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McClaren: Birmingham is a very important game for us

STEVE McClaren has called on his players to “park” the excitement of their FA Cup progress and focus their full attentions on the Championship visit of Birmingham City.

The R’s reached the fifth round of the FA Cup for the first time in 22 years with a 2-0 win over Portsmouth on Tuesday night, but McClaren told www.qpr.co.uk: “We are grounded in that respect – we did a professional job and we are into the next round, but now we park that.

“Next up, Birmingham.”

The R’s will be hoping to end a recent disappointing run of results in the league when they host Garry Monk’s side on Saturday at Loftus Road.

Rangers haven’t won in the Championship since their Boxing Day triumph over Ipswich, and McClaren added: “This is a very important game for us.

“What we need to do is take the belief and confidence from Tuesday. When we do things right and do our jobs, we are hard to beat, we keep clean sheets and we win games.

“We have to get back to that in the league.

“It’s important we put the cup excitement to the side. It’s back to league action now and we need to start picking up some points.”

Like Rangers, Birmingham are also experiencing a difficult run of results. Having lost just three league games in 22 matches earlier in the campaign, Blues picked up two points from four games in January.

“That’s what happens over a 46-game season,” McClaren said.

“You will have it two or three times, certainly two but you don’t want three, where suddenly it feels like the wheels are coming off.

“You just have to grind your way through it. Birmingham had a good win against Nottingham Forest last weekend so they will be buoyed by that.”
Birmingham are eighth in the table while Rangers are four points behind them, with a game in hand, in 14th spot.

“There’s a cluster of clubs in the middle of the table who are up and down like yo-yos,” said the QPR boss.

“Consistency is the key. When you get consistency you climb the league. We are capable of doing that, but first and foremost you have to get a result before you build that consistency.”

McClaren anticipates a tough encounter on Saturday against a side who altered their approach for their 2-0 win over Forest last time out.

“Birmingham have a great gameplan but they did change their system last week so we may need to tweak things a little,” he said.

“They have good organisation and good discipline, and in Lukas Jutkiewicz and Che Adams they have got two strikers who can cause any back four problems.”

Grant Hall successfully came through 90 minutes against Pompey, having done likewise in his last outing in the third round win over Leeds.

“We have wanted him to be in this position all season,” McClaren said.

“It has taken a while but he has done fantastically well in his rehab. His performance and the clean sheet has certainly caused me a problem, a nice problem.

“I know we still have to manage him but it’s great to have three top centre-halves to choose from.”

Tomer Hemed returned to action as a second-half substitute against Portsmouth but Geoff Cameron and Angel Rangel remain out.

“Geoff and Angel are still a couple of weeks away,” McClaren said. “Tomer is building his conditioning up and it was good to see him on the field.

“He is training very well but it’s still too early to start him. But once he gets fit, and with the other options we have, we are going to have a very strong squad.

“We have to grind our way through this period. There is still a long way to go but we need to pick up points on Saturday.”

We need to take the belief and confidence from Tuesday.

Steve McClaren