LEE COOK will return to Loftus Road for the first time in a competitive capacity since leaving for Fulham in a club saving deal for the R`s.
The wing-wizard will be looking for a starting place after impressing Alan Pardew with his recent performance against Southampton.
Meanwhile, it appears futile entering the game before the 90th minute when going to see Queens Park Rangers, because more often than not the action that matters happens at the death.
It was Vital regular Robbie_qpr, who uncovered prior to the Hull fixture that if a fixture lasted 84 minutes, the R`s would be 5 points better off, make that 7 now.
Rangers now must move on from the inevitable heartbreak up in Humberside, and seek to assert some credentials for next season by dispatching of previous promotion favourites, now outsiders for the playoffs, Charlton Athletic.
Luigi De Canio spoke to the official website following the Hull game:
‘Last week we ourselves lived through a tough game and managed to come out with a draw, today we were on the opposing side, so we must accept the result’
‘All throughout the game I never feared the team would lose, the way they were performing on the pitch.”
‘We must look to improve all the time and learn from games such as this one. Today we saw how important it is to have a squad of players who can step up when others are missing.’
De Canio uttered his first words of English to the ITV Cameras, stating:
“Goal, Goal, is a goal”
Through a translator however he divulged his truth:
‘From my position on the bench, I really couldn’t see it.’
‘The linesman was level and, if he thought it was a goal, it probably was.’
It seems to me that once utterance of English from De Canio was more than we got out of Holloway in 5 years!
Queens Park Rangers Team News:
Rangers top goalscorer Akos Buzsaky will hope to be in line for a return, although after returning to training later this week the game may come too soon for the Magical Magyar as he recovers from an ankle injury.
Strike pairing Dexter Blackstock and Patrick Agyemang were both withdrawn at Hull, due to slight knocks, the latter feeling his hamstring. These were both precautionary measures and both should be available for this weekends London derby. If one is unable, Angelo Balanta is standing by to deputise, and this time will hope for more support than a lone strikers role that was imposed on him up at Hull.
Matthew Connolly will have to content with a place on the bench for the time being it seems, with the Rangers rearguard performing admirably in Humberside; both Damion Stewart and Fitz Hall dominated the aerial battle, and generally swept a lot of problems away barring the late equaliser.
Will Gareth Ainsworth pull through to play two games in two weeks, or will De Canio opt to give him a rest and play Kieran Lee, one thing is for sure, if our strikers are touch and go, Balanta should be seen as striker and not a winger should the worst happen.
Player to watch: Dexter Blackstock
This man has bounced back to form following an indifferent season with Rangers. After only notching 2 goals all season, Dexter has come to form in recent games with 3 goals in 4 games, taking his season tally to 5.
His recent ‘goal` against Hull was his latest effort, bundling the ball over the line in the linesman`s view, to give Rangers the lead, but ultimately a point in a tricky tie.
Nulling defences into a sense of false security with some laboured running that constantly looks like he`s going to collapse, before pouncing on any mistakes that the defence has to offer him. In recent games there is a chemistry forming between himself and Agyemang, but not I fear as deadly as the Vine-Agyemang partnership.
All credit to Dexter however, he has started to score some goals of late, and goals breed confidence, here`s to hoping his goals can all but end Charlton`s slim playoff hopes.
Charlton Athletic Team News:
It`s a case of two from three in the strikers department for the Addicks. Pardew must make a choice of who will make the front two pairing from Chris Iwelumo, on-loan Leroy Lita, and Andy Gray.
Ex-Rangers loanee Jerome Thomas will not make the fixture owing to a hamstring strain, with Lloyd Sam set to deputise on the bench. Meanwhile Darren Ambrose will look to slot in on the right hand side, with Zheng Zhi looking to replace Jose Semedo in the middle of the park.
The Addicks can welcome back goalkeeper Nicky Weaver after serving a one match suspension, returning at the expense of Darren Randolph.
Sam Sodje is struggling to make the fixture with a toe injury, so Madjid Bougherra is set to keep his place. Long term absentee`s Svetoslav Todorov, Izale McLeod and Chris Dickson are all unavailable.
Player to watch: Lee Cook
Finally Alan Pardew has got the idea. This left-winger is an extremely special talent, and the Addicks manager singled him out for special praise:
‘They had to double up on Cooky, and we realised that, but in the first half I didn’t think we moved the ball in central midfield quickly enough to get the ball to him.”
The lifelong Rangers fan began his journey in football with Aylesbury United, before he got his chance in professional football, signing for Watford. His first senior appearance was certainly an eye-opener, losing 2-1 away at Grimsby in April 2001.
Lee was given few chances early in his Hornets career and before long he was loaned out to then Division 3 outfit York City. He made an immediate impact scoring on his debut in a 1-0 win away at Exeter. Some impressive subsequent performances saw Rangers boss Ian Holloway cash in on his services, securing an initial loan deal for the Rangers fan.
After some thoroughly impressive performances on the left wing, he rounded off his loan spell in style by scoring the 3rd of Rangers 4 against Cheltenham in the evening kick off at Loftus Road.
Realising his true potential Ray Lewington gave Cook his chance in the Watford side, and the left winger didn`t disappoint scoring 7 goals in 31 league starts. As the season drew to a close so did his Watford career and Rangers picked up one of the biggest bargains in the clubs history, taking Cook off Watford`s hands for free.
Still vilified by Watford for his move to W12, Cook participated in Rangers first season back in what is now ‘The Championship`, helping Rangers stay in the division, and scoring some memorable goals along the way. Cook will most be remembered for the sheer class he displayed in contributing 15 assists, by far and away the most at the club and scoring 4 goals.
Moving to Fulham for £2.5m seemed a new era for the winger, but turned out be a nightmare. After two lengthy knee operations, he is yet to
Match Facts & Stats
It`s only 1 defeat in 11 now for the R`s following their 4th successive draw in Hull. This means that Rangers are now unbeaten in six, and looking to extend that run this weekend.
Rangers have only been defeated once at home this year, with incisive Burnley coming to Loftus Road and stunning the R`s 4-2. Since the turn of the new year, at home Rangers have won 6, drawn 2 and lost 1.
Indifferent recent form has seen Charlton slip out of the promotion and recently the playoff picture. With only one win in a busy March, that included 4 defeats and 2 draws, has seen manager Alan Pardew come in for some criticism.
Charlton go one better than the R`s in 2008 away form, winning 2 out of 9, including a sensational 5-3 defeat up in Blackpool. They recently got their second away win of 2008 down in Plymouth, who themselves are searching for playoff glory.
The head to head record has the teams dead level at 16 wins a piece with 17 league draws. In their last 5 attempts at Loftus Road, Charlton have won 4, including a 4-2 win in October 1997.
Last time out
18th December 1999 –Loftus Road
Charlton Athletic 0
Rangers Team: Harper, Darlington, Breaker, Plummer, Ward, Bruce, Wardley, Langley (Kulcsar 85) Murray, Steiner, Kiwomya (Sent Off 76).
Last time out
27th October 2007 – The Valley
Charlton Athletic 0
QPR 1 (Bolder 72)
Rangers Team: Camp, Mancienne, Stewart, Cranie, Barker, Rowlands, Leigertwood, Bolder, Ephraim, Nygaard, Vine.
Referee– TM Kettle
Assistants – JP Magill & BJ Malone
Fourth official – AA Laver
For a full report on the match official click here
An early goal here might sink the already fleeting spirit of a Charlton side. But with our recent firepower problem in the absence of Vine and Buzsaky, we won`t notch as many as we could; That`s why I predict:
Boxer`s Prediction: 1-0 Win
For all the latest match odds click on www.williamhill.com
Who– Norwich City
Where– Carrow Road
When– Saturday 26th April 2008: 3:00pm