QUEENS Park Rangers will have their second chance to spoil the feel-good factor as they travel to Preston North End on the final day of the 2008-09 season.
With the R`s missing out on the chance to spoil Wolverhampton Wanderers` promotion party they can dish out the killer blow to the Lilywhites` playoff hopes as nothing other than a win will be sufficient for the hosts.
Preston have been resurgent under the guidance of former Everton assistant manager Alan Irvine with the Scotsman first leading them to safety last season before re-igniting their playoff ambitions this season.
One of the main reasons for Preston`s resurgent form has been their potent strike force with former Liverpool striker Neil Mellor and man-mountain Jon Parkin bagging ten goals a-piece. Strikes from other areas have ensured that the Lilywhites are still in with contention of playoff hope of the final day.
Under the guidance of Preston legend Gareth Ainsworth, Queens Park Rangers will be hoping to finish their season with a bang after struggling merely to create chances in recent games, let alone goals and entertainment.
Rumours are surfacing that Gareth Ainsworth may well name himself in the 16 that travels to Deepdale this weekend, and his selection would undoubtedly draw a rapturous reception from both sets of support.
View From The Bench
‘It was hardly a classic was it! It was a typical end of season game.
‘I think they came for a point, slowing the game down a lot in the second half.
‘Fair play to them – they have every right to do that when their divisional status is at stake.
‘Neither keeper has had a difficult save to make really. Radek’s kept us in it with a stop or two but neither side really dominated.
‘We didn’t create too much but then it was Plymouth who needed the points more than us and we frustrated them.’
“Queens Park Rangers are a good team and they’re full of good players. There are obviously a couple of strong links with people who were here as well, but even though Gareth Ainsworth and Patrick Agyemang have an affection for the Club.
“Gareth in particular spent a long time here and has a great love for the Club – they’ve got a job to do, and won’t be coming here thinking ‘let’s let Preston North End win’.
‘There’s hardly anything between the teams in the Championship, and our ability to come from behind is something that I’m delighted about. I’d rather we never went behind, but it’s going to happen, and the most important thing is that it doesn’t mean it’s the end of the game for us.’
Preston North End Team News:
Preston boss Alan Irvine has stated that his side are unlikely to have any players in the stands on Sunday as his depleted side look to take advantage of any potential slip ups in the playoff race.
Andy Lonergan will continue behind a back four comprising of Billy Jones and Eddie Nolan at full back while Sean St Ledger and scorer of a last minute goal three seasons ago Youl Mawene line up at the centre of defence. Jones may well be required in midfield however with either Neal Trotman or Liam Chilvers able to deputise.
Chris Sedgwick and Simon Whaley look set to begin in wide areas for North End with Ross Wallace ending his season at St Andrews after earning a second bookable offence for removing his shirt after scoring what was the winning goal.
Veteran Paul McKenna may well have full back Billy Jones alongside him at the centre of midfield with Lee Williamson receiving a red card for having to tolerate a torrent aggressive abuse from Lee Bowyer – still the FA believes the red card was inexplicably justified. Darren Carter will also be pushing for a start at the heart of midfield.
There are no problems in the forward line however with Neil Mellor and Jon Parkin providing a formidable partnership. The option of former Sunderland man Chris Brown from the bench gives the Lilywhites a plethora of attacking threat going into the fixture.
Callum Davidson hasn`t trained much of late as he continues his recovery from injury while former West Bromwich Albion midfielder Richard Chaplow will definitely be out.
Team v Birmingham: Andy Lonergan, Billy Jones, Youl Mawene, Sean St Ledger, Eddie Nolan, Chris Sedgwick (Simon Whaley 75), Paul McKenna, Lee Williamson (Sent Off 61), Ross Wallace (Sent Off 90), Jon Parkin (Chris Brown 58), Neil Mellor (Liam Chilvers 89).
Player to watch: Neil Mellor
Vital QPR has singled out forward Neil Mellor as the One to Watch as the R`s travel to Deepdale for the final fixture on Sunday.
To view all the stats on the One To Watch Click Here >>>
Queens Park Rangers Team News:
Former Preston winger and caretaker boss Gareth Ainsworth looks set to make changes from the side that were held in disappointing fashion by Plymouth Argyle last Saturday.
Radek Cerny will continue in goal with young Latvian international his nearest realistic advisory for the goalkeepers jersey. Young stopper Reece Crowther was released paving the way for Putnins to step up as the second choice keeper.
One area that there has been problem is in defence, with the Rangers rearguard performing admirably this season. First and second place at the Player of the Year, Damion Stewart and Kaspars Gorkss, should once again be partners at the heart of defence with Matthew Connolly set to start at full back. That will leave Peter Ramage, Damien Delaney and Mikele Leigertwood to fight it out for the remaining spot.
Ainsworth surprised many supporters by selecting Liam Miller in the middle alongside Gavin Mahon, it remains to be seen whether Miller will continue with Jordi López and Hogan Ephraim knocking on the door to play alongside the former Watford man.
Width in the Rangers set-up will be provided by Wayne Routledge and Lee Cook with Adel Taarabt returning to Tottenham Hotspur after suffering a ligament tear in training. Rumours have been afoot that Ainsworth may name himself in the squad, something which remains to be seen.
It seems that the former Preston man will have a selection headache upfront and not for positive reasons. With Rangers failing to find the back of the net on a consistent basis Ainsworth may well blood the youngster Antonio German and Angelo Balanta who both featured from the bench against Plymouth.
Player to watch: Jordi López
Should Jordi be selected for Rangers it will be his final chance to impress in a QPR shirt with his short-term contract expiring at the end of the campaign.
The Spaniard has been a creative influence in the middle and has regained his fitness in rapid fashion, indeed far quicker than Liam Miller who is yet to finish a game for Rangers despite signing just after the turn of the year.
The former Real Madrid and Barcelona man has offered Rangers a different option in the middle of the park and has proven competent alongside both Mikele Leigertwood and Gavin Mahon, as well as creative players in Hogan Ephraim.
His free-kick against Bristol City was undoubtedly the high point of his QPR spell, and has already expressed a desire to stay in W12 after his contract expires this summer.
To view Jordi`s profile Click Here >>>
LAST FIVE GAMES
Preston North End: D L W W W
QPR: D L W L D
HEAD 2 HEAD
Preston North End: 10
Lenny 367 has all the stats in The Stat Attack
LAST TIME OUT
Coca Cola Championship
Saturday December 20, 2008 – Loftus Road
QPR 3 (Helguson 16, 34, Blackstock 86)
Preston North End 2 (Sedgwick 28, Davidson 60pen)
Team: Radek Cerny, Damien Delaney (Fitz Hall 81), Damion Stewart, Gavin Mahon (Mikele Leigertwood 62), Patrick Agyemang, Kaspars Gorkss, Martin Rowlands, Peter Ramage (Dexter Blackstock 81), Lee Cook, Hogan Ephraim, Heidar Helguson.
QPR 3-0 Preston North End – 06-01-1973
Preston North End 0-3 QPR – 23-02-1980
Referee– Mr M Oliver
Assistants – Mr S M Hutchinson & Mr R H Smith
Fourth official – Mr P N Gibbs
Mr Michael Oliver from Northumberland will officiate the R`s clash with Preston North End tomorrow afternoon.
To get all the stats on the official Click Here >>>
Rangers face a side with something to play for, which should automatically in turn help them raise their game from the drab display out in at Loftus Road against Plymouth Argyle.
The way the game pans out may well depend on what is happening elsewhere, should Preston`s playoff rivals be out of sight that will surely have an impact on their play.
On the other hand should Preston be in with a shout Rangers have proven in recent weeks that they haven`t got the stomach for a fight at this stage in the season. In essence should Preston need to win, they probably will.; Which is why I predict:
Boxer`s Prediction: 1-1 Draw
Lenny`s Prediction: 2-0 Preston
That brings to an end the 2008-09 season, from here on in we now look to enjoying the summer and pondering who we will face in the opening game of the 2009-10 season.