Can QPR make a late push for the Sky Bet Championship Play-Offs? It may be a bridge too far for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s side, but it looks like they might be hitting form at the right time. Two wins in a week have seen QPR move to within nine points of Sheffield Wednesday in 6th place ahead of a tricky trip to Lancashire to face the team one place and two points above them, Preston North End. Today, I look ahead to the visit to Deepdale, while I also look back at derby day against Brentford.
Derby Day Delight
QPR arrested a torrid run of 16 London derbies without a victory, with a resounding 3-0 success over West London rivals Brentford at Loftus Road. The home side were looking to build on the excellent performance and result against promotion-chasing Derby County and duly came through, with goals from Junior Hoilett, Sebastian Polter and Tjaronn Chery. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink named an unchanged side from Tuesday night, as he looked to achieve back-to-back wins as QPR manager for the first time, and his charges began relatively brightly in an energetic opening stanza in W12. Ale Faurlin saw a free kick comfortably saved while Brentford went close on two separate occasions through Sergi Canos and Alan Judge, who both fired wide of Alex Smithies’ post. Chery went mightily close, as his close-range effort was saved by David Button, but it was Junior Hoilett who lit up West London with a Goal of the Season contender in front of the visiting Bees fans. The Canadian picked up the ball on the half way line and waltzed through a nonchalant-looking Brentford midfield, before unleashing an unstoppable curling effort from fully 25 yards beyond Button, to put the Hoops a goal up. It was very nearly 1-1, however, when Ryan Woods cracked a stinging drive off the post just a few minutes after Hoilett’s goal. The second half started in fiery fashion when Karl Henry lunged in on Woods. The referee adjudged it to be a fair challenge, but Woods took issue with the tackle and a scuffle involving both sets of players ensued, resulting in the bookings of Henry and Woods. Judge was next to go close, blazing over the bar, while down the other end, Chery shot straight at Button, as QPR looked for what seemed to be the killer second goal. Much to the delight of the home fans, that goal came midway through the second half! Brentford were unhappy when Onouha tackled Woods but said tackle freed Chery, who set up Polter to send the R’s fans wild. And just when they thought it couldn’t get much better, QPR went 3-0 up just four minutes later. The irrepressible Ale Faurlin found Chery in acres of space in the box, and he cooly guided the ball past Button, to end the game as a contest. In the last twenty minutes, Hasselbaink introduced Massimo Luongo, Jamie Mackie and Nasser El Khayati for Karl Henry, Tjaronn Chery and Seb Polter. In truth, it should have been 4 or 5 as Phillips tested Button, and Hoilett should’ve squared for Mackie as he hit the side netting. Nevertheless, the final whistle went, and QPR toasted a first derby day success in two and a half years. QPR 3-0 Brentford.
Three In A Row?
QPR have the chance to make it three wins in a row for the first time since wins over Ipswich Town, Huddersfield Town and Bolton Wanderers in January 2014 when they visit an in-form Preston side at Deepdale. The Superhoops have not won at Deepdale since February 1980 when they won 3-0, and they have only beaten Preston at their famous home twice in history. The reverse fixture was a relatively dull affair, a 0-0 draw at Loftus Road when Preston’s impressive defence made it six clean sheets in a row on Neil Warnock’s return to management of QPR. Jimmy’s boys are in-form too, however, as they have lost just twice in the last 12 league games (W5 D5) and they’ll be looking to move closer to the Play-Off places with a win in Lancashire. Hasselbaink is likely to name an unchanged side from last week, but Grant Hall is in contention for a return from injury. Meanwhile, Conor Washington may be pushing for a start after being named in Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland squad for the friendlies against Wales and Slovenia. North End will be assessing the fitness of Alan Browne and Paul Huntingdon ahead of the match this afternoon, but will be looking to name an unchanged side from the team that beat relegation-threatened Bolton Wanderers 2-1 on Gentry Day at the Macron. Despite the performance and result last week, I think that Nasser El Khayati should be given the nod over Matty Phillips, as the Scotland international has put in some average performances over the last few weeks, and the summer signing from Burton Albion seems energetic, skilful and can really cause problems to a Preston side who were competing in League One last season. One can argue that Preston have been punching above their weight this term while QPR have been punching below theirs, but one thing is for certain, the Hoops are going to face a tough challenge in Lancashire this afternoon.