QUEENS Park Rangers managed to grab a late point against a Coventry City side reduced to ten men in the first period.
Stephen Wright`s sending off in the first half for a strong challenge on Heidar Helguson saw an unadventurous Sky Blues side become even more defensive.
Incredibly that sought a point throughout the ninety, took the lead as Danny Fox`s free kick beat Radek Cerny with ease at his near post to send the away crowd into raptures.
Rangers were wasteful in front of goal with numerous good chances going begging. However Sousa`s attacking change prompted Dexter Blackstock to nod past goalkeeper Keiren Westwood at point blank range.
Dexter once again hauls Rangers out of jail but three draws in succession at home against negative sides doesn`t make good reading for Rangers boss Paulo Sousa.
Rangers introduced new signings Wayne Routledge and Heidar Helguson to the starting line-up with Patrick Agyemang missing out through a thigh injury. The former Crystal Palace man occupied the left flank with Hogan Ephraim down the right.
The game came too soon for winger Lee Cook who is suffering from a virus, and full back Peter Ramage was replaced by Matthew Connolly. An attacking bench included Samuel Di Carmine, Matteo Alberti and Emmanuel Ledesma.
The Sky Blues injury crisis prompted them into selecting a makeshift back four. Stephen Wright slotting in alongside Ben Turner, with central midfielder Aron Gunnarsson moving in to right back.
Clinton Morrison started up front and he was flanked by former Brentford man Jay Tabb and pint-size Maltese forward Michael Mifsud. The striker who has scored seven goals in 11 games against QPR was looking to keep up a phenomenal scoring record.
Kick Off: Queens Park Rangers v Coventry City
The game started sprightly from the offset with Rangers taking it to the visitors with some attractive wingplay from Hogan Ephraim and Wayne Routledge. Ephraim`s skilful running was proving all manner of problems and his cross found Heidar Helguson. The Icelandic international struggled to get his effort away and hooked a flailing leg at the effort to see the ball nestle comfortably at Keiren Westwood.
Coventry however weren`t lying down and had a succession of corners for which R`s stopper Radek Cerny looked uncomfortable. Persistently flapping at the teasing crosses as the Rangers rearguard appeared nervy from the offset.
The visitors main threat was coming from the front pairing of Leon Best and Clinton Morrison. The former R`s loanee was proving a formidable test in the air as he knocked down for free-scoring Morrison, only for the former Crystal Palace man to blaze high and wide.
The visitors increasingly sat deep and invited Rangers on to them and Heidar Helguson nearly took full advantage just after the quarter of an hour mark. A cross from Hogan Ephraim found the R`s new signing who in turn nodded down for Blackstock – Dexter lost the ball which fell kindly for Helguson once more, however the Icelandic international could only fire over the target.
Coventry`s tactics were beginning to come under the spotlight with Wayne Routledge shoved out of play by Jay Tabb, who somehow escaped the incident without a booking. Routledge was suffering some treatment from the Coventry rearguard with Gunnarsson, Tabb and Wright dishing out some tasty tackles on the former Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa man.
Stephen Wright picked up a booking for a stern tackle on Routledge, and stunningly enough persistently declined the referee`s calls for him. Eventually after wasting a good minute he cantered towards the official who dished out the card.
The game was flowing from end to end, in what from the outside would seem an exciting affair. However those who attended the game would note that both sides were wasteful with the ball and never producing that cutting edge where it truly mattered.
This was epitomised by Jay Tabb`s tame effort just after half an hour, for which R`s stopper Radek Cerny dealt with ably. The former Brentford man fired the dipping effort straight down the throat of the Czech keeper as the game was struggling to find its way.
That was until Stephen Wright gave football fans a lesson in stupidity as the red mist descended on the former Sunderland man. His atrocious challenge on Heidar Helguson saw him going in studs-up into the Icelander`s midriff. Mr Stroud had no hesitation in whipping out a straight red card for the makeshift central defender, who in turn stormed down the tunnel.
Coventry couldn`t decide what to do with their line-up following the departure which saw Leon Best slot into the back four momentarily. Rangers were looking to take advantage of the situation with a well placed subsequent free-kick.
Clinton Morrison was as usual letting his mouth do the talking, chipping away at the official at every juncture. He was also riling up the Loftus Road crowd, and the banter back and forth made more amusing viewing. Particularly when Morrison nearly sliced Martin Rowlands poorly taken free kick straight into the top corner.
Rangers delivery from set-pieces was becoming incredibly frustrating with Rowlands failing to beat his first man on numerous occasions. Even central defender Damion Stewart was gesturing towards his captain where the ball should be dropping.
Finally the R`s carved out a meaningful chance and it came courtesy of full back Damien Delaney. Skipper Rowlands` corner once again came up frustratingly short, but a poor clearance found the Irish international on the edge of the area. He strode up and fired an incredible rasping drive towards the top left hand corner, only for Westwood to match it with an excellent save.
The R`s could muster very little in terms of attacking threat, with the visitors intent on getting men behind the ball and watching the clock tick down – even before the sending off incident. Goalkeeper Keiren Westwood was warned as early as the 20th minute about his time-wasting tactics.
A thoroughly disappointing first half drew to a close that had all the hallmarks of previous home encounters against Watford and Burnley with one key difference – occasionally the prior two teams would look to attack.
Half Time: Queens Park Rangers 0-0 Coventry City
Coventry to their credit began the second half as they ended the first, working doggedly to dispel Rangers numerical advantage. Aron Gunnarsson moved into the central defensive area with Jay Tabb helping out at right back. They looked to play the R`s on the break as the hosts were forced to commit more men in a bid for victory.
Wayne Routledge`s fine work down the left caught out his defensive counterpart before squaring the ball to Martin Rowlands. The skipper strolled up the ball uncontested but fired a poor effort woefully wide of the left hand upright. Rowlands will be disappointed with his lack of technique as for once he seemed to have an age on the ball.
Coventry were playing on the counter attack as previously mentioned and pin pointed the left back region as a target to exploit. Both Michael Mifsud and Clinton Morrison dropped into the gap in order to attack full back Damien Delaney and the tactic was being used to a good extent, with the visitors looking more likely to take advantage.
Rangers were trying to pass the ball through the Sky Blues and the crowd were growing increasingly frustrated at the final ball. The wide men were struggling to produce their best form with Routledge seemingly inable to get the ball down at his feel, and Hogan Ephraim opting to cut into a crowd of players rather than beating his man.
However the R`s nearly created a goal through an unlikely source. Damion Stewart walked forward with the ball and despite the ball being stroked around the back four the majority of the time, he went route one, as the ball flew towards Dexter Blackstock. The forward wriggled free of his marker on the right hand side of the goal, but lacked the composure required, dragging his shot wide of the left hand upright.
Another chance went begging moments later as Heidar Helguson was guilty of missing another key effort. Wayne Routledge had now switched over to the right flank and beat his man with ease before digging out a cross on the by-line, Helguson rose high, but his tame header was fairly dollied into the hands of Keiren Westwood.
Another guilt edge chance went missing for the R`s as the Sky Blues fans were incensed that the linesman hadn`t given the ball out of play. They may have had a point considering in the opening few minutes the ball went behind him and came back in, and he unbelievably gave nothing.
Rangers were on the attack again as they pinned back the Sky Blues in their area. Hogan Ephraim fired a teasing cross into the heart of the area, Helguson was at full stretch to get a foot on it, but it narrowly evaded Dexter Blackstock and subsequently the post.
Moments later Helguson turned villain as he and Delaney worked together to commit a needless foul on the right hand side of the goal, and it was from here that the Sky Blues took a surprise lead. The ten men had two positioned over the kick on the right hand side of the area, and a fairly weak effort from Dan Fox bent around the wall and sent Radek Cerny sprawling across the target like a sack of potatoes before invariably nestling in the corner.
Queens Park Rangers 0-1 Coventry City
Rangers were shot of confidence and sections of the Loftus Road crowd were not helping matters, offering little encouragement for a side bereft of confidence and ideas. Sousa made the planned chance of Emmanuel Ledesma, but who he replaced may have changed because of the conceded goal.
Full back Damien Delaney made way for the Argentinean as Rangers now had to gamble in the face of an unacceptable defeat against ten men. However the change just couldn`t seem to yield a good spell of play for Rangers as the Sky Blues were dogged in defence.
Rangers were reduced to pot-shots from distance, with Routledge firing a volley into the stantion, and Martin Rowlands once again picking out that empty seat in the bottom tier with another poorly placed effort.
There were further efforts from distance as Rowlands fired well wide from the left hand side of the area, while Heidar Helguson felt the fury of the W12 crowd when he struck a lazy volley out for a throw in after well placed in the heart of the area. Suffice to say it was not a good day at the office for the Icelandic international.
The R`s were not to be denied however, as for all of their neat passing in isolated areas of the park, it was a route one goal that earned them a valuable point. Radek Cerny will pick up a confidence boosting assist as his long ball went straight through the backline uncontested, Dexter Blackstock rose highest over on onrushing Westwood to give the R`s a valuable equaliser.
Queens Park Rangers 1-1 Coventry City
Suddenly the Loftus Road crowd woke up in the final stages of the fixture as they sensed a victory could be a real possibility. Fitz Hall was thrown on initially for what was expected to be a defensive move, but he sat behind the front two with the intent of being a real nuisance in the air.
However the R`s couldn`t create and real chances of note in the later stages as passing football made way to a blur of route one hoofball, which was necessary in order to take something from the game.
The game was brought to an end with Dexter Blackstock the saviour of Rangers, as Paulo Sousa`s side fairly stuttered to a point against a bottom half side with ten men.
Final Whistle: Queens Park Rangers 1-1 Coventry City
QPR: Radek Cerny, Damien Delaney (Emmanuel Ledesma 73), Damion Stewart, Mikele Leigertwood (Samuel Di Carmine 81), Wayne Routledge, Dexter Blackstock, Kaspars Gorkss, Martin Rowlands, Matthew Connolly, Hogan Ephraim (Fitz Hall 88), Heidar Helguson.
Coventry City: Westwood, Wright, Fox, Beuzelin, Doyle, Best (McKenzie 65), Gunnarsson, Mifsud (Eastwood 83), Morrison, Turner, Tabb.
Radek Cerny – 4/10
Radek didn`t have a great game today, and this was epitomised by the goal he conceded in the second period. He didn`t set his wall up appropriately and scrambled across the target to no avail as the free-kick crept past him.
With Lee Camp seemingly out in the cold at QPR, Cerny will face no competition for the jersey. With youngster Reece Crowther training with the side, but not worthy of a place on the bench it seems Cerny is destined to keep the shirt until the end of the season at least.
Matthew Connolly – 4/10
Connolly was preferred as a more attacking option to Peter Ramage, and provided more opportunities in the final third for the R`s, for which the strikers didn`t take. Like Ramage he made himself available in the right areas and was given several opportunities to cross the ball.
His crosses were on a parity with Peter Ramage`s as they were somewhat sporadic, some looked good, some looked poor – nevertheless he is the man with the shirt at right back and he`ll take some replacing.
Damion Stewart – 7/10
Once again the defensive department excelled and for all the money in the world it looked as if another clean sheet was on the cards. Damion alongside Kaspars Gorkss looked formidable and imposing once again and but for a nonsense free-kick would have kept it a shut out.
The Jamaican looks to be a big asset for the R`s at the back in the only department that appears safe and reliable at this present time.
Kaspars Gorkss – 8/10
Kaspars rarely put a foot wrong all game and proved why he has progressed under the reign of Paulo Sousa to be arguably the best defender at the club. Gorkss was commanding in the air against Leon Best – who was not a easy man to marshal.
The Latvian international was linked with a move away from the club after the vast efforts the R`s made to capture his signature – that proves to be the last thing on Rangers mind as they continue to grow with his presence at the back.
Damien Delaney – 5/10
One of Damien`s better performances of the season as he produced a blistering effort from distance to test Westwood – we had forwards on the pitch who went nowhere near to producing the calibre of strike that Damien gave in the first half.
He was better coming forward, helping out Wayne Routledge then Hogan Ephraim in attack, but he was lacking in defensive departments when Coventry pinpointed him as a weakness to be exploited.
Hogan Ephraim – 6/10
Hogan looked good down both the left flank and the right as he attacked opposition full backs whenever he got the ball at his feet. However his over-reliance to cut inside rather than going outside the full back and cross the ball make him a highly frustrating player.
His ability is never in question as his skill enables him to coast past opposition players, but against ten men the play needs to be spread wide rather than condensed in the middle of the park, and Hogan`s running contributed to this problem.
Mikele Leigertwood – 5/10
Another frustrating player on show today was Mikele Leigertwood. The midfielder who has been linked with a move away from W12 would occasionally be strong in the tackle but invariably give the ball away far too often.
Mikele would often look for the easy pass backwards rather than have some endeavour to drive forward and look for the searching pass.
Martin Rowlands – 6/10
Martin once again had a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde game, displaying his ability on one hand but his frailties on the other. His long range passing looked classy at times as he found Routledge on both left and right flanks.
However his shooting was very wayward on the day and a shadow of the goal he scored against Wolverhampton Wanderers. He will want to improve this display as the R`s travel to Burnley midweek.
Wayne Routledge – 6/10
Routledge had a decent debut at Loftus Road, as he looked lively on the ball and endeavoured to create for the forwards. Long balls were deployed to find the former Tottenham man and whenever possible he would take it down and run at his opposition full backs.
Routledge`s touch was distinctly average at times however and that will be something he`ll need to improve. In the second period he had a chance to lay in either striker but held onto the ball too long when well places.
Dexter Blackstock – 6/10
Overall his performance was very average, but the outsiders looking in will see he scored the winner and 12th goal of the season – so fairplay to him.
Those at the game would have seen negligible movement once again from the former Southampton man, and his contribution to the overall play wasn`t entirely satisfactory. If there were more striking options available he would be better coming from the bench.
Heidar Helguson – 4/10
Heidar put in a lot of effort for the cause but his shooting boots clearly weren`t on as he missed a host of chances.
The effort for which the Icelandic international drilled off for a throw in was either a sign of fatigue or laziness, as he merely flung his foot at the ball. He will want an improvement for the Burnley game.