Date: 15th March 2008 at 9:51pm
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GOALS courtesy of Martin Rowlands, Patrick Agyemang and Rowan Vine secured a victory for the Super Hoops, who had to come from behind to take all three points in an evenly contested affair at Loftus Road.

Grant McCann had put the Iron ahead with a free-kick, but this was cancelled out by a first half penalty scored by Martin Rowlands, then second half strikes from Agyemang and then Vine in injury time sealed the win giving the Iron`s survival hopes a big blow.


Luigi De Canio opted to name an unchanged line-up from the side that stumbled over the line against Blackpool. The only change was to the bench, Zesh Rehman made way for the returning Damion Stewart.

Nigel Adkins was forced into two changes from the side that beat Plymouth at home on Tuesday night. Influential striker Martin Paterson failed the race against time to make the R`s fixture owing to a hamstring injury, and Ian Morris missed out in the important clash through illness. This paved the way for Paul Hayes and Matthew Sparrow, the latter returning from a three-match suspension.


Rangers looked to start in a positive vein at Loftus Road, kicking towards the Loft, they created the first real chance of note, when Patrick Agyemang picked up the ball on the left flank, his cross was met by Dexter Blackstock, however the striker could only connect with his knee and it was mopped up by keeper Joe Murphy.

The referee then displayed an air of naivety when a long ball over the top was evenly contested by Fitz Hall and Geoff Horsfield, the veteran striker showed his experience making a back for the ex-Wigan defender and winning a contested free-kick. There was no mistake however about the way the free-kick was dispatched.

In an excellent position, slightly left of centre, just outside the area, Grant McCann lifted the ball over the wall and past the despairing dive of Lee Camp. An excellently taken set-piece, which drifted into the side of the goal which Camp himself was covering to send the travelling fans into raptures.


Barely two minutes later and Rangers thought they had levelled after asserting a bit more pressure on the Iron defence. Patrick Agyemang seized upon a goalkeeping fumble by Joe Murphy after Martin Rowlands` effort; however the strikers well placed finished was ruled out for offside.

The aforementioned Horsfield was causing real problems to the Rangers rearguard, using his experience to give him an extra yard and winning free-kick`s in crucial areas. The man on-loan from Sheffield United was helping the Iron forget about the loss of Martin Paterson. Horsfield had a chance from another set piece by McCann, this time nodding over the bar.

That man again McCann, recently signed from relegation rivals Barnsley, came close again from a free-kick from distance, but his well-placed curling effort was plucked out of the air by Lee Camp at his top left hand corner.

Rangers had another great chance to put themselves back in the game, when Akos Buzsaky`s good work down the right flank of Agyemang, the striker got his close range volley away, but it was well saved with some excellent instinct reactions by Murphy.

The R`s started to look potent in attack, and some good work by Buzsaky and Vine gave marauding full-back Damien Delaney a chance, the defender broke into the box and his well-placed left-footed drive drifted wide of Murphy`s left-hand upright, as Rangers looked to force the issue.

The Iron were back on the attack as man of the moment Grant McCann thrashed a half volley over the Rangers cross-bar, before the same man curled a right-footed effort high and wide as Rangers afforded the ex-Barnsley man too much space on the left-flank. These efforts sandwiched a good effort on the half volley from veteran midfielder Jim Goodwin, some tentative defending saw the Irishman strike a fearsome effort into the side netting of the right hand post, another let off for the R`s.

Rangers were rewarded for their persistence when they received a 43rd minute penalty when Izzy Iriekpen was adjudged to have brought down Rowan Vine from behind in the area, when the winger was about to pull the trigger. Another in a catalogue of debatable decisions from official Mr. Thorpe. This brought furious protests from a number of Iron players, Andy Crosby was booked for his protest, and Joe Murphy can count himself lucky he wasn`t given his marching orders after a stunning verbal tirade directed at the official. With his fists pumping and his veins throbbing he was lucky to have a barrier from the referee in the guise of the experienced Jim Goodwin; he received a yellow for his troubles.

Skipper Martin Rowlands stepped up to the plate, under pressure from the weight of expectancy, and Andy Butler constantly infringing the box trying to engage in some mind games by stating the ball wasn`t on the spot. Rowlands brushed off the pressure and placed a right-footed effort down the middle, comfortably beating Murphy.


The half ended with Rangers asserting much of the pressure on their relegation threatened opponents, with the referee opting to add on two minutes of injury time, with the penalty decision taking three minutes alone.


If the first half was entertainment personified the second half started off as a damp squib. There wasn`t much action to go on in the early stages with the crowd becoming increasingly frustrated by the dogged defending of Scunthorpe.

The Iron had the best chance of the early stages when Horsfield won another free-kick in a similar vein as before, it was taken quickly by Goodwin, an intelligent pass found Horsfield on the left-hand side of the area, his drive was well saved low by Lee Camp.

Rangers were constantly coming up against a brick wall, and seemed unable to make that all important incisive pass to unlock a tightly knit defence. The passing and retention of the ball was overall quite poor from a Rangers perspective as they constantly surrendered the ball in vital areas to their opponents.

A talking point in the second period was prior to a corner from Akos Buzsaky. There was shoving between Fitz Hall and Andy Crosby in the box, but the referee deemed that Hall must have been shoving himself and booked the defender with no other player being spoken to.

Rangers finally created a chance of note in the second period, Mikele Leigertwood fired wide after an excellent ball from Martin Rowlands, a rare opportunity for the R`s in attack, and that taste spurred them on to more chances.

Akos Buzsaky was next in line to have a chance from the R`s, his right-footed far post volley drifted wide of the target and Rangers were looking once again to assert some pressure in search of that all-important second goal as the game was on a knife-edge.

The goal finally came in the 79th minute and Patrick Agyemang was the man. A goal that owed much to the enterprise of the aforementioned Buzsaky, as he played a neat one-two with Agyemang scything the Iron defence wide open, Agyemang was composed infront of goal, taking his time before thrashing a right footed drive into the roof on the net to put the R`s infront. A moment of class in an all too familiar scrappy second half.


Scunthorpe sensing they had nothing to lose in their current plight brought on Ben May and Kevan Hurst in favour of Grant McCann and Paul Hayes. The Iron then laid siege to the R`s goalmouth, with Camp saving well from a close range effort from Matt Sparrow, and Rangers defenders throwing themselves in the way of shots to protect an all-important lead at Loftus Road.

The comeback was complete in the four minutes of injury time added on through the visitors time-wasting tactics. Rangers were evidently looking for the corner flag whilst on a counter-attack, when substitutes Kieran Lee and Gavin Mahon combined to float the ball over the top for Rowan Vine, who evaded the slide of ex-Ranger Ian Baraclough, to clip the ball over the oncoming keeper. The perfect finish to a game which for the majority was evenly poised.


The result catapulted the R`s into the top half of the table, and left Scunthorpe six points from safety, Rangers now travel to Wolverhampton Wanderers next Saturday; whilst Scunthorpe face the same opposition on the preceding Tuesday.


Player Ratings

Lee Camp: 7/10
The Rangers stopper made a few good catches when Rangers were under pressure towards the end of the game. Was undone by a splendid free-kick in the side he should have been covering, but that is a tad harsh on a keeper that has kept the R’s in numerous encounters this season.

Michael Mancienne: 6/10
Was occasionally caught wanting in the first half by the impressive Grant McCann. Was pulled out of position by good movement from the Iron front line, not one of his better games, but more than worth his place conisdering the alternatives.

Damien Delaney: 7/10
Once again bombed on from full back to support the attack and had a good chance to draw Rangers level early in the game, the fact he worked his way into the box, shows the full-back’s ambition to score goals for the R’s. His attacking capabilities and his defensive contributions were a joy to behold.

Fitz Hall: 7/10
Was given a hard time by the experienced Geoff Horsfield, and dubious refereeing decisions didn’t help Fitz, on a day where the play is still labouring slightly with a groin niggle. Performed admirably by and large, with alot of unsung defensive headers and clearances.

Matthew Connolly: 6/10
Matthew was beaten in the air in some vital areas today, but he made up for that with his comfort and composure on the ball, taking the ball down before spraying it wide to either flank. Needs to keep his place in the team to build up some form.

Akos Buzsaky: 7/10
Was they key to unlock a stubborn defence in a tight affair. The Rangers favourite showed some sublime touches and made the difference on a day where Rangers could have left with nothing. A good array of passing and skill.

Rowan Vine: 8/10
Some excellent running by Vine, who never gave up despite being well marshalled by Iriekpen. He won the penalty of ‘Izzy’ as stated on his shirt, before giving the full back much to think about in the second half. Rounded a good performance off with a goal.

Mikele Leigertwood: 6/10
Not an outstanding contribution from Mikele, who really couldn’t get himself going as Jim Goodwin threatened to pull the strings in midfield. Contributed some decent tackles and strength in the middle of the park.

Martin Rowlands: 8/10
Charged forward to support the attack with some mazy runs and pieces of skill, aswell as tracking back to mop up any attacks that the Iron had to offer. Emerging as a real box to box midfielder in the best form of his career to date.

Dexter Blackstock: 5/10
Won a few flick on’s in attacking areas, but in general contributed very little. The striker cannot say he hasn’t been given a chance under Gigi, he was huffing and puffing with his hands on his back early in the first half, and looked slow and lethargic throughout the 90. May be one of many reasons for Joe Dunbar’s departure.

Patrick Agyemang: 7/10
Battled hard upfront to win the ball and give it to a Rangers player. His aerial weaknesses were a problem for the R’s who searched out himself and Blackstock as target men. Bagged himself a goal and hopefully a boost of confidence going into next week’s game.

Gavin Mahon
Replaced Akos Buzsaky.
Contributed a good assist and some excellent distribution in the latter stages. Definately in line for a starting place.

Damion Stewart
Replaced Martin Rowlands
Replaced Patrick Agyemang

Manager Rating
Luigi De Canio 7/10: By and large did OK, but seemed happy to sit on a 1-1 draw, only by chance did Rangers spring into life with a goal to win the game. Shouldn’t have started with Blackstock, the longer he goes goalless the more shot his confidence becomes. Could have opted for more pace in Balanta when faced with an ageing defence.

Opponent Rating
Nigel Adkins 7/10: Will be bitterly disappointed his team didn’t take something from the encounter after frustrating the R’s in the first half, and will be gutted having lost a lead. Opted for the right team, with Eriekpen in particular looking OK at right back and Horsfield and McCann looking a constant nuisance.

Pre-Match Prediction
For once I had it right, but in slightly different circumstances. I though Rangers may canter to a good lead before letting in a sloppy goal, but as it happends they did it slightly differently. But a correct prediction nevertheless!

Referee Rating
M. Thorpe 3/10: Without doubt one of the worst referee’s we’ve had this season. Gave a series of terrible decisions either way which left both sets of fans thoroughly frustrated. A really poor performance.


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