Barton: We’re stronger now

first_img Barton spent the campaign on loan at Marseille as Rangers finished 15 points adrift of safety in 2013 and paid the price for a lack of cohesion on and off the field. Harry Redknapp was unable to rescue the west Londoners after taking over in November that season but his side have made a positive start to their return to the top flight. Rangers’ impressive form at home is in stark contrast to their results on the road where they have lost to Tottenham, Manchester United, Southampton, West Ham, Chelsea, Newcastle and Swansea this season. Redknapp’s side are the only team in England’s top four divisions yet to register a single point away from home and Barton admits it’s a problem that needs addressing. “We have lost seven out of seven on the road but without making excuses, we haven’t been to the easiest places,” Barton said. “We haven’t played teams in and around us. That will be the test for us. We’ve been to some of the tougher places in the league. “I think everyone we’ve played away has been in the top 10 at the time we’ve played them. “We’re very mindful that we’ve got to improve our away form.” Rangers’ awaydays do not get any easier as they travel to Everton and Arsenal before the end of the year either side of home games against West Brom and Crystal Palace. The bottom half of the table remains congested ahead of the busy Christmas calendar with only five points separating QPR in 17th and Aston Villa in 11th. “If you string back-to-back wins together in this league you can propel yourself up the table,” Barton said. “That’s how tight it is. That’s why people tune in. The Premier League is so competitive. “Chelsea’s “Invincibles” all of a sudden go to Newcastle, Newcastle with their eighth-choice goalkeeper or whatever – and all of a sudden he comes on and they go on and beat Chelsea. “There’s not many other leagues where that happens. I’ve just seen on the TV, Real Madrid (have recorded an) 18th straight win. “Arsenal went unbeaten for a year but I can’t see anyone banging 18 wins out on the spin, not in this league, not with how competitive it is. “There’s a different element here, which is why people tune in from all over the globe.” Second-half goals from Leroy Fer and Charlie Austin ensured Rangers took maximum points against Burnley but there was disappointment too as Austin was sent off and will subsequently miss next Monday’s match at Everton. “He’s our top scorer, he’s been the difference for us at various times this season,” Barton added. “To be without him is going to be a massive loss.” QPR midfielder Joey Barton believes this current Rangers side is “poles apart” from the one that finished bottom of the Barclays Premier League two years ago. A 2-0 victory over Burnley on Saturday – their third win in four games at home – saw Rangers climb out of the bottom three for the first time since September. “The performances we have put in at Loftus Road have been exceptional, even in defeat sometimes,” Barton said. “The team spirit and togetherness of the football club is poles apart from that side which went out of the league with a whimper. “We came up and we want to give a good account of ourselves. Slowly but surely we are doing that.” Barton continued: “To look at the table and see yourselves not in the bottom three is always heart-warming. “Hopefully at the end of May that’s the case because that will be job done and goal achieved. There’s a long way to go. This is the 15th game. “After the defeat at Swansea the other day I asked our analyst to pull the table up from the year that QPR went down, the year I was in France. “After 14 games we only had five points and I think it took them 16 games to win a game. So comparatively we’re light years ahead.” Press Associationlast_img read more

Women’s soccer returns home trying to put first loss behind them

first_imgDespite suffering their first loss of the season in heartbreaking fashion last Sunday at Michigan, little has seemed to deter the confidence of the No. 13 Wisconsin women’s soccer team (7-1-0) as they return home for a weekend match against Nebraska (4-3-1) this Saturday.Following a series of successful road trips — which featured wins against Portland, Washington and Michigan State — Michigan put an end to the best start (7-0) in Wisconsin team history with a stunning final-second goal. The score came from Wolverines’ redshirt freshman forward Ani Sarkisian, which was her second goal of the night. Wisconsin fifth-year senior goalkeeper Genevieve Richard recorded a season-high six saves in the loss, while allowing just her third and fourth goal of the season in eight games played.At her weekly news conference Monday, Wisconsin head coach Paula Wilkins looked back at that final score and how things broke down.“I think the disappointing part of it was we had two times to clear it,” Wilkins said. “One, a free header at the very beginning, and the second one not-so-clear and we didn’t do such a great job. When we talk about getting better and taking care of things, that’s the things that we have to focus on and learn from and not let it happen again. I think it was a group focus.”Instead of dwelling over the frustrating defeat, however, junior midfielder Kinley McNicoll said the team has taken the high road and believes it’s a slip-up that will only make the team stronger in the end.“We are definitely going to use this loss as motivation and as a learning experience, and take our mistakes from the last game and fix them,” McNicoll said. “Hopefully they won’t carry into Nebraska on Saturday.”In a stinging twist of irony, the Badgers suffered an identical kind of loss in the final seconds of a game last year as well. And it was to none other than Nebraska at home. The Huskers went on to win the Big Ten Title last season.While it’s difficult for the team to not have last year’s result in the back of their mind, especially after last Sunday’s debacle, Wilkins believes this team has matured more than last season and is ready to focus on preparation for their Big Ten home opener.Perhaps the chance to play in front of their home crowd will be all the Badgers need to get back on track come Saturday. They have been virtually untouchable at home this season with a 4-0 record, 11 goals scored and only one allowed so far.McNicoll, who was been a focal point of the Badger’s offense thus far with six goals in eight games, believes an aggressive attack will work best against their Big Ten rivals.“I think we’re just going to have to use people’s individual talents to the best of our abilities and highlight the best parts of people’s games,” McNicoll said. “I think with the offense we have, we can do that, and we’ve got such a strong defense. We’re definitely going to test their backline and hope to push them back on their heels.”The Badgers are anxiously awaiting the return of star senior forward Cara Walls, who was on a blistering pace with seven goals in six games prior to missing the Michigan trip with an injury. Wilkins described Walls’ status as “day-to-day.”As she reflected back on the weekend, Wilkins acknowledged that the Badgers would have to introduce some new strategies against the Huskers to compensate for the potential absence of their top striker.“I think when you have your leading scorer [Walls] who is third in the country, out in both games, it’s a little bit challenging and we are really thin right now on the forward position,” Wilkins said. “So I think that also lended us to having to defend a little bit more because we couldn’t keep it up top and I think we have to find different ways to approach it against Nebraska.”Freshman midfielder Becca Harrison has offered a possibility for filling the void on offense. She made a name for herself last Friday against Michigan State, scoring both goals in Wisconsin’s 2-1 overtime win over the Spartans.Harrison’s two goals were the first and second of her Division I career, and they could not have come at a better time in the Big Ten season opener.“It was amazing to start off the Big Ten like that was just such a good feeling,” Harrison said. “I feel like a win like that just brings the team really close together, and it was just so fun to celebrate with everyone.”The Badgers’ defense could have their hands full Saturday against Nebraska sophomore forward Jaycie Johnson. Johnson is off to a commendable start this season with six goals and two assists tallied in eight games. The Huskers will look for redemption this weekend as well, as they are coming off a disappointing 3-0 home loss to Illinois last Sunday.The Badgers’ Big Ten home opener is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Saturday.last_img read more