The Queens Park Rangers are one of the Championship’s form teams, and their worth will be proven as they head into a tough week with games agains Sheffield Wednesday tonight and Aston Villa on Friday.
The former England boss Steve McClaren has become a managerial-nomad of the game, drifting effortlessly from job-to-job, backed by the expansive CV of a sometimes illustrious career.
His success in football has been sporadic and often surprising, but his fortune looked to have finally run-dry this term after guiding QPR to their worst start to a League campaign in over fifty years.
Four games of the season was all it took for the proverbial question marks to start arising over McClaren’s post at Loftus Road. An abysmal performance at West Brom saw QPR ship six second-half goals, the crowning jewels of a five-long streak of defeats which began their season.
Though it was almost expected from a manager whose umbrellas and tactical pitfalls had made him something of a comic of modern footballing.
But McClaren and his men have since been quietly going about their business in the Championship. A well-deserved 2-0 win at Portman Road on Saturday was their fifth win of the season and their third away win in four, after previously winning just three of their last 33 away games in the league.
A delighted McClaren told www.qpr.co.uk after the game that it was
the most professional job I have seen from us away from home in terms of controlling the game, getting two goals and getting a clean sheet to collect three points away from home.
QPR remain shy of one or two goal scorers in their line-up but defensively, what fans are seeing now is arguably the soundest QPR defence of the last few years.
In the follow up match to their humiliation at The Hawthorns, QPR welcomed Bristol City to a 3-0 win, prompting a change of personnel in goal for the team. Joe Lumley replaced Matt Ingram for the following game against what was a Wigan team in-form, and served his team in collecting first points and first clean sheet of the season.
The no. 1 shirt at QPR was made vacant in the summer following Alex Smithies’ £3 million move to Cardiff City, and was subsequently passed on to Ingram.
However, Lumley’s solidity in goal though is keeping Ingram on the bench, and the young Englishman has kept four clean sheets already this season, three shy of Smithies record of seven in 43 league matches last season.
The recent International break came at at frustrating time for QPR, who in the week before had picked up a 1-0 win at Reading, and held Derby in a hard-fought and thoroughly entertaining draw.
And their momentous form which has seen them take 17 points from nine games, remains in tact following the Ipswich win.
But with home fixtures against Sheffield Wednesday and Aston Villa coming up for QPR, the vein of their form will receive a through examination and could expose the realities of a late, covert push for a play-off spot for Rangers.
Wednesday will come to West London looking to cash in on some points after a testing run of games for ‘the Owls’ continues, having faced three of the top four in their past four outings.
Sitting in the mid-table region, taking all the points from ‘Rangers’ on Tuesday night has become imperative for Wednesday, who have recently dropped points from winning positions in games against Leeds and West Brom. As for QPR, they’ll be looking to amend a record of one win in seven previous meetings against the Hillsborough-based club.
A trip to Loftus Road will be a good test of ability for Villa, who’s new manager Dean Smith got a debut win against Swansea on Saturday.
The former Brentford boss won four of six West London derbies in his tenure, including a televised 4-1 thrashing of QPR at Loftus Road at the start of last season.
He will of course receive a hostile welcome back into West London, but it will be unlikely to phase the Villa boss as he looks to extend his winning start in charge of his boyhood club.
At the beginning of the month, picking up wins against Reading and Ipswich were imperative for QPR given their run of fixtures this week, and McClaren’s team sit comfortably above the relegation zone for now.
The points may allow QPR some room for error this week, but with their recent form comes growing expectation, and McClaren’s team will be put through their paces this week.