Smith: don’t expect Rangers to cream Bristol

TOMMY Smith believes QPR will face a stiffer challenge than the league table suggests when they head to struggling Bristol City on Friday night.

The Robins have endured a wretched start, with Steve Coppell quitting the manager’s job less than a week into the season and his successor, Keith Millen, presiding over a dismal run of results.

Form makes Rangers hot favourites to triumph at Ashton Gate, but Smith – who is hoping to make his first start since joining the Rs from Portsmouth – warned: “It’s quite a tough time to go there and play Bristol City, I think.

“Of course they’ve had a bit of turmoil with the manager situation and, no matter what you say, as a player, that certainly affects the whole atmosphere around the club.

“But they’ve got good players and they’ve been in the top half of the Championship for the last few years, so I’m sure they’ll come back and get stronger as the season progresses.

“Everyone will be expecting us to win, so the pressure will be on us. When you’re at the top the pressure’s on pretty much every game, but teams are starting to get an idea of our strengths and weaknesses.

“If I’d been starting, I’d feel like I deserved to keep my place and I understand that – it’s about biding your time. It’s not just me, there are quite a few of us who need to be patient and that’s the way it goes, but hopefully once we get our chance we’ll keep our places.”

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Should Smith be handed the opportunity to lead the QPR attack on Friday, he will find a familiar face barring his path to goal – former Pompey team-mate and England international David James.

The 40-year-old goalkeeper’s summer move to City was regarded as something of a coup for the club, but James has found himself playing behind a defence that is leaking an average of two goals per game.

However, Smith declared: “David’s a great acquisition for Bristol City, for a man of his talent to go down there. He’s got a wealth of experience and he’s a good guy for them to have on board, the situation they’re in.

“He’s fit as a fiddle and very young at heart – when you see him, he looks like he could be mid-20s. He’s had a great career and I’m sure he’s got a few more years left in him.”

City’s porous rearguard is unlikely to include former QPR centre-back Damion Stewart, who was sent off on his Robins debut and has found himself warming the bench in recent weeks.

Rangers elected not to remain in the West Country after Tuesday’s 0-0 draw at Swansea and instead trained at Harlington on Thursday before heading off again along the M4.

“I hate staying over,” admitted Rs manager Neil Warnock. “I asked the lads if they wanted to, but they’re like me – they’d rather sleep in their own beds.”