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Ollie eyes belated birthday present at Villa Park

IAN Holloway is hoping for a belated birthday present when QPR take on Aston Villa this evening.

The R’s chief turned 55 on Monday, and he told www.qpr.co.uk: “I have to say to stand here as manager of QPR as a 55-year-old is a great place to be.

“If I’d have done a wishlist years ago I couldn’t have asked for much more – perhaps being 30 points clear at the top would have been nice but unfortunately that’s not the case!

“But in all seriousness, there is a nice feeling around, particularly after an important win over Sunderland at the weekend.”

Ebere Eze netted the only goal of the game to secure victory for the R’s ahead of tonight’s trip to in-form Villa, and Holloway added: “I was really pleased with the lads who got what they deserved.

“I couldn’t have picked a better bloke to score either. I see what he does in training and to get that out of him and see him do that out there was fantastic. He made the finish look so simple.

“We have young players in the group and them gaining that experience of getting a result across the line is so important.”

Holloway continued with four at the back against the Black Cats after his 4-3-3 style earned a creditable point against Derby last weekend, and he said: “We have played with a back four and I have been delighted with how the lads have handled the change.

“Nedum, Lynchy, Robbo have been superb, Darnell has been excellent and Jake has looked like he has always been there.”

Steve Bruce’s men have picked up ten wins and a draw from their last 12 fixtures to take them to within four points of an automatic promotion spot, and Holloway admitted: “I have to look at the lads and see who is fresh, I need runners and chasers in the right areas because realistically they will have more of the ball than us.

“But everyone is playing their part for us right now which is great but it also makes it difficult for me when it comes to picking the team.

“It is going to be a tough test for us. Villa Park is a difficult place to go when they are singing. The pitch is huge but I like the way we are trying to pass it, and I think we will have a bit of confidence about us.”

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Holloway has great respect for the job Bruce has done to turn the Villains into genuine promotion candidates.

“He has won promotion four times which is fantastic and I think this will be his toughest challenge in some respects because of the expectation there,” Holloway said.

“He has done a marvellous job to get them where they are and I they will be looking at least to finish in the top six if not the top two – and their form suggests they are heading that way.

“For us, we have to sort out our away form. The points tally hasn’t been good on the road so let’s see if we can improve it at Aston Villa.

“It would be a nice belated birthday present to beat them.”

Team News

Defender Jack Robinson is doubtful with a dead leg which forced him off at half-time against Sunderland while forward Paul Smyth is struggling with a toe injury.

Jamie Mackie and Idrissa Sylla built up their match fitness with run-outs for the Under-23s on Monday afternoon against Millwall, while Grant Hall (knee) and David Wheeler (ankle) remain out.

It would be a nice belated birthday present to beat them.

Ian Holloway
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