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Queens Park Rangers 2 v 2 West Bromwich Albion
SkyBet Championship
Wednesday, 6th March 2024 Kick-off 20:00
The wrong week to quit sniffing glue – Preview
Wednesday, 6th Mar 2024 09:52 by Clive Whittingham

A surprise win at Leicester on Saturday has embedded QPR right in the middle of an insane race for Championship survival which now embroils the whole bottom half of the division.

QPR (10-8-17 WDLWWW 20th) v West Brom (17-8-10 DWLWDW 5th)

Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Wednesday March 6, 2024 >>> Kick Off 20.00 >>> Weather – Grey, dry, chilly >>> Loftus Road, London, W12

While drunkenly spilling over seats, tumbling like acrobats down concrete steps, and flying through thin air as part of a seething mass of humanity, how Stoke are getting on isn’t at the forefront of your mind.

You crawl over one another as if living in some enormous ant nest, you plant kisses on strangers like some perverse Soho fetish club, you experience emotional highs and physical chemical rushes that can be provided by no other drug or life experience, and you do not care what the latest score is at Millwall.

Saturday at Leicester was one of those days we’ll be talking about in history columns ten years from now. Exactly the sort of out-of-the-blue, against-all-odds, just-when-I’m-out-they-pull-me-back-in nonsense which makes following a club like QPR what it is. “Why are you still bothering?” you wonder aloud on the long trudge back from oh so many trips to Preston. “Why are you still bothering?” concerned family members ask from the snugness of warm living rooms as more gloomy news of Rangers on the road drips through into the full time vidiprinter.

You can’t explain it to yourself, never mind other people, other than to mutter banalities about belonging, family, connection, community, habit, memories of lost loved ones and the notion that only by suffering through many lows can you truly experience amazing highs. Where’s the fun in being Man City, financially doping themselves to weekly 5-0 wins and trophies from oh so many tournaments weighted in their favour? People look unconvinced. Man City look like they’re having great fun. A good deal more fun than you’re having on the rail replacement bus service back from a 1-0 defeat at Norwich in any case.

All you can really do is persevere and wait. Persevere and wait for the Sunday morning* (*may not have been morning) where your eyes creak open, your brain is banging on the inside of your skull demanding to be let out, your jeans are torn to smithereens, and your shins look like you upset Terry Hurlock. That’s why we do it. You do it for days like Saturday and, when they do roll around, things like league tables, fixture lists, results elsewhere, context… doesn’t matter. Who cares? Go and talk about your xG and Opta projections and right interiors over there, I’m too busy still pulsing the adrenalin and euphoria of Cum Fest Leicester 2024 around my veins 36 hours later. We’ll work on daylight, and walking and talking at the same time, before we start looking at the Championship ladder thank you very much indeed.

As I’ve mentioned a time or two before though, these previews don’t write themselves. Everybody else did indeed win on Saturday. Everybody.

QPR had already picked a really bad time to be properly shit. Having given up their Premier League spot just as the domestic TV rights really exploded in the 1990s, and then pissed two opportunities to consolidate themselves in that league just as the international money went insane and the top teams really started to move off into the distance for good a decade ago, we shouldn’t be surprised. It nevertheless bears repeating, however, that Rangers abandoned their stated plan and made a whole load of decisions around recruitment, retainment and contracts which have now placed them in danger of being relegated to League One just as the Championship TV money goes up 40%, and the worst excess of that period rolls out of our three-year FFP cycle. Next year will be a whole lot easier than this, but we’ve got to get through this one unscathed first.

Just our luck, it’s really bad timing for another reason. The Championship is presently doing things it has never done before in the Premier League era.

There are four unbelievable teams streaking far away at the top hoovering up record amounts of points, and one absolute whipping boy at the bottom essentially giving up six points to everybody. Since Sky invented football in 1992, the top four of this division has never had as many points after 35 games as Leicester, Leeds, Ipswich and Southampton have now. Over the past ten seasons the amount of points required for automatic promotion has averaged out at 85.5 with 89 the highest (twice) and 81 the lowest (last season, though Sheff Utd in second did get 91). Leicester are on 81 already. Sunderland, meanwhile, have the lowest points total (47) for a team sitting tenth at this stage.

QPR are one of four teams from 19th to 22nd who all have 38 points – no team sitting third bottom after 35 games has ever had that many before in the modern era. Two seasons ago, 2021/22, albeit affected by points deductions, 38 points would have kept you up. Over the last ten years the number of points required to survive without the need to resort to goal difference has varied between 38 (21/22) and 52 (16/17) averaging out at 43.8. In 18/19, and 15/16, 41 points would have kept you up; in 17/18 and 14/15 the total required was 42 – QPR can effectively get to that tonight, and still be deep in the shit.

QPR have won three in a row, Sheff Wed have now won four. Swansea have won three from five, Stoke two from four, Millwall two in a row, Huddersfield three out of six. On Saturday, as the previous week when QPR narrowly beat Rotherham at home, news filtered through from elsewhere that everybody else had won. As well as being a really bad year to be shit, it’s also an incredibly dangerous season to get in that check in queue to Mykonos too early – looking at Middlesbrough, Bristol City and Watford all suddenly losing for fun on 44 points.

Only once (Peterborough in 12/13 relegated with 54) has 52 points not been enough to survive in this league. What on earth the total is going to be this year is anybody’s guess at this point.

It is that point of the year now where you cannot but help look at other fixtures and pray for favours from elsewhere. We’re in the uncomfortable position of suddenly wanting Leeds to win games, with Huddersfield and Stoke this week and Sheff Wed and Millwall to come shortly. Our opposition on Wednesday could be kingmakers at the bottom as well – West Brom play six of the bottom seven including ourselves, all of them away bar Rotherham at home. Watford, meanwhile, having already gifted points to Huddersfield and Millwall now have Swansea and Birmingham in the next week or so.

You can drive yourself insane tossing the permutations until you conclude it’s about us. We’ve got to look after ourselves. On Saturday, really for the first time in two years, it looked like we might just be capable of doing that.

Links >>> Softly, softly catchy monkey – Interview >>> This week in 1967 – History >>> Eltringham in charge – Referee >>> Official Website >>> Independent West Brom forum — Message Board >>> Boing — Blog >>> Express and Star — Local Paper >>> Birmingham Mail — Local Paper

Below the fold

Team News: Tonight is the first QPR home game since the passing of Stan Bowles, and fans are asked to be in their seats early to remember the club’s greatest ever player with a mosaic in the stand that bears his name and a number of tributes being paid on the pitch pre-kick off.

QPR are likely to make changes following the monumental effort at Leicester on Saturday, but Jack Colback won’t be part of that as he serves the second game of a two-match ban. Rayan Kolli remains the only officially stated absentee other than that. Jake Clarke-Salter is currently on a run of 14 successive league starts, his longest since joining the club.

Left back Conor Townsend limped out of the weekend win against Coventry and will not travel. Erik Pieters, Adam Reach and Pipa are the options to replace him on the left side of the Baggies’ defence. The only other game Townsend has missed this season was the 2-0 win against QPR in the first meeting. Brandon Thomas-Asante scored a penalty in that first meeting, but hasn’t played since February 16 – he’s unlikely to return from a hammy in time for this game. January free agency arrival Rann M’Vila, who has somehow never played for QPR, awaits a debut. Long term absentees Josh Maja, Daryl Dike and our former charge Matt Phillips are all out for the foreseeable. Darnell Furlong made 72 senior appearances for QPR between 2014 and 2019 having progressed all the way through the youth ranks at Loftus Road.

Elsewhere: After the stress of the last two weekends, where QPR wins were tempered by bad news from elsewhere, there was finally some good news from the other results on Tuesday night.

As expected, Stoke were beaten 1-0 at Leeds. Former QPR starlet Josh Laurent missed a great chance for the Potters with the last kick of the game, and Ben Pearson the Goblin Boy continued his campaign to be named QPR Player of the Year 23/24 with a late red card.

In other unexpected QPR heroes news, Keith Stroud’s latest fucktastrophe actually went in Rangers’ favour up at Hull. Ozan Tufan backhanding the ball into the back of the Birmingham net was somehow missed from five yards away by the veteran official, although the Blues did fight back to claim a late point.

Rotherham look absolutely dead after a 5-0 loss at Coventry in which they were 4-0 down by half time, and a 1-1 draw between Blackburn and Millwall is probably the result we’d have picked. Sheff Wed winning for a fourth game in a row is less than ideal (get that 500/1 for them to make the play-offs while it’s still available), but that result drags poor Plymouth further into the mire. What a season they’ve picked for a Championship return.

At the top end of the table Leicester recovered from three successive defeats, and survived what looked like a stick on last-second penalty appeal, to win 1-0 at Sunderland. Ipswich continued to keep pace in the only way Ipswich know how – twice behind at home to Bristol City, twice level, missed a late penalty, won in the lasty minute anyway. What a team and what a season.

Four games tonight other than our own, two with impact on QPR’s position. Huddersfield and Swansea are both away at Cardiff and Watford respectively - Valerian Ismael it seems certain to be sacked for anything but a win in that game. Boro are at home to Norwich while there’s another long midweek away journey for Preston Knob End down to Southampton.

Referee: QPR’s 2-1 win against Blackburn last month was their first with Geoff Eltringham in charge of one of their matches in ten attempts. Rangers are 3-4-11 from 18 games with this official. Details.


QPR: Rangers have won three games in a row for the second time this season and moved out of the bottom three for the first time since the end of September. They’ll need to avoid a repeat of what happened last time to stay there – the successive wins against Stoke, Preston and Hull in December were followed by a run of eight without a win. Marti Cifuentes’ side have now lost only one of their last eight games, winning five, in stark contrast to the six successive defeats they were in the midst of when they last played West Brom. Jimmy Dunne’s red card in that game was one of four QPR picked up in the first 14 under Gareth Ainsworth, more than any other team in the division. They’re yet to have a player dismissed in 21 games under Marti Cifuentes. With four of the next six at home (West Brom, Boro, and relegation rivals Brimingham and Sheff Wed) it’s getting towards crunch time. After losing four at home over Christmas, Rangers are now unbeaten in four at Loftus Road with two wins and two draws.

QPR have still never lost on any of the 20 occasions Chris Willock has scored for them in his four seasons at Loftus Road – W17 D3. He’s now two short of Wayne Fereday’s record of 22 games (W18 D4) says Jack Supple. Steve Cook’s impressive debut season at the club continues to stack the numbers – across 24 starts and one sub appearance he has played in nine of the team’s ten wins, and eight of its nine clean sheets (Preston away the anomaly in both cases, when he was on the bench). He’s lost only one of his last 12 starts and lost only seven of the 24 games he’s started.

West Brom have not been a kind opponent to QPR since we returned to the Championship. There have been nine meetings since Rangers’ most recent relegation with only one QPR win – that Charlie Austin’s late header here in January 2022. West Brom have won six of the other eight including the first meeting this year at The Hawthorns. This fixture was rekindled after a ten-year gap in 1996/97 and since then West Brom have won seven of the 16 meetings at Loftus Road, including three of the last four, with three draws.

West Brom: The coverage of the Championship promotion picture is very much focused on a runaway top four, and big transfer business being done by Hull. There’s been precious little chat about Carlos Corberan’s West Brom, who have a four-point cushion prior to tonight’s games and have won more home games (12) than all but the top three. Only Leeds and Leicester have conceded fewer than West Brom’s 33. They’ve done this while making only one permanent signing this season, that on a free transfer, thanks to recently resolved ownership problems, and with star striker Daryl Dike repeatedly blowing his Achilles. The Baggies have lost only one of their last seven matches coming into this game.

The better news for QPR tonight lies in West Brom’s away form. Their away record of 5-5-7 is easily the worst of the top six. Eight teams below them in the league have won more away games, including QPR (!!), and seven defeats is the same total as Swansea (15th), Millwall (18th) and Huddersfield (21st). They are unbeaten in three away games coming into this, but two of those were drawn and prior to that they’d lost four of five on the road (Sunderland, Boro, Swansea, Norwich) with the only win coming at whipping boys Rotherham.

West Brom appear to have unearthed a couple of gems of late. Irish winger Mikey Johnston, a 24-year-old on loan from Celtic, scored a beautiful opening goal against Coventry at the weekend and has scored three goals in five games for the Baggies. Youth team graduate Tom Fellows, 20, has also hit form of late with four goals in his last ten games from midfield. Andy Weimann moved here from Bristol City in January, he has five goals in 14 appearances for three different clubs (Villa, Derby, Bristol City) against QPR. John Swift has four career goals against QPR, although three of those were all in one game for Reading for his only professional hat trick. Brandon Thomas Asante, who scored a penalty in the first meeting back in October, is the top scorer here with nine.

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.

“The mood seems to be pretty positive around the Baggies fans I know at the moment and Corberan is an excellent manager. This will be our toughest challenge against a well-coached side, but we'll match them. 1-1, Willock goal.”

Aston’s Prediction: QPR 1-1 West Brom. Scorer – Chris Willock

LFW’s Prediction: QPR 1-1 West Brom. Scorer – Ilias Chair

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wombat added 10:21 - Mar 6
was told yesterday it was stoke away last season was the last time we won without having a corner

Northernr added 10:28 - Mar 6
So it was!

MrSheen added 12:26 - Mar 6
Gerry looking like Elrond from Lord of the Rings?

MrSheen added 12:29 - Mar 6
I'm away at a conference and having to smile politely while a Bayern Munich fan laments the "worst season ever" after the 16-odd months we've lived thorugh was a test of patience!

TacticalR added 19:26 - Mar 6
Thanks for your preview.

Interesting how much of a statistical anomaly this season is. It's just strange how, despite our strong recent run, we have remained in the pack at the bottom, because so many other teams keep winning.

West Brom seem to be slowly getting it together, and have a number of players who have played well against us (Swift, Mowatt, Wallace).

tsbains64 added 07:46 - Mar 7
Fantastic update ..loved that Ben Pearson was vying to be our Player of the Season

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