|Queens Park Rangers 2 v 1 Ipswich Town|
Saturday, 9th September 2017 Kick-off 15:00
Town Look to Continue 100 Per Cent Championship Away Start at QPR
Thursday, 7th Sep 2017 21:53
Town visit QPR on Saturday looking to continue their 100 per cent start to their Championship away fixtures.
The Blues, who go into September second in the division, won 2-1 away at Barnsley, then defeated Millwall 4-3 during their impressive August.
They also beat Luton 2-0 in the Carabao Cup with their only defeat on their travels this season the 2-1 loss suffered by a very young XI at Crystal Palace in the following round.
Town have only won their first three away league fixtures once in their professional history. That was in the Southern League in their inaugural season as a professional club, 1936/37, when they beat Margate 1-0, Guildford City 3-2 and Tunbridge Wells Rangers 2-0.
QPR, who are managed by Ian Holloway, are currently 10th but go into Saturday’s game having taken six of their seven points from their two Championship home fixtures, a 2-0 victory over Reading on the opening day and a 2-1 defeat of Hull City.
However, they were beaten 4-1 at Loftus Road by Brentford in the second round of the Carabao Cup having overcome Northampton 1-0 on their own turf in the first.
Rangers' impressive home start in the Championship doesn’t surprise Blues boss Mick McCarthy: “They’ve got the advantage of Loftus Road, which is a tight stadium, I can’t think of anybody who likes going and playing there.
“I’d like to know the dimensions of the pitch because it’s one of those that looks really short. It might be as big as any other, I’ve never even checked, but they get a great atmosphere there and Ollie is as good as anybody at getting a team and organising them and making them a threat and then generating a good atmosphere.
“And that’s just what he’s done, he’s not had any money to spend. I know there are players there that they have spent money on in the past and whatever wages they pay, but he hasn’t been splashing the cash because he can’t and he’s got on with it and that’s a testament to him that’s just what he does, he gets on with it and makes a competitive team.”
McCarthy and Holloway are good friends with the one-time Blackpool, Leicester, Crystal Palace and Millwall boss issuing a passionate defence of the Town manager after he came under fire last season.
“I was made aware of it and I was very appreciative of it,” McCarthy said when quizzed on Holloway’s comments, which were made after the Blues’ 3-0 defeat of the West Londoners at Portman Road.
“He knows how hard the jobs are, and even more so if you’re not competing at the top level spending millions.
“And he’s done that, he did a great job at Crystal Palace, he went to Blackpool and got them promoted and they were so unlucky, although I was delighted they went down because we didn’t, we stayed up at Wolves. But he was so unlucky with that team and played really open, entertaining football.
“I guess the pair of us have crossed swords a lot of times and have a lot of respect for each other because we keep doing the job and enjoy it.”
By the time September ends Championship clubs will have played 10 or 11 fixtures but McCarthy believes a club’s position in the division at that point isn’t necessarily an accurate pointer to where they might end up.
“I think it’s a little bit longer than that, we’ll be talking about 10 games at the end of the month,” he reflected.
“You’ll have a good indication of how you’re going to do, but I do think you need a bit longer, I think when you get to Christmas if you’re in the top six and you’re still there then that’s pretty much [an indicator].
“You’ve played everybody, so I think that’s a really good indicator. I’m not so sure 10 games tells you everything.”
Looking back to the Fulham defeat prior to the international break, McCarthy says he, assistant manager Terry Connor and analyst Will Stephenson have reviewed the match.
“We weren’t as aggressive as we could have been, I’m not talking about kicking people, I’m on about closing down and pressing in the right areas,” he said.
“We had players in positions that they’re not used to and you can get away with it sometimes but they picked us off.
“I thought we kind of made them look better than they were, I think, just by not being as competitive as we have been in other games.”
McCarthy admits that having players operating in less-favoured positions, which they have had to with so many members of the squad out ill or injured, can work in the short term it’s less likely to be successful over a longer period.
“The other side of that they were all playing well and it was suiting us, we looked like we were going to score goals and it was working for us,” the Blues boss added.
“But I’m not so sure that works over 46 games. No, I’m damned certain it doesn’t work over 46 games.”
McCarthy says he wasn’t too upset that next Tuesday’s trip to Derby has been postponed given the number of players still unavailable.
“I’m not unduly worried about that, that’s sort of takes another game out when I might have Tommy Smith, Chambo and Webbo back, and Emyr Huws, who knows?” he said.
“Honestly, I was kind of pleased about that, that doesn’t break my heart. We had a real tough start, I know we had good results but it kind of suits us.
“I feel sorry for fans if they’ve bought tickets or done anything in terms of travel, but I think if you look at the squad at the moment, if we were to go to QPR and get two or three injuries, we’d be going there on Tuesday with 12 or 13 players, which would be bonkers. Suits me fine.”
Bartosz Bialkowski will start in goal at QPR but McCarthy has decisions to make regarding his backline.
He could opt to stick with the back four which helped beat Brentford 2-0 before the defeat to Fulham - from the right, Dominic Iorfa, Jordan Spence, Jonas Knudsen and Myles Kenlock - or switch to a three-man backline.
Having praised the impact new loan signing Callum Connolly has made in signing, McCarthy might be tempted to start the Everton youngster at right wing-back and move Iorfa into a three-man defence alongside Spence and Knudsen with Kenlock the left wing-back.
If he were to go down that route stand-in skipper Cole Skuse would be joined in central midfield by Grant Ward and Flynn Downes, which would give McCarthy further decisions up front, having to pick two from David McGoldrick, Joe Garner, Martyn Waghorn and Freddie Sears with the former pair probably getting the nod.
Should McCarthy decide to stick with 4-4-2, Downes could come into the side in the middle alongside Skuse with Ward moving to the right and Waghorn probably the man to drop out.
Tom Adeyemi is likely to be on the bench for the first time since joining the club over the summer having recovered from illness and then a calf injury, while Bersant Celina will be out to make an impact as a sub.
Prior to last week’s deadline QPR signed wingers David Wheeler and Bright Osayi-Samuel from Exeter and Blackpool respectively, and striker Paul Smyth from Linfield.
Defenders James Perch, Joel Lynch and Grant Hall and midfielder Jordan Cousins are all expected to be unavailable due to injury.
Nedum Onuoha will play his 200th game for Rangers, who will be marking the 100th anniversary of their first game at Loftus Road at Saturday’s match.
QPR boss Holloway says no one should be shocked that the Blues have made a positive start to the campaign.
“Why would anyone be surprised that Mick - who has won this Championship twice - has got his team near the top of the table at the start of the season?” he told the official Rangers website.
“They haven’t got the money everyone else has had and that can get fans murmuring. But it’s nothing to do with the job Mick has done.
“You won’t get anything against Ipswich unless you match the honesty and hard work that Mick gets out of his team.”
Reflecting on tomorrow's match, he added: “I think it’s going to be a very combative game.
"I think we have a high pressing midfield and so do they. There won’t be much space in the midfield that’s for sure – we know that and Mick McCarthy has said that he’s happy for opposing centre-backs to have the ball.
“I think there will be goals here – hopefully we can score more than them but I’m looking forward to the challenge of a tight pitch and trying to break them down on it."
Town have won 30 of the previous encounters between the sides (28 in the league), Rangers 27 (25) and 18 (17) have ended in draws.
The Blues last won at Loftus Road under Roy Keane in February 2010, a 2-1 victory, and have lost on their last four visits.
The teams last met on QPR turf on January 2nd when Pawel Wszolek netted the winner in the 83rd minute as the Blues opened 2017 with a 2-1 defeat.
The home side went in front via Idrissa Sylla’s goal on the half hour before Tom Lawrence smashed in a brilliant equaliser for the Blues, who will have felt they should have taken at least a point from the match but were again left rueing defensive mistakes.
In late November at Portman Road, goals from Ward, Luke Varney and Lawrence saw Town to a 3-0 victory over QPR.
Ward put the Blues ahead via a scuffed effort on 13, then Varney benefited from an error by visitors’ keeper Alex Smithies nine minutes after the break, before Lawrence sealed the win - which in the end could have been even more comfortable - on 61.
QPR’s Australian international midfielder Massimo Luongo joined Town on loan from Spurs in the summer of 2012 and made eight starts and three sub appearances, scoring once, before McCarthy curtailed his spell at Portman Road shortly after taking over.
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, who is still with QPR but out of manager Holloway’s plans, joined Rangers after being released by Bristol City in the summer of 2015.
The former Arsenal youngster made 43 starts and 32 sub appearances for the Blues, scoring nine goals, between July 2011 and July 2013.
QPR's Irish midfielder or striker Ryan Manning trained with the Blues academy when a schoolboy before joining the West London club's youth set-up.
TWTD's sister QPR site LoftForWords's coverage ahead of the game includes an interview with Rangers boss Holloway.
Saturday’s referee is Andy Davies from Hampshire, who has shown 13 yellow cards and no red in four games this season.
Davies’s most recent Town match - and indeed the last game he refereed - was the 2-1 Carabao Cup defeat at Crystal Palace a fortnight ago in which he booked Flynn Downes but otherwise kept his cards in his pocket.
His last Blues match before that was the 3-0 loss at Nottingham Forest on the final day of last season in which he booked Christophe Berra and Josh Emmanuel.
Prior to that, he was in charge of the 3-0 home victory over Wigan in April, in which he booked Kenlock, Ward, Toumani Diagouraga and two Latics.
He also refereed the 2-0 defeat at Huddersfield in January in which he booked Berra, Kevin Bru, Lawrence, Jonathan Douglas, Paul Digby and no home players.
Davies has only taken charge of two other Town matches, both of which ended goalless and both of which saw the opposition reduced to 10 men.
He officiated in the 0-0 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion in September last year, in which he showed eight yellow cards, two of them and then a red to Seagulls midfielder Dale Stephens. Chambers, Emmanuel, Douglas and Lawrence were the Town players cautioned.
Prior to that, he took control of the 0-0 home draw with Huddersfield in October 2015 when he red-carded Terriers striker James Vaughan for a second bookable offence in the final minute.
Squad from: Bialkowski, Gerken, Spence, Iorfa, Knudsen, Kenlock, Connolly, Woolfenden, Skuse, Downes, Adeyemi, Ward, Celina, Rowe, Garner, Sears, McGoldrick, Waghorn, Morris, Folami.
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