A LATE strike from Tottenham loanee Adel Taarabt was enough to settle an evenly fought contest between QPR and Bristol City in W12.
A result that may have settled both sides` playoff aspirations saw Rangers a goal to the good courtesy of a precision set-piece from holding midfielder Jordi López – the Spaniard scoring his first goal in Rangers colours.
Rangers became wasteful in front of goal, and with City in touching distance of the fixture it wasn`t long before they drew level. Michael McIndoe thumped home a volley after a pin-point deep cross from the right.
However profligate Rangers at last rose to the occasion with loanee Adel Taarabt sweeping the ball home from close range following a marauding run by Damien Delaney down the left.
A glimpse of the good times had returned to Loftus Road with the winning goal raising the roof and providing hope for a promotion push next season.
There was still no sign of big Jamaican Damion Stewart as Paulo Sousa made one change to the winning line-up from midweek. Damien Delaney replaced the injured Fitz Hall in a move which saw Matthew Connolly revert to the vacant centre back role.
Rangers continued with Matteo Alberti and Adel Taarabt on the flanks with Jordi López, Mikele Leigertwood and Hogan Ephraim in the middle. The solitary striker was once again Samuel Di Carmine – but the excitement came with the talent available to Rangers from the bench.
Heidar Helguson, Wayne Routledge, Lee Cook and Rowan Vine all took a place on the bench, with an attacking back-up available for the R`s.
The visitors were forced to omit skipper Louis Carey owing to suspension with the back four consisting as predicted with Jamie McCombe and Liam Fontaine the central defensive partnership and Bradley Orr and Jamie McAllister lining up at full back.
Manager`s son Lee Johnson lined up in the middle with man mountain striker Dele Adebola supported by Nicky Maynard and Ivan Sproule from wide areas as Gary Johnson looked to pick up a much needed victory in the playoff chase.
Kick Off: Queens Park Rangers v Bristol City
The game started in familiar fashion to previous encounters between the sides with plenty of commitment complimented with some excellent skill. The Robins were on the periphery of a playoff chase and giant forward Dele Adebola was making his presence felt upfront in a battle with Kaspars Gorkss.
Rangers` main creative threat Moroccan Adel Taarabt picked up where he left off against Swansea City during the week with some excellent flicks and touches to bamboozle Bradley Orr at right back. It was his effort in the opening exchange that brought the crowd to their feet as he bent his right footed effort wide of the right hand upright.
Nicky Maynard was looking in sprightly form attacking Peter Ramage down the left flank and his direct running was proving a test for the Rangers rearguard. His snatched effort went inches wide of Radek Cerny`s left hand post, the Czech stopper relatively pleased to let to fly past the upright.
Rangers had a big chance to take the lead not long after with loan striker Samuel Di Carmine guilty of not taking the useful opportunity. Tormentor Taarabt created some space in the middle before unleashing the Fiorentina loanee on the left hand side of the area, Di Carmine weighed up his options before curling a right footed effort towards the bottom right hand corner.
Brazilian stopper Adriano Basso was more than equal to the effort parrying away from close range to thwart the young Italian.
Moments later Di Carmine had another fleeting chance when a deflected effort agonisingly looped straight into the arms of a grateful Basso but Rangers were showing positive signs as the game developed with their creative outlets in full flow.
Bristol City were having much of the early possession but unfortunately for the travelling supporters created nothing of real substance with Rangers foraging clear on the counter-attack with Hogan Ephraim at the centre of the R`s breaks.
The former West Ham United man charged forward from his central midfield berth to send a perfectly weighted ball to young Italian Matteo Alberti down the right. Alberti mistimed his touch and allowed himself to be crowded by defenders before releasing a tame shot into Basso`s near post, something which the keeper was grateful to gather.
The finish was the only thing lacking for both sides with Bristol City feeling that they should have been in front on the overall balance of play. Nicky Maynard epitomised their current plight by sensationally firing over from just outside the six-yard box – a chance on the volley that looked easier to score, but the former Crewe man didn`t test stopper Cerny.
Referee Mr Hegley was proving infuriating for both sets of supporters, constantly stopping play for a selection of pernickety infringements while booking two foolish dives from Adel Taarabt and Dele Adebola, but not seeing fit to do likewise when Maynard comically threw himself in similar fashion.
His decision to hand Bristol City a free kick in the dying stages of the first half was another controversial incident with the home crowd incensed at a moment of madness from the fussy official. Jamie McAllister and Lee Johnson were two standing over the kick with the former striking the ball straight at striker Dele Adebola and out for a throw in.
The first half was brought to a close by the official with Rangers having a number of useful chances but it was the visitors who could feel themselves hard-done by that they were not in front with a selection of wasteful errors in front of goal.
Both sides would have to pick up the tempo and their precision in front of the target if they were to take all the points in a keenly fought contest.
Half Time: Queens Park Rangers 0-0 Bristol City
Paulo Sousa opted to make a change at half time with the ineffectual Matteo Alberti withdrawn with struggling winger Wayne Routledge returning from injury to take his place on the right flank. The adulation of the home crowd to the substitution provided a much-needed lift to the game as Sousa`s men went for the throat in the opening stages.
Taarabt is proving himself to be quite a talent in the Championship in the past few fixtures and he robbed Bradley Orr down the right to set up a masterful counter attack.
He attacked the full back and squared the ball for Hogan Ephraim who in turn slid the ball aside for Jordi López – the holding midfielder taking a side-footed effort first time to watch the ball fly inches wide of the left hand upright.
In a chance reminiscent of the first period Taarabt shimmied the ball on to his left foot just outside the area with consummate ease before rifling a left-footed effort just over Basso`s cross bar. The young Moroccan certainly not afraid to try his luck from distance and certainly comfortable in his own ability to have a punt on goal.
Gavin Mahon was lining up on the touchline ready to be introduced, arguably the least exciting of the R`s options from the bench but nevertheless something that Sousa thought the situation warranted. The substitution was brought into question when Matthew Connolly was forced to withdraw through injury with Heidar Helguson the preferred played to be introduced.
This prompted Gavin Mahon to sit down and Mikele Leigertwood to slot into the back four alongside Kaspars Gorkss. There was a subsequent formation shift seeing Helguson line up next to loanee Samuel Di Carmine who was visibly struggling in his lone striker`s role.
Jamie McCombe`s presence was being felt in the game with the giant defender persistently mauling both Helguson and Di Carmine in the aerial battle, and finally the R`s were handed a chance from a free kick, after official Mr Hegley managed to spot the infringement. López struck his right footed effort into the grateful arms of Adriano Basso low and to his right.
Moments later McCombe senselessly brought down Hogan Ephraim in a similar position, before sparking an altercation, kicking the ball away and arguing with the referee all at the same time. Inexplicably the official offered no card for the incident
It mattered not however as Jordi López sized up his options and fired an unstoppable right footed effort into the top right hand corner, leaving a forlorn Basso with absolutely no chance. The expertly placed kick sent the home supporters into raptures as the R`s appeared to be continuing their home hoodoo over the Robins.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Bristol City
Rangers were growing rampant on the front foot with the visitors offering little in reposte. Adel Taarabt was emerging as a player to watch throughout the fixture with some eye-catching touches, and mouth-watering skill.
His breathtaking touches down the left flank saw him escape the attention of Orr as he squared Heidar Helguson on the outside of his right foot. The Icelandic international cast a forlorn figure in front of the target as he poked a poorly timed effort wide of the right hand post.
With the R`s a goal to the good Sousa decided to withdraw forward Samuel Di Carmine with winger Lee Cook the preferred option on the right flank. Adel Taarabt took up a free role behind the lone striker Heidar Helguson as Rangers looked to play the Robins on the counter-attack.
It almost had an immediate response as Cook and Taarabt linked up to find Helguson in the box, but the forward could only find a City defender with his snapshot.
Profligate Rangers would be made to pay for their disappointing finishing as the visitors drew level in emphatic fashion. Lee Cook didn`t quite have the pace of the game as Ivan Sproule dispossessed the R`s supporter before taking his time to fire a teasing cross to the far post.
This was where Michael McIndoe was lurking to fire home a perfectly timed left-footed volley from close range and the sparse away crowd celebrated in style.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 1-1 Bristol City
Rangers had been punished by the visitors for their poor efforts in front of goal, as the Robins were in the ascendancy as the half wore on. The voices of discontent grew louder in sections of the home support despite a decent second half showing.
A five minute spell of Bristol City pressure tested the resistance of the cobbled R`s rearguard with Dele Adebola throwing his weight around against makeshift centre back Mikele Leigertwood. All credit must go to the former Sheffield United man who stood strong against a difficult forward.
Deep crosses and powerful play from the visitors provided the defence with a significant challenge but to their credit the unit came out with flying colours. Peter Ramage in particular was immense once again in his full back rule, stopping crosses and snuffing out the creative threat down the left.
The R`s poured forward on the counter attack in search of a late winner as Damien Delaney overlapped Lee Cook down the left. The left winger created some space from nowhere to find the full back in a prime position down the left.
Delaney shrugged off his man and fired a fearsome left footed cross into the heart of the area, where Heidar Helguson and Adel Taarabt were lurking, and it was the latter who stabbed the ball home to send Loftus Road rocking.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 2-1 Bristol City
The Robins turned the screw on Rangers as they peppered the Rangers area with long balls and direct passing, but the defence marshalled by Kaspars Gorkss were immense to a man despite another shaky display from Radek Cerny.
City couldn`t break through a stubborn defensive line as Rangers looked more likely to create the final goal as Wayne Routledge produced an excellent save from Brazilian Basso – if the rest of his side has showed the same sort of flair going forward they may have achieved something from the fixture.
As it was, Rangers were the side that took all three points on this occasion to extend a dismal run for Bristol City in W12 and keep the flickering flame alight in the R`s burning playoff ambition.
Final Whistle: Queens Park Rangers 2-1 Bristol City
Queens Park Rangers: Radek Cerny, Peter Ramage, Kaspars Gorkss, Matthew Connolly (Heidar Helguson 61), Damien Delaney, Matteo Alberti (Wayne Routledge 46), Jordi López, Mikele Leigertwood, Hogan Ephraim, Adel Taarabt, Samuel Di Carmine (Lee Cook 73).
Bristol City: Adriano Basso, Bradley Orr, Jamie McAllister, Liam Fontaine, Jamie McCombe, Nicky Maynard, Michael McIndoe, Cole Skuse, Dele Adebola, Ivan Sproule (Peter Styvar 86), Lee Johnson (Marvin Elliott 87).
Radek Cerny – 6/10
A relative spectator at times between the sticks for Rangers and more often that not performed his duty well when called upon. There were a few nervous moments in the first period where he flapped at a few crosses with the sun in his eyes.
He recovered well in the second period to claim well and show a good command of his area as the defence were resilient under a sustained period of pressure from the visitors. Radek will be looking to take this performance into the Palace game in a couple of weeks, but will also look to cut out the unnecessary errors.
Peter Ramage – 7/10
Ramage has come back with a bang as he continues to endear himself to the Rangers supports. His distribution has improved no end, and I could count only one misplaced pass from the former Newcastle man.
His defensive ability has never been called into question with Peter defending stoutly in the face of some tough attacking play. He rarely let his man get away from him and on the occasions they did he recovered admirably to bloke the cross. A real return to form for Peter who will now be tough to displace in the right back berth.
Matthew Connolly – 7/10
The defender looked assured alongside Kaspars Gorkss and seems to relish the fight at the heart of the rearguard. He had some tricky customers to deal with in Adebola and Maynard but by and large dealt with the test with aplomb.
His distribution was perhaps not up to his usual standard but never looked out of place alongside Gorkss and he gives Rangers the crucial adaptability that they require in the back line. They will hope his injury isn`t too serious as the former Arsenal man has two weeks to recover.
Kaspars Gorkss – 8/10
Kaspars was once again a rock at the heart of the Rangers rearguard, his consistent performance alongside initially Matthew Connolly then Mikele Leigertwood proved the difference as the R`s held on to a hard-fought three points.
The Latvian international epitomised his classy display with a deft header back to Radek Cerny under a barrage of pressure from the visiting forwards. His overall performance exhumed confidence and is emerging as a candidate for player of the season.
Damien Delaney – 7/10
Delaney`s performance was riddled with inconsistency as with once moment he would do something sublime and the next leave a gaping hole in behind for the Robins to exploit. Ivan Sproule was given a lot of space to manoeuvre behind the full back which ultimately led to the City goal.
However Delaney made up for a couple of gaffes with the winning assist, driving forward in typical fashion to play in Taarabt for the goal. Delaney will look to build on what was an uneven display, but nevertheless an important one.
Matteo Alberti – 6/10
Not a vintage performance from Matteo failing to recapture the form that he showed in the second period against Swansea City. He was marked out the game by an excellent Jamie McAllister who snuffed out Rangers creative threat down the right.
Matteo had an excellent opportunity in the first half, but a laboured touch saw him fire straight at Basso in another spurned chance. He was rightfully substituted at half time, but I`m sure he will come again with an improved performance.
Jordi López – 8/10
I have given him the gong this week narrowly ahead of Taarabt and Gorkss simply because of his excellent performance sitting deep in the Rangers midfield, couple with what was an excellent free kick to hand the R`s the lead.
López has been a consistent performer in the Rangers midfield since his introduction and has ousted Gavin Mahon from the role just infront of the back four. An unknown quantity is now being lauded by the Rangers fans as he continues to go about his business in a modest fashion.
Mikele Leigertwood – 7/10
Leigertwood showed his tremendous adaptability today putting in an excellent display in two positions for Rangers. He was commanding in midfield working with Hogan Ephraim and Jordi López, before an injury to Matthew Connolly prompted him to shift into the back four.
He has a tough customer in Dele Adebola to deal with, but he battled hard for the ball with the former Birmingham and Coventry City man and ultimately was the victor on the day. He was a key figure as a cobbled rearguard held off the Robins near the end.
Hogan Ephraim – 7/10
Hogan had more of a tough time today than against Swansea during the week, with Paulo Sousa`s tongue in cheek England tag weighing heavy on the shoulders of the former West Ham United man. His passing was a little off most notably in the first period, but he kept plugging away in his new found role in the centre of midfield.
Ephraim set up Alberti in the first half, a chance which the former Chievo man missed, before driving from midfield to supplement the R`s counter attacking threat. He made up for his early errors by trading tricks with Taarabt once more.
Adel Taarabt – 8/10
What is to say that hasn`t already been said about this young man. His talent is undoubted and if correctly harnessed could see him become one of the foremost players in the Premier League. At the moment he still appears a little raw and working out when to use his trickery and when to offload the ball, but his presence was enough to see the R`s to a win today.
His goal displayed all the trademarks of a man with a good footballing brain, peeling away from his marker to stab home a pin-point cross. Here`s to hoping that Mr Briatore can convince the young prodigy to move away from North London.
Samuel Di Carmine – 6/10
Evidently struggled once again in a lone role upfront and visibly improved when Heidar Helguson came in alongside him – a partnership that Sousa is reluctant to try for some reason. He had a fantastic chance in the first period to break the deadlock but his decent effort was well saved.
He struggled to hold the ball up against the sheer power of stand-in skipper Jamie McCombe who bullied the Fiorentina loanee off the ball and wouldn`t allow him to make the desired impact. At times he was holding the ball up with little support from his midfielders.
Wayne Routledge – 5/10
Replaced Matteo Alberti (46)
Routledge was wholly ineffective coming from the bench to replace Matteo Alberti in the second period. Fans thought that it was the moment that Wayne bounced back to his earlier form, but not so as McAllister did a number on the former Spurs and Aston Villa man.
He couldn`t seem to get the ball out of his feet and really struggled to make an impact on the fixture, towards the end of the clash he saw more of the ball but his inability to keep hold of it saw Rangers back under pressure. A player that will be looking to improve dramatically against Palace in a couple of weeks.
Heidar Helguson – 5/10
Replaced Matthew Connolly (61)
Helguson missed two more chances today and appears to be going through a torrid time of late, missing a whole host of efforts in recent games – not scoring in fact since his brace up at Blackpool. He sidefooted and excellent cross from Taarabt wide of the target before thumping an effort straight into a defensive leg.
Heidar is in desperate need of a goal in whatever shape or form as he looks visibly shaken and disturbed by his inability to trouble the keeper.
Replaced Samuel Di Carmine (73)
Cookie came off the bench to have the desired impact, laying in Damien Delaney to put the assist in for Taarabt. He will be more important in the season run-in as he regains fitness from injury.
Paulo Sousa: 7/10 – Paulo will be delighted with his side picking up another three points at Loftus Road. He had to make a tactical shift in the second period and made the right choice in bringing on the extra forward and going 4-4-2.
Rangers were always going to be stronger in the second half as Sousa gambled with a weakened starting line-up, but it was a calculated gamble as Rangers brought on the big guns to steal the points in W12.
Gary Johnson: 6/10 – His side didn`t do an awful lot wrong today other than poor finishing when it mattered most. Had Adebola and Maynard taken their chances early on it could have been a very different encounter.
Johnson succeeded in keeping Wayne Routledge quiet, but Adel Taarabt was a different prospect as Bradley Orr was visibly left struggling with his trickery.
Mr G Hegley: 3/10 – One of the worst this season unfortunately, and I know that some Bristol City supporters will agree that giving him three could be deemed a little generous. He got two dives absolutely spot on however, and let one go unpunished.
The positives stopped there, as he got almost every decision wrong from then on, there were free-kicks that Rangers were getting that left me scratching my head at times. He ruined the game as a spectacle by being far too keen to blow his whistle.
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