Mike Holden previews the live Saturday lunchtime clash between QPR and Fulham.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is gradually imposing his identity at QPR with last weekend’s 1-0 win over Ipswich demonstrating many of the qualities for which the Dutchman was renowned during his 13-month tenure at Burton. On a day when things appeared not to be going their way, his new troops showed admirable patience and discipline to crack one of the toughest nuts in the Championship.
The R’s created, and spurned, several gilt-edged chances against the Tractor Boys and could easily have triumphed by a more comfortable margin had they been more prolific inside the 18-yard box but Hasselbaink wasn’t prepared to dwell on that afterwards, praising his players for their mental strength in sticking to the task right through until Matty Phillips’ 88th-minute winner.
It was only Rangers’ second victory in 11 attempts under the new manager but the overall picture isn’t nearly as bleak as that sounds. It’s a sample that includes seven draws and only two defeats, both of which were suffered deep into injury time against opposition with realistic promotion ambitions. With improving stamina, the Hoops should start turning more of those draws into wins.
Such fine margins suit Hasselbaink because once the players get to grips with the small print of his high-octane pressing game, they will pounce on more scraps and turn the odds in their favour. Three clean sheets in the last four outings is perhaps the most relevant statistic of all and it’s the basis on which a bet on QPR to win to nil is recommended here.
Indeed, the only goal Rangers have conceded in the last six hours was James Henry’s freak equaliser for Wolves three weeks ago, which took a double deflection on its way past Alex Smithies. And stamina is the key issue here because that’s just one of three goals in the past 15 league matches that Rangers have conceded inside the first 75 minutes.
Fulham are supposedly in good spirits after retaining the services of Ross McCormack and Moussa Dembele beyond January but it’s debatable whether that positivity is matched by the morale of those two individuals themselves, with Dembele, in particular, disappointed by the collapse of a £5m move to Tottenham having undergone a medical and agreed personal terms.
Last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Derby is naturally being viewed as a step in the right direction for Slavisa Jokanovic but you could easily argue it was a gimme for the Cottagers when you consider how the schedule favoured them going into the game. The Rams have since parted company with Paul Clement, suggesting all wasn’t well in their camp.
So this might actually be an ideal opportunity for QPR to exact revenge for their humiliating 4-0 defeat in the reverse fixture at Craven Cottage last September. And if they bring along the shooting boots they left at home last week, they might even come close to replicating the margin of that misery. Only Charlton and Rotherham have leaked more goals than Fulham this season.
There’s little to suggest this will be an entirely one-sided affair from the outset but, should the R’s get their noses in front and eventually establish a 2-0 lead, there’s an obvious incentive for them to keep going, bringing us into the realm of big-priced correct scores. Split a point between the QPR 3-0 and QPR 4-0 correct scores at 22/1 and 55/1 respectively.
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