The home straight is now upon us and Queens Park Rangers are within touching distance of promotion. With eight games to go, Neil Warnock`s men must remain focused and take each game as it comes or risk getting complacent and potentially messing up Rangers` best chance of promotion in years. Of course, it doesn`t help matters when there is a 16 day gap between fixtures, particularly as QPR had hit a decent spell of form. Hopefully, Warnock will have his troops raring to go on Monday and a win would really set the wheels in motion once again.
Sheffield United`s form has picked up lately after a dreadful run that saw Micky Adams take three months to win his first game as United boss. Recently, the Blades impressively conquered promotion hopefuls Nottingham Forest and Leeds Untied which goes to show how competitive the league can be. Adams who won at Loftus Road earlier this season (on my birthday, thank you Mr Adams) with Port Vale in the League cup will be fairly confident of picking up a result, although it has to be said the QPR side that faced Port Vale will be very different to the side that is named on Monday.
The match will once again be broadcasted live on Sky Sports, which consequently means the match had to be moved from the standard Saturday afternoon slot to the Monday, which although is a financial boost could prove to be problematic for QPR on the playing side. With the rest of the teams in the Championship playing at the weekend, it puts added pressure on the R`s and gives the chasing pack a chance to temporarily close the gap, giving them a psychological boost.
Results at the weekend mean QPR head into the match with their 10 point cushion over third intact. If QPR can win on Monday then they will be a very healthy13 points clear of Cardiff who moved up to third after their 4-1 win over Derby.
Doncaster Rovers 0
QPR 1 (Ephraim)
Team: Kenny, Orr, Hill, Hall, Gorkss, Derry, Faurlin, Routledge, Ephraim (Buzsaky), Helguson (Hulse), Smith
Sheffield United 2 (Lichaj og, Riise)
Leeds United 0
Team: Simonsen, Nosworthy, Mattock, Lowry, Lowton, Montgomery (Riise), Doyle, Quinn, Evans (Cresswell), Bogdanovic (Yeates), Vokes
QPR Team News:
Adel Taarabt is expected to return to action after missing the Doncaster match owing to a family bereavement. Hogan Ephraim could drop back to the bench even after his goalscoring efforts in the 1-0 victory at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Patrick Agyemang appears to be available for selection following his recovery from a stress fracture. Ishmael Miller, Tommy Smith and Akos Buzsaky are all available for selection, as is Martin Rowlands who returned from a frustrating loan spell at Millwall.
Possible line up:
Orr – Gorkss – Hall – Hill
Faurlin – Derry
Routledge – Taarabt (c) – Smith
Player to watch: Heidar Helguson
Heider Helguson continues to lead the line superbly this season. When he is selected we look a totally different outfit going forward than with Rob Hulse up top. Neil Warnock said that when he joined the club he was told that Heider wouldn`t be able to play three times a week, yet the in-form striker continues to prove the doubters wrong by consistently putting in performances of a high standard that defy his 33 year-old legs. I`ve said it many times this season that Helguson is by far our best and most effective striker.
It is great that we do have other attacking options on the bench as it would be a risk to rely too much on Helguson. Players like Ishmael Miller and Tommy Smith do provide different attacking options but it is with Helguson in the target man role that we look most dangerous.
Sheffield United Team News:
Darius Henderson returns from suspension following a red card against his former club Watford. Neil Collins is also available having recovered from a knock.
Lee Williamson is suspended and Jonny Ertl is out with a knee injury. Chris Morgan, Andy Taylor and Ryan France are all long term absentees.
Lowton – Nosworthy – Lowry – Mattock
Yeates – Montgomery – Doyle – Quinn
Evans – Henderson
Player to watch: Darius Henderson
The man-mountain forward returns from suspension to take on Rangers this weekend.
The striker is poised to inflict his typical brand of powerful, no-nonsense forward play.
The central defensive partnership, whomever they may be, will have to be on top of their game to keep out this front-man.
The Stat Attack
Queens Park Rangers: WWLWW
Sheffield United: LLWLW
HEAD 2 HEAD
Queens Park Rangers: 16
Sheffield United: 14
LAST TIME OUT
Coca Cola Championship – 14/8/10
Sheffield United 0
QPR 3 (Ephraim, Mackie, Taarabt pen)
Team: Kenny, Orr, Hill, Hall (Ramage), Gorkss, Derry, Faurlin, Ephraim (Leigertwood), Taarabt (Clarke), Mackie, Helguson.
Referee: Mr K Stroud
Assistants: Ms S Massey & Mr C Powell
Fourth Official: Mr K Wright
Keith Stroud is the match official for Monday night’s game and has officiated 26 games this season. His most recent game was the 2-2 draw between Bristol Rovers and Peterborough.
Last season Stroud issued 108 yellow cards and 10 red cards in 27 games.
To read more see: Ref Watch >>>
When I started writing the match preview I went with the angle that the fixture change could have a negative effect on Rangers, especially if all the teams below us were to win. Most of them did, however, with Swansea losing, the gap between us and third remains as it was before start of play on Saturday, which does alleviate the pressure somewhat. If anything, the pressure is now on Sheffield United to win seeing as Crystal Palace won, increasing the gap between the Blades and safety. I feel this alters the dynamics of the match. United have to come at us, instead of playing for a point. I don`t think Neil Warnock`s plans have changed at all but it does leave Micky Adams with something to think about.
QPR will want to get an early goal, if it doesn`t come much like in the Leicester City match, then I`m sure the fans won`t get on the players` back and hopefully they will be rewarded again. Sheffield United have some very good players at this level and like many others I am very surprised that they have struggled this season, although as we all know several managerial changes in one season isn`t ideal. Ched Evans, Nick Montgomery, and Nyron Nosworthy provide a decent spine to the team and they also posses perennial bogeyman Richard Cresswell who loves a goal against us. They could be dangerous on the attack but defensively they are suspect, although they will be buoyed by the clean sheet against Leeds.
3-0 Helguson, Routledge and Hill to score.
WHO: SCUNHTHORPE UNITED
WHERE: GLANFORD PARK