Writer: Darren C
Date:Monday February 21 2011
Tuesday 22 February 2011
If Paul Jewell has plans to take Ipswich Town into the Premier League, he could learn a thing or two from table-topping QPR, who play host to the Blues on Tuesday night.
It's astonishing to think that the last time these two teams played each other, they were virtually on an equal footing. Town sat in third place just two points behind the leaders with both teams undefeated in the Championship at the time. However, any hopes that the two truly were on a promotion-chasing par were quickly extinguished when Neil Warnock's side ran riot at Portman Road to hand Roy Keane's boys a 3-0 defeat.
Since then, Rangers haven't looked back. The Londoners have looked like Champions-elect all season having been top for all but 3 separate weeks of the entire Championship campaign so far, and they are now five points clear of their two nearest rivals. There are still no guarantees though, as Ipswich will know all too well having been in exactly the same position after 32 games in 2004/05 - just before it all went wrong. And with just 3 wins in their last 10 matches, QPR aren't exactly impervious to such a collapse.
Ipswich meanwhile are in some of their best form of the season at the moment; it's just a shame it doesn't count for much. Despite locking horns with QPR at the top earlier in the season, their autumn fall has left them 11pts off the playoffs in 13th and cost them any realistic prospect of promotion this year. Even so, their newfound confidence could yet put them in a strong position to emulate QPR next season - after all, guess who finished 13th last year?...
Even though Tuesday's trip to QPR might show Ipswich Town whether they can be a match for a team touching the Premier League, Blues defender Mark Kennedy says that the result will not change the team's outlook as they aim to continue their positive progress under Paul Jewell.
'I agree that it can be looked as a benchmark to how far we have come in recent weeks,' Kennedy told the East Anglian press. 'But one game will not change anything.'
'Whatever the result it will not make us a good team or a poor team. As a club and as a team we are moving forward - moving in the right direction.'
Tuesday certainly won't be make or break, but an unlikely win against a team as good as QPR would surely be a very positive sign for how much the Blues have grown in recent weeks.
QPR are without Jamie Mackie - who scored twice at Portman Road in September - after the striker suffered a broken leg against Blackburn Rovers back in January. Fellow frontman Tommy Smith (that's Tommy William Smith, not our Tommy Jefferson Smith!) is also sidelined with a hamstring injury, whilst midfielder Wayne Routledge and defender Matt Connolly are also facing a race to be fit having sustained minor knocks in The Hoops' draw at Preston North End. Hogan Ephraim is also out as he serves the final game of a three match suspension, though there may yet be a place in the squad for a new signing if non-league striker Troy Hewitt finalises his move from Harrow Borough in time.
Still the main man at Loftus Road, midfielder Adel Taarabt has continued to demonstrate his astonishing ability and potential for the Championship leaders throughout the season. Since signing permanently for Neil Warnock's side after a previous spell on loan from Tottenham Hotspur, Moroccan international Taarabt has undoubtedly become one of the best players outside the top flight of English football. Even his team-mates are struggling to keep up - no-one else at QPR can match his 14 league goals for the season, nobody else has had more shots, and nobody can come even close to his 12 assists; a total which makes him the leading provider in the division. With that kind of record, it would be a surprise if he weren't to have some sort of decisive impact on Tuesday.
Ipswich boss Paul Jewell is boosted by the return of midfielder Jimmy Bullard after the Hull loanee sat out Saturday's match against his parent club. Connor Wickham has shaken off the ankle problem he picked up in the second half of the game against Hull, but David Norris is still out with the knee and ankle injuries he sustained at Barnsley, meaning Andy Drury - who impressed on his home debut on Saturday - may yet keep his place in midfield. Otherwise, Jewell is likely to continue his policy of minimal rotation with Shane O'Connor still short of a return whilst Brian Murphy and Alan Quinn remain sidelined.
Who'd have thought it? After Roy Keane pretty much left his £1.5 million Manchester United midfielder for dead following a distinctly underwhelming first season at Portman Road, Lee Martin has come back a changed man under Paul Jewell. So far had he fallen out of the team that the Blues midfielder was on loan at Charlton Athletic for the first half of the season, but having been given a second chance, Martin has been in impressive form for Town. The 24-year-old put in a tireless performance all over the pitch against Hull City on Saturday, while he has also contributed two assists in the Blues' last three matches. He might not be the best on the field at Loftus Road on Tuesday, but he could certainly be worth a watch.
FLC - (3rd) Ipswich 0-3 QPR (1st)
14 September 2010
(Click here for Match Report)
QPR: Mackie 31, 42, Helguson (pen) 68
Ipswich: Fulop, Peters, McAuley, T J Smith, Leadbitter, Edwards (Brown 72), Norris, Townsend (Wickham 46), Hyam (Priskin 46), Kennedy, Scotland
QPR: Kenny, Hill, Gorkss, Walker, Connolly, Derry, Taarabt (Leigertwood 60), Faurlin (Buzsaky 36), Ephraim, Helguson, Mackie (T W Smith 80)
I'm travelling to Loftus Road on Tuesday and I must say, this one could be interesting. QPR certainly do provide a benchmark for what promotion standard has become in the Championship - and thereby what the Blues will potentially need to live up to if they are to follow in their footsteps. They seemed a long way off just a few weeks back, but Town have been playing much better football under Paul Jewell and now stand a better chance of pulling off an upset at Loftus Road than they might otherwise have done. Even so, we do have a way to go to match Rangers, and I still think we'll be given another footballing lesson.
Prediction: Pessimism or realism? You decide... QPR 3-0 Ipswich.
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Date:Monday February 21 2011
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