Queens Park Rangers’ push for a Championship play-off place appears to have ground to a shuddering halt having once looked like certainties for a top-six finish.
A month ago, the Hoops sat third in the division, only two points outside the automatic promotion spaces and four points above seventh place.
Yet a disappointing 3-1 defeat at the hands of relegation threatened Peterborough United last weekend saw them drop outside of the play-offs to 8th – their lowest position since mid-October.
A fourth defeat in their past five Championship matches – and a sixth in nine – means they’re now two points outside the top six, as the club look to return to the top-flight for the first time since 2013.
And with boos ringing around the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium after another damaging loss, questions are bound to be asked about how much time boss Mark Warburton will be given to turn things around.
“Fans are frustrated more than anything,” Ben from W12 Podcast tells FansBet.
“We put ourselves in a fantastic position in January with the play-offs looking nailed on and it was a case of whether we can push Bournemouth for second.
“Most fans are aware that financially QPR are punching above their weight, but the squad looked good enough to at least push for the top-six.
“Warburton, who has been excellent in the last year, seems to have lost his way and is running out of ideas and fans are getting concerned about some strange decisions and bullish interviews that suggest everything is okay when it really isn’t.
“There isn’t too much optimism around for the rest of the season.”
QPR have now gone eleven matches without a clean sheet, a statistic made worse by the fact that they have conceded 19 goals during those matches, an average of just shy of 2 goals per match.
As a result, they’ve now shipped 48 goals in total this season, the seventh most goals conceded in the entire league.
It’s all a far cry from a month ago when Rangers were dreaming of snatching an automatic promotion slot from Bournemouth.
“In February we started with two key players returning in Chair and Dieng, a fully fit squad and some very winnable fixtures,” explains Ben.
“However, in typical QPR fashion, the easier it looks the harder it becomes.
“The loss to bottom of the league Barnsley, and being completed dominated by Millwall seems to have hit us hard and we just haven’t recovered.
“It’s a mixture of teams pressing us high, targeting our channels and players falling completely out of form. The two wins we have managed have been fortunate to say the least.
“As the last month or two have gone, we have gone from a full squad to one that has become decimated by injuries. We have four keepers injured.
“Chris Willock, our most influential player, is now out for the season, our captain hasn’t seemed fit for a while and we have players disappearing for weeks on end for unknown reasons.
“Not to mention Lyndon Dykes, who hasn’t played for six weeks but is fit enough to link up with the Scotland squad.”
Winning just two of their last 10 league matches, QPR now face an uphill battle to make the play-offs with the likes of Nottingham Forest and Middlesbrough both on the rise following underwhelming starts to their respective seasons.
The R’s may only be two points off the play-offs as things currently stand, but momentum isn’t exactly in their favour and with several teams still in the mix for the top six, Warburton will have his work cut out to steady the ship.
But the international break might just have come at the right time for his beleaguered side, who will be desperate for a chance to regroup and spend some much-needed time on the training ground.
“We have a very tough run coming up,” says Ben
“We’ve got Fulham, Huddersfield, and a doubleheader with Sheff Utd, but it would be very QPR to go and put a run together and win some of those games.
“For me, our only hope is that a couple of players can find some real form back. Ilias Chair, Charlie Austin and Lyndon Dykes come to mind.
“Although still very much in it, my head is saying there’s too much damage been done across the last month or two, and with Willock out for the season, I’m just not optimistic at all.”
Expectations were high among Hoops supporters going into the 2021/22 campaign with manager Mark Warburton signing a new contract back in August.
He was appointed as manager in May 2019 and has guided the West Londoners to 13th and ninth-place finishes during his two previous campaigns.
But this is QPR’s seventh season in the Championship and their third under the current boss, meaning a promotion push was high on the supporters’ wish-list.
So what does Ben feel the future holds for the current R’s manager, and has he done enough to disprove the doubters?
“Warburton had a fantastic 2021,” he explains.
“He found a formula and it worked week after week but, like most things in football, they don’t last. This is where, again for me, he just falls short in his ability to game manage.
“He changed to a 3-5-2 as an absolute last throw of the dice back in early 2021 and since then, no matter what’s going on he will not change to four at the back, which has cost us points.
“His decisions recently around subs and starting 11 have been atrocious at times and he continually puts faith in players who aren’t delivering.
“He has probably done enough to warrant another season, whatever happens from now, but it would be very QPR to go and do the unexpected.”
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