CARLISLE United travel to W12 for the Tuesday night Carling Cup clash full of optimism as their league campaign has got off to a trailblazing start.
Two wins from three over Bristol Rovers and Crewe Alexandra have put John Ward`s men in a strong early position as they look to bounce back from play-off heart break against Leeds United last season.
The Cumbrians cashed in on former Blackburn Rovers striker and record signing Joe Garner by selling the highly rated forward to Nottingham Forest for £1.14m, now a record sale beating that of Matt Jansen`s £1m move to Crystal Palace.
Add to that the experience of striker Michael Bridges and United are a sure fire bet to be there and there about in the League One shake-up come the end of the season.
They secured their passage into Round Two, by beating League Two Shrewsbury managed by former Carlisle boss Paul Simpson. The 1-0 score-line and tie in W12 was secured with a goal from Peter Murphy just before half time.
Rangers first team coach Iain Dowie was full of praise for his side following the 2-0 victory over Doncaster Rovers at the weekend:
‘We felt we had to change it a little bit after the United game. Not just formation and personnel but things like being first to the ball every time.’
Queens Park Rangers Team News:
Iain Dowie may use his a few players on the fringe of the first team set-up following the victory over Doncaster at the weekend.
Kaspars Gorkss played no part in the fixture owing to his international honours, but he will be raring to go once again for this encounter, and his attendance will be required following the re-occurance of yet another injury for Fitz Hall. Rangers with a plethora of centre halves at their disposal will look to bridge the berth that Hall has left.
Should Dowie decide to rest some of the R`s more influential players there are many midfielders waiting in the wings for their opportunity. Martin Rowlands may return following his cameo from the bench against Doncaster, with Angelo Balanta set to start up front.
What will be interesting is the potential formation shift, will Dowie keep the successful 4-5-1, or shift to a more conventional 4-4-2, to perhaps incorporate Angelo Balanta or Samuel Di Carmine into the attack. With Patrick Agyemang and Matteo Alberti also waiting in the wings there is healthy competition for places in the early stages.
Rangers however will evidently be without long-term absentees Rowan Vine and Akos Buzsaky, who are stepping up their rehabilitation with the latter looking to be back in a Rangers shirt relatively soon.
Player to watch: Angelo Balanta
Balanta has already bagged himself a goal in this competition against Swindon Town in the last round, and will be looking to add to his tally if included tomorrow night against Carlisle United.
Angelo has showed a strength and skill to belie his years and has come back from the summer period looking like a seasoned pro rather than just a product of the youth system.
Balanta burst onto the scene with a magnificent full debut against Watford in a 4-2 win and he subsequently made 12 appearances in his first season in the Championship, including an appearance at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup.
He scored his only goal of the season and indeed his young career when he drifted inside from a make-shift left wing position, using his strikers instinct to poach a goal against the Blades.
Balanta was compared last season to Michael Schumacher by QPR co-owner Flavio Briatore, and will be looking to impress first team coach Iain Dowie against League One opposition.
Carlisle United Team News:
Carlisle lost their 100% record in the away draw against Leyton Orient at the weekend, but John Ward has been consistent with his team selection, making no changes from the opening day, through to the Orient fixture.
He may be tempted to tinker in this cup fixture at Loftus Road, with two additions Richard Keogh and Michael Bridges on the periphery of the action and will certainly be looking to start in W12 along with winger, Cleveland Taylor.
They will have to change their line-up as former West Bromwich Albion and Nottingham Forest striker Scott Dobie will be suspended following a sending off against Leyton Orient for violent conduct.
Some of the 600 fans that travelled down from Cumbria for the Orient fixture may have chosen to stay in London for this cup clash, as the staggering round trip would be almost pointless making twice in the space of a few days. Then again I`m sure they`re used to it!
Player to watch: Danny Graham
The Carlisle number nine bagged a brace in the Cumbrians 4-2 win over Crewe recently and last season hit 14 goals in an impressive first campaign.
Graham started out at Chester-Le-Street Town of the Northern Premier League before getting a dream move to Middlesbrough. The Gateshead born striker struggled to make the mark with Boro` and was sent out on loan on numerous occasions.
He bagged his first senior goal whilst on loan at Darlington, the opener in a 3-2 away defeat to Southend United. He then had a dream first appearances for Boro` at Old Trafford as a 87th minute substitute in a well fought 1-1 draw replacing Stewart Downing.
He bagged himself a goal in the League Cup against Coventry City, before making UEFA Cup appearances in both legs in the 4-2 aggregate defeat against Sporting Lisbon.
He was loaned out to Derby County in 2005/06 where he failed to make in impact in 14 appearances with the Rams. This followed with fruitless spells at Leeds United and Blackpool before Carlisle came in for the young striker, and it was here he started to impress before injury curtailed his loan spell.
However an excellent spell in the new season for Carlisle saw him bag 7 goals in 6 games in an excellent start to the season, eventually helping them to the play-off semi final.
Match Facts & Stats
Rangers now have back to back home wins in the league, whilst the away form is a bit patchy, Loftus Road is becoming a place where sides will struggle to come and get results. Rangers now have three wins and a defeat from four games in all competitions.
Rangers have proven they are formidable opponents at Loftus Road with the stats proving they have only lost twice on home soil in the calendar year of 2008 against Burnley and West Brom.
Carlisle have started superbly in League One, and victory in the Carling Cup can only fuel their high aspirations for the season ahead. John Ward`s men have won three and drawn one from four games in all competitions.
Only a late poor run scuppered their chances of automatic promotion last time out, as the play-off second leg and Jonny Howson proved their undoing against Leeds United, in a keenly contested tie. They will be looking to banish those memories, and a victory at Loftus Road will go some way to do that.
HEAD 2 HEAD
Carlisle United: 6
Last time out
5th October 1994 – Loftus Road
League Cup Round Two
QPR 2 (Bradley Allen 8, Clive Wilson 39pen)
Carlisle United 0
Rangers Team: Tony Roberts, David Bardsley, Clive Wilson, Steve Yates, Alan McDonald, Simon Barker, Andrew Impey, Ian Holloway, Les Ferdinand (Kevin Gallen 72), Bradley Allen, Trevor Sinclair.
Assistants – TBA
Fourth official – TBA
Rangers second string team should be too strong for Carlisle United, who have been weak at the back, hence the addition of Richard Keogh from Bristol City. Hopefully the strike force will fire and the defenders will do just that!; which is why I predict:
Boxer`s Prediction: 2-0 Rangers
Who– Bristol City
Where– Ashton Gate
When– Saturday 30th August. 3:00pm.