QPR are one of Mike Holden's best bets in the Football League this weekend.
In the post-match inquest, much was made of how much Premier League experience the Rams had in their ranks but it was scant compared to the top-flight pedigree boasted by QPR and the Londoners look a rock solid bet to take the spoils at 15/8 when they travel to Ashton Gate this weekend. My 16-match and 24-match ratings both make the visitors clear favourites for this game.
Since the October international break, Rangers’ shot ratio has shot up from 48.8 per cent in the first 10 matches to 57.9 per cent over 11 subsequent outings. The latter figure is automatic promotion form, and it’s a top-heavy sample too, including seven games against the current top ten.
And let’s not overlook the fact that Charlie Austin has been absent for most of that time also. The Hoops’ number nine has been held back in recent weeks after suffering hamstring and calf injuries but there can be little doubt he is back to match fitness after his late two-goal salvo against Brighton.
In short, this bet is probably best summed up by the fact that every single player on the QPR bench would walk straight into the Bristol City team, a point illustrated perfectly by the fact Jay Emmannuel-Thomas, one of the shining lights in the Robins’ League One title-winning campaign last term, is catching splinters in his backside at Loftus Road, barely getting a look-in.
Given that the visitors have kept six clean sheets in their last ten outings, it’s also hard to resist the 18/5 available on QPR to win to nil. The R’s have been priding themselves on their solid base lately and, if anything, the input of new boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is only liable to make them better organised. According to my tissue, this bet should be shorter than 11/4.
The U’s are just two games away from a trip to Wembley in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy with Millwall awaiting them in the southern area final, while an FA Cup round tie against Swansea has also capturing the imagination of their fans with over 5,000 tickets sold already.
But when you run down the list of teams they have beaten since suffering their last defeat at home to Barnet two months ago - Stevenage, Cambridge, Dagenham (twice), Braintree, Hartlepool, Forest Green and Yeovil - it’s possible their standards have diminished without them really noticing.
Wycombe are seasoned campaigners at this level now and they will relish being written off as such clear underdogs on home soil. If nothing else, it gives them licence to approach this game like the away side and their away record since the beginning of last season (W18 D11 L4) is phenomenal. The Chairboys did the business for Oddschecker followers at 9/2 in the FA Cup at Millwall only a fortnight ago and they can do us proud once more at 14/5 here.
The Bees head into this clash without a win in six and it can hardly be said that Mad Dog is holding his nerve in response. Over the past three matches, he has made five, six and seven changes to the starting line-up respectively and, once you go down that road, it can be an extremely slippery slope where player morale is concerned.
It’s all very reminiscent of Allen’s end days at Gillingham where he exhausted his every little idiosyncrasy in a title-winning campaign then crossed the line from being a bit quirky to full-on lost-his-marbles when the usual tricks had passed their expiry date the following season.
The QPR, Crawley and Wycombe treble pays over 34/1.