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QPR must contain rampant Rams in Championship play-off final

Steve McClaren holds a single victory over Harry Redknapp in eight attempts in management, but his Derby County going into their clash with QPR as odds-on 8/11 favourite to pip the Hoops to Premier League promotion.

West London outfit QPR make the short trip across the capital to Wembley, but are 11/10 outsiders to regain their top-flight status at the first time of asking. The play-offs are a competition which the Hoops have never tasted victory in and, believe it or not, this is Redknapp’s first tilt at going up by this method.

The Rams, meanwhile, have seen both sides of this lethal lottery. Winners when unfancied against West Bromwich Albion in 2007, they had endured three previous disappointments, including a final defeat way back in 1994.

Punters can get more attractive odds of 11/8 on McClaren’s men doing the job in 90 minutes. If it’s QPR you fancy, then this market will similarly reward you with a 21/10 price. A draw, and thus extra time or even penalties, is a 9/4 chance.

There’s nothing to choose between Derby and the Hoops in recent meetings, with one win apiece this term during the regular season, and the previous three all finishing level. It was the nature of County’s 6-2 aggregate crushing of Brighton in the semi-finals which justifies their tag as favourites.

So much depends on ageing QPR legs at the back. Hoops skipper Clint Hill and fellow veteran Richard Dunne know that one last hurrah, and a rear-guard action that rolls back the years, should result in them potentially enjoying a Premier League swansong. The Londoners are 9/4 to keep a clean sheet here and 4/1 to win to nil at Wembley.

Redknapp, who has left back Benoit Assou-Ekotto and another faithful retainer Niko Kranjcar both fit, went about his work more cautiously than McClaren in the two-legged semi victory over Wigan Athletic.

Charlie Austin stepped up and scored the goals, one in extra time, that took QPR through to the Wembley showpiece, and he has hit a purple patch of five in five at just the right time.

Hoops hopes seem to be pinned on him, and those who fancy their top scorer to net against the Rams will be encouraged by a fantastic return of five in four when paired with this East Midlands opposition. Austin is even-money to get a goal anytime in the final and a more attractive 7/2 in the first, or last, scorer markets.

This fine form contrasts sharply with Derby centre forward Chris Martin’s personal record against QPR – he is yet to find the net when facing them. Punters that see the man recently called up by Scotland as breaking his duck here will be encouraged by seven in his last nine, and three in three, however.

Martin is 11/10 to find the target anytime on the hallowed turf. He will reprise his link up with box-to-box midfielder Craig Bryson, another outstanding performer for County during the regular season with 16 goals. Odds of 5/2 say this other Scotland star will net once again.

Do not discount maverick Hoops midfield talent Ravel Morrison. The England Under-21 star, on loan at Loftus Road from West Ham, may outshine international teammate Will Hughes here. He is 9/4 to score anytime.

Hughes had everyone raving about his audacious back-heel against Brighton, so another finish full of flair in the final from him is 7/2. Timing may be of the essence for the first goal at Wembley too. In the regular season meetings, the opener came in the 11-20 minute bracket on both occasions, so tasty odds of 4/1 say this shall happen once more.

Finally, for punters who enjoy unusual bets, 11 of the last 12 second-tier play-off finals have contained an odd number of goals, so a 10/11 price on this happening again is a quirky and worthwhile investment.

Derby’s status as comeback kings could also be rewarding as an outside shout. Odds of 28/1 say QPR will be ahead at half time, only to subsequently succumb to the Rams by the final whistle. A draw at halfway, followed by County doing the damage against the Hoops in the second 45 is 19/4.