GAMES against Queen’s Park Rangers are always tough and Monday will be no different.
They have got players of quality in their squad, they are second in the table and everyone expects them to win promotion back to the Premier League.
I tipped them to finish top this season and I was surprised when they struggled for results over the Christmas period but they have the strength in depth and the quality over a season, especially to cope with the second half of the season.
But Monday is a big game for us and one the players are relishing.
A victory would make QPR look over their shoulders at us and Burnley, who are also doing very well.
We have to keep in touch with them, keep pushing them because we don’t want QPR to have a breather where they can relax and play their fluent game.
When you are under pressure at the top it becomes tough to win week in, week out when you have other teams breathing down your neck.
We must keep breathing down their neck.
Not only does the game give us a chance to show what we are about and a chance to further cement our place in the top six, it also gives us an opportunity to close the gap on QPR.
The fact they are above us gives us that extra incentive and we have played well enough this season for the teams at the top to worry about us.
They will be without Charlie Austin who has scored goals against us in past seasons while playing for Burnley but they have brought in Kevin Doyle from Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Doyle and Austin are two different types of strikers to play against.
Doyle is everywhere, full of energy, good in the air for his size – a real quality player.
He will be looking forward to his new challenge because it hasn’t really worked out for him at Wolves in the last couple of years.
Austin is one of those players you don’t see for 80-odd minutes and then he pops up with a goal. He is a fantastic finisher, give him one chance and he will take it, a little bit like Jordan Rhodes at Blackburn.
He is a big loss to QPR but they have replaced him with another very good striker in Doyle and I think he will score goals for them. He got one on his debut against Burnley last weekend.
Joey Barton is another key player for QPR. He was impressive in midfield when we played at Loftus Road earlier this season.
He is a quality player. He has played for England and has been at some big clubs where he has done well. He is a player who should be in the Premier League.
We know QPR possess threats but all we are doing is focusing on ourselves and what we can do.
I’m sure they will look to try and stop us playing because they will know if we can get a good start we can really roll with it.
I AM told we have not beaten Queen’s Park Rangers at home in 24 years.
The last time was in February 1990 although I remember playing in a couple of games against Rangers when we had a win within our grasp.
In October 2009, we started so well and went 2-0 up in a game televised live.
Paul Dickov grabbed the first goal before Robbie Savage scored a beautiful free kick but Rangers were far better than us on the day.
Adel Taarabt scored a good goal just before half time for them and I think that was the start of him coming to fruition as a player.
Gavin Mahon, Jay Simpson and Akos Buzsaky added further goals for Rangers in the second half.
How we didn’t win the game in August 2010 remains a mystery.
We battered Rangers and led 2-0 going into stoppage time and yet finished up drawing 2-2.
Rangers arrived with a 100 per cent record from their first three games of the season and had not conceded a goal but we were excellent on the day until those crazy last few minutes.
After losing 4-2 to Rangers the previous season Robbie Savage was often asked to man-mark Taarabt and the one thing Taarabt would not like is having Sav in his ear all game!
They were some of Sav’s best performances when we played QPR and he kept Taarabt quiet in this game.
Rangers’ first goal came when I got caught one-on-one with Patrick Agyemang.
I had been playing games but not training because of an injury and this was the first time I felt short of fitness. With 90 minutes gone you don’t want to be in a one-on-one situation, especially not with somebody like Agyemang who was powerful and quick.
I would have backed myself to deal with the threat had I been fully fit, but he just went past me and scored.
That made it 2-1 and then Jamie Mackie smashed in the equaliser.
We should have won but for QPR it was the sign of a team that was destined to get promoted sooner or later. They just knew how to get a result even when they had not played well.
Their manager Neil Warnock said afterwards that Rangers had been the better side from 89 minutes onwards!
JOHNNY Russell is the club’s new pool champion.
He beat Jake Buxton in the best of nine final although Bucko missed a good chance on the black to take a 3-1 lead.
Johnny took full advantage to go on and win 5-4.
Paul Coutts was the pre-tournament favourite but he was knocked out by the gaffer. I think Couttsy let the gaffer win that one!
There was a bit of pre-tournament controversy because when Conor Sammon drew up the seeding he had Johnny 18th out of 25!
Johnny was fuming. He labelled the seeding a “disgrace” and so the tournament was reseeded and Johnny ended up winning.
Gaz Roberts won it last year and Andy Garner the year before.
Now Johnny’s name will be scribbled on the trophy.