JAMIE Mackie’s last minute strike ensured more late heartbreak for Queens Park Rangers at Home Park.
The R`s have been victims of last minute efforts several times against Plymouth Argyle and today they were punished by a poachers effort from Mackie four minutes into injury time.
Things looked bright for Rangers as a thoroughly dominant first half display yielded a well taken goal from returning striker Heidar Helguson.
It wasn`t to be however as wave after wave of late attacks from the hosts gave them the impetus to claim a point in injury time.
Swings and roundabouts for QPR in the Championship who claimed a late equaliser at home to Blackpool last week – but nevertheless this would have hurt Rangers boss Jim Magilton, whose tactical gamble ultimately didn`t pay off.
There were wholesale changes from the side that stormed the game against Exeter City on Tuesday night. International duo Heidar Helguson and Adel Taarabt returned from their respective countries to take their place in a 4-4-1-1 formation.
Gavin Mahon returned to the heart of midfield to link up with Mikele Leigertwood, while Fitz Hall displaced Damion Stewart to partner Kaspars Gorkss at the heart of defence. Peter Ramage also returned to his right back berth ahead of Matthew Connolly.
Radek Cerny, Gary Borrowdale and Wayne Routledge all kept their places in the eleven as Rangers rotated from a positive result during the week, with new addition from Manchester United, Tom Heaton also on the bench.
Plymouth were able to call on Krisztian Timar after he passed a late fitness test for the Pilgrims, he was joined by the graft of Carl Fletcher in the middle and the aerial prowess of Rory Fallon upfront with young loanee Cillian Sheridan starting on the bench.
Kick Off: Plymouth Argyle v Queens Park Rangers
Rangers started the brighter of the two sides with Adel Taarabt working his way into the game in a free-role behind the striker, he and former Pilgrim Akos Buzsaky were linking up well down the left in their attempts to supply for lone striker Heidar Helguson.
Argyle had the fighting spirit of former Crystal Palace midfielder Carl Fletcher stamping his mark on the game with a succession of tough challenges on the lively Taarabt earning the R`s several set pieces.
It was the hosts who had the best opportunity in the early stages when a cross from Alan Judge found its way to Rory Fallon on the far post. His well directed header found the bottom right-hand corner but in truth he was standing in a clear offside position and was correctly flagged.
Down the other end and Rangers suffered similar disappointment when Taarabt`s step over found Heidar Helguson. The Icelandic international thrashed the effort towards goal but was also correctly adjudged as offside.
It was nearly a sensational two goals in two games for Peter Ramage with the former Newcastle United man heading inches over the bar from a Wayne Routledge corner from the right.
Taarabt was receiving some rough treatment, being chopped down three times by some overzealous challenges from the Argyle midfield – Mr East kept his cards in his pocket when other referees would have been tempted to clamp down with some cautions.
One of these free-kicks led to an opportunity for Akos Buzsaky to score against his former club. The Hungarian international fired an excellent drive from 25 yards which Larrieu was forced to tip round the post.
Rangers were beginning to assert their advantage with a flurry of corners from Buzsaky and Routledge peppering the Plymouth rearguard, but in truth none of them were truly testing with Buzsaky firing too long and Routledge failing to beat his first man.
Routledge himself was looking to take the form from Tuesday into the clash and a snap shot from 35-yards epitomised his confidence as it flew just wide of Larrieu`s right hand upright.
Another sloppy free-kick was conceded moments later with Buzsaky once again assessing his options from distance. This time he failed to test the keeper firing inches over Larrieu`s head with a more powerful effort.
Buzsaky himself had received a good ovation from the Plymouth fans, returning to Home Park for the second time as a QPR player. His performance was going a long way to showing the Argyle supporters what they were missing as he ran rule over David McNamee at full back.
Attentions turned to the other flank moments later when Routledge forced Larrieu into a smart stop with a powerful drive from distance which dipped with great venom infront of the French stopper.
Plymouth to their credit were driving forward in search of the opener with Judge in particular causing problems down the flank. Fallon was being marshalled well by the duo of Gorkss and Hall, but was winning a good portion of balls in the air.
The R`s were doing very well to keep the hosts to a minimum of chances with Argyle unable to penetrate a stubborn QPR defence, with no clear-cut chances to speak of other than the goal ruled out for offside.
Argyle were struggling to contain the lively Taarabt and moments before half time it was he who helped the R`s take the advantage. The Tottenham Hotspur loanee tricked his way past a couple of challenges before firing a venomous shot goal-bound.
It took a wicked deflection from the full-back McNamee before working its way into the path of Heidar Helguson, and the Icelandic forward showed the poachers instinct that has eluded him in recent times to stoop and head home close range.
GOAL: Plymouth Argyle 0-1 Queens Park Rangers
QPR had their just rewards for an excellent opening period, one which eclipsed the mediocrity at Exeter City`s St James Park on Tuesday night. The R`s were creating chances and playing good football as they went into the break a goal to the good.
Plymouth weren`t ever really out of the fixture and with a little more luck could have found themselves a goal to the good, with a great deal of pressure on the QPR defence but no cutting edge to scythe open the visiting defence.
Half Time: Plymouth Argyle 0-1 Queens Park Rangers
Paul Sturrock was evidently displeased with his side going into the break a goal down, and the sides inability to break down a solid partnership in Gorkss and Hall. He decided to bring off Steven MacLean with debutante Cillian Sheridan coming from the bench.
This also prompted a formation shift for Sturrock`s men with Judge joining Sheridan and Fallon in attack as the Pilgrims searched for that equalising goal.
Adel Taarabt traded places with Akos Buzsaky on the left wing and it was the Moroccan`s effort that had the R`s fans on their feet moments later.
A move broke down on the edge of the area and the ball fell to Taarabt, he bent a right-footed effort inches wide of the left-hand upright, shaving the post and rippling the side-netting with Larrieu rooted to his mark.
It was an excellent effort from the young loanee, and it sparked the hosts into life, many of which thought that the ball had hit the back of the net.
Cillian Sheridan was unfortunate to see his glanced header from a set piece headed off the line by the former Pilgrim Buzsaky. The former Celtic man was proving lively in his early showing and offering Argyle more than the outgoing MacLean.
It was time for QPR fans to hold their breath with a powerful effort from the aforementioned Sheridan somehow missing the target from the left hand side. The ball beat Cerny all ends up and thankfully drifted away from the right hand upright and into the stand.
The Magilton made a change which could arguably be described as a turning point. Striker Heidar Helguson had proved a tough customer in the air for Timar, but made way for Patrick Agyemang who offers a little more on the ground.
It was at the other end that the action gripped the crowd with Argyle adamant they had a penalty shout when Rory Fallon`s header was deflected wide, but Mr East was reluctant to grant the hosts their wish and instead gave a corner.
Rangers made a couple of changes in quick succession with Hogan Ephraim and Rowan Vine taking to the field in place of Akos Buzsaky and Adel Taarabt, but Rangers continued to search for Agyemang in the air on the break.
The former Preston North End man was dominated by Timar in the air as Rangers seemingly could not hold on to the ball in face of persistent attacks from Plymouth.
The two recent substitutes linked up effectively to produce a chance for Vine, whose half-chance was poked towards the near post from the left, but ably blocked by the Hungarian Timar with Rangers once again struggling to make an impact from the corner.
A moment that had R`s fans gasping their breath was when Vine laid on the ball for Wayne Routledge on the volley. The in-form winger waited for the lofted ball and threw his right boot at it – unfortunately he sliced the ball well wide of Larrieu`s left hand upright.
Only the excellent tackling exploits of Fitz Hall prevented Radek Cerny from being tested, denying the Plymouth strikers twice in close succession with excellent tackles.
Inevitably Plymouth were pushing forward in search of a late equaliser and this provided the R`s with ample opportunity to get in behind. One such chance fell to Rowan Vine with the former Portsmouth man racing away from Timar before producing a good from Larrieu low to his left.
A big chance in the course of the fixture and Larrieu`s heroics kept the game alive for the hosts. It proved to be a vital save as Argyle embarked on an assault on the Rangers goal, throwing caution to the wind in the five minutes extra added on.
A plethora of corners peppered the Rangers penalty area with Radek Cerny casting a desperate figure between the sticks as he attempted to claw efforts away from the visitors` goalmouth.
Hogan Ephraim somehow denied the Pilgrims on the goaline, with the hosts throwing their bodies at the ball in the later stages in search of a crucial point.
Eventually and somewhat inevitably it came deep into stoppage time with Argyle piling men forward for the set-piece and after yet more goalmouth action Jamie Mackie was on hand to poke the ball home and send the home supporters into raptures.
GOAL: Plymouth Argyle 1-1 Queens Park Rangers
The R`s cruelly denied once again at Home Park with a disappointing second half culminating in home joy, as the heavily populated were forced to contemplate another two points dropped in the Championship.
Last minute joy against Blackpool was turned to despair at Home Park today with the noisy travelling army forced to be content with a point despite the R`s dominating large spells of the first period.
Final Whistle: Plymouth Argyle 1-1 Queens Park Rangers
Romain Larrieu, Jim Paterson (Karl Duguid 86), Carl Fletcher, Krisztian Timar, Jamie Mackie, Steven MacLean (Cillian Sheridan 46), Rory Fallon, David McNamee, Gary Sawyer, Marcel Seip, Alan Judge (Noone 82).
Queens Park Rangers
Radek Cerny, Peter Ramage, Fitz Hall, Kaspars Gorkss, Gary Borrowdale, Wayne Routledge, Gavin Mahon, Mikele Leigertwood, Akos Buzsaky (Hogan Ephraim 73), Adel Taarabt (Rowan Vine 77), Heidar Helguson (Patrick Agyemang 60).
Radek Cerny – 6/10
Did most of what he had to do with relative ease but when the pressure was on, he was found wanting at the heart of the area. He could have relieved a lot of the late pressure by catching the ball and holding on to it – but his decisions to punch weakly have to be called into question.
In truth he didn`t have a great deal to do, but when he was called upon to step up in the later stages he didn`t have the strength to take the ball in a crowded area and ultimately it led to further pressure and ultimately a goal.
Peter Ramage – 7/10
Was competent in his defensive duties stopping the majority of attacks that Argyle pursued down the left flank. There was some talented delivery on that side and Ramage did well to snuff out the danger at the source.
He was useful in the air and helped sweep up any issues when Fallon won the ball in the air against either Gorkss or Hall. He didn`t get forward as much as he`d have liked, but offered Routledge an outlet on occasions.
Kaspars Gorkss – 8/10
Gorkss made one isolated error in the first half when he slipped allowing Mackie a chance, but luckily Cerny was hot off his line to stop the attack. After that I couldn`t fault the Latvian international who performed well against a tough striker in Fallon.
He competed well in the air against the former Barnsley and Swansea striker and won many tackles on the floor before distributing sensibly, whether short to his defenders and midfielder or long towards the pacey running of Routledge.
Fitz Hall – 7/10
Hall was the right choice at the back today and it appeared to be vindicated for the majority of the game as he competed excellently in the air and drove forward with his typical style from the defence.
He had a few worrying moments at the heart of the defence but Gorkss was always on hand to cover for him and clear the ball away. He and Damion Stewart will continue to compete for that role alongside Gorkss and the majority of his display here will stand him in good stead.
Gary Borrowdale – 7/10
The defender didn`t do a great deal wrong as in truth he didn`t have a great deal to do. Most of Argyle`s attack was focused down the other flank towards Peter Ramage, but nevertheless he performed his duties well.
He went about his task with his usual cool and calm nature snuffing out attacks before passing to ball players to go at the opposition defence. A decent display and solid as ever.
Wayne Routledge – 8/10
Routledge continued his positive display from midweek on the right flank as he tormented the opposition rearguard with his display of trickery and skill..
The former Aston Villa man was pacey and purposeful in attacking the likes of Seip and Paterson and had a couple of efforts go narrowly wide of the target in either half. A good display that could have been rounded off with a goal.
Gavin Mahon – 7/10
The midfielder cast a commanding figure in the centre of the park to break up several Argyle attacks, and his passing by and large was Ok.
There were a few disappointing passes from his boot, and I thought it was quite clear that he and Leigertwood weren’t on the same wavelength – not in the same way as the best central midfield partnership Mahon and Rowlands.
Mikele Leigertwood – 6/10
His distribution was rather poor today and has been for a long period of time. He had a lot of strength which he used to his advantage but question marks had to be raised of his distribution.
While he is one of Rangers more talented midfielders he has to realise his potential in the middle of the park or he will be passed up for a player who plays more effectively as a member of the team.
Akos Buzsaky – 7/10
Had a decent return to his former club and had a few decent efforts on goal to keep Larrieu guessing between the sticks.
Some excellent drives from set-pieces ensured that Rangers were dangerous from distance, and linked up well with Adel Taarabt at times in a formation that was interchangeable.
Adel Taarabt – 7/10
The Tottenham loanee once again showed both sides of his game on the day, as he helped set up a goal but did hold on to the ball too much at times, unable to pick the desired pass to finish Plymouth off.
He looked rather bright throughout the game and looked to be the difference between the two sides for the majority of the encounter with displays of trickery and skill helping to unlock a stubborn Plymouth defence.
Heidar Helguson – 7/10
A good return to form for Heidar Helguson as he put away his one and only opportunity with aplomb. Some supporters have questioned Helguson’s purpose on the field, but in one chance he showed his credentials to the R’s fans.
The striking instinct that he has never lacked during his time was matched with the desired finish at long last. Hopefully now he will get a good run in the team to build upon a good performane and a well-taken goal.
SUB: Patrick Agyemang – 6/10
Agyemang replaced Helguson on the hour mark, something which should have prompted better play on the floor and attacking over the top.
Unfortunately for Pat he didn’t manage to get himself into the game, with a succession of balls aimed at his weak spot, his head, something which Timar gobbled up with glee.
SUB: Hogan Ephraim – 6/10
Ephraim took the place of Akos Buzsaky and played wide left with Taarabt pushing into the middle. He made some impressive running down the left but once again couldn’t provide that killer instinct.
His skilfull running created opportunities for fellow substitute Rowan Vine but that second goal eluded Rangers and Ephraim on the day.
Vine looked lively coming from the bench but once again the goals are eluding the former Portsmouth man. He had two excellent chances and spurned them both.
The first he stabbed towards the target and it was blocked from close range, but the second should have sewn the game up when put through one-on-one with keeper Larrieu.
Jim Magilton: 6/10 – While Rangers played rather well on the day, the decision to withdrawn a target man in Heidar Helguson for someone who is weak in the air, Patrick Agyemang and continue to play it into his head must come into question.
That is not to sound spoilt in any fashion, because Rangers played well today and ran the majority of the first half, and he will be undoubtedly disappointed with the manner of the display in the second half.
Paul Sturrock: 7/10 – As ever the pest that is Plymouth wouldn’t be killed off as once again fought to claim a point in the dieing stages.
Sturrock hasn’t been blessed with lots of money or attacking talent but the sheer graft and determination of his side to claim the point will have pleased him immensely. However disappointed QPR are, Sturrock will be pleased.
Mr R East: 7/10 – In light of some unbelievable decisions made in football today some clarity is required in the assesment of this official.
Mr East had a relatively good game and didn’t dish out the bookings like Mr D’Urso last week, when in truth there aren’t many differences in the two games in terms of tackles.
An example of good refereeing today, and thankfully he’s not a Mr Shoebridge who has given something quite incredible today!
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