An overdue ode to Queen's Park Rangers
Eighteen games gone. Twenty-eight to go. And still no team has won three points against Neil Warnock’s Queen’s Park Rangers so far this season. This is an incredible feat, made all the more impressive by the general lack of consistency throughout the division. So let’s pay tribute to Warnock’s hooped heroes before their record goes.
It may, of course, disappear this weekend when Cardiff City are the visitors to Loftus Road. But with the Bluebirds losing two of their last three to top six rivals Swansea City and Nottingham Forest, any bet on an away win in West London on Saturday would be a risky one.
The Seventy Two has already covered QPR once this season. That was a snapshot. This is an overview. And what follows should be more well received than the previous missive.
There will always be an invitation of criticism when teams that are performing well go on a run of drawing games they would perhaps expect to win. This is inevitable, and has been highlighted further since the introduction of three points for a win. Conceding a late equaliser is, in terms of points alone, doubly damaging to conceding a late winner.
The closest QPR have come to losing this unbeaten record came early in the season when Warnock’s side found themselves two goals down at Pride Park as injury time approached. After Rangers somehow salvaging a draw, the BBC were so bemused by the comeback launched by the visitors that they wiped all four goals from their collective memory bank (EDIT – they’ve spotted this and amended it now, well played chaps! Previously it had said the game ended 0-0!). QPR then netted eleven goals without reply in their next four games.
There are plenty of workhorses. There is also no little skill. The likes of Argentinian midfielder Alejandro Faurlin and pacey right-back Kyle Walker, on loan from Tottenham Hotspur, are great to watch. The lively Jamie Mackie also provided plenty of early-season hyperbole by netting six goals with his first seven shots on target in the campaign.
But there can only be one. And there is no way on God’s green earth that a player of Adel Taarabt’s obvious talent should be playing in the second tier of English football.
Taarabt lights up the Championship. Love him or hate him – and it is easy for opposition supporters to find gripes with such an unpredictable and unorthodox footballer – the Moroccan is a player that helps make the division as a whole a more appealing prospect.
His stock in trade is the long-range strike, showcased twice at the weekend in a 3-1 win over struggling Preston North End. The first in particular was beautiful, lifted up and away from Andy Lonergan’s despairing dive eleven minutes after the interval. The accusations that surfaced at times last season, that Taarabt is just a show pony not suited to the rigours of the English game, seem distant now.
But Rangers are not a one-man team. The success of their season so far cannot be solely attributed to the talismanic Taarabt or the wily Warnock. Boy can they defend. Only Matthew Connolly’s unfortunate 88th minute own goal on Saturday prevented a twelfth league clean sheet.
A recent succession of draws may have caused some concern among Rangers fans, but the numbers game reveals that their three nearest challengers have lost fifteen games between them in the first eighteen games this term. Warnock’s men have conceded just eight goals, six fewer than third-placed Swansea.
And the Swans sum up QPR’s achievement thus far. But for a clever turn and shot from their departed loanee Marvin Emnes just over a fortnight ago, Cardiff would have gained a point from the South Wales derby. And three days later, 40 miles west along the M4, only Jonathan Stead’s strike for Bristol City stood between Swansea and the avoidance of their sole defeat at the Liberty Stadium this season.
QPR haven’t just avoided defeat at Loftus Road. They’ve avoided it anywhere, including at the City Ground prior to Saturday’s victory over Preston. That result was put into context when Nottingham Forest were the second successive side to take all three points from the Welsh capital at the weekend. And Cardiff will hope to recover by snatching top spot back on their trip to the English capital.
They may well be the team to end Rangers’ unbeaten run, but they will have to work exceptionally hard in order to do so.
Kyle Walker will keep pace with Craig Bellamy and make him work hard heading in the opposite direction too. Seyi Olofinjana will have his hands full dealing with Taarabt. And after Forest centre-backs Wes Morgan and Luke Chambers restricted Bothroyd and co to a solitary shot on target in their encounter at the Cardiff City Stadium, the formidable Rangers rearguard led by Kaspars Gorkss will fancy their chances of nullifying the division’s most feared strikeforce.
It is a mouthwatering prospect and one, above any other this season, which could do with live television coverage. Sadly, that is not to be. Those in attendance can nevertheless anticipate a fascinating clash between the two best teams in the Football League.
And it is about time that Queen’s Park Rangers received an accolade on this particular Football League blog for being the best.