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Blackburn Rovers 1 v 2 Queens Park Rangers
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 3rd February 2024 Kick-off 15:00
Surprise reinforcements lead QPR to Blackburn – Preview
Friday, 2nd Feb 2024 21:18 by Dave Barton

Through many financial slights of hand and being able to pick up some ridiculously cheap short term deals right at the end of the window, QPR have been able to add to their beleaguered squad prior to Saturday’s trip to Blackburn – Dave Barton has this week’s preview.

Blackburn (10-3-15 LDWLDW 18th) v QPR (6-7-16 DLLLWD 22nd)

Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday February 3, 2024 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Manky, it’s Blackburn of course it’s manky >>> Ewood Park, Blackburn, Lancashire

When Clive asked me to cover the Blackburn match preview as he takes a very well earned break my initial thought was what on earth do I talk about ahead of a fixture that is usually a pretty forgettable 1-0 defeat? This is QPR though, there’s always something, and after this week now I’m struggling to know where to start.

Another opportunity to escape the bottom three ended without QPR winning, the club’s most experienced player appeared to dig out a few of his teammates on social media, Charlie Kelman got a new contract and we actually went and signed some new players before the transfer window Slammed Shut™.

The week began with the fallout from last weekend's six-pointer against Huddersfield and much like the previous six-pointers against Plymouth and Sheffield Wednesday it wasn’t the joyous occasion we all hoped for. A 1-1 draw thanks to a last-minute equaliser was not the worst result but certainly not one to be thrilled about either. Judging by the mood of fans on social media and on the various forums it’s safe to say not many were happy with the performance or the result. Alex Perry summed up what was a pretty poor performance very well in the match report but I always try to look for positives, so I walked away from it quite pleased that we took something from a game we didn’t play well in and were two minutes away from leaving us pretty much dead and buried.

There were obvious problems with the performance. We moved the ball too slowly and lacked creativity in midfield, but the team spirit was there to get something from the game when it looked lost and that goal and the point it won could be vital come the end of the season. Keeping Huddersfield to within three points as opposed to six felt important. These sorts of games are rarely pretty: they are tight, tense, awful to watch affairs and that Huddersfield game wasn’t massively different from our performance against Millwall a week earlier, other than us failing to score the first goal on this occasion.

We’ve seen it before in relegation battles not winning these kinds of games can be fatal although a 5-0 defeat at Southend in 2007 with us looking dead and buried ended with us staying up whilst winning against relegation rivals Southampton and Sunderland in 2013 just delayed the drop by a couple of weeks.

So much was made of that January run of games and it’s certainly an opportunity missed to put points on the board, those Cardiff and Watford defeats feel to me more damaging than last week's draw, but it all reminded me a little bit of the 2011/12 season when we had a nice run of games that the club had been targeting as our push for safety.

Home games against Wigan, Wolves, Fulham and Everton and away games at Blackburn and Bolton were seen as a real chance to pull clear. Of course we messed it up, winning just one of them and losing a massive game at Bolton. In the end we still managed to stay up anyway pulling off some miraculous results so whilst working out how to get to Barrow next season may well be a useful exercise we still have 17 games left to get out of this mess and are far from cut adrift at the moment

The end result of it is nothing has really changed, we’re still a QPR win and a Huddersfield defeat away from moving out of the bottom three and a QPR defeat/Huddersfield win away from being a daunting looking six points adrift.

I’ll try to gloss over Albert Adomah’s not so cryptic clue response to a fan telling him to retire on social media, it wasn’t overly helpful but when you have a player as experienced as Adomah willing to speak out it doesn’t exactly point to all being well behind closed doors.

On the transfer front a loan move for Charlie Kelman certainly makes sense and a chance for him to score some goals in League One, although his contract extension was a bit of a head scratcher. It’s been the way at QPR in recent years that we have players like him who don’t really get in the first team too often and when they do they don’t exactly impress but we’re reluctant to release them in case they come good. Kelman signed four years ago now and has just five starts to his name and zero goals. Maybe he’ll come good but does feel like we’ve got to the stage where we should shake hands and part ways.

The big shock was some players incoming, a much-needed new striker and reinforcements in midfield. It was good to see Rangers strengthen what are quite obviously the weakest parts of our team, it gives Cifuentes a fighting chance of staying in the division.

Now I’m not going to make any outlandish claims about the new boys partly because I’d never heard of Michael Frey or Joe Hodge until a week ago let alone seen either of them play and I’ll be honest my record with judging new signings is not the best. I was the idiot who used my AKUTRS column to claim Jordan Mutch was a great signing and I thought Gregory Goodridge was going to be even better than Trevor Sinclair so probably best for all concerned that I don’t go big on these new arrivals.

Issac Hayden is one player I’ve certainly seen over the years and looks a smart short term signing who will improve us and that's what we desperately need from these new arrivals. His arrival interview, by the standards of those things, was impressive and interesting. A chunky two minutes on the importance of personal accountability in relegation battles…

Good Luck to the three of them, we’re all counting on you.

And that leaves us now with a trip to Ewood Park, not exactly a happy hunting ground for us and not an easy place to get to on a weekend where we face another train strike.

Whether we stay up or not won’t be decided this weekend but it shouldn’t be overlooked what a big game this one could potentially be.

It’s been interesting to see the hype over last week’s six pointer compared to this week's one which has gone largely under the radar. Blackburn are bottom of the form table, just sold their star man and are one of a number of teams eight points clear of us who we could do with getting a lot closer to.

It’s also a chance for some redemption after what for me was the worst home performance I’ve ever seen when Blackburn came to town in October. Everyone involved that day should have been embarrassed and humiliated by it and this is a chance to right that wrong and produce a performance to restore a little bit of personal pride.

So despite the doom and gloom from last weekend this is a big opportunity that we have to take. If QPR turn up with a similar performance to last week then expect the usual 1-0 defeat but perhaps a game with slightly less pressure on it with some actual options on the bench to change things might give us a chance to extend our unbeaten run to a whopping three games.

Links >>> Casting nervous glances – Interview >>> Last win at Ewood – History >>> Eltringham in charge – Referee >>> Rovers official website >>> Official website >>> Lancashire Telegraph — Local Paper >>> BRFCS message board and podcast >>> Rovers Chat — Blog

90s Footballer Conspiracy Theories No.27 In The Series – David Cotterill thinks the WEF will be parachuting The Lizard Queen into the Huddersfield managerial position.

Below the fold

Team News: So, QPR have new signings to involve. Michael Frey, Isaac Heyden and Joe Hodge were all signed before the transfer deadline and are, in theory, available here. Frey is here because he’s in dispute with Royal Antwerp, and that unfortunately means he hasn’t played for anybody since May 13 last year when he turned out in a 6-0 defeat at Bayern Munich at the end of an unsuccessful, scoreless 15-game loan at Schalke. Hayden made nine starts and a sub appearance in the first half of the season for Standard Liege, most recently in a 1-1 draw against the troublesome girls from St Trinian’s on December 27. Hodge has only ever made seven starts and five sub appearances for Wolves, most recently doing 70 minutes of their 3-2 FA Cup replay win against Brentford on January 16. He was on the bench for the gutting 4-3 defeat against Man Utd on Thursday night so, you would think, unlikely to figure much for us at Ewood Park though he drove through the night after that game to be able to train with QPR on Friday and put himself in contention. Lucas Andersen, a Danish winger Cifuentes has managed before, seems likely to join after the deadline on a free transfer after being released from an injury-plagued spell at AaB – subject to international clearance and a medical. More incomings had been lined up but would only have been possible with further outgoings and moves for Chris Willock (wage demands), Taylor Richards (fitness) and Osman Kakay didn’t materialise.

Of the existing crew… Reggie Cannon left the Huddersfield draw early with the same groin injury he’s been plagued with pretty much from the moment he arrived. That made the club think twice about the plan to let Osman Kakay leave on deadline, but it was Aaron Drewe who came off the bench to deputise against the Terriers. Sam Field’s ridiculously harsh yellow card from Muscle Mary in that game moved him to ten for the season and a two-match ban starting here. Jack Colback is one off the same punishment himself, making the arrivals of Hodge and Hayden doubly important.

We’re offering an invite for you +1 to the housewarming at Danny Graham’s plush new Sunbury pad for any sighting of Taylor Richards.

Blackburn did some late transfer window activity of their own. Without a big money sale since Adam Armstrong to Southampton they were only about six months behind us on the highway to Fucksville FFP, but extracting £18m from Crystal Palace for Adam Wharton has solved all of that and with the purse strings suitable loosened they added the experience manager Jon Dahl Tomasson has been desperately seeking in the form of Coventry CB Kyle McFadzean and Sheff Utd midfielder John Fleck. Liverpool youngster Billy Koumetio has arrived on loan. Striker Duncan McGuire is here on loan with a view to a perm from Orlando – quite the contrast in destinations. Young striker Harry Leonard was ill for the FA Cup victory over Wrexham but will return. Niall Ennis, a summer punt from Plymouth, was on the bench in that game instead of him but has since been offloaded to Stoke. Callum Brittain also missed out against the Welsh circus and his ankle injury will sideline him again here. Hayden Carter and Harry Pickering are long term hamstring absentees.

Manager Jon Dahl Tomasson, who’s cut an increasingly frustrated figure in recent months and has frequently complained about the ownership, spending and transfer activity at the club, was withdrawn from Friday press duties by the club.

Elsewhere: As well as QPR’s latest big game at Ewood Park, there’s another huge one at the bottom of the division with Huddersfield hosting Sheff Wed straight after sacking their second manager of the season. Somebody’s getting some points there, somebody is dropping some points, I guess it depends on whether you’re a glass half full or empty type. Either way you’d have to think Rotherham stand little chance at home to Southampton whose rampage through the division now stretches to 22 unbeaten games.

It's long felt like three from those four at the bottom. If anybody could put a run together there is a whole clutch of teams just above in varying degrees of form or disarray – six of them on either 32 or 33 points. Birmingham are currently at the bottom of that pile but having got over their Wayne Rooney phase you’d expect them to climb away under Tony Mowbray – albeit a tough fixture this weekend at West Brom. Stoke have had absolutely no bounce at all from appointing Stephen Schumacher, and the extent of their recruitment operation has stretched to bringing in Niall Ennis to replace expensive flop Dwight Gayle – a player Schumacher flogged from Plymouth to Blackburn in the summer. A home game with Leicester doesn’t exactly scream sunlit uplands. Blackburn are next, and then Swansea who really will be counting their lucky blessings that they picked a year with this bottom four to have the season they’re having – cratering from an already low starting point and now at home to another of the group, Plymouth. Millwall, as we’ve seen twice recently, are truly awful, but still safely moored in sixteenth. Away at Hull this weekend.

At the top end it’s all about whether Ipswich can hold off the incessant winning of Southampton (Rotherham A) and Leeds who can move briefly into second with a Friday night win at Bristol City. Kieran McKenna has been backed this January though, with Blackburn’s John Buckley and Bournemouth target man Kieffer Moore both excellent additions. Their reshaped side heads to Preston Knob End.

Seven teams are separated by five points chasing the final two play-off positions. Reading down that list we’ve already mentioned West Brom in possession of one on 45, Coventry come next on 44 and they head to Norwich who aren’t far behind on 41, and there’s a battle between two of the others on Sunday lunchtime as Honest Mick takes Sunderland to Boro. Hull, on 42, have near enougha gimme at home to Millwall, and Watford on 41 are at home to Cardiff.

Referee: Geoff Eltringham, along with James Linington, consistently tops the LFW ratings as one of the best referees we have. Unfortunately, unlike Linington, QPR’s record is biblicly awful with him – now 2-4-11 and counting. Details.

Form

Blackburn: As pointed out in the comments section to one of our build up pieces, Blackburn are similar to us not only in their struggles to put a squad together amidst FFP restrictions brought about by their own incompetence, but also in struggling to cope with any prolonged injury or suspension absence from their first choice 11. For Rovers, like Rangers, it has been a tough winter. Trucking along quite nicely in the top half of the table in December they come into this match with one win in ten Championship matches – a sequence that has included a 3-1 loss to Sheff Wed and 3-0 defeat to Huddersfield. They conceded four to Southampton, three to Hull and drew 2-2 at home to Rotherham in this period.

All of that has been punctuated by big cup wins against Cambridge (5-2) and Wrexham (4-1). This should be no surprise, and not only because the opposition was from lower divisions. Blackburn’s record in cup competitions under Tomasson’s stewardship is extraordinary. In the League Cup this season they beat Walsall 4-3, Harrogate 8-0 and Cardiff 5-2 before going out to Chelsea 2-0. Last season they made the FA Cup quarter finals but lost 3-2 at Sheff Utd. Since Tomasson took over Rovers have won ten, drawn two and lost two in cup competitions, scoring a ridiculous 43 goals at a rate of 3.07 a game, and conceded 21.

In the league their 53 goals conceded is easily the division’s worst total, one more than whipping boys Rotherham and a full 13 goals more than even we’ve conceded. That said, their 41 goals scored is the best total of anybody bar Plymouth in the bottom half of the table and in Sammie Szmodics they have the league’s top scorer with 16 goals (and another five in the cups besides).

QPR: Rangers missed another chance to escape the bottom three by failing to beat Huddersfield at Loftus Road last Sunday. They were exceptionally lucky to get the point supplied by Kenneth Paal’s injury time equaliser – the Dutch left back is now, rather embarrassingly, the clubs’ joint top league scorer on four. We’ll only know in time how important that is, but staying within three of Huddersfield rather than dropping six behind the Terriers feels pretty pivotal to those clinging to what’s left of hope at this stage.

The facts remain pretty bleak though. They’ve won six of 31 games this season. They’ve won ten of their last 62 going back 14 months. They’ve won 23 of their last 98 games over the last two years. At best, they win one in four. At the moment, they struggle to win one of every six games they play. Currently it’s one from the last ten. Still, we are meeting a team every bit as bad at defending set pieces. Only Blackburn (eight) have conceded more from corners than QPR’s seven this season.

Ewood Park has been an absolute graveyard for QPR in modern times. The 2-0 win here with goals from Stuart Wardley and Kevin Gallen in 1999/00 which got Brian Kidd the sack as Rovers boss is the last time we registered a maximum on this ground – 24 years and 13 attempts ago. We’ve lost the last six visits here, four of those by the same 1-0 scoreline including the last two. We’ve lost ten of the last 11 meetings in the north west, with a 1-1 draw in January 2016 the only respite. Even that came with an 85th minute equaliser by Hope Akpan – Rangers have conceded crucial goals after 73, 77, 85, 87, 90 and 90 again across their last seven visits. You have to go back to 1983 for the last time we won here before 99/00, a 3-1 success. We’ve been to Blackburn 18 times since, winning once, losing 13. Oy vey.

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.

“We never seem to win at Ewood Park and I don't imagine it starting this time. They've had an up and down season to say the least, but do possess a genuine goalscorer which we do not. I think they'll knock us down 2-0 without either side being particularly impressive. No scorer for us obviously.”

Aston’s Prediction: Blackburn 2-0 QPR. No scorer.

Dave’s Prediction: Blackburn 1-1 QPR. Scorer – Ilias Chair.

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TacticalR added 22:42 - Feb 2
Thanks for your preview (and for a bit of historical perspective on past relegation battles).

Whatever you do, don't go giving us hope. Oh go on then...it's a good point that we generally do better when less is expected.

Nobody seems to know much about these new loan players. Anyone who can give us a sniff of a goal will be very welcome and might put some belief in the team.
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snanker added 23:41 - Feb 2
Good write up Dave & some horror stats there against Blackburn this century ! Even the refs numbers are a shocker ! Will be very interesting to see what side we put on the park and the surest things about this game is a Colback card and a Szmodics goal !!
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TomS added 00:12 - Feb 3
He'll join "subject to a medical". LoL.....

Have we ever turned anyone down due to a poor medical?
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kingfisher6404 added 12:29 - Feb 3
I agree with your prediction of a 1-1 draw Dave, so that probably ensures it fails... The new arrivals are largely in midfield (1 x DM & 2 x AM (if Andersen joins too)), but much rests on the shoulders of Frey! There is little point in getting up to the final third and squandering chances, whether through inexperience or just poor finishing. Michael Frey will have a lot resting on his shoulders!
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