Date:Friday August 8 2008
Saturday 9th August 2008
BARNSLEY are without a win at Loftus Road since 1950, and are the R`s first opponents of the 2008/09 season.
And it all begins again. Rangers branded the favourites by the bookies to bounce back to the Premier League after thirteen years in the wilderness, in fact Saturday`s opponents Barnsley have been in and out the top flight since then.
The Tykes have strengthened using Simon Davey`s contacts across the globe with Mounir El Haimour and Hugo Colace from Switzerland and Argentina respectively. Barnsley also haven`t looked too far from home bringing in F.A. Cup hero Luke Steele from West Bromwich Albion, whilst ex-Baggie Darren Moore joins from Derby.
Davey also shelled out the vast sum of £1.2m for forward Iain Hume, who played for relegated Leicester City last season.
The two sides who have spent the last few seasons vying for safety in English football`s second tier, now have a different set of aspirations, with the R`s going for a top eight finish with the Tykes hoping to spring a few surprises of their own.
New R`s boss Iain Dowie spoke following the 2-1 defeat at home to Chievo Verona, which ended a thoroughly disappointing pre-season campaign.
'It would have been nice to end our pre-season campaign with a victory" Dowie told QPR.co.uk
"But the real proof in the pudding will be next Saturday against Barnsley,'
'I thought it was a very even match and they just shaded it by the odd goal."
On the day Rangers were run ragged by winger Iunco and striker Bogdani, as they player some first class football, putting the R`s to the sword as Rangers only scored with a twice taken penalty from Dexter Blackstock.
'The second goal we conceded was very poor from a defensive point of view. You can't take anything away from the player's strike, but we should have stopped them from getting the ball to him in the first place."
'They edged the first half, but I thought we grew stronger as the match wore on.'
Rangers will be without several key players going into the fixture at Loftus Road on Saturday.
Martin Rowlands, Damion Stewart and new signing Samuel Di Carmine will be sidelined with suspensions going into the campaign. Whilst long-term absentees Akos Buzsaky and Rowan Vine played no part in pre-season.
It`s a race against time for Real Madrid starlet Daniel Parejo, his international clearance is yet to come through, and must be processed by this evening if he is to make his debut on Satutday.
However the R`s can call upon new signings, in defensive duo Peter Ramage and Kaspars Gorkss, from Newcastle United and Blackpool respectively. In midfielder Genoa loanee Emmanuel Ledesma could start alongside former Chievo winger Matteo Alberti on the flanks.
Perhaps the biggest inclusion will be that of Lee Cook, the self-professed QPR fan who has finally come home after a year of injury hell at Rangers West London neighbours, Fulham.
A plethora of players to pick from in defensive and midfield areas but with the R`s light on strike force, it may mean Dexter upfront on his own once more, with the option of Agyemang and Balanta to come on.
We`ve seen in the Emirates tournament how special this lad can be on his day, and following up on his heroics for Real Madrid, Galactico`s boss Bernd Schuster has reluctantly let the Madrid born midfielder out on loan for the season in W12.
Owing to Flavio`s close links with elite clubs, Parejo comes to Rangers with the prospect of promotion looming large, and he will certainly help the R`s lofty aspirations going into the new season.
The 19 year old attacking midfielder came up through the ranks of his home town club in Madrid to progress to the Castilla side where he has been a mainstay, most notably last season, where he scored 10 goals in 33 appearances.
A formidable opponent on his day, Darren Moore may well get a fright when coming up against this up and coming star of world football.
Barnsley have strengthened in some areas this summer as well and can call upon that bulldog spirit that saw them reach the F.A. Cup semi-final, dispatching of both Chelsea and Liverpool along the way.
However they have some doubts over duo Miguel Mostto and Hugo Colace, owing to international clearance issues akin to Dani Parejo.
The big blow for Barnsley is that tricky winger Jamal Campbell-Ryce will miss the fixture due to dislocating his elbow in training on Thursday. Jamal, who has always caused the R`s problems down both flanks will be unavailable for selection.
Born in Winchester, Howard progressed through the youth ranks at Southampton, but due to the Saints being a Premier League side Howard was never given the opportunity to shine. However he did well on the international stage, representing England Under 20`s in the 2003 Toulon tournament.
Following his release from St. Mary`s in 2003 he joined Swindon Town, where he played both Division 2 fixtures against the R`s, picking up a yellow card in the R`s 1-0 win in the last game at Loftus Road in 2003/04.
After 77 appearances for the Robins, scoring 10 goals Howard moved onto Barnsley in 2005 and got off to the worst possible start, suffering a broken metatarsal in his first few weeks with the Tykes. He got back to fitness and form and established himself alongside Stephen McPhail as formidable opposition leading the Tykes to promotion, with the help of former Ranger Daniel Nardiello.
The subsequent season in the Championship was a struggle with Simon Davey taking over from the departed Andy Richie, but Howard wasn`t phased, he helped Barnsley to safety, including an audacious chip to hand Barnsley an important 2-0 win over the R`s in 2007.
Since then Howard has been tearing up the form book, to score the winner at Anfield in a 2-1 win over Liverpool and putting in countless impressive performances in the middle to earn him the captains armband at Oakwell. Howard has made 125 appearances for the Reds, scoring 27 goals and laying on countless assists.
His creativity from the middle, and vast array of passing makes him a tough opponent that means he must see as little of the ball as possible. He will be standing over set-pieces with the likes of Iain Hume as the R`s will have to beware of these dead ball specialists.
Rangers finished off last season with back to back defeats against Norwich City and West Bromwich Albion respectively, being reduced to 10 men in both fixtures. Apart from that the R`s form was good in particular at home, losing only two games in 2008.
Rangers pre-season has provided with the fans with food for thought, as after shaky wins against Stevenage Borough and Northampton Town, they followed this up with three defeats against SPL sides Falkirk and Kilmarnock, then finishing at home with a 2-1 defeat against Serie A side Chievo.
Barnsley finished the season in torrid form losing 7 of their last 10 fixtures, as their F.A. Cup run took precedence over their league form, almost costing them their Championship status. During that run however came excellent away wins against Watford (3-0) and Preston North End (2-1).
If Rangers pre-season wasn`t ideal, Barnsley`s was poor at best, losing to Yeovil, Rotherham and Premier League Wigan, who won 6-0 at Oakwell. The Tykes went some way to redeeming themselves by beating Sheffield United`s Chinese sister club, Chengdu Blades 2-0 last Saturday.
HEAD 2 HEAD
Rangers have the better of the head to head record winning 18 times to Barnsley`s 12 with the teams drawing 10 times. Barnsley haven`t got the better of the R`s at Loftus Road since January 1950, as the stats show this will be a tough time for they Tykes.
One Day In History discusses the R`s victory up at Oakwell in 1982.
Last time out
19th January 2008 - Loftus Road
QPR 2 (Agyemang 5, Vine 45)
Two first half goals ensured the R`s swept away the Tykes in this one sided affair at Loftus Road. Patrick Agyemang continued his free scoring form by bagging a well placed fifth minute strike, as Rowan Vine added to the lead shortl
Referee- N. D Swarbrick
Assistants - I. F. Bentley & W. Bull
Fourth official - M.F. Thompson
Mr. Swarbrick must think Marc Nygaard was a world-beater, in his first fixture refereeing the R`s he saw the Great Dane, stroke a penalty home before unleashing an unstoppable effort against Leicester sending the travelling fans into delirium. He then saw Nygaard net in a 1-1 draw against Ipswich Town in W12 last season; following that up by sending off Hogan Ephraim against Sheffield Wednesday in a 2-1 defeat for the R`s, handing Wednesday a dubious penalty on the day. An inexperienced referee at this level, Mr. Swarbrick took charge of 39 games last season, dishing out 77 yellow cards, and 8 reds.
Barnsley come to Loftus Road more in hope than expectation on most occasions, and I think Rangers bolstered by new signing will provide too stern a test for the Tykes; That`s why I predict:
Boxer`s Prediction: 2-0 Rangers.
Who- Swindon Town (Carling Cup 1st Round)
Where- County Ground
When- Tuesday 12th August - 7:45pm
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Date:Friday August 8 2008
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