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Swansea City 0 v 1 Queens Park Rangers
SkyBet Championship
Monday, 1st April 2024 Kick-off 15:00
The noise before the noise – Preview
Sunday, 31st Mar 2024 23:40 by Clive Whittingham

After the highs of Good Friday, QPR need to focus back down to business swiftly for a Monday away game at Swansea and then key home game with Sheff Wed to come.

Swansea (12-11-16 WWDLWD 15th) v QPR (11-10-18 WWDLDW 18th)

Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Monday April 1, 2024 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Damp >>> Swansea, South Wales

Egon: Look, John Ruddy’s already wasting time. It would take a tremendous amount of positive energy to crack that shell and I seriously doubt there's enough goodwill left in this town to do it.

Ray: You know, I just can't believe things have gotten so bad in this city that there's no way back. I mean, sure, it's dirty, it's crowded, it's polluted, it's noisy and there's people all around who'd just as soon step on your face as look at you. But come on. There's got to be a few sparks of sweet humanity left in this burned-out burg and we just have to figure out a way to mobilize it.

Egon: He's right. We need something that everyone in this town can get behind, we need... a symbol!

Ray: Something that appeals to the best in each and every one of us.

Egon: Something good.

Winston: Something decent.

Peter: Something pure…

During the last 20 years I’ve been trying and, to my mind, mostly failing to adequately put into words an explanation for why you, or I, or anybody, would care quite so much about something like Queens Park Rangers. We roll our eyes and joke about Ticketmaster - a company that exists solely for the sale and distribution of tickets, which is almost completely useless at the sale and distribution of tickets – but they are in every way the perfect partner to QPR. We are a football club that, for decades now, has not been very good at football.

So, why are we still there? Week after week. Month after month. Year after year. Why have I turned down jobs and engineered moves half the length of the country to be ever closer still to something that lets me down quite as often as it does? Why, when I knew we were going to lose, did I take two days off work (which I cannot afford), drive (which I hate doing), up the M1 (which I hate being on), for eight hours (which is long), to Leeds (which I hate), to stand in a dank corner of Elland Road (which I hate), surrounded by Leeds fans (who I hate), at a cost of somewhere around £200 (which I do not have), to watch QPR lose 1-0 (which they deserved), and stay in a Premier Inn (which forcibly closed the bar at midnight), and then spend another eight hours (which is long), driving (which I hate), back down the A1 (which I also hate being on) the following day? Why would a sane person do this? There are, surely, other lives to lead than this.

We’ve all, at various points, tried to explain our connection to this obviously forlorn cause. Oh so many mawkish diatribes about how we cling to the connection with dead relatives by traipsing off to Preston to watch QPR lose two nil, telling ourselves the whole way there and the whole way back that the time, money and disappointment is justified because grandad/dad/brother/son would have wanted it this way and been here with you if they could.

By stacking the disappointments one on top of another – moment by moment, refereeing injustice by refereeing injustice, game by game, week by week, month by month, season by season, year upon Godforsaken year – we convince ourselves they help us to enjoy the good times when they do come.

We see it the opposite way around among plastic Man Utd, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool fans, for whom Champions League group matches are some horrible chore, and dipping down to eighth in the Premier League for a bit is some sort of existential crisis. Even Man City, who I remember us relegating from the second tier to league matches with Macclesfield with the greatest own goal of all time, and West Ham, who we’ll be playing again competitively sooner rather than later, are treating multiple runs deep into European competitions as all a bit run-of-the-mill and isn’t-there-more-to-life these days. If QPR ever stumble into some multi-team Europa League group stage you won’t see me for dust – it’ll be a sabbatical from work, and break-glass-in-case of-emergency credit card.

Then again, I do remember quite enjoying travelling around the rail network for a year watching Adel Taarabt breath fire over the wheatfields of this country’s second division. I remember hanging over quite a few dividing nets between away ends and home, giving it fairly large wanker signs, and I’m not sure it needed ten years of Karl Ready and Tony Roberts before that to motivate me. It helped, don’t get me wrong, but I reckon I’d have enjoyed it regardless.

For whatever individual reason, we are QPR. With that, sad as it may be, comes the realisation that nothing, but nothing, will ever replicate the feeling of that ball leaving Jimmy Dunne’s left foot on Friday afternoon. We’re like heroin addicts trying to explain to the cleans how it feels when we do what we do. We do so full in the knowledge that our comrades end up dead, in squats or railway cuttings or public toilets, with needles in their arms, and somehow it’s worth the risk to us. All we can do is refer to some feeling, indescribable to the non-believer, and shrug. They shake their heads at us.

Our hit can best be described with a noise. The noise as the ball leaves his foot. The noise of the starved masses, who know the endorphin hit is seconds away. The noise before the actual noise. It begins with an “ohh”, and ends with a tumble down a set of concrete steps. Blood spewing from a torn lip. I regret nothing, and neither do you. It’s the sound of people who could do with something good happening to them, just as they realise something good is about to happen to them.

It could be the moment this team so desperately needed. The Statue of Liberty, mobilised by Jackie Wilson, walking towards The Manhattan Museum of Art.

It could also be a problem. Like it’s job done/Dunne.

Jimmy Dunne’s goal feels existential. Of course we’ll be alright now. Four points north of the bottom three with seven games (21 points) left to play for, if QPR even win two more matches from here it means two of Birmingham, Sheff Wed and Huddersfield have to win four of seven. Looking at the way those players celebrated together, the way Cifuentes brought them all back out for a second curtain call, the way the whole ground stayed to give that acclaim, feels like something could be (re)building here.

But, also, four points is nothing. It’s barely a month since I was sitting in a different Premier Inn, in Stoke, writing this group off as losers, destined to let us down yet again. Lose to Swansea tomorrow, lose to Sheff Wed on Saturday, Rangers could be back in the bottom three, with five to play and all but one of their “winnable” games burned away.

You can see it in Marti Cifuentes’ celebration of that winning goal – checking himself from tearing off down the touchline with everybody else, remembering there are six minutes of stoppage time to come and QPR absolutely love fucking up six minutes of stoppage time to come. There are seven games to play, and QPR absolutely love fucking up seven games to play.

For now, the Jimmy Dunne moment is a justification for so much life, time and money wasted. Until anything else can make you feel like that, you’ll be hanging around here just in case it happens again. We’ll watch that video on a loop for one more night, before the bean counting begins again in the morning, and the wait for our next fix starts afresh.

Links >>> But they beat Cardiff – Oppo Profile >>> Robbie James – History >>> Newbie – Referee >>> Official Website >>> Planet Swans — Blog and Forum >>> Swansea Independent - Forum >>> Wales Online — Local Paper >>> The Jack Army — Forum >>> SOS - Fanzine

90s Footballer Conspiracy Theories No.37 In The Series – Serbian Everton sticker book favourite Preki does not believe Finland exists. He claimes it is a landmass fabricated by the Japanese and the Russians to secretly hoard fishing rights in the Baltic Sea. He lives at home with his second wife and two children in Seattle (WA).

Below the fold

Team News: Isaac Hayden limped out of Friday’s win precipitating confusion and chaos through the midfield into which Juninho Bacuna inserted an opening goal. You would think it unlikely the Newcastle loanee plays here, with Jack Colback and Sam Field the frontrunners in the centre of the park. Morgan Fox, I guess, stands by if they’re wary of risking Jake Clarke-Salter and Steve Cook’s burgeoning centre back partnership in a second game in four days, but I think the rotation, if it’s to come, will likely take place more at the top end of the pitch. We’ve already been alternating Michy Frey (poor on Friday) with Lyndon Dykes (poor at Sunderland), but you could also feasibly bring in Joe Hodge, Sinclair Armstrong and Paul Smyth for Ilias Chair (fasting), Chris Willock (hamstrings made of chewing gum) and Lucas Andersen (bible class) should you wish. One of the more intriguing team sheets we’ve had of late, with the team effectively picking itself for the last few games.

Josh Key (hamstring) made his first Swansea start since December in Friday’s 1-1 draw at Sheffield Wednesday. That has helped somewhat ease Luke Williams’ problems in defence where Welsh international Ben Cabango (calf), one-time QPR transfer target Kyle Naughton (lamb) and Liam Walsh (piglet) are all also missing.

Elsewhere: Now 19 points adrift with only 21 left to play for, we will bid an official farewell to Rotherham unless they win Monday’s home game with Millwall.

The battle to avoid joining them in League One next season intensifies. Sheff Wed, without influential loanee Ian Poveda through injury, just seem to be losing momentum in their survival charge and have a tough trip to Middlesbrough. Huddersfield have taken just one point from the last four games, and that away to Rotherham, ahead of a crunch Easter Monday clash at to fellow strugglers Stoke. Steven Schumacher’s side securing a surprise win at Hull on Friday gives them a chance to really climb towards safety with another win here, while pushing a rival deeper into the mire. Birmingham will certainly be hoping the Potters succeed in that aim – now four straight defeats and only one goal scored, Gary Rowett’s second coming at St Andrew’s starts with a visit from Preston Knob End who need a win to keep alive fading play-off hopes.

Plymouth might now be the ones to watch in this. The departure of Schumacher really has hobbled them with just three wins in 17 league games since his defection to Stoke – goalkeeper Mike Cooper recently captured on camera apparently beckoning the Home Park crowd to sing up as they called for the head of rookie replacement Ian Foster. Will they be pushing the Neil Warnock button without a favourable result at home to Bristol City? The Greens will be into the bottom three for the first time if they lose and Brum and Huddersfield both win.

Blackburn, another who just cannot buy a win after three disallowed goals in the Friday home defeat to Ipswich made it just two wins in 21 Championship matches, are away at Sunderland.

At the top end, having all three parachute payment guzzling promotion candidates slip up on the same day was not only good for the soul, it was also brilliant for Ipswich whose win at Ewood means they’ve come from 18 points back at the start of February to overhaul Leicester and top the table with seven to go. Monday is another round where the top four have their games spaced out across the afternoon with Leicester going first against Norwich at lunchtime, the game of the day between Ipswich and fourth-placed Southampton at 17.30 and then a Yorkshire-off between Leeds and Hull at 20.00 – I bet the police were delighted with that Sky move.

With play-off chasing Coventry at home to Cardiff and West Brom at home to Watford it’s a full round of fixtures with something key riding on every game.

Referee: Sam Allison is a fire fighter and former footballer with Swindon, Bristol City and Exeter who became just the second ever black referee in the top flight, following Uriah Rennie, when he joined the list last season. This is his first QPR game. Details.


Swansea: The Swans came out of the winter with one win and five defeats from seven games, with a 5-0 defeat to Bournemouth in the FA Cup thrown in for good measure. Having started the season with no wins from the first seven league fixtures and had another run of one win from eight and two from 12 it’s felt like they’ve been trying to get involved in the relegation battle throughout. They lost four in a row at home through January and February, including Plymouth’s long awaited first away win back at this level. However, of late, the impact of former Notts County boss Luke Williams is starting to be felt. Swansea have lost only one of the last six games and have won four of the last nine. At home they’ve won their last two against Blackburn and Cardiff.

Swansea have conceded 59 goals this season – only the bottom six have let in more. The 26 goals they’ve allowed at home is two more than Rotherham, Sheff Wed and Birmingham who are all in the bottom four. And yet, Brighton loanee goalkeeper Carl Rushworth is rated as a potential player of the year in these parts having played every minute. Opta rate him as the division’s best this term for goals prevented – saving his team an xG of 7.2 goals. Asmir Begovic has conceded eight fewer overall, but Opta estimates he has cost QPR 7.2 goals so far – only Ryan Allsop at Hull and Gavin Bazunu at Southampton have worse xG stats than Begovic.

Jamal Lowe’s equaliser at Hillsborough on Friday was Swansea’s twelfth goal from a set piece this season – only five teams have a better dead ball record. The former QPR loanee is the top scorer for the Swans with eight league goals – Jerry Yates has seven in the Championship and one in the cup. After drawing 1-1 at Loftus Road in September the Swans won their next four against Sheff Wed, Millwall (both 3-0), Norwich (2-1) and Plymouth (3-1). That remains their longest winning sequence of the season, and also the only three occasions they’ve scored more than two goals in a game.

QPR: Steve Cook and Jimmy Dunne both scored their first goals of the season on Friday to seal the much needed 2-1 win at home to Birmingham. For Cook it was a first goal in QPR colours, and his first in four seasons going back to November 2019 when he netted a consolation in Bournemouth 1-2 Premier League defeat at home to Wolves – 131 appearances ago. Across 28 starts and one sub appearance he has played in ten of the team’s 11 wins, and nine of its ten clean sheets (Preston away the anomaly in both cases, when he was on the bench). He’s lost only two of his last 16 starts and lost only eight of the 28 games he’s started. For Dunne it was a first goal since netting the winner at Preston in December 2022 in Neil Critchley’s first game in charge – 48 appearances and three QPR managers ago. Rangers have lost only one of seven games since he switched to right back. Jack Supple tells us Rangers have also won all six games in which Dunne has scored (Preston H Oct 2021, Reading H Jan 2022, Blackpool H Feb 2022, Middlesbrough H Aug 2022, Preston A Dec 2022, Birmingham H Mar 2024).

The Birmingham victory was only Rangers’ fifth win at Loftus Road so far – only basement dwellers Rotherham have won fewer home matches. Three of those victories have come in the last seven games in W12. The R’s won none of their first eight at home in the league, including the 1-1 draw with Swansea in the first meeting. Unusually for this club in recent times, lots of the heavy lifting has been done away from home. QPR’s six away wins to date is the best record in the bottom ten, one more than Norwich in sixth, and the same as West Brom in fifth. Cifuentes’ side have lost only one of their last six on the road, winning at Blackburn, Bristol City and Leicester in that sequence, and are unbeaten in three road games coming into this one. As against Rotherham, Rangers came from 1-0 down to win 2-1. Including the West Brom, Norwich and Huddersfield games that’s nine points recovered from losing positions in the last six home games and the last ten overall. Rangers recovered just five points from losing positions in the previous 50 matches before that.

There have been some wild meetings between QPR and Swansea since this fixture was rekindled regularly in 2008/09 – although many of the extremes have taken place at Loftus Road. Rangers have beaten Swansea 5-1, 4-0 twice and 3-0 in Shepherd’s Bush, but Swansea also have an infamous 5-0 win there on the opening day of 2012/13. In South Wales QPR went from a 2-1 win in January 1981 to Lyndon Dykes’ winner in a 1-0 here during the lockdown 2020/21 without a win. Eight visits in that time (D4 L4) but Mark Warburton’s side followed it up the year after with another 1-0 victory, supplied by an Andre Gray goal, in what turned out to be the manager’s last game. Recent meetings have been a lot more cagey – four of the last eight have been draws, including three of the last five and both of the last two. Three of the four that have been won have all been 1-0.

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.

“After the highs of the last game, I'm hoping we can start this one on the front foot and take the game to Swansea. They're not technically 'on the beach' yet but they have nothing to worry about in terms of relegation. Hopefully the new manager will be too busy trying new things and will let us roll them over. Would take a point though. 2-2, Willock to score first.”

Aston’s Prediction: Swansea 2-2 QPR. Scorer – Chris Willock

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

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TacticalR added 14:59 - Apr 1
Thanks for your preview.

There have to be some highs to go with all the lows (which have been chipping away at the club for years). With all our goal-scoring problems it's great to see a wonder-goal conjured from somewhere completely unexpected.

Let's hope our élan from Friday will carry over and help us get something at Swansea.

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