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Fierce rivals to kindred spirits - Preview
Friday, 30th Sep 2022 14:21 by Clive Whittingham

QPR and Bristol City meet at Ashton Gate on Saturday as two teams and clubs with a lot in common, where once this was a trip approached with real trepidation by the travelling fans.

Bristol City (4-2-4 WDWWLL 9th) v QPR (4-3-3 DWWLWD 6th)

Lancashire and District Senior League >>> Saturday October 1, 2022 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather — Overcast after heavy rain Friday >>> Ashton Gate, Bristol

There was once a time in the not so distant past that I’ve been approaching this fixture with a degree of foreboding and trepidation. One of those eye-rolling days on the road with your football team where it’s all police escorts from the station, designated pubs serving you piss in a plastic glass, running scuffles in the streets around the ground, outright hostility all around. Savage amusement, as my old grandad would have called it. Zero pleasure for those who just want a quiet beer and to support their team.

QPR’s three-season dip into the second division, which began in 2001, was a memorable time for so many good and bad reasons. From a squad of only six fit professionals Ian Holloway rebuilt our side in his image - we identified with them, loved them, and enjoyed watching them play. There were QPR fans Kevin Gallen, Marc Bircham, Lee Cook, Richard Langley and Martin Rowlands brought into the picture. There were enormous characters — Danny Shittu, Gareth Ainsworth, Lee Camp — who we took in as our own. There were serious talents — Jerome Thomas went on and played Premier League football, Aziz Ben Askar won 18 caps for Morocco having played for us at Chesterfield — who lit the place up. There were so many QPR quiz questions — Fernando De Orneals two appearances, Junior Agogo one off the bench, Hamid Barr likewise — that you cannot possibly name them all. And there were some of the worst players to ever pull on our great shirt — Eric Sabin, Carl Leaburn, original Bob Taylor, Brett Angell, Callum Willock etc.

It's easy to get all misty eyed, nostalgic and romantic about that time. There were so many stories, so many new grounds, so many 4-1 wins at Hartlepool where we picked a new keeper up on the coach up to the game, so many brilliant Paul Furlong goals. It culminated first in the Oldham play-off semi-final - for me still never bettered since for emotion, atmosphere, noise and goal celebration — and then the eventual promotion win on the final day at Hillsborough in front of 8,000 travelling fans. But there were some very, very bleak moments too. The ones we remember and recount, like the debacle against Vauxhall Motors, but oh so many defeats at Northampton, Tranmere, Peterborough and Chesterfield, with the mocking chants of provincial football fans ringing in the ears of us big city types — it was weird following QPR when QPR are classed as a big club, and a scalp. A time when you lived in fear of Ben Burgess, Steve Howard and Les Pogliacomi. Still, with QPR fans like Bill Power, Mark Devlin and Jim Frayling running the club, with QPR fans like us on the pitch producing magic performances and results, and with the QPR fans themselves coming back in their droves and packing out Loftus Road once again, it was a truly special time and a wonderful thing to be part of.

Finding genuine rivalries at QPR has become a bit tricky over recent times. Like it or not, Chelsea have moved off into a different stratosphere to us now, and while they’ll always be public enemy number one, singing about them while they’re winning Champions Leagues and we’re getting our arse handed to us by Hull City can occasionally feel a bit smalltime. Time was once we laughed at Brentford for doing that to us, and now they too have accelerated past us into the distance. The trip into the third tier built up some weird, unexpected bitterness with several clubs over those three years, of which Bristol City was one of the most fierce. If you look at the three league tables from our time at that level, the same names crop up again and again — Oldham, Luton, Cardiff, Brighton were perennial challengers. There was a spat with the Hatters over Tony Thorpe’s transfer, a row with Oldham over play-off ticket allocations, an ongoing delight at Shittu and Clarke Carlisle destroying Leon Knight after he’d picked Albion over Rangers for his move, and trips to Ninian Park were daunting things. Crewe won their promotion at Loftus Road in our second season, a game torched by notorious cuntleroy Andy Hall with two red cards after which whiter than white Dario Gradi was in typical full smarm about QPR, Ian Holloway and our lack of discipline — plenty of ill-discipline going on in the bunk beds back at Crewe though as it turns out, not so holier than thou after all.

In these pre-Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp, SnapChat days, the Rivals message boards did big business. Plymouth, who fought for and eventually won promotion alongside us, had an active community that actually turned into quite a fun union between the two clubs — meet ups and drink ups in the old Bush Ranger before its sad demise, Green Gob et al in attendance. Bristol City, on the other hand, became the butt of all jokes. When their team, managed by Danny Wilson and with a formidable forward line of Lee Peacock, Leroy Lita and Christian Roberts, went on a remarkable 11 match winning run, which included five separate 90th minute goals, they moved from play-off contender to automatic promotion shoo-in. It coincided with the only wobbles that year from Argyle and Rangers. City’s Rivals site published a weekly “promotion calculator” which whatever numbers they put into it kept churning out 103, 106, 109 (!!) point totals for City. Captain Brian Tinnion gave an infamous interview in which he said Plymouth and QPR were “running scared” and that it could well be “all over bar the shouting” by the time the three sides all met each other over the Easter week by a quirk of the fixture list. City, as they tended to do quite a lot back then, bottled the promotion push late on, allowing QPR to sneak back into second behind Argyle, and then choked in the play-off final against Brighton. How we laughed. How long the ‘POP’ threads went on for.

When City did eventually get themselves back into the Championship a couple of years later it coincided with QPR having another financial collapse. As opening day fixtures went, with new signing Lee Trundle doing his usual bits up front, this was not one many of us would have gone for and the atmosphere around Ashton Gate that afternoon was white hot. There was genuine hatred and resentment there, and when Scott Murray scored a blinding goal in the last minute to put City 2-1 up you’d rarely heard a noise like it. Nor has there been, before or since, an away end that dissolved in quite the same way as our one did that day when Damion Stewart conjured an unlikely equaliser in the final second of stoppage time. The backless chairs they'd bolted onto an old terrace in that stand offered no resistance to the surge forward, and the whole place became a flying death trap. Fun times.

Over time that rivalry — like similar ones we had in the same era with Stoke and Cardiff — has dissipated somewhat. In fact, QPR and Bristol City these days are more kindred spirits than anything else. While we’ve had a trip to the Premier League and the riches that’s meant to bring and they haven’t, and they’ve manged to brilliantly develop their old stadium and we apparently can’t, there are striking similarities between these two middle-of-the-road Championship clubs, trying to fathom their place and path to competing in the modern world and game. Both are prioritising player development and scouting — for our Rob Dickie from Oxford, they have Rob Atkinson from Oxford. City opened their new training ground last season, we will open ours next. The Robins, like us with Ebere Eze, showed what was possible through reinvesting the proceeds from big player sales into the team. They got £12m for Jonathan Kodjia in 16/17, £25m for Bobby Reid, Aden Flint and lovely Joe Bryan in 18/19, £40m for Adam Webster, Lloyd Kelly and Josh Brownhill in 19/20, and with that Lee Johnson was able to build an attractive team that competed for the play-offs and made a two-legged League Cup semi-final with Man City having punted Man Utd out in the prior round. Like us their finances are now challenged by the Covid lockdown, and the collapse in that Championship player market that make the idea of a side at this level giving you £11.5m for Kodija or £7m a for Flint a pipedream. City have received one fee, of £2.7m, for a player in the last six transfer windows. They have, like us with Bright Osayi-Samuel, Ryan Manning and potentially now Chris Willock, been stung by sellable assets running contracts down — Han Noah Massengo looks like he’ll follow Famara Diedhiou in leaving for free, when City could reasonably have expected £10m+ for both in times gone by.

There is now light at the end of the tunnel for City, however. Nigel Pearson has an attacking, enterprising, attractive side on his hands and they’ll be dangerous opposition for us tomorrow. In Wells and Weimann they have two forwards who love to score against QPR, but what they also have which we still do not really is genuine, high quality, extremely valuable youth team graduates. Rangers have brought through Chair, Eze and Dieng into brilliant first teamers, but there hasn’t been a great deal since. Sinclair Armstrong, sadly injured now after five goals in two second string games last week, carries the flag at the moment but City have been able to alleviate some of the problems caused by a whopping £38m loss in their last set of accounts by adding talent like England youth international Alex Scott and Antoine Semenyo to their team for free out of their academy. QPR will hope the opening of their Heston base helps them achieve similar results, because they’re two of the best players in this league already and City haven’t had to pay a penny for them — and will surely make big bucks when they are sold, to restart that sell and reinvest strategy once more.

Given the respective styles of the managers and teams — City have the joint best attack and worst defence in this league, QPR have failed to score in four games but have still got one of the division’s best goals for total and easily two of its best creative tens in Chair and Willock — this has a 2-2, 3-2, 3-3 even written all over it. This, inevitably, means it will finish 0-0. Still, that fear is a whole lot nicer than what we used to dread coming down here.

Links >>> Sunshine after the rain — Interview >>> Stew Peas leaves it late — History >>> Simpson eh? Referee >>> Bristol City official website >>> The Exiled Robin — Blog >>> One Team In Bristol — Message Board >>> Bristol Post — Local Paper >>> One Stream In Bristol — Podcast >>> Fevs Football Analytics - Contributor's page

Below the fold

Team News: Mick Beale’s decision to send Sinclair Armstrong down for a couple of U21 games to build form and fitness in the international break looked to have been vindicated when he scored a hat trick against Cardiff and another brace against Colchester, but he’s returned with a thigh injury sustained in collision with the Colchester goalkeeper - his funeral is next Thursday. With Rob Dickie hopefully back from his ankle injury, and Luke Amos and Jake Clarke-Salter both getting an hour each in the later youth game, that only leaves Taylor Richards on the injury list for this trip. Clarke-Salter has only played once for Rangers, away at Blackburn on day one, while Amos’ only outing so far was an impressive performance in the home win against Middlesbrough.

Tomas Kalas is yet to feature for the Robins this season and that won’t change this weekend. He remains sidelined with Ayman Benarous. City were hoping to name an unchanged team for the fifth game in a row but Matt James is now injured with Joe Williams and Han Noah Massengo next in the queue for a start.

Elsewhere: Happy New Watford Manager Day to all who celebrate. The new era, long term plan, it’ll all be different this time Rob Edwards reign lasted a fairly predictable ten league games and the manager for the next couple of weeks or so will be Slaven Bilic. They round out this weekend’s action with a 12.00 kick off at Stoke on Sunday.

A good deal more surprising was Cardiff’s decision to dispense with Steve Morison just a month after letting him have 14 new players in a crazy transfer window. Can’t imagine the QPR journos will shed too many tears at that one, with a midweeker against the Bluebirds coming up they’d have been lucky to get out of Morison’s press conference before first light as he ran them through where he gets all his brilliant ideas again. Life under Mark Hudson begins with a tough homer against Burnley. There’s also a new man in the dugout, Mark Fotheringham, last working as Felix Magath’s cheese man at Hertha Berlin, at Huddersfield ahead their Saturday trip to Reading.

Seven Championship clubs have now changed their managers already this season. Rotherham’s Paul Warne moving to Derby feels a very awkward fit indeed, and their attempts to bring Cambridge’s impressive Mark Bonner in as his replacement have stalled. Not ideal preparation for the visit of Wigan, who came up with them from League One and no doubt would have been eyed as a perfect chance to post another three points and continue their impressive start to the season/put more daylight between them and the bottom three.
Hull, meanwhile, took the maverick step of waiting for the two week international break to pass by, then sacked Shota Arveladze this morning, 12 hours before their Friday night kick off against Lutown. It’s a Zapp Brannigan plan with some chest hair alright, and while a big summer outlay and four straight defeats made it feel kind of inevitable, it is worth bearing in mind that Hull’s injury list has rarely dipped below 12 first teamers this season, including many of the high profile summer newbies.

It's looking and feeling increasingly like Chris Wilder might be number eight. Boro have made a very odd start to the season, dominating plenty of games and winning very few of them. Wilder who had a weird flirt with Burnley over their job at the end of last season, has now been pushed for a Bournemouth job he’s apparently not in contention with, riling the hierarchy in the north east still further. Unless wins start coming soon, starting at lowly Coventry this weekend, this uneasy union may come to an end. Quite how on earth Steve Bruce remains in employment at West Brom, now fourth bottom of the table, who can tell — they’re drawing at home to Swanselona this weekend.

Sheffield Red Stripe are surprising nobody setting the pace ahead of a home game with Birmingham, and Norwich have clicked into gear nicely as they head up to Blackpool. There’s a meeting of Alex Neil’s former lovers as Sunderland host Preston. Blackburn v Millwall doesn’t exactly jump off the page.

Referee: Makes overtaking National Express coaches a long, drawn out affair. Details.

Form

City: Yoann Barbet’s last-second winner at Ashton Gate in December was one of 13 goals City conceded in injury time last season for a loss of 14 points — the worst case being a 1-0 home lead against Forest frittered away to defeat with goals in the 93rd and 94th minutes. Now, I know this is a little bit ‘if my grandmother had wheels she’d be a bike’, and City also scored five injury time goals of their own for considerable points gain including a smash and grab at Loftus Road, but put those 14 points back on and they finish ninth level with Blackburn and Millwall. They’ve continued that trend this season — losing in injury time on the opening day at Hull, conceding a last second equaliser at Blackpool (one of the teams to do that to them last season too), and another at Blackburn albeit a consolation. They have already dropped a league-leading nine points from winning positions without which they’d be top. No team has scored more goals than their 19 (level with Sheff Utd who do lead the league table) and only Hull (21) have conceded more than their 16 despite them keeping three clean sheets in their first ten league matches. Those shut outs have come across the last three home games — successive 2-0 wins against Huddersfield, Luton and Cardiff after a 3-2 loss here to Sunderland in week two. An unbeaten run of eight, that included six wins and progression through two rounds of the League Cup, gave way to consecutive defeats prior to the international break, those were away from home to promotion favourite parachute payment clubs Norwich (2-3) and Burnley (1-2). Youngster Tommy Conway has five goals to his name already — only Oscar Estupian, Carlton Morris and Josh Sargent have more. Nahki Wells also has five, and four in his last four appearances, having scored three in 34 last season and 11 in 50 the year before. He has five goals in ten career appearances against QPR for City and Huddersfield while Andy Weimann has five in 12 for three different clubs (Villa, Derby, Bristol City).

QPR: Rangers have won their last two visits to Ashton Gate having lost the previous four and won none of the prior 11. They conceded after three minutes here last season but are now one of only three teams in the Championship (Rotherham, Birmingham) yet to concede a goal in the first 15 minutes of a game this term. Rangers have only lost two of the last ten, and one of the last six. They have won three and drawn one of five coming into this game. Away from home they’ve lost at Blackburn and Swansea, drawn at Charlton and Sunderland and won at Watford and Millwall. Like City, they come into this game on a mini run of clean sheets having recorded shut outs in their last two matches against Millwall and Stoke — prior to that they were without a clean sheet in ten this season and had only kept two in 28 games going back to January. The two recent cleans coincided with Leon Balogun’s first two starts for the club — Rangers are yet to concede a goal with him on the field. The draw with Stoke was the fourth time in ten games Rangers have failed to score this season, and yet only six teams have scored more than our 14 goals in total, one of which is Bristol City, and another is 21st-placed West Brom. QPR have still never lost on any of the 15 occasions Chris Willock has scored for us — W12 D3. His latest goal, at Millwall, was also the seventh goal Rangers have scored from outside the box so far, more than any of the clubs across all our divisions. Six of Ilias Chair’s last eight goals have come from outside the box. Stefan Johansen is the eighth different player to score for the R’s this season, more than any other team in the division. Lyndon Dykes’ two goals in ten minutes for Scotland against Ukraine last week is more than he’s scored for QPR in his last 22 appearances.

Prediction: We’re once again indebted to The Art of Football for 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 year’s champion Cheesy thinks this week…

“I don't think there is much difference between the two sides at the moment and that's why I'm going for a draw.”

Cheesy’s Prediction: Bristol City 1-1 QPR. Scorer — Chris Willock

LFW’s Prediction: Bristol City 2-2 QPR. Scorer — Nahki Wells

If you enjoy LoftforWords, please consider supporting the site through a subscription to our Patreon or tip us via our PayPal account loftforwords@yahoo.co.uk.

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GaryBannisterswedge added 14:54 - Sep 30
The international break has served you well Sir, fantastic preview, I agree has all the makings of a humdinger and the first game to go on my BTTS coupon, Nil all it is then!!!
Can’t wait to be back roaring them on.. Cmon you Rssss
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MrSheen added 15:54 - Sep 30
At least Southend didn't get a mention. Shit.
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thehat added 16:32 - Sep 30

Brilliant thanks Clive.

Safe travels to the 2,400 heading west tomorrow.
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PeterHucker added 17:41 - Sep 30
Enjoyable preview to read.
Glad to hear someone else is also still pissed off about that Crewe game in 2003.
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TacticalR added 17:50 - Sep 30
Thanks to Dave.

Hard to think of Bristol City as rivals. M4 rivals perhaps. I am not sure we ever needed such far away rivals as we always had plenty in London (or used to).

I didn't realise Bristol City had done so well on player sales pre-Covid - when they bought Nakhi Wells it seemed that they were banking everything on getting promoted.

'Tomas Kalas is yet to feature for the Robins this season and that won’t change this weekend. He remains sidelined with Ayman Benarous.' That sounds quite painful.

Sad seeing the footage of Barbet's goal away at Bristol. In the end that was the high-water mark for Barbet (and the team).

Let's hope there are some goals as both teams are in reasonable form.
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TacticalR added 17:57 - Sep 30
Sorry, that last post should have begun 'Thanks for your preview'.
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longbottom added 20:58 - Sep 30
Great preview there Norvern. Ah Greengob et al. Might have had a little tear in my eye there.
There were the best of times and just occasionally the worst of times.
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enfieldargh added 09:44 - Oct 1
He remains sidelined with Ayman Benarous

Sounds nasty is there a cure?
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LazyFan added 10:42 - Oct 1
Looking at the chart for Chair, we can see of the 29 chances created only 5 were actual crosses into the box.

If you check stats, crosses from either win into the box create the most goals (and chances usually). We can see here the 5 assists Chair made, 3 of them came from the 5 actual crosses he did into the box.

Therefore we can deduce that while Chair creates many chances, the majority of those were not crosses into the box and did not result in a goal. However, when he does cross from the wing into the box, they do result in a goal as 3 out of 5 is very high.

These stats I see in a different light, rather than rightly applaud Chair as being the most creative player in the Champ, I would say we see with this data what we see, him holding onto the ball too long and not crossing it early enough to create the actual goals we know (and the data shows us) he can do.

Now we have the issues at hand of the impact of Chair not crossing the ball early enough, less goals as we can see compared to when he does.
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