DOUGIE Freedman says his team need to be fully focused from the first whistle at promotion-chasing QPR tonight if they are to bounce back from the 7-1 hammering at Reading in their last Championship outing.
Against a side who have lost just once at home in the league all season, Freedman acknowledges it is a big test for his team.
But before the Madejski mauling, he had been happy with his side’s recent form on the road which had seen them win four of seven games.
The key to a return to that form is keeping the defensive unit solid in the first quarter of the game – a theory backed up by the statistics.
Wanderers have lost seven league games away from home from 13 played and on all but one occasion, they conceded first. Aside from Middlesbrough, those goals came inside the first half hour of the match.
Freedman told The Bolton News: “Once again, it is about how we respond to the last league game at Reading.
“It is about how we do in the first 15-10 minutes.
“Before the Reading result our away form had been decent “We need to get back to that and start games in the right manner “Our players are very fit and the longer the game goes on we will get stronger.
“We cannot lose the game in the first 20 minutes.
“When you concede early you face an uphill battle, particularly away from home.
“We have done a lot of work on keeping it tighter at the start and then going on to express ourselves.
“We did it at Birmingham a couple of months ago.
“We have to have that same mindset at QPR.
“It’s a big challenge for us but if we can get through that first quarter of the game I believe we will get stronger.”
Freedman, who started his English playing career with the Hoops, knows it will be far from straightforward against a club with such strength in depth.
The bench in Rangers’ last game – a 2-1 win against Huddersfield – included England internationals Bobby Zamora and Shaun Wright-Phillips whereas Wanderers had youngsters Sanmi Odelusi, Josh Vela, Rob Hall and Hayden White in reserve against Cardiff in Saturday’s FA Cup defeat.
Freedman is naturally envious of the resources at Harry Redknapp’s disposal but happy with the efforts of his team at the weekend after shipping seven at Reading – a rare Andy Lonergan error gifting Cardiff victory.
And they were only narrowly beaten in the reverse fixture at the beginning of the season when a solitary Andy Johnson goal handed Rangers a 1-0 win at the Reebok.
He added: “We played well against QPR at the Reebok and it was one small error that gave them a 1-0 win.
“I would take the same level of performance there.
“We need to make sure we are responsible and are clinical when we get chances and take them.
“I think we have wrongly been labelled with having a strong squad when you look at the likes of QPR.
“That is why they are up there.
“They have three or four injuries but can still field a very strong side.
“The players they have on the bench can come on and affect a game.
“And there is no doubt in my mind Harry will strengthen before the window closes.
“But after the FA Cup exit a quick game for everyone against a team at the top like them is what we need right now.”