|Blackpool 1 v 1 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 6th November 2021 Kick-off 17:30
Back to the seaside - Preview
Friday, 5th Nov 2021 11:26 by Clive Whittingham
QPR teams tend to win at Blackpool, and those that do often go onto big things at the end of the season, but the class of 2021 will have it all on adding their name to that historic list at Bloomfield Road tomorrow with the newly promoted Tangerines in good form.
Blackpool (7-3-6 WLWWWL 10th) v QPR (7-4-5 LWLDDW 5th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday November 6, 2021 >>> Kick off 17.30 >>> Weather – Quite wet, very windy, it’s QPR in Blackpool >>> Bloomfield Road, Blackpool
It’s 2003, the sun is shining, and Blackpool are very much regretting opening up their £35 hospitality package to away fans as well as home.
Earlier in the weekend we’d checked into The Norbreck at the north end of the promenade only to find an Alcoholics Anonymous conference in situ for three days. There’s no queue for the bar, but they’ve had to detail an armed response unit to keep order around the coffee and cigarettes. Our mate Del falls asleep in a lift wearing only his boxer shorts after taking Copper Faced Jack’s as an instruction rather than the name of the hotel's pub. The delegates look on wistfully as he’s lead back to his room through reception, congratulating everybody and wishing them luck as he goes. My aunt’s room bill ends up with 27 QPR fans’ breakfasts on it.
And now we’re here at Pool’s half finished Bloomfield Road development, taking more than fair advantage of the hospitality offer. There’s more Rangers than Blackpool in the lounge, and the grown ups are sending the kids up to injured home defender Chris Clarke to try and trick him into signing photographs of his own goal which helped Ian Holloway’s team win the corresponding fixture 2-1 at Loftus Road. Eastenders star Shane Ritchie is here, for reasons that are never adequately explained, and he joins the rest of us outside to see Richard Langley whip a first half free kick into the top bins for the first part of a brilliant hat trick. The locals do not take kindly to the raucous celebrations on the balcony.
QPR do well in Blackpool. They do well when they come here to shop – Trevor Sinclair, Kaspars Gorkss, Bright Osayi-Samuel – and when they come here to play. Don Howe’s brilliant young team, which would grow into the storied Gerry Francis outfit of the early 1990s, eventually wrestled FA Cup progress from a three-game epic that included two replays at Loftus Road after a 2-2 on this ground. Ian Holloway’s Langley-inspired Rangers won 3-1 the day we gatecrashed the home end – Langley scored six times in four appearances against the Seasiders – and a year later did so again in markedly different conditions on their way to automatic promotion. Chris Day’s performance in goal, including a remarkable double save in the second half, truly one for the ages.
Heidar Helguson scored twice in a 3-0 midweek win here in 2009 as we huddled together against an Irish Sea gale on the uncovered temporary side stand, Harry Redknapp’s side scored twice in the second half through Matt Phillips and Charlie Austin to win 2-0 on their way to the play-off final in 2014, and in between even that rotten Paul Hart/Mick Harford farce got a 2-2 thanks to a splendid long range strike from Matt Connolly. Sure there was a last minute Damion Stewart atrocity in a 1-0 loss here in December 2007 on another weather day we were lucky to live through, and Steve McClaren’s cup nadir more recently, but much like Cardiff, where QPR won again during the week, this tends to be the cliched ‘happy hunting ground’, and Rangers teams that accomplish a positive result here often go on to bigger and better things are the end of the year.
To do so again tomorrow will be very difficult. Although the salary caps have now been ditched in Leagues One and Two, their brief presence opened up a chasm between the Championship and the leagues below and saw clubs like Rotherham and Barnsley constantly yo-yoing between them in the same way Norwich and Fulham do the league above. At one point teams like Sheff Utd, Southampton and Wolves were regularly blasting their way straight through from League One to the Premier League in consecutive seasons but more recently, as we’ve seen with Barnsley, Luton and now Coventry, the lone aim of the League One promoted sides is to beg, steal and borrow a second season in the Championship and it’s only at that point that you can start to harbour ambitions loftier than getting to 52 points and getting the hell out of Dodge. Hull look all set to continue the Rotherham and Wigan pattern of not even being able to manage that.
Blackpool are bucking this trend. In finally purging themselves of the malignant Oyston ownership, showing the power and importance of the supporters through a prolonged and painful boycott of games that eventually starved the ownership out, they have set in motion of chain of events that has seen this former Premier League team come roaring back from the depths of League Two. They’re doing it, like Barnsley before them, not by ‘playing like the Yankees in here’, but by trying a different model that sets them apart and, they hope, bridges the gap to teams with bigger and better resources. Manager Neil Critchley was hired as manager from Liverpool’s academy and his contacts fit perfectly with the club’s ethos of signing players permanently and on loan from the top division’s vast, engorged youth systems. Our own former charge Josh Bowler is excelling here, scoring the only goal of the game in a shock home win here against Fulham. It doesn’t take a detailed look at their summer arrivals to tell the direction of travel here. And Richard Keogh.
Ins: >>> Jordan Lawrence-Gabriel, 22, RB, Forest, £700k >>> Sonny Carey, 20, RM, Kings Lynn, Undisclosed >>> Oliver Casey, 20, CB, Leeds, Undisclosed >>> Josh Bowler, 23, RW, Everton, Free >>> Reece James, 27, LB, Doncaster, Free >>> Daniel Grimshaw, 23, GK, Man City, Free >>> Shayne Lavery, 22, CF, Linfield, Free >>> Callum Connolly, 23, DM, Everton, Free >>> Richard Keogh, 34, CB, Huddersfield, Free >>> Tyreece John-Jules, 20, CF, Arsenal, Loan >>> Ryan Wintle, 24, DM, Cardiff, Loan >>> Dujon Sterling, 21, RB, Chelsea, Loan >>> Owen Dale, 22, RW, Crewe, Loan
Had Rangers been travelling here in August another three points would surely have been heading back to W12. Coventry, Cardiff and Huddersfield were all victorious on this ground early. But the Fulham win has kickstarted an impressive charge up the table. Pool have won seven and drawn one of 11 games, with away successes at Middlesbrough, Reading (having been two goals down), and most recently and impressively 1-0 at Sheff Utd. At Bloomfield Road Fulham, Barnsley, Blackburn and Preston have all been swept with only a single goal conceded. As we know, the swashbuckling and confident QPR team of those early weeks has also waned a little of late, though as we keep pointing out the team is still well on course to fulfil lofty ambitions sitting in fifth, and for all the talk of defensive concerns it has now kept four clean sheets in seven games. Nevertheless, tomorrow looks tough, with the traditional howling wind and driving rain forecast for our visit. You can get 2/1 on a home win, which looks thick to me.
The forthcoming two weeks off will bring Sam Field and key man Lee Wallace back into the picture and when we come back, for the first six weeks up to Christmas at least, the fixtures are not quite as brutal as the little blasts of seven games in 21 days we’ve been enduring so far. Rangers play four out of six at home and those half dozen games are spread out over more than five weeks, with only Huddersfield at home as a midweek round. Whatever happens, QPR go into the international break will in touch with the promotion picture.
Links >>> A comeback story – Interview >>> A never-ending FA Cup run – History >>> Never home on a Saturday - Podcast >>> Fresh fish – Referee >>> Blackpool Official Website >>> Bloomfield Road Ground Guide >>> Blackpool Gazette – Local Press >>> A View From The Tower – Message Board >>> Seasiders – Podcast >>> The Mighty Pool – Blog >>> Blackpool supporters trust
Below the fold
Team News: Chris Willock missed a QPR game for the first time in nine months at Cardiff on Wednesday, named in the original travelling party but not making it to South Wales after a personal problem arose. He is provisionally in the squad for this weekend’s game. Sam Field came through another U23 game against Huddersfield during the week, and Lee Wallace is still plugging away silently somewhere. Field might make the bench here but Luton is a more realistic prospect for both. Ilias Chair and Andre Gray both left the midweek win at Cardiff with knocks and are doubts. Sam McCallum and Jordy De Wijs can probably now count as medium term absentees – the former requires surgery on his blown hamstring. Rob Dickie is one yellow card away from a one match ban.
The really bad news is that modern day QPR legend Richard Keogh went off after a quarter of an hour of Blackpool’s midweek loss here to Stoke and is highly likely to miss his bi-annual 90 minutes of QPR fans jumping out from behind parked cars startling him with shiny pieces of paper. Keshi Anderson, heroes of recent wins against Preston and Sheff Utd, is a less hilarious doubt while Owen Dale is pushing for a first start after scoring in the recent comeback win at Reading.
Elsewhere: Well I guess Tony Mowbray was right, Blackburn Rovers do play completely differently at home, and having gone down by a narrow seven-goal margin to Tarquin and Rupert during the week they now face another parachute payment-loaded test at home this weekend with Sheffield Red Stripe in town. Fulham, meanwhile, have now scored 43 times in just 16 league games and take that record to Peterborough knowing a victory there could move them top of the table with Bournemouth finally losing for the first time this year at home to Preston Knob End during the week. Scott Parker’s side face Swanselona at home while Preston go to Nottingham Florist this weekend.
Five wins in six games had seen Reading climb into surprise early play-off contention but they’ve now lost four games in a row and haven’t scored in three prior to this weekend’s trip to Birmingham. Rumours abound that their long overdue nine point deduction for egregious, ongoing FFP breaches is now imminent which would drop the Royals onto ten points and put them third bottom of the table. That spot is currently occupied by Barnsley who responded to sacking their manager Markus Schopp by getting a first win in 14 games at home to basement dwelling Wayne Rooney’s Derby County during the week. Allam Tigers at home this weekend gives the Tykes a big opportunity to go two from two while Mr Potato Head takes his beleaguered charges into the heart of the Marxist hunt.
Middlesbrough, like Reading, had surprised many with a run of results that carried them to the brink of the top six, but have now lost two in a row as the spotlight turns back on veteran manager Neil Warnock. They’ll do well to avoid a third loss in a week when they go to West Brom while their Tuesday conquerors Lutown have a Nathan Jones derby at home to Stoke. Cardiff have lost nine and drawn one of ten games, and you could see why looking at them on Wednesday night. High flying Sporting Huddersfield represent another awkward assignment for a team that looks absolutely bereft. Coventry v Bristol City completes the list.
Referee: Freeeeeeeeeeeesh fish, fresh fish, fresh fish… Details.
Blackpool: Things looked ominous for Blackpool when they took two points from their first five games back at this level before kick-starting the campaign with a surprise 1-0 home win against Fulham secured by a goal from former QPR youngster Josh Bowler. They really haven’t looked back since with seven wins and a draw from 11 games, the midweek 1-0 loss here to Stoke only the second defeat they’ve suffered in a dozen matches since the end of August. Blackburn, Preston and Barnsley are the other sides to lose here in the league as well as Boro in the cup, but Cardiff, Coventry, Sunderland and Huddersfield have all won here (three of them keeping clean sheets in the process) so it’s not exactly a fortress. The Tangerines finished with a 12-7-4 home record in League One in 2020/21, winning promotion through the play-offs having finished third in League One. Only the top four have won more than Blackpool’s seven games so far. Former Everton trainee, and budget pick-up from Linfield, Shayne Lavery, top scores here with seven.
QPR: Bloomfield Road is one of QPR’s favourite away grounds. They have played here 14 times and the shambolic Steve McClaren League Cup exit here on our last visit in 2018 was one of only three defeats suffered dating back to 1968/69. In the league, QPR have won four and drawn one of their last six visits here. They arrive into the game on the back of a 1-0 win at Cardiff on Wednesday night, which snapped a run of four straight away defeats. It was, however, the team’s third away win of the season so far and only top two Bournemouth (six) and Fulham (five) along with Nottingham Forest (four) have managed more than that. Another here would move the R’s onto 11 away wins in 2021 - their best record since 2003. They have already won more on the road in this calendar year than 2019 and 2020 combined (nine). Three of those wins have been 1-0 in South Wales – twice at Cardiff and one at Swansea. It was also, for a team with perceived defensive issues, and the sixth worst goals conceded (23) record in the league, a fourth clean sheet in seven games. QPR have now recorded seven shut outs this season, which is already more than the six they managed in the whole of 2019/20. Only Fulham (43) have scored more than Rangers’ 27 league goals. By a quirk of mathematics QPR have the ninth best home record in the league, the eighth best away record, and yet lie fifth in the table. Seven of the teams immediately below us in the table have won more than our two victories in the last five league games. Andre Dozzell has only suffered one defeat in his 13 QPR appearances so far. Andre Gray has scored three goals from six shots on target so far for the club. Rangers have scored in 27 consecutive league games, the best ongoing record in the professional leagues ahead of Wigan on 23 games and Liverpool on 20. Only Liverpool, QPR, Ipswich and Wigan have scored in every league game this season – and Macauley Bonne has 11 of those Ipswich goals in 13 league starts.
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 Blackpool…
“I feel this may be a tricky one. Their current form isn’t too bad - a bit patchy. I think that we will score because we always do in the Championship (sorry!). Blackpool’s goals for column isn’t too healthy so if we can keep it nice and tight we may nick it. I’ll go for a cynical 0-1 with Chair to score.”
Mick’s Prediction: Blackpool 0-1 QPR. Scorer – Ilias Chair
LFW’s Prediction: Blackpool 2-1 QPR. Scorer – Lyndon Dykes
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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.
When Saturday Comes #18 by wessex_exile
A little later than usual today I’m afraid – ‘tis the season to be jolly and all that, so I have just been out for the obligatory Xmas tree – bah humbug. Mind you, I was treated to the sight of literally hundreds of Santas (and the occasional elf) on a charity fun run through Calne on the way, which for want of a better expression was certainly surreal. Officially entitled Santa’s Scamper, the entry fee for participants goes to charitable causes, and to date the organisers have raised nearly £8k for charities such as Wiltshire Air Ambulance, Dorothy House, Hope for Tomorrow, Barnardos and of course their main charity every year, Hannah’s Trees – well done Santas!
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