AFC Bournemouth will be hoping to maintain their unbeaten run under caretaker-manager Jonathan Woodgate when they face Championship rivals QPR on Saturday (3pm kick-off).
Phil Billing’s goal earned the Cherries a 1-0 win over Rotherham United on Wednesday as they made it four games undefeated since Woodgate stepped in on an interim basis.
At the same time as the Cherries beat the Millers, QPR stunned high-flying west London neighbours Brentford by pulling off a 2-1 comeback victory at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium.
Having seen their 21-match unbeaten run ended at Barnsley on Sunday, the Bees were condemned to a second successive defeat despite taking the lead through Ivan Toney.
Goals from West Brom loan pair Sam Field and Charlie Austin in the space of four second-half minutes earned QPR a fifth win in six league games.
Former Poole Town striker Austin has netted three times in six games since returning to his former club in the January transfer window.
It has been an eye-catching turnaround from Mark Warburton’s team after they ended 2020 on the back of an alarming run which saw them win just once in 12 league games.
Ahead of the clash, afcb.co.uk caught up with freelance football reporter David McIntyre who covers the fortunes of several London clubs – including QPR – for westlondonsport.com.
QPR IN PROFILE
Manager: Mark Warburton (appointed May 2019)
Club captain: Geoff Cameron
Last game: QPR 2-1 Brentford (Championship)
Leading league goalscorer 2020/21: Ilias Chair and Lyndon Dykes (five)
League position: 16th
Past six league results: WWLWWW
afcb.co.uk: Can you put your finger on why QPR are having such a Jekyll and Hyde season?
DM: I think there are a couple of reasons. Financial realities mean they have quite a small squad so they tend to do well when, like a lot of teams, they can pick their first-choice players and they are not helped by a fixture pile-up.
If you look at their results this season after they have had a break, they have been very good, including when they beat Brentford on Wednesday. They have also had draws against Bournemouth and Watford after a break.
It’s been up and down for them in that sense and also until Charlie Austin came back on loan, they lacked a cutting edge up front.
afcb.co.uk: Five wins in their past six games – what’s been behind the turnaround?
DM: Austin has definitely made an impact and that’s been off the pitch as well as on it. He was the experienced player they needed.
It’s very different to when he was last at the club where he is now almost performing the role that Bobby Zamora did when Austin was the less experienced player.
I know it’s a cliché about fine margins but QPR have lost a lot of games that could have gone either way and they are on a little run where they are winning some games that could have gone either way.
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afcb.co.uk: Who is QPR’s one to watch?
DM: You would have to go for Austin because he makes such a difference but I will go for Sam Field who came on for his debut and scored against Brentford.
On first impressions, he looks a very good player and potentially is the midfielder they have been looking for. Whether he starts or plays from the bench, I think he is one who will make an impact at QPR.
afcb.co.uk: How come goalkeeper Seny Dieng (pictured above) waited more than four years to make his debut for the club?
DM: They picked him up when he had just been released by Grasshoppers in Switzerland and I think they took a punt on him.
He has done well with every step up in class he has taken. He went on loan to non-league and did very well on loan at Doncaster last season.
He got his chance because neither goalkeeper – Joe Lumley or Liam Kelly – were convincing last season and this and he ended up staying in the team.
I think he has surprised them. There was maybe an expectation that he would come through and eventually be a first-team goalkeeper but I think now he’s in a position where other clubs will look at him because he’s doing really well. He’s been outstanding for them.
afcb.co.uk: Give us your take on Ilias Chair (pictured above)?
DM: He’s the next one on the conveyer belt after Eberechi Eze and Bright Osayi-Samuel who left for Crystal Palace and Fernerbahce, respectively.
There has always been a feeling that Chair would be third in line and it’s his time now. Like Dieng, they picked him up when he had been released by a club in Belgium and it’s been steady progression for him.
He did well on loan at Stevenage and, in each season, he has had more of an impact and been more consistent and I think perhaps next season might be when they see him move to another level.
afcb.co.uk: Are any first-choice players either injured or suspended against the Cherries?
afcb.co.uk: What’s your score prediction?
DM: I think I’ll go for a 1-1 draw.
You can follow David on Twitter – @davidmcintyre76
Officials: Darren Bond (referee), Mark Russell (assistant), George Byrne (assistant), Robert Whitton (fourth official).