|Queens Park Rangers 2 v 1 Brentford|
Wednesday, 17th February 2021 Kick-off 19:00
QPR’s cunning plan interrupted by actual fixture – Preview
Tuesday, 16th Feb 2021 17:34 by Clive Whittingham
QPR’s excellent idea to rest up and let the remainder of the division eat itself falls foul of actually having to play a fixture on Wednesday night, against probably the best team we’ll face this season.
QPR (8-9-10, DWWLWW, 17th) v Brentford (16-9-4, DWWWWL, 2nd)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Wednesday February 17, 2021 >>> Kick Off 19.00 >>> Weather – Wet >>> Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, Loftus Road, London, W12
Few tactics have ever worked quite as well for Queens Park Rangers as not playing. Can’t lose if you’re not playing. Can’t fail to track runners at corners if no corners are being taken. Can’t make daft substitutions if there’s nobody out there to substitute. The bit when we’re not playing, that’s the really good bit. No defeats, no crap full backs, no Twitter meltdowns, no bed wetting. Fuck me our message board at the moment is a couple of blokes talking about what a travesty it was you got 17p instead of 17.5p for three shillings and six old pence when they switched to the decimal system. We can beat just about anybody at not playing, and we’re a lot calmer and happier for it.
This applies to the players as well. If you’re a QPR player, the best thing for you is not to be in the side. Just sit over there, under the blue pergola (recent weather-enforced extension of its white twin by the away dugout the first marquee signing we’ve made for ages) and just wait for the lad who plays your position to be a bit shit for a while. Paul Bruce and Christer Warren were so pitifully awful at left back for so long in the early days of Ian Holloway’s first spell in charge that youth teamer Danny Murphy ascended up through “got to be worth a go” and “can’t be any worse” to “might captain the Republic of Ireland to the 2004 European Championship final” without even kicking a ball in our colours. While I always maintain we gave up on him rather too soon, when he did finally usurp the hapless senior duo ahead of them it turned out he was not an enormous improvement. Similar situations have developed more recently with Ryan Manning and Paul Smyth. The less Manning played, the more important he became to the team, and it’s a shame Smyth looks like he’s on his bike this summer because another 18 months of being ignored by QPR managers might have him in line for Player of the Year honours.
QPR have not been playing recently. Saturday’s game at Rotherham falling foul of The North was the third game we’ve had postponed already in 2021, joining another at home to Wycombe still to be played. Two games in hand, against teams below us in the table, and if Billy Davies’ Nottingham Forest side taught us anything it’s that games in hand are not only guaranteed victories, but guaranteed victories for which you’ll be awarded five points rather than three. Our annual cursory pop of the head round the door of the FA Cup lasted only half an hour longer than usual, so none of that fourth round bullshit to be bothered with – totally beneath us. And this means that in the 50 days it’s been since we played impressively and drew deservedly at league leaders Norwich we have only played five league games and one in the cup. There have been signings made in positions of weakness, Charlie Austin and Stefan Johansen impact hovering somewhere around ‘immediate’ on the cliché scale, but perhaps every bit as important has been the gaps in fixtures. Well-rested Queens Park Rangers, getting some of Warbs Warburton’s much vaunted “time on the training ground” into them, have played well against more haggard rivals, winning four of their last five games, which was as many as they’d managed in the rest of the season put together. Unbeaten in six away from home, the best run since 2010 under Neil Warnock.
Those six league and cup games in 50 days compared to Brentford’s 11 is straw one of one to hold onto as we head into tomorrow night’s bi-annual ball-ache against a promotion chasing Bees’ side unbeaten in 21 in the league prior to the surprise weekend loss against Barnsley. Thomas Frank, always surprisingly confident for somebody who looks like they left Audrey Roberts on a boil wash too long, has promised they’ll “come out flying” in response. Probably the best team we’ll… yadda yadda, I’m boring myself now. Let’s just say that, in the unlikely event of a QPR win, Thursday’s match report may well just be a big picture of my arse, facing west. Prepare yourselves.
While we’ve been pottering around the house watching old episodes of the West Wing (this was not the time for PornHub to suddenly purge half its content) some strange goings on have been going on in the Mercantile Credit Trophy. Several teams who looked dead in the water have become self-aware, decided they do quite fancy that Lincoln awayday next season afterall, and started to win. Rotherham, four wins in 20, now suddenly four wins in seven. Sheff Wed, three wins in 19, six points deducted, two managers fired, suddenly six wins and a draw in nine. Derby, four wins in the entire first half of the season, now four wins in five matches. Cardiff, six defeats in a row when we got Neil Harris the sack last month, now up to seventh with three straight wins.
This has provoked the annual foreboding February message board thread about how close the relegation zone is getting because QPR, despite four wins in five, are only five points safe as it stands, exactly where they were eight matches into a ten game winless sequence leading into Christmas. There are tales of exactly how many points will be required for safety this year – 55? 56? 57 even? This despite Wycombe (31), Birmingham (44), Sheff Wed (46), Rotherham (49), Coventry (49), Derby (50), Huddersfield (52) and Forest (52) all tracking below this currently. Peterborough’s 54-point relegation in 2012/13 remains the outlier since football was invented by Sky in 1992/93, and even that year you’d have survived with 54 points and a -8 goal difference. Fifty points has been enough on 22 of the previous 28 occasions, 52 good enough in five of the other six. QPR are currently on course for 56 by the way.
It also rather ignores the fact that for every Rotherham, Derby, or Sheff Wed suddenly getting their act together a bit, there’s a Birmingham, Huddersfield or Bristol City coming in the other direction. It was my personal, self-inflicted misfortune to spend our spare Saturday watching Forest v Bournemouth, Birmingham v Luton and Derby v Boro across the afternoon. Don’t look at me like that, you can’t fairly sit here and call this abomination of a football division a festering beer shit of a competition offering no worth or entertainment value to the watching public without sitting down to watch and see if it is indeed a festering beer shit of a competition offering no worth or entertainment value to the watching public. Besides, ‘Arry was pocketing his appearance fee on Soccer Saturday and pouring £20 into iFollow to avoid that felt like a small price to pay. You'll catch me watching Steph's Packed Lunch before I sit through anything that driblesome old ballbag has to say.
Derby scored two nice goals in a strong start, one a well-worked training ground corner, the other a proper barnburner, then got drawn into a second half armwrestle. Nottingham Forest seem content to draw their way to safety this year, so happy with a nil nil against a painfully disinterested Bournemouth they didn’t make a single sub, Loyal Taylor and Lewis Grabban pissing about in the main stand for their collective £75k this week. Birmingham Luton was a war crime.
As well as all the usual observations of Championship football at this time of year – how tired the teams look, how badly the pitches have cut up, how simple basics around ball control and pass completion are so poorly executed – it occurred to me how unambitious all six teams looked. All of them looked like they’d have taken a point, Forest and Bournemouth almost as blatantly as the West Germany v Austria ‘disgrace of Gijon’ from the 1982 World Cup. Only Derby came with any attacking intent, and that only lasted for the first half an hour. Not without reason it feels like a lot of Championship clubs have approached this bizarre behind-closed-doors campaign with an attitude of getting in, getting safe, getting out and forgetting it ever happened. Several of those who perhaps thought that job was done are now on serious slides. Birmingham, one win in 13, head that queue, now second bottom. Huddersfield, no wins and six defeats in eight, are now below QPR, five points away from the drop zone, having played two games more. (Yes, I know Billy, we'll be champions by May etc.) Coventry, two wins in 11. Millwall two wins in 19 prior to a much needed six points last week – and just two home wins all season. Bristol City, five straight defeats culminating in a six nil at Watford. Stoke haven’t won for 11 matches. Some cues have gone on the rack, Mykonos is calling, but some may have reached for the Insta filters and vaccine passports a trifle early. Put that drone away Said, we're not there yet me old mucker.
Good news, potentially, for QPR, and those among you looking up the table rather than down. My other takeaway was I thought 2021 QPR were better than all six sides I watched last weekend, and would have won all three games playing as they are at the moment. But then I would think that wouldn’t I, because we haven’t been playing, and nothing breeds confidence like a good period of not being reminded of our shortcomings.
Nothing like a home game with Brentford to machine gun that particularly delicate bubble. Hold hands and we’ll get through it together.
Links >>> Bircham’s other Brentford goal – History >>> Bees look to finish the job – Interview >>> Ward in charge – Referee >>> Official Website >>> Beesotted – Blog and Podcast >>> Griffin Park Grapevine – Forum >>> West London Sport, Brentford – News
Geoff Cameron Facts No.130 In The Series – Geoff never has a second cup of coffee at home.
Below the fold
Team News: Lyndon Dykes suffered a nasty knock to the head against Blackburn and would have been a serious doubt for the weekend trip to Rotherham had that gone ahead, but is apparently fit to start here against the only club he’s scored in open play against this season. Sam Field has also trained and is in the squad for what would be his QPR debut following a deadline day move from West Brom. But the mythical Jordy De Wijs is still part of the “out on the grass” club, with vague mutterings about potential involvement against Bournemouth at the weekend. Big Bad Luke Amos, Little Tom Carroll and Charlie Owens make up a fearsome threesome on the long term injury list. Sadly, they’re now joined by Conor Masterson, who the club tried for 18 months to get out on loan only for him to obliterate his hamstring a month into the spell at League One Swindon and that’s pretty much him done for 2020/21 now.
Shandon Baptiste, out since September 22, remains on the long term absentee list for the visitors. Brentford actually made a loan signing at the end of the January transfer window, bringing in 32-year-old Winston Reid from West Ham. This sort of dead money forked over to borrow somebody you’ve heard of before is really more the sort of silly idea backward thinking eejits like QPR go for, but with Pontus Jansson belching interminable amounts of gobshite from the touchlines for a prolonged period and Charlie Goode struggling for form and fitness since they pipped Rangers to his signing just for the sheer devilment of it in the summer, they’ve decided to come and splash around in the shallow end for a bit.
Elsewhere: With Bournemouth, Birmingham and Bristol City coming up shortly, there’s a strong possibility Rangers could be facing three new managers in a fortnight. Bournemouth are still half arsedly going through the motions under caretaker Jonathan Woodgate ahead of their home game with Rotherham on Wednesday but are hoping to persuade David Wagner to take the plunge. Birmingham’s abysmal 1-0 defeat at home to Lutown at the weekend leaves them second bottom with one win in 13, Aitor Karanka’s attempt to nil nil his way through the season getting everything it deserves and more, and they’re away to draw specialists Miwlllwalllll (whathefack Wawll) tomorrow. Bristol City, meanwhile, are on one of their streaks again, with Nahki Wells public enemy number one and a 6-0 defeat at Watford at the weekend doing little to strengthen Dean Holden’s position ahead of a tough home game with high flying Reading tonight.
Cardiff, who’ve already made the change, have suddenly climbed to seventh with three straight wins under Mick McCarthy, having suffered six consecutive league defeats just prior bringing an end to Neil Harris’ reign. They’re at Luton tonight. Sheffield Blue Stripe also pulled the trigger, for the second time this season, jettisoning Tony Pulis and are now three wins from four under caretaker Neil Thompson ahead of a trip to injury ravaged Stoke, no wins in 11, tonight.
The Potters are one of a number of midtable sides, including Bristol City, who have put the cue on the rack rather early. Another, Sporting Huddersfield, managed to go 2-0 up at home to basement dwellers Wycombe at the weekend and then lose 3-2 to make it eight without a win prior to tonight’s date on the Thirteenth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour. Wycombe, meanwhile, host Wayne’s 24 Hour Beer and Brass – Wayne like fire, fire keep Wayne hot.
Watford follow up their shellacking of Bristol with a long trip to Preston Knob End to round off the Tuesday fixtures while on Wednesday league leaders Borussia Norwich are at Cov, Barnsley and Blackburn is this week’s exciting fixture between two teams beginning with B, and we wish Nottingham Florist’s cast of a thousand footballers (0/5 subs made at the weekend, great career move lads) all the luck in the world on their long midweek voyage down to Swanselona.
Referee: QPR had dire early history with Gavin Ward when he and Stuart Attwell suffered through being fast tracked too far, too fast to try and get some younger referees in the top two divisions. It’s been better with him of late through, including the December draw at Wycombe where the home team definitely felt Rangers had the rub of the green. They could do with some of that in this fixture, with Matt Donohue’s failure to sent off Mads Sorensen in the first meeting this year (something for which QPR received another one of the infamous letters of apology from the PGMOL to throw on the pile) just the latest in a string of questionable decisions against us in recent meetings, including a penalty from Andy Woolmer in this game last season, and another from Keith Stroud at Griffin Park the season before. They do like to role out our old friends for games with Brentford don’t they? Ward case file.
QPR: Rangers’ 1-0 home win against Blackburn was the second time they’ve beaten Rovers at Loftus Road in as many meetings, but only the second time they’ve beaten the Lancashire side in 20 fixtures dating back to 1999. It was also only a fourth home win of the season – only Millwall along with bottom two Birmingham and Wycombe have managed fewer with two each. Rangers hadn’t won in their six games at Loftus Road prior to that, or scored in the previous five, some 611 minutes until Yoann Barbet’s match winner. On a brighter note it was Rangers’ fourth win in five matches, as many as they’d managed in the previous 25 league and cup games. Rangers have conceded 32 goals in their 27 games so far, after 27 games last year they had shipped 51. Only Luton and Hull conceded more than our 76 last season, the third consecutive season we’d conceded more than 70 in the 46 league games, but 11 teams have conceded more goals so far this year, including fifth-placed Reading with 35 and seventh-placed Cardiff with 33. Rangers have lost games against Luton A, Wycombe H and Rotherham A to Covid and bad weather since the turn of the year meaning in the 50 days (tomorrow) since the 1-1 draw at Norwich we’ve played six times while Brentford have played 11. Over the next 50 days, we play 12 times, starting with this one, and then five in two weeks straight after that – 17 games in 64 days, a game every three and a bit days for two months.
Brentford: The Bees’ surprise 2-0 home defeat by Barnsley on Sunday brought to an end an unbeaten league run that stretched 21 games, two short of a full half season, and included the controversial 2-1 win against QPR at LegoLand Kew in the corresponding fixture. Barnsley followed just Birmingham and Tottenham in being able to keep a clean sheet against the Bees this season. They’d won the four games immediately prior to that scoring 17 goals in the process, including seven at home to whipping boys Wycombe, and another seven spready across away games at fellow promotion hopefuls Reading and Middlesbrough. They have, however, conceded the first goal in each of their last four games, including goals in the third minute against Bristol City and Boro, before coming back to win against them and at Reading. No team in the league has lost fewer games than Brentford (four), scored more goals (55), posted a better goal difference (+25), won as many away games (eight), lost as few away games (two) or scored as many away goals (26). The two away losses came early, 1-0 on day one at Birmingham and 3-2 at Stoke in October. They’re unbeaten in ten away league games since then, winning seven, though there was a League Cup semi-final defeat at Spurs in there for what it’s worth. Ivan Toney’s 23 goals makes him the division’s top scorer, five ahead of Adam Armstrong at Blackburn. Brentford’s 1-0 win against Rangers at Griffin Park in October 2015 was their first competitive victory against the R’s since a 6-1 in August 1965 – though, to be fair, only a flurry of six matches during Rangers’ brief Second Division stay from 2001 to 2004 happened in the interim period. Since then the Bees have won nine and drawn two of 12 league and cup meetings between the sides, including a run of six straight wins at Griffin Park and the Lego dome where they’ve scored 14 times and conceded just four. The two defeats came at Loftus Road, 3-2 in November 2018 and 3-0 in March 2016, but Brentford have won three and drawn one of their last six games here, and were leading the drawn game 2-0 deep into stoppage time before a bizarre implosion. Bloody idiots.
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…
“Another bloodied nose in a local derby. Brentford have too much about them at the moment, and it's a bit early for them to have started their seasonal choke as the finish line hoves into view. We will likely be a bit more geed up for this than we have been in our recent derbies, with Austin and the other mouthy new arrivals at the centre of that, but I don't think it'll be enough.”
Mase’s Prediction: QPR 1-2 Brentford. Scorer – Charlie Austin
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 1-3 Brentford. Scorer – Charlie Austin
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Letters from Wiltshire #34 by wessex_exile
I won’t dwell on Robbie’s latest message to the supporters – we’ve all read it, and we’ve all probably drawn our own conclusions about what it doesn’t say as much as what it does. To me, bottom line, I suspect the clock is now ticking for Steve Ball (at least), turn around this terrible form pretty damn quick, or start clearing out your locker. Regardless of personal opinions on any of the individuals concerned, I would like to think none of us actually wants to see people made redundant in the current climate. But, these are difficult times that require tough decisions. If Steve Ball is up to the job and can turn this around, I’ll be more than happy to support him. If he’s not, he has to go before irreparable harm is done…and we all know what that will look like, we’ve been there before…
Letters from Wiltshire #33 by wessex_exile
Today we face a trip to Crawley, not usually a venue that bears fruit for the U’s it has to be said. In nine visits we’ve only won once in the league, and once in the League Cup. Of course, we’ll all remember that League Cup victory, indeed many of us were probably there to see us progress through to 5th round and the dream fixture against Manchester United at Old Trafford. All of our goal-scorers that night, Luke’s Norris and Gambin, and Cohen Bramall (okay, technically an O.G.), are no longer with us, so let’s hope at the very least that recent departee and subsequent returnee Frank Nouble can bag another like his late equaliser against Mansfield. Steve Ball commented during the week about how tight the league is at the moment, and he’s right that a couple of back to back victories would see us move significantly up the table away from danger – but we’ve got to win them first Steve – something we’ve failed to do since our 1-0 victory at Scunthorpe on December 8th.
Letters from Wiltshire #32 by wessex_exile
Fifty years ago yesterday, Colchester United of the 4th Division pulled off the greatest cup giant-killing ever, beating 1st Division Leeds United 3-2 at Layer Road. Watched by 16,000, and the Match of the Day cameras, Dick Graham’s U’s, a rag-tag band of mostly aging journeymen, defied the odds to defeat arguably the greatest club side in Europe at the time. “The greatest cup giant-killing ever” is a bold claim, and over the years various football magazines and websites have run their own polls of which was the greatest. Whilst that day at Layer Rd always features, as the years have gone by other feats fresher in the memory have been put forward as a candidate – we probably all remember Ronnie Radford’s screamer against Newcastle, Sutton’s exploits, or even Bradford City quite recently at Stamford Bridge – but these pale into insignificance when you pause to reflect on the Don Revie side that we beat that day. Sprake, Cooper, Charlton, Hunter, Lorimer, Giles etc – all full internationals, all household names – the only one missing was Billy Bremner, and that was because he was injured. By comparison, all we had to offer was Ray Crawford – at his peak arguably on a par with some in the Leeds side, but that peak had been ten years earlier playing for Ipswich and England. Eleven heroes didn’t just try and hold out against Leeds United, they took the game to their illustrious opponents with such tenacity, grit and no small amount of flair, and before we knew it, the U’s were 3-0 in the lead. As legs tired, Leeds got back into the game with goals from Hunter and Giles, but we held firm – typified at the death by Graham Smith pulling off an impossible save to ensure the U’s achieved the greatest cup giant-killing ever!
Letters from Wiltshire #31 by wessex_exile
And so the dust settles on another transfer window closing, and despite (my) expectations that the possibility of incoming business was going to be remote, we have instead seen a veritable flurry of activity, with no less than three coming in. Big Frank Nouble, making a very welcome return on loan from Plymouth Argyle, of course needs no introduction. Neither really does feisty Brendan Sarpong-Wiredu, here on loan last season, and this time signed full-time from Charlton Athletic for an undisclosed fee. Actually paying hard cash for someone did come as a surprise, presumably offset by the sale of Cohen Bramall to Lincoln for a similarly undisclosed fee. However, the fact that the Addicks have insisted on not only a sell-on clause, but a rarely used buy-back clause too, suggests (a) Wiredu’s signing fee probably wasn’t too high, and (b) Charlton are protecting those finances with these clauses. The last one, which would have been a complete surprise for me were it not for a contact leaking me the news earlier yesterday, is left-back Josh Doherty on loan from Crawley. Josh was only announced once outgoing left-back Bramall was confirmed, and presumably his loan is directly related to part-time fashion model, TV and radio celeb and former left-back Mark Wright signing for Crawley on a non-contract game-by-game basis in December. We have also released seven from the academy, Ollie Kensdale, Miquel Scarlett, Sammie McLeod, Michael Fernandes, Ollie Sims, Danny Collinge and Matt Weaire, and I’m sure we all wish them the best for the future.
Letters from Wiltshire #30 by wessex_exile
Friday night football – can’t beat it. Gives you that feelgood factor all weekend, sitting back to enjoy a stress-free Saturday afternoon watching others fail in your wake. Of course, you have to win first, which we’ve been struggling to do for a while now, so be prepared for the possibility of a miserable weekend just in case. We share this evening with Reading v AFC Bournemouth, albeit they kick-off an hour later than we do. In the real world, leaders of the UK’s five largest business groups have written to Boris demanding action on the substantial difficulties they are facing over Brexit bureaucracy, whilst French border authorities are reporting that two-thirds of lorries arriving from the UK are empty (i.e. no exports leaving the UK). Still, at least the NHS can enjoy their extra £350m per week…
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