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Nottingham Forest 3 v 1 Queens Park Rangers
SkyBet Championship
Monday, 5th April 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Best and worst - Preview
Monday, 5th Apr 2021 07:45 by Clive Whittingham

QPR are straight back in the action at Nottingham Forest this afternoon, looking to prove they are capable of backing up from their scintillating best against Coventry by not falling back in a hole in the next game.

Forest (11-12-16 LLDLDW 16th) v QPR (14-11-13 WWLWDW 12th)

Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Monday April 5, 2021 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Cold, again. >>> City Ground, Nottingham

Friday's win against Coventry was that rare and beautiful thing – a QPR game you could enjoy.

People laugh at me when I say this, considering going to QPR is my favourite thing to do and something I dedicate enormous time and financial resources to, but it’s not often I actually enjoy the game. Obviously there are the games where Rangers are terrible and lose comfortably, which are like watching your dad get beaten up at the school gate by a bigger, stronger, more successful dad with a nicer car. Then there are the games they lose narrowly, which are every bit as horrible but with added tension. Quite often at this level the games are intensely boring. Occasionally there’ll be an entertaining draw, or a point on the road at a cliched “difficult place to go” which you’ll consider a good result, but like the narrow wins they come with a whole load of stomach-churning, pacing around worrying and panicking about how they might blow it in the final ten minutes. I can still see bloody Naby Sarr looming large at the back post for Charlton in the ninety-hundredth minute last season, putting rather a dampener on the LFW Christmas party. Wins this season against Cardiff, Rotherham, Blackburn, Wycombe and others have been ordeals to endure, rather than moments of great joy and happiness. When you’re this invested in it, when it’s this far out of perspective in your life, relaxation is not a thing QPR supply you with a lot of. It is what my grandfather used to refer to as “savage amusement”.

Not Friday. There was a brief worry that, like in the first meetings with Brentford and Bristol City this season, QPR were playing extremely well without making it count in goals, and would pay for that profligacy further down the track, but even that only lasted as long as it took the hapless Michael Rose to head a second into his own net on 22 minutes. A little flurry of butterflies after Rangers went a trifle slack in the second half and Coventry brought on a load of players they probably should have started the game with quickly dissipated when Ilias Chair made it 3-0. I spent the final half an hour of the game sitting down (rare), relaxed (rarer) and enjoying watching us play (unheard of).

It was a wonderful performance from the team as a whole, littered with individual brilliant from Johansen, Field, Chair, Dickie, Wallace and others. We were just an absolute class apart from an, admittedly dreadful, Coventry side in a way we haven’t really been since we stuck six through Cardiff City last January. A performance of complete and utter domination, proving once again what a good side we can be, especially when given a week or so’s rest leading into the game – Rangers now W4 D3 L0 when playing after a break of eight days or more this season. A record of 3-3-6 when backing up after a midweeker bodes less well for today’s second match of the Easter weekend, even before we consider the venue where Rangers have infamously won just one of 36 visits.

What it also did was widen the gap between QPR’s best and worse this season. You would never believe, watching that Rangers team pop the ball around like that, all slick one-touch stuff, played at a high tempo, with incisive attacking play, that it was the same team that had played so slowly, stodgily and uninspiringly infront of Derby and Huddersfield in meek 1-0 defeats in recent weeks. That team, that can play like that, is the same team that tortured you with that 2-0 defeat at Huddersfield away. There has been some excellent stuff from our side this year, but there’s been some real drek as well, and sometimes that’s even come within the same match – compare the first halves at home to Bristol City, Rotherham and Cardiff with the seconds.

A team that’s sitting twelfth with a record of 14-11-13 is always going to have had some good and bad days. A relatively small squad is, of course, going to have trouble replicating performances game after game in a Championship season of 46 matches crammed into an even shorter time frame than normal. When you’re relying on younger players in key positions, or players stepping up out of a lower division for the first time, that’s going to have its ups and downs. I’m loathe to use the word “inconsistency” because it’s almost the footballing cliché that trumps them all, trotted out by managers, players and pundits alike and applicable to every single team in this league this year bar Norwich, Sheff Wed and Wycombe. It’s also always spoken of as definitely a good thing – every single manager always wants his side to “just be that little bit more consistent” – when actually you can just as easily be consistently crap as you can consistently good. Both Sheffield clubs have, in fact, been very consistent indeed this year.

But as we look ahead to next season and wonder if QPR can build of the promise of 2021 so far and really push on towards the top six after a prolonged few years of bloodletting and rebuild, one of the key factors in that will be reducing the now yawning chasm between our best and worst, preferably in the positive direction.

Links >>> Forest post mortem – Interview >>> Ian Wright’s spoiled debut – History >>> Kill it before it lays eggs – Referee >>> Official Website >>> Nottingham Post – Local Press >>> LTLF – Message Board >>> Bandy and Shinty – Fanzine >>> Forza Garibaldi – Blog >>> Matchday with Max – YouTube Channel

Geoff Cameron Facts No 140 In The Series – Geoff plays piano, every Friday at the Hollywood.

Below the fold

Team News: QPR left out Seny Dieng and Lyndon Dykes on Friday after international duty, but both could return here with Dieng an almost racing certainty. Dom Ball’s mistaken identity yellow card against Coventry moves him to nine for the season by the amnesty on ten was at game 37 so he’s in the clear whether that gets rescinded or not. Little Tom Carroll, Luke Amos and Charlie Owens are the long termers, and the noise coming out of the club post final international break suggests we’re not going to see any of them again this season – there had been a suggestion LTC might make it back for the final matches.

Florist have managed to make it through the weekend without signing anybody, so it’s just the bare 487 player to choose from for this one. Joe Lolley is not among them, ruled out for the season, nor Harry Arter who was one of the new arrivals in the summer, offered to other clubs early in January, and now kicking around in that same space time continuum that absorbed Michael Hefele and others.

Elsewhere: David Raya’s demon exorcising puff piece in the Indie on Thursday, where he described his howler that let lovely Joe Bryan win the play-off final for Fulham at Wembley last season as "not a mistake at all" and "just something that might happen in football" turned out to be a beautiful play in three acts. “Even the gaffer, afterwards, said to me ‘next season I want you even higher’. That’s the assurance I needed at the time,” Raya said.

Taking that to heart, he promptly got his permission slip in bright and early for another big trip to all four corners of the pitch at Huddersfield on Saturday as Justice League leaders Spartak Hounslow dropped another couple of points for the third game in a row. That, in theory, leaves them nine points adrift of Watford in the real league table but fear not, the ever shy and reserved Thomas Frank was keen to proclaim this latest draw as a victory, just as he’d done the 1-1 with Forest prior to the international break, owing to some xG sorcery. “If you look at the last three games, I think we performed to get nine points, if you look objectively on the chances and the situations and the way the games went,” Frank said. So that’s alright then, game on as we go into Monday, Bees almost certainly the best team Birmingham will face all season, Watford, six wins in a row, no doubt cowering in fear on the bus up for their date on the Thirteenth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour in the early TV game. Even Frank would surely concede that Borussia Norwich, unbeaten in 11, are now out of sight ahead of their game with Sporting Huddersfield – then again, perhaps not.

The rest of the play-off picture has gone from a collection of teams that never looked like they’d lose again, to a whole clutch of very indifferent form. Swanselona have lost three on the spin to burn off their games in hand (Billy Davies shaking his fist at the sky) ahead of a home game with managerless Preston Knob End. Barnsley’s remarkable run of wins has given way into one point from two matches either side of the break ahead of a Bank Holiday clash at Lutown. Reading haven’t won in four matches prior to a visit from Wayne Rooney’s Derby County and are now just a point ahead of Bournemouth in sixth prior to their visit to hopelessly out of form Blackburn. Cardiff’s insane start to life under Mick McCarthy has also subsided to one win in five and two in seven after a surprise weekend loss at home to Forest, though they’ve got as good as a gimme away at Sheffield Blue Stripe on Monday.

Down at the bottom Birmingham are starting to look like Lee Bowyer might just give them enough new manager bounce to get clear. Coventry, on the other hand, looked absolutely shot against QPR and as per our oppo interview last week are starting to look like they’ll survive only through the ineptitude of others. Rotherham are four points back, with three games in hand, and Coventry still to play at home in that mad Saturday-Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday week they have coming up. One wonders whether QPR, as the Tuesday fixture in that run, might benefit from Rotherham throwing out some scratchy youth team to put all their eggs in the Coventry match. Meanwhile, Rotherham have a very winnable home game against Wycombe while Cov host Bristol City tomorrow.

A growing number of teams with not that much to play for, but only two of them meet in this round – Stoke v Miwllwawwlll should come with a discount.

Referee: Just you be ready with that holy water. Details.


Forest: Forest have drawn 12 of the 35 Championship games played under Chris Hughton – only Millwall (14) have drawn more in that time. Their surprise 1-0 win at Cardiff on Friday was their first victory in seven matches (D3 L3). At home they’re without a win in three, losing to Luton and Norwich without scoring in that time, and their narrow 1-0 at home to Blackburn last month is their only City Ground success in seven games here. Six of Hughton’s 14 home games so far have been drawn, four of those 0-0, with five defeats and just five wins. Loyal Taylor’s refusal to play for Charlton in lockdown, a big part of the reason the Addicks were relegated last season, and big chunky £30k a week contract at Nottingham Forest was all well worthwhile in the end. Taylor has scored four league goals this year, two of them in the same game against Wycombe, and none in his last 24 Championship appearances or last 12 in all comps. He is, nevertheless, still Forest’s top scorer in the league this year, level with ‘own goals’. Only four teams have scored fewer than Forest’s 31 goals this yeaer, including bottom two Sheff Wed and Wycombe. Their 38 goals conceded, however, is easily the best record in the bottom half of the table, and also better than three of the four sides currently in the play-off places. Chris Hughton has never lost to QPR as a manager across eight fixtures with Newcastle, Norwich and Brighton (W4 D4)

QPR: A win here for QPR would, of course, be just their second at The City Ground in 36 visits having finally banished that hoodoo with a 1-0 win here in 2018/19. It would also be an eleventh win since the turn of the year, matching QPR’s total for the whole of 2020 in just the first three and a bit months of 2021. Friday's clean sheet against Coventry was a twelfth of the season, double what we managed last term, and now just two shy of the 14 we managed in that McClaren season. We need two more away wins to match last season’s total of seven. Only Watford and Norwich (both 40) have taken more points than QPR’s 32 from 16 games since the start of January. The R’s have lost just one of their last ten away games, and were winning that one at Birmingham until very late in the day. Ilias Chair is now clear again as QPR’s top scorer with eight – he’s scored three in his last six after none in his previous 15. The difference in results when QPR have been rested this season compared to those when they haven’t gets starker by the week. It’s now W4 D3 L0 after a break of eight days or more following the victory against Coventry, while backing up at a weekend having played midweek Rangers are W3 D3 L6.

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. Let’s see what last season’s champion Mase offers us this week…

“Forest have just about picked up enough results to stay in the Championship after a dreadful start in the autumn. The fact remains that their mammoth squad is underperforming bigly and is treading water in a season in which Forest's fans, and boardroom, would no doubt have expected a lot more. Think this will be a midtable lull of a match, a nothing fixture, and yet I am desperate for another win on the Trent. I've gone for the draw here so as not to jinx it. Over to you Rangers, do your bit.”
Mase’s Prediction: Forest 1-1 QPR. Scorer – Charlie Austin

LFW’s Prediction: Forest 0-0 QPR. No scorer

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Burnleyhoop added 09:30 - Apr 5
It (and I) feels very much like it did after the win at Preston last season. It was the first time I had taken my Man City supporting teenage son to watch Rangers, having spent the entire year eulogising about Eze, BOS and Chair. They didn’t let us down and I left feeling elated, but knowing full well that this team would not exist in its present form at the start of the following season.

The feeling is now eerily similar. To have gotten to this point, with this group of players, playing like they did yesterday is nothing short of a minor miracle. Absolutely loving the Jo jo / Field and Willock/ Chair midfield set up. Dickie, Dieng and Barbet are also excelling, along with the vastly improving Wallace. We simply cannot let this opportunity to kick on go as we are so close to becoming a championship side capable of challenging at the top end of the table.

If finances dictate that we cannot keep Austin or similar, Dieng or Chair has to be sold and Fulham decide to keep Johansen, we will probably take two steps back instead of that one critical step forward.
It may yet again be a case of enjoy it while you can. Here’s hoping for a different outcome this time around.


royinaus added 09:51 - Apr 5
Thank you Clive - you really are a genius.
I consider myself reasonably articulate but have never quite managed to convey the m4 car crash that is watching our team - can’t not look but scared of what you’ll see.
Thus my long suffering Australian partner, having stayed with me until 3am is often left providing commentary as I hide in the darkened hallway, one to the good with 5 minutes of injury time announced.
I have just read her your first paragraph. Now it may not be that she completely gets it but I genuinely believe she took comfort from the fact that there are others of a similar disposition

MickB added 10:09 - Apr 5
No need to excuse the yearning for 'savage amusement' Clive. Think of it like the early Christians, using scourges and hair shirts.

TacticalR added 16:03 - Apr 5
Thanks for your preview.

So we just need to be more consistent...but not in a bad way. Our poor record after midweek games presumably points to the need for greater squad quality so that rotation can be more effective.

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