FOOTBALL LEAGUE expert Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) analyses Wednesday's Championship clash between QPR and Derby.
QPR v Derby | Wednesday 19:45
Ian Holloway’s honeymoon period at Queens Park Rangers lasted little more than a week and it’s with a heavy heart (but with a certain degree of realism) I admit, the R’s are in a relegation battle.
The social media loons who claim to follow QPR have already called for, celebrated and knighted Holloway following his return to W12 but three consecutive defeats – our worst run since Premier League relegation – have rapidly turned joy to anger and despair.
I’m not for a second suggesting the Hoops are a top-six proposition but Twitter conclusions from a growing minority believe the club are doomed for the drop due to the past three defeats.
Sure, losing at Rotherham, Ipswich and at home to Wolves is far from glorious. The trio topped the Championship’s lowest scoring standings ahead of meeting Rangers and we managed just one goal from four-and-a-half hours of football against them. Not good.
The sole success came against Norwich – who played for 88 minutes with 10 men. But it ‘s worth, noting major instances have also had an effect on encounters against Ipswich and Wolves too.
Alex Smithies’ horror show at Portman Road was a game-changer – QPR were on top in the first-half, James Perch’s first-half sending off against Wolves interrupted what was another decent opening stanza and it’s true too the R’s were well on top at Rotherham until the opening goal.
So what’s the problem? Well, Rangers tend to crumble when conceding goals, have struggled to score themselves and thanks to injury, illness and suspension, they’ve been forced to field square pegs in round holes – fielding Conor Washington as a lone striker at the New York Stadium a fine example.
The R’s have now W3-D5-L8 in their past 16 outings whilst only Cardiff, Wolves and Rotherham have lost more league games on their own patch. QPR’s 10-goal return from 10 Loftus Road fixtures is worse than 20 Championship rivals’ and only Wigan and Ipswich have scored fewer than Rangers’ 20 goals overall.
Looking at the data, the Hoops have favourable shots and shots on-target returns in W12 over the course of the campaign but drill down further and there’s a deficit in the supremacy when viewing both shots attempted from inside the penalty box and big chances conceded. That’s concerning.
So to put it bluntly, QPR are allowing their opponents much more change in key areas off the park at Loftus Road, don’t boast the nous or personnel to grab the goals required to win football matches and haven’t won since falling behind for over a year.
In contrast, Derby pitch up in the capital on the back of their best winning streak for three years. The Rams have bagged six successive victories, keeping clean sheets in five, including a thumping triumph over arch rivals Nottingham Forest on Sunday.
Steve McClaren’s brought back the successful 4-3-3 system, given his forwards creative license and made Alex Pearce a key part of the defence again. Pearce’s partnership alongside captain Richard Keogh has been as impressive as their offensive efforts in the final third.
The Rams have won W8-D2-L1 in their last 11, scored 17 goals and shipped only four. Eight of their last 11 opponents have fired blanks against County, including Norwich, Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds whilst on their travels they’ve shutout three hosts and taken maximum points at Wigan, Wolves, Cardiff and Preston.
The visitors have opened the scoring in eight of their past 10 trips to bottom-half dwellers and should they enhance that record on Wednesday night, it’s hard to see Rangers recovering. With that in mind, I’m inclined to believe the 39/20 (BetStars) available on Derby to win and Under 3.5 Goals is a bit too generous.
We’ll make money should the Rams win by 1-0, 2-0, 3-0 or 2-1 scorelines – eight of their nine triumphs this term have arrived by those four correct scores and seven of QPR’s nine losses following suit.
Nottingham Forest v Preston | Wednesday 19:45
Nottingham Forest’s three-game win streak came to an abrupt end in Sunday’s 3-0 loss at rivals Derby and the Tricky Trees could again struggle without captain king Henri Lansbury this midweek.
Philippe Montanier’s men love playing on the front-foot but the playmaker’s absence robs the hosts of a key component in the attacking third. Nevertheless, it would take a brave punter to oppose Forest from scoring on Wednesday.
Nine City Ground outings have returned W5-D2-L2 but interestingly, Both Teams To Score has banked on every occasion. Only Newcastle and Norwich had scored more goals coming into in this fixture with Forest second in the list of top-scoring home sides.
The Tricky Trees have only fired four blanks under Montanier’s watch, their expected goals scored and big chances created are all healthily above average too. So I’m happy to overlook the Lansbury absence and support BTTS again at odds of 8/11 (Coral).
Preston might not be the prettiest of second-tier sides but North End were involved in an enjoyable 3-2 derby success over Blackburn on Saturday evening and should have the tools necessary to take advantage of Forest’s flimsy backline.
The home side have conceded 36 goals in their 20 matches this term – the second-worst defensive tally – whilst the Lilywhites have only been shutout twice in 15 fixtures since August in Championship action.
Simon Grayson’s group have notched 12 goals in seven trips to Bournemouth, Birmingham, Brighton, Norwich, Newcastle and Sheffield Wednesday lately and can play their part in another goal-friendly game here.
QPR v Derby – Derby to win and Under 3.5 Goals (39/20 BetStars)
Nottingham Forest v Preston – Both Teams To Score (8/11 Coral)