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Friday, 15th Jan 2016 21:23 by Clive Whittingham
QPR, plummeting down the Championship table after an extended winless run, go to Rotherham on Saturday in what’s starting to look like something of a six-pointer.
Leslie Varys won the women's race in 17:59 while finishing fifth overall on Saturday at the Race For Technology in Palmer.
Championship >>> Saturday January 16, 2016 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Bitterly cold but bright >>> New York Stadium, Rotherham
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On the road again, just can’t wait to get on the road again… It only feels like yesterday we were spending the early hours thieving the unattended table wine in the shuttered bar of the Premier Inn Blackburn (where everything’s Premier except your life) like the lowest crew members gathering below decks after dark and sloshing back the cheap rum to help take our minds off a doomed voyage.
And that’s because it was, give or take. QPR’s game at Rotherham on Saturday, a third trip to the north in a week, follows hot on the heels of Tuesday night’s stalemate at Ewood Park. QPR’s league position is dropping almost as dramatically as the air temperature, and at the same rate as the motorway miles are accumulating.
The Championship always has been an arduous experience. Even in its vintage years, which this most certainly isn’t, it merely rewards the goose whose liver best withstands a thrice weekly force feeding of stodgy, mediocre gruel. For the weaker birds it can be a tough, cruel experience. It’s being particularly unforgiving to Queens Park Rangers this season – four wins from 21 games, one win from the last 11 away from home, no wins in eight under new manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.
Those are relegation numbers, and it has felt for a couple of months like this has the potential to turn into another dog fight down at the bottom of the table – something the club rightly telegraphed and feared last summer and apparently prepared for well, only to then toss it all aside after a couple of months in the most cack-handed piece of boardroom nonsense and publicity seen for many a year in a non-Leeds United scenario.
It should, should, still be ok. QPR have 31 points and while it’s currently hard to see them winning one match, never mind the five or six they need to get them to the safety point, there’s (in theory) Charlie Austin to come back into the team which makes a colossal difference and scores of games still left to play.
It will, more than likely, go down as one of those instantly forgettable seasons that catch the Crown and Sceptre regulars out in pub trivia in years to come. Games from the Stuart Houston/Ray Harford era, and later towards the back end of Ian Holloway’s time at Loftus Road, could barely be recollected a week after they were played never mind now. Remember that 1-0 loss at Barnsley when Don Goodman scored? Or a 1-1 home draw with Bristol City when Karl Ready equalised in injury time? Not exactly classics of our time.
That is actually a best case scenario now. We’ll recline in a garden chair in May, feel the warming sun on our face, and raise a bottle of chilled Italian lager to toast a season we’ll never remember. The “promotion is everything to me” line from Tony Fernandes, to which you can trace almost everything negative that has followed, can simply be added to his catalogue of mistakes as we move on.
But there is the potential for this to get worse still, and this Saturday’s game at Rotherham is a big fork in the road. Currently seven points behind us, with a dire away record, limited finances and an obviously fairly basic team, the Millers conceded four in defeat at Loftus Road earlier this season without QPR even playing that well. Should Rangers win here, as they should on paper, it puts a very large gap between the two sides and dispels, for a while at least, any worry that the whirlpool below is about to suck in a new hooped victim.
Should we lose, however, as three teams have in Rotherham’s last three home games – including Hull and Brighton sides far better than QPR – and it will have several damaging effects. Not least the Millers moving to within four points of Rangers at a time when Huddersfield, Fulham, Charlton and now Bristol City – who are all in the vicinity – have all changed managers and may experience the boost in results that tends to bring all clubs except our own.
Possibly more importantly, however, is the effect losing such a game will have on a support base which is already a mixture of tired, weary, fractured and angry. On paper, QPR have a better team than Rotherham, and their playing budget absolutely dwarfs that which Neil Redfearn is operating on. But Rangers have judged how things should happen on such criteria for too long with no success. Rotherham are enjoying an upturn at home through work ethic and tactics and the total being more than the sum of its parts. Clubs and teams like that have outperformed QPR consistently in individual matches and across seasons for several years now.
Hasselbaink’s plan to produce a fitter QPR side capable of executing the high press he desires has more recently revolved around treating the ten days afforded by writing off the FA Cup Third Round, and a similar gap now created by not being in the Fourth Round, as mini-pre seasons for the first team players. Sadly, for him, potentially for us, this game falls in between them, presumably before the full benefits will be felt and right at the point they’ll be at their most tired.
In addition, there will be a larger than usual contingent of QPR fans there on Saturday because it’s a new ground and while that might serve as inspiration it could also have undesired consequences. I cannot imagine, with all the road beers sloshing around, the church will take kindly to a defeat and/or a poor performance. A loss, at lowly Rotherham, a ninth match without a win for former Chelsea striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink… this has the potential to get very ugly indeed. Leave your sweepstake entries and stake on the first Neil Warnock song at the desk please.
Or, some of the signs of improvement seen at Blackburn on Tuesday manifest themselves in a much needed win. And everybody chills out. And the idea that a manager should be under pressure not even a dozen games into a very long-term job thanks to problems almost exclusively caused long before he arrived and handed on to him to deal with subsides for a week at least.
We can but hope.
See you there.
Links >>>Redfearn's rescue mission – Interview >>>Adcock in charge – Referee >>>A Clive and Kicking – Podcast
Team News: Bring your gloves and get a game as QPR's farcical goalkeeping situation moves into its second week and third match. Alex Smithies has an elbow injury, but will play next week against Wolves and continue through to the end of the season barring any further injuries or suspensions. In the meantime, Robert Green may be treated to a twenty sixth appearance of the season, moving him one game closer to a contract renewal. That would be harsh on Joe Lumley, who has acquitted himself well in two difficult away games so far this week.
Once that's solved, there's the small matter of Charlie Austin, who looks set to stay at home once more as he's – official line – 'carefully nursed back from a hamstring injury.'
QPR will be denied a look at their one-time loanee Stephen Kelly (foot and mouth disease) and Leon Best (not a footballer) who had a trial at Loftus Road earlier this season. Rotherham also have doubts over Farrend Rawson (bit cold) and Lee Frecklington (boxing tickets). None of these are new problems though, so expect an unchanged line up following the midweek win against Brighton.
Elsewhere: You’ll rarely see a more complete Championship performance across 45 minutes than Burnley’s demolition of Brentford on Friday evening. That, for the information of any watching Malaysians, is what a team that might get promoted looks like. A team that went up to the Premier League, banked much of the money, bought one or two players, and have recently moved into a new training ground. Even Joey Barton’s free kicks work now.
The fun continues with Sheffield Owls and the Champions of Europe leathering seven shades of shit out of each other in the Saturday lunchtime match – best of luck to any QPR fans who though they might drink round there before our trip out past Meadowhall to New York New York.
Then there’s a big footballing fatberg congealed at 15.00. Boro’s banker at the Wurzels may have been complicated by Steve Cotterill’s sacking – Derby Sheep’s home win against Brum less so. Tarquin and Rupert take their Chateau Neuf du Pape to Huddersfield hoping for a more favourable reaction than Charlton got for their Blossom Hill and half a pack of Ferrero Rocher on Tuesday. Belgium’s Finest, meanwhile, have Jose Riga back for a second spell as they attempt to tame Tigers Tigers Rah Rah Rah.
Two more artificial clubs than Franchise and Waitrose? Winner takes the spoils. Can Nottingham Trees sit deep and try and counter attack against a team as bereft as Barings Bank? We shall find out. Ipswich are hosting Preston. Circling the drain, Wolves and the Red Dragons of Cardiff.
Six days off after this boys and girls. I’ll be in the iron lung.
Referee: James Adcock from Lancashire is the man with the whistle for this one, his first QPR appointment since the night of Luke Young at Blackburn Rovers back in 2014. Ominously, he's yet to send anybody off this season but it was around this time last year he went on a belting run of eight red cards in 12 appointments. More details here.
Rotherham: Two striking things about Rotherham's form this year: firstly, they've only drawn three of 29 fixtures and none of their last 15; secondly, they've won their last three at home against Hull, Bolton and Brighton without conceding a goal, scoring eight in the process. Probably just as well, from their point of view, as they've lost the last five away matches on the spin, conceding 11 and scoring only twice. Again, rather ominously, all their wins in the league this season have come in groups of two – Cardiff H and Birmingham A in September, Leeds A and Bristol City H in November, and then Hull and Bolton at home over Christmas. Unpack rar files mac pro. They need a victory here, to go with Tuesday's win against promotion-chasing Brighton, to continue that run. Reason for optimism – Wolves, Ipswich, Burnley, Sheff Wed, Fulham and MK Dons have all won here this season.
QPR: Tuesday's draw at Blackburn extended QPR's winless run to eight matches, going back to December 3 and that fortunate success at Reading. It's been six games since Rangers scored more than a single goal in a game. They haven't managed more than two in a match since Chris Ramsey was sacked (14 matches) and they've only managed to get to two once in that run (Brighton H). Blackburn's 86th minute equaliser was the sixth goal Rangers have conceded in the final 14 minutes in their last five league games. They have dropped 19 points from winning positions this season – the division's highest total – but haven't conceded a goal in the first half in 15 outings. The R's have won four away games in all competitions this season, but only one of the last 11 of which they've lost seven. The R's have won two of the last 14, three of the last 17 and four of the last 22 to sink to seventeenth in the Championship, their lowest league position since early 2010.
Prediction:Reigning Prediction League champion isawqpratwhitecity tells us…
'Rotherham are a better team than you might think. Their lowly spot owes a lot to their poor form both early season and away generally, neither of which helps us in this case. Their last game beating Brighton probably says as much about current Brighton as them, but their previous two home games were also solid wins over Bolton and Hull. I don't think this fixture will end happily for us. Check to see if Austin is fit, otherwise it's 'Herman the German' (such a shame he wasn't born in Münster) for me. Safe hands, Joe. And don't panic, Jimmy, you will see us right eventually.'
Jim's Prediction: Rotherham 2-1 QPR. Scorer: Seb Polter
LFW's Prediction: Rotherham 0-1 QPR. Scorer: Junior Hoilett
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|snankeradded 02:24 - Jan 16|
Ta again Clive and it looks very,very ominous this one. Got a bad feeling eg: own goal, late penalty or some such usual R's balls up that we seem to specialize in ! Relegation form luck. Thought we looked average again at Blackburn and if that was an improved performance according to JFH then a point in NY would be a result given their recent home form and ability to play as a TEAM. All digits crossed as ever but expecting the worst !!
|SimonJamesadded 12:02 - Jan 16|
Very good. Sadly, far more entertaining than watching the football.
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