MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) shares his thoughts on Tuesday night’s Championship clash between his beloved QPR and unbeaten Brighton.
QPR v Brighton | Tuesday 19.45 | Sky Sports 1
Prior to the Reading v QPR clash, I highlighted the sea change in approach for the R’s after the appointment of Neil Warnock. From haemorrhaging goals under Chris Ramsey, Rangers are now one of the most organised and defensively astute sides in the second tier.
Before Warnock arrived, QPR had kept a solitary clean sheet in 11 and were conceding two goals-per-game on average – awful records that had to be addressed.
But since the veteran boss returned – and including Saturday’s goalless draw with Burnley under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s watch – Rangers have shutout six of their last nine opponents and kept four consecutive clean sheets.
Under Ramsey, QPR were averaging 12.54 attempts and facing 12.90 – of which, 4.73 landed on target per-game with 4.64 efforts faced hitting target per-game.
Since Warnock joined and again, including Saturday, Rangers are attempting 13.22 shots per-game (3.22 on-target) and facing just 8.88 per-game with only 1.77 hitting target. They’re by far-and-away the league’s best defensive stats.
Grant Hall and Nedum Onouha have forged a fantastic partnership at centre-half with Alejandro Faurlin and Sandro providing steel and protection in the middle of the park. A return of W2-D2-L1 since Ramsey was sacked has lifted Tuesday’s hosts to within striking distance of the play-off spots once more.
Saturday’s encounter with Burnley was hard-fought but the Super Hoops came the closest to winning, made all the early running and implemented the high-tempo pressing game that Hasselbaink had alluded too. There’s plenty to work on but the early signs are encouraging.
With just one Loftus Road loss this season and a rock solid backline, home supporters will be looking forward to the arrival of the Championship’s league leaders.
Brighton continue confound the doubters and their 2-2 weekend draw at promotion-chasing Derby saw the Seasiders extend their unbeaten streak this season to 20 – that’s a new Championship record, previously held by QPR from 2004/05.
Manager Chris Hughton was ruing a late penalty decision that allowed the Rams to level proceedings and cost Albion two points but nevertheless, the Seaguls have shown plenty of resilience and character already this season to be treated as the real deal.
Even so, the margins have been fine for Brighton. All 11 of their victories (W11-D9-L0) have come by a one-goal margin – they’ve not won by two goals or more in 31 Championship fixtures – and they survived a serious scare against lowly Charlton just 10 days ago.
On the flip side, Hughton’s charges have lost by more than a one-goal margin just twice in the past 12 months and both losses came against last year’s top-two in Bournemouth and Watford. The loan addition of James Wilson has given the side further thrust in the attacking third and it’s true too they were a real menace on the counter at the iPro on Saturday.
So how do we plan this? Trying to remain as impartial as possible, I don’t think QPR will lose. But with Charlie Austin remaining on the bench along with a galaxy of other attacking talent, I’m not convinced we’ve enough in the starting XI to really trouble the guests.
None of our last nine have featured Both Teams To Score winners with eight of those actually featuring just the solitary strike or been goalless, so it would be a surprise if we were treated to a high-scoring spectacle.
So with a tight encounter forecast, it’s the 17/16 (Marathon) half-time draw that grabs my attention. Rangers have been level at the interval in 15 of their 20 league games since relegation, including every game since September Brighton have recorded half-time draws in seven of their 10 away from home as well as eight of their previous 11 anywhere.
Want more? The R’s have drawn the first-half in each of their last six home league games with the most recent five being goalless. Brighton have been level at the break in their last five on the road.
I’m also going to have an interest in the 14/11 from Marathon – that’s 2.27 in decimals – on Under 2 Goals. With this selection, we’ll get our cash back should exactly two goals be scored but pocket profit if the fixture features fewer than two goals.
QPR v Brighton – Half-time draw (17/16 Marathon)
QPR v Brighton – Under 2 Goals (14/11 Marathon)
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