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Relief - Preview
Tuesday, 14th Mar 2023 07:51 by Clive Whittingham

The new, improved, direct, uncompromising, shithousing Queens Park Rangers have a first win in 14 attempts under their belts, and now head up north for another bracing evening at Blackpool.

Blackpool (7-11-18 LWLLDL 22nd) v QPR (11-9-16 LLLLLW 19th)

Lancashire and District Senior League >>> Tuesday March 14, 2023 >>> Kick Off 19.45 >>> Weather — Absolutely wild >>> Bloomfield Road, Blackpool, Lancashire


There are results in sport that bring ecstasy, that bring joy, that bring excitement. There are results in sport you expect to get, because you think your team is better than the opponent, and they’ve got this, and they just go out there and own it, and you walk away almost smug because of course. Those are the sort of results that bring confidence, and hope; confidence there’s more to come, hope it’s finally your time. There are results that come completely out of the blue, in run-of-the-mill games, when everything randomly clicks all of a sudden, and your routine trip to Derby, or Southampton, or Cardiff with a couple of mates turns into all the beer and Tina Turner on the 1836 home. You are those twats on the train this week, and how good does that feel, to see Bobby Zamora walking round the Middlesbrough goalkeeper, because somebody left a bottle cap on the field during the warm up and some idiot scum put their injury time back pass right across the top of it. There are games when it’s genuinely all on the line - it’s this or relegation, this or cup exit, this or promotion gone, this or another season wasted — and the euphoric, aggressive outpouring when those go well can make you as much as a Carl Griffiths winner for Port Vale or Delroy Facey strike for Huddersfield can destroy you when it goes the other way.

And then there’s just… relief. Now, clearly I’m way too invested in this by the standards of any sane 38-year-old. It was ridiculous how much Saturday’s result calmed my head, improved my mood, and brightened my Sunday. I’d actually forgotten what a Sunday morning looked like, felt like and was prior to this week, so prone to just wallowing around had I become - please don’t make me get up and crop the pictures, please don’t make me get up and crop the pictures. When you’ve come to be defined as that guy who goes to all the QPR games, and you work your way through each week in turn meeting the people you work with, the people you play Monday football with, the people you play Wednesday football with, the people you live with, and each in turn are asking “have you actually won a game yet?” then 21 matches over nearly six months with just one victory gets really, really old. You laugh along, because the run is so long and so ridiculous to become funny to even the poor people experiencing it, but with each giggle a little bit more of you dies inside. Yeh, we’re shit. Three one again was it? Mmmmmm hmmmm. Friends and family have been doing the Gary Lineker-Paul Gascoigne ‘keep an eye on him’ gesture for a few weeks now.

Whether you’re the hopeless obsessive with it all horribly out of perspective, the casual observer, the occasional attender, the home and awayer, the game chooser, the guy who lost touch, the lad who’s just getting into it… Saturday was about relief. When Luke Amos stuck his shoulder in on Joao Pedro in the School End penalty box late in the day and the Brazilian hit the deck everybody around me in F Block responded the same: “nooooo, no, no, no, no, no, no, no”. No way. No, no, no, no. Begging, pleading, with Luke, with the stand in referee, with themselves. Please God. No, no, no. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a ground exhale as one quite like Loftus Road did on Saturday when time was finally, mercifully called. Silver Lining never sounded quite so good, and Daphne looked down on us all.

QPR are a little bit prone to these. It’s always around this time of the year, it’s always 1-0, it’s always just at the point when all hope and life seems to have drained from us, and it’s never easy. Just when we’re out, they draw us all back in. Sam Di Carmine driving home through the snow for caretaker manager Gareth Ainsworth against promotion bound Birmingham — they equalised in injury time, it was belatedly flagged offside, it took ten years off my life. Luke Freeman’s emperor penguin routine against Leeds United for Steve McClaren’s dire team — he beat them by himself. Juergen Sommer’s jet-propelled dog having a day against Aston Villa. We’d make an excellent deviant MP, knowing just how tight to let that noose get, just how much that motel ceiling light can take, before biting into the lemon and letting it all go. And breathe. Breathe.

It would have been tempting to do this as the introduction to Sunday’s match report. The Luke Freeman game, in particular, felt very apt, as a shocking team that was clearly absolutely spent and felt like it would never win again pulled it out of the fire against a promotion contender just when we’d all given up on them. That formed part of one win in 13 games, we followed it up with a 3-0 shellacking at Brentford. You do still sense there’s some real grim stuff still to come, from this team, and this season.

It could also have been compared to the Sheff Utd and Swansea home games before it. In both, QPR led 1-0, and the visiting team scored a late equaliser — in the case of the Blades it was literally the last kick of the game. Oh how different things could have been for Neil Critchley had either goal not gone in, oh how things might go so well for Gareth Ainsworth now because he was able to see a marginal game through — it’s a valid angle, and as I keep saying you try writing 48 of these fuckers a season.

Saturday felt different to those two games, and not just because we saw the win through. Against the Blades and the Swans it felt rather like we were hanging grimly on against better teams — Sheff Utd throughout, and Swansea once Lyndon Dykes had left the front press. The goals felt inevitable, and had been preceded by numerous scares. On Saturday Watford barely threatened. Now, that’s partly because they were a dream opponent for us at this point. Already onto a third manager of the season, they looked exactly like Harry Redknapp’s QPR team with all the resources they need to win that game and this league but really not that arsed about doing either — Ismaila Sarr against Osman Kakay, Joao Pedro against Andre Dozzell, Keinan Davis against Rob Dickie, and you lose 1-0, I’d be having them doing laps of the track all week. But mainly because QPR got amongst it, intimidated an opponent, and competed in a way they simply haven’t done for more than a year now.

The style has been completely changed, overnight, mid-season by Gareth Ainsworth. Just 124 passes completed Saturday, little more than one a minute; 51% passing accuracy against Watford, and 48% against Rotherham, both the worst in the league on those matchdays; 40% possession against the Hornets, again the 20th worst total in the Championship at the weekend (hat tip @AnalyticsQPR by the way, worth a follow). This result and the way it was achieved have reignited the message board debate started when Valerian Ismael brought his Barnsley team to Loftus Road in lockdown and scorched the earth — sure, it’s worked, you’ve won, but could you watch it every week? QPR have technicians to come back from injury all over the park, most notably Ilias Chair and Chris Willock, so the style may get some refining. They’re also fighting relegation at the moment, and biblically low on confidence, so it’s needs must. But I don’t think Gareth Ainsworth is suddenly going to become a play-out-from-the-back boss just because it’s now 2023/24 and a few players are fit again — no guarantee those players will be around either, given the budget we’re likely to be working to. To a large extent, this is us now.

That’s going to divide opinion, but as I said when he was appointed it’s almost sanctimonious to be talking about ‘the QPR way’ when you’ve been consistently shit and losing most weeks for a full calendar year, and you’re currently playing 4-4-2 with Sam Field right wing and Chris Martin up front. Russell Martin football is every bit as boring and unwatchable as Tony Pulis football and those of us who have traversed the country watching us take the Dunne to Dickie to Dieng to Dunne to Dickie to Dieng to Dickie to Dunne to Dickie to Dieng act on tour since January last year have become exasperated and stupefied by it. It hasn’t worked, we’ve been easy to play against, it’s boring and frustrating — just because it’s on the floor hasn’t made a lot of difference. Saturday was, in its own way, fairly exhilarating. I know this support base really well after three decades living in the middle of it, and the style will wear thin much faster than a more purest-friendly approach if and when results go south again — though that will be tempered by Gareth getting more time than a normal manager because he’s Gareth. Tonight, against a Mick McCarthy side bracingly try to 0-0 its way out of relegation danger, I suspect we’re in for a difficult watch that’ll ignite the debate all over again. But, when it does, it’ll be worth remembering we were a staggering one win from 21 games played trying to do it the other way. The players we have, and the players we’re likely to be able to afford next season, aren’t good enough to do it.

QPR were horrible on Saturday, in a good way. They were winning tackles and headers, they were picking up first contact and second ball, they were physical, they were intimidating, they employed all the dark arts, they broke the game up when they needed to, and they won. How many times over the past few months has an opponent done that to us, and we’ve just laid there and taken it as Watford did? How many times have we seen a Luke O’Nien-type mess with our heads and longed for just a little bit of that from our nice, quiet team? It’s the Championship, you’ve got to check your morals in at the door a little bit sometimes.

To see us compete in a game, stand up for ourselves in a game, and finally, finally win a game was… well, it was a relief.

Links >>> Difficult second album — Interview >>> Never-ending cup tie — History >>> Whitestone in charge — Referee >>> Blackpool Official Website >>> Bloomfield Road Ground Guide >>> Blackpool Gazette — Local Press >>> A View From The Tower — Message Board >>> Seasiders — Podcast >>> The Mighty Pool — Blog >>> Blackpool supporters trust >>> Mitch Cook’s Left Foot — Contributor’s Blog >>> Measured Progress — Blog

Below the fold

Team News: QPR’s significantly improved efforts against Watford on Saturday were boosted by a return to the starting line up for Lyndon Dykes just a month on from his bout of pneumonia and week stay in hospital. He lasted the best part of an hour there, whether he’ll be able to go again as soon as Tuesday seems pretty doubtful. That may apply to a few of them, depending on how much of the laying down dead at the end of the Watford game was actual injuries and how much was clock running — Andre Dozzell, Aaron Drewe and Stefan Johansen all on the deck for treatment late in the game. Kenneth Paal and Ilias Chair are due back, but won’t be ready until Birmingham so I wonder whether that match will be the big focus of the week. Big improvements came from a switch to a back three, with Ainsworth tired of waiting for Jake Clarke-Salter and Leon Balogun to return and going with it anyway with Sam Field dropping back.

Blackpool lost veteran striker Gary Madine to a leg injury just 23 seconds into the weekend defeat at Bristol City. That rather sums up a season in which the Tangerines’ attempts to stay in the Championship have been persistently undermined by a string of injuries, and suspensions from a league-leading nine red cards. Brentford’s long-throwing centre back Charlie Goode was brought in by McCarthy to stiffen the defence in January, but has already been ruled out for the season, while Tom Trybull who they hoped could solve problems for them in the middle of midfield is now also out. Marvin Ekpiteta, Liam Bridcutt, Kevin Stewart, Shayne Lavery and Jake Beesley are all out medium term. Keshi Anderson, a key cog in Neil Critchley’s team last season, has played only half an hour this campaign but came through a reserve game last week and could finally be involved here. Lewis Fiorini and Leeds loanee Ian Povede stormed out of the ground after discovering they weren’t playing against Burnley in the last home game and were subsequently left out of the game at Bristol on disciplinary grounds, but they come back into contention here. Rob Apter returns after nearly a month out with a groin problem.

Elsewhere: Rangers’ victory at the weekend has put ten points between them and their opposition this week, Blackpool, who occupy the final relegation spot. With just ten games left to play, it’s made things look and feel a lot better after the latest winless run of 13.

It was, nevertheless, starting to feel like QPR might survive regardless by default. Wigan, bottom with 32 points, look set to be deducted three having failed to pay their players on time again — a previous fine of three points after a similar offence was suspended on the proviso they didn’t do it again. They face Coventry at home on Tuesday. Huddersfield, second bottom and also on 32, are also apparently on the brink of yet another takeover, although it’s rumoured the owners of AZ Alkmaar intend to buy the club, whack it straight into admin, buy it out with less debt and simply start again in League One — admin brings with it an automatic 12-point deduction of course. They’re hosting Norwich in this midweek round. And we still wait to see whether the six- to 12-point deduction rumours swirling around Reading are true, with Paul Ince apparently now on his last legs and Sunderland’s U21 boss and former Reading legend Graeme Murty waiting in the wings ahead of their trip to in form Blackburn. Maybe take some points off Cardiff as well before they host West Brom — they’re always up to something.

It's turning into a division of points deductions and transfer embargoes. Champions Burnley, conveniently a month after the closure of the latest transfer window in which they spent north of £10m on another five players, are blocked from signing players until what they promise is simply an admin problem with the auditing of their accounts is sorted out. Smell tests at the ready as they head to Hull. Birmingham, too, under investigation for an illegal ownership structure, this week travel to Watford. The Hornets looked the epitome of ‘all the gear no idea’ at Loftus Road at the weekend and they’re now down in eleventh with a six point gap up to Millwall (Swanselona H) in the final play-off spot, so all on there for Chris Wilder in his fortnight in charge. Just to make life even more unbearable for them, bitter rivals Lutown continue to steam towards a second consecutive appearance in the end of season knockout. Their weekend win at Sheffield Red Stripe cements them in fourth ahead of a visit from Bristol City, and means that as Sheff Utd head into a tough game up at Sunderland they’re now only four points ahead of Boro who will surely relish a visit from Stoke.

Rotherham v Preston Knob End looks… attritional.

Referee: It’s a quick return to action with both these teams for Dean Whitestone, who refereed our 2-1 home loss to Millwall and Blackpool’s 1-0 loss at Blackburn in mid-February. Details.


Blackpool: No noticeable change in fortune for Pool since Mick McCarthy joined in mid-January — they’ve won one in ten since then, and in the league are on a very-QPR-like run of one win from 19 fixtures. They come into this one having lost four of the last six games and just one point and a single goal scored from the last four fixtures. They are proving tricky to beat at Bloomfield Road though, Champions Burnley were held to a surprise 0-0 here last week which means the Tangerines are unbeaten in six games here, with clean sheets in the last three. They’ve lost only one in eight at home in all comps, three of those finishing 0-0. Former QPR junior Josh Bowler won the corresponding meeting at Loftus Road by scoring the only goal of the game — one of nine Rangers have conceded to former players this season. Watch out not only for him this Tuesday, but also this week’s Striker Who Hasn’t Scored Since The Cretaceous Period: Jerry Yates has ten for the season, but none in his last ten in all comps and 18 in the league after a bad miss at Bristol City at the weekend. Seven of his ten came in a hot five-game scoring sequence in October. Pool have had nine red cards this season, including three in the same game in their 3-3 at Sheff Utd, more than any other team in the league. Only Swansea (11) have conceded more goals from corners than Blackpool (nine).

QPR: Well, it’s a relief to not just have to add one to the ever-growing list of horror numbers. Saturday’s 1-0 win against Watford halted all sorts of runs — a first win in 14 attempts, a second win in 21, a first win in ten home games, an eighth clean sheet of the season and first in 13 games going back to Boxing Day. It didn’t do a lot for the goalscoring — still just six in our last eight, one goal or fewer in each of those, ten games since we scored twice, 23 matches since we scored three, five goals at the Loft End all season (two penalties), but the four shots on target against Chris Wilder’s side was the most we’ve managed in a game since the 1-0 win at Preston in December 15 games ago. It was a first double of the campaign, and first against Watford since 86/87 - the maximum we can get that total to is four with games still to come against Wigan, Bristol City and Preston. Rangers are winless in eight away games coming into this one, losing four, scoring only six and conceding 14. There are, however, happier omens around a trip to Blackpool. Rangers have only lost five of 31 meetings in history and prior to a 1-0 loss at Loftus Road in August were unbeaten in ten going back to 2007. Bloomfield Road has been a happy place to visit for Rangers with only two defeats from 15 visits and four wins in the last seven games here. Chris Martin has also six goals in his last five appearances against Blackpool.

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 QPR collection here. Let’s brace for the impact of what last year’s champion Cheesy thinks tomorrow…

“I guess not many people were expecting that on Saturday. It was a joy to watch. My man of the match was Martin. No shits given. Before the Watford game, I couldn't see us not get relegated. Three points and all of the teams below losing, I think the 10 point gap will be too much for the others to catch us now. The win and the way we won should give the boys a lift going into Blackpool. I would be pleased with a draw here and a win vs Birmingham.”

Cheesy’s Prediction: Blackpool 0-0 QPR. No scorer.

LFW’s Prediction: Blackpool 0-0 QPR. No scorer.

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gazza1 added 08:42 - Mar 14
I, too, had a great weekend Norf.....Saturday was proper football, proper enjoyable, proper everything!!! - we are not good enough to play football at the back, just get the fooking thing up top and get players up there too & work until you drop. Much more enjoyable IMHO. Saturday night in the pub, Sunday morning watching the boys play - best weekend for many, many weeks. I want more - RELIEF.
Play like that at B'pool and a happy trip for the R's is forthcoming.

enfieldargh added 09:48 - Mar 14
It was a nice read Gazza but terrible echo echo echo

thehat added 09:52 - Mar 14

Thanks Clive great preview - I'm glad it's not just me whose mood is heavily influenced by our bloody football team. Pathetic really at my age but there you go it's not going to change now.

Bite your hand off for the most boring, 0 v 0 tonight to keep the daylight between us and those below with another game chalked off.

oakskull added 11:09 - Mar 14
It still doesn't make any sence to me that you have to change the very justification of the team, the Origin Story for many of us of a lifetime of hope and hopelesness in supporting a footballing team. Passing accruacy below 50 pst is a joke. QPR were on top just a few months ago as a footballing team. We have picked up some injuries, and need to adapt, but this regression back to the stone age is too painful and should not be necessary.

TacticalR added 13:56 - Mar 14
Thanks for your preview.

The problem with the whole noose and lemon thing is that it's a very fine line...and accidents can happen.

One reason among all the others for the relief was that we were down to what looked like a scratch side, without the players who can normally conjure something out of nothing (Chair and Willock), and without Beale's babes, who have nearly all disappeared. Some feared a thrashing by Watford. Yet the scratch side looked solid.

As we now play against a side scrapping for points we will find out if Saturday was a one-off against a complacent team of ex-Premiership players.

One thing that will be interesting to discover is if Ainsworth is like Warnock and actually likes these trips up North.

Random_Ranger added 14:50 - Mar 14
Great read as always, but surely after these predictions we are nailed for a 7-7 thriller?

hixepeg940 added 22:27 - May 20
Football is truly the most popular sport in the whole world, and no one argues with that. In general, I would like to say that sport is an extremely important and integral part of human life. In America there is even a huge network of fitness clubs fitness connection , which are so huge that they have everything you need: the gym itself, a bathhouse, a sauna, a swimming pool, a massage room, a restaurant and much more.

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