Five goals – a hat-trick – and, ultimately, a very comfortable win sees Queens Park Rangers` name go into the hat for the 2nd round of the Carling Cup (the draw to be made tomorrow night).
Wayne Routledge could rightly claim the match ball after his hat-trick sent Rangers on their way, but even after his substitution, the team continued to look for goals and they came from debutante striker Alessandro Pellicori and a cracking effort from Hogan Ephraim.
Jim Magilton made several changes to the Queens Park Ranger`s line-up for our foray into the Carling Cup this evening. Some of the changes were self-imposed as both Adel Taarabt and Heidar Helguson were answering the call of their respective countries. Kaspars Gorkss was meant to join up with the Latvian squad as well, but a slight twinge in his knee resulted in him pulling out – but the injury was not bad enough to stop him taking his place at the heart of the Rs` defence joined by Damion Stewart (Fitz Hall finding himself on the bench). Matthew Connolly played in the right-back berth (Saturday`s hero, Peter Ramage, also finding himself sitting on the bench at kick-off). Gary Borrowdale and Radek Cerny completed the defensive line-up.
Magilton opted for a midfield of Akos Buzsaky, starting his first game in over nine months, Hogan Ephraim, Mikele Leigertwood (just back from injury) and Wayne Routledge. Skipper Martin Rowlands was obviously missing, following his ankle injury on Saturday. Patrick Agyemang and Rowan Vine started up front, having finished the game together on Saturday against Blackpool. Allesandro Pellicori, his international clearance now, finally, in hand, had a place on the Rs` bench; which was completed by Gavin Mahon, Matteo Alberti, Gareth Ainsworth and young keeper, Elvijs Putnins.
Exeter striker, Barry Corr, was suspended for tonight`s game following his dismissal on Saturday, so manager Paul Tisdale opted for Craig McAllister up front. Strikers Adam Stansfield (knee) and Ben Watson were also sidelined whilst forward Richard Logan (calf) , who had been doubtful, could only make it to the bench. So McAllister`s partner for the evening was Marcus Stewart.
Elsewhere, however, Tisdale kept faith with the team which lost to Leeds United on the opening game of the season.
Kick Off: Exeter City v Queens Park Rangers
Within the first five minutes of kick-off, Rowan Vine tried his luck with a headed shot following a great run down the right from Matthew Connolly. Connolly`s cross was inch perfect but Vine`s header floated over the crossbar of Paul Jones` goal. A few minutes later, Vine took a shot from outside the area; but this time his effort went wide right! At least he was trying.
Following good link-up play between Agyemang and Vine, Routledge was able to a go. He sent his shot in low and hard from the right, but Grecian`s stopper Jones was able to parry his effort. However, this really was one the Rs` last chances of the first half as chances were very few and far between. Disappointingly, Rangers` full-backs weren`t getting forward enough and this was hindering our efforts in the later stages of the half.
In fact, it was Exeter`s turn to try their luck, as they dominated possession in these later stages. First Marcus Stewart shot towards goal and, only minutes later, he sent a header goalwards. Next, Bertrand Cozic tried his luck from about 25 yards out; but all of these attempts drew comfortable saves from Radek Cerny.
Rangers had a series of corners, but none amounted to anything. As the clock ticked down, Vine crossed the ball menacingly into the Grecian`s penalty area, but there was no Rangers` player quick enough to pick the ball up and it was cleared by Daniel Seaborne for the home team. Then Routledge sent in a cross which Damion Stewart, still up following one of a number of corners that Rangers won in the first half, got his head to. His header was on target but Jones was again equal to it and palmed it wide.
And so the half ran itself out without any goals.
In balance, QPR had the better of the earlier chances but then ceded territory – and chances – to Exeter in the later period. Rangers were not getting in behind the Grecians and that would have to change if the Rs were to progress to Round Two tonight! There was clearly some talking to do at half-time.
Half Time: Exeter City 0- 0 Queens Park Rangers
The second half began much as it had ended – with Exeter making good chances: first Richard Duffy tried his luck and this was quickly followed by Marcus Stewart, who had been troubling the Rs all evening. Thankfully, Stewart`s shot, from deep inside the penalty area, following a penetrating run by Bertrand Cozic, flew wide of Cerny`s left-hand post. Next, midfielder Ryan Harley took a shot from outside the area – but it skimmed past left-hand post (thankfully!)
But suddenly, QPR found their feet and their class and turned this game on its head – to the delight of all those who had made the long trip down to the southern St James Park. Midfielder Mikele Leigertwood took the initiative to help give Queens Park Rangers the lead. Gathering the ball from middle of the pitch, he chipped the ball over the heads of the Grecian defenders. The ball took one bounce and then Wayne Routledge coolly lobbed the ball into the back of the Exeter City net.
GOAL: Exeter City 0- 1 Queens Park Rangers
Exeter immediately sought an equaliser and it very nearly arrived for Craig McAllister. Duffy crossed but McAllister could only send his header straight to Cerny in the Rangers` goal. Good – still 1-0 to the Rs! But not for long . . .
Patrick Agyemang now turned provider for Wayne Routledge. Agyemang broke into the area, having received the ball from Hogan Ephraim, showing the turn of speed that I had thought had deserted him after watching him stroll through the pre-season friendlies! He cleverly beat two Grecian defenders before releasing Wayne Routledge on the right. The tricky winger confidently and powerfully struck his shot, from a tight angle, straight past Paul Jones into the middle of the goal.
GOAL: Exeter City 0- 2 Queens Park Rangers
Following an accurate Buzsaky corner, Rangers thought they`d scored again merely a few minutes later when Kaspars Gorkss saw his goal-bound header handled on the line. Scott Golborne was sent off and Rangers were awarded a penalty. Wayne Routledge confidently stepped up and scored Rangers`, and his, third and ensuring that he would take the match-ball home to London tonight.
GOAL: Exeter City 0- 3 Queens Park Rangers
Magilton took the opportunity to make a couple of changes at this stage – and why not? The tie was as good as won with about half-an-hour left to play and Exeter City a man down. So Alessandro Pellicori replaced Rowan Vine and Gareth Ainsworth got an opportunity to show that age had not affected his abilities, replacing goal-scorer Routledge.
Exeter City also took the opportunity to make a change, with Steve Tully coming on in place of Marcus Stewart, James Norwood replacing Craig McAllister and, finally, Richard Logan was brought on for Alex Russell. These changes disrupted play and this was soon followed, on 72 minutes, with the final substitution of the evening as Patrick Agyemang had to leave the field of play, being replaced by Gavin Mahon.
Then Rangers went on the attack again, hoping to take advantage of their extra man! And it was that man, Gareth Ainsworth, who came closest on 80 minutes. A great save by Grecian stopper, Paul Jones, prevented Ainsworth`s looping header from nestling in the back of their net. He had had an effort easily saved by Jones almost immediately after he entered the fray, but this time his effort looked a certain goal – it was not to be!
Gorkss had another chance to score (remember, he thought he had scored earlier before Golborne unceremoniously handled his header) – but Jones was equal to it. But the Rs had not finished. Following another dangerous Buzsaky corner, Gorkss headed the ball across the face of goal, it was squared by Damion Stewart; and it was debutant striker Alessandro Pellicori who had the easiest of chances. He slammed the ball home virtually on the goal-line.
GOAL: Exeter City 0- 4 Queens Park Rangers
But that was not the finish! Hogan Ephraim added his own flair to the scoreline with an outstanding goal in the dying minutes of the game. Cutting in from the left, leaving two defenders in his wake, and yet still outside the penalty area; Hogan curled the ball into the far right-hand corner on 89 minutes.
GOAL: Exeter City 0- 5 Queens Park Rangers
And he wasn`t finished, as he brought a good save out of Jones deep into injury time.
Final Whistle: Exeter City 0- 5 Queens Park Rangers
Exeter had had most of the possession in the first half but had been unable to do anything with it. And that gave Rangers heart.
Goals breed confidence and that was certainly true for Queens Park Rangers this evening, following an electric display by hat-trick hero, our tricky winger, Wayne Routledge.
In the past, Rangers have gone to places like Exeter and come away with egg on their faces – but no tonight. It may have taken the Rs a half to get going, but going they did and this result must surely boost the squad`s confidence as they head back down to the south-west on Saturday, for the league match against Plymouth.
Paul Jones, Richard Duffy, Alex Russell (Richard Logan 73), Daniel Seaborne, Matthew Taylor, Ryan Harley, Craig McAllister (James Norwood 72), Scott Golbourne, Bertrand Cozic, Marcus Stewart (Steve Tully 67), Liam Sercombe
Queens Park Rangers
Radek Cerny, Damion Stewart, Mikele Leigertwood, Wayne Routledge (Gareth Ainsworth 65), Rowan Vine (Alessandro Pellicori 65), Akos Buzsaky, Patrick Agyemang (Gavin Mahon 71), Kaspars Gorkss, Matthew Connolly, Hogan Ephraim, Gary Borrowdale.
Radek Cerny 7/10
Radek didn’t have a great deal to do between the sticks but performed every task that came his way with consummate ease.
He pulled off a couple of useful stops before the end of the first period to notably deny Cozic from distance and Stewart from close range – but nothing came his way in the second half.
Looks immovable between the sticks with no second choice keeper waiting in the wings to realistically compete for the position of top stopper.
Matthew Connolly – 7/10
Matthew had a nervy first period with veteran forward Marcus Stewart able to bully his way past the young full back on a couple of occasions, but he came back in the second half with a markedly better performance.
He linked up well with Wayne Routledge as the duo looked transformed in the second half, and he also provided the R’s with great width to stretch the game in the second half with the hosts down to ten men.
He will have had cause for concern with a shakey first half display, but more than made up for it with some incisive passing and makeshift wing-work in the second half.
Gary Borrowdale – 7/10
Nothing fancy, no frills just 100% solid, and there’s a lot to admire in a player like that at QPR at present.
He did his defensive duties immaculately well even during a tough period for the R’s, and even getting forward in the second half his crossing tested the Exeter rearguard.
He drove forward to support Ephraim, luring a tiring defence into his trap before delivering to the far post where attackers lay in wait unmarked to pepper the home goalkeeper.
Kaspars Gorkss – 7/10
Quite a shock inclusion to be frank when you consider that the Latvian Football Federation were adamant that he was pulling out because of an injury, but nevertheless no sign of a knee problem was forthcoming.
He performed his defensive duties well, winning virtually every ball in the air, and held together a rearguard that threatened to crumble under some early pressure.
The Latvian international dealt well with an experienced campaigner in Marcus Stewart and eventually got the best out of namesake Damion alongside him. His passing was also a plus point as he constantly looked up and distributed along the floor.
Damion Stewart – 6/10
Damion did not look comfortable in the first half and this was epitomised by him attempting to play the passing game with which he wasn’t familiar.
It isn’t one of Damion’s strenghts to play the ball along the floor and it nearly proved cataclysmic a couple of times with some close shaves after gifting possession away.
Nevertheless he bounced back in the second half to deliver an assist for new striker Pellicori to score. The Jamaican will want to polish up some aspects of his game is he is to challenge Fitz Hall and Gorkss for a place in the heart of the rearguard.
Wayne Routledge – 9/10
A player who clearly needed to be spurred on after an indifferent first half and the only way to describe his second half display was electric.
The former Aston Villa and Spurs winger didn’t get much luck in the first period, balls bobbling out, tight marking and a vocal home crowd all against him.
In the second half he neatly lobbed the keeper, before slamming home a second and tearing apart a previously sterdy defence with an exibition of educated wingwork. His third from the spot capped off an excellent second half display.
Hogan Ephraim – 8/10
Hogan was lively throughout with some nice touches and flicks, but he most came to the fore in the second half along with most other players.
The former West Ham man danced around his opponents who didn’t know whether he was coming inside or out on the left wing.
They thought they had him sussed going outside, before he cut inside two defenders and delivered a wicked, curling drive into the top right hand corner – a goal the R’s supporters will remember for a long time.
Akos Buzsaky – 7/10
A relatively quiet evening for the Magical Magyar as he was outshone by messrs Routledge and Ephraim, but nevertheless looked useful once he got a foothold on the fixture.
Matters were difficult in the first half with limited space and the opponents fighting for every ball – but once down to ten men and tiring Akos looked a very deadly weapon pinging balls over to either flank and driving the R’s forward into the final third.
He will be a useful weapon as the R’s travel to his former side Plymouth this weekend – a connection that Exeter fans were keen to remind him of whenever he went to take a corner.
Mikele Leigertwood – 7/10
A mediocre first half – a superb second, and that just about sums up the inconsistency that one can expect from Mikele Leigertwood.
Billed by Vital QPR last season as the ultimate Jekyll and Hyde player, Leigertwood could turn in a sterling display one week and be completely disastrous the next.
He needs to keep up the calibre of display seen in the second half to have a chance of replacing Martin Rowlands on Saturday – otherwise Buzsaky and Mahon may well be the preferred option.
Patrick Agyemang – 7/10
Exeter were wise to Pat’s tricks and he struggled to make any kind of early impact, not being able to get in behind the Grecians back-line.
The former Preston North End striker played far too deep alongside Vine and this allowed the defence to squeeze and condense the play – making it tough for Rangers strikers to make an impact.
In the second half Pat came to the party – attacking from all areas of the field and laying on Rangers’ second goal for Wayne Routledge in the process.
Rowan Vine – 6/10
Never really got going in this encounter and I think it may be generous to give him a 6 because he and Agyemang simply did not click tonight against the previously billed ‘weak opposition.’
He and Agyemang may be too similar in some respects with both players making similar runs from deep, and no target man to direct that counter-attacking pass. It may well be he is deployed in a different role Saturday or replaced all-together.
SUB: Gareth Ainsworth – 7/10
Gareth come on and reminded the crowd why he is such a fans favourite – running for every ball and chasing down every defender.
He was hacked down and popped back up again leaving the defender injured on the turf, something which the fans saw the funny side of.
He was very useful in the air with a plethora of far post crosses being aimed for him and only some smart stops prevented him from breaking his duck for the season.
SUB: Alessandro Pellicori – 7/10
Difficult to judge a striker in terms of performance in such a short space of time, but there is a column he will be judged in at the end of the season – goals.
If ‘Sandro can continue to notch goals the way he did today then fans will have little complaint as he showed that killer instinct and poachers touch where it mattered most.
He had some very good touches to lay in the wingers, whether control and pass or one-touch it seems that the R’s could be on to a winner if they stick with this lad.
I think people would be shocked if I said anything other than sensational for this chap – but I honestly thought he instilled some extra solidity into the side, which arguably may not have been needed at the time but nevertheless still a valuable asset.
‘Super Gav’ showed some nice touches and quick passing to make the most of the R’s numerical advantage and put the Grecians to the sword – there were some supporters even encouraging him to shoot, did you ever hear such a thing!
Jim Magilton: 8/10 – He realised that it wasn’t working in the first half and his tongue-lashing in the dressing room obviously had the desired effect.
If he can continue to get through to the players in such a manner and get them going in these lesser clashes then the sky is the limit for the former Ipswich boss, who saw his side turn their game around in the second half.
Paul Tisdale: 7/10 – Got to feel for him, because his side certainly didn’t deserve to lose by a five goal margin this evening.
He did a great job of containing Rangers creative threat and with a little more luck would have gone into the break with a goal advantage – it wasn’t to be as Rangers took full advantage of their numbers.
Mr Bratt: 6/10 – A pretty forgettable display from the official, nothing too controversial just a couple of incorrect niggly decisions that you come to expect from the modern day officials.
Leigertwood received a booking for having the ball booted at him but Borrowdale’s offender wasn’t given a yellow for kicking him up in the air. Still not the worst referee we will see this season, and at least Luigi De Canio wasn’t there to be ‘offended’ again!
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