Third time's a charm? Preview
Tuesday, 30th Jun 2020 07:56 by Clive Whittingham
QPR and Fulham have both returned to action with two defeats from two games and are yet to score a goal between them ahead of tonight's West London derby at Loftus Road.
QPR (14-8-17, DWDWLL, 14th) v Fulham (18-10-11, DWWDLL, 5th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Tuesday June 30, 2020 >>> Kick Off 18.30 >>> Weather – Grey, overcast >>> Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, Loftus Road, London, W12
Warbs Warburton defends his team the same way his team defends its goal – on the attack. In advance of this evening’s game with Fulham he branded accusations his mid-table squad lacked motivation for the remaining games, that their effort levels had been found wanting in the two summer fixtures so far, and that their fitness left something to be desired when compared to Barnsley and Charlton “derogatory” and “ignorant”.
Unfortunately for him, the performances rather spoke for themselves – Bright Osayi-Samuel v Charlton at home, and Bright Osayi-Samuel v Charlton away the most stark of several microcosms. It’s only results and more positive showings on the field that will silence critics and there’s an excellent chance to do that at Loftus Road tonight in the Hammersmith Broadway derby against Fulham.
Rangers have a dire recent record against their well-heeled neighbours, with one win in eight and just two in 15 since the fixture became a semi-regular thing again in 1999/00. Scott Parker’s side are fifth in the table but they have also struggled since the restart with two poor defeats to nil and come into this one not only without top scorer and talisman Aleksander Mitrovic, serving a three match ban for attacking Ben White’s head at Leeds at the weekend, but also Boobycar Kamara who replaced Mitrovic for the first meeting this season and was promptly treated to a pair of goals by QPR’s ever-shaky defence.
For whatever reason, and we won’t pick at the effort and commitment scab again for now for risk of riling the manager further, the summer football as so far played very differently to normal football and some teams have adapted far better than others. Charlton, Derby, Wigan and Brentford have all won two from two so far, with six clean sheets among those eight games. Tonight is a clash of two teams who have coped worst of just about anybody in the second tier – four games played, four defeats, no goals scored, pitifully few shots on target. Only Huddersfield have also lost both summer games so far.
Some of the differences have been predictable. Home advantage, for example, if not completely evaporated, certainly doesn’t appear to be what it was with crowds. Six away wins and four draws from 12 Championship games in weekend one, another four away wins and two draws in weekend two – from 24 games played, only a third have been won by the home team. Not entirely surprising, perhaps.
Likewise, form not miraculously carrying over three months in lockdown, unless you’re Hull City. Millwall, Huddersfield, Preston and Leeds among the clubs failing to win games they probably would have expected to had they been played on their original dates in the first week, Middlesbrough Luton, Wigan and particularly Sheff Wed all picking up results that would have looked odd in March in week two. There was no bigger example of this, sadly, than our good selves performing as we did and losing to Barnsley and Charlton having been in such promising touch before the shutdown.
Pace and tempo has almost completely gone out of the game. I very much enjoyed both League Two play-off semi-finals, I was pretty impressed with Barnsley at ours, Patrick Bamford’s latest sabotage job on Leeds at Cardiff (I’m starting to think he hates them as much as everybody else) made me chuckle, and Brighton v Arsenal grew into something pretty entertaining. But, by and large, the games have played out at barely the pace and standard of pre-season friendly fixtures and have been mostly completely unwatchable.
What did anybody expect? Surely exactly this. You can’t lock professional athletes away for three months, then bring them back into competitive action inside three weeks and think it’s all going to look shiny and wonderful. I’m interested to see whether that improves over the next few weeks as match fitness comes back, or whether it’s more than simply legs. Do the lack of crowds take away the intensity to this extent? I’ve been struck by just how lethargic and passive Leicester City have been in home games against Brighton and then Chelsea in the FA Cup – would that have been so with their usually vociferous home crowd behind them?
I also believe a couple of the rule changes are affecting things. The water break, which we can surely bin unless the temperature exceeds a certain point, and the five substitutions each, when allied with the understandable lack of match fitness and sharpness, is taking a flamethrower to the quality and tempo of second halves. While the subs can still only be made in three batches, both managers being able to change half their teams over the course of 45 minutes, plus a water break, is slowing the game down to a snail’s pace, ruining the spectacle, and wrecking momentum any team is able to build up. It makes the first goal ever more important.
In the 24 Championship games played so far only one team – Blackburn against Bristol City – has come from behind to win. Half of the games have been won to nil. Even coming back for a draw after going behind is tough – there have been only four examples. In the 25 Premier League games played so far, 15 of them have been won to nil. Only three times has a team been able to come from behind to get a draw and there have been just two examples of teams conceding first and then winning – Brighton v Arsenal, Chelsea at Villa, both 2-1. By way of comparison, in the 24 Championship games immediately prior to lockdown seven teams were able to come back from a deficit and either draw or win the game.
QPR have conceded poor goals, early in both their games so far. In this new, stodgy, summer version of our sport that would be a great place to start turning things around.
Links >>> Fulham faltering – Interview >>> The 1983 promotion – History >>> Ward takes Fulham derby – Referee >>> Fulham official website >>> West London Sport Fulham – Local Press >>> Fulham Focus - Fan Blog >>> Friends of Fulham – Message Board >>> Fulham Web – Blog and Forum >>> Fulhamish – Podcast
Geoff Cameron Facts No.96 In The Series – Geoff is starting to wish he’d taken the refund option on his season ticket rather than letting the club keep the money. It’s his first ever experience of regret.
Team News: Luckless youngster Charlie Owens has been ruled out for a further six months with new surgery required on the knee injury that has already kept him out of all but the first couple of games of this season. Fellow youth team graduates Osman Kakay and Joe Gubbins were back on the bench at Charlton after missing the Barnsley game with knocks. Jack Clarke is yet to play a single second of summer football for QPR, despite extending his loan from Spurs to cover these final nine matches.
Fulham have big issues up front where Aleksander Mitrovic’s attempts to decapitate Leeds’ Ben White has brought him a three game ban at the same time his natural replacement, Bobbycar Kamara, is also out injured. Expect some combination of Bobby Reid and Ivan Cavaleiro up front.
Elsewhere: I’m not sure it’s actually been explained yet why behind closed doors football has ushered in a new wave of weird and wonderful kick off times. Without fans, it seems we’ll just start whenever we please and there are games today at 17.00, 18.00, 18.30 and 19.45. Sky Sports Leeds originally had our game down for television coverage back in March but changed their minds when the lockdown was lifted, shifting instead to a clash between play-off chasers Millwall and Swanselona – sadly for them, neither have chased the play-offs particularly hard since the resumption. But they’re stuck with it now and that’s your early kick off.
Justice League leaders Spartak Hounslow will look to turn the heat up on the top two still further with a third successive win this evening, and you’d have to fancy them at Reading given that they’ll almost certainly be the best team the Royals have faced all season. The Champions of Europe should hold them at bay with a home win against Lutown. Cardiff have also come back in decent touch and are making the most of Preston and Bristol City’s faltering to stage a late run into the play-off spots. They’re at home to Charlton tonight which you’d fancy as a home win, even allowing for the Addicks pair of 1-0 successes so far.
The success of Charlton and Wigan Warriors in the early games, coupled with some surprising wins for Barnsley and Lutown, has clubs that probably thought they’d done enough to crawl out of trouble suddenly getting a bit worried again. Poke are one of those, one point outside the drop zone and now below Paul Cook’s men in the table ahead of their meeting tonight. Huddersfield another, quietly slipping back into the bottom three ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Birmingham. Barnsley are at home to the Mad Chicken Farmers tonight.
Two of the form teams chasing the play offs meet two of those that seemed to hold all the cards but have slipped up badly of late. Wayne Rooney’s 24 Hour Brothel and Burger have won four straight in the league to climb to eighth ahead of Wednesday night’s trip to Preston Knob End who have fallen out of the top six with four defeats and a draw from the last five. Bristol City are going even worse, five defeats and two draws in seven as they embark on another of those long result streaks that have punctuated Lee Johnson’s time in charge. They play Nottingham Florist who have solidified their promotion ambitions with four points in the last week.
Sheffield Owls v West Brom makes up the Wednesday fixtures with the Baggies starting to look disturbingly like Harry Redknapp’s QPR side, with all the ability and strike power in the world somehow only creating a stodgy, uninspiring recipe. They’re the ones in Brentford’s crosshairs.
Hull v Middlesbrough on Thursday will probably attract a crowd about as big as the one that would have turned up before the virus hit.
Referee: Gavin Ward for this one. QPR had a long and controversial history with him in his early days but, actually, he’s been pretty decent in our games in more recent times. Famous last words. Details.
QPR: Rangers were second in the form table, unbeaten in six with three of them wins, prior to lockdown but have now returned to action with a pair of 1-0 defeats to lower ranked sides with only three shots on target managed across the 180 minutes. The R’s set an unwanted club record of 11 home league defeats in the Championship last season and while their record of 8-5-7 at Loftus Road this year is an improvement it isn’t anything to write home about. Only Huddersfield (eight), Reading, Stoke (both nine) and Hull (11) have lost more home matches this season in this division. The 37 goals scored by Mark Warburton’s team on its own patch this season is the joint best record in the division along with Brentford, but the 34 conceded is the joint worst with Hull.
Fulham: The Cottagers have also returned to action with two defeats without scoring, losing 2-0 and 3-0 to fellow promotion hopefuls Brentford and Leeds respectively. Either side of the break that leaves them nursing just two wins from eight games at the worst point in the season, just as the promotion race is really starting to sort itself out. They’ve won just one of their last seven away from home in all comps with an overall road record of 6-8-5 for the season. Fulham have scored 52 goals this season but 27 of those have come from either Mitrovic or Kamara who are both out tonight. Mitrovic’s haul of 23 has won his team an extra 23 points, the most of any player in the top four divisions. He has scored in 12 of their 18 wins in the league.
Prediction: This year’s Prediction League is sponsored by The Art of Football. Get involved by lodging your prediction here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s QPR collection here. Our grumpy reigning champion WokingR tells us…
“Well, it’s all over now isn’t it and whatever the score on Tuesday, we won’t be contributing to it. 0-3 to Fulham.”
Woking’s Prediction: QPR 0-3 Fulham. No scorer.
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 1-1 Fulham. Scorer – Jordan Hugill.
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