Queens Park Rangers’ style may suit Barnsley as they look to end a 70-year wait for victory at Loftus Road tomorrow in their first game after lockdown, says head coach Gerhard Struber.
While the Reds restart the campaign in last place, seven points from safety, QPR are 13th, six points off the play-offs and unbeaten in six. Struber told the Chronicle: “This is a team that will play flat in their build-up and they play possession football. This is a team with a clear plan on the ball. When I saw QPR’s last games, I saw in every single game that the work against the ball and defensive structure is, most of the time, a big challenge for them. This is a good chance for us.”
The Reds’ first two games at Loftus Road brought a 2-2 draw in 1948 then a 5-0 win in January 1950 but, since then, they have lost 22 and drawn three of their 25 visits including 11 successive defeats. Struber said: “I know that we have not got a successful history in London against Queens Park Rangers. They are a massive opponent. We know QPR is a team with individual players with high quality. It is a very difficult task for my boys but I am 100 per cent convinced that, when we stay together in our gameplan, it is also very difficult for QPR against us. I hope we can bring a special energy. QPR have not played against Barnsley after a lockdown, it is a completely new situation for them.”
Barnsley’s three victories in 18 away games means they have the second-worst away record in the Championship this season. Only Preston North End have scored fewer goals on the road than the Reds’ 16. But, after no victories in their first ten away games, they won four of their last ten in all competitions including at QPR’s London neighbours Millwall and Fulham. Loftus Road has seen the most goals of any ground this season in the EFL or Premier League as QPR are the Championship’s top-scorers on their own turf with 37 but their 33 conceded is the joint most along with Hull City and Barnsley.
QPR are the third highest-scorers in the league with 58, behind West Brom and Brentford, but have let in the joint third most goals on 62 – the same as the Reds – with only Hull City and Luton Town shipping more. QPR’s Geoff Cameron is still suspended, having been given a one-game ban for being sent off in their most recent match at Preston North End in February. His place in central midfield is likely to be taken by Luke Amos who scored twice at Oakwell in December.
The Hoops have had to let Marc Pugh leave the club due to the ‘economic situation’ as the midfielder would have triggered a one-year contract extension had he played another game. Rangers’ chief executive and their manager Mark Warburton expressed concerns at the return date of June 20 when it was first announced, using words such as ‘appalled’ and ‘vehemently opposed.’
QPR lost 5-3 at Oakwell in December, with Conor Chaplin netting a hat-trick while Cauley Woodrow and Bambo Diaby also scored. That was one of two games Mark Warburton has managed in against Barnsley with the other being a loss at Oakwell with Nottingham Forest in 2017.
Warburton was appointed in the summer of last year and QPR won seven of their first 12 league games under him then collected 17 points from their next 20 matches. But, before lockdown, they were unbeaten in six, with three wins and three draws. Rangers’ last three games at Loftus Road had brought wins over Stoke City and Derby County then a 2-2 draw with Birmingham City.
Barnsley’s last visit to QPR brought a 1-0 loss in February 2018, the final game before Paul Heckingbottom moved to Leeds United. The goal-scorer that day, ex-Red Josh Scowen, has since moved to League One Sunderland. This will be the latest Barnsley have ever played in a season, beating the previous record at Tottenham Hotspur on June 7, 1947 due to a very cold winter which saw many games called off.