Date:Friday December 19 2008
Saturday 20th December
HIGH-flying Preston North End travel to W12 with a view to keeping a coveted playoff place.
The Lilywhites have embarked on a mesmerising run of form, with only one defeat in eight seeing them catapulted into the playoff reckoning.
Manager Alan Irvine had got his Preston side off to a good start in the Championship as they remained undefeated in the first six games. However the Lilywhites hit the buffers with four straight defeats.
Their recent resurgence of form has coincided with Jon Parkin`s return to the side, coupled with some stout defensive performances from Youl Mauwene and Sean St Ledger. The loan signing of Eddie Nolan from Blackburn Rovers has also helped sure things up in the Preston rearguard.
The club with a wealth of footballing history has been boosted by the goals of former Liverpool forward Neil Mellor, but with the striker missing through injury Jon Parkin and Stephen Elliott have forced to step up and weigh in with a couple of goals.
With Preston North End`s initial Championship expectations revolving around mid-table mediocrity, their current run has surprised many people. However playing Rangers in W12 will be a stern test as Paulo Sousa`s side continues to improve on home turf.
QPR manager Paulo Sousa was happy with striker Heidar Helguson following Rangers` 1-1 away point at Plymouth:
'It was very pleasing to see Heidar score,"
'It will do a lot for him.
'As a striker you always want to score goals, and sometimes you have to break through a wall to go from being a striker to being a striker that scores.
'He has done that now and it will do a lot for his confidence.'
'This is a very difficult place to come, so it is good to pick up a point.
'Many teams will come here this season and not achieve that.
'The pitch was not in very good condition but we tried to bring the ball down and play football.'
Preston North End manager Alan Irvine spoke following his side`s victory over Birmingham City, leading them to a playoff place:
'It's a terrific place to be and we're obviously absolutely delighted to be back in there again.
I think we're now showing the form that we were showing at the start of the season, but we've got another 23 really hard games to play before the season ends.
We're going to have to play extremely well in a lot of them to win, and we're going to have to grind out some results like we did the other night.
'I'm delighted with where we are just now and there's no way that we'll get complacent.'
Rangers will be without Daniel Parejo who has returned to Real Madrid following the appointment of Juande Ramos. The young Spaniard had been tipped for big things at Rangers, but had ultimately failed to impress during his time in W12, culminating in his return to Madrid.
If you believe the recent rumours Emmanuel Ledemsa could be the next to follow him out the door, as first team opportunities for the Argentinean have become limited in recent weeks under Paulo Sousa.
The R`s will look to keep a similar line-up to that which drew away to Plymouth Argyle. Patrick Agyemang and Heidar Helguson are set to start up front, with Kaspars Gorkss and Damion Stewart seemingly inseparable in their central defensive roles.
Hogan Ephraim, Lee Cook, Gavin Mahon, Martin Rowlands and Mikele Leigertwood will prove that five don`t go into four with the likely decision being that one of Ephraim or Cook will have to be content with a place on the bench.
Patrick Agyemang has worked his way back into the side in recent weeks, despite his poor recent goalscoring record.
The Rangers forward who was deadly in front of goal for a period last season has struggled to maintain any form, with only one goal in 18 appearances this season.
While his goalscoring prowess has come under the spotlight, his effort and endeavour have been highly commended by the Rangers faithful as he continues to prove his worth in a blue and white jersey.
Alan Irvine may keep faith with the side who came through a tough test against Birmingham City, with a last gasp strike sealing a memorable win at Deepdale.
However should he choose to do this he would have to omit goalscorer Jon Parkin, who was named as a substitute for the clash against the Blues. He may join up with Stephen Elliott at the expense of Chris Brown.
The back four certainly earned their place against Birmingham with Nolan, Mauwene, St Ledger and Davidson set to continue in their respective defensive roles.
The heartbeat of the side are Richard Chaplow and skipper Paul McKenna and they won`t be moved from their partnership in the centre of midfield. They`ll be flanked by Chris Sedgewick and the impressive Ross Wallace on loan from Sunderland.
Preston can now boast a tremendous strength in depth with Barry Nicholson and Darren Carter waiting in the wings, along with Simon Whaley standing by following his return from Barnsley following a loan period.
Ross Wallace has been the toast of Preston of late, as the Sunderland loanee continues to impress on the wing as the ex-Celtic man seeks to make his deal permanent.
To view all the stats on the one to watch Click Here >>>.
QPR: Last 5 Games: W D W L D
Preston North End: Last 5 Games: D W L W W
After back to back away games, Rangers return to W12 with a view to protecting a good home record. Eight wins in 11 games at Loftus Road has kept the R`s in the playoff reckoning taking into consideration Rangers appalling away record.
Preston can also call on home comforts to bolster their league position. Six wins out of seven at home has helped mask two wins on the road all season against Blackpool, and on the first game of the season against Ipswich Town. Four away defeats on the spin ensued between the months September and October.
Lenny367 has all the stats in The Stat Attack >>>.
HEAD 2 HEAD
Preston North End: 10
Last time out
Saturday 5th April 2008 - Loftus Road
Coca Cola Championship
QPR 2 (Gareth Ainsworth 90, Dexter Blackstock 90)
Preston North End 2 (Neil Mellor 37, Tamas Priskin 64)
Rangers Team: Lee Camp, Michael Mancienne, Damion Stewart, Fitz Hall, Matthew Connolly, Hogan Ephraim (Angelo Balanta 61), Gavin Mahon (Gareth Ainsworth 66), Mikele Leigertwood, Martin Rowlands, Patrick Agyemang, Dexter Blackstock.
See also: One Day In History - Preston North End 1972-73.
Referee- Mr A Wiley
Assistants - Mr G Turner & Mr P Sharp
Fourth official - Mr J Singh
Mr Alan Wiley from Staffordshire will officiate the R`s clash with Preston North End this weekend. To get all the stats concerning the official Click Here>>>
Rangers have managed to build a formidable home record, much like visitors Preston. Both sides also have a poor away record which could fall into Rangers favour at Loftus Road. Preston are full of potential threats, but a confident Rangers rearguard should restrict them to few chances; Which is why I predict:
Boxer`s Prediction: 2-1 Rangers
Sandydl`s Prediction: 2-0 Rangers
Lenny367`s Prediction: 2-1 Rangers
ACE`s Prediction: 2-1 Rangers
Ranger1975`s Prediction: 2-0 Rangers
LeeCookFan`s Prediction: 2-1 Rangers
Who- Charlton Athletic
Where- The Valley, London.
When- Friday December 26 - 1:00pm
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Date:Friday December 19 2008
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