended into baffling ordeals that took years off the life of any Ranger watching after promising beginnings. They lost when they played well, usually because an additional player had been added to the opposition midfield at half time to overpower our own powderpuff middle. When they played poorly, at Huddersfield for instance, or at home to Preston, you were ashamed to know them never mind support them. Positives were clung to through draws with disinterested sides like Bournemouth and Watford.

Early January brought the return of Charlie Austin, and it would be easy to lazily lay a clutch of recent improvements at the altar of Chaz and commence worship.

Firstly he has taken a couple of chances, at Luton and Watford, of exactly the sort that were being missed before he arrived. Actually, more accurately, he’s been in the sort of position to score goals against Luton and Watford that the strikers simply weren’t taking up prior to his arrival – even at Vicarage Road on Monday an inch perfect assist from Todd Kane found Macauley Bonne on his heels and not anticipating. Oh for Austin in the team when we were dominating, missing, and losing, against Bristol City, Brentford, Watford, Fulham, Bournemouth and others earlier in the season.

Secondly, now he’s here the team is playing with a purpose and belief that was definitely waning. It’s really easy to say “if we keep playing like that we’ll win more than we lose” when we put in creditable performances against Brentford, Bristol City and Watford, but when results don’t come faith in that rhetoric slides. Against Reading, Stoke, Wycombe and Swansea at the end of December QPR had looked tired and miserable, posing zero threat to their opposition, expecting to lose. We looked bereft. Having Austin up there does seem to have at least given the boys hope that, occasionally, some of their approach work may be nudged/outofmywayyouslags over the line.

And thirdly, he’s gobby. He really seems to have taken the task as a senior player coming into a young, quiet team to heart. He’s everywhere. He’s on every podcast, every radio station, every TV channel that covers our league, he does every interview, he invades the interviews of other players, he has his own podcast, he pops up on Five Live. I’ve never seen or heard so much Charlie Austin in my life. Our official website is basically now like the Chesterfield official website that weird summer Martin Allen decided he was going to edit it as well as managing the team. On the pitch, too, you can see and hear him, all over the ball park, all night. Lot of pop coming off the bat. Which is exactly what we needed, as I may have mentioned a time or two.

But it is not entirely down to him. There has been a change of formation, to three at the back with wing backs, that has worked well in a number of ways. Yoann Barbet, in particular, is well suited to being left of a back three, and is quietly playing well at the moment without getting too many plaudits. Geoff Cameron, obviously struggling having gone on a season too long, now has younger bodies directly right and left of him to help. QPR have poor full backs, but with a senior right and left back contracted, and two youngsters behind them on long deals, the budget is never likely to stretch to a third right and left back. Moving them further forwards and switching to a back three has exposed them far less than they were in a four. Stefan Johansen has been added to a midfield that was a problem zone even before Big Bad Luke Amos and Little Tom Carroll signed off for the season, and he’s now been joined by Sam Field – “exactly the sort of signing we should be making™” – from West Brom, who I like a lot if you can keep him fit and mainline some self belief into him.

Our West Brom man, Dr Matt Graham, sadly missed from our oppo previews this year, tells us: “I'm a little bit gutted Sam Field has left, and I think a lot of Albion fans are too. A player with bags of potential and always seemed to be on the cusp of breaking into the first team. He looked good when he did play. A very tidy central midfielder. In the category for many managers that he was too good to go on loan, but then never got a run of games so sat on the bench if lucky. However, he's been super unlucky with a series of injuries, including the one he got on loan at Charlton last year. That said we've now had six managers who've not seen anything in him/trusted him to give him a run in the team. He badly needs this loan/move to work to get his career going.”

A West Brom Paul Smyth then. He had me at “unlucky with a series of injuries”.

A Championship club for whom Jordy De Wijs, Stefan Johansen and Charlie Austin represent the January business is not a Championship club who has planned adequately for the season. But, as Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink told us, it is what it is and we have applied short term sticking plasters to a broken spine in much the same way John Gregory did when last we were in the serious shit and he dug us out with the help of Lee Camp, Danny Cullip and Adam Bolder.

And yet still only four points north of the relegation zone, despite three consecutive away wins for the first time since Bolton, Leeds and Yeovil were all vanquished 1-0 in the weird early days of 2013/14 when Steve McClaren was de facto managing the team while ‘Arry pretended his knee was too sore.

That’s partly because the bottom of the Championship seems to have woken up. It was always likely that Derby and Forest might get their act together eventually, and Coventry and Rotherham are at least competitive, but between the six teams currently below seventeenth-placed QPR there have been 16 wins across the last five rounds of fixtures. Sheff Wed have responded to ditching Pulis with four wins; Forest, Derby and Rotherham have three wins each, Coventry two and Birmingham one. Had Rangers not beaten Cardiff and Watford, we’d currently be second bottom.

In glass-half-full news, if QPR had played and beaten Wycombe when they should have done we’d now be thirteenth, above Huddersfield, Luton, Millwall and Cardiff. By contrast, the six teams immediately above Rangers in the table have just four wins between them over that same five rounds of fixtures, including Cardiff, Huddersfield and Barnsley with none between them. Birmingham’s quest to 0-0 their way to a comatose midtable finish has already descended them from that middle group of mediocrity into some quite serious shit shovelling as the basement dwellers have stirred. Couldn’t happen to a more miserable manager.

For QPR to genuinely start moving off into what passes for ‘sunlit uplands’ in 2021 Britain, we need to add the occasional home win to our awayday domination (who ever would have thought?). It’s six without a win at Loftus Road, five defeats, and no goals in the last five games on our own patch. Rangers’ style of maintaining possession in front of teams and waiting for them to come out and offer space far more effective on the road than it is at home where teams are happy with their point, despite there being no crowds and it apparently making no difference where the game is played. Medieval football thinking strikes again.

They’ll do well to start turning that tide against an injury-hit but seriously talented Blackburn Rovers side, who would appear to have cracked their own long standing defensive issues with three clean sheets and ten points their last four league games. We can’t keep losing at home, in both senses.

Links >>> Paul Murray – Patreon >>> The dotted line – Interview >>> 82 ghost goal – History >>> Cup final success – Podcast >>> Oh it’s you – Referee >>> Blackburn Official website >>> Lancashire Telegraph – Local Paper >>> BRFCS message board and podcast >>> Rovers Chat – Blog

Geoff Cameron Facts No.129 In The Series - Geoff wouldn’t let you sleep in his room if you were growing on his ass.

Below the fold

Team News: Expect much the same as the Monday selection from QPR. Lyndon Dykes is awaiting the all clear from his period of self-isolation (stop it) to return up front, if not it’ll be Macauley Bonne’s travelling circus. Stefan Johansen managed just over an hour at Watford and will make his home debut. Jordy De Wijs remains a mystery we’ve only read about in books, though he has ascended to George Thomas levels of "out on the grass" we hear. Little Tom Carroll, Big Bad Luke Amos and Charlie Owens are left to mark time in the sandpit (play nicely boys) while Sam ‘Fieldy’ Field arrives from West Brom on loan with a view to a permanent deal and could home debut. With that nervousness and those puppy-eyes he’ll fit right in.

Rovers have been beset by injuries all season but hope to have Jacob Davenport and Tom Trybull back from their illicit affair for this one. Taylor Harwood-Bellis has suspended campaigning for the Tory safe-seat of South Holland and Deepings to join on loan and is available along with Amari’i Bell who can now play after an arrival of apostrophes at the shirt printers. Elliott Bennett and Corry Evans both returned to the bench in recent fixtures after many months out, though given the sort of mush your brain turns to after that much exposure to This Morning it could be a while before either can start a game. Bradley Dack got 72 minutes against Stoke, and then came on for the final half hours of 1-0 wins against Boro and Luton as he continues to work his way back from a knee explosion. Joe Rankin-Costello (excellent against QPR in the first game), Daniel Ayala (always injured) and Bradley Johnson (top cunt) are out long term.

Elsewhere: We’re back in business tonight with an all-European fixture between Swanselona, third on 51, and Borussia Norwich, top on 55. Further Sky Sports Leeds fun tomorrow lunchtime as Udinese, still sporting the division’s best home record despite Uncle Albert’s late intervention on Monday but with just three away wins all season, travel to Coventry who absolutely have enough about them to catch manager Troy Deeney out if his team show the same sort of rank bad attitude they have lately.

Speaking of teams with all the gear and no idea, Bournemouth have dispensed with manager Jason Tindall after their plan to make a clean break from Eddie Howe by appointing his assistant met a predictably dire end with a midweek defeat at home to struggling Sheff Wed. Jonathan Woodgate dusts off his nose, checks his luck, and takes charge for tomorrow’s 0-0 draw at home to Birmingham City.

Teams heading in the opposite direction meet at Oakwell as Grimley Colliery Band, winless in five Championship games either side of cup success, host Wayne Rooney’s Derby County, who had won three in a row without conceding prior to their midweek, rearranged, 3-0 capitulation at relegation rivals Rotherham. The Millers are within one-win striking distance of Derby, Florist and Birmingham as they head to Preston Knob End. Second bottom Sheffield Blue Strips, four wins from the last five but still without a manager, are away to Miwwwwwwwwwaaaaaaallllllwwwwwallllllwwwwwwllllll (fackin’ ‘ell Wawwwwwwwlllllll).

Big Mick McCarthy bid to draw Cardiff City to safety trundles into Bristol City. Two other teams looking over their shoulders after bad runs, Lutown and Sporting Huddersfield, meet at Kenilworth Road. High flying Reading are at Stoke. The Kew Bridge Sporting Orient will almost certainly be the best team on the Thirteenth Annual Neil Warnock Farwell Tour, and we wish Nottingham Florist all the best as they attempt to cart their cast of a thousand footballers down to Castel Di Sangro for a relegation six-pointer.

Referee: After the highs of Jarred Gillett’s latest calm, composed handling of our Monday night game at Watford, we’re back down in the barrel scrapings of the Championship this weekend as Tony Harrington’s small man syndrome show hits town. Just you make sure that free kick is in exactly the right place lads, don’t sweat the big stuff that matters. Details.


QPR: It’s a Jekyll and Hyde cliché for QPR at the moment who are unbeaten in six away from home for the first time since the Neil Warnock promotion campaign of 2010/11 (Sheff Utd 3-0, Derby 2-2, Ipswich 3-0, Leicester 2-0, Palace 2-1, Swansea 0-0, Bristol City 1-1, Portsmouth 1-1, Forest 0-0) and have won three on the spin away from home for the first time since the early days of the 2013/14 promotion season (Bolton A, Leeds A, Bolton A, all 1-0). At Loftus Road QPR haven’t won in six, losing five, and haven’t scored a goal in the last five. They have lost five times at Loftus Road in the first 12 games there this season and will have to lose six of the next 11 if they’re to match the Steve McClaren 2018/19 record of 11 home defeats in a league season which was the most the club had ever suffered in a league season. QPR have already kept more clean sheets this season (seven) than they did in the whole of 2019/20 (six) and the addition of Rob Dickie and Seny Dieng to the backline as seen 20 goals knocked off the against column – Rangers had shipped 48 in 26 games at this point of last season, and have let in just 28 in 26 this. The Watford victory in the week was the first time in 13 attempts that Rangers have come back from conceding the first goal to win – they’d lost nine and drawn three of the previous dozen, including the corresponding fixture at home to the Hornets.

Blackburn: Rovers’ 4-2 defeat on this ground last season, though played all the way back in November 2019, was something of an anomaly between these two teams as not only a watchable game of football ending in a QPR win. Rovers have won eight and drawn two of ten meetings at Ewood Park since Stuart Wardley and Kevin Gallen gave Gerry Francis’ team a 2-0 win there in the 1999/00 season. At Loftus Road QPR haven’t fared much better, also winless in ten dating all the way back to Les Ferdinand’s disputed winner against Kenny Dalglish’s side in 1993/94 prior to last season’s 4-2 comeback win. Rovers had won five and drawn five of their ten visits here between drinks. They arrive into this latest meeting in decent touch. Their season had looked to be on the slide amidst a catalogue of injuries with one win from seven games through December but they have tightened up in January, taking ten points from 12 and keeping three clean sheets through four unbeaten league fixtures. Adam Armstrong scored twice against the R’s in the first meeting back in November, and trails only Ivan Toney (20) in the divisional scoring charts with 17. Only Brentford (48) have scored more than Rovers 41 league goals this season, but they have often left it late. Blackburn have scored 25 second half goals, winning them 17 points. They’ve scored 14 goals in the final 15 minutes of matches, for a gain of 14 points.

Prediction: We’re indebted to The Art of Football for once again agreeing to sponsor our Prediction League and provide prizes. You can get involved by lodging your prediction here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s QPR collection here. Last season’s champion Mase offers us this…

“A visit from Rovers represents a tricky game at a ground we've found it hard to make feel our own of late. My prediction partly reflects that Blackburn don't tend to score or concede heavily, but they also seem to have made a couple of canny-looking transfers in the window to freshen up the squad in its tilt for the playoffs. My heart also sank to see Bradley Dack back in the action in January after a longish injury, he has always impressed when I've seen him before. At least his namesake Johnson is out. I hope we can put in a good display to complement those we have produced on our travels of late. It's just a pity we can't play all our fixtures away from W12.”

Mase’s Prediction: QPR 1-1 Blackburn. Scorer – Charlie Austin

LFW’s Prediction: QPR 1-2 Blackburn. Scorer – Charlie Austin

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Russian__Bot added 21:49 - Feb 5
Think you have been very harsh on the club about our transfers lately. On the pod you even said:

"a championship club that's signing Jordy de Wijs, Johansen who's started 5 games in 5 months & Austin that's not a club for whom the preseason plan has worked"

Carroll has been a very good free signing and Amos was 70 minutes in to an impressive performance against Bournemouth in which he was showing the ability that meant you were so excited about us signing him initially, and then he got injured.

To suggest we signed Johansen, who i think you're going to find out is a very good player, 5 games in 5 months or not, because we failed is unfair. It's because the players we did sign got injured.

We have changed formation to three at the back and it's worked fairly well despite our full backs. So an extra centre back is needed. Masterson (an excellent free signing who needs time to come good but demonstrates the club does have a plan it's putting in motion) showed in the 3-2 win against Cardiff with his crazy needless handball penalty and then with his waft at a front post clearance for Wilmot to put Watford in front early, that he needs games. A relegation battling Swindon seems a clever place to send him. So out he goes and in comes Jordy on a free to cover that slot

Dykes has been shite but has a long while left on his contract to come good. Bonne has scored key goals and is a solid back up who works hard. Getting cramp during a 90 minute winter game this week shows that. And them two cost 2/5ths a Gary Madine. So they didn't come off yet. But it is hard on that budget. So Austin's available, great we've worked some room in FFP. Have saleable assets like Dieng, Dickie, Chair and I would say Willock in the pipeline. The club have earned that luxury and wiggle room to save us when plan A isn't going perfectly. I’d say well done. Not dig them out

I also think you're really out of order and fermenting unnecessary negativity amongst the fan base. With your regular glass half full takes on this.

I say that because your position is influential, I this watch from home world now more than ever. There aren’t many media outlets that interested in Rangers and so you are a key part of that. And there is a section of the population who believe what they read rather than apply critical thinking to form their own opinions. Whether it be propaganda in the Mail or the Guardian. And the same applies here. It really irritates me when you slag off the club like this and about BOS. That mistake was made years ago and was sealed as soon as he banged in that sólo goal against Birmingham

It's a long and frustrating path but for me the club is finally on the right one. We need patience and a solid base. Not to shake the foundations whenever we go through a bad patch. And your role in destabilising those foundations may be a small one. But in my honest opinion, comments like that although in a small way are still bad for this club

TacticalR added 22:37 - Feb 5
Thanks for your preview.

Scoring. Austin has made it look easy, but being in the right place at the right time ain't easy. As you point out, these last few wins have been a lifesaver, as teams below us have been getting wins at the same time.

Unfortunately, Blackburn are on a roll, so tomorrow will be a tough game. Armstrong is a handful, and as Mase says, Dack has always caused us problems. At least at Watford we showed we can come back if the opposition scores first.

062259 added 04:53 - Feb 6
Russian_Bot I think you’ll find it’s foment and not ferment. Some of your points are well made, but Clive calls it as he sees it, and any negativity is almost always fact-based and most definitely not destabilising, except it would seem to your sense of indignation.

Northernr added 09:28 - Feb 6
Well there's a lot to chew on there. Appreciate you're not my biggest fan anyway so I'm probably not going to get very far here but for what it's worth...

1 - The idea I'm needlessly hostile and negative towards the club is nonsense. My dearly beloved Twitter stalkers tell me I'm too positive, always taking the club's side, and never say anything bad about them for fear of losing my programme column or non-existent seats in the VIP area. If you've got one set of critics saying you're too positive and another saying you're too negative you're probably in the right place generally.

2 - The idea I should be positive about the club when I don't believe it's true for fear of influencing people one way or another is also nonsense. That's called PR. If I sat down every week to write this thinking "well actually I think this signing is bad, or they've got this wrong, but I'd better spin it positively for fear of people agreeing with me" then I should really be putting a CV on Paul Morrissey's desk and writing for qpr.co.uk because that's his and their job.

3 - The pre-season plan hasn't worked. Do you think the plan was to have only won three home games by now? To be four points off the relegation zone? To be having to spend money on short term loans? Of course it wasn't. It's self evident the plan hasn't worked. The strikers haven't worked so far, might yet come good like you say, but not so far. The midfield has suffered a couple of bad injuries, like you say, but wasn't much cop before that. De Wijs played in one of only two Championship defences that conceded more than us last season (87-76), hasn't played in League One since November and isn't fit to play for us now. You won't hear me say Austin and Johansen are bad players, because they're good and have already made a difference, and as I've said for weeks we are weak in midfield and quiet as a team, so steps have been taken to address that, which is good, and I've said it's good. But I'd be amazed if this was the plan all along.

4 - To say I've been negative about all our signings is untrue. Go back and read what I wrote about them in the summer. Like Willock, love Dickie, could see the logic in Dykes and Bonne because it's ownership of a striker rather than a loan. I like Sam Field a lot and have said that several times this week. I've been positive all the way through on Dieng and Dickie, said on the pod in the week we've conceded 20 fewer goals after 26 games this season than last, and kept more clean sheets already than last season. Also pointed out on the pod, and in this preview, that if that Wycombe game hadn't been called off we could be off and away in twelfth now. I say it as I see it, good or bad. We are, however, 17th in the Championship, we haven't won at home in six games, we haven't scored at home in five games, and we're four points off the drop zone. I'm not rolling bunting out for that.

5 - I have repeatedly, for years now, written about the challenge our club faces with FFP, income over expenditure, rented training grounds, other clubs with parachute payments and so on. I have backed, consistently, the work that Les and Hoos have done to bring the wage bill down while keeping the club competitive in the Championship - again, so much so that the world of social media accuses me of being in the club's pocket. It's been a difficult task and one they've done, on the whole, very well. And I've said that over, and over, and over again, often taking some pretty fierce stick for it. I've held this view consistently for six years now, that the Redknapp/Hughes eras were ruinous, that we needed to choose a different path, that it would be long and hard to begin with, and very difficult in the medium and long term, but that it's the only way we survive and thrive with the way the rules are now. In this very comment section after last week's preview I was arguing that with Stanrod's Elbow who thinks the opposite. Bright and Manning were mistakes, a good chunk of blame for which goes to McClaren, and I said that. Have you ever read a negative piece about the general work Ferdinand and Hoos are doing on here? It doesn't exist. If you think I just sit here saying everything's sht you haven't been paying attention.

6 - Foment not fermant

Paddyhoops added 10:16 - Feb 6
Some great points made by everyone here.
Some charged opinions as well.
In a nut shell we've been relying on good loans to keep us competitive in this division.
I expect the same again this season.
For now that will do.

kropotkin41 added 10:47 - Feb 6
Another splendid preview, Mr Northern. Is it bad that I come to a QPR site for a chuckle these days?

I do quite like the idea of "fermenting unnecessary negativity" though, it sounds like something some members of my mother's family would have done at the bottom of the airing cupboard, or in a warm shed.

switchingcode added 12:07 - Feb 6
Excellent preview but rather enjoyed Russian Bot’s rebuttals

Myke added 12:38 - Feb 6
Excellent discussion here. This is actually what sets the site apart from the likes of twitter. We all have the clubs best interests at heart and for the most part, for the VERY most part, considering the sheer volume and diversity of opinions, debates are carried out respectfully, articulately and analytically. You have facilitated that Clive so kudos to you, but also credit to the likes of Russian Bot, Stainrods-elbow and others who are willing to offer alternative opinions and view-points, without which, the site would become staid very quickly
Just on your opening paragraph, notwithstanding the 'stirrings' of those below us, I don't think it's unreasonable to still be just afloat after 3 wins in 4, considering we didn't plummet to the basement after 0 wins in 8. When your form is poor but not atrocious (lots of draws in Dec) and then improves but is not brilliant (home form) you are neither going to sink like a stone or rise like a rocket, regardless of those immediately around you are performing.

Northernr added 12:42 - Feb 6
Yeh agree with all of that Myke. Be a very boring site if we all agreed.

I'm regretting my point 6, it's needlessly petty. Apologies for that.


BrusselsHoop added 21:13 - Feb 6
Hi Clive, thanks for the preview.
I love the previews, interviews and reports.
They really add to my love of this ridiculous football club.
I particularly like the fact that you consider other postings and take them seriously (in so much as any posting about qpr can be taken seriously)
Anyway I love reading the views on this site. I often send the match reports to supporters of rival teams and this only enhances our fan base. “ Someone who tells it like it is” is the most frequent comment.
Always end the postings to my brother with Uuuuuuu Rrrrssss so see no reason not to end this one in the same way.
Uuuuuuuu Rrrrrrsss!

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