West Ham United-Queens Park Rangers Preview
By CHRIS ALTRUDA
(AP) -- LONDON (SE) - It may be too early to call a match a "must-win," but Queens Park Rangers can ill-afford another home loss Monday night when they host West Ham United on Loftus Road.
The Rangers (0-2-3) entered this week's play second from the bottom of the table, ahead of only Reading - which has a match in hand - and trailing struggling Liverpool on goal differential. The Royals, though, added to QPR's early season misery by knocking the London club out of the Capital One Cup on Wednesday with a 3-2 victory at Loftus Road as manager Mark Hughes' team twice squandered leads.
"Tonight was a different type of test for us, Reading were quite physical and put us under pressure throughout," Hughes told the team's official website. They got their first equaliser very quickly after we scored, and it does seem to be a problem at the moment that after we score we find it difficult to react in the appropriate way."
Queens Park Rangers have yet to score at home in their two league matches, though they did scrape a point out versus Chelsea in the most recent match there. But protecting a lead proved troublesome at White Hart Lane last Saturday, squandering an early lead in a 2-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur by conceding goals in consecutive minutes in the second half.
The lack of wins in the early going is making Rangers put a priority on coming away with the full three points here.
"It's a very big game, because we haven't won a league game," captain Ji-Sung Park told the team's official website. "It's one that we want to get three points from, especially at home.
"It will be a difficult test. They (West Ham) are a physical team and play in a similar way to Reading. We have to learn from that and show we did. There can be no excuses."
While Rangers have failed to break their duck at Loftus Road, the Hammers (2-2-1) have a similar scoreline - or lack thereof - outside Upton Park in the Premier League. West Ham, though, enter this match on a three-game unbeaten run (1-2-0) in league play after consecutive draws versus Norwich City and Sunderland, stealing a point at home against the Black Cats last Saturday on Kevin Nolan's goal in the 93rd minute.
That started a big week for the Hammers midfielder, who signed a long-term contract with the club Tuesday before making his 200th start with the team in its 4-1 loss to Wigan Athletic in the Capital One Cup.
"I feel like I've grown a lot as a player since my debut and I'm still only 25," said Noble, who made his first appearance for West Ham's reserve squad at 15, to the team's official website. "Playing for West Ham has been a rollercoaster and I've been through two promotions, a relegation and a 'Great Escape', but it's been thoroughly enjoyable and I look forward to the next few years of my career here."
West Ham's five goals through their five matches are the fewest of any team in the top 11 of the table, but the four they've conceded are tied for third-fewest.
This is the first time the teams are meeting in league play since 2004-05 in the Championship. West Ham hold a slim lead in the all-time series with 20 victories to QPR's 19, and the teams have played 18 draws.
Updated September 29, 2012