CHEDWYN EVANS, Norwich City`s on loan striker bagged his fourth goal in four games, and his tenth goal of the season to sink Rangers in the penultimate fixture of the season. He scored the first of three goals to guarantee Norwich`s Championship survival.
10-man Rangers battled bravely against the odds, whilst riding their luck for large parts of the game after having Damion Stewart sent off in the opening stages of the game. A decision that proved harsh on the big Jamaican defender.
Evans` goals were later added to by a deflected effort from Mark Fotheringham and Darrell Russell notched from distance as a late substitute taking advantage of Lee Camp`s attempt to clear his lines.
The game even saw substitute and long-term football servant Dion Dublin fire a powerful, dipping drive towards Camp`s goal from fully 50-yards out, on a thoroughly miserable final away trip for the Rangers travelling faithful, who were a credit to their side throughout.
Rangers made two changes from the side that beat Charlton Athletic at Loftus Road last Saturday. Michael Mancienne replaced the injured Fitz Hall, in a move which saw Matthew Connolly move to centre-back. Whilst Akos Buzsaky dropped out of the 16 with Zesh Rehman and Chris Barker named on the bench.
Norwich made one change from the side that lost at home to Norwich last Saturday. Chelsea loanee Ryan Bertrand recovered sufficiently from his injury to replace Mo Camara at left-back. Players making their final appearances, Darren Huckerby and Dion Dublin, were named at left-wing and on the bench respectively, as Norwich needed three points to guarantee safety.
KICK OFF: NORWICH CITY v QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Rangers started in positive fashion in a bid to gain the upper hand on a sunny afternoon in Norfolk. Dexter Blackstock headed narrowly wide in the opening exchanges whilst Angelo Balanta struck his weak effort too close to Canaries stopper David Marshall.
Norwich were looking dangerous on the break, and Lee Camp had to be alert on the edge of his area a couple of times as Damion Stewart was being caught out as counter-attacks ensued. However Stewart did not heed the early warnings, and before long Rangers were down to 10 in controversial circumstances.
With Ched Evans running in behind Stewart once more, Lee Camp came out to the edge of his area once more, this time colliding with the onrushing striker as the R`s stopper looked to be in real bother. As the protestations died down, the red card was shown, and Camp marched back to his goal, meantime the Rangers travelling fans were stunned by the fact it was Damion Stewart leaving the field. They weren`t the only ones as a disgruntled Reece Crowther was forced to sit back down. Evidence dictates that Damion Stewart made no contact with Evans, which dictates that any appeal would be successful, but I wouldn`t hold my breath.
The subsequent free-kick was fired at the wall and cleared to safety, but it wasn`t long before the Canaries has the breakthrough they desired. A cross by Darren Huckerby from the left was only partially cleared by a makeshift Rangers rearguard and Ched Evans made them pay, and how. His rasping drive beat Camp`s left hand and fairly flew into the top right hand corner of the goal to send the home fans into raptures. Chorus` of “Sign him up” rang around the ground for the Welsh forward in the minutes following.
NORWICH CITY 1-0 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Luigi De Canio then made a bold move, making a double substitution. Withdrawing both wide players in Hogan Ephraim and Gareth Ainsworth for defensive midfielder Mikele Leigertwood and more incredibly maligned defender Zesh Rehman entered the fray. The worried looks around the away end told the story, Rangers were in trouble and the subsequent chances dictated this.
The Canaries were buoyed by the goal, and continued to pick holes in a makeshift Rangers back-line, and balls over the top were causing untold problems to Rehman and Connolly, and on loan midfielder Matthew Pattison shot narrowly wide of Lee Camp`s left hand post. Before Darren Huckerby did likewise from an acute angle he bent a right footed effort narrowly wide after cutting inside tearing the Rangers defence to sunder.
The Canaries were truly flying and full back Ryan Bertrand surged forward to get in on the act before firing yet another shot wide of Camp`s left hand upright, with the former Norwich keeper rooted to the middle of his goal.
Angelo Balanta was finding the going tough against the experienced Gary Doherty and useful defender Jason Shackell, but another half chance for the young Colombian presented itself, but the young prodigy, who in the week was compared by owner Flavio Briatore was compared to Flavio Briatore to Faustino Asprilla, couldn`t deliver the goods like his compatriot, snatching at the effort and firing wide past the right hand upright.
With that chance the half petered out, with both sides I`m sure satisfied with the half time score. The impetus was certainly with the Canaries who threatened to score more, with Rangers never really out of the game only being a goal behind.
HALF TIME: NORWICH CITY 1-0 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Norwich started the second half in a similar vein to which they finished the first, seeking to score that goal that would undoubtedly kill off the R`s and any hopes of preventing a sixth successive defeat at Carrow Road.
Ex-Rangers striker Jamie Cureton, looked more interested in 45 minutes of football than a whole season in a QPR shirt, brought the best from Lee Camp, as the keeper palmed away his effort just after the break. Norwich started to turn the screw, and really apply considerable pressure on the R`s defence, with Matthew Connolly desperately snatching at a goal-line clearance from a shot from the boot of the man of the moment, Ched Evans.
But before long the pressure told and the Canaries had their second of the afternoon. A corner from Kieran Gibbs was cleared only as far as the recently returning Mark Fotheringham on the left hand side of the area. His hopeful right footed effort, came off the left instep of who else, Zesh Rehman, albeit unfortunately to fly past the unsighted Camp and into the bottom right hand corner.
NORWICH CITY 2-0 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
The pressure was off now for the Canaries and they started to play with some class, albeit against ten men, but nevertheless looking good.
Camp`s mistrust in his defenders was clearly evident with the Rangers stopped flying off his line on numerous occasions to scupper wave after wave of attack by Norwich. He was nearly caught out when he came to clear a Norwich attack, but once out he had to persist at fear of conceding. He was dispossessed with a combination of Cureton and Chadwick, who entered the fray to a chorus of boo`s from away fans, but Mark Fotheringham`s search for a second remained illusive after firing wide of an open goal.
Camp`s defence did not head several warnings and were punished finally and ultimately by Darrell Russell. In similar reading to the previous chance, Camp once more piled out of his area in search of a errant ball behind his creaking defence. Camp brought it out and was disspossed by Chadwick, this time Norwich made it count with Russell chipping delightfully into an open goal.
NORWICH CITY 3-0 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
The aforementioned Dublin chance summed up a magnificent career of an excellent professional. His stunning effort from fully 50 yards out, was struck with real dip and venom, and looked for a moment to trouble Camp, before the keeper recovered, taking the ball comfortably. However acknowledging a splendid effort from Dublin, who encapsulated a career spanning 20 years, in a glimpse of class.
A needless challenge by Ched Evans on Martin Rowlands, sparked a minor melee infront of the dugouts, handbags at ten paces earnt both players a soft booking considering the circumstance and context.
But nevertheless that drew the curtain on a disappointing day for the Rangers faithful, who saw their side lose the game the moment Stewart was given his marching orders, continued to cheer their side on througout and were truly a credit to their team. Maybe the team will give such faithful support a thing or two to cheer on their travels next year, after another nail in the coffin that was QPR`s 06/07 away form.
QPR: Camp, Delaney, Mahon, Stewart (Sent Off 5), Mancienne, Blackstock, Ainsworth (Leigertwood 8) Rowlands, Connolly, Ephraim (Rehman 8) Balanta.
Subs not used: Barker, Lee, Crowther.
Lee Camp: 5/10
Perhaps should have been the one to go instead of Damion. He was very erratic on occasions and clearly did not trust the defence infront of him, with very good reason on what we’ve seen today. Made some useful saves, but showed himself up a tad today.
Michael Mancienne: 7/10
A rare shining light in the R’s line-up as he dealt well with a tricky customer in Huckerby. The on-loan defender outshone most of the rest of his side, and defended well with an eye for a tackle, whilst getting forward to support a depleated attack.
Damien Delaney: 6/10
Ran himself into the ground, literally infront of the Rangers faithful late on, as he had all the mobility of Razor Ruddock after a heavy night out at the end. Did well to get forward and stopped several attacks from developing down the right.
Damion Stewart: 4/10
Let the ball over the top come in far too often, and ultimately paid the price, it may have been an incorrect and frankly puzzling decision, but nevertheless he took one for the team, and brought his short afternoon to an end.
Matthew Connolly: 5/10
Once again the ball over the top worried him, when Stewart went off and Rehman came on he morphed from competant to shot, as every ball over the top worried him and his fellow defenders. Needs a good performance against West Brom to boost his confidence.
Gareth Ainsworth: 5/10
Never really got any sort of touch before leaving the field eight minutes in.
Hogan Ephraim: 5/10
Again never really got a touch, despite looking lively, substituted after eight minutes.
Martin Rowlands: 7/10
Ran his socks off for the cause and really looked out on his feet at the end. When he got the ball he was rarely wasteful in possession. Creativity was somewhat stifled when down to ten men.
Gavin Mahon: 7/10
As mentioned above, showed good strength in the air adn on the ground, was key in winning any balls back for the R’s, and passed the ball well.
Dexter Blackstock: 6/10
Tried in vain to win the ball in the air against trick opposition, and never really got into the game. Service was stifled to the forward, and he had to work hard to see any of the ball
Angelo Balanta: 6/10
Once again as above, had to come deep to see the ball, he looked out of depth in periods of the game, but none more so than some others out there. Was well marshalled by Doherty in a height mis-match.
Zesh Rehman: 4/10
Replaced Hogan Ephraim
What is the opposite of midas touch? Well Zesh is one of them. Everything he seemed to touch had Rangers fans wincing in anxiety. Inspired no confidence in his team-mates and was poor throughout.
Mikele Leigertwood: 5/10
Replaced Gareth Ainsworth
Showed good strength at times, but was poor in spells also, wastefully conceding possession at times. Made the simple look rather difficult.
Luigi De Canio – 6/10: Questionable decision to withdraw two players from the fray following the sending off. Bringing on Rehman was unforgivable, there were other options in Lee and Leigertwood to go at the back in whatever combination. Credit to him for persisting with two upfront however.
Glenn Roeder – 7/10: Knew the R’s weaknesses and exploited them to maximum effect, only his sides poor finishing prevented more goals. A manager whose tactics have come under fire, coming up with the goods today.
Phil Joslin – 6/10: Other than that one decision didn’t get an awful lot wrong. Was a little weak at times and a little fussy on other occassions. Nevertheless OK by recent standards.
1-1 was predicted on the basis on us having 11 men for the majority of the 90. We never really troubled Norwich due to our numerical disadvantage.