PREVIEW: QPR v Luton Town

James Collins scores for the Hatters in their 3-2 defeat at QPR last seasonJames Collins scores for the Hatters in their 3-2 defeat at QPR last season
James Collins scores for the Hatters in their 3-2 defeat at QPR last season
Hatters head to the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium this weekend

An excellent second half to the campaign means QPR can reflect on another season of improvement as they head into this weekend's game sitting ninth in the Championship.

The R's finished last term in 13th on 58 points, so have already beaten that tally by seven points and could go as high as eighth if they triumph and Cardiff City lose at home to relegation threatened Rotherham United.

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It hadn't always looked like it would be this way for Mark Warburton's charges though after an opening four months in which they only managed four league wins from their opening 22 matches, just the one away from home too.

Nine draws was the second most in the division at the time as going into the turn of the year, Rangers were sitting in a worrying 20th place, just two points above the drop zone and in real danger of being sucked into a real relegation fight.

However, the transfer window signing of experienced striker Charlie Austin on loan from West Bromwich Albion added some much needed firepower to a team who had scored just 20 goals in their 22 outings previously.

The 31-year-old was on target immediately in a 2-0 win at Kenilworth Road on January 12 and that was the catalyst of a superb run for the Super Hoops.

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They won six out of seven, including mightily impressive victories at Cardiff and Watford, while also seeing off Brentford and Bournemouth at home as well.

A mini blip saw one point returned from nine with defeats to Birmingham and Barnsley, but Rangers were back in the groove from early March and have won eight from their last 13 fixtures to shoot right up the table, finding the net 34 times in their last 23 matches.

Warburton, backed by majority shareholder Tony Fernandes, used the loan market well to not just bring in Austin, but also Premier League duo Stefan Johansen and Sam Field from Fulham and WBA, while Hull's Jordy de Wijs also came in, the new arrivals all playing their part in Rangers' quite dramatic upturn in form, securing 14 wins from 23.

There has already been some news off the field at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, with 35-year-old clun captain Geoff Cameron confirming he will leave the club in the summer, returning his native America.

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Meanwhile, defender Todd Kane has been charged with a breach of Football Association rules after it was alleged the 27-year-old right-back used abusive and/or insulting language which included a reference to nationality and/or ethnicity against Brentford in February.

He has until Monday, 17 May to provide a response to the charge.

Team news: Luton might have Luke Berry available after he returned to training recently.

However, Tom Lockyer, Danny Hylton and Tom Ince are all missing, with Jordan Clark unlikely to feature either after suffering an ankle injury in the 3-2 win at Bristol City.

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For QPR, Dominic Ball is rated '50-50' after a thigh strain which kept him out of last weekend.

Top scorers: Hatters: James Collins (13). Rangers: Lyndon Dykes (12).

Man in the middle: Tony Harrington – has taken one Luton game so far this season, a 2-0 defeat at Millwall back in October, refereeing 34 matches in total and showing 90 yellow cards plus five reds.

Officiated Town three times last term, the 3-1 defeat at Nottingham Forest and 7-0 reverse at Brentford, although he did have the 3-0 Carabao Cup win at Cardiff.

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Previously to that, he took Luton back in April 2016, a 2-1 win at Carlisle in League Two, while also had two Hatters fixtures in the 2014-15 season, a 2-1 win at Stevenage and 2-1 FA Cup loss at Cambridge.

Refereed four Luton games in the Blue Square Bet Premier, draws with Cambridge and Southport, a defeat at York City, plus the 2-0 loss at Wrexham sending off John-Paul Kissock.

Assistant referees are Mark Pottage and Shaun Hudson, with the fourth official Dean Whitestone.

In charge: Mark Warburton – 57-year-old who was a right back in his playing days, featuring in non-league for Enfield and Boreham Wood.

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Also had spells with Scottish non-league side Stoneyburn Juniors and played in the Charlotte and Chicago men's leagues while living in the United States.

After cruciate injuries ended his playing days, he began his coaching career with a part-time role at St Clement Danes School in Chorleywood while working as a trader.

He then travelled round Europe to watch coaching sessions at a host of top clubs including Barcelona and Ajax, beginning his own coaching career in the academy at Watford in 2006.

Named first team coach at Brentford in February 2011, moving to sporting director, as he became the Bees boss in December 2013, winning promotion to the Championship.

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Left Griffin Park in the summer of 2015, swiftly appointed Glasgow Rangers manager.

Won the Scottish Championship title and Challenge Cup during his time at Ibrox, leaving in February 2017, although wasn't out of work long, named Nottingham Forest chief in March, but was sacked on New Year's Eve.

Out of work for 18 months before getting his chance at Loftus Road, signing a two year contract on in May 2019 and is now the seventh longest serving manager in the Championship.

View from the opposition: Boss Mark Warbuton speaking to West London Sport - “We could finish eighth and we could finish 11th, so we’ve got to make sure we finish strongly tomorrow.

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"We’ve got make sure we do the job against a very good Luton team.

“I think if we finish in the top 10 it will be a very good year and we can hopefully build on that and keep moving forward.

“I was pleased with last season for various reasons and hopefully we can get 10 points better this season and be solid in the top 10.

“Then we’ve got to make sure we use the summer well in terms of recharging and then it’s all about starting next season well and moving forward.”

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Manager record: Luton boss Nathan Jones has come up against Mark Warburton three times in his career, with two defeats one draw.

He has also never enjoyed a victory against QPR either, with a 0-0 draw against Stoke in March 2019 as well, making it two loses and two draws in total.

Friendly faces: Town attacker Kazenga LuaLua had two spells with QPR earlier his career, joining on loan from Brighton in January 2017 and then again the following season, registering 19 appearances, scoring once.

Defender Martin Cranie had a brief loan spell at Loftus Road when signing from Portsmouth in October 2007, playing six times.

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Luton first team coach Paul Hart was named manager of QPR in December 2009, but was only in charge for five games, leaving in January 2010.

Town's number two Mick Harford was both assistant manager and then caretaker twice at Loftus Road.

He was second in command to John Gregory in June 2007, taking charge when Gregory left, while was back with Rangers in December 2009 under Hart, having another spell at the helm once the Luton coach resigned.

Played for both: Don Shanks – full back began his career as a junior at Fulham, but moved on to Luton in 1970 without playing for the Cottagers.

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Made 110 appearances for the Hatters, scoring five times, as he helped Town win promotion to Division One.

Moved to QPR in November 1974 and played just under 200 times for Rangers, before heading to Brighton & Hove Albion in 1981, spending two years with the Seagulls.

Finished his career with one match on a non-contract basis for Wimbledon in 1984 and is now hoping to set up a home for former footballers and sportspeople with dementia after seeing close friend and ex-Rangers team-mate Stan Bowles diagnosed with the illness.

One to watch: Lyndon Dykes - Scottish forward started out at Queen of the South, before moving to Livingston in January 2019 where he managed 14 goals in 36 matches.

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That saw QPR snap him up for an undisclosed fee in August, just before he opened his international account on his second outing for his country in the 2-1 win against the Czech Republic.

Dykes netted on his debut for Rangers in the Championship and made it two in two, also on target for Scotland again in their 1-0 win over Slovakia.

Goals dried up then as he went 21 games without scoring from November until being back on the scoresheet in the 1-1 draw at Reading in March 2021.

Has kicked on from there though as his last seven games has seen him manage six goals, including a brace against Sheffield Wednesday recently, as he is on 16 for club and country this term from 56 appearances, also earning a nomination April's Sky Bet Championship Player of the Month award.

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We've got form: The Hatters have a quite appalling record at QPR in their history, starting with an FA Cup replay defeat in December 1899, losing 4-1.

They won their first Southern League clash 3-1, before a seven game losing streak, with just a 3-3 draw until they won 3-0 in 1915, although that was followed by a 4-0 loss.

Things didn't improve too much in the Football League, losing their first Division Three trip 4-1 in 1920.

Town won just a single match in their next 19 visits, before a 3-0 triumph in December 1948.

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Still it got worse though, a 7-1 Division Three thrashing in 1964, before keeping a clean sheet on their next trip in 1970, a 1-0 win thanks to Mike Keen's goal.

Luton did put on a three game winning run together from 1981 to 1984, plus a 1-1 draw in 1986 seeing them four unbeaten.

However, they have not tasted victory since 1984, Paul Elliott, Steve Elliot and Brian Stein on target in a 3-2 victory, a run spanning 16 games, with eight losses and eight draws.

In total, the Hatters have gone to QPR 67 times, victorious on just 11 occasions, with 15 draws and 41 defeats, scoring 70 goals but conceding a hefty 134.

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Last time out: It looked like Luton were going to be on the wrong end of a humiliating defeat at QPR last season, falling 3-0 behind with just 28 minutes on the clock as Eberechi Ezi and Nahki Wells (2) scored.

However, Harry Cornick pounced on an error by keeper Joe Lumley to level from 30 yards, before James Collins made it 3-2 moments after the break, but try as they might, Luton couldn't find a leveller.

Hatters: Simon Sluga, Luke Bolton (Brendan Galloway 59), James Bree, Matty Pearson, Sonny Bradley, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Andrew Shinnie, Izzy Brown, Harry Cornick (Elliot Lee 79), Kazenga LuaLua (George Moncur 66), James Collins.

Subs not used: James Shea, Lloyd Jones, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, Jacob Butterfield.

Referee: Jeremy Simpson.

Attendance: 16,186.

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