|Queens Park Rangers 1 v 0 Huddersfield Town|
Wednesday, 24th November 2021 Kick-off 19:45
A puzzle to be solved - Preview
Tuesday, 23rd Nov 2021 19:12 by Clive Whittingham
Just as history told us Luton's visit on Friday would probably yield three points for QPR, so the arrival of high-flying Huddersfield on Wednesday should set teeth on edge.
QPR (8-5-5 LDDWDW 6th) v Huddersfield (8-4-6 DLWDLW 7th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Wednesday November 24, 2021 >>> Kick Off 19.45 >>> Weather – Grey, cold, dark >>> Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, Loftus Road, London, W12
When I was a kid, the primary places I could go to slake an unquenchable thirst for QPR content were Ceefax and Teletext. Load it up, hit 312, wait for the four or five pages of ‘In Brief’ to rotate around, find out we’ve signed Steve Hodge on a short-term deal. Lovely job. I saw Paul Furlong equalise in a home game against Millwall this way once, while I was at university. Just when I thought the dreaded ‘FT’ was going to appear next to a 1-0 home defeat, there was ‘Furlong 88’ instead. Round and round the dorm I danced, for this was how we lived in, checks notes, 2005.
Over on ITV, there was another page to watch on rotation, giving you the main headline from each team’s ClubCall. ‘STRIKER SIGNING CLOSE!!!’ it would say, trying to tempt you to phone the 50p per minute premium line. It frequently succeeded, and there you would sit haemorrhaging money from your rectum while Tony Incenzo went into elaborate, graphic detail about last night’s reserve team match with Colchester before, after an imponderable time, telling you that we’d agreed a fee for George Ndah from Swindon. He ended up at Wolves, and I ended up with the mother of all bollockings for stretching our family’s already stressed finances beyond the point where my long suffering mother retained her will to live. She wanted daughters.
This ‘during the war’ scene setting is building up to a confession that when I was 12-years-old and so obsessed with Championship Manager that it had prompted an intervention from the school, one of the ClubCall headlines for Boston United (was this line a big money spinner?) was ‘Managerial vacancy advertised’. My little mate Matt and I were so young and dumb that we worked ourselves up into quite the lather about applying for this given that, in our eyes, Boston was reasonably local to where we lived, shit enough to consider us, and lucky to have two forward-thinking youngsters who had a Champions League win with Scunthorpe already under their belts and a plan to take a young Richard Langley on loan from QPR to get things started. 'We'll tell them all of that and not mention our age in the application' was the sum total of our attack plan. I told mum of this in the car home that night and I think, if memory serves, this was around the time they started her on the Diazepam.
When you’re that age, and that good at computer games, and that idealistic, of course you think you know better than the actual football managers. Play a wing back formation, set it to ‘gung ho’, sit back and watch Richard Pacquette become one of the five richest kings of Europe – what’s wrong with you man? You see it now manifest on social media, kids going massively over the top with criticism of managers and players, demanding this signing or that signing with no clue about budgets and wages, unable to compute that they might not know as much as they think they know. While we never grow out of that Monday Morning Quarterback role, sitting around in pubs endlessly discussing what formation and team managers should have gone with, the older and wiser you get the more you come to realise how little you know about the game you’ve watched all your life. The notion that you could do better than the actual football managers (Paul Hart apart) dissipates with age.
I guess what I should have done is used this website to dig down into the detailed minutiae of QPR’s data. Blinded you all with graphs and charts and lines on graphs to explain to you all why Darren Peacock used to lose his footing at the crucial moment quite as often as he did. Start an @analytics Twitter account, point out that Jimmy Dunne’s half decent in the air through the means of a pie chart, and wait for the job offers to start rolling in. Plenty of clubs have hired this way in recent years. Not being what Steve Claridge might term a “football person” isn’t necessarily a barrier to entry that it might once have been, as our own manager and head of recruitment stand testament to. Instead what I did is use it to exercise the creative writing passion that was always my favourite bit of school, and gets rather beaten out of you in news journalism by editors who look at you like you’ve thrown up over your shoes when they ask you why you got into the profession and you say “because I like to write”. Two decades of sitting here writing cock jokes for you guys has got me… well, still sitting here writing cock jokes for you guys.
So I come into weeks like this one wide-eyed and naïve, hungry for knowledge and understanding, and basically clueless. There are teams in this division that QPR under Mark Warburton absolutely love to play: they’re unbeaten in five against Millwall with three wins; they’ve won their last four games against Cardiff scoring 11 goals in the process; and once again on Friday they dispatched Luton with plenty to spare despite not playing particularly close to our best. Cardiff and Millwall are rudimentary teams that have frequently tried to rely on brute strength and aerial prowess against us which has meant as long as people like Jimmy Dunne, Rob Dickie, Geoff Cameron and others have been able to stick their chin out and match those challenges, we’ve been able to play around and underneath them with more technically gifted footballers, and get at their big bastards with pace and speed from Chris Willock, Bright Osayi-Samuel and others. Bright's New Year's torching of Cardiff will be remembered for decades by all who were there. Twice in as many seasons we've got Neil Harris the sack. The games with Luton see us against a team similar in style, but assembled on a significantly lower budget – the choice of pass, the execution of it, and the control of the ball when it arrives is just that bit sharper, smoother and more natural to us. There are exceptions – QPR certainly one of them through much of Flavio Briatore’s reign and the early days of Tony Fernandes – but there are few better barometers of where teams are going to go in a season than their wage bills, and there are few starker examples of that than our games against Luton since they were promoted back to this level. Other than that though, I’m not really sure I can put my finger on exactly why 15 games against those three sides have yielded 11 wins, five draws and a single defeat since Warburton took over.
Then we go into tomorrow’s game against a Huddersfield team who, along with Coventry, have proved the real surprise package at this level this season. Tipped by many for a season of struggle after a McClaren-like run of three wins from their final 25 games last term, they are currently trucking along nicely in seventh after a summer recruitment drive that, at the time, looked like it was being carried out by somebody with whom Bielsa-bud manager Carlos Corderan had never conversed. As it turns out, sticking the odd head-it-and-kick-it Championshiper like Matty Pearson into Corderan’s tippy tappy style has stiffened up a defence which leaked a league-leading 71 goals in 2020/21, and made them a formidable opponent from attacking set pieces into the bargain. More to the point for this article they are, similar to Nottingham Forest and Barnsley, a team that has married a mostly unimpressive league performance over the last two and a half seasons with a persistent ability to get results against Warbs’ QPR team. Rangers have one win, two draws and two losses from five games against Forest; lost both games against Barnsley in each of the last two seasons and were singularly fortunate to get a 2-2 against them this year; and have lost their last three matches against Huddersfield without scoring a goal. When Town set off into 2019/20 with one point from their first eight games, that point came at Loftus Road. The away performance in West Yorkshire was arguably our worst of 20/21, and even as Rangers were starting to motor through the second half of last season and Town were starting to tank the Terriers still won 1-0 at our place.
There have been some themes to pick up on in all of these games. Frequently these sides have matched us up in formation, and then done their best to make sure it’s their wide defenders doing the attacking, pushing the likes of Lee Wallace back into their half and restricting their influence up the field. They’ve often sat off us, for long periods of time, inviting us to do that annoying, pedestrian, backwards and inside passing thing we sometimes slip into where we work the ball out from Dieng, through Dickie, to Kane/Kakay/Odubajo, then back to Dickie, back to Dieng, out to Barbet, and then Wallace, and then back to Barbet, and back to Dieng. This ceases immediately when we try and pull the ball into the midfield three. As soon as Ilias Chair, Andre Dozzell or his equivalent, or particularly Stefan Johansen get the ball, they are seized upon immediately in a mega, enthusiastic, aggressive, high press by the three opposition midfielders. Jonathan Hogg frequently looks like a God in this fixture, and his injury is good news for us tomorrow night. James Garner was so good against us at The City Ground last year I thought he might make the England squad for the Euros.
But am I right? And is that all there is to it? Cardiff, Millwall and Luton; Forest, Barnsley and Huddersfield. Six almost unfailingly midtable Championship teams, and yet three of them are like a Viagra injection to our team, while the other three scare us more than public speaking. We go back to the School of Science tomorrow to shout, scream, support, fret, sweat, celebrate and commiserate as always. But, in this game more than most, we also go to learn.
Links >>> Opening day delight – History >>> Surprise Package – Interview >>> Premier League referee in charge – Referee >>> Official website >>> Ground Guide >>> Down at the Mac – Forum >>> And he Takes That Chance – Podcast
Below the fold
Team News: Apologies to start with, Rob Dickie was indeed on four yellow cards prior to Friday, and picked up a fifth in the final minute against Luton which would have meant a suspension prior to this season. However, yellow cards in the League Cup (Dickie has one from the Everton game) no longer count against this, meaning he’s not banned after all. This is the last round of fixtures in which you can be suspended for five yellows so as long as he escapes on Wednesday night he’s good up to nine. Moses Odubajo is also on four yellows ahead of the deadline, though his hamstring complaint is a more pressing concern and he’s one of three players – Lyndon Dykes and Andre Gray the others – facing a fitness test ahead of this game. Sam McCallum is out long term, no word on Jordy De Wijs’ return.
Huddersfield’s impressive recent record against QPR has often been predicated by impressive performances from experienced central midfielder Jonathan Hogg – now the sole survivor from their Premier League squad. Hogg, luckily from Rangers’ point of view, was ruled out for six weeks prior to the international break. Tom Lees, Duane Holmes and Alex Vallejo join him on the sidelines.
Elsewhere: Preston Knob End’s weekend home defeat against struggling Cardiff brought another brutal post match interview from one of their players – Alan Browne taking a turn to stick the boot into his own team’s prospects – and upped the pressure on manager Frankie McAvoy. They kick off this midweek round at Middlesbrough, which looks a tough assignment with their managerial change already in the bag and Chris Wilder now getting his feet under the table.
Questions also starting to be asked at West Brom, who lost at Huddersfield at the weekend to drop eight points shy of the top two after four defeats in eight games. They’ve got a tough midweeker away at impressive Blackpool tonight. Coventry host Birmingham, Lutown head to Forest and Reading host underachieving Sheffield Red Stripe to round up the Tuesday list.
Tomorrow it’s all about Fulham who’ve won seven in a row scoring 25 goals in the process and now have a home game with Derby, whose extensive point deductions places them bottom of the table but have only lost five times this season and beat Fulham’s fellow promotion chasers Bournemouth on Sunday. The Cherries are back on the road at Millwall tomorrow which doesn’t immediately scream bounce back.
Poya Asbaghi starts work as Barnsley manager at home to Swanselona, Blackburn host Peterborough, Stoke are at Bristol City and Steve Morison has a good chance to continue Cardiff’s uptick at home to lowly Hull.
Referee: Premier League referee Graham Scott is in charge of this one, his first QPR game since 2014 although he was down to referee our home game with Wycombe in January prior to its Covid postponement. Details.
QPR: Rangers have won five of their last ten games and are unbeaten in five coming into this match. They have kept five clean sheets in those ten games and only conceded two goals in the last five matches since the poor 2-1 loss at Peterborough last month. Bristol City remain the only team to win at Loftus Road this season in 12 league and cup games. The R’s have lost only two of 17 matches in W12 since Huddersfield won here in March. Chris Willock and Charlie Austin continued QPR’s record of scoring in 29 consecutive league games – the only Championship side to score in every league game this season – which stretches all the way back to March when they lost 1-0 at home to Huddersfield. Austin’s goal against Luton was his sixtieth for the club. It was the first time in eight games Mark Warburton’s team had scored more than one in a game, going back to Preston on October 2 when they scored three. Fulham (48!!) and Bournemouth (33) are the only teams to have scored more than our 30 goals this season. The defensive stats continue to improve – seven clubs have now let in more than our 24. The victory on Friday night improved a couple of already impressive individual records – Lee Wallace is now on 15 wins and just four defeats from 22 appearances in 2021, Andre Dozzell has lost only one of his 15 appearances for the club since arriving from Ipswich in the summer. It’s quite the turnaround for Wallace who was on three wins in 20 games prior to that.
Huddersfield: Town have four wins, three draws and just two defeats from their last nine games, and haven’t had the same outcome in consecutive games since a pair of defeats to Forest and Swansea in September. Their weekend 1-0 win against high flying West Brom made it four wins and a draw from their last five home games in which they’ve kept four consecutive clean sheets. Away from home they’re without a win in five matches since a 3-0 success at Blackpool, losing three and drawing two and failing to score in three matches. Overall they are 2-3-4 away from home with the other win coming at Sheff Utd. No Championship player has more official assists than Sorba Thomas’ eight. Tjaronn Chery scored late the last time QPR beat Huddersfield, in August 2015. Since then Town have won five and drawn two of seven fixtures, including doubles in 2016/17 and 2020/21. Grant Hall’s eighty third minute equaliser in the opening home game of 2019/20, four meetings ago, was the last time QPR scored against Huddersfield, with two defeats to nil in 2020/21.
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 Huddersfield…
“Another tough one. Their away form, is however, a bit patchy so I’m going to plump for a narrow home 2-1 win with Chair to score our first. Hopefully, our injury problems are slowly clearing up, so I hope that can give us the extra that we will need.”
Mick’s Prediction: QPR 2-1 Huddersfield. Scorer – Ilias Chair
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 1-1 Huddersfield. Scorer – Jimmy Dunne
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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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