Patrick Agyemang`s deadly form infront of goal sensationally continued at St. Mary`s, when a brace from the Ghanaian helped to see off Southampton in a lively affair on the south coast.
Rangers first away win of 2008 got of to a bad start when Darren Powell was allowed to convert an early free kick, but Rangers came back first through a Martin Rowlands slotted home from close range, followed by a Patrick Agyemang brace either side of half time. Stern John netted a consolation for the Saints on an afternoon where Rangers dictated the game.
Saints misery was compounded by the sending off of Youssef Safri for a poorly timed lunge at Rangers` man of the moment, Agyemang. A fantastic win for the R`s, but conversely a worrying display from Southampton.
Rangers made a couple of changes following a scintillating win last Saturday against Bristol City, Damion Stewart and Akos Buzsaky were dropped following their midweek exploits on international duty with Jamaica and Hungary respectively, with Matthew Connolly and Kieran Lee slotting in. This meant a place at centre back was retained by Zesh Rehman. Rowan Vine and Patrick Agyemang continued as the preferred front pairing.
Managerless Southampton opted not to change the team that drew away at Crystal Palace last Saturday, with dangerman Stern John retaining his place up front alongside the pacey Bradley Wright Phillips, and Adam Hammill in support of the front two. The only change was on the bench with David McGoldrick being replaced by Adam Lallana. There was also a place on the bench for former loan Ranger, Inigo Idiakez who will no doubt conjure fond memories of his days in blue and white.
There was barely enough time for both sets of fans to take their seats when a defensive mix up saw Rangers keeper Lee Camp grasp the ball inside his box and slide his way out with the ball still firmly in his grasp. A mistake that owed much to a communication error between the R`s stopper and Matthew Connolly.
The subsequent free kick swung in tantalisingly by Adam Hammill was met by the unmarked Darren Powell to smash home from close range. Once again communication errors within the Rangers backline contributed to Rangers downfall, the only saving grace was that there was plenty of time still to play with.
SOUTHAMPTON 1-0 QPR
Rowan Vine sparked Rangers back into life with a succession of clever runs, and his 6th minute effort was well saved by Saints stopper Kelvin Davis.
The Saints then had a chance when Stern John tried his luck from 25 yards, his viscous drive flew well wide of the left-hand upright. Hogan Ephraim then found himself in space down the other end but prodded the ball tamely into Davis` arms from close range.
Rangers then had a great chance when a corner was contested in the area, and worked its way out to Martin Rowlands 25 yards out. The R`s midfielder hit a rasping effort on the volley inches wide of the target. Damien Delaney`s header also went narrowly wide during a succession of Rangers corners in a prolonged period of pressure for the R`s.
Southampton started to take the game to Rangers, with Wright-Phillips squandering a chance from close range, with Camp pulling off a smart save. Former Rangers defender Andrew Davies also has a chance to break the R`s resistance, from a corner the former Middlesborough defender rose highest to head the ball goalbound, it was clawed away by Camp who had done enough clearly to atone for his early error.
The biggest chance was yet to come, Hogan Ephraim under pressure from attackers went to play the ball back to Lee Camp, his scuffed effort, reminiscent of Damien Delaney at Cardiff, was seized upon by Adam Hammill, he squared for Stern John who was unmarked in the penalty area. With the goal at his mercy the Saints top scorer blazed over to the disbelief of Rangers and Saints fans alike. A truly remarkable miss.
This of course proved to be a big turning point in the game; in a reversal of fortunes Ephraim robbed Hammill of the ball in a critical area, and fed the ball to Rowan Vine. Vine, went on yet another mazy run and played the ball through to Martin Rowlands and the midfielder did the rest, slotting low under the body of Kelvin Davis.
SOUTHAMPTON 1-1 QPR
It was no less than Rangers had deserved for an excellent first half display, and they received their just rewards on the stroke of half time when the Man of the Moment Patrick Agyemang slotted home for his 6th goal in the Hoops.
A scything diagonal cross from Hogan Ephraim from the left touchline was narrowly missed by Jermaine Wright on the far post, and Agyemang ghosted in to finish delightfully on the volley from close range. It typified the form of the former Preston player and he celebrated infront of the Rangers faithful, over 3,000 strong.
SOUTHAMPTON 1-2 QPR
Half Time: Southampton 1-2 QPR
Both teams made changes in the second half, Rangers withdrew Kieran Lee in place of Akos Buzsaky, cheered on by the Rangers fans, no less the few holding their Hungarian flag up for The Magical Magyar to see. The Saints withdrew a dangerous force in Adam Hammill and replaced him with a potent striker returning from injury, Marek Saganowski, to the acclaim of the fans in red.
Southampton had any potential threats snuffed out as they failed to break down the Rangers rearguard, Andrew Surman`s cross swept away at the near post by Michael Mancienne. Southampton then were forced into a second change, with Wayne Thomas supposedly picking up a knock, limped off to be replaced by Jhon Viafara in the 52nd minute.
Marek Saganowski nearly provided the Saints with a goal, hurling himself at a cross from the left, but he was put off by the figure of Zesh Rehman infront of him who did enough to deny the Pole a chance.
Buzsaky was then booked in ridiculous fashion by official Mr. Taylor. It was the Hungarian`s fifth booking of the season and he will serve a one match suspension, all for an incident that barely qualified as a foul tugging back Surman on the left flank.
Rangers then extended their lead in somewhat fortuitous circumstances, which must leave Kelvin Davis sick of the sight of QPR.
The goalkeeper who handed Paul Furlong a goal away at Ipswich, and handed Ray Jones a goal in the same fixture in the previous season, once again gifted Rangers a goal. A long ball by Lee Camp was chased down by Agyemang, Jermaine Wright looked to usher the ball back to the goalkeeper, who had come out searching for the ball. The ball was played back by Wright`s knee, and with Davis in no mans land, Patrick Agyemang was on hand to slot home for the easiest of his 7 Rangers goals, his second brace against the Saints this season alone.
SOUTHAMPTON 1-3 QPR
Southampton started to assert some pressure again and Viafara found himself free going towards the Rangers penalty box, his low cross was scooped narrowly over by Matthew Connolly. Saints also made a change on 68 minutes when Adam Lallana came on for the disappointed Bradley Wright-Phillips.
Lallana looked lively and made some direct runs towards the Rangers penalty area. His good run was not graced with the same kind of shooting, pulling his shot well wide of the target. Stern John made an excellent run in behind the Rangers back line; he unselfishly squared for his strike partner Saganowski who blazed over the bar. An effort that typified Southampton as a whole on the afternoon.
The Saints frustrations then boiled over, after getting the better of them one-two many times, Agyemang was scythed down with a late challenge by Youssef Safri. The late lunge was knee high and Mr. Taylor had no qualms about reducing the Red Card. An action that saw Agyemang leaving the field reluctantly in place of former Saint Dexter Blackstock.
Rangers then made a final change bringing off Hogan Ephraim in place of a holding midfielder, Mikele Leigertwood. Blackstock then created a chance for himself robbing the Southampton defender and narrowing in on goal, he slid the ball across the goal, with Gavin Mahon unable to get himself on the end.
Southampton then got a goal back in unlikely circumstances, when Jhon Viafara cross was met by Stern John, and his quick turn and shot, finished clinically past the despairing dive of Lee Camp.
SOUTHAMPTON 2-3 QPR
Rangers previous goal must have conjured up memories amongst both sets of fans as chants of “There`s Only One Ray Jones” rang around St. Mary`s to remember a truly special footballer, whose career was tragically cut short in his prime.
A spell of pressure ensued in which seemed like an eternal four minutes of injury time, which saw goalkeeper Davis come out of his goal and join the attack for a corner. Rowan Vine also put an effort wide in the late stages and Rangers seemed unable to retain possession, but in the end they hung on for a well-deserved victory, and Southampton who need a manager sooner rather than later.
Full Time: Southampton 2-3 QPR
Lee Camp – 7
On the whole a good performance, a few shakey moment, more than compensated for by some excellent saves to stop the Southampton attacks and relieve pressure. Solid display.
Michael Mancienne – 6
A couple of key mistakes for the goals, firstly leaving Powell unmarked in the area, then unable to stop Stern John from converting. On the whole a decent display, but important errors were made.
Damien Delaney – 7
Seems to be improving game on game, another solid display at left back getting forward at every opportunity to help the attack, and snuffed out alot of opposition threats with ease.
Zesh Rehman – 7
Once again did ok at the heart of the Rangers rearguard, doing himself the world of good to be considered as a squad player, with no real glaring errors to his name. Perhaps could improve on cutting out half chances, and simply getting the ball clear.
Matthew Connolly – 7
Easy to forget that this player is still young. A wise head on young shoulders, he was able to stop alot of Saints’ attacks with ease, was given a real test of a combination of pace and power, but dealt well by and large.
Kieran Lee – 6
Never really got going in this affair, and was withdrawn at half time. Perhaps too defensively minded to be playing on the right wing, some poor distribution into the box was seized upon by defenders in red. An encouraging display that promised more.
Hogan Ephraim – 7
His inability to retain possession led to Rangers being under pressure for some spells in the game, but when he had the ball at his feet he looked dangerous and was a constant menace to the Saints backline.
Gavin Mahon – 7
A solid display in midfield, as Rangers won the battle in the middle of the park for the majority of the game. Heading the ball, tackling and distribution ensured Bolder’s move to Sheffield wasn’t called into question during the 90.
Martin Rowlands – 7
Some excellent runs from midfield and capped off his performance with a goal. Linked in well with Mahon, and distributed the ball very well. Was always on hand to pick up the second ball whenever Rangers lose possession.
Rowan Vine – 8
The Striker is really establishing himself as a worthy partner to Agyemang. Some fantastic runs and made the first goal. Another menace to the Saints rearguard, making runs from deep and distributing well.
Patrick Agyemang – 9
I’m running out of superlatives for this man. He scored another two goals, and looked devastated to be withdrawn. He was given a rapturous reception as he warmed down infront of the Rangers fans. Congratulations are in order again, excellent all round display.
Akos Buzsaky – 7
Added alot of class when he came on and looked a persistent threat when he had the ball at his feet. He held onto the ball well and coolly distributed left, right and centre, an excellent 45.
Created a chance for himself, but didn’t really have enough time to make a real impression. Hard to live up to free scoring Agyemang!
Sured things up at the end winning the ball, and some physical challenges carried Rangers to victory. Was useful in the air in the latter stages also.
Luigi De Canio – 8 – It started badly which had Rangers fans questioning his selection, but the calculated gamble ensure the team got stronger as the game went on. Well done Gigi, wonderful football aswell.
John Gorman & Jason Dodd – 5 – The caretaker pair didn’t give the impression they understood what was happening on the pitch. Replacing an effective player at half time wasn’t really a good option despite how good the introduction may have been. They will go home thoroughly disappointed.
Pre Match Prediction
I said a close game at 2-1. I wasn’t far off this time, 3-2 however did not reflect the play. Rangers dominated for large spells and should have cantered to victory.