DEXTER BLACKSTOCK commemorated the life of Ray Jones a year on from his passing with a well placed finish and subsequently brandishing his black armband and pointing to the skies.
He and Emmanuel Ledesma put Rovers to the sword, as for all their side`s precision passing they were found wanting in the departments that mattered.
In a carbon copy of the R`s away performance up in Sheffield, the home side took an early advantage, as Dexter Blackstock latched onto Daniel Parejo`s flighted free kick to fire home unmarked on the goal-line.
One became two as Ledesma himself latched onto a quickly taken free kick to slot past the veteran Neil Sullivan as Rangers blew their opponents away. Doncaster did look comfortable in possession, as did Rangers up in Sheffield, however they came up short in both defensive and attacking capacities, as the R`s cantered to victory.
Rangers trio Peter Ramage, Peter Ramage and Gavin Mahon returned to the starting line-up, with Angelo Balanta and Matthew Connolly having to make do with a place on the bench. Kaspars Gorkss was left out of the sixteen following his international exploits as Latvia were defeated away in Romania. Skipper Martin Rowlands returned to the bench following the completion of his three match ban.
Doncaster fielded an unchanged eleven from the side that picked up a deserved point from the home fixture against Cardiff City. Brian Stock managed to shake off an injury scare to take part in W12, following his withdrawal from the Wales squad midweek.
Kick Off: Queens Park Rangers v Doncaster Rovers
Both teams started the game on the up with the early battle for possession pitting the hard tackling Richie Wellens and the creative Brian Stock, against the Rangers engine room of Mikele Leigertwood and Gavin Mahon. Some early tackles came in as both sides battled for the early impetus.
Daniel Parejo was enjoying his free role behind lone striker Dexter Blackstock, and it was the Spanish starlet who gave Blackstock the chance to open his league account for the campaign.
A cleverly flighted free kick from the on loan Real Madrid midfielder found Blackstock criminally unmarked in the six yard box as he fairly touched the ball home from close range. Neil Sullivan was left flabbergasted as Dex was allowed to tap home unmarked, Doncaster`s defensive frailties were highlighted in the early stages as the R`s had the lead.
Blackstock peeled away and celebrated by holding up his black armband for departed team-mate and friend Ray Jones, as Rangers fans began the chorus of “There`s Only One Ray Jones”.
Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Doncaster Rovers
Rangers began to look value for their pre-season credentials as they had Rovers on the rack in the early stages. Daniel Parejo linked up well with swashbuckling full back Damien Delaney in a move that saw Lee Cook fly at his cross in the penalty area but the ball bounced up off his shin and out for a goal kick. The seeds were being sewn with QPR playing free-flowing attacking football, if not a tad direct towards lone striker Blackstock.
Doncaster continued to play the ball nicely in the middle of the park, however Sean O`Driscoll`s men couldn`t call upon that killer instinct, as their interchangeable formation found on form striker Lewis Guy wide right far too often, with the former Newcastle United striker unable to make an impact on proceedings.
Sitting back the R`s took hold of possession deep, before laying siege to the Rovers goal on the counter attack, with attacking trio Ledesma, Cook and Parejo stretching the defence and opening gaps to exploit. Lee Cook swung in a cross from the left after good interplay with his left sided partner Delaney, with the impressive Blackstock unable to get enough power behind his header to worry the former Scotland international, Sullivan.
Parejo was beginning to show why R`s fans what he was capable of, when a sublime time saw Peter Ramage away down the right. The former Newcastle United defender this time picked out a sensational cross, where he had earlier failed, to pick out Parejo in the box, with the Spaniard being held in the area he somehow managed to fire a header just over the bar, but the holding tactics were in evidence as Donny failed to cope with Rangers counter attacking prowess.
Daniel Parejo was once again in the thick of the action as he was brought down with a tough tackle infront of the Rangers bench. A sublime pass from Damion Stewart caught everyone out, defenders, referee and some fans, as the ball drifted to Emmanuel Ledesma in the middle, his first touch was expert and his finish was precise for his first goal in a Rangers shirt, as he wheeled away to the adoring Loftus Road crowd, but was subsequently booked for his celebrations.
Queens Park Rangers 2-0 Doncaster Rovers
The central defensive partnership of Fitz Hall and Damion Stewart was working well, winning a considerable amount in the air, but more importantly was being supplemented by the tireless efforts of Gavin Mahon, the holding player that Rangers certainly missed up in Sheffield. The partnership was interrupted when Hall appeared to be holding his groin as he left the field, an injury that has blighted him during his career. Former Arsenal trainee Matthew Connolly took to the field in his stead.
Two early goals had dampened the game of its impetus and direction, with Doncaster seeing much of the ball, but never really a creative threat in the fixture, as the Rangers rearguard snuffed out any potential attacking play. Rangers potent attacking line by comparison was ready to strike once again with Damion Stewart forcing Sullivan into another save, and Mahon finding himself on the left to dig out a flighted cross to Blackstock who dummied for Ledesma to fly through the air left footed, but his contact was minimal and easy pickings for veteran Sullivan.
Parejo couldn`t keep himself out of the action has he fired two efforts on goal, the first from open play as he found space in and around the area, to drill a right footed effort over Sullivan`s left. The second was a free kick from fully 30 yards as his vicious dipping effort gave the Donny stopper a little more trouble, but once again not on target.
With that the half time whistle was blown to a rapturous reception from the Loftus Road crowd who knew their side had a grasp of three points not only in the scoreline, but indeed in terms of attacking guile and threat, as the Doncaster backline continually struggled with the enterprising runs of the Rangers attacking unit.
Half Time: Queens Park Rangers 2-0 Doncaster Rovers
Kicking towards the School End in the second period, Rangers started the second half as they finished the first, on the attack and looking promising. Dexter Blackstock found himself unmarked once again in the heart of the penalty area, opting to use his nose instead of his head, leaving him without a brace and a pair of watered eyes.
By and large the defensive unit of QPR was coping admirably, but one worrying moment ensued in the second period when yet another Newcastle United youth product James Coppinger found himself in behind Damien Delaney, but his shot under pressure rippled the side netting to Radek Cerny`s left.
In a second half that was really played at walking pace at times with Doncaster comfortable in possession but never possessing that killer instinct required to bother Cerny and co at the back. Ledesma`s speculative effort from a set-piece was all that Rangers mustered in the mid stages of the second half as the game remained stagnant with the R`s two up.
The introductions of Angelo Balanta and Martin Rowlands became the catalyst for the R`s to resume their positive play. Skipper Rowlands took to the field for the first time this season following his suspension from a red card on the final game of last season for a tackle on Jonathan Greening, a decision which incensed then R`s boss Luigi De Canio, he replaced Daniel Parejo who left the field to a big hand from the Rangers faithful – he`d certainly done his shift.
Balanta was certainly proving a problem for the immobile Rovers full back, as he coasted inside on several occasions to provide another threat for the Rovers rearguard to ponder with attacks coming from every angle.
The latter of the introductions, Rowlands, was busting a gut to get on the ball in his early stages, charging down every ball and clearly enjoyed being back in the thick of the action. His received the ball from another marauding run by Damien Delaney and obligingly provided the former Hull City defender with an opportunity, central just outside of the area. The defender raised a rye smile has he got his effort all wrong wrapping his foot round the ball and putting it into the top tier.
The aforementioned Balanta managed to carve himself out a chance in the latter stages, as he proved formidable opposition from the bench, with his pace and direct running leaving four Rovers shirts in his wake, weaving in and out before delivering a well timed shot which was duly blocked.
Doncaster once again continued to play football with a lot of class, and looked a team that played without inhibitions or pressure, something that a few teams at this level could learn. However their game was very open and Rangers continued to exploit the gaps time after time, whilst Rovers expert passing didn`t perhaps yield the chances the build up deserved.
Much in the same way as Rangers showed up in Sheffield, its goals that win you games, and nice football can supplement these goals rather than replace them. Rangers truly learnt their lessons from the Sheffield United game by taking their chances, as Doncaster were left to consider their first defeat of their campaign in the Championship.
Final Whistle: Queens Park Rangers 2-0 Doncaster Rovers
Rangers: Radek Cerny, Peter Ramage, Damien Delaney, Fitz Hall (Matthew Connolly 29), Damion Stewart, Emmanuel Ledesma, Lee Cook (Angelo Balanta 71), Gavin Mahon, Mikele Leigertwood, Daniel Parejo (Martin Rowlands 77), Dexter Blackstock.
Doncaster Rovers: Neil Sullivan, James O`Connor, Gareth Roberts, Matthew Mills (Jan Van Nieuwstadt 54) Lewis Guy (James Chambers 82), Brian Stock, Gareth Taylor (Stuart Elliott 72), James Hayter, Richie Wellens, Sam Hird, James Coppinger.
For all the match stats click here.
Radek Cerny – 6/10
Had nothing to do essentially, picked up a couple of crosses which were too long, but the defence coped very well to ensure he was kept out of the action, with the only glimpse of goalmouth action snuffed out to the near post. A confidence boosting clean sheet.
Peter Ramage – 7/10
A no nonsense defender that Rangers have cried out for, seems capable of coming inside and covering in his natural role of centre half as well as a tough tackling approach at right back. His delivery was sublime for Parejo`s first half chance, but he`ll want to forget the cross he fluffed a moment previous!
Damien Delaney – 6/10
He attacked well and confidently, making some excellent runs from full back and exploiting gaps in the Donny defence. However in doing so he left a gap in behind a few times and O`Connor got himself forward on several occasions, and a better delivery from him may have changed the course of the game. A couple of good chances in front of goal for Damien which he spurned.
Damion Stewart – 8/10
Returned to action and was confident and comfortable, once again no nonsense stuff from the Jamaican. Hall and Gorkss for their technical ability lacked a man that could clear the ball, and Stewart proved he was that man. Was a good target from set-pieces also, and Gorkss has work to do to win his place back.
Fitz Hall – 6/10
Looked comfortable before being forced off through injury. His aerial ability ensured that Doncaster never got a look in behind the defence, and he looked happy to stop chances in their infancy, coming out of the back line to take the ball.
Emmanuel Ledesma – 9/10
As mentioned above, his trickery and footwork lit up the occasion and shone in a relatively average performance and drab second period. His runs and passing were a joy to behold at times as he played with a confidence that belied his years.
Lee Cook – 7/10
Cookie looked good coming forward once again and gave the R`s another useful attacking outlet. When Cook steps up a gear Championship defences will be very worried, we saw glimpses of him at his best at times, but in the coming weeks here`s to hoping he`ll play himself back to his best.
Gavin Mahon – 7/10
His role was modest in attacking circumstances, but was crucial in defensive departments, he was that extra head and tackle in the defensive unit, as he snuffed out alot of attacks aiding the defence, and in my opinion was a crucial link missing against Sheffield United. Here`s to hoping he plays against Bristol City.
Mikele Leigertwood – 7/10
Bridged the gap from defence to attack at times, both helping Mahon in his defensive duties and bringing the ball out and helping spread it wide. Looked tidy in the middle but with Rowlands back will perhaps need to step up in attacking departments to keep his place in the line-up.
Daniel Parejo – 8/10
Closely fought between him and Ledesma for the accolade as star man, as the Spaniard caused havoc at times in the Doncaster rearguard, exhuming class and positive play in every move. His passing was a joy to behold especially with Rangers under pressure. A good performance he will look to cap off with a goal in the next fixture.
Dexter Blackstock – 7/10
Dexter looked composed and strong throughout and got himself a confidence boosting goals to cap it off. He looked good for flick on`s and holding the ball up, and pushing tactics were employed to stop the striker seeing that much of the ball in the latter stages.
Matthew Connolly – 7/10
Replaced Fitz Hall
Matt dealt with the majority of things excellently as he had a cool head in the heart of defence, which Fitz provided and linked up well with both Ramage and Stewart. However he and Stewart had some communication issues in the second half, both going up for balls on occasions where only one player was required.
Angelo Balanta – 7/10
Replaced Lee Cook.
Angelo`s pace started to make the difference and his control of the ball whilst in possession was excellent. He certainly has come on strides since last season, where he was a little whet behind the ears, now his has added strength to his game, and an aura surrounds the young Colombian when he has the ball at his feet.
Replaced Daniel Parejo.
The skipper is back, he looked very much motivated coming onto the pitch, relishing the free role behind Blackstock, and appeared to create several chances for others, and on another day could have bagged a goal himself. Leading from the front he will look to start the next fixture.
Iain Dowie – 7/10: His team looked considerably well organised this time out, and fought off pressure to play Lee Camp, and instead persisted with Cerny, which in my opinion was probably the right decision. He got it tactically spot on with a holding player to stifle Donny`s attacking passing football, and the reintroduction of that man Mahon was a useful one.
Sean O`Driscoll – 6/10: It wasn`t a mystery the way his side was going to play, with Doncaster a well organised useful attacking side, but for my mind they came to W12 far too open to a very attack minded Rangers side and were ultimately punished for some naivety. Jobs weren`t done in the right departments and it`s something they`ll learn from in their first defeat.
Mr. Thorpe – 4/10: Was pretty poor by and large with every decision he made, there wasn`t a yellow card in this fixture but yet he managed to find two for technical offences, Ledesma for leaving the field of play without permission whilst celebrating his goal, and picking an argument with a man who cannot speak English. It was his persistence in using his whistle that infuriated some fans with some of his decisions baffling both ends of the ground. Really disappointing performance from the official.
I must admit I didn`t feel our defence would hold out and we would score more than we conceded, however we did our defensive duties right on the day and the goal scoring was sure to come. 2-0 certainly better than 3-2!