LACKLUSTRE Queens Park Rangers leapfrogged Blackpool into the top half of the Championship after a 3-2 win at Loftus Road.
Rangers fairly cantered to a 3-0 lead, courtesy of first half strikes from Akos Buzsaky and Rowan Vine, this was added to early in the second period with Martin Rowlands getting on the scoresheet. From then on in Rangers flattered to deceive, letting the visitor`s back into the game.
The Tangerines threatened to overhaul their 3-goal deficit in the second period thanks to goals from substitute Ben Burgess and striker Stephen McPhee, as Rangers had a lacklustre half infront of the clubs 3 owners Bernie Ecclestone, Flavio Briatore and Lakshmi Mittal, as well as the King of Ghana and Real Madrid president Roman Calderon.
As a result of this Rangers climbed into the first half for the first time this season and in a long time!
Rangers made one change following the disappointing away defeat to Sheffield Wednesday up in Hillsborough. Damion Stewart made way for defender Fitz Hall who was returning from a groin injury, with the former being left out of the 16 altogether.
Blackpool made a couple of changes from the side that drew 2-2 at home to Southampton on Saturday. Michael Flynn and Andrew Morrell returned to the side at the expense of Faroe Island international Claus Jorgensen and loan striker Paul Dickov. Kiegan Parker and David Fox also returned to the squad for the trip to W12.
KICK OFF: QUEENS PARK RANGERS V BLACKPOOL
Both teams started the game somewhat cautiously in the opening stages, with the sides feeling each other out and looking to build some momentum. It was Rangers however who were causing the most problems with Damien Delaney getting forward to support Rowan Vine in attack, and the Agyemang-Blackstock partnership was proving a real handful early on.
Rangers got their rewards for the early momentum with a tenth minute goal from midfielder Akos Buzsaky. The Magical Magyar latched onto an inch perfect cross from Patrick Agyemang, to lift the ball over Paul Rachubka for the opening goal of the game. It was a real moment of magic from the Hungarian who barely broke stride chipping the ball in off the bar.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS 1-0 BLACKPOOL
The game then crept back into a somewhat tentative cycle once again, with both sets of midfield players searching for possession. Damien Delaney again making the running from full back; on a number of occasions reaching the opposition penalty area with his runs in a search for back to back goals.
Vine was offering little in support on the left flank, with the ball seemingly unable to stick to the former Birmingham striker, he persisted in losing possession in key attacking areas, with Martin Rowlands acting as midfield playmaker, feeding the balls out to the flank and starting to grab hold of the midfield battle.
Rangers endeavours were rewarded however when Matthew Connolly picked up a 50/50 challenge in the Blackpool half and Rowan Vine came surging through to take the ball. Vine`s marauding run took him to the left-hand side of the area where the striker`s instinct kicked in and he made no mistake. His left-footed shot was drilled low and hard past Paul Rachubka into the bottom left-hand corner.
Vine had made little impact on proceedings previously, but exploded into life in a moment of sheer quality.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS 2-0 BLACKPOOL
In a first half bereft of detail and substance it was Blackpool who had a lot of the ball in midfield areas without really producing the killer pass or instinct infront of goal that Paul Dickov perhaps would have given them.
Wes Hoolahan was causing Michael Mancienne and Akos Buzsaky a few problems down the left-hand side, with his clever running and passing led to a few corners for the Tangerines. Lee Camp and the Rangers rearguard dealt with the pressure with aplomb. The only significant chance for the Tangerines in the first period came when Steven McPhee broke into the right hand side of the area; his right-footed shot was expertly dealt with by Matthew Connolly blocking the striker`s path to goal.
The offside flag was also a large obstruction in the Tangerines path to goal with Andrew Morrell finding himself offside on numerous occasions as he looked to drop into space behind the Rangers defence.
An additional worrying moment for the R`s as Fitz Hall seemed to be struggling with his groin injury, crouching down on several occasions and the Rangers bench looked on with Zesh Rehman as the only option at centre-half on the bench.
Rangers ended the first half in nervous mood with Blackpool asserting some pressure in terms of possession with Hoolahan and Southern seeing a lot of the ball in the midfield area but unable to scythe open the Rangers back-line with that incisive, killer ball.
HALF TIME: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 2-0 BLACKPOOL
As Blackpool kicked off the second period, they did so with the intention of cutting the Rangers lead, and they went straight for the jugular. Gary Taylor-Fletcher capped off a well worked move with a shot straight into the midriff of Lee Camp, and it was from that very shot that Rangers got their third.
Camp`s throw-out was directed at Rowan Vine on the left flank, Vine ran at pace towards full back Shaun Barker and caused him untold misery. The ball was shown to the defender who made a hash of the clearance to see Vine race clear into the left-hand side of the area. He squared the ball to the feet of Patrick Agyemang, his touch was a little heavy, but some excellent vision by the Ghanaian spotted the onrushing Martin Rowlands who lashed the ball home from close range.
It was truly fantastic vision from Agyemang in his second assist of the game and a wonderfully worked goal to epitomise Rangers recent style of counter-attacking football. The craft and guile of Rowan Vine`s direct running, the intelligence of Patrick Agyemang and the finishing of Martin Rowlands all wrapped up in a neatly worked move.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS 3-0 BLACKPOOL
Rangers were good value for their lead, as Blackpool could have no complaints for some suspect defending and switching off once more, so soon after the half time period.
Rangers continued to assert pressure on the encounter and were flying forward in numbers on the counter-attack. Some clever movement by Patrick Agyemang was creating a lot of space for Dexter Blackstock and Akos Buzsaky who drifted inside on a great number of occasions, in a terrific five minute spell for the R`s.
Blackpool however weren`t ready to accept defeat, as Simon Grayson evidently had his team fired up for the second half. Some more incisive running by Wes Hoolahan was causing problems in the R`s backline with the Tangerines having the lion`s share of possession in the midfield.
Kaspars Gorkss was proving untold problems from corners as Lee Camp was forced to punch as the Super Hoops continued to squander possession in key areas of the pitch and being pushed back by their higher placed counterparts.
The goal finally came for the Tangerines after a considerable spell of pressure. Gorkss was involved once more as his defence splitting pass following a set piece, found substitute Ben Burgess on the left had side of the area, the ex-Blackburn striker made no mistake in dispatching the effort from an acute angle.
Burgess was given too much space in truth from the R`s defenders as he slammed the ball home infront of the travelling faithful who never gave up the hope, as the drum continued to sound out over Loftus Road.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS 3-1 BLACKPOOL
Blackpool continued to push forward in numbers towards their fans in search of more goals. Former Rangers defender Ian Evatt fired the ball well over from close range in a rare reprieve for QPR fans, as nerves were beginning to fray and the sound of teeth chattering and nail-biting could barely be heard over the drum, which seemed to get louder and represent the heartbeat of the away end.
Rangers were creating chances on the break, most notably from Akos Buzsaky, the midfielder unleashed an excellent effort which bobbled up infront of goalkeeper Rachubka, and the keeper made a hash of the rebound carrying the ball out for a corner; if only directly infront of goal.
And then a move by Gigi De Canio that divided opinion amongst the Rangers fans; Patrick Agyemang was withdrawn in favour of defensive midfielder Gavin Mahon, with Dexter Blackstock being utilised as a lone striker. A section of the crowd booing the decision as Rangers continued to invite pressure on themselves.
If nerves were fraying before, the tension became palpable at Loftus Road when Blackpool deservedly scored again this time through Steven McPhee. Another set-piece ensued and it was that man again Kaspars Gorkss who rose highest in the box, and his well driven header was clipped into the back of the net by McPhee. Gorkss was proving a real handful, and gave the Rangers defence a lot to worry about in the latter stages.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS 3-2 BLACKPOOL
This sparked the Rangers fans into life after being dormant for the vast majority of the second half. Chants were going up for the team who were clearly suffering in terms of possession and above nerves, akin to the feelings of the crowd.
Martin Rowlands responded in near magnificent fashion, when he and Blackstock were being closed down on the edge of the area, Dexter acted as a good decoy and Rowlands hit a rasping left-footed drive, inches wide of the left hand post. Rowlands had earlier spurned a chance from a free kick on the right hand side of the area, he opted to flick the ball to the far post, and it ended up in the crowd.
Martin was definitely the driving force in the Rangers line-up, but he and Akos Buzsaky were withdrawn in favour Kieran Lee and Zesh Rehman in a time-wasting measure towards the end of the encounter as Rangers clung onto some much needed 3 points to carry the wounded Super Hoops over the line and into the top half.
FULL TIME: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 3-2 BLACKPOOL
Lee Camp: 7/10
Had to deal with alot of difficult set pieces with Gorkss an impending figure. Really did his best to keep the score at bay and held onto the ball when claiming corners in order to break the Blackpool pressure. A good display.
Michael Mancienne: 6/10
A solid first half display, but was given a difficult time in the second half with goals coming from slack marking in key areas covered by the defender.
Damien Delaney: 6/10
Got himself forward, looking once again like a frustrated striker at heart. Tackled well and linked well with Vine on occassions. Had a difficult second half, missing the ball in once instance when trying to clear.
Fitz Hall: 7/10
Another solid performance from Fitz, as he did alot of unsung work, clearing corners and dealing with difficult opposition in the air. Gorkss, Evatt and Burgess were formidabble opposition.
Matthew Connolly: 6/10
A good shot block in the first half, and snuffed out alot of opposition attacks. Was given a difficult time in the second half by the aforementioned players at set pieces, looking better game on game.
Akos Buzsaky: 7/10
Excellently lob for the first goal which on first viewing seemed a scuffed effort. Controlled the game in instances with some excellent attacking play, really tried to play the game in the right way, at the forefront of counter attacks.
Rowan Vine: 7/10
Didn’t get alot of early luck in terms of distribution, but started to assert himself on the game as Blackpool pushed forward. Attacked the full backs, and gave the Tangerines alot to worry about.
Martin Rowlands: 8/10
As mentioned above, pulled the strings from the middle, and he and Leigertwood were the engine room of the Rangers side. Put his goal away well from close range, which should have killed the game.
Mikele Leigertwood: 6/10
The Jekyll and Hyde player put in another mixed performance which very much consisted of two halves. Contrived to give away possession in the second half on numerous occasions, looking a shadow of his first half self.
Patrick Agyemang: 7/10
Once again made alot of good runs and really put the opposition defence under alot of pressure. Didn’t win an awful lot in the air, which is becoming a recent trend in his performances. Needs another goal to get going again.
Dexter Blackstock: 5/10
Distinctly average once again, and looked knackered throughout the 90 minutes. He was slow and lethargic on occasions, contributing little to the Rangers attack, which made it all the more mystifying he remained on for the 90. He won some flick on’s but that was about it for Dex.
Replaced Patrick Agyemang
Replaced Akos Buzsaky
Replaced Martin Rowlands
Luigi De Canio: 6/10: His team once again faided in the second period, something that has to be addressed. His defensive substitutions caused alot of concern in an already wilting Rangers team. Needed a bit more impetus in the side in the second half.
Simon Grayson: 6/10: He motivated his players at half time, and isn’t the first manager to come in at half time on the end of a thrashing at Loftus Road. Really played some good stuff and on another day may have won the game.
I predicted 2-0 in the preview, the hope of the clean sheet seemed too much for our players and the usual second half capitulation could have really cost us on another day. I expected us to score goals because the Tangerines defence is even worse than ours, epitomised by the result. But a win is a win!