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Queens Park Rangers 3 v 2 Preston North End
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 2nd October 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Take your time lads - Preview
Friday, 1st Oct 2021 19:01 by Clive Whittingham

If QPR are to follow Tuesday's nourishing home win against Birmingham with another at home to Preston tomorrow it'll buck not only a recent trend against his opponent, but also potentially one that is infesting and damaging football at this level.

QPR (4-3-3 DLLDLW 8th) v Preston (2-5-3 DDWDDD 17th)

Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday October 2, 2021 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Tipping it down again >>> Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, Loftus Road, London, W12

If you type “time wasting” into the search facility of this website, you’ll find seven of our ten league match reports so far this season among the results. At Middlesbrough and West Brom (where QPR were culpable) and against Bournemouth, Birmingham, Barnsley, Reading and Bristol City where we were the victims, the clock running has been so severe and noticeable as to warrant a mention in the match report. If you watch as much Championship as I do then first of all God help you – I have to do so to write this website, what’s your excuse? – but second I think you’ll recognise that as a fair ratio. In 70% of the games played at this level so-called game management, more accurately referred to as cheating, is a key component of the match. In Stoke's recent home draw with Barnsley, it resulted in a bench-clearing brawl on the touchline.

It is endemic at this level. Many teams, particularly away from home, resort to it as their plan A, half an hour or more before full time, while protecting even slender one goal leads or sometimes to just try and hold on to a point. It is not only accepted and ignored by the match officials, but they’re often complicit in it as we saw at Bournemouth last month where constant pedantry over the placement of everything and insistence that each decision must be followed by a great, long, drawn out extravagant performance of Keith Stroud’s Hand Puppet Theatre did most of the Cherries’ dirty work for them. For it all, there have been just three bookings in QPR games this season for clock running (Johansen at Boro, Hugill at West Brom, Cabral at Reading) and one for kicking the ball away and delaying a restart (Ben Pearson at Bournemouth). In my opinion it should be three or four times that amount, and both Pearson and Barnsley’s goalkeeper Brad Collins should have been looking at red cards – that Gavin Ward didn’t card anybody for what went on in that latter match is a particular farce. Only at Reading, where Geoff Eltringham booked the home goalkeeper with the best part of a quarter of an hour left, was effective action taken early enough to make a difference.

Quite why referees are so willing to undermine their own authority, and frankly make themselves look rather stupid, by doing nothing about this is a mystery. What did Ward achieve by constantly advancing into the Barnsley half to yell at Collins, point at his watch, wave his hands around in the air, not issue a yellow card, and then add the standard amount of time to the end of the game? Literally worse than nothing. It spoiled the game and destroyed his authority within it. At Bournemouth, Jaidon Anthony at one point prevented a throw in being taken by picking the ball up and heaving it into the stand, not three feet away from the assistant referee – no action taken. In that game when Ben Pearson was booked for booting the ball away at a QPR free kick he then subsequently screamed in the referee’s face, and when the ball was returned for a second time he picked it up and ran off with it – a really easy and blatant second yellow not given. On Tuesday, at home to Birmingham, we saw the rules suspended altogether, because there’s some unwritten understanding somewhere that if you’ve got a defender with a long throw then the game should be allowed to pause for a minute every time the ball goes out of play for him to trundle forward and go through a whole load of preparation rigmarole. I’m not going to name names or games but a Championship referee told a friend of mine the goalkeeper’s time wasting in a QPR match a couple of seasons back had “even started to annoy me by the end” but as Rangers didn’t complain to him about it he took no action – which is unfathomable to me.

I’m being a typically contrary football fan/column writer here of course, because usually it’s me on here saying ‘less government is best government’. I don’t go to the football to watch the referee, I get incredibly annoyed when they start intervening unnecessarily, sweating the small stuff, and getting overly involved. I think it’s incredibly rare that you see a game of football that warrants more than five yellow cards and I’m liking the new hands-off approach the officials (most of them anyway) are trying this season. I’ve also said that QPR need to get better at the dark arts, but that’s simply because I’m sick of seeing our nice, quiet team get screamed out of a match (Norwich away last season), or ground out of a game by this nonsense. I’ll have a laugh at Joe Lumley going to look for a ball at the back of the stand at Swansea last season, but that’s more because I’m sick of that shit being done to us than because I particularly enjoy watching it. The most disappointing thing about the West Brom defeat wasn’t the result, it was that we fell back on all this cuntery far too early in the game and it’s not us, and not what I want us to be.

I’ll naturally take a horrible, nasty, ground out 1-0 win tomorrow over a glorious, all-guns-blazing 4-3 defeat because I want QPR to win. And there are legitimate forms of 'game management' that are just part and parcel of sport - I'm still haunted by Allessandro Pellicori trying to launch another foolhardy attack and giving the ball away in the last minute at West Brom costing us an injury time equaliser in Marc Bircham and Steve Gallen's only game in charge. But for the good of the sport time wasting needs clamping down on. Hard, fast and soon. Would this player be behaving this way if the score was the opposite way around? If the answer is no, then take action. There are rule changes that might help. Rugby League has fiddled with its laws so much the sport is now borderline unwatchable, but taking the clock off the referee entirely would benefit football immensely, and the automatic mandatory sin binning of players who touch the ball at all and delay an opposition restart in any way would make an immediate difference in our sport. If it's not your free kick, fuck off. If we end up with a month or two of games with multiple bookings and red cards because of it then, for once, I’m fine with it – but you see that sin binning in Rugby league maybe twice a season, which tells you they quickly get the message and pack it in. Getting rid of the ridiculous notion that goalkeepers should be able to choose the side for their goal kick, ironically brought in originally to reduce timewasting, should be done right away. But, fundamentally, just enforce the time wasting rule you’ve already got. Referees’ refusal to do so is one of the most puzzling things about this. Imagine if there was this same collective tolerance of handball, or elbowing players in the head? You can’t just pick one of the rules you don’t like much and ignore it.

We’re constantly told we have to swallow all manner of crap about the modern game such as high ticket prices and kick off changes for television because we’re in the “entertainment business” darling. And yet we’re quite happy to embrace keeping the ball dead as a legitimate tactic, everybody smiling and nodding and winking along at the “shithousery” and “game management”. While it’s a thing, I’d like QPR to be better at it, but I’d much rather it not be a thing at all. There are few more depressing songs doing the rounds at the moment than “take your time, take your time INSERT CLUB NAME, playing football the shithouse way”. Football fans celebrating the game they paid north of £30 to attend being deliberately whittled away and destroyed, like fucking lemmings revelling in their own grizzly demise. Yaaaaaaaaaay I’ve paid £34 to get in and it’s absolute fucking crap.

The more I think about Tuesday night against Birmingham, the more I wonder how much of a sliding doors moment in our season it might yet turn out to be. It was the first time for months the team didn’t look confident to me, the first time all year that brash “2-1 down, who gives a fuck? We’re QPR and we’re going up” belief was absent from the crowd. Chong should have scored with his diving header and when Rangers gave the ball away in midfield for the umpteenth time in the first quarter hour a striker who spends less time at Greggs than Troy Deeney would surely have got to the low cross. Had they done so, with Roberts already torturing attendees with his throw-in palaver ten minutes into the match with the score at 0-0, I dread to think what sort of absolute tumour that game would have descended into.

Preston under Alex Neil, or perhaps more pertinently Preston with Ben Pearson in midfield, were the Championship’s grand masters at these dark arts. QPR are not only poor at it, but rely on speed and tempo of play to be at their best. The more teams disrupt it, the more teams slow it down, the more QPR start going steadily backwards and sideways, the more chance they have of beating us, and Preston have done all of that to us more than most. QPR have won only three of their last 13 games against them. North End have won four and drawn one of their last six games on this ground. It had been 13 trips to Deepdale without a win prior to the 3-1 just before lockdown hit. We didn't score a goal in 180 minutes of football against them in 20/21. You’d be hard pushed to name a game among any of those sequences that wasn’t a tedious, unwatchable dirge.

You’re more likely to see Yoann Barbet score a free kick than you are catch a Preston game on Sky, so they’re one of the few teams I haven’t had a look at this season. Pearson is being a wank stain elsewhere these days, Frankie McAvoy has replaced Neil, and in Ben Whiteman they have a lovely midfield player QPR were very keen to buy themselves, now paired with potentially one of the bargains of the summer Ali McCann from St Johnstone. Alan Browne and Daniel Johnson are excellent at this level, and perrennial scourges of our team along with Sean Maguire. But, pointedly, they’ve responded to a nightmare three-loss start to the campaign with an unbeaten run of nine that includes five draws in the last six games. QPR may have gained more points from losing positions than any other team in the league but, much like Tuesday night, while the Championship continues to not only accept and tolerate but also embrace and celebrate “shithousing”, this is not a game you want to be falling behind in.

Links >>> Alarming start, promising recovery – Interview >>> Blackstock goal – History >>> Chairs out for Ilias – Podcast >>> Official Website >>> Lancashire Telegraph – Local Press >>> From The Finney – Blog >>> Deepdale Digest – Blog >>> PNE Online – Forum

Below the fold

Team News: Stefan Johansen’s absence during the week was the first league game he’s missed for Rangers since joining the club on loan in January – 30 consecutive starts. Andre Dozzell will continue to deputise if he’s not fit for this weekend. Jordy De Wijs was on the bench during the week, despite the injury he picked up at West Brom, and will be assessed on Friday for his return potential, although Jimmy Dunne has hardly put a foot wrong when he’s been called upon this season. Lee Wallace and Sam McCallum are both missing until after the international break, so the latest solution to the LWB issue must be found – Yoann Barbet and Chris Willock have played there in the last two matches, and Moses Odubajo has the capability to switch over from the right with Osman Kakay or Albert Adomah potentially filling in there. Sam Field is back on the grass but still a little way off.

Pin your attacking hopes on Izzy Brown and Connor Wickham for a 46 game season and you’d better make sure your plan B is a good one. Wickham has made 17 starts in six years over spells with Palace, Sheff Wed and now Preston that include two seasons where he didn’t play a game at all (20/21 and 17/18). Brown has made 28 starts for five different clubs in four seasons, and only ever started 66 games in a career that started with a debut in 2012/13. Sure enough, both are missing long term – Wickham requiring surgery after leaving his first start for the club against Cheltenham in the cup just five minutes in, Brown blowing his knee out almost as soon as he’d walked through the door in pre-season. Matthew Olosunde, who you may recall for being repeatedly struck in the testicles during QPR’s 3-1 loss at Rotherham last season, has been allowed to sit this one out on compassionate grounds – the trauma still all too fresh and real. Ched Evans is not on the bus.

Elsewhere: Ten games into this nonsense and Lutown already have a 5-0 home defeat and 5-0 home win on their slate, after the midweek thrashing of Coventry who had been third in the table at the start of play. League like an M C Escher drawing. Cov will do well to bounce back from that and maintain a 100% home record against Tarquin and Rupert in tomorrow’s lunchtime game, while Nathan Jones’ side (who surrendered a 3-0 lead to draw with Swansea just the week prior) are probably one to avoid on the coupon for a while as they try to find any sort of consistency at home to Sporting Huddersfield.

A rather surer bet is a draw in the Millllllllllllllllll game, which this weekend is away at Grimley Miner’s Welfare. Wawll have already been involved in a division-leading five 1-1s and a 0-0 this season – such persistent equal sharing of the spoils risks drawing the attention of their own clampdown on creeping Marxism in Championship football. Barnsley’s difficult second album continued with a comeback defeat at home to fellow strugglers Nottingham Florist during the week, and the cast of a thousand footballers take their new manager bounce to Birmingham City this weekend. Fellow East Midlands bin fire Wayne Rooney’s Derby County are already back in the black after a midweek home victory against Reading, and they can build on that with a poor Swanselona side at Pride Park this weekend.

Quite what’s going on at Cardiff at the moment is anybody’s guess. An unbeaten start to the season of five games has melted away not only into six defeats from the last seven, but nine goals conceded in the last 180 minutes against Blackburn and West Brom. Reading head to South Wales this weekend with pressure building on Mick McCarthy.

Bournemouth at home to Sheffield Red Stripe is probably the game of the day tomorrow. Peterborough v Bristol City less so. Allam Tigers’ date on the Fourteenth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour doesn’t scream classic either while Blackpool v Blackburn is this weekend’s exciting game between two teams beginning with B. The whole thing kicks off tonight with the televised clash between early pacesetters Stoke and West Brom.

Referee: Jeremy Simpson sent two QPR players off in a 1-0 defeat at Preston in 2017/18. Details.

Form

QPR: Rangers have never lost four games in a row under Mark Warburton. The last time time they did so was four in the league (Birmingham H 3-4, Bristol City A 1-2, West Brom H 2-3, Boro A 0-2) sandwiching a cup loss to Watford under Steve McClaren. They avoided that with a 2-0 midweek win against Birmingham, their first win and clean sheet in six games since another 2-0 win at Loftus Road against Coventry. Ilias Chair’s brace in that game extends QPR’s scoring sequence to 24 consecutive games now, honing in on the club record of 34 from 1964, and by far the strongest record in the country at the moment – Liverpool are next with 16 consecutive games. West Brom’s big win at Cardiff during the week moves them ahead of QPR in the scoring charts – their 22 and Fulham’s 20 are the only better records than our 19. The clean sheet, a third of the season in the league and fourth overall, keeps the goals conceded at 14 – five clubs now have a worse defensive record than us.

PNE: Preston took four points from QPR last season without conceding a goal – winning 2-0 here with a pair of penalties and drawing 0-0 on Anthony Gordons’ twentieth birthday. QPR had done the double the previous year, 2-0 at Loftus Road and 3-1 at Deepdale, but 2020/21 was much more a return to form against a side QPR have struggled with down the years. North End have won four and drawn one of their last six visits to Loftus Road and done the double over Rangers in three of the last five seasons. Rangers have won only two of the last 13 meetings. If you were a betting man you might be tempted to keep that going with a draw at least. Only Millwall (six) have drawn more than Preston’s five so far this season, with those five ties coming in their last five Championship matches. Throw in home wins against Peterborough and Swansea and cup success against Morecambe and Cheltenham and PNE are actually unbeaten in nine having began the campaign with three quickfire league defeats at home to Hull and away to Reading and Huddersfield. They are yet to win away in the league – only Millwall, Barnsley and Peterborough are still waiting with them – but have drawn at Bristol City, Sheff Utd and Birmingham, two of them 0-0. Emil Riis top scores with seven, though four of those have come against lower league opponents in the League Cup. Former QPR transfer target Ben Whiteman has scored three in the league from midfield.

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. Here’s last year’s champion Mick_S and his thoughts on PNE…

“For the first time this season I’m going to take the draw prior to kick off. Not because they are that good (though definitely improving) but because I think we are going to get shithoused out of our rhythm. That combined with our missing players could morph into a frustrating afternoon. I’ll punt on 1-1 with Chair to score. They like a draw, do Preston.”

Mick’s Prediction: QPR 1-1 Preston. Scorer – Ilias Chair

LFW’s Prediction: QPR 2-1 Preston. Scorer – Chris Willock

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davman added 19:31 - Oct 1
An in play clock.

Simples.

... but you all knew I'd say that!
1

Wegerles_Stairs added 08:55 - Oct 2
Albert was having a laugh about doing some time-wasting on Tuesday night when he was taking a throw.
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GroveR added 11:38 - Oct 2
That reminds me, it's birthday boy Anthony Gordon's birthday on 24 February. Maybe for his birthday we can move the Blackpool game back a day for his birthday so we can all celebrate his birthday together on his birthday. It's not every year you have a birthday.
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TacticalR added 12:06 - Oct 2
Thanks for your preview.

Yes, games can be rendered unwatchable by the true masters of the dark arts. If the refs did start carding time wasting they would all have to do it together for it to work.

The Championship throws up a different type of challenge every week. Let's see if we've learnt how to deal with this one.
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HastingsRanger added 14:07 - Oct 2
Totally agree regarding the 'game management' dirge. Strangely, it is quite easy to manage from a refereeing viewpoint, unlike a split second trip / elbow / push etc....

It could so improve the game for all if it was clamped down consistently. The change to the pass back rule made a huge difference to the 'active' playing minutes of the game back in the day and a change here could be equally significant.

Keep rallying on this ... maybe someone will pick up on this.

Also, cannot figure out why Preston are so hated by Sky. They maybe be a lesser supported team compared to 'every other game' Leeds but there are plently of those in this league (even us, for that matter).

Hope it is better than a draw today.
1

stainrods_elbow added 14:28 - Oct 2
I strongly suspect referees are being instructed by the EFL/FA not to clamp down on time-wasting - as it's clearly a systemic problem, my conclusion is only logical. Equally clearly, it's got a lot worse this season. Basically, pros playing the game don't want to play the game a lot of the time. An even more fiendish turn of the screw is everyone from Clive Whittingham to Andy Sinton acknowledging the malaise while also insisting QPR's manipulation of the dark arts must also get darker - a clearer case of having one's footballing cake and eating it one could not wish to find! I don't know what the answer is, as even ballboys (cf. that Swansea kid lying on the ball vs Chelsea, and getting kicked by Eden Hazard for his trouble) and fans play their part by not returning the ball from the stand. The world and his dog jumping on Chair for having the temerity to try to use his skill in the middle of the pitch to keep the ball vs West Brom also tells its own dreary story to an extent. It's one of a number of things that turns me off late modern football - watch The Big Match from the 1970s and you never see this kind of horseshit. Sadly, we live in an age of cynicism with wide-spread buy-in.
1

JohnMcCo added 12:13 - Oct 4
I had to reread this piece in the post joy of v Preston and some really interesting comments. If you are going to be consistent then of course you have to say fans contribute to it by not returning the ball, though that is a bit of a hoot. Stainrod's elbow is bang right too re the internet having a go at Chair. His being caught in possession started the West Brom move but it was still a beautiful goal from them and they had so much more work to do. Some goals are just more about the opposition than us, the habit of finding someone to blame for every goal is another modern football phenomenon.

Back to the case in point, most of us remember the outrage at "cheating foreigners" writhing on the floor at the merest of touches from a British player in the 80s and thereabouts. You don't hear so much of it now as most of the pundits have the requisite self awareness to realise it would be sonewhat hypocritical to call it out when they are fairly well practiced in simulation themselves. (Not Alan Shearer, self awareness does require a basic wit level). Well, I always hated any form of cheating or bad sport, even when we brought the ball to the corner flag during injury time. Partly cos we were so rubbish at that and partly cos I just thought we are QPR, we are better than that. However, I found myself positively buzzing when Charlie performed his corner routine on Saturday. The first part of it worked as we got a throw and then we managed to balls it up as usual but it got me thinking. Has the Overton line shifted that much in my Corinthian Casual mind that I am now cheering corner flag nonsense or was it the thrill of the 3-2, plus the opposition that made me feel that way??

Anyhoo, for the proper shithousery I am with Clive. Just start booking them all. I can see it now, apopletic fans and punters crying for consistency when half their team gets booked for cheating but a stand has to be made, it is ruining the game.
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