DEXTER Blackstock secured his third goal against Hull City in three attempts to help Rangers to a creditable draw at the Championship high-flyers.
Blackstock somehow managed to bundle the ball home from close range, which looked another in a string of adverts for goal-line technology. The linesman made his decision with immediate effect, with Rangers on the brink of a memorable win.
Only another last minute goal, this time going against the R`s, was to be their undoing. Ex-Brentford defender Michael Turner popped up in the dying stages to tie the game and snatch two points away from the resilient grasp of the Rangers rearguard.
Rangers made a couple of changes from the side that exerted their own last minute glory against Preston the week preceding. Gareth Ainsworth did enough to earn himself a starting place at the expense of Mikele Leigertwood; whilst Matthew Connolly had to make to with a place on the bench due to the return of Damien Delaney from suspension. The former Tiger was to receive a rousing reception from the home faithful after his six-year stint with the Humberside outfit.
There was still no place in the 16 for Akos Buzsaky owing to an ankle complaint whilst on international duty with Hungary, with forward Angelo Balanta having to make do with a place on the bench.
Phil Brown named an unchanged side from the team who fairly dispatched of Watford a fortnight ago. With his team fully refreshed the only change came to the bench, the ineligible Simon Walton made way for Ryan France due to the terms of his loan agreement with Rangers.
KICK OFF: HULL CITY v QUEENS PARK RANGERS
The game opened with the sides battling for possession, Hull buoyed on by their bumper home crowd were looking to assert an early advantage over the R`s and retained a wealth of the early possession without creating any clear cut chances.
Rangers midfielder Martin Rowlands was orchestrating proceedings from the middle of the park, battling for possession with Gavin Mahon, before distributing wisely and ably to either flank, as the R`s were looking dangerous in spells.
Most of Rangers danger came from the main man, Patrick Agyemang, when the striker latched on to a hopeful pass from Gareth Ainsworth, his touch on the right hand side of the area was sublime, before rifling a shot into the midriff of Hull stopper Boaz Myhill. Agyemang displaying his dangerous credentials to the Hull back-line early in this encounter.
If that was a warning for the Tigers, they evidently were not prepared for what was to come as the R`s took the lead in somewhat fortuitous circumstances. Hogan Ephraim`s tantalising cross was only half dealt with by Wayne Brown, the ex-Rangers loanee deflected the shot on target, it was well saved by Myhill into the path of Dexter Blackstock. The striker effort came off the post and Sam Ricketts cleared the ball, which was hovering over the line.
With the referee seemingly stumped for a decision, his assistant gave him the information he desired a definite decision in favour of the attacking side. It seemed a tight decision, but the certainty of the official had Hull players and fans alike, up in arms and furious. Nevertheless, a goal that gave Rangers the upper hand.
HULL CITY 0-1 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Rangers were definitely in the ascendancy and only the agility of Boaz Myhill kept the R`s at bay, with Patrick Agyemang having a header clawed away, and a cross come shot by Hogan Ephraim was also palmed away by the American keeper who had to be at his best to keep the promotion contenders in the game.
The referee then made another bold decision as he awarded the Tigers a free-kick on the edge of the Rangers area, for a decision that could have gone either way, it appeared Dean Windass was backing in more that Damion Stewart was climbing, but 50/50 decisions, seemed to employ a coin toss routine from the referee throughout the game. It was Andy Dawson who struck the free-kick, but found Lee Camp once again in scintillating form, tipping over the bar as the ball threatened to dip towards the target.
Hull`s frustration grew louder on 35 minutes when Manchester United loanee, Frazier Campbell, worked his way into the box only for Stewart to scupper the young strikers progress with minimal contact. The striker to his credit never appealed the decision, instead went in search for the ball, with Gavin Mahon on hand to block the follow up effort. Hull’s frustration was visible, with manager Phil Brown demanding more of his players on the touchline, and sections of the Hull support roaring their team on.
Nevertheless that was the last action of an eventful first half, City coming into the game a lot more towards the end of the first half, but Rangers defending stoutly and resolutely throughout, to make the game wonderfully poised going into the second period.
HALF TIME: HULL CITY 0-1 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Simon Walton was on the pitch at half time to preside over the half-time draw, he was met with a fairly muted reception from both sides. With away fans yet to see the best of £300k midfielder; and Hull seemingly unhappy with his strong ties to Leeds United.
Two minutes after the interval, referee Mr. Laws, who seemed reluctant to give out cards despite what the foul count will tell you, booked Rangers midfielder Martin Rowlands for a challenge on Richard Garcia, a foul that would ultimately end his afternoon, being replaced by ex-Birmingham City midfielder Bryan Hughes.
Rangers had injury woes of their own, when Dexter Blackstock was brave going into a challenge, he came off worse, after trying in vain to run off the injury he was also withdrawn in favour of Mikele Leigertwood, who played in Akos Buzsaky`s favoured role of just behind the striker, in a bid not to disturb the central pairing.
The R`s were looking to mount some fleeting attacks of their own, playing on the counter-attack as is the norm, Gareth Ainsworth marauded down the right flank, weaving past the attentions of Andy Dawson, but his cross was poorly placed and cleared at the first time of asking at the front post.
With little chances to speak of at either end, it seemed that Rangers were content sitting back and soaking up the pressure, whilst the Tigers, sensing their promotion rivals were also not performing, tried to kick it up a notch. The pressure was beginning to tell, but evidently what Hull lacked was the killer pass and the ruthlessness infront of goal that they have displayed on many previous occasions.
With that in mind, Phil Brown opted to make a second change, this time for tactical reasons. Former Bolton forward Henrik Pedersen was withdrawn from his left-wing role, in place of Caleb Folan, who played as part of a three pronged attack, alongside Frazier Campbell and the ineffectual Dean Windass.
Folan looked to impact on the game with immediate effect, he was already proving a test in the air for Hall and Stewart, before a well executed cross from substitute Hughes was straight onto the head of Folan, who could only glance wide of the far post in a second half bereft of clear cut chances and goal-mouth action.
Rangers sensing their opportunity would be on the break set about their task, and Gavin Mahon found the run of trick winger Hogan Ephraim, he cut inside before drilling a deflected effort, which dipped, but unfortunately for the R`s fans who populated that end, straight into the arms of keeper Myhill.
Dean Windass then had his chance to have an impact on the game, a free kick on the left-hand side of the area. The ground held its breath as the home town striker stepped up right footed, he drilled his effort towards Lee Camp`s far post, with the keeper parrying the powerful effort for a second, before scooping it up at the second attempt.
Frazier Campbell, who was a nuisance throughout tested the Rangers rearguard once more, as he spun and shot in the area, for his shot to hit the side netting. Sections of the ground jumping up in ecstasy before realising the effort was off target, but Hull continued to ask questions of Rangers.
Craig Fagan picked up a booking for a poorly timed challenge on Gareth Ainsworth, to which the winger protested. With Ainsworth charging towards the heart of the Hull defence, Fagan cynically scythed his opposing winger down, all the protests in the world would not have stopped that card from coming out of Mr. Laws` pocket and rightfully so.
Angelo Balanta was brought on in place of Patrick Agyemang, as Rangers knew whatever chances they were going to get would be on the break, and the rejuvenated exuberance and pace of the young striker could have proven a useful asset.
But such is the way of the world after defending quite admirably throughout the 90, the referee signalled 5 minutes of added on time. This indeed was a bridge too far for Rangers, who conspired to concede in the first of those minutes.
Frazier Campbell, continuing to plug away up front, found the run of Caleb Folan down the right, and as simple as a pass into the box found the onrushing Michael Turner, who tapped the ball home to snatch a share of the spoils at the death for the Tigers, whose fans were elated at this leveller.
HULL CITY 1-1 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Sensing an attacking onslaught Rangers then replaced Gareth Ainsworth with Matthew Connolly, but barely a moment later, a heart-stopping moment for Rangers. Attacker Frazier Campbell, found himself unmarked in the six yard year to snatch at the chance and scuff the shot straight into the grateful arms of Lee Camp.
And with that chance went the game, not the most thoroughly entertaining game you will see, such is the Championship this season, but plenty of excellent defensive work from the R`s, who will take heart from a good performance at one of the divisions top sides.
FULL TIME: HULL CITY 1-1 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Rangers Team: Camp, Delaney, Mahon, Stewart, Mancienne, Ainsworth (Connolly 90) Blackstock (Leigertwood 56) Rowlands, Agyemang (Balanta 81) Ephraim, Hall.
Unused Subs: Pickens, Lee.
Lee Camp: 7/10
Showed again in instances why he is held in such high regard by the Rangers faithful, could do nothing about the goal, but pulled out some magnificent saves to keep Hull at bay, another good display.
Michael Mancienne: 6/10
Was a bit hurried in possession on occasions, but generally played well at full back with the unit. Tackled well and didn’t give Pedersen much of an opening, forcing him to come inside and pass. Solid performance.
Damien Delaney: 8/10
As mentioned above, good homecoming for Delaney, really showed Hull what they were missing with some good forward runs, and excellent defensive headers to keep them at arms length and relieve the pressure.
Damion Stewart: 7/10
A vastly improved performance, concentrated well througout in trying circumstances with the pacey Campbell and the trickery of Dean Windass. Stood up to it well and that will give him alot of heart going into future games.
Fitz Hall: 7/10
Another good defensive display, was caught wanting for pace a couple of times, but nevertheless proved his credentials once more with some brilliant defensive headers and clearances.
Gareth Ainsworth: 6/10
Looked dangerous on the counter attack, but his ball retention is something De Canio will need to instill if he is to stay in the team. Too keen on occassions to get the ball out of his feet when a run with the ball may have been in order, proved late on that he could cause alot of problems.
Hogan Ephraim: 6/10
Dipped in and out of the game, but when he was on the ball looked as if he could do some damage. Cutting inside from the left flank seemed to be his forté, however he needs to mix up his game by going round the outside occassionally. Nevertheless a solid display.
Martin Rowlands: 7/10
Was on the ball and commanding throughout, needed perhaps to make more forward runs to support the isolated Agyemang, but controlled the game well from the middle, not giving time to Ashbee and Marney to do damage.
Gavin Mahon: 6/10
Was strong in the middle and won alot of balls in the air before distributing well. Gavin is starting to come into his own in that midfield role. Once his match fitness is up to standard he will be extremely influential.
Dexter Blackstock: 7/10
Poachers instinct to get into the box and stick the ball away for the goal, and finally Dexter is putting together some goals and form. Won alot of flick ons and was a general nuisance for the Hull defence until he was withdrawn, well done Dex!
Patrick Agyemang: 6/10
An incredible touch to take the ball out of the air for his first chance, and with a bit more luck might have been on the scoresheet himself, looked visibly tired when taken off, but generally looked a menace.
Mikele Leigertwood: 5/10
Replaced Dexter Blackstock:
Didn’t look to relish his role behind the striker and became deeper and deeper as the game progressed. Will be disappointed he couldn’t make more of an impact.
Angelo Balanta: 6/10
Replaced Patrick Agyemang:
Never really got a chance playing as a lone striker. Needs to play up front with a strike partner, and depending on the extent of Dexter’s injury he may well do.
Replaced Gareth Ainsworth:
On the pitch for a matter of seconds.
Luigi De Canio: 6/10 Rangers defended resolutly, and this is down to the man who organises them. A really good defensive performance, soured somewhat by that last minute goal. Playing one upfront towards the end was a pity, Balanta perhaps could have come on instead of Leigetwood in that role.
Phil Brown: 6/10 His team kept plugging away despite their disadvantage, and got some sort of reward at the end. As we all know pace worried Delaney and Garcia didn’t have the attributes required to trouble him, maybe could have employed an out and out winger to attack the returning defender more.
Pre Match Prediction
I rather optimistically predicted 1-0, when I suppose looking at our recent record a draw was the only result on the cards. A truly excellent draw at a difficult stadium, to which Watford will testify. 1-1 at the start of the game and I would have snatched your hand off!
Graham Laws 5/10 Not a great performance from the official who persisted in blowing his whistle but seemed lenient in terms of punishment for players. Calling players over to talk to them, ended with the official having to go over to them for a word, not a strong performance, but nevertheless, we’ve had ALOT worse!