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QPR preview and pub guide: Inconsistent Rangers in mid-table again

QPR preview and pub guide: Inconsistent Rangers in mid-table again
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Inconsistency and a poor away record are the reasons why QPR are going to spend another season in the Championship in 2018/19.

Only Birmingham and Bolton have a worse overall away record than our near neighbours in the division this season, while Rangers’ home record is respectable with 11 wins and five draws from their 22 matches the Championship’s ninth best.

On the road, Ian Holloway’s side have won three, drawn six and lost 12 of their league encounters.

This mixture of results, which in recent weeks has seen the Rs scoring four in two successive home games but conceding four in an away match in-between, has meant our visitors have not been among this season’s promotion challengers.

It also means they will be finishing in mid or lower mid-table for the third season in a row following relegation from the Premier League in 2015.

They have proved that on their day they are a match for anyone with home wins over Wolves, Cardiff and Sheffield United and an away victory at Aston Villa, but they have only strung back-to-back wins together twice and that has proved decisive.

This is QPR’s 11th season out of the past 14 at this level, with the other three in the Premier League, of which they were one of the founder members in 1992.

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Saturday’s match marks the second return to Griffin Park of our former captain Jake Bidwell, who left us for Loftus Road in the summer of 2016.

The left-back made more than 200 appearances in our colours after originally joining us in November 2011 on loan from Everton. He made the move permanent the following summer and was a regular in our play-off and promotion sides and also in our first two seasons in the Championship.

WHO’S IN CHARGE

Former Brentford player Ian Holloway took charge of QPR for the second time in November 2016, replacing Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.

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Holloway, who made 30 Division Three appearances for us firstly on loan and then on a permanent move from Wimbledon in 1986, was previously in charge at Loftus Road from 2001 to 2006, taking the Rs out of and then back into the second tier.

He has also been in charge of Bristol Rovers, Plymouth, Leicester, Blackpool and Crystal Palace – leading both into the Premier League – and Millwall.

As a midfielder, he also played for Bristol Rovers (three spells), Torquay and QPR.

WE’VE MET BEFORE

A goal in each half from Josh Clarke and Romaine Sawyers gave us our first win at Loftus Road since 1964 in last season’s first meeting.

In front of the Sky cameras on a Friday night, Clarke put us ahead in the 42nd minute after a pass from Josh McEachran and Sawyers sealed the 2-0 win with his first Brentford goal in the 74th minute.

The only sour note on the night was an injury to Lewis MacLeod which ended up ruling him out of the rest of the season.

We completed our first double over QPR since 1965 a year ago this weekend with a 3-1 win.

Yoann Barbet gave us the lead at a corner with his first league goal for more than a year and Jota doubled the lead with a second half penalty.

Joel Lynch, who had conceded the spot-kick, quickly atoned by pulling a goal back for the visitors, before Jota restored our two-goal lead.

Saturday will be this season’s third meeting between the sides after games in the Carabao Cup and Championship at Loftus Road.

We romped to a 4-1 win in the cup game in August to reach the third round for the first time in seven years.

We took the lead with an early own goal by Ariel Borysiuk, John Egan quickly headed our second and Neal Maupay made it three before Darnell Furlong replied just on half-time. Josh Clarke secured our biggest-ever win at Loftus Road late on.

The league game, shown live on a Monday night in November for Sky, was one of the most painful moments of the season and the two points dropped in the last 90 seconds of injury-time may cost us in the final league table.

Comfortably leading 2-0 going into stoppage-time thanks to two second half goals by Lasse Vibe, the points looked to be ours. But after 92-and-a-half minutes, Matt Smith pulled one back and there was still time for Luke Freeman to grab a dramatic equaliser as it finished 2-2.

OPPOSITION VIEW

BBC London commentator and presenter Phil Parry looks back at QPR’s campaign, names the men to watch and assesses what Rangers need to challenge for promotion next season.

Q – How would you assess QPR’s season – disappointing, encouraging or roughly what was expected?

A – I think on the whole the season will probably be viewed as close to expectation. Financial constraints have meant that the club has been unable to invest too heavily in the squad while at the same time continuing to trim off the excesses of the past. A positive start to the campaign which surprised some and a couple of spurts of good results during the season raised optimists’ hopes of a challenge, but the reality is that a comfortable finish with no end of season fears of a relegation battle will be seen as progress.

However, last season relegation was avoided by just two points despite having the tally of 53 on which they currently sit. In order to show real progress at least one more win would be required and I am sure that a points return in the upper half of the 50s would be seen as acceptable.

Q – Why have Rangers not staged a push for promotion this season?

A – Last season Rangers escaped relegation on the penultimate weekend of the campaign thanks to a win over Nottingham Forest, which ended a run of six straight defeats. They were the only points accrued in the last six weeks of the season. Ian Holloway’s ability to rebuild was again limited in the summer as the club continued to work with a new financial reality and a real desire to re-establish a culture at the club.

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The arrivals of the likes of Smyth and Osavi-Samuel were about potential while Alex Baptiste is a good pro and had worked with the manager before, so he knew that he was bringing the right sort of personality into the building as a bit of experience. But those arrivals were unlikely to turn a squad from bottom six to top six in 12 months. Perhaps the form has reflected that and a lack of putting together a consistent run will always count against any team. Just twice this season have the Rs won back-to-back League matches, and the longest run without defeat is four games.

Q – QPR’s results have been very inconsistent, especially recently, scoring four in some games and conceding four in others. What is the reason for this?

A – I think consistency has been an issue for much of the season in many respects and a look at the stats would suggest one glaring fact, home is where the heart is for QPR. Only Bolton have won fewer on the road this season while it’s just the top five (and Sheffield United) who have more at home. Ian Holloway has tended to chop and change his starting XI, sometimes through necessity, sometimes though choice and perhaps that lack of a solid starting line-up leads to mixed results.

Compare the Rs to Millwall whose unbeaten run since January has seen Neil Harris virtually pick the same team for each game. I also wonder that now that the Rs are safe if Holloway has decided to try a few things out with half a thought to next season and the summer. It does make calling their results a little tougher and therefore makes the side a potentially dangerous opponent.

Q – Who has been QPR’s star performer this season and why?

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A – I think that goalkeeper Alex Smithies has again won positive reviews for his last line of defence. There is certainly no doubting his capabilities and as a consequence his name is linked with a move away. But for me the midfield pair of Freeman and Luongo are key, having been both consistent and providing impetus this season. They, along with Scowen, are the engine room and provide the stand-out department of the team .

And while he might not be everyone’s “cup of tea” Matt Smith is a little heralded anti-hero. He is a handful, and just look at his stats. He has been involved in more goals than any other player in the squad, 10 goals and nine assists. All that from 16 starts and 22 sub appearances. So in basic numbers, Smith has played for 1,943 minutes and therefore directly involved in a goal every 100 minutes.

Q – Paul Smyth has been grabbing the headlines recently – what sort of player is he and does he have the potential to go far in the game?

A – In some quarters Smyth has been described as a winger but I suppose in current football parlance he might well be described as a forward – quick, nippy, skilful and with an eye for goal. Obviously scoring on debut for both club and country is one way to make your name. The impression that I get is that the former Linfield man is hard-working and committed to his career, two elements added to his obvious natural ability which will stand him in good stead.

Q – What do QPR need to do their squad over the summer to challenge at the right end of the table next season?

A – Like so many teams the need for goals is always a key element to success, it’s why strikers who guarantee a return can command large fees. Goals come from creativity and so midfield and wide areas will no doubt also be looked at. With more of the old guard leaving, Ian Holloway may want to ensure he has some experience in his group as well. But I believe that the club are now looking at a longer term strategy for building the ethos and greater sustainability.

Q – Finally, are you able to give me a possible Rs starting line-up and formation too please?

Q – As regards a starting 11 that is a tough one to call… He has been changing it all the time… I reckon Matt Smith may get a start… Smithies will be in goal… Bidders will play.. With Onuoha missing he has switched to a 4-2-3-1 almost so let’s try:

Smithies

Furlong  Baptiste  Robinson Bidders

Luongo  Scowen

Manning Freeman Eze/Smyth

Smith/Sylla

IAN WESTBROOK

@ianwestbrook

PUBS IN BRENTFORD AND TRAVEL NEWS

For QPR fans coming to the game, you are probably aware there plenty of pub options pre-match and all are most welcoming and away-fan-friendly (as it should be).

We are now back to the traditional four pubs around the ground, following the reopening of the Royal Oak.

The Griffin is closest to the away end (like 30 secs walk) and is very popular with away fans – but also very, very busy. The New Inn is on the other side and is also popular with away fans. The Princess Royal and the Royal Oak are the other options.

Other pubs slightly further afield for the more creative amongst you include (and this is by no means a definitive list) …. The Globe (Windmill Rd) is the Beesotted pre-match pub. This boozer & The Lord Nelson (Enfield Rd) are both incredibly friendly and cosy away-friendly pubs and about 1 min walk from each other …. frequented by ‘away fans in the know’.

The Plough (Northfields Ave) in Northfields is a decent stop-off if you are coming by tube to Northfields. The ‘Northfields run’ makes a much better pub crawl route than South Ealing – getting off at Northfields station, turning left and stopping off at The Plough (2 min walk), The Lord Nelson (10 min walk from The Plough) & The Globe (1 min walk from The Nelson) en-route before ending up at The Griffin (8 min walk from The Globe) by the away turnstiles.

There’s also a relatively new tiny microbrewery pub in Northfields called The Owl and The Pussycat (Northfields Ave)– right turn out of the station away from the ground as opposed to left.

There is a pub right by Brentford station referred to as … the Pub by Brentford station.

For ale head to the Magpie and Crown pub on Brentford High Street. The Royal Horseguardsman (Ealing Road) can probably hold 15 of you at a push.

The Brewery Tap (Catherine Wheel Road) is a cosy boozer by the river. And if you are super adventurous, get off at Kew Bridge and visit One Over the Ait (Kew Bridge Road) – a spacious boozer right next to Kew Bridge with a beer deck overlooking the river – and The Express Tavern (Kew Bridge Road) – an ale pub with a retro feel.

A quick Google search and you’ll find them all. There are many many more too if you have a look around.

Parking is pretty easy away from the ground going up towards and over the A4 Great West Rd (ie. North) via Ealing Road or Windmill Road.

Getting to Brentford from town – many fans get the tube to Waterloo (Northern, Jubilee lines) or Vauxhall (Victoria Line) then take the Overground train to Brentford.

This is relatively straightforward but can actually take longer than if you get the tube due to waiting times (overground trains come every 15 mins and the journey from Vauxhall or Waterloo to Brentford is 30 mins on the fast train – 51 mins on the slow train – so you could find it takes you over an hour including the journey from Kings Cross/Euston/Paddington).

Many fans choose the tube over the overground. It’s 35 minutes to Northfields station from Kings Cross or Euston (less from Paddington) and then 15 minutes walk to Brentford from there (4 mins on the bus) – more if you take the Northfields to Brentford pub crawl outlined above (Plough, Lord Nelson, Globe, Griffin) of course. If you’re feeling lazy you could take the E2 bus from outside Northfields station to either outside The Globe pub (3 stops – serves The Lord Nelson too) or Brentford FC (4 stops).

You can check out Transport for London’s guide to travel on the Tube and Overground.

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About The Author

Ian Westbrook

Bees fan since 1971 - been through all the ups and downs. Written about, reported on, commentated on and wittered on about all things Brentford in that time as well as watching hundreds, if not thousands of games, and loved every minute of it!

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