Two goals from two home debutantes saw Rangers through to another win on home soil infront of a season record crowd at Loftus Road.
First-half goals came first from Patrick Agyemang finishing off a move by nodding into an empty net. Agyemang turned provider for the second; a neat passing move was played across the box by the Ghanaian and slotted home by Vine to kill off a lacklustre game at Loftus Road.
Gigi De Canio made a couple of changes from the defeat at Bramall Lane. A tactical shift enabled Rangers to start with two strikers. Dexter Blackstock, and Bramall Lane goalscorer Patrick Agyemang. Mikele Leigertwood came back into the side following suspension, whilst Gavin Mahon missed out through illness. There was also a place in the side for young goalkeeper Reece Crowther following his loan at Wealdstone. There was also a place at left-back for debutante Damien Delaney following his signing from Hull City.
Barnsley handed full debuts to on-loan full back Miguel Tininho and tricky midfielder Diego Leon. Midfielder Brian Howard, scorer of a good goal against the R`s the last time the teams met at Oakwell, overcame a knock to start the game.
The opening few minutes of the game were somewhat disjointed with both sides vying for possession and pressure, this was typified by the four man tackle in which Matthew Connolly had to receive lengthy treatment after the debutante and Bobby Hassell were left flawed.
Moments later after some impressive midfield work, Rangers took the lead. Neat build up play ensued with a cross from Rowan Vine, laid on beautifully by Dexter Blackstock into the path of Agyemang. The striker nipped in ahead of goalkeeper Heinz Muller, by clipping the ball over his head and nodding into an empty net; A goal that owed much to some sloppy defending by the visitors.
Rangers had a chance to double their lead in the 13th minute when Fitz Hall rose highest from an Akos Buzsaky corner to nod narrowly wide at the target, as Rangers looked to press their advantage.
Barnsley could only muster a couple of chances of note in the first period. In the 19th minute Marciano Van Homoet broke free down the right and sent in a testing cross, it was met by the head of Michael Coulsen who nodded over the bar.
The tricky central midfielder Diego Leon was testing the resolve of Rangers midfield with some quick feet and skilful touches. The Brazilian found Howard in space, but his shot drifted well wide of Lee Camp`s right hand upright.
Akos Buzsaky then tested the Tykes backline with a cross, it was parried by keeper Muller, and narrowly evaded Rowan Vine on the end of the six-yard box, a real chance for the R`s with the goal seemingly at Vine`s mercy.
Rangers then put the game beyond the Tykes right at the end of normal time in the first half with a tremendously worked move.
Vine darted inside from the right hand side beating two challenges before playing a neat passing move with striker Agyemang, culminating with the Ghanaian in on goal on the right hand side, he unselfishly squared for Rowan Vine who placed the ball home from a couple of yards out. A slick passing move to delight the Rangers crowd, 16 thousand strong.
Barnsley came out in the second half in a more determined mood and look to force the issue with Jamal Campbell-Ryce at the forefront of the Tykes attack. His excellent run and shot drew a cornet, for which Bobby Hassell, a full back turned midfielder, nodded over.
Martin Rowlands then took the game by the scruff of the neck by setting off on an enterprising run from midfield. The in-form midfielder beat 5 players including the goalkeeper before having his shot blocked on the line by Stephen Foster after creating an impossible angle for himself, which is not to discredit a tremendous run by the Irish international.
Lee Camp was needed at the other end, when an uncharacteristic slip by Fitz Hall let in the nippy dangerman Campbell-Ryce, his rasping drive was saved by Camp`s face, a shot that left the keeper slightly stunned, but nevertheless able to continue.
Dexter Blackstock appeared to be in on goal, but was hauled to the ground by Miguel Souza, it appeared outside of the area, with many Rangers fans appealing for a spot-kick. The referee waved away the appeals as he did for most tackles over the course of the afternoon.
In the 57th minute a good run and pass by Matthew Connolly was laid into the path of Akos Buzsaky, the challenge of the defender on Buzsaky broke the ball back to Connolly who turned and chipped the ball towards goal, worthy of The Magical Magyar himself, with the hapless Muller well beaten the Loftus Road crowd rose to their feet in anticipation, the ball however, dropped inches wide of Muller`s right hand post.
A sublime dummy by the inspired Patrick Agyemang led Mikele Leigertwood through on goal, his powerful drive was well stopped by Tykes stopper, Muller. The midfielder may have been better served squaring the ball to unmarked Dexter Blackstock who had the goal gaping before him.
Barnsley were trying to force some attack impetus, with two strikers entering the fray, the striker who was integral in keeping Barnsley in the league last year, Istvan Ferenczi and ex-Cheltenham powerhouse, Kayode Odejayi. Ferenczi drew a great save from keeper Camp after a good striker from just outside the area, only to see the offside flag was raised.
The Tykes best chance of the game came shortly after this when Odejayi somehow fired wide after muddling his feet on the far post following a searching cross from ex Loan Ranger Rohan Ricketts.
A neatly worked corner by Akos Buzsaky almost yielded a third for the R`s, with the referee seemingly desperate to give a foul following an embarrassment of a corner decision, the Magical Magyar played the ball to the edge of the area, with one touch Martin Rowlands took the ball in his stride and drilled it inches wide of Muller`s right hand post.
Rangers had some defensive woes towards the end of the game, with Fitz Hall departing in place of the returning Michael Mancienne citing a calf injury. More worryingly though Damion Stewart left the field on a stretcher appearing to hold his back as he fell, Stewart was left clutching his brow in pain, he was replaced by Kieran Lee as Mancienne and Connolly made up the centre half partnership.
Campbell-Ryce then worried Camp, when he let fly with a curling effort, the shot flew narrowly wide of Camp`s left-hand upright, ending all Barnsley`s hopes of a comeback.
Martin Rowlands speculative effort in injury time was the final chance of the game. A scoreline to send the bumper crowd home with smiles on their faces, and the visions of brighter things to come.
Lee Camp 7
Did what he had to do comfortably and was able to deal with everything that came his way with aplomb. Pulling off tremendous saves from Campbell-Ryce and Ferenczi.
Matthew Connolly 7
Made several forward runs to support Rowan Vine down the right. Did his defensive duties impecably and displayed some good touches and passing.
Damion Stewart 7
Had to deal with some difficult balls forward and almost literally kicked Diego Leon up in the air accidentally as the crowd winced. Once Odejayi came on he had his hands full but dealt with the situation well. Unfortunately had to be carried off; to a standing ovation nevertheless.
Fitz Hall 7
A good performance that we have come to expect from the ex-Premier League defender. One minor slip that could have opened the door for the Tykes, but on the whole a solid display from the ex-Wigan man.
Damien Delaney 8
After some frank comments from Hull fans during the week, the defender was perceived as the second coming of Bob Malcolm, but he was a contender for Man of the Match with a truly magnificent display at left back, deal with Campbell-Ryce extremely well and supported the winger whenever required. An excellent addition.
Rowan Vine 8
The striker come winger had an excellent game with some incisive running in from the flank to create both goals. His direct running was a constant threat for the opposition, and excellent home debut for the man who was truly at home as soon as he joined.
Mikele Leigertwood 7
After a long period out, slotted into the heart of the midfield beautifully in place of the ill Gavin Mahon. Won the ball and sprayed the ball about well. Had a tendancy to play about with the ball a bit too much, but on the whole did well.
Martin Rowlands 8
An excellent performance at the heart of the Rangers midfield. Himself and Leigertwood were the engine room of the Rangers team. His enterprising runs and excellent shots from distance constantly had the Tykes backline in tangles.
Akos Buzsaky 6
Looked slightly out of place on the left wing, then on the right. Didn’t retain position aswell as you have come to expect from ‘The Magical Magyar’. Looked alot more effective when he was in the middle of the park with the ball at his feet. Overall did well out of position.
Patrick Agyemang 9
A tremendous performance from the Ghanaian, his signing was met with dismay by some sections of the Rangers support, but the ex-Preston and Wimbledon forward has gone a long way to proving the doubters wrong today.
Dexter Blackstock 6
Had an off day today, and didn’t really get into the game as much as he’d have liked. Made some key passes however especially for the first goal, and was unlucky not to score when he was hauled down by Defender Souza. Was rightfully replaced, but I’m sure better is to come from the forward.
Slotted in well at right back and then centre back. Good to see the defender back on the field after a succession of hamstring injuries.
Scarecely had time to prove himself, but came in at right back and didn’t look out of place. Brought to the club as predominantly a full-back, showed his worth in helping the R’s to a clean sheet.
Only touched the ball a couple of times, but one of his crossed developed into a shooting chance for Martin Rowlands at the death. A lively player who will no doubt get more chances in the coming weeks.
Gigi De Canio – His substitutions were self evident, having to replace 2 injured players and a change at the end to run the clock down, so no complaint there. Playing Akos Buzsaky wide on the left was a slightly suspect decision in my opinion, perhaps may have been better served playing him as a second striker behind Agyemang as opposed to Dexter. Overall did as expected, very well.
Simon Davy – Perhaps could have been more ambitious coming to Loftus Road considering they haven’t won away since September and club hasn’t won at Loftus Road since 1950. Nevertheless his players didn’t do the business for him. Jamal Campbell-Ryce being the only bright spark in the Tykes attack.
A great spell of possession was had by Barnsley but never really used to any cutting edge. Whereas what little possession Rangers could muster on occasions was on the counter-attack and how they made thier guests pay!
Hopefully the injuries to Hall and Stewart, in particular the latter aren’t as serious as first feared. 2 very influential players in the Rangers Revolution and will be needed in the months to come.
Really pulled the fans in and it was great to see so many in the lower tier of the School End, made it impossible to get a drink at half time, but nevertheless certainly a positive even if we can only retain 10% of the newcomers.