First things first, huge congratulations to Billy Davies who has been named manager of the month for January. A well deserved award after the excellent league form Forest have had over a period where traditionally we always seem to slump! I’m a bit cynical about curses and things, it seems inevitable to me that an award that typically follows an exceptional run of form is likely to be followed by less impressive results.
Queens Park Rangers are the pace-setters in the Championship – a solid defence, and a dangerous attack coupled with a well balanced midfield. To point out that this will be a bloody tough game is a severe case of stating the bleeding obvious. They have both guile and skill, as well as the guts you would expect any side managed by Neil Warnock to have.
Of course, should Forest triumph, and do so in their two games in hand as well (all rather large ‘shoulds’ of course) then it would theoretically put the race to the title firmly in our own hands. That does seem like a big ask though. The eighteen games remaining this season are all the biggest game of the season for us now as they unfurl if we’re serious about maintaining our challenge for the automatic places.
Both sides are on good runs of form – nobody better than us, but let’s not overlook QPR’s recent endeavours either – despite being a man down for most of the game away at Reading a Wayne Routledge goal gave the Hoops a one-nil win that their performance, despite the disadvantage in numbers, warranted. Able to absorb pressure and hit on the break, as well as being able to dominate.
A lot of focus has been placed on Adel Taarabt, a talented midfielder with an eye for goal, but for those that think that our hosts are a one-trick pony you need to look a little deeper. With the likes of Shaun Derry doing the dirty work in midfield, and potent threats through the likes of Routledge, Buszacky from midfield and perpetual thorn-in-Forest’s side Hulse up front. That’s not even mentioning the likes of Mackie who’s out injured after a blistering start to the campaign.
So that’s how they can hurt us – but equally important they are the stingiest defence in the league (we are second). They’ve only let in 10 goals in fifteen home games, whilst they’ve netted 32. With the likes of Gorkss in defence and Paddy Kenny in goal it’s not all that surprising they don’t hear that many cheers from the away end at Loftus Road.
For this myriad of reasons and with a bit of second-guessing I think that Billy will probably play this one cautiously initially. I’m expecting five in midfield and one up front – with a brief to try to keep the more creative players in Rangers’ midfield quiet with a secondary mission to hit on the break. Moussi’s injury is a real loss in a game like this, so McKenna will need to continue the high performance level he put in against Watford last week.
Mackie and Hogan are missing through injury and suspension for our hosts, but they have no shortage of strength in depth to cover for these omissions – Forest have Moussi, Blackstock and Findley unavailable through injury. Tudgay presents an alternative to Dex up front, and has weighed in with some goals since his arrival, McKenna will fill in for Moussi in midfield – and he’ll be busy!
I tend to err on the side of pessimism even on the back of such an excellent run of results, and this game is hardly going to change that – if I’m being brutally honest I see a draw here as an excellent result. Certainly if the planets align suitably then this is a game we could win, but with that kind of argument the same goes for any team against any other in this league.
With the away end sold out the boys in Red should certainly get some great backing from the travelling fans – I dearly hope I’m wrong and we’ll have something to cheer about, but I’m struggling to predict anything other than defeat in this one I’m afraid. I would dearly love to be proven wrong, of course! I just have a feeling it won’t be our day…