|Queens Park Rangers 1 v 0 Blackburn Rovers|
Tuesday, 19th October 2021 Kick-off 19:45
Progress report - Preview
Tuesday, 19th Oct 2021 12:22 by Clive Whittingham
A quarter of the way through the season, some preliminary judgements on this season's Championship and QPR's place within it are starting to form.
QPR (5-3-4 LDLWWL 8th) v Blackburn (4-5-3 WDWLLD 9th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Tuesday October 19, 2021 >>> Kick Off 19.45 >>> Weather – wet and wild >>> Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, Loftus Road, London, W12
Now 12 games, a quarter of the way through, this season’s Mercantile Credit Trophy and we’re starting to get some early indications about where the cards may fall in 2021/22.
Now, obviously, there are dozens of stories like Iain Dowie’s Crystal Palace, last season’s Barnsley, Millwall top at Christmas and so on that tell you trying to make any predictions and calls at this point in the year is a fool’s mission. That said, the top three in the table has an ominous look to it. Three teams all receiving hefty parachute payments, Fulham the league’s top scorers, Bournemouth yet to lose a game at all, and West Brom. I’ve seen a lot of the Baggies thanks to Sky’s insistence that every weekend must start with their game on a Friday night, and they’ve looked mostly pretty terrible to me. Whether winning while playing badly is the great sign the old football cliché has it down as we’ll find out in time, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them drop back slightly.
By contrast you’d expect Coventry and Stoke to find their starts difficult to maintain, but I’ve seen them both a couple of times and thought they looked superb. Our 2-0 win against the Sky Blues at Loftus Road barely gets mentioned in passing but that was a great result against what’s proving to be a very adept and dangerous outfit. Further down there are teams I expect to come back into the reckoning – Sheff Utd’s biblically bad start is slowly dissipating, Cardiff need to get their inevitable managerial change over and done with quickly. Nevertheless, there is some shape and logic to the league table as it stands this morning ahead of this latest round of midweek fixtures.
QPR are eighth, and I think that’s absolutely fair enough for what we’ve seen so far. A lot of what I’m about to say is predicated on the home defeat to Bristol City being a total freak – one of those once in a generation Danny Coyne afternoons where the goalkeeper has an absolutely worldie and on any other day the same performance yields a comfortable home win. Similar games against Preston and Birmingham have subsequently gone like that, so while we’ll perhaps look back on it as a harbinger of doom if a whole clutch of very similar home games between now and Christmas go the same way, for now I’m happy to just park it as a flukey anomaly. Apart from that Rangers have lost three times, all away from home, to the top three in the league, and while we were perhaps unfortunate not to get a point at Bournemouth, we got everything we deserved and more from poor performances at West Brom and Bournemouth. I think the team we’ve got is more than capable of just knocking off wins in games like Birmingham and Preston at home – hopefully continuing tonight – and it’ll do ok on the road for the most part, it does seem to have a bit of a ceiling.
As it should. QPR have been able to loosen the purse strings, spend some money on players, commit to some bigger contracts, following the sales of Ebere Eze and Luke Freeman, but their budget remains well shy of the teams that have beaten them in recent weeks. Both Fulham and Bournemouth came at us with a £25m central midfielder, while we’re making do with Dom Ball in that role. West Brom have one of the England goalkeepers, Fulham have Mitrovic up front, Bournemouth’s team cost a small fortune and they were still able to head out and pick up free agent Robbie Brady this week just in case. QPR have entered the market in a bigger and more ambitious way this season than they’ve been able to for several years, and expectations have risen along with that, but it’s still knife-to-a-gun-fight stuff compared to some of our recent opponents on the road. Of course it doesn’t bode well for our prospects in the play-offs if we were to creep into the six that we keep bumping up against this ceiling when we play teams up there, but that’ll be a nice bridge to cross if and when we come to it in May.
There are plenty of positives if you are stargazing. Only Fulham have scored more than us, we’ve now notched in 26 consecutive games, and nobody has recovered more points from losing positions. We’re a threat, whoever we’re playing, wherever we’re playing them. That always gives you a chance, and even at Bournemouth and West Brom the games could easily have gone the other way. With Sam Field injured in pre-season we’re in the play-off picture without yet once fielding our strongest team. Field, influential Lee Wallace who was a key part of last season’s winning run that spawned all this belief and confidence, and Luke Amos are all still to come back into this team. We may have lost the games, but getting the away trips to Dean Court, Craven Cottage and The Hawthorns out of the way is a silver lining to that cloud. In as much as this division ever has easier and harder fixtures, ours do look kinder in the coming weeks: in the last eight games we’ve played 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 7th, 11th, 18th and 19th with 9th to come tonight; in the next eight we play 24th, 23rd, 20th, 16th, 15th, 10th, 9th and 6th.
The negatives are pretty obvious. After the defensive improvements of 2020/21, we are now, once again, far too easy to score against. We’ve shipped 20 in 12 games, only Peterborough have conceded more, and we tend to concede from every other shot on target we face. Again, looking at the Bournemouth, West Brom and Fulham games, for all the competitive advantages they have over us, all eight goals we conceded across those matches were eminently preventable and half of them were off horrendous individual mistakes. Wallace may improve this, though McCallum hasn’t been playing badly, and I think Field adds a lot, particularly in the air, when he comes back, but fundamentally we have to be tougher, nastier and meaner. The first goal on Saturday was a joke. You don’t get anywhere in this league like that. Whether that will require a switch of system, possibly back to Warbs’ preferred 4-2-3-1, we'll find out in time. The back three suits Barbet and Wallace in particular, and cured all sorts of problems we had in the first half of last season, particularly at full back, but it’s also causing problems for us now – particularly down Moses Odubajo’s side, and expect Blackburn to go there a lot tonight given what Tony Mowbray said after this fixture last season.
I hope we stick with it, I like it a lot and I think it suits our players, but another problem it does present is the one we saw after half time at Craven Cottage. Once you’ve got a goalkeeper, three centre backs, two wing backs, and you want to play Ilias Chair and Chrissy Willock, and ideally you want Lyndon Dykes with either Charlie Austin or Andre Gray, then that doesn’t leave a lot of numbers for midfield. On Saturday we asked Stefan Johansen, on a booking, to do 45 mintues as a one man band against Harrison Reed and £25m Jean Seri. You don’t see many teams winning football games while losing the midfield, and there have been goals scored in all three of those defeats to the top three sides where they’ve been able to sweep through the heart of the pitch unchallenged and get shots away from dangerous areas. Questions are being asked about Seny Dieng, and there have been some poor moments from him against West Brom, Preston and Barnsley, but I’m not sure how many of the others you really expect him to save – we’re conceding every other shot at the moment not because the goalkeeper is poor (though he’s not in good form) but because it’s so easy to get in at our defence and have a shot from a dangerous spot.
All in all though, with key players to come back from injury, some of the division’s less talented teams to come in the fixtures, the top three away games now out of the way, the goals still flowing, and a victory tonight potentially taking us back into the top six, it’s been a very satisfactory start. In any case, I still think we should just be enjoying this team, this style of play, being back at the football after the pandemic, being a genuinely competitive threat in this league again, after so many drab years, rather than getting ourselves hung up on some play-off push we’ve convinced ourselves is a mandatory thing for this team this season because of the way last season ended and the recruitment done over the summer.
Links >>> Title challengers toppled – History >>> Exceeding expectations – Interview >>> Eighth time lucky? Referee >>> Rovers official website >>> Official website >>> Lancashire Telegraph – Local Paper >>> BRFCS message board and podcast >>> Rovers Chat – Blog
Below the fold
Team News: Stefan Johansen’s fifth booking of the season at Fulham at the weekend puts him on the naughty step for tonight and potentially opens the door for Luke Amos’ first start in a year since his knee exploded at Bournemouth. Andre Dozzell has been standing in for Johansen in cup games this season, but wasn’t even on the bench at the weekend as Stephen Duke-McKenna was rewarded for his promising cameos with a sub spot. Sam Field and Lee Wallace are still a couple of weeks away. Lyndon Dykes will surely start in attack after his scoring role off the bench at the weekend.
A sickness bug has blown through the Blackburn camp, but they are confident of having former Crewe man Harry Pickering back at left back after he missed out at the weekend. Tony Mowbray matched Coventry’s wing back system in that 2-2 draw but is likely to revert back to a back four here, and expect to see a lot of traffic sent into the channel between Rob Dickie and Moses Odubajo after the former Boro and Celtic boss picked it out as QPR’s key weakness in his post match press conference after the game here in February. Man of the moment Brereton-Diaz came off the bench at the weekend after a long tour on Chile duty, but will surely be restored to the starting line-up for this game. Bradley Dack remains sidelined long term.
Elsewhere: Bournemouth, unbeaten all season and seven wins from eight league games, are flying at the top of the table ahead of the game of the night at fifth-placed Stoke this evening. Nottingham Florist, four wins and a draw in five matches since Chris Hughton was binned, have a great chance to extend that run at middling Bristol City. Wayne Rooney’s Derby County look to continue their attempt to nil nil their way to salvation at home to Lutown. Sheffield Red Stripe, quietly fighting back from a dire start with four wins from seven, are at home to the Marxist Hunters who just can’t seem to get their season started.
Seven fixtures on the Wednesday night and goodness only knows what 12-in-12 Mitrovic and his free scoring Fulham side are going to do to Cardiff, where Mick McCarthy is surely on his last legs after six defeats in a row, 15 goals conceded and just one scored. Birmingham are another team quietly cratering with one point from six games, no goals scored in five and 13 goals conceded prior to their trip to Sporting Huddersfield. Two late goals against Peterborough extended the Fourteenth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour for another week at least, and struggling Barnsley should be an opportunity for another three points at the Riverside. Posh, meanwhile, meet the Allam Tigers in a battle between newly promoted sides – plenty of eggs from both sides going into this basket you feel.
If Tom Barkhuizen’s extraordinary state of the nation address on the festering malaise at Preston Knob End passed you by then pour yourself a nice cup of tea and tuck in now ahead of their home defeat to Coventry this evening…
Swanselona, buoyed by a 3-0 win in the Welsh derby at the weekend, clash styles with West Brom’s murderball. Reading, now up to seventh, host Blackpool.
Referee: If QPR are to win tonight it will be their first victory in eight attempts with referee David Webb. Details.
QPR: Rangers have now lost three in a row away from home having only lost three of their previous 19 road trips. The defeats, however, came at Bournemouth, West Brom and Fulham who are currently the top three in the Championship. Rangers scored in each of them to maintain a record of scoring in 26 consecutive games going back to a 1-0 loss here against Huddersfield in March – the best current running record in the country. Only Fulham (27) have scored more than our 23 goals this season, but only Peterborough (25) have conceded more than our 20. Seny Dieng has conceded 15 goals from the last 30 shots on target he has faced. Having started the season with eight unbeaten league and cup games, including four wins, Rangers have now won only two of the last eight and lost four. At Loftus Road only Bristol City have won so far in 2021/22 with victories against Coventry, Oxford, Birmingham and Preston and draws with Millwall, Barnsley and Everton. Rangers have won their last two home games against Blackburn, 1-0 and 4-2, but prior to that hadn’t beaten them in W12 in ten attempts going back to 1993/94.
Blackburn: Rovers’ 1-0 loss here in February sparked a run of six defeats and a draw from seven matches which eventually stretched into one win from 15 games to completely derail their season. Expectations were low at the start of 2021/22 as a result but the start to the new campaign has been promising, with Rovers currently ninth on a record of 4-5-3. Only West Brom and Bournemouth, the current top two, have lost fewer than Blackburn’s three. Away from home they’ve won one (at Nottingham Forest), drawn three and lost two – those two defeats coming in their last two road trips at Huddersfield (3-2) and Blackpool (2-1). Ben Brereton-Diaz has scored ten of Rovers’ 21 league goals so far, including a hat trick in a 5-1 home win against Cardiff. He also scored in his two most recent outings for Chile against Paraguay and Venezuela putting him on 12 goals in 17 appearances for club and country this campaign – as many as he’d scored in his previous 103 appearances stretching back over three seasons.
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 Blackburn…
“I’ve found us really hard to call this season and this one is no different. Similar stats so far this season and another difficult opponent. I’m just hoping for a win that will hopefully settle us down a bit. I’ll chance my arm on 2-1 Rangers, with Chair our first scorer.”
Mick’s Prediction: QPR 2-1 Blackburn. Scorer – Ilias Chair
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 2-1 Blackburn. Scorer – Lyndon Dykes
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When Saturday Comes #16 by wessex_exile
When Saturday Comes, and this time instead of an international break we played yesterday evening, and now have the luxury of sitting back and seeing what’s going to happen around us in the league table. A gritty display last night saw the U’s fight back from a being a goal down, with Freddy netting his 8th of the season, helped in no small measure by an inch-perfect through ball from Alan Judge. Whisper it, but with (at least) 30 competitive matches to go to the end of the season, Freddy’s average of 0.4 goals per game would actually see him reach that mythical ’20 goals per season’ figure – not bad for an Ipswich reject 😊.
When Saturday Comes #15 by wessex_exile
When Saturday Comes, and finally the U’s return to the league programme after what seems an age as a result of our international break. The Forest Green match has been rearranged for 21st December, the last Tuesday before Xmas, and it will no doubt be a chilly night on top of the hill overlooking Nailsworth. Originally billed as a 7pm kick-off, it seems to have been pushed back to 7.45pm now – better make sure before I set off on the short drive for that one. Talking of short drives, bravo to our U18s winning 2-0 at Swindon in the FA Youth Cup midweek, to set up a mouth-watering home tie against Arsenal in the 3rd Round.
When Saturday Comes #14 by wessex_exile
This week, When Saturday Comes the U’s find themselves on an international break and a weekend off for the WAGs to get in some Christmas shopping. Just as well too, given the U’s have inconsiderately eased past AFC Sudbury to deny them the customary FA Cup Second Round break in December to do likewise. We wait to hear who our opponent will be at the JobServe – it’ll be either top of League One Wigan Athletic or Cameron Coxe’s National League parent club Solihull Moors, who replay at Damson Park on Tuesday evening. Incidentally, Solihull Moors may be part of history being made today, with their match at Meadow Lane already expected to easily top 10,000, and may break the record attendance for that league, which currently stands at 11,083 when Bristol Rovers faced Alfreton Town in 2015.
When Saturday Comes #13 by wessex_exile
When Saturday Comes…will we still be in the FA Cup? I heard somewhere during the week that the U’s have been eliminated from the FA Cup by non-league opposition more times than any other league club! Remarkable really when you consider that many non-U’s associate Colchester United with the greatest FA Cup giant-killing of all time. Following tonight, we travel to Portman Road on Tuesday night to see if we can stay in the Pizza Slice Trophy. Regardless that it is a much-maligned competition these days, surely that’s motivation enough for our tractor boy contingent?
When Saturday Comes #12 by wessex_exile
A relegation six-pointer already, seriously! Grim news so early in a season which had such promise, but that may well turn out to be the reality when the dust settles in May. On the eve of All-Hallows Eve, I’m wondering whether the U’s will have served up Trick or Treat by 5pm this afternoon. Plenty has been written over the last week by supporters, the press, even the Chairman about the protests during and after the Sutton United rocky horror football show, and whilst everyone has the right to voice their opinion on the club’s fortunes on and off the pitch, that doesn’t give anyone (even the Chairman) the right to be abusive – it’s not big, it’s not clever, and if anything it undermines the validity of that opinion.
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