BY LUKE PHELPS
The international break always comes as something of an inconvenience to the modern football fan. For reasons we can’t quite put our fingers on, international football just doesnâ€™t cut it in the same way as club football. But all is well for QPR fans, as they are the Championshipâ€™s current form team.
Since the turn of the year, Ian Holloway’s side have been playing some great football, picking up valuable and deserved points along the way with wins at Aston Villa and draws against Derby County and Fulham this month alone.
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Last time out was Fulham, and a late goal from Polish winger Pawel Wszolek saved a point and took QPR’s tally for points rescued by goals in the last 10 minutes to 11 â€“ a League high.
The Hoops have been peppered with interesting stats all season, despite the poor first half of the campaign. Luke Freeman and Matt Smith are top of the leader board for chances created between two players; Massimo Luongo is up there for most tackles; and the best one â€“ QPR have won 5 out of 11 games against teams that start the day in the top 6 of the table, drawing 3 and losing 3.
Recently, I have been praising Holloway for his emphasis on youth which seems to be paying off. Only league leaders Wolves and Nottingham Forest have had more Under-20 players score this season than QPR, who have benefitted from goals by Paul Smyth â€“ who scored on his Northern Ireland debut over the International break â€“ Aremide Oteh and Eberechi Eze.
It is easy to get carried away though, and we must remain cautious. With 8 games of the season remaining we must remember that, at this point last season, we went on to lose 7 of the remaining 8 games, and only narrowly avoided relegation to League One.
What’s more is that this season QPR have conceded the first goal in 20 fixtures â€“ another League high.
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Next up is a Friday night trip to Reading. This fixture would’ve been noted as a winnable one at the start of the month, but with last week’s departure of Dutchman Jaap Stam and the appointment of Paul Clement, I fear an ‘immediate impact’ from the new gaffer as he tries to steer his team away from relegation.
With 24 points left to play for QPR could, technically, still achieve promotion. But at the same time, with 24 points left to play for, bottom club Sunderland could achieve a mid-table finish. Whilst we are the form team, we need to be cautious of a what will be a newly-inspired Reading team on Friday, if we are to achieve the unlikely but still very possible, mid-table finish.