LAST gasp heartbreak cost Rangers dear once again. This time it was striker Andrew Keogh, who had been relatively quiet and ineffective throughout the 90, who popped up in the 96th minute to punish the R`s.
Three times Rangers were pegged back whilst infront, with Akos Buzsaky giving the R`s the lead, only for Keogh to equalise late in the first half. Rangers went back infront from a Dexter Blackstock spot-kick, only for Wolves to equalise from the spot at the other end through Sylvan Ebanks Blake. Rangers thought they`d won courtesy of Mikele Leigertwood`s goal; but at the death Wolves sneaked a point.
A performance that left both sides thoroughly disappointed at a poor display of officiating, firstly for giving two innocuous spot-kicks, but also adding on a ludicrous five minutes injury time, for which Wolves scored deep in the sixth; A truly disappointing display.
Rangers named an unchanged line-up from the 3-1 home victory over Scunthorpe United. There were changes to the bench however, with Damion Stewart and Kieran Lee missing out, with De Canio instead opting for Zesh Rehman and player/coach Gareth Ainsworth.
Wolves made a couple of changes following their Tuesday night 2-1 home victory over the same opposition. Darren Potter and Darren Ward, made way as Rob Edwards and Matthew Jarvis came back into the starting line-up. Jody Craddock also came back into the sixteen as Wolves looked for three much needed points in their push for the playoffs.
KICK OFF: WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS v QUEENS PARK RANGERS
The ground announcer set the tone before the start of the game stating that if Wolves were to win and results go their way, they would be in a playoff place come the end of the afternoon. These words seemed to inspire Mick McCarthy`s men in the early stages of the encounter.
Wolves pressed their advantage early on when they used Sylvan Ebanks-Blake`s place and power as a useful asset, the aforementioned ex-Plymouth and Manchester United striker got in behind Matthew Connolly and squared the ball to Andrew Keogh. The striker was about to pull the trigger into an empty net before stalwart defender Fitz Hall made a goalsaving challenge to keep the scores goalless.
The team in gold and black continued to assert their advantage on the game, with Michael Gray testing Lee Camp from distance, the keeper managed to push the chance away in difficult conditions at Molineux. Ebanks-Blake was at it again moments later when his cross from the right gave Keogh another opportunity to open the scoring, but the forward tentatively headed wide from close range.
Wolves were then forced into a change, returning defender Rob Edwards was scarcely able to limp off the pitch and was replaced by Jody Craddock, a man who pre-match was stated as being unfit following injury. Rangers then sprung into life and started to assert some impetus on proceedings.
Patrick Agyemang powered his way into the box and took control of the bouncing ball on the right hand side of the area. The striker systematically worked himself into a shooting position, firing the ball narrowly wide of the left-hand upright; a real let off for the Wolves defenders.
Martin Rowlands was starting to control the midfield, he won the ball on a number of occasions and distributed well. In attack Rowan Vine was causing problems down the left causing a lot of pressure, as was Akos Buzsaky on the other flank, causing a lot of torment to the slow and cumbersome George Elokobi. It was The Magical Magyar who then put Wolves to the sword by scoring a scintillating opener.
Some more trickery down the left from Rowan Vine created some space in the middle, Vine then squared the ball on the edge of the area to Akos Buzsaky, the Hungarian took a touch before firing a low unstoppable drive past Wayne Hennessey into the bottom left hand corner. A trademark strike from Buzsaky for his 10th goal of the season.
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 0-1 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Then a disappointing moment for the R`s, Martin Rowlands who had been the engine room of the Rangers line-up alongside Mikele Leigertwood, was forced to leave the field with a neck injury. He was replaced by Gavin Mahon for his third substitute appearance in succession. The withdrawal of Rowlands spurned Wolverhampton on, with the R`s having to deal with the vast majority of pressure, and then counter-attacking accordingly.
A near calamitous moment occurred amongst the Rangers backline, Lee Camp had seemingly collected a rogue cross from the right, when he and Fitz Hall clattered into each other creating a chance for Matthew Jarvis, but the winger placed his far post effort into the side netting in a real let off for Rangers.
With Wolves fans seemingly banging their head against a brick wall in the search for a goal, they finally got their wish when the R`s failed to heed the previous warnings. The otherwise ineffective Andrew Keogh was the man to draw the Gold and Black`s level. Michael Gray had been switched over to the right, and when he cut inside and fired a left-footed cross, Keogh was on hand to merely glance the header into the bottom right hand corner past Camp, a deserved leveller for Wolves having been on top for the majority.
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 1-1 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
With that action the referee drew the first half to a close, the sun, making visibility difficult for fans and players alike gave way for colder, more overcast conditions, before giving way to blizzards. A game of all seasons played out in bizarre conditions at Molineux.
Meanwhile, Police in the concourse opted to victimise and single out a few Rangers fans for treatment, allegedly citing their persistent standing up as reason for their forceful ejection from the ground, it made for a busy concourse, lined with police officers and stewards.
HALF TIME: WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 1-1 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Rangers started the second half full of exuberance and enthusiasm and got a huge stroke of luck when they were given an early penalty. Akos Buzsaky`s in swinging free-kick from the right flank skipped up off the turf and hit the hand of defender Neil Collins. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, to the surprise of many Rangers fans and players, and to the dismay of the Wolverhampton faithful.
Dexter Blackstock immediately demanded the possession of the ball as he strode from the halfway line to the spot without losing grasp. The striker, who had only previously scored two goals this term, stepped up confidently before placing the ball into the bottom right hand corner sending Hennessey the wrong way, for his third goal of the season, to send the Rangers fans into fits of ecstasy.
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 1-2 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Blackstock evidently buoyed by goalscoring exploits went in search for a second, and nearly got it in style. He picked up on a pass from Patrick Agyemang before teeing himself up and unleashing a left-footed dipping volley inches over the bar, as his confidence appeared to be growing.
Wolves were obviously frustrated at Rangers attacking stance, and started to create some chances of their own in the second period. Andy Keogh raced clear of the Rangers defence and appeared to be in a one on one scenario with Camp, however Hall and Connolly got themselves back to marshal him away from goal expertly with the latter dispossessing the ex-Scunthorpe striker and clearing to safety.
Rangers were forced into a change when Matthew Connolly was forced to limp off with injury and was replaced by the much maligned Zesh Rehman, this prompted Mick McCarthy into a tactical shift as Wolves looked to exploit Rangers defensive shortcomings.
Michael Gray was henceforth withdrawn to the dismay of the Wolves fans, evidently not happy at the withdrawal. The introduction of Freddie Eastwood however lifted their spirits, the lesser-seen striker making his 17 appearance from the bench this season. After scoring 4 in his first 3 Wolves appearances the striker has failed to score since.
Seyi Olofinjana then worried Lee Camp with a 62nd minute effort, Camp spilled the ball infront of the onrushing Ebanks-Blake before recovering to claw the ball away from the strikers feet. The slick surface proving a formidable opposition as the snow and rain continued, making it difficult playing conditions.
Referee Oliver then made another bold decision by handing Wolverhampton Wanderers a penalty. Rangers defender Michael Mancienne let Ebanks-Blake get the wrong side of him and when their heels collided, the referee took a long time after blowing his whistle to decide the infringement had taken place crucially inside the area, replays may dictate this decision may have been harsh. The already booked Michael Mancienne escaped the incident without a second yellow, which mystified the Wolves fans behind the goal who were at this point baying for blood.
They were appeased soon after the thorn in the Rangers backline, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, converted the spot kick with aplomb in a carbon copy to Blackstock`s spot kick, sending Camp the wrong way placing the ball into the bottom right hand corner.
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 2-2 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Matthew Jarvis was becoming a prominent figurehead in the Wolves attack, playing a part in several key chances. First he laid the ball back for Karl Henry, whose rasping effort was magnificently saved by the Rangers stopper.
Rangers tried to counteract the Wolves threat by throwing on player/coach Gareth Ainsworth in favour to Akos Buzsaky to provide better defensive cover for Mancienne, whose day was hanging by a thread.
Jarvis was once again in the thick of the action in the 77th minute, when he cut inside from the right flank before sending a curling effort goal bound. Camp plucked the ball away at the far post into the onrushing Olofinjana, whose reactions failed him as the ball bounced off him and wide of the target.
After soaking up a lot of pressure in the latter stages, sensationally Rangers were back infront for the third time in the encounter. Gareth Ainsworth`s right footed cross from the right flank was once again not dealt with by the Wolverhampton rearguard and the ball fell to Mikele Leigertwood on the edge of the area. The defensive midfielder took a touch before drilling a right-footed effort on the rise into the bottom left hand corner to send the Rangers travelling army of over 1,500 into raptures.
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 2-3 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
In a last throw of the dice Mick McCarthy withdrew full back Kevin Foley in favour of towering striker Kevin Kyle. If you thought the ball was going long before, what followed was traditional route one.
Wolves were getting desperate late on with both sets of supporters on the edge of their seats as the referee signalled a hugely controversial five minutes of injury time, which sent the Rangers fans berserk, and Wolves fans dreaming of a late reprieve.
In the sixth minute of five, Wolves pumped the ball forward for their final attack of the game, the ball worked its way out to the right flank, and as the ball was delivered panic ensued in the rangers backline with some plucky defending keeping the ball out. The ball was sensationally cleared off the line before Henry managed to dig the ball out to Andy Keogh on the right hand side of the six-yard box. The striker come winger, placed his finish into the bottom left hand corner in off the post, to send three sides of the ground into raptures, and Rangers fans dismayed at defensive shortcomings and refereeing ineptitude`s.
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 3-3 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Very shortly after kick off, now eight minutes into the five, the referee blew his whistle and brought to an end a thoroughly entertaining game for the neutral, but a nail-biter for both sides, to an end. The Rangers players were applauded off the pitch for their efforts, with both sides looking physically drained in truly demanding conditions.
FULL TIME: WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS 3-3 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Lee Camp: 5/10
Some clumsy glovework on occasions in difficult conditions for the keeper. Saved well from Jarvis and Henry before palming the ball away and punching late on. Not a vintage performance from the goalkeeper, but doubtless will be between the sticks next week.
Michael Mancienne: 4/10
Given a difficult time from Jarvis down the left, and let Ebanks-Blake in far too often. Revieved a booking for misjudging the flight of the ball and bringing down his opponent to prevent a counter attack. Lucky not to be sent off, despite the fact the penalty was highly dubious.
Damien Delaney: 6/10
Did a good job of seeing alot of chances out in the first half, in the second half as Keogh began to come to prominence he wilted a touch, and the goal could perhaps have been defended better.
Matthew Connolly: 6/10
Left the field injured and his composure on the ball was badly missed at the back. Let the ball over his head on occassions but always recovered well. Hopefully not out for long, a really useful assett of late.
Fitz Hall: 7/10
Once again the rock of the Rangers backline. Had a few mix-ups with Camp but by and large performed well, winning alot of efforts in the air as expected over the likes of Ebanks-Blake, but dealt with a triky customer in Kyle well late on.
Akos Buzsaky: 7/10
An excellent strike by Akos for the first. Some neat passing in the middle of the park, switching the play from right to left excellently. Tormented the rotund figure of Elokobi on numerous occasions.
Rowan Vine: 7/10
Some mazy running down the left side, and really caused Foley alot of problems. In the first half he was cutting inside and causing untold woe to the Wolves defenders. Got an assist for the first goal from one of these runs.
Martin Rowlands: 6/10
Did very well in the period he had on the pitch. Such a pity to lose the midfield maestro so early in the game. Really looks in the best form of his career in this late stage of the season.
Mikele Leigertwood: 8/10
Once again, some good distribution on the counter attack and did well to dispossess the Wolves midfield on occasions. Cracking strike for his goal.
Dexter Blackstock: 7/10
Chased and harried alot more than usual. Looked interested once he scored his second half penalty, and an expert drive was narrowly over. Looked a bit cumbersome in the first period, but was alot better in the second.
Patrick Agyemang: 8/10
A really good hardworking display and he will be disappointed he didn’t get a goal for his exploits. Admittedly created only once clear cut chance for himself but really caused alot of problems for Collins and Craddock.
Gavin Mahon: 7/10
Replaced Martin Rowlands:
Didn’t look out of place once he came on, his strength and distribution is a real plus and he looked solid alongside Leigertwood.
Zesh Rehman: 4/10
Replaced Matthew Connolly:
Came on with Rangers 2-1 up, found himself wandering out of position, looking distinctly ponderous at times…Well you know the rest.
Replaced Akos Buzsaky:
Didn’t get alot of time, once Rangers scored became the right back as Rangers went to five at the back. The heartbeat of the club, really passionate going forward and defending.
Luigi De Canio: 6/10. Was enforced into two substitutions and used Ainsworth wisely at the end. Will no doubt be gutted his team failed to hold on, but fair play to Gigi for not bemoaning the referee.
Mick McCarthy: 6/10. Was happy with his sides performance, but it become utterly predictable at times. Brought on strikers at right times, and got his rewards late on for his trust in Eastwood.
I initially said that it’d be a draw, 1-1. I got the result right, but not the scoreline. I saw goals in the game, with two distinctly unfinished articles at the back, and plenty of attacking football. Didn’t have it down for that many goals however.
Clive Oliver: 3/10. Very poor officiating display. Every week you think it cannot get much worse, but in a nutshell you have Mr. Oliver. I shall not blame him for the goal, because the defending wasn’t up to scratch, however he had a great baring on the scoreline, and made himself the centre of attention with a number of poor decisions that infuriated both sets of fans. Very disappointing display.