MARK Warburton believes that keeping his players fresh will be one of the keys to them producing strong performances between now and the end of the season.
The R’s made five changes against Swansea City on Tuesday night and dominated large chunks of the match, eventually coming away with a point and a clean sheet.
Two of the players to be restored to Tuesday’s starting XI were Angel Rangel and Yoann Barbet, who both started following their returns from injury.
They came into the back four – as did Ryan Manning who replaced Lee Wallace at left-back – and Warburton says that utilising his squad is likely to be important in the coming weeks.
“We have to see how the players are before deciding who we pick for Saturday,” the manager told www.qpr.co.uk. “Someone like Lee Wallace has been outstanding and very strong for us but it is about us using the squad.
“You can take one player out for two or three games and it is about keeping it fresh. Todd Kane is another one who came out and in the coming weeks that could be very beneficial to us. We have to use the squad.
“Yoann coming back meant that young Conor [Masterson] took a break, so it is good to have the options.
“There are a lot of Saturday-Tuesdays coming up, with Derby and Charlton to come in midweek soon, and we have to make sure that we are fresh and ready for those games.”
Having freshened up his line-up for Tuesday, Warburton only went on to make one substitution during the match.
He explained why.
He said: “We had Angel playing his first game after six or seven weeks out and Yoann playing his first 90 minutes for over three months and both of them were cramping after 70 minutes, so I was keen to make sure we had cover for them.
“Cramp won the day against Angel after about 80 minutes, so we had to make that change. I was always very wary of losing either player [to injury] but also some players get confidence from playing 90 minutes.
“Pughy, for example, played very well and got Man of the Match. He hadn’t played 90 for a long while and he will take real confidence from that. Sometimes it can be better to do nothing.”
Another player to get 90 minutes was striker Jordan Hugill, who came close to breaking the deadlock early in the first half.
The manager elected not to introduce young striker Aramide Oteh from the substitutes during the match but explained that his chances will come in upcoming games.
He said: “Jordan is our first-choice striker and he has a lot of experience in this division. Rem has come back and we know he has a great character and a strong work ethic.
“He’s been at League Two level and it takes time to adjust to the Championship. I’ll be amazed if people think players can just jump from one level to another effortlessly – it takes time.
“There is no doubt over his application and quality but we have to ease him back into the level and he will impact games as and when he is ready.”
Next up for the R’s is a home fixture against Stoke City at Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium on Saturday.
Stoke have arguably underachieved this season but, since the appointment of Michael O’Neill as manager in November, their form has picked up.
Warburton said: “Michael is a very organised manager and a very well-respected manager. He has a very good squad of players and when you look around there is a lot of Premier League experience within their ranks.
“We know it will be another tough challenge but week-in, week-out I say the same things about them having a good squad and possibly being in a false league position. They will come here looking to close the gap on us.
“It’s a tough game but we’re at home where our performances have warranted more points than we have got. That’s the reality of it, so we want to go and impose ourselves and get the three points on Saturday.”
Warburton also explained that his squad are determined to give the club’s loyal supporters something to cheer in W12 at the weekend.
He said: “I want the fans to enjoy watching their team play. I’ve said it many times but we know the expense of following a team home and away and we know what is involved time-wise as well.
“They have other choices so, for them to come and follow QPR, we want to make sure they enjoy their day. If we can play positive, attacking football, create chances and hopefully get the rewards in terms of goals then we can make sure the fans enjoy themselves.”