Brighton set a new Championship record of 20 games unbeaten from the start of a season on Saturday, their 2-2 stalemate with Derby eclipsing QPR’s 19-match flyer under Neil Warnock four years ago. Avoid defeat at Loftus Road and they will equal a club record 17-match unbeaten streak in all competitions.
But the Seagulls ultimately came away from the iPro disappointed at two points dropped having been ahead twice and their position isn’t quite as rosy as the record alone would lead you to believe. If anything, the season is developing into a battle of endurance with mounting injuries putting greater emphasis on a sub-plot of missed opportunities.
As outstanding as Albion have been, eight of their last 13 matches have been draws, six out of seven away from home, four surrendering a lead. In total, Chris Hughton’s men have dropped ten points from a winning position on their travels and conceded ten equalising goals.
On the flip side, no team is more adept at taking control of matches. The Seagulls have scored the first goal 16 out of 22, stubbornly playing out a goalless stalemate in three of the other six - and that’s where the value appears to lie in this game. Take the 23/10 available on the draw and back it up with a bet on no goalscorer at 15/2. My 16-match ratings convert the 0-0 into a 6/1 shot here.
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A goalless stalemate would be nothing new to the Loftus Road faithful. QPR have played out three 0-0s in their last five home games, the latest of which, on Saturday, came against Burnley in the first game under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s guidance. It was Rangers’ sixth clean sheet in nine matches, which is some improvement from a team that was shipping an average of two goals per game over the first 11 matches.
Hasselbaink, of course, is no stranger to miserly defensive play having conceded just 35 goals in 51 matches as Burton manager, a run rate of 0.69 goals per game that has stayed firmly intact despite the Brewers moving up a level in the summer. And based on those statistics, there should be no argument about his ability to move up another division so soon.
That’s not to say Hasselbaink is a negative manager. The Dutchman isn’t afraid to play on the front foot and altered Rangers’ approach at the weekend by asking them to press high up the pitch, although we should make note of the fact Burnley finished stronger as the R’s began to tire.
Combine that knowledge with Charlie Austin lack of match sharpness, which means QPR might be about to embark on a fourth straight match without a recognised striker, and an injury to Solly March, which leaves Hughton bereft of his two best wide players, then the case for a keenly-contested but ultimately forgettable affair becomes compelling.
For more information about Mike Holden’s shot-based ratings system, follow this link.