BOTH QPR and Hull are desperate to return to the Premier League. They meet on New Year’s Day with Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) supplying the background and his betting views.
QPR v Hull | New Year’s Day 17.15 | Sky Sports 1
The joys of supporting QPR. At the midway point of the season, Rangers are 15th, onto our third manager and closer to the relegation zone than justifying the 16/1 tag in the outright market from July.
The axing of Chris Ramsey and arrival of Neil Warnock appeared to galvanise the group (and supporters) but the subsequent appointment of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink has yet to reap rewards. Since the ex-Burton boss turned up, Rangers have W0-D4-L1 and the so-called New Manager Syndrome is nowhere to be seen.
I’ll always put 100% support and faith by every new player and manager that turns up at Loftus Road and I’m more than happy to give both a bit of time to settle and get their ideas across. I’m also acutely aware that any ambitions for promotion are a little far-fetched; we’re supposed to be thinking long-term and 2016/17.
But there’s a toxic element in the stands (or probably armchairs) and it’s already threatening to spill over into an ungodly mess.
First they wanted Chris Ramsey out, and then they wanted Tony Fernandes gone. Now, Director of Football Les Ferdinand is feeling the heat with a pathetic petition drawn up by attention-seeking, negative-minded keyboard warriors that couldn’t see any light even if they were sunbathing in the Maldives without their Aviators, sipping Pina coladas and a collection of Miss World entrants for company.
Enough of that nonsense and onto the football. Positives were scare from a dire encounter against Huddersfield on Monday. A draw flattered Rangers who once again decided to play without a recognised striker. Hasselbaink believed we were “a bit unlucky” but any sane supporter would find it hard to agree.
Daniel Tozser was ineffective, Leroy Fer anonymous, Matt Phillips not utilised properly and Karl Henry lost. I could go on.
You don’t need the planet’s best analyst to see we’re far too reliant on Charlie Austin (who misses out here). He’s scored more than a third of our league goals and just so happened to net twice in his only start of a spell that involves one loss in seven and our most impressive showing.
The Huddersfield encounter felt like Rangers had written off this campaign before New Year but even so, I’m not prepared to stick a black mark through our prospects against Hull. After all, we’ve W4-D7-L2 at Loftus Road since relegation and been the better side when welcoming Brighton and Burnley in recent weeks.
Despite sitting third and just four points off the summit, there’s also a growing faction of unhappy fans from Hull. The Tigers are in touch with the pace-setters but expectant supporters are demanding more from the best squad in the division and a manager searching for his fourth promotion to the top flight.
The locals are restless as Steve Bruce’s side have sunk convincingly a little too often away from the KC in recent weeks. Hull have taken one point from a possible 12 on the road against four bottom-half clubs and the performances have been dreadful.
The first 45 minutes against Preston on Monday were the worst seen all season. The Tigers could have been 4-0 down at the interval and were lucky to lose just 1-0; City lacked cohesion and rarely strung more than three successive passes together.
At Leeds and Rotherham they were similarly dour and their Jekyll and Hyde displays from home and away games has baffled Bruce. The boss has said he’s looking into tactical tweaks and a revival of a three-man defence as he attempts to turn around his side’s sorry away form.
A three-man defence served Hull well for long spells of Bruce’s reign but has only been used sparingly in the Championship this season. In fact, the 1-1 draw with QPR in September at the KC was the last time the Tigers adopted the wing-back system in the Championship.
The absence of Michael Dawson limits the scope for change here although Moses Odubajo could join Curtis Davies and Harry Maguire in a back three if he recovers from a minor calf injury. Meanwhile, top goalscorer Abel Hernandez is set to return with Mohamed Diame pushing for a recall.
Dawson’s injury has had a debilitating effect on the side. With the skipper, City have W11-D6-L2 this season and recorded 10/19 clean sheets. Without him they’ve managed just W2-D0-L4 and only a solitary shutout. So it’s surprising to see the visitors rated clear 6/4 (Bet365) favourites here.
Three punts do stand out and I’m going to recommend a small play on each. Starting with the old favourite, a 0-0 half-time correct score – it’s 6/4 with William Hill and it’s proven profitable in 12 of QPR’s past 13 matches, 15/24 (63%) overall and seven on the spin at Loftus Road.
I’m also keen to take Under 2 Goals on the Asian Goals line at 13/14 with 10Bet, where exactly two goals sees our stake returned. Take out the Austin-inspired 2-2 with Brighton and Rangers have seen just three goals in four home fixtures with nine of our last 11 featuring fewer than three goals. Hull have been similarly low-scoring in all bar one of their last 10 away and 17/24 (71%) across all Championship matches.
Finally, I like the idea of backing Draw-Draw at 15/4 (BetVictor) in the Half-Time/Full-Time market. It’s been a winner in five of QPR’s last seven at Loftus Road and although Hull are seldom involved in interval stalemates, it suits the idea this could be a low-scoring encounter between two teams struggling to make inroads in recent weeks.
QPR v Hull – 0-0 Half-Time (6/4 William Hill)
QPR v Hull – Under 2 Goals (13/14 10Bet)
QPR v Hull – Draw-Draw (15/4 BetVictor)
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