|Nottingham Forest 3 v 1 Queens Park Rangers|
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.”
LFW’s Prediction: Forest 0-0 QPR. No scorer
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Letters from Wiltshire #48 by wessex_exile
“And now the end is near, and so we face the final curtain…regrets, we’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention”. Not quite right Paul Anka, probably more than a few, but otherwise a fair assessment of where the U’s are today. It’ll be interesting to see how we perform with the relegation monkey finally off their back – I’m not expecting miracles, particularly with Tranmere needing at least a point to guarantee making the play-offs, but they’ll certainly be more nervous than we will be, so can we make that count? This will be my last blog of the season, and not yet sure what I may or may not do for next season, but suggestions are always welcome.
Letters from Wiltshire #47 by wessex_exile
Here we are, at the penultimate game of the season, and our last game in front of the cardboard U’s faithful at the JobServe. It has been a long, difficult, and definitely strange season, which frankly I’ll be glad to see the back of. That’ll we’ll be here again in August is definitely going to be something to celebrate, but I suspect we’re facing a summer of significant rebuilding both on the pitch, and possibly off it too. I won’t be the only one, but the biggest oddity for me has been being able to watch every single game – not always easy viewing, but something I’ve never done before, and probably never will again. But it doesn’t really make up for not being there in person, the long train journey away-days, meeting fellow U’s and other supporters, and of course sharing a beer or three. Fingers-crossed we can return to the terraces in 2021/22.
Letters from Wiltshire #46 by wessex_exile
That was quite a week for us all then. In the space of four short but remarkably tense days we have gone from having to take shoes and socks off to check how many more points we need to guarantee survival, or whether we would even achieve it, to breathing a huge sigh of relief knowing we’re almost there. But close of play this afternoon, whether by our own actions or the failure of others, I am sure survival will be confirmed. Of course, Tuesday night not only all but guaranteed it, it also virtually condemned local rivals Southend United to non-league football for the foreseeable. Looking at the host of fully professional former football league sides currently battling it out for the two promotion slots out of the National league (including Hartlepool, Torquay, Stockport, Wrexham, Chesterfield and Notts County), it is not going to be a walk in the park for Southend to return any day soon.
Letters from Wiltshire #45 by wessex_exile
Tonight, Colchester United face Southend United in what may not necessarily be the most important game of our respective histories (though it’s certainly very close), but is almost certainly the most important Essex derby ever. However this season pans out, by the end of it there’ll either be only one team in Essex, or worst case scenario, none at all. If the U’s win, then Southend will be 9pts behind with just three games to go, and a minimum of a -12 goal difference to overturn if they want to overtake us. Certainly mathematically possible, but that would rely on a remarkable turnaround in their form, form that they’ve shown precious little sign of achieving so far this season. The stalking horse is Grimsby, with their game in hand, who have rather belatedly shown an improvement in form, so their match against automatic promotion chasing Morecambe tonight is equally important, particularly if we want to avoid the unthinkable, with both Essex clubs dropping out of the league.
Letters from Wiltshire #44 by wessex_exile
So here we are, as the nation mourns the passing of His Royal Highness, Duke of Edinburgh, the U’s face the first of two season-defining moments, with our late kick-off match at home to Walsall. Before then, no doubt many will have been focused on events elsewhere, not least the early kick-offs for Grimsby (at home to promotion-chasing Bolton Wanderers), and particularly Essex rivals Southend United, who faced a tricky visit to Exeter City – still very much in the hunt for at least a play-off spot. As I finalise this blog, I know that Grimsby have beaten Bolton 2-1, and Southend earned a credible 0-0 draw in the West Country. More to the point, the U’s will know this too. Whilst I can’t help but feel that will ought to be to our advantage, it surely must also put additional pressure on a squad whose confidence is paper-thin. We must hope that Hayden Mullins, assisted by Paul Tisdale, get their heads right, and send the lads out this evening fired up with self-belief.
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