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Two in the bush - Preview
Tuesday, 13th Apr 2021 09:27 by Clive Whittingham

QPR head to struggling Rotherham this evening as part of the Millers' ridiculous catch-up week of four home matches in a day and a half.

Rotherham (10-6-21 WLWLLD 22nd) v QPR (15-11-14 LWDWLW 11th)

Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Tuesday April 13, 2021 >>> Kick Off 19.00 >>> Weather – Bright but cold >>> New York Stadium, Rotherham, South Yorkshire

It was Billy Davies who taught us all about games in hand – specifically that they’re the greatest thing ever.

Games in hand are always won, never lost, so whatever so-called “league” “table” the rest of you dark age dwellers are using, with only the points that have actually been accrued so far, is incorrect. In fact, the psychological effect of rival lurking just behind you on said table – which, as we’ve established, isn’t worth the paper it’s written on – can be so overwhelming to teams that think they’re so big and hard by playing their matches when they’re supposed to, that games in hand actually become worth more than a win.

You can have your Adel Taarabt and Ale Faurlin and Neil Warnock. You can have your 19-game unbeaten start to the season, and Heidar Helguson and Paddy Kenny. Hell you can even go out and add Tommy Smith, Wayne Routledge and Kyle fucking Walker to all of that if you like. None of it, but none of it, will be a match for a Billy Davies side getting a point at Loftus Road with ten men while six points back with two games in hand. That’s fist pump time. That’s on the pitch at full time time. Thou shalt wither on the vine, bow down before the majesty, and cower in the face of a threat that burns so brightly you cannot stare directly at it. Davies’ Law: Game In Hand = Nine Points. Sometimes more than nine.

Rotherham, therefore, should be absolutely fine. Having failed to install undersoil heating at their new stadium, and then spent the winter taking it in turns to exit the SuperTram by licking the door-open button, they still have nine games left to play while the rest of the league has six. Coventry, Huddersfield and Wayne Rooney’s Derby County can all be caught by the Millers without being able to do a thing about it. Mwahahaha. The next four games are all at home as well, starting with our visit to South Yorkshire tonight. As far as Billy Davies is concerned, the play-offs are still a possibility – probably why the Rotherham official website decided to carry an announcement of the confirmed dates for the end of season knockouts earlier this week. Clever girl.

The reality, naturally, is somewhat different. QPR did win the league in 2010/11. Forest finished sixth, got booted out of the play-offs by Swansea, and Davies had one of his trademark, brain-exploding flounces off into unemployment. Rotherham not only have games in hand, but games in hand at home, and very winnable ones at that on paper, but they’re understandably struggling with a schedule that sees them play Saturday-Tuesday-Thursday-Sunday-Wednesday this week. While Covid-19 isn’t anywhere near as dangerous to young, fit, footballers as it is to older, fatter, mortals, there is a little bit more to it for most than simply testing positive and having to sit in the house for a week. This is a squad running on fumes – eight defeats from 11, five home defeats on the spin, no goals in the last three games, beaten 3-0 here by Wycombe last week. There’s some question as to whether Paul Warne might sack this particular game in hand off entirely, lump it all on Thursday night’s crunch homer against the Coventry side they’re most likely to overhaul if they are going to escape.

Quite what Queens Park Rangers will do having been parachuted into this chaos is anybody’s guess. This looks absolutely prime Charity Park Rangers territory, and frankly if it helps get us a trip to The New York Stadium next year rather than the absolute living fucking hell that is the Ricoh Arena maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Not going up, not going down, there’s certainly a temptation to start eyeing what 2021/22 might look like for the R’s. Warbs Warburton was quoted recently saying a promotion push would be possible if the current squad is kept together, which felt like a rare pointed remark from him towards his superiors, about the futures of Charlie Austin and Stefan Johansen in particular. He’s since rather forcefully made it clear that’s not what he was saying at all, and gone back to his standard position of understanding the financial situation the club is in. Headline not quite backed up by the copy and quotes classic.

Charlie Austin meanwhile, having given it the big ‘un about his connection with the club, the importance of having a purpose, and even that “the money doesn’t matter” on his recent Soccer AM appearance, seems to have realised he might have talked himself into actually bloody signing for a team assembled on one of the Championship’s bottom five budgets. At 31 this is likely to be the last big contract opportunity of Austin’s career and the idea that he’d use to go from whatever handsome sum West Brom have him on in the Premier League to whatever pitiful amount our budget stretches to out of some sort of sense of romance is fanciful. Lo, the rhetoric changed last week to him absolutely wanting to come back and sign here, but only if it’s for a promotion push, laying the table nicely for a win-win summer where he either stays and is hailed as an absolute raving hero, or he leaves for the sort of £30k p/w deal Sheffield United will probably be cobbing around and the board, CEO and DOF at QPR find themselves buried under a tidal wave of anger and bile about lacking ambition.

If you think Warburton is going to start looking towards next season, experimenting, throwing kids in, then you haven’t been paying attention. I come back, again, to West Brom on the final day of last season, when even many QPR fans didn’t want to win because of the Brentford situation, and he picked his strongest possible team and got a result regardless. That team included Ebere Eze, on whose sale the very future of the club rested – I bet Lee Hoos winced every time somebody went to tackle him. There’s also, as mentioned in the weekend match report, the issue of bonuses – a top ten finish means a good deal to these players financially if nothing else. Don’t expect a weakened team, or lack of desire. Whether QPR fall in a hole regardless, as they so often do on such occasions, remains to be seen.

Links >>> Two in the bush – Interview >>> Rowlands wins it at Millmoor – History >>> Whitestone remains in charge – Referee >>> Rotherham United official website >>> Sheffield Star – Local Press >>> Millers Banter – Forum

Geoff Cameron Facts No.141 In The Series – QPR have won 11 of 18 since their season turnaround began with a 2-0 victory at Luton on January 12, losing five of the other seven, for a win percentage of 61%. Geoff has only played in three of those defeats, giving him a record of W9 D2 L3, and a win percentage of 64%. Sometimes the Geoff Cameron Facts will be actual facts.

Below the fold

Team News: Geoff Cameron remains sidelined for QPR along with long terms Luke Amos, Little Tom Carroll and Charlie Owens but other than that it’s a fully fit squad with Jordy De Wijs coming through his latest comeback at the weekend unscathed. Charlie Austin serves game 2/3 of his suspension for an off the ball stamp at Nottingham Forest.

Matthew Olusunde is a doubt for Rotherham who, for the second time this season, and considering bringing Joe Mattock straight back from a multi-month lay off into a game with QPR. Didn’t go too well against Bright Osayi-Samuel earlier in the campaign, let’s see if Chrissy Willock can have as much fun here. The big debate, really, is whether Paul Warne may target the game against fellow strugglers Coventry on Thursday and sack this one off entirely – would be very QPR indeed for him to do that and win the thing anyway.

Elsewhere: Two other games tonight with plenty hinging on both. Bournemouth look to be coming good at exactly the right time, usurping Reading from the play-off picture at the weekend with a fourth league win in a row and sixth in eight. They can put daylight between themselves and the Royals with a win at Sporting Huddersfield tonight – the Terriers haven’t won in four, scoring two and conceding nine, since their 1-0 win at Loftus Road. Bastards.

Swanselona steadied their four-game losing wobble with a 3-0 away win at Millllllllllllllll at the weekend, and they can move back above Spartak Hounslow into third with a win at home to Sheffield Blue Stripe tonight. Wednesday, seven points adrift with six to play, are getting to the point of requiring snookers and surely need something from this match.

Referee: Dean Whitestone was down to referee the postponed fixture, and remains so. He hasn’t refereed the Millers since 2017/18 but has squeezed in QPR’s 1-1 draw at Reading in the meantime. Details.


Rotherham: Thanks to bad weather and Covid postponements, Rotherham infamously still have ten matches to squeeze into these remaining four weeks of the season and they go Saturday-Tuesday-Thursday-Sunday-Wednesday this week. They are six points back from Coventry, who they play at home on Thursday, with three games in hand, and they’re seven back from Derby having played four games fewer. They are eight points shy of Huddersfield with three games in hand but missed a big chance to reel them in on Saturday with a 0-0 draw that featured a number of missed sitters. This is also the first of four consecutive home matches against midtable sides QPR and Boro, and fellow strugglers Coventry and Birmingham, but whatever Billy Davies may tell you, games in hand are not guaranteed wins and playing four times at the New York Stadium isn’t necessarily a benefit for a team that has lost its last five home games. The Millers have won just two of the last 11 games, both of them away at Bristol City (2-0) and Sheff Wed (2-1), and come into this one without a win, or even a goal scored, in their last three matches. Wycombe (3-0), Watford (4-1), Reading, Forest (both 1-0) and Cardiff (2-1) have all won on this ground in that sequence and the Millers have failed to score in seven of those 11 games. 4-3-11 is by far the worst home record in the league, with only Birmingham losing more (12) and nobody winning as few. Paul Warne’s team have missed three penalties so far this season, the joint most in the league with Blackburn and Reading, and conceded five goals after the 90th minute at a cost of six points. They have, however, also scored three injury time goals of their own to win four points so don’t tune out early.

QPR: Rangers really clock the miles up this week, playing three of their six longest trips of the season in the space of seven days (Boro 506 miles round, Swansea 372, Rotherham 324). In theory it’s a chance to match or surpass the 58 points we managed last season (currently 56), and catch up on the 2019/20 total of seven away wins (currently five). They’re also now on 12 clean sheets following the Coventry win, which is two shy of the 14 managed in 2018/19 and three away from the 15 we secured in 2015/16 which is our best total since the last relegation. The 47 goals we’ve conceded compares favourably to the 66 we’d shipped after 40 games last season, and this will now certainly be the first time in four attempts that we’ve kept the goals conceded under 70 across a campaign, but it is still the worst defensive record in the top half of the division and 14 teams have conceded fewer goals than us including Derby and Forest from way down the table. It’s now six games since Rangers matched the same result in consecutive games -LWDWLW. Yoann Barbet remains the only outfield player in the Championship to have played every minute of league action for his club this season. The defeat at Nottingham Forest on Easter Monday was just a second away loss in 11 outings. The Sheff Wed’s win moved Rangers out of negative goal difference for the first time since October 21, six games into the season.

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…

“We have struggled this year with midweek games following a Saturday fixture but with Rotherham facing a fixture pile up we should be mindful of complaining too loudly. I'm hoping the new goalscoring Lyndon Dykes is here to stay and it would be great for him to notch a few more before the end of the season. Not sure what kind of team the hosts will field with other games in mind, and feel kind of gutted for them that they are going to struggle with this fixture list having looked spirited in survival earlier this season.”

Mase’s Prediction: Rotherham 1-2 QPR. Scorer – Lyndon Dykes

LFW’s Prediction: Rotherham 1-1 QPR. Scorer – Ilias Chair

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eastside_r added 13:28 - Apr 13
Think you have read the Austin situation correctly. Barring a radical rethink in strategy and / or FFP ceasing to be a thing, CA will not be with us next season.

Antti_Heinola added 14:51 - Apr 13
eastside, i think you're over estimating how much money teams will be willing to offer charlie and for how many years. But we'll see. 10 teams under an embargo now is it? Fulham wn't take him, Sheff Utd certainly won't, and West Brom certainly won't offer him what he's on. Clubs hold a lot of cards, for once.

Philothesuperhoop added 14:55 - Apr 13
I really fear for Johansen to be honest as I can't see Fulham staying up and they are never going to let him come to a rival in the Championship...especially as they'll need him themselves.

However a theory on Charlie could be that as he is out of contract we are able to pay him a signing on fee without breaking the salary structure. We paid north of a million for Dykes and Dickie. So let's say we pay Charlie £1.5 million for signing on but then he accepts £15k a week - I don't think that is impossible.

Field and De Wijs are just about done deals.

So I can see us getting those two and possibly Charlie and unfortunately missing out on the person who has made the most difference.

TacticalR added 18:41 - Apr 13
Thanks for your preview.

I guess whether you are going to get anything out of games in hand depends on form. If you've been losing games all season then it's hardly likely you're going to start winning games, although great escapes are always possible.

Phil_i_P_Daddy added 19:37 - Apr 13
As much as Austin is a legend, and has impacted so positively this year, he’ll be in line for better offers than ours. I also think our money could be better spent elsewhere to be honest.

Same for Johansen. I’d like to see us have a go for him, dependent on LTC’s prognosis, but won’t hold my breath.

Field and de Wijs seem fairly safe bets, but not sure we’ve seen enough of either yet to commit over other(?) potential targets.

We really need to see a return on (most of) Willock, Adomah, Thomas, Dykes, Bonne and Kelman before we start spaffing the cash.

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