KASPARS Gorkss - a man whose QPR career looked like it might be over before it had really begun - has been praised for fighting his way back into the reckoning, writes Yann Tear.
The Latvian was the subject of a protracted summer move from Blackpool but when he finally got to Loftus Road, Rangers fans would have been forgiven for wondering what all the fuss was about.
The 27-year-old looked out of sorts and was dropped after the 3-0 defeat at Sheffield United - which was only his third appearance for the club.
It took the suspension of Fitz Hall to earn Gorkss another chance, but he has grabbed it with both hands.
"It's been difficult for Kaspars because when he came to the club, Damion Stewart and Fitz Hall started the season in outstanding form," said assistant boss Gareth Ainsworth.
"He maybe wasn't in his best form at the start of the season, but he knows it always takes time to settle in at a new club.
"But he never complained once about being left out of the team for those two and was the ultimate professional.
"He trained just as hard as anyone and perhaps even harder and his attitude has been absolutely outstanding. He has a good work ethic and he's a good listener and it's being rewarded now because he's putting in some great performances and been outstanding in the back four."
Ainsworth continued: "Fitz got a red card at Watford and that meant a three-game suspension. Kaspars was the only replacement that was thought of and he's taken his chance so well that now it's Fitzy who is waiting in the wings.
"That's the ethic we've got. If you are playing well and doing the business, you're not going to be dropped. Fair play to him, he has come in and really has played well."
Gorkss and the defence as a whole again did well last saturday - although they were breached seven minutes from time at Plymouth and had to settle for a 1-1 draw at Home Park.
The bigger talking point was the ending of an eight-game goal drought on the road in the Cham-pionship - a goalless streak stretching back to the 1-0 win at Norwich in September.
Heidar Helguson's 16th minute goal ended a famine that had lasted more than 13 hours of football.
"It was a relief to end our goal drought and Heidar has deserved it," said Ainsworth.
"We have no doubts about our goalscoring ability and hopefully we have put that to bed now and can score regularly away from home. We've got no worries about it.
"People maybe expect results instantly from Heidar, but it was only his third game for us and he's done well considering he's coming back from injury and is at a new club.
"We can't say the goal's not been coming. We've been getting a lot of opportunities. Heidar's first touch for the club at Crystal Palace could have been a goal and there was the missed penalty at Sheffield Wednesday."
Ainsworth added:"It's nice that we have a run of home games coming up - although I'm still waiting for a Boxing Day match at home because we never seem to get one - but the league is tight and we know we need to show consistency home and away to keep up with the leading bunch."
Match Summary PLYMOUTH (0) 1 QPR (1) 1 Line-up: Cerny; Ramage (Hall 81), Gorkss, Stewart, Delaney; Mahon, Leigertwood, Cook (Ephraim 68); Rowlands; Helguson, Agyemang (Blackstock 77). Subs not used: Cole, Tommasi. Attendance: 10,747 GOALS: Helguson (16), MacLean (83).
MoM: Martin Rowlands
Loftus Road Saturday 3pm Championship
Manager: Alan Irvine Position last season: 15th Form Guide: Preston are up to sixth in the Championship table after last weekend's 1-0 win over Birmingham City at Deepdale - their ninth home win in 12 matches. On their travels, their form is less eye-catching, with only two wins (2-1 at Ipswich on the opening day of the season and 3-1 at Blackpool last month) and five defeats. Those losses came at Burnley (1-3),Watford (1-2), Plymouth (0-1),Sheffield United (0-1) and Cardiff (0-2). North End drew at Sheff Wednesday, Coventry,Norwich and Derby. Players to look out for: Former Liverpool striker Neil Mellor is a threat and has eight goals so far.
Most recent meetings: QPR 2-2 Preston (5 Apr 2008); Preston 0-0 QPR (23 Oct 2007) - Championship.
Head-to-head record: QPR Wins: 7 PNE Wins: 10 Draws: 12
Match Facts: This will be only the 30th meeting between the clubs, who only met for the first time in the 1949/50 season. Rangers did not win any of the first six encounters and it was only in the 1967/8 season that they broke their duck. Rangers last beat preston two seasons ago when Dexter Blackstock netted the only goal. Preston were 2-0 winners at Loftus Road in 2005.
Forecast: Rangers are always a good bet on home soil and after wins against Birmingham and Wolves already, they will fancy their chances of seeing off Preston.
Gazette forecast success rate: 14 correct out of 27 (52%)