Gareth Ainsworth counting on returning stars as QPR slump continues



Posted Sunday, March 19, 2023 by PA

Gareth Ainsworth counting on returning stars as QPR slump continues

QPR boss Gareth Ainsworth is convinced the return of key players will help his side climb away from relegation danger.

A 1-0 loss at home to Birmingham was Rangers’ seventh defeat in eight matches and they have lost three of their four games since Ainsworth took over.

They were top in October but an appalling slump has seen them slide to just six points above the drop zone with eight matches remaining.

The absence of playmakers Ilias Chair and Chris Willock has hit them especially hard but Ainsworth believes they will be back to face bottom side Wigan after the international break.

Ainsworth said: “We’ve got eight cup finals to go and we need to win a couple of them. I believe we can do that.

“In the next couple of weeks, with all the injuries coming back, I think that will boost the squad and the morale will raise.

“I’ve got players coming back who haven’t played for months and haven’t been in this sort of decline, so they’re quite fresh and will be mentally OK.

“Hopefully we’ll get them up to speed and be strong against Wigan, which is a game we really need to win.

“I’m hoping that the likes of Kenneth Paal, Ethan Laird, Leon Balogun, Ilias Chair, Chris Willock and (Jake) Clarke-Salter (will return) – we’ve got some big names in the treatment room and I think once they’re back we’ll see a different side out there.”

Just as they did during the 6-1 humiliation at Blackpool in midweek, Rangers conceded in only the third minute as Reda Khadra went past Albert Adomah and played in Juninho Bacuna, who pulled the ball back from the left for Tahith Chong to apply the finish.

Ainsworth admitted: “They were very solid defensively and we could take a lesson from that because the goal is too easy. We’ve conceded an easy goal after two minutes and that’s the tale of the game.

“They’ve thrown bodies and defended their box like their lives depended on it. I wanted that from my boys.”

Birmingham boss John Eustace believes the “no-excuse culture” he has looked to instil has been rewarded.

The Blues have endured a tough season on and off the pitch but the win took them nine points clear of the drop zone.

“I’m very proud of the collective effort of the whole group and I couldn’t be more pleased with the result,” said Eustace.

“We knew how we could hurt QPR, especially on the transitions, so to see the goal go in like it did was really pleasing.

“Then we had to show the other side to us, which we’re very good at; we stick in there, we fight and we scrap.

“The way we defended in the second half, like our lives depended on it, was fantastic. Collectively it was a very good performance.

“We’ve had massive injury problems and loads of issues off the field at the club. All we’ve done is just get on with it.

“We’ve made sure that this club has a no-excuse culture, so whoever plays will be 100 per cent committed, and I think you saw that today.

“If the process is right and you believe in what you’re doing, you’ll come through in the end.”

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