RANGERS no doubt buoyed after holding home specialists Ipswich Town, are back in W12 for another crucial encounter against Preston North End.
Any points for the R`s would surely ensure their safety in the division, with the safety barrier set to be as high as 53 points this season, providing either Southampton or Barnsley don`t blow up.
They face a Preston North End outfit on the up under inspired manager Alan Irvine, and set to ensure their safety with a mix of motivated players and shrewd loan signings.
Luigi De Canio was happy with the result at Portman Road:
‘I think we were really good value for the point.”
‘Both teams played really well and fought with their hearts and it’s a shame there were no goals to show for both side’s efforts.”
There was also high praise for Ipswich Town:
‘Ipswich are one of the best teams in the division and it’s a valuable and very important point for us.’
De Canio added:
‘We were without out top-scorer in Akos Buzsaky and our captain Martin Rowlands was only fit enough to play from the bench, so it’s a great point for us.”
‘I can take a great amount of satisfaction from the afternoon. It shows how much we have progressed. We’re getting consistency in our results and that is very good.’
On the contentious issues of handball and whether the ball had crossed the line, Gigi admitted Rangers were fortunate:
‘It is difficult to judge if the ball went over the line, as it was in the air.”
‘Possible we were lucky that the referee did not see the handball, but even so, Lee Camp assures me he would have saved it anyway!’
Queens Park Rangers Team News:
Rangers are hopeful to have midfielder Martin Rowlands back into the starting line-up, following the neck injury he sustained away at Wolves. Rowlands came on as a second half substitute up at Portman Road and will be in contention for Saturday`s fixture.
Akos Buzsaky faces a race against time to be fit for the Preston encounter, following an aggravation of an ankle injury on international duty with Hungary. He probably will not be risked this Saturday with the game against Hull being the Magical Magyar`s target.
Jake Cole is returning to light training, but the likelihood of the goalkeeper replacing either Lee Camp or Matt Pickens in the 16 isn`t good for the foreseeable future.
Rangers look set to keep the same back four with Damien Delaney serving the final game of a two-match suspension. So Matthew Connolly will continue at left back.
Patrick Agyemang is set to face his former club, alongside strike partner Dexter Blackstock, after the only other striker in contention, Rowan Vine, fractured his leg in training during the week.
Player to watch: Patrick Agyemang
Patrick Agyemang joined the R`s from Preston in the January transfer window and has been a key asset in the Rangers Revolution, that has seen the R`s ascend the Championship table and all but escape the perils of relegation.
Agyemang signed from Preston for a reported £350k, as it was said he was unhappy in the north and wanted to move back to London. With his contract up at the end of the season, Rangers wasted no time in snapping up the Ghanaian international, who has now scored 9 goals in 15 games.
It will be interesting to see what sort of reception Agyemang will get from the Preston travelling fans, after being a loyal servant to the club, who they managed to command a good fee for in the last year of his contract.
Preston North End Team News:
PNE hope to call upon full back Callum Davidson and forward Simon Whaley, for their trip to Loftus Road, which will mark Sir Tom Finney`s 86th Birthday. The duo were forced to withdraw from the game against Sheffield United after picking up slight knocks.
Neil Mellor who scored a brace at the weekend could be set to retain his starting place, alongside ex-Sunderland striker Chris Brown. Tamas Priskin will also be looking to feature, as this will be the last game of his loan period with the Lilywhites.
Long term absentee`s former R`s trialist Wayne Henderson (Back) and Michael Hart (Hip) will not be available for selection.
Player to watch: Neil Mellor
The Sheffield born striker was a product of the Liverpool youth system, and made his first senior appearance for the Reds in their 1-1 draw against Ipswich Town in the League Cup, which Liverpool won on penalties.
He went on to score his first goal against Sheffield United in the semi-final of the same competition, however he was on the losing side as a brace from Michael Tonge meant they took a 2-1 lead into the second leg.
He was sent out on loan to Championship outfit West Ham United, where he was controversially picked in his debut over David Connolly after being picked up from a motorway service station.
He started to make some impact on the Premier League in 2004, when his brace saw Liverpool beat Middlesborough in the League Cup, whilst his stunning strike saw the Reds beat Arsenal at Anfield, as the striker began to promise great things. A goal in an historical Champions League Tie against Olympiakos did nothing to quell this growing reputation.
The striker failed to reproduce any sort of form in a loan spell to Wigan, scoring one goal after returning to Liverpool. After spells on the sidelines with injury Mellor finally made a permanent move away from Anfield signing for Preston on a free transfer.
He has faced the R`s only once in his time at Preston, it was the 0-0 draw up at Deepdale, where Rangers under Mick Harford`s guidance managed to get a point after having chances pepper their goal and Lee Camp saving a penalty. Considering PNE`s record on a Tuesday night at Deepdale, that was no mean feat!
Mellor has made 42 appearances for the Lilywhites with only 9 league starts, scoring 8 goals. He has hit form at the right time for PNE with his brace at the weekend, and he must be watched carefully if the R`s are to keep a clean sheet.
Match Facts & Stats
Rangers have only lost 1 in 9, in an excellent unbeaten run. The away defeat up at Hillsborough is the only blemish on a decent run for the R`s. Counting back slightly further its only 2 defeats from 12, with Rangers ascending towards the top half of the Championship.
The R`s home form has been exceptional of late, only losing 1 home game this year, the 4-2 defeat at home to Burnley. In their last 3 home games Rangers have scored 9 goals, with some exciting displays and 3 home wins on the spin.
Preston have been in super form of late, winning 5 of their last 6 games, in a glorious March. A notable away victory over Charlton, and before that against relegation rivals Preston, have pulled the Lilywhites away from the drop zone under the inspired Alan Irvine.
Preston are unbeaten in 4 away games, but surprisingly lost out away to Colchester in February. They have since got back on track on the road, with the aforemetioned victories as well as a useful point away to local rivals Blackpool.
Preston edge the head to head record with 8 league wins to Rangers 6, the teams drawing 11 times.
Last time out
3rd April 2007- Loftus Road
QPR 1 (Blackstock 51)
Rangers Team: Camp, Mancienne (Kanyuka 46) Stewart, Cullip, Bignot, Ainsworth, Lomas, Bolder, Cook (Ricketts 46(Smith 83)) Blackstock, Nygaard.
Last time out
23rd October 2007- Deepdale
Rangers Team: Camp, Mancienne, Stewart, Cranie, Barker, Ainsworth (Nygaard 57) Bolder, Leigertwood, Rowlands, Ephraim, Vine.
Referee– C Penton
Assistants – GS Evetts & JM Hayto
Fourth official – SA Child
For a full report on the match official click here
This is going to be a really tough home game, Preston are ressurgent under Alan Irvine, and have got some cracking results away from home. However Rangers home form is looking formiddable, and I back the R`s in this encounter; which is why I predict:
Boxer`s Prediction: 2-0 Win
For all the latest match odds click on www.williamhill.com
Who– Hull City
Where– KC Stadium
When– Saturday 12th April 2008: 3:00pm