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Bristol City 0 v 1 Queens Park Rangers
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 17th February 2024 Kick-off 15:00
Square one – Preview
Friday, 16th Feb 2024 17:43 by Clive Whittingham

Having worked themselves into a position to overtake a rival and move out of the bottom three and blown it once again during the week, QPR are back in gap closing mode at Bristol City on Saturday.

Bristol City (12-8-12 11th) v QPR (7-8-17 LWDWDL 22nd)

Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday February 17, 2024 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – grey, mild >>> Ashton Gate, Bristol

The game in Stoke on Wednesday night was frustrating for myriad reasons beyond the sheer general spectacle of the whole thing, which was like having root canal work done. A truly horrific game of football to sit through.

Perhaps the head loss reaction to a game that could have gone either way but for one poorly defended set piece and a couple of poor Paul Smyth finishes was a symptom of us, foolishly, allowing our hopes to drift upwards for once. With two wins and two draws, and particularly the improved displays against Blackburn and Norwich driven by the surprise new arrivals at the end of the January transfer window, a tiny bit of belief had started to seep back into a support base which had long feared the worst this season. Stoke were, in theory and in practice, there for the taking, with a manager struggling to get ideas across to a disparate an unsuitable playing group, fans ready to turn, dire form and dreadful performances. Perhaps Rangers will be okay after all, we dared to dream. It is, as we often say on this site, the hope that kills.

For me the biggest emotion was one of being let down, again, by a group that has let us down a lot in exactly the same way. Over the past few months we have had five attempts to beat a near rival on the league table and either climb above them or put more space between us, while exiting the bottom three. Often, we’ve gone into those games in reasonable touch after a couple of good results, playing ourselves into form and closing the gap on the teams above us sufficiently to start moving upwards. Each time – Plymouth H, Sheff Wed A, Millwall A, Huddersfield H and now Stoke A – we’ve bottled it. The pressure, intensity and context apparently too much for us. Play as we did against Norwich and Hull and we’d win all of those games, but we can’t do it. We’ve actually only scored two goals across those five matches. It is incredibly frustrating.

As ever there have been a whole range of theories about who is at fault for the latest loss and why. That if only Cifuentes had picked Sam Field or Chris Willock or Lyndon Dykes it would have all been different. You keep a winning team that’s playing well and lose and people say you should freshen it up, you freshen it up and lose and people want to know why you changed a winning team. It’s all so easy with hindsight this stuff. My conclusion in these situations is we shouldn’t be surprised because this group of players keep showing you who they are and what they’re about and have been doing so for two years now. There isn’t a winning team waiting to be drawn out of this squad for want of a different or better manager picking it in a slightly different way. How are you meant to manage a side where Isaac Hayden and Jack Colback play as well as they did on Saturday, and then follow it up with whatever on earth that was on Wednesday? You can’t. The team is borderline unmanageable.

However, as was pointed out by JBee on our message board it’s not really the same group at all. Not a single member of the team that played in the 6-1 against Blackpool a year ago was on the pitch at Stoke on Wednesday. Now, given Gareth Ainsworth was dealing with a dozen injuries that night and we’ve had a change of manager and two transfer windows since, that’s probably not the amazing gotcha it appears at first glance. Multiple players have been here throughout this horrifying 24 months. However, it is true that there has been a significant turnover in players since Bloomfield Road – 11 new signings, 15 departures. Those outgoings do not include the return of last season’s clutch of loan signings who, Tim Iroegbunam apart, were widely pinpointed as a big part of the problem. Ethan Laird, Tyler Roberts, Leon Balogun, Seny Dieng, Rob Dickie, Andre Dozzell, Stefan Johansen all, at varying points, attracting fierce criticism for their parts in our downfall, all now gone. Five managers worked through in two years.

Significant wages have been committed to Asmir Begovic, Steve Cook and Jack Colback types who were meant to come in here and shake up standards and culture. They even successfully juggled the figures enough for four new players in January when that didn’t look like it was going to be possible. And yet on nights like Wednesday it still feels like we’re pissing into the sea. Like everything you add into this team just gets absorbed and dragged down to its level. Like there is no cure for the chronic soft underbelly.

A weekend trip to Bristol City, where Rob Dickie has two goals in five games, four for the season, and is player of the year elect, is ill-timed for the team but great for match preview writers. Dickie had something close to a footballing nervous breakdown last season. Remember his part in that Blackpool debacle. Remember him in a 3-0 home defeat to Sunderland, just completely checking out midgame and walloping the ball into the South Africa Road stand in a grump. Once our great white hope for a big transfer fee, reduced to a husk and offloaded at cost price to Bristol City. Take him out of our environment, though, and he’s back to the Dickie who played so well initially under Mark Warburton and one of the better centre backs in this league. Seny Dieng had gone back to being a half decent Championship keeper under Michael Carrick before injury struck in December, and even that little shit Dozzell managed to fall over in the right place at the right time to score an actual full goal for Birmingham during the week – a winning goal at that.

It leads you back to another conclusion we regularly reach on this website, and a point addressed well on that same thread by TK. Much as QPR fans, particularly online, crave ever higher quantities of signings and have bloodlust for ever more changes of manager – because we’re definitely only one more change of boss and another influx of half a dozen of his signings away from cracking this – you can pretty much do what you like here and it won’t make a difference until you fix the overall culture and standards around the place. Taylor Richards, who you did all your budget on last summer, now not even in the 25-man squad, Instagramming his sharp new haircut for the world to see, when he’s meant to be in fucking Stoke playing fucking football for the fucking club that pays his wage. How and why is this acceptable and happening?

New CEO Christian Nourry has got off on the right foot with many because having said we wouldn’t be signing anybody (clever girl) we then got a couple of loans and a couple of freebies on the cheap. That makes you a God to QPR Twitter, but you see again on Wednesday that if you just tip these players into the culture we have at this club they soon just look like all of the others that are already here.

Norry has got a far, far bigger job on his hands than simply getting Isaac Hayden on loan and crowing on the official website about identifying people above the median line for our conceptual shape. He has to identify why we have an environment here where players come and stagnate, regress and fail. That’s particularly stark in the case of Dickie who was bought as a project to develop and sell, started brilliantly, cratered, was offloaded, and is now showing he’s a good player after all in a better environment elsewhere.

That it’s fallen to a young guy in his first such role to try and do that possibly points to a big reason why the place is so rotten. Our owners are benevolent, without their monthly financial input we’d be dead overnight, but they don’t know what they’re doing, their track record on decision making is poor and, largely, they’re absent. With Lee Hoos now effectively retired and Les Ferdinand gone, who is travelling to Stoke on a Wednesday in an official capacity with QPR? When was the last time our owners did an away game? An away game out of London? Who is in charge here, really? Who’s there to make sure the club is running right, that standards are being upheld, that people are being held to account when they fall below that? It often feels a bit Year 9s with the supply teacher.

These aren’t new issues suddenly because we’ve lost 1-0 at Stoke, I’ve been writing about them for months and years, but they will keep manifesting in nights like that until they’re fixed. You have to establish why there is a culture of failure, poor performance and low standards at this club before any of your new signings will succeed and the team moves forwards. Why do players flourish elsewhere and then come here and fail? Or fail here, then go elsewhere and flourish? Every time you blame the manager for a poor result because you didn’t like his team selection, substitutions or post match interview you are kidding yourself. You’re going after wood burners while China opens 306 new coal fired power plants. You’re missing the point, frankly.

For now, short term, we’re just back at the start of the cycle where we need a win just to close the gap on the teams above us. It’s been Huddersfield, Stoke, Birmingham and Blackburn over the past few weeks, and now it’s Millwall, with six defeats and a draw from seven, the latest to offer us an escape route. If we stick to the pattern then we’ll go to Bristol City tomorrow and win, lifting everybody’s spirits again and putting us within one point of the Lions who are at Southampton next week. We’ll then have a home game with bottom placed Rotherham, who haven’t won an away game in 31 attempts going back to October 2022, where a win will carry us out of the bottom three. It really doesn’t bear thinking about what we might do with such an opportunity as that.

Links >>> Late, late show – History >>> Dickie starring – Interview >>> Barrott in charge – 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

90’s Footballer Conspiracy Theories No.30 In The Series – Former Leeds and Bradford centre back David Weatherall is currently on a speaking tour of Yorkshire clubland explaining that Hillary’s emails were mainly made up of delay repay appeals to Avanti West Coast.

Below the fold

Team News: Plenty of Monday morning quarterbacking around this week on what Marti Cifuentes could or should have done differently at Stoke on Wednesday. In reality, give or take the odd player here or there, that is our best team and is the one most fans would have picked for the game. How many of Chris Willock, Lucas Andersen, Michy Frey and Sam Field step forward from the bench following that defeat remains to be seen. Rayan Kolli remains the only officially acknowledged injury absentee. Taylor Richards is otherwise indisposed posting pictures of his new haircut to Instagram.

Bristol City are likely to welcome back their big January signing Scott Twine. The Burnley set piece specialist, who spent the first half of the season on loan at Hull, scored a rare header on his City debut against Watford on January 20 but hasn’t played since. He’ll return here, likely on the bench. Cameron Pring, who had such a tough time against Paul Smyth in the first meeting, is out injured.

Elsewhere: Millwall are now the team whose results we’ve got to watch most closely. Their midweek 4-0 loss at home to Millwall puts them fourth bottom, four points ahead of us, with a huge six pointer at home to Sheff Wed this Saturday.

Since sacking Darren Moore, Huddersfield have beaten both Wednesday and Sunderland to start pulling clear – Honest Mick was never likely to do us a favour there was he? Surprisingly, owner Kevin Nagle hasn’t just left well alone with their caretaker team in charge and has instead gone for leftfield former Hoffenheim and Schalke boss Andre Breitenreiter. How shrewd that is we’ll start finding out on Saturday when they host play-off chasing Hull. The Tigers won at Rotherham in the week, adding to the perception the Millers are done, and it’s Watford in South Yorkshire this weekend.

Reading up the table in order of realistically being able to catch them – Stoke and Birmingham are now six points ahead with 35 each ahead of home games against Coventry and Sunderland respectively. Blackburn are on 36 ahead of a local derby with Preston Knob End, and Swansea have the same total but continue to look absolutely desperate to get involved in the battle at the bottom if only anybody was good enough to catch them. A tough home game with Ipswich lies in wait for the Welsh side.

Plymouth are on 37 points and have the early TV game against Leeds who they’ve already played twice recently in the FA Cup. Then it’s Cardiff on 40 away at Norwich, who’ve celebrated moving into the play-off places by igniting another row between those running the club and those supporting it – fans who jeered David Wagner’s substitutions in the midweek 4-2 home win against spiralling Watford (imagine) were told by the manager to stay away in future.

At the irrelevant end of the table the big game of the weekend is tonight where West Brom will look to pray on any doubts in Southampton minds following the defeat at Ashton Gate with a win in the Friday night TV game. Champions Leicester host Middlesbrough.

Watch out for a series of catch-up games from FA Cup fourth round (it comes after the third round apparently, I know, me neither) weekend during the week – Ipswich v Rotherham probably the most relevant of the six games being played to us.

Referee: Sam Barrott is a former Halifax Town junior who took up refereeing when serious injury ruined his hopes of a playing career at 15. Aged just 30 he was promoted onto the Premier League list this season after four years in the EFL. Details.


Bristol City: It’s been a terrific week for Bristol City with a 2-1 away win at Middlesbrough, and 3-1 home victory against Southampton bringing an end to the Saints’ club record 24-game unbeaten run. They’re basically the perfect midtable team with a 12-8-12 record, 38 scored and 36 conceded. They’re 7-3-6 at home, with 21 scored and 18 conceded, and 5-5-5 away, 17 scored and 18 let in. However, the two big victories in the last week have elevated them into the chasing pack for the play-offs which they’re now just four points shy of, albeit with four clubs in the queue ahead of them.

Too many draws had been the issue for the Robins over Christmas. They’d won only one of their previous ten games, and that in the FA Cup at home to Premier League West Ham, but there had been six draws and therefore only three defeats in that period. Liam Manning has won seven, drawn eight, and lost six of his games since taking over Nigel Pearson just before the game at Loftus Road which finished 0-0.

City don’t score many, or concede many. Their league total of 38 goals is the lowest in the top half of the Championship and lower than five of the teams below them in the table. Every team below them in the league has conceded more than their 36 goals and it is a better record than six of the ten teams above them including three of the four sides currently in the play-off places. Tommy Conway is the top scorer here with six in the league and eight overall, but Rob Dickie is joint third with fellow former QPR man Nahki Wells – they’ve both got four goals, Dickie scoring against Southampton during the week, with mark Sykes and Sam Bell each on five. Wells didn’t play in the first game which is probably just as well. The generous decision to award him what looked like a Leon Balogun own goal in the last meeting here means he’s now bagged six times in 11 matches against Rangers for Bristol City and Huddersfield and twice in the last three. Andy Weimann’s January move to West Brom is welcome (until we play them next month) – he had five goals in 14 appearances for three different clubs (Villa, Derby, Bristol City) against QPR.

QPR: With two wins and two draws from four games, and good showings against Blackburn and Norwich, it had felt like QPR were going into the midweek round in decent touch and, relatively, confident of a win. Perhaps that’s what drove the disappointment. Extrapolate that run out a little bit and it was just two wins in 12 games for Cifuentes’ team, and now that’s two from 13. The win at Blackburn is one of only two victories we’ve managed away from home in the last 11 road trips. As ever goals for and against from set pieces were an issue – nobody in the division has scored fewer (three) or conceded more (13) from dead balls than Rangers.

Not that it did us much good during the week but, like Stoke, Ashton Gate is a ground that has been kind to Rangers of late. The 2-1 win here, and particularly the first half performance, was one of the highs of Honest Mick’s reign and was a third straight victory for the R’s on this ground – they won 2-1 here the year before with a last second Yoann Barbet header, and 2-0 the year before during the lockdown. That’s in stark contrast to the form at Loftus Road where Bristol City are unbeaten in eight and had won the last four prior to this year’s draw. QPR have failed to score in the last two games against the Robins in W12.

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 newly extended QPR collection here. Reigning champion Aston says.

“This is one game I am worried about on the back of the usual fragilities in our squad when it comes to important games. Confidence has been increasing as Bristol City find their feet under Liam Manning and I think they'll find a way to beat us this time.”

Aston’s Prediction: Bristol City 2-1 QPR. Scorer – Ilias Chair

LFW’s Prediction: Bristol City 1-0 QPR. No scorer.

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CLAREMAN1995 added 20:45 - Feb 16
This ref is exactly what I have been saying for a while now .
Encourage the players that are walking away from the game because of injury to be refs .
They know the game ,players and rules so its a win win IMO.
As for QPR we are slipping so far behind succesful clubs its pathetic

Myke added 21:26 - Feb 16
Thought provoking piece as ever Clive. If you think of the form of Dykes (Willock is a different case more psychological rather like Amos) for us versus his form for Scotland. Because he has incrementally regressed to the point when he is now ourr third choice striker we have forgotten how effective he can be. In the immediate aftermath of Austin's return Dykes was in the form of his life. Terrorising defences scoring goals (13 was it?) A brilliant header at Sheffield Wednesday that any striker would have been proud of the pick of the bunch. Now (when on the pitch) rambling rather than rampaging , completely ineffective- why? What has changed for him as he follows Dickie down a path of oblivion? Why? Why is going through the motions acceptable? He signed a new contract so he must want to be here. Where has the very effective striker gone to?

Northernr added 22:25 - Feb 16
Myke - agree. Why are we a place where players come and fail, rather than thrive and succeed? We're a difficult place to come and play. Why?

enfieldargh added 08:20 - Feb 17
Amazed you able to write such in depth and pointed articles Clive. Thankyou !!!

I am lost for words when it comes to Qpr so I don’t know how you do it

TacticalR added 13:14 - Feb 17
Thanks for your preview.

As to what's wrong with QPR, I am sure everyone has their own theory, but there has been a complete lack of a guiding intelligence at the top. It was always a problem with this regime but was hidden at the beginning by Fernandes' wads of cash, boasting, and dreams of stadia in the sky.

'Rob Dickie is joint third [goalscorer] with fellow former QPR man Nahki Wells'. That doesn't sound good. We'll have to hope we see the Dickie who fell to pieces at QPR, rather than the revived Bristol City Dickie.

Wease1 added 10:29 - Feb 24
Yo, major shoutout to for being absolute legends! When I needed a thesis ghostwriter ASAP, these guys came through like champs. Their team of experts knows how to deliver quality work without breaking the bank. If you're sweating over your thesis, don't stress – is here to save the day!

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