Lee Bullen approaches his seventh match as caretaker boss of Sheffield Wednesday as the strong favourite to take the job full-time but, until an appointment is made, every game is a fresh audition for the role.
A last-gasp winner over local rivals Rotherham United in the EFL Cup in midweek has made it four wins from six, even if they have lost two of their last three in the Championship, away at Millwall and Preston North End, to slip out of the play-off places.
Since stepping into the breach following Steve Bruce’s acrimonious departure to Newcastle, Bullen has done a fine job of steadying a rocking boat. The former Wednesday defender's success has been largely down to an outstanding record at the back, conceding only four goals in those six ties.
The Owls are being nothing but cautious in making a decision on who should lead the side for the rest of the season. Bullen is proving a hit but things can change when the caretaker is handed all of the keys, and for now the arrangement is working just fine for everyone.
There will be a decision to be made if they go into the international break with another win, but that does not come guaranteed against Queens Park Rangers, who will at least arrive in Yorkshire fresh after a much-changed line-up was offered as fodder for Portsmouth in their EFL Cup exit.
Their defeat of Wigan Athletic at Loftus Road last weekend – a second in their five opening games – demonstrated some of the reasons why Mark Warburton’s side aren’t expected to be dancing too close to the drop zone.
While a very new-look squad has looked far from assured defensively, all guns were blazing in attack with young talents like Eberechi Eze and Ilias Chair showing their strong potential, alongside on-loan West Ham United forward Jordan Hugill.
They won’t find it is easy against Bullen’s well-drilled Owls but both teams have the potential to claim three valued points and go into the international break on a high.
A number of the 10 players who were rested in Sheffield Wednesday’s EFL Cup win are expected to return, although Massimo Luongo will hope to play against his former side after making his first Owls start against Rotherham.
Right-back Liam Palmer has been cleared to play after missing the last three matches with a back injury, forward Sam Winnall is a slight doubt after picking up a head knock in midweek.
QPR will be without four first team playres. The trip to South Yorkshire comes too soon for Luke Amos, Geoff Cameron (both hamstring) and Lee Wallace (hip), while winger Olamide Shodipo will be sidelined for another fortnight with a knee injury.
What the managers have said
Bullen says that Wednesday see it as particularly important to claim three points against QPR ahead of the two-week break.
“You want to finish on a positive. That’s our aim and I’m sure that’s QPR’s aim,” he told The Star.
“It is an important one for the players, the supporters, the staff and the chairman’s psychology. It is a very, very important game for what we are hoping to build on for the rest of the season.
“The aim is to go out and get the three points. Touch wood, the players play up to their ability. If they do that, we won’t be far away from getting the result.”
Warburton is also confident that his side have enough to get the win.
“Sheffield Wednesday have had a decent start to the season and they have a squad with plenty of international players, so it’ll be a really tough challenge,” he said.
“However, we go there with plenty of confidence. Irrespective of Portsmouth, we know we can play very well and have shown our qualities in every game that we’ve contested, for varying amounts of time.
“Now, can we take our chances? And can we focus and concentrate to cut out individual errors? I think we’re a decent side. It’s about trusting your squad and having belief in your squad.”