Queen’s Park Rangers v West Bromwich Albion; Loftus Road, Saturday 5th November 2022, 3pm
With just two games to go before domestic football takes a break for the World Cup, Carlos Corberán will be hoping to build on his first victory as Albion boss on Tuesday with another two positive results starting with his first Albion away match in west London against Michael Beale’s Queen’s Park Rangers.
Having worked under Steven Gerrard at both Rangers and Aston Villa, Beale was offered his first head coach role at QPR in the summer of this year. After starting with just one win in his opening six games in all competitions, the R’s won eight of their next eleven matches which propelled them to the top of the table a fortnight ago and led to Beale reportedly being offered the top job at Molineux. He opted to stay at Loftus Road but a defeat at Birmingham City last Friday saw Rangers relinquish top spot and, following a mid-week goalless draw with Norwich City, they now sit in fourth spot some seven points behind first-placed Burnley.
There are one or two former Baggies enjoying their time at Loftus Road with one time Albion loanees Chris Willock and Stefan Johansen both regular starters. Willock is the club’s top scorer having found the net six times this season. Tim Iroegbunam was a youth player the Hawthorns before opting to follow one or two of his academy coaches to Aston Villa and has joined the Rs on loan for the season. The 19-year-old has earned himself a spot in the starting line up for eight Championship fixtures since his move including the last six.
However, the player that most fans will remember is, of course, Sam Field. Albion head coaches failed to give what we all felt was one of the club’s best academy graduates any regular football at the Hawthorns with his best season being 2017/18 when he started seven Premier League games, two of which were under caretaker boss Gary Megson when he scored his first Albion goal against Newcastle United. He was very unlucky to be injured while on loan at Charlton Athletic in October 2019 and then again a year later after having made three starts in the Premier League under Slaven Bilić. Allardyce was in charge by the time Field was fit again and he was promptly sent on loan to QPR and became an instant hit, and with Valérien Ismaël deeming him unsuitable for his squad, he made the move permanent that summer. Since then, he has gone from strength to strength, and he played against Albion for the first time in their 1-0 victory at Loftus Road in January.
While Albion fans may be regarding the centre of the Rangers midfield with fondness, Carlos Corberán’s job is to find a way to beat Field and his teammates. While there was an obvious improvement from the performance against Sheffield United to the one against Blackpool, the caveat that the Seasiders did not offer as stern a test remains. QPR, on the other hand, are one of the division’s form sides and it will be an opportunity for the team to prove that real progress is being made under the new boss.
There is also the impact that Tuesday’s victory should have on confidence. Back-to-back wins have been sadly lacking for Albion in recent months with Steve Bruce frequently lamenting the team’s tendency to follow up an impressive display with a poor one – hopefully, Corberán and his coaching team are able to maintain and build on a decent performance and get the team to produce once again. Another win would be fantastic, but I’m sure most Baggies fans will be happy with a good performance and a point from what will be a tricky afternoon.
The Albion boss switched from a 3-4-3 against Sheffield United to a 4-2-3-1 on Tuesday and, as I suggested in my match report, it will not necessarily be a permanent change. The Spaniard is known to prepare specifically for the opposition and it is interesting to note that the Blades play predominantly with a back three and Blackpool with a back four. If he is looking to match up with QPR, Beale has generally switched between a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-3-3 this season so maybe we should expect four at the back once again.
That is perhaps a little simplistic, but I’m sure that this week’s training sessions will be tailored to counter Rangers’ strengths and expose their weaknesses to a level of detail that I’m not sure Steve Bruce’s coaching team would have matched. Stopping the R’s playmaker-in-chief, Ilias Chair, will be high on the list of topics to cover, I’m sure, but I’m not convinced he will, please excuse the pun, get someone to sit on him!
It will be interesting to see the line up – while Corberán doesn’t have too many options, I am half-expecting him to throw a curve ball into his selection as he has done in each of his games so far. Then again, given the discipline and application shown by the eleven on Tuesday, I would be equally unsurprised to see no changes. Okay and TGH certainly performed well as a defensive midfield pairing while both John Swift and Matt Phillips impressed further forward. The back four were also solid so, if it was down to me, I would only be looking to swap Grant and Wallace for BTA and Grady. But CC has far more information to support his decisions than I do!
Whatever side is put out, I am sure they will be well prepared and clear in what their job is. It will be down to the players to put the plans into action and, with a bit more confidence after Tuesday, perhaps the time has come to be a little hopeful.
Having played in the third tier since joining the Football League in 1920, QPR didn’t get to play Albion until after the Second World War when they were promoted to Division Two in 1948. Davy Walsh and Frank Hodgetts were on the mark for the Baggies in a 2-0 victory at Loftus Road in the first ever meeting between the sides on 6th November 1948, one day short of exactly 74 years before Saturday’s match.
The reverse fixture at the Hawthorns that season was drawn, and it would be almost two decades later when the sides met again in a match that Baggies fans will not want to be reminded about. It was, of course, the League Cup Final of 1967 at Wembley when Albion, the holders, were 2-0 up at half-time over their Third Division opponents before Rangers came back from the dead with the appropriately named Mark Lazarus scoring the winner with ten minutes left.
The R’s third tier status was evidently a false position as two years later they were promoted to Division One. The Baggies took inadequate revenge that season with a league double that included a 4-0 win at Loftus Road on Boxing Day 1968 thanks to a brace from Ian Collard and further goals from Ronnie Rees and Dennis Martin.
That is the biggest of Albion’s nine wins at Loftus Road – should they record another victory on Saturday, they will have as many away wins against QPR as defeats. They will still be one down on defeats at the stadium, however, having lost 3-0 to Fulham on the one occasion that the Baggies played them there during their brief tenure between 2002 and 2004.
Rangers’ biggest win over Albion was actually at the Hawthorns, 4-1 in 2015, having never won by more than two goals in this fixture at Loftus Road. Two games have finished 2-0 and two 3-1, most recently in March 2010 when Jay Simpson, Matthew Connolly and Ákos Buzsáky scored for the hosts with Chris Brunt scoring for the visitors.
Albion’s most memorable trip to Loftus Road was a couple of years earlier and Brunt was once again on the scoresheet. That week, in May 2008, was a memorable one for Albion’s most recent legend as he scored the goal that secured promotion against Southampton, became a father for the first time, and then scored a wonderful free kick at Loftus Road to secure the three points that won the Championship title for Tony Mowbray’s team. Kim Do Heon had scored Albion’s first in a 2-0 victory.
|Queen’s Park Rangers||W||L||W||W||L||D|
All competitions; most recent game on the right
15 Jan 2022 – League Championship
Queen’s Park Rangers 1 (Austin)
West Brom 0
24 Sep 2021 – League Championship
West Brom 2 (Grant (2))
Queen’s Park Rangers 1 (Gray)
Last win at Queen’s Park Rangers
28 Sep 2019 – League Championship
Queen’s Park Rangers 0
West Brom 2 (Ferguson, Pereira)
Albion’s Record against Queen’s Park Rangers
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