Warburton urges QPR players to enjoy promotion push

QPR manager Mark Warburton

QPR boss Mark Warburton has urged his players to enjoy the challenge of being in the thick of a promotion push and not to feel any pressure of expectation.

Third-place Rangers take on Blackburn, who sit in fifth, at Ewood Park on Saturday, galvanised by a dramatic late win over Blackpool on Wednesday despite playing for 50 minutes with 10 men following Dion Sanderson’s sending off.

QPR have not beaten Rovers away from home since a 2-0 win in 1999 and have lost on their past four visits.

But they will face a side that have not won in five games and are without 20-goal striker Ben Brereton-Diaz, who has suffered ankle ligament damage.

However, Warburton says Blackburn, who produced a superb performance to beat his side 3-1 last season at Ewood Park, will be a hugely difficult opponent on home soil.

“(Manager) Tony (Mowbray) will be terribly frustrated to lose Ben as 20-odd goals have come from him this season,” Warburton said.

“But he is a manager I have huge respect for. I have great admiration for the way they have changed their possession-based approach. Their transitions and counter-attack are very dangerous.

“We know we face a tough test. If they beat us they go above us in the league but we have the chance to put a little bit of daylight between us and a side who were sitting seven or eight points ahead of us a few weeks ago.”

Rangers bounced back from defeats by Barnsley and Millwall and a draw with Hull to beat Blackpool and lift the pressure of potentially slipping out of the top four.

But Warburton insists his players can’t let the occasion get the better of them on Saturday.

“Pressure is fighting relegation knowing there are job losses, pay cuts, good people potentially losing their roles who have been at the club for many years, on the back of relegation after a pandemic,” he said.

“That is a horrible pressure. This has got to be enjoyable, going into a game at this stage of the season and it means something.

“All these games we have coming up mean something now because of the work done thus far by the players. I don’t know how you can’t enjoy it.”

Sam McCallum, out since October with a hamstring injury, is fit to return to the squad.

Rangers are also hoping Lyndon Dykes and Lee Wallace will be able to return from their respective injuries.

“Sam McCallum is definitely OK,” Warburton confirmed.

“We are checking the other two boys this morning (Friday) and I honestly don’t know, but I would imagine it will be close.”