AN EARLY goal from forward Adel Taarabt helped secure a priceless first win for Queens Park Rangers against the brave battling of Scunthorpe United.
The Moroccan international coasted through a static rearguard in the opening minutes to roll home past former West Bromwich Albion keeper Joe Murphy.
Scunthorpe had their fair share of the game with the visiting rearguard defending stoutly in the second period to deny the resurgent Iron.
At times Rangers laboured and despite Magilton`s changes continued to come under great spells of pressure with nerves firmly setting in both the stand and on the pitch.
However a defence ably led by young Matthew Connolly and the resilient Fitz Hall held firm saw the R`s to their first maximum of the campaign.
Rangers made several changes from the side that disappointed against Accrington Stanley during the week, starting with the expected reintroduction of Radek Cerny in goal in place of Manchester United loanee Tom Heaton.
Gary Borrowdale was reintroduced in favour of Kaspars Gorkss with Damion Stewart dropping to the bench as Fitz Hall partnered Matthew Connolly at the heart of defence. Alejandro Faurlín was reintroduced for Gavin Mahon to partner Mikele Leigertwood and they were flanked by wingers Wayne Routledge and Hogan Ephraim.
Adel Taarabt sat in a free role behind the solitary front-man, which today was another loanee Jay Simpson, the young striker on loan from neighbours Arsenal and looking to be among the goals on his debut.
For the hosts Joe Murphy sat infront of a defence consisting of Jordan Spence, David Mirfin, Cliff Byrne and Marcus Williams – Rob Jones still unavailable owing to a head injury. Matthew Sparrow and Michael O`Connor sat in the middle of the park with Martyn Woolford and Sam Togwell playing wide.
The Iron called upon last season`s reliable strike force of Gary Hooper and Paul Hayes to lead their front-line with Jonathan Forte dropping to the bench as the Iron reshuffled following a brutal midweek trip to Swansea City.
Kick Off: Scunthorpe United v Queens Park Rangers
Prior to the kick off Fitz Hall strode nervously towards the centre spot before being quite heavily sick infront of his team-mates and the crowd. After an intake of water on the touchline he was prepared to start the fixture alongside his new partner Matthew Connolly.
QPR started the positive side, looking to assert some early pressure on a side that was previously given a 4-0 thumping at the hands of Sheffield Wednesday. Wayne Routledge was chief tormentor down the right with Adel Taarabt linking up well with debutante Jay Simpson.
In the opening minute the visitors hit their creative flow and Routledge raced away down the right before rounding keeper Joe Murphy and being brought down by the subsequent challenge. With the away supporters baying for blood referee Salisbury dished out a yellow card to the stopper.
Any nerves or lingering doubt following a disappointing midweek performance were soon dispelled after a positive start full of attacking intent, and ultimately the R`s took the advantage inside three minutes.
The returning Alejandro Faurlín was mercurial in the early stages with some neat interplay with Adel Taarabt. The Tottenham loanee burst through a hesitant rearguard, and beat his man before burying a left-footed drive into the bottom right hand corner.
The strike was perfectly executed with great simplicity as reputable goalkeeper Joe Murphy was beaten low and to his left as the Moroccan`s effort rolled home to the delight of the vocal travelling support.
GOAL: Scunthorpe United 0-1 Queens Park Rangers
Rangers were beginning to take a strangle-hold of the fixture with Faurlín pulling all the strings at the heart of the QPR midfield. The Argentinean was looking at home in the Rangers engine room even in the early stages of this career, and rarely wasted any ball that came his way.
He picked out an excellent pass for Mikele Leigertwood down the right hand channel for what was a glorious chance for the former Sheffield United man. He fired a venomous right-footed drive on target and forced a great save from Murphy.
QPR drove forward in search of doubling their advantage and attentions switched to the other flank with Taarabt linking up nicely alongside Hogan Ephraim. The latter fired an effort disappointingly wide after some neat interplay between the pair.
With the visitors continuing to struggle in their attempts to sew the game up, Scunthorpe were never truly going to be out of the fixture with former Barnsley man Paul Hayes giving QPR a timely reminder by forcing Radek Cerny into a smart, low save.
A chance that epitomised Rangers recent wasteful form infront of goal was in evidence soon later as loanee Simpson spurned a glorious opportunity to double Rangers` lead. Excellent work from Ramage and Routledge down the right saw the Newcastle United defender carve out a cross for Arsenal loanee.
Simpson made his angle at the near post and rose to head disappointingly wide of the right-hand upright. It was a glorious opportunity for the debutante who in fairness is famed for his footwork and not his aerial prowess.
As against Bristol City nearly a fortnight ago Rangers discovered how much an injury can change the course of a fixture. Gary Hooper and Matthew Connolly went up for an aerial challenge with the Scunthorpe front-man seemingly coming off worse of the two.
Connolly had to be treated for a cut on his forehead while Hooper looked destined to be replaced by Jonathan Forte as he prepared to take to the field. In resilient fashion however Hooper rose to his feet from the bench and resumed playing – the break in play somewhat stifling QPR`s creative flow.
Hooper and Hayes were giving the Rangers defensive duo a run for their money constantly backing-in and drawing fouls from their counterparts. It was nearly all level moments before half time with dangerman Martyn Woolford working his magic down the left.
Cutting inside from the flank the former York City man fired an effort across the face of goal and only Matthew Sparrow will know how he didn`t convert the chance. An air shot inside the six-yard box was all he could muster as the ball evaded him and the Rangers defence with the ball deflected for a corner.
A couple of late chances ensued for QPR as they showed signs of turning the tide back in their favour going into the break. The first opportunity was when midfielder Faurlín fired a fizzing left footed drive towards the target, but in truth it was always veering away from Murphy`s left hand upright.
More useful play this time from Mikele Leigertwood down the right created some space for a pass to Jay Simpson. Some excellent strength from the Arsenal loanee helped him side-step his marker, but he rather snatched at his effort steering it wide of the right-hand post.
After four minutes of injury time the referee drew the half to a close, in what was by and large a positive period for QPR. The majority of support showed their appreciation for the side as they knew this was a difficult place to come and get a result.
Half Time: Scunthorpe United 0-1 Queens Park Rangers
Scunthorpe came out the stronger after the second period in a bid to redress the balance infront of their home support. Buoyed by a rejuvenated home support in the terrace they began to carve out opportunities and cause Rangers some problems.
The Iron called upon the creative guile of Hooper upfront supported well by his partner Hayes and Woolford on the flank to create most of their opportunities, although clear cut chances were few and far between.
Rangers kept Hooper and Hayes at bay with an excellent battling display, most notably from Fitz Hall and Matthew Connolly. QPR were being pushed back with opportunities at a minimum with Mikele Leigertwood particularly guilty of misplaced passing and deep midfield play.
Just like at Plymouth some players looked contented with a one goal lead and the hosts sensed this with Nigel Adkins` side throwing caution to the wind in their attacking play while seeing a lot of possession in the middle of the park.
In a bid to freshen up his attacking options Jim Magilton threw on Rowan Vine in place of Adel Taarabt and it had an immediate impact with Vine looking lively from the off. Rangers won a corner on the left-hand side moments after and Ephraim stepped up to take it.
The majority of QPR`s set piece taking in recent weeks has been wasteful but this time the ball dropped in a testing area and with the Iron failing to clear their lines Fitz Hall fired a rasping right-footed drive which was well-saved by Murphy.
Minutes later it was Mikele Leigertwood`s turn after more comical defending saw a clearance hit Wayne Routledge`s back-side. Leigertwood turned his attention to the loose ball before attempting a speculative lob that dropped wide of the Murphy`s upright.
Garry Thompson and Grant McCann were brought on for the hosts with a surprising reaction from some of the home crowd to the withdrawal of Michael O`Connor – there were mumblings of discontent in the home crowd following the substitution of the former Crewe man.
Thompson attempted to catch out the QPR keeper Cerny with a powerful right footed drive from the right-hand by-line, but the Czech keeper was more than equal do it – not only saving the strike but plucking it out of the air at point-blank range.
Scunthorpe were asserting the impetus on the fixture with Rangers seemingly intent to sick back and protect a lead, soaking up the pressure before breaking away. Their lesson against Plymouth Argyle and Nottingham Forest seemingly not transmitting to a section of the playing staff as they began to sit deeper.
There was a spark of creativity on the counter-attack from Rangers when substitute Heidar Helguson, who was introduced to a tepid reception, held up the ball expertly before supplying Rowan Vine with a guilt-edge chance.
Vine struck the ball right footed, powerfully over the right hand upright. The forward somehow conspired to spurn the clear cut opportunity and the away support vocalised their frustration at the former Birmingham City forward.
Helguson once again was in outstanding form to hold the ball up and lay an excellent through ball in for Wayne Routledge. The winger took a heavy touch and surged towards the target. Murphy came out and Routledge ended up on the floor.
The crowd gasped as the referee put his whistle to his mouth, but in light of the current climate of simulation in football, Mr Salisbury was quick to get over to the situation and hand Routledge a yellow card for a dive.
If that decision didn`t rile Magilton then surely a free kick on the edge of the Rangers penalty area would have had his blood boiling with the official fully 50-yards away from the incident after allowing Scunthorpe a quick free kick.
Magilton`s heated discussions with the fourth official and the linesman prompted Mr Salisbury to send him to the stand for the final few moments of the fixture. It was then that Scunthorpe threw caution to the wind in a bid to get their first win in three league games.
Gary Hooper`s poachers effort in a staggering five minutes of injury time was as close as they came when a deep free kick saw him poke a boot out and see the ball drift narrowly wide of the left-hand upright.
Rangers supporters held their breath in the away end before that much-coveted moment came along as Mr Salisbury`s shrill beep on the whistle signalled their first maximum of the current campaign. Scunthorpe battled hard in vain but QPR can now build on a victory following a nervy display.
Final Whistle: Scunthorpe United 0-1 Queens Park Rangers
Following the international break Queens Park Rangers will host Peterborough United at Loftus Road while Scunthorpe United face the daunting away trip to Crystal Palace in light of their recent poor away record.
Joe Murphy, Marcus Williams, Sam Togwell (Grant McCann 61), Cliff Byrne, Matthew Sparrow (Garry Thompson 70), Paul Hayes, Gary Hooper, David Mirfin, Martyn Woolford, Michael O`Connor (Josh Wright 61), Jordan Spence.
Queens Park Rangers
Radek Cerny, Peter Ramage, Matthew Connolly, Fitz Hall, Gary Borrowdale, Wayne Routledge, Mikele Leigertwood, Alejandro Faurlín (Gavin Mahon 81), Hogan Ephraim, Adel Taarabt (Rowan Vine 56), Jay Simpson (Heidar Helguson 70).
Radek Cerny – 7/10
Radek had one of his best performances of the season in this encounter as his defence aided him to a clean sheet at Glanford Park.
He came out for crosses, catching or punching where appropriate and looked relatively comfortable fielding shots from distance in both the first and second half. His top saves came in the second half tipping an effort wide and plucking Thompson`s shot from thin air.
Peter Ramage – 6/10
Ramage in truth didn’t do a great deal wrong, making sure he didn’t commit unecessarily to a tackle and give Woolford an easy route through to goal.
He was occasionaly found wanting for pace in behind and his distribution at times was a little suspect, but nevertheless he defended adequately and was an integral cog in the Rangers rearguard.
Fitz Hall – 7/10
Fitz started the game looking slightly worse for wear after being sick on the half-way line. He bounced back to be a crucial part of QPR’s defence today, snuffing out all the attacks from a talented front-line.
His aerial ability proved essential in stopping Hayes and Hooper despite their attempts to bounce off him and win free-kicks. He now has a week’s rest to concentrate on recovering from his rib complaint.
Matthew Connolly – 8/10
Connolly bounced back from what was a poor midweek display with an exhibition of astute, resolute defending. His tackling and heading was a particular delight as he nullified the threat of Hayes and Hooper.
The cut to his head was bandaged up and he began to resemble Terry Butcher more and more as the game grew on with a tough uncomprimising style at the heart of defence.
Gary Borrowdale – 6/10
For some reason Gary came in for some scathing criticism from someone a few seats from me, when in truth he had a solid game considering there was very little support from other players.
Gary was left unprotected as Hogan Ephraim’s tracking back seemed suspect at times, but nevertheless dealt adequately with both Sparrow and Spence as they bombed forward down the right.
Wayne Routledge – 8/10
The Rangers right winger was a little quieter than normal but nevertheless his impact cannot be understated, as he was the catalyst and the spark for most of the R’s creativity.
The excellent trickery and quick feet saw him skip past Marcus Williams on numerous occasions – notably in the first half – before delivering some testing crosses for Scunthorpe to defend.
Mikele Leigertwood – 6/10
Ledge is showing glimpses of recapturing his form but is nevertheless dogged by isolated errors that threaten to spell his way out of the side.
While the former Palace man shows great strength to win the ball and keep possession his distribution has become very suspect in recent times, none more so than today. If he and Faurlín were to communicate better today and in the future it could become an effective partnership.
Alejandro Damián Faurlín – 8/10
His first half showing was up there as one of the best performances this season as he ran the show in the centre of the park.
As his influenced waned in the second period, so did Rangers grip on the game. When he works his way to full fitness he could be a forced to be reckoned with in the Championship. His aerial ability was a particular delight today as well.
Hogan Ephraim – 7/10
Ephraim looked useful in spells down the left-flank but was perhaps a little sporadic on the day to have any consistent, significant impact.
His trickery and running was a useful tool in Rangers’ attacking line, but was too reliant to come inside on occasions and this was read to a tee by ‘Man of the Match’ Jordan Spence.
Adel Taarabt – 8/10
A very well taken goal from Adel who showed in a brief glimpse his capabilities. He burst through the back-line and delivered an early, telling finish that ultimately settling the game.
His driving runs from midfield early on helped establish a link between them and the solitary striker, Jay Simpson and despite dipping in the second half it was a useful display from the Moroccan.
Jay Simpson – 7/10
Jay did very well on his debut for Rangers today, considering he hasn’t had long to meet his players and get used to the system. He was deployed as a lone striker with London rival Taarabt foraging in behind.
He snatched at a first half effort created by himself, but he showed good strength throughout and was keen to receive the ball over the top and in the chanells. He could prove to be a shrewd bit of business if he shows a little improvement in front of goal.
SUB: Rowan Vine – 5/10
Replaced Adel Taarabt, 56
It’s getting painful watching someone as good as Rowan Vine undoubtedly was continue to waste chances in front of goal and play his way out of the Rangers set-up.
The spirit, desire and passion for the cause were still in evidence but that killer instict he formerly showed has long-since departed as he missed a sitter laid on by Helguson in the second half. At times it was like Bambii on ice as Vine slipped and tripped allover the place.
SUB: Heidar Helguson – 7/10
Replaced Jay Simpson, 70
Heidar looked better coming from the bench today than starting on Saturday. Much in the same was as he did against Bristol City, he looked far livlier in his cameo than from the start.
He laid on two key chances with only a couple of touches, and some better finishing from his colleagues would have put the game out of sight. A very useful 20 minutes from the Icelandic international.
Replaced Alejandro Damián Faurlín, 81
Mahon was just what the Doctor ordered in the latter stages of this game as we finally see the usefulness of the Mahon/Leigertwood partnership – in defending a lead and seeing out a game.
The veteran midfielder broke up a number of attacks and did what Leigertwood couldn’t at times, hold on to the ball and distribute sensibly.
Jim Magilton: 7/10 – The performance was once again good in isolatated spells, most notably for the majority of the first half but it still wasn’t quite the consistent finished article that Jim desired.
While Rangers scored, won a difficult away match and kept a clean sheet there is still some polishing to do in front of goal in finishing off teams and games.
Nigel Adkins: 5/10 – He will be disappointed his side have taken nothing from the fixture despite seeing a lot of the ball.
Gary Hooper and Paul Hayes couldn’t get beyond a resolute defence, and for a side that was built on their goals last season, this will come as a great disappointment for Adkins as he faces another fight to keep Scunthorpe in the division.
Mr G Salisbury: 5/10 – The referee was rather disappointing today with some frankly baffling decisions in spells. But he was strong in face of several penalty appeals from Scunthorpe, none of which had me entirely worried – but you never know!
He probably got QPR’s appeal for a penalty correct as well, I didn’t get the best view of the incident like most QPR fans, as it was on the other side of our view. It looked like Routledge threw himself over the dive of the keeper – but that didn’t stop Magilton from losing his rag!
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