HOT off the heels of a confidence boosting win over league leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers, Queens Park Rangers now face a difficult trip to Hillsborough to face 12th placed Sheffield Wednesday.
Hillsborough will always hold a special place in the memory of QPR supporters, as May 2004 saw the R`s return to the second tier of English football, but since then the R`s have not found it a happy hunting ground.
The Owls have been buoyed by the decision of manager Brian Laws to sign a deal until 2011. The former Scunthorpe United boss recently surpassed the 100 game mark for Wednesday and has been the rock of stability that was required at Hillsborough in turbulent times.
The side from S6 have been without a chairman since former chairman Dave Allen departed over a year ago, with current debts standing at around the £25m mark and crowds continuing to tumble, epitomised by a six-year record low crowd against Coventry City.
The loan deadline saw Wednesday lose a striker in Deon Burton, the Jamaican journeyman moving on loan to Charlton Athletic. Coming in the other direction was Polish forward Bartosz Slusarski from West Bromwich Albion.
Former R`s loanees Jimmy Smith and Frankie Simek are set to play a part in the midweek fixture, where the hearty souls from W12 will once again brave the elements in S6.
Rangers boss Paulo Sousa maintained his unbeaten start as Rangers boss as the R`s coasted past Wolverhampton Wanderers at Loftus Road, and he was proud of his players` performances.
He said: ‘I think our intensity in the first half was very good,’
‘We should have won the match there and then. We had a lot of opportunities to win it, but in the end the goal came in the second half.’
‘To beat the team who is top of the league is fantastic. It shows we are moving forward and getting to perfection.
‘We worked very hard and deserved the victory – there is no doubt about that.
‘We are getting better and better, but there is work to do still.
‘The dynamic of the group is very good; the transitions of our game are getting better and better; the message is getting across.’
Sousa was also quick to praise his captain, Martin Rowlands, the former Brentford man, lashed a stinging drive past the despairing dive of Wayne Hennessey to settle the game.
He said: ‘We are now creating a lot of chances and we will take them, like Martin did today.
‘Martin has the ability to score great goals like that. He has good technique and quality.”
Sheffield Wednesday boss Brian Laws believes his side came out fighting the second period away at Southampton.
He said: ‘The second half shows that we are not going to melt.
“Previously when we were away from home and conceded a goal we were almost like a pack of cards about to fall but we are not like that any more and I am pleased to see that.
“If we can maintain that level of commitment and performance we can go a long way.’
Sheffield Wednesday Team News:
Wednesday have a few players missing as they play hosts to Rangers in Sheffield.
Richard Hinds is a long-term absentee with a broken leg picked up against Wolverhampton Wanderers back in August, while Jermaine Johnson also remains sidelined with medial knee ligament damage.
Apart from that former Rangers loanee duo Frankie Simek and Jimmy Smith are set to be named in the squad to face the R`s tomorrow night. Francis Jeffers could make way for loan signing Bartosz Slusarski after failing to impress alongside Leon Clarke in recent fixtures.
Set-piece specialist Etienne Esajas is set to start in favour of winger Wade Small, while live wire forward Marcus Tudgay is looking once again be the nemesis of the R`s as he starts on the right flank.
Player to watch: Marcus Tudgay
Live wire forward Marcus Tudgay has been outlined as Sheffield Wednesday`s most dangerous talent as the R`s visit Hillsborough tomorrow night.
To view all the detail regarding the One to Watch Click Here >>>
Queens Park Rangers Team News:
Fitz Hall returns to the fray following his three-match suspension. The former Wigan Athletic and Crystal Palace defender had been a ban for a scything tackle on Watford`s Will Hoskins.
Standing in his way however is the imposing frame of Latvian international defender Kaspars Gorkss, who has impressed immensely in recent performances.
The midfield quartet may also be adapted, with Lee Cook coming from the bench in the opening stages owing to Dexter Blackstock`s injury. This move saw Heidar Helguson join Patrick Agyemang up-front, a partnership that is set to continue in Sheffield.
Paulo Sousa will look to make the minimum of changes to his side for the trip to S6, after back to back solid displays has seen his side undefeated in three games, conceding only one goal.
Player to watch: Kaspars Gorkss
The Latvian international defender has proven himself a worthy starter over Fitz Hall in recent games, as the R’s defence continues to tighten up under the guidance of Paulo Sousa.
Gorkss who signed for Rangers in the summer, had been in talks with a move away from the club following the departure of Iain Dowie. However owing to the recent suspension of Fitz Hall, Kaspars has worked his way back into first team contention, at just the right time.
Kaspars` brand of football in the back four has proved refreshing, as not only is he an absolute brute in the air, dominating the aerial battle alongside Stewart, but he also brings the ball out of defence, looking for the sensible pass.
Having gone from squad defender to first team regular in the short reign of Paulo Sousa, it does not look set to change as Rangers travel to Sheffield.
Match Facts & Stats
Sheffield Wednesday: Last 5 Games: L L W W D
QPR: Last 5 Games: L L W D W
The R`s away form has been consistently poor for the last two seasons having only won two away games in the calendar year, and only scoring two away goals this Championship campaign.
HEAD 2 HEAD
Sheffield Wednesday: 26
Last time out
Saturday 8th March 2008 – Hillsborough
Coca Cola Championship
Sheffield Wednesday 2 (Kavanagh 45, Burton 52pen)
QPR 1 (Delaney 15)
Rangers Team: Lee Camp, Damien Delaney, Damion Stewart, Michael Mancienne, Matthew Connolly, Martin Rowlands, Mikele Leigertwood (Gavin Mahon 66), Akos Buzsaky (Angelo Balanta 75) Dexter Blackstock, Patrick Agyemang, Rowan Vine (Hogan Ephraim 63)
See also: One Day In History – Sheffield Wednesday 1981-82.
Referee– Mr N S Miller
Assistants – Mr A J Scregg & Mr N A Yates
Fourth official – Mr D R Street
Nigel Miller from County Durham will officiate the R`s crucial away clash at Hillsborough tomorrow.
To get all the stats concerning the official Click Here >>>.
Another away fixture comes round the corner, and I am surprisingly hit by a wave of optimism for once. Funnily enough the unpublished Wolves preview predicted a 2-1 win for Rangers, so I shall once again back the rejuvenated Rangers to overcome the odds; Which is why I predict:
Boxer`s Prediction: 2-0 Rangers
Who– Plymouth Arygle
Where– Home Park, Plymouth
When– Saturday December 13 – 3:00pm