Mark Warburton had one simple message for his Queens Park Rangers troops after last night’s 0-0 draw and penalty shootout loss against Sunderland.
Speaking post-match after exiting the Carabao Cup, the 59-year-old stressed the need for his team to be more clinical in front of goal, something they have failed to do on several occasions and as a consequence, they now find themselves outside of the play-offs after a promising start to the 2021/22 campaign.
Firing a blank last night was a particular concern for the R’s because they had two capable second-tier forwards in Lyndon Dykes and Andre Gray starting up top. The former has been a great success for both club and country in recent months, with the latter playing a key part in helping Watford return to the Premier League in their promotion-winning season last term.
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They also have Charlie Austin who came off the bench and was unlucky not to score the home side’s winner at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium yesterday evening.
The 32-year-old may not be in the best goalscoring form at the moment, scoring just once in 11 Championship matches so far this season but recording a promising seven goals in 21 displays in the same competition last season.
All three can be dangerous at this level, Dykes especially after adjusting to life south of the border, and that’s not even considering attacking midfielder Ilias Chair who will only improve at 23 years old.
The Moroccan international has managed to get back to his best in recent games, scoring five goals in his last five league matches and looking on course to smash his total of 12 goal contributions from 2020/21.
Another goal machine in centre-back Rob Dickie emerged at the start of the campaign as he scored four times in all competitions in August. Setting up Chair for his winner against Blackburn Rovers earlier this month and continuing to be a threat in the box, the Leeds and Wolves-linked man is only likely to increase his goalscoring tally throughout this term.
So in summary, there should be enough goals in this team to push for a spot in the top six.
Though the likes of Dykes, Gray and Austin all need to step up, goals from around the team will also be needed and you can count on others including Chair, Dickie and Albert Adomah to make a real difference in this department.
This is why they should hold off recalling 26-year-old Macauley Bonne from his Ipswich Town loan spell in January.
He may be in hot form at Portman Road right now, scoring 10 times as League One’s joint-top scorer – but there are no guarantees he would come back and start firing in the Championship straight away.
That’s the least of the R’s worries though.
Not only would recalling him potentially upset the 26-year-old, who was born in Ipswich and is currently loving life under Tractor Boys manager Paul Cook, but it would also potentially damage their relationship with Ipswich.
This is something that wouldn’t bode well if the Suffolk-based side remain in the third tier for another season and Warburton’s men want to send more players out on loan to Portman Road.
It could also create unhappiness in QPR’s striking department. Dykes is probably the first name on the teamsheet – and with the west London outfit opting to play one up top at times – the likes of Austin and Gray won’t be too happy to see Bonne leap above them in the pecking order.
The existing Rangers duo are likely to be the ultimate professionals in that situation as experienced second-tier players, but a move to recall 26-year-old Bonne wouldn’t exactly be a major confidence booster for them.
Gray’s goalscoring record may not have been the best at Watford last term, another key relationship QPR will be keen to maintain, but he’s shown he can do it at this level in the past and the same applies to Austin.
The duo, Dykes and Chair will be a key quartet in potentially firing them to the Premier League, now it’s up to Warburton to get the very best out of them.
After the end of this campaign, they will then have a ready-made replacement for the Watford loanee with Bonne coming back in, potentially off the back of a very successful campaign in the third tier. This can only benefit the R’s in the long term.
Short-termism in bringing him back early may prove to be costly in the long run, so that’s definitely food for thought for officials at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium.