|Cardiff City 0 v 1 Queens Park Rangers|
Wednesday, 3rd November 2021 Kick-off 19:45
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Tuesday, 2nd Nov 2021 13:42 by Clive Whittingham
QPR have further injury problems to hamper their play-off bid ahead of another long week on the road to first Cardiff City tomorrow night and then Blackpool on Saturday.
Cardiff (3-3-9 LLLLLD 21st) v QPR (6-4-5 WLWLDD 8th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Wednesday November 3, 2021 >>> Kick Off 19.45 >>> Weather – Bright and breezy >>> Cardiff City Stadium
So much of the optimism that surrounded Queens Park Rangers in the summer was fuelled by the excellent run of form through the second half of last season.
As has been parroted a thousand times already, Rangers won 15 of their final 23 league games, which was a record bettered only by promoted pair Norwich and Watford and would have been good enough for a play-off place had it lasted a fortnight longer, our run started a fortnight earlier, or the first 23 games not been quite so fruitless. With the switch to the back three and the four January loans all secured on permanent deals the hope, possibly expectation in some quarters, was that Mark Warburton’s team would just surf into this season on the same crest of the same wave and sweep all before them. Certainly in the friendlies against Man Utd and Leicester, and early away games at Hull and Middlesbrough, that looked like being the case.
It's easy to forget, given the gross overreaction to even minor set backs or moments of misfortune, that QPR are, indeed, trucking along quite nicely at the moment. Three teams blessed with parachute payments and strikers on upwards of £80k a week form the top three, but really from surprise early challengers Coventry down to an improving Swansea in thirteenth there is a whole bunch of clubs that are doing very nicely, all within a win or two of each other, all with strong early cases being put forward for end of term play-off contention. QPR are one of those, and after years of perpetually sitting in sixteenth, that continues the promising progress that has been taking place here over the past couple of seasons.
Nevertheless, whether we’re talking numbers and facts or less tangible things like how the team is playing and how confident it looks and feels, it is fair to say that the R’s are not quite hitting the heights they were from January to May. They’ve won three of their last 12 league and cup games. Potential reasons for this are being tossed around the internet and the pubs of Shepherd’s Bush and the failure of any of those four loan signings to reach the levels they were achieving when here temporarily is where people are landing more often than not.
Charlie Austin has had a tough time on and off the pitch this season, having been a real talisman for the team last, but he showed against Everton that if you provide the service it’s still there for him. Bar Barnsley at home, it’s not like we’re creating a sack of chances for him to miss at the moment. It feels a weird thing to write, and I’m probably wrong, but for a team that recently ended a run of scoring in 28 consecutive games, and has the best attack in the league bar Fulham, it does feel like we rather starve whoever’s playing up front sometimes.
Stef Johansen has also cut a frustrated figure at times but I don’t think it’s any coincidence that people were hailing his second half show against Forest as “much more like last year’s Johansen” when it was the game that Warburton bit the bullet, removed the second striker, and added Andre Dozzell to help the Norwegian out a bit. At Fulham recently Johansen, already on a booking, was asked to play in midfield alone for the second half against Seri and Harrison Reed. That’s rarely going to end well for the lone man. Where we find the coagulant to stem that midfield bleed (play one up front… abandon the back three… 4-2-3-1…) is another train of thought that’s been picking up passengers in recent weeks.
For me though, one key difference between the second half of 2020/21 and the first half of 2021/22 is player availability. The medical team at the club was rightly lorded last season for the remarkable achievement of keeping the squad almost completely fit and healthy through a season that was shortened by two months and played out during a global pandemic. Rangers lost only Luke Amos and Tom Carroll long term, and had one Covid-19 isolation incident with Lyndon Dykes through contact tracing. The club has found value in the transfer market by signing players like Jordy De Wijs and Sam Field with past injury problems and trusting our medical department to get them right. But it was never likely to continue at the rate it did last year. If there was a safe and legal way to keep all your players fit for every game then every club in the world would be doing it. Our medical team certainly haven’t become bad overnight, but they were never likely to have a hit rate as close to 100% as they got it last season.
There have been some cruel peculiarities of our fixture list this season which make their task more difficult, and these have often been exacerbated by Sky Sports who have moved more QPR fixtures than any other club. Having two of your longest distance away journeys (Hull and Boro) in the space of four days is a lot of time spent in buses, trains and hotels and not a lot of time spent in treatment rooms and training grounds. Then having your Saturday game back at home moved to the early kick off is unnecessary and unfair. Likewise QPR being one of only three Championship clubs involved in last week’s League Cup, but still having their next league game brought forward to a Friday. And now, here we are this week, again with two of the longest trips we’ll make this season, back-to-back Wednesday-Saturday.
With Sam Field injured before we began, Rangers are yet to have a full squad to choose from in any game this season. Lee Wallace has been out since game three and won’t return until after the international break. His replacement, Sam McCallum, has been playing with a hamstring injury, and finally blew that out in the Forest game on Friday. De Wijs, asked to play Tuesday-Friday, lasted half an hour and is now also out for a few weeks at least. Lyndon Dykes, who (hat tip to @HoopsDreams_QPR) has played 81 times since August last year (including 20 caps for Scotland, who regularly ask him to play all three games that we now apparently have to have each international break) left Friday’s game in a protective boot. Even that, and his suspension for their first game against Moldova next week, hasn’t stopped Scotland sticking him in their squad and forcing him to travel and play again. Johansen has visibly struggled with cramp and muscle issues late in games. Friday’s home game with Forest was set to a constant soundtrack of Mark Warburton shouting “out to the ball, get out to the ball” as his tired troops sank deeper and deeper into the inevitable late equaliser. They couldn’t do it, they were baggage. Running on fumes.
The spectre of the African Cup of Nations looms increasingly large on the horizon. Seny Dieng and Ilias Chair will be taken from us for up to seven weeks depending on how far Senegal and Morocco go, and quite how Sky’s latest scandalous decision to move our Boxing Day home match with Bournemouth effects that remains to be seen because the competition was previously insisting that their players be released on Boxing Day evening. But these tough times don’t last. QPR will get players back. Injuries will subside. Fitness and form will return. The trick is, unlike last season, to make sure you haven’t fallen so far out of touch when the going was bad that it’s impossible to make up the gap when it’s good – even with 15 wins in 23 games. Far from being some sort of disastrous problem, given the struggles we’ve had putting a fully fit team on the field, sitting eighth and well in touch with the play-off picture is actually quite an achievement. While we’re scraping a team together, simply staying in touch is the name of the game.
Links >>> Quite the collapse - Interview >>> Jones last minute winner – History >>> Chuckles Woolmer – Referee >>> Cardiff Official Website >>> Three Little Birds – Blog >>> CCMB – Message Board >>> Wales Online – Local Paper >>> Mauve and Yellow – Blog
Below the fold
Team News: Sam McCallum blew his hamstring out, Jordy De Wijs lasted barely half an hour, and Lyndon Dykes left in a protective boot – Friday night’s last minute draw at home to Nottingham Forest was a tough one for QPR in more ways than one. The former pair are definitely out, with Albert Adomah and Moses Odubajo likely to be the wing backs again, and Jimmy Dunne certain to start in the back three. Warburton was surprisingly upbeat about Dykes’ prospects, and he has been named in next week’s Scotland squad, Charlie Austin and/or Andre Gray stand by to take over. Charlie Kelman has returned early from an unproductive loan spell at Gillingham but cannot play for anybody except the Gills until that deal officially expires in January so it’ll be U23s and B Team for him until then. Sam Field will likely be back for Luton.
Former Millwall frontman Steve Morison is the caretaker manager at Cardiff for another game at least following the weekend’s remarkable 3-3 draw at Stoke. Alan Curbishley has ruled himself out of the running. Marlon Pack missed that game with a one match ban for accumulation of yellow cards and he returns here. Sam Bowen (pain), Tom Sang (suffering) and Joe Ralls (anguish) are all likely out until after the international break leaving the Bluebirds low on central midfield numbers. Former Luton striker James Collins had a couple of screws inserted into his wanking hand last week.
Elsewhere: The Championship has a second managerial casualty in as many weeks with Barnsley’s Markus Schopp following Cardiff’s Mick McCarthy through the exit door. With no wins in 13 games and seven straight defeats that’s not a great surprise and German Joseph Laumann is in caretaker charge for the Wednesday home game with Wayne Rooney’s Derby County - Alan Curbishley has ruled himself out. Penny for Schopp’s thoughts about Barnsley’s game at our place, right at the start of that run, where they absolutely destroyed us in the first half to such an extent that Mark Warburton had to make two substitutions after half an hour, only to then put the cue on the rack and try to shithouse and time waste out the final half an hour allowing Rangers a route back into the game and a 2-2 draw.
The final nail in the coffin there was hammered in by Bristol City, who beat the Tykes 2-1 at Ashton Gate on Saturday to register a first home win in 17 attempts dating back 11 months. Buoyed by that, they head to Birmingham to head up the Tuesday list this week. Elsewhere high-flying Coventry are hosting in-form Swanselona and The Fourteenth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour sees the legendary former QPR boss clock up a record breaking 1,602 professional games managed in the English league with a trip to Luton. All muck and nettles, his kind of club this. The Marxist Hunters’ draw at home to Reading, Florist at home to Sheffield Red Stripe, and Peterborough renewing an old lower league rivalry with Sporting Huddersfield round out the Tuesday list.
Aleksander Mitrovic’s 18th, 19th and 20th goals of the season (in 19 appearances) comfortably saw off West Brom at the weekend and Tarquin and Rupert now take their Championship cheat sheet up to Blackburn for a long midweek trek. Blackpool have quietly (one Sky game all season) snuck into the play-off places themselves having really got to grips with the higher division in a big way and have fellow high-flyers Stoke at home in the game of the night on Wednesday. Unbeaten Bournemouth host Preston Knob End in the second annual Ben Pearson Cunt-Off, and West Brom host takeover-bound Hull City in a fixture I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
One more round to go then we can all have another sit in the iron lung.
Referee: Grindr date at the Pope’s funeral. Details.
Cardiff: The Bluebirds’ season has collapsed like few others in modern Championship history. Having started with three wins, two draws and just one defeat in their first six games they have since embarked on a run of eight consecutive league defeats which was only halted on Saturday when they recovered a 3-0 deficit to draw 3-3 at Stoke. Those quickfire second half goals were the first they had scored in nine hours of play since a 5-1 loss at Blackburn Rovers. During this sequence of one point from nine games they have scored only those four goals, while conceding 22 goals. They have lost their last six league and cup games at home conceding 12 goals and haven’t scored in their last four. They have won only two of nine home games this season, one against League Two side Sutton in the League Cup and the other against Millwall. City have won only two of their last 13 home games in the league. Their first eight goals of their league season were all headers and the ninth was an own goal by Bristol City goalkeeper Daniel Bentley. It took until game six at Nottingham Forest (their last victory) for a Cardiff player to score with his feet. They are yet to score a goal in the first half of a game this season.
QPR: Rangers have gone from three defeats in 19 away matches, and unbeaten in seven on the road, to losing their last four away from Loftus Road in a row. Three of those games finished 2-1, at Bournemouth, West Brom and Peterborough with a 4-1 at Fulham. The draw with Nottingham Forest on Friday night was the fifth time in ten games Rangers have conceded in the last minute of a game at a cost of five points. Cardiff has been a happier hunting ground than most for Rangers down the years. The 1-0 win here last season thanks to Chris Willock’s goal was our third in seven visits to the new ground with a couple of draws thrown in there for good measure. Following a ten-year gap in meetings between 1989/00 and 1999/00 Rangers have won seven, drawn five and lost only four of the regular season meetings at Cardiff, though did of course succumb to a play-off final defeat at the Millennium Stadium in 2003.
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 Cardiff…
“We’re on telly again. If we can carry on as we did against Forest (apart from the late goal) we could be ok on Wednesday. I’d have fancied us a little more had they not scored three away from home last weekend, to only draw. Who knows what will happen in this bonkers league? Still, head says 1-1, but I’ll plump for an optimistic 1-2, with Dickie to thump one home. He’s due one.
Mick’s Prediction: Cardiff 1-2 QPR. Scorer – Rob Dickie
LFW’s Prediction: Cardiff 1-1 QPR. Scorer – Chris Willock
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Blogs 31 bloggers
When Saturday Comes #23 by wessex_exile
When Saturday Comes, and the U’s have a new management team in charge for a tough trip to Salford. Football is a results business, and sadly Hayden Mullins and his assistant Alex Dyer couldn’t deliver those results on the pitch. Yes they’ve had some tough breaks when luck and competent officials have just completely deserted them, but bottom line is we haven’t been good enough, and it was the right call by Robbie Cowling to no doubt reluctantly let them go after seven defeats in the last eight games, our solitary point a dour 0-0 at Bradford City.
When Saturday Comes #22 by wessex_exile
It’s the 15th of January, and still the U’s are attempting to play their first home match of 2022. Weather looks good (check), players have returned from injury (check), no on-day Covid testing to get in the way (check), so barring fire famine or flood, I reckon we must have at least a 50:50 chance of a game at the JobServe this afternoon. Whether it’ll be three much-needed points or not, and if you’ll pardon the pun, I at least did see green shoots at the New Lawn on Tuesday. We still lost, and the table doesn’t lie, but definitely signs to encourage me that whilst it’s not going to be a comfortable journey, we’ll be alright by May.
When Saturday Comes #21 by wessex_exile
Here we are then, what should have been the first home game of 2022, and I discover seconds before posting this that the game is called off because of a waterlogged pitch. Having gone to the trouble of writing this, even though we’re not playing I’m going to post it anyway – it’s not like you’ve got anything else to do this afternoon.
When Saturday Comes #20 by wessex_exile
Finally, When Saturday Comes…and the U’s (for now at least) have a match to play. Mind you, I’m writing this on Friday afternoon, so there’s still time yet for yet another Covid/ injury postponement, I guess. I certainly hope not, as I’m planning on heading over to Crawley for this one. Mind you, now that the EFL have decreed there will be no on the day testing to eliminate the possibility of last-minute cancellations, I think I’ll defer buying a train ticket until this evening. Needless to say, a repeat of our last visit to Broadfield (The People’s Pension Stadium under the terms of a sponsorship deal) would do very nicely indeed.
When Saturday Comes #19 by wessex_exile
When Saturday Comes…and the U’s find themselves fixtureless again, following Hartlepool’s request to postpone the game because of positive Covid tests amongst their squad. To heap further fixture congestion problems on the U’s, in short order Forest Green Rovers did likewise for our already rearranged match at the New Lawn on Tuesday night, and for the same reason. They’re not on their own either, with in all (so far) four Premier League and 19 EFL matches postponed today – all for positive Covid tests in their squads.
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