PETER Ramage and Tamás Priskin were the unlikely heroes as Queens Park Rangers staged a stirring come-back from two goals down.
Rangers were dealt a blow in the opening period when Billy Jones rifled home from close range after a Richard Chaplow corner was only half clear.
Despite bossing a vast majority of the fixture the R’s the second goal came shortly after the break with dead-ball specialist Callum Davidson slamming a penalty beyond the under-worked Carl Ikeme.
Step forward Adel Taarabt – the young Moroccan put in a breath-taking display to lay on goals for previously maligned duo Ramage and Priskin who placed home their efforts with consummate ease.
In truth both sides had chances to win the game as the sun began to shine over a blustery Deepdale, but a point will be a satisfying result as both sides edge towards Championship safety.
After going so long with an unchanged side R’s boss Neil Warnock made wholesale changes once more with Lee Cook forced to sit on the sidelines and forward Jay Simpson out of the 18.
Carl Ikeme began behind a familiar back four of Peter Ramage, Damion Stewart, Kaspars Gorkss and former Lilywhite Matt Hill – Dusko Tosic named on the bench for the visitors.
The central midfield pairing was skipper Mikele Leigertwood and Alejandro Faurlín with the trio Tamás Priskin, Adel Taarabt and Hogan Ephraim playing behind the re-called Antonio German.
Preston started with Andy Lonergan behind a back four of Billy Jones, debutante Elliott Ward, Sean St Ledger and Callum Davidson – with Richard Chaplow and Matt James in the middle of the park.
Darren Carter and Ross Wallace started wide for the Lilywhites with sizeable duo Jon Parkin and Neil Mellor starting up front – a fine advert for Pukka Pies if ever there was one.
Jones – Ward – St Ledger – Davidson
Wallace – Chaplow – James – Carter
Mellor – Parkin
Ramage – Gorkss – Stewart – Hill
Leigertwood – Faurlín
Priskin – Taarabt – Ephraim
Kick Off: Preston North End v Queens Park Rangers
A modest Deepdale crowd welcomed the two sides to the park amid hope and expectation that the winner would propel themselves to safety. The match kicked off and it was Rangers on the front-foot – a trait that has become customary in the Warnock era.
The spark of creativity was coming from the confident Alejandro Faurlín whose game seems have come on immensely during Warnock’s tenure. His range and array of passing was unlocking doors for QPR with Adel Taarabt starting to show his potential in a free-role behind Antonio German.
The Moroccan was the first to truly test Lonergan after some valiant battling from Damion Stewart. Winning his aerial duel with Jon Parkin, Stewart guided his header towards Taarabt, the Spurs loanee span and shot into the chest of Andy Lonergan.
Moments later Taarabt came closer to breaking the deadlock in an exciting opening for the R’s as he wriggled free of his marker before forcing Lonergan into a smart stop low down. But the Ferguson gene is clearly not lost on Darren with a tactical ploy similar to Manchester United.
Preston seemed content to attempt to ride out the visitors’ pressure before launching counter-attacks of their own. Sadly for them this yielded little given the lack of pace and enterprise in the forward line that the Red Devils posses, and Preston evidently do not.
The creativity of Matt James in the middle of park was a positive for Preston, borrowed from United the midfielder fed Darren Carter who in turn fed Neil Mellor. The former Liverpool forward attempted an audacious curling effort that dipped inches over Ikeme’s left hand post.
While Ikeme seemed relatively untroubled by the effort there was more to worry about moments later as Ross Wallace saw his effort from point-blank range blocked away for a corner. While QPR were proving dangerous going forward it was the final piece of cutting edge that eluded them.
Ikeme was alert moments later to pounce on a slide-rule cross from Parkin, but it was Rangers that would now begin to force the issue. After earning a corner Taarabt’s set-piece found Kaspars Gorkss on the far post – his effort cleared off the line by the aforementioned Parkin.
Parkin was now proving a key player for the Lilywhites and was inches away from handing his side the lead following good work by Mellor. His strike-partner sent in a delightful cross only for Parkin to smash his effort back off the right hand upright.
It was the closest either side had come in the opening stages, but in this end to end encounter it was QPR that fashioned their own key chance moments later. Taarabt was fed by the influential Faurlín and the Moroccan rather snatched at his opportunity placing straight at ‘keeper Lonergan.
Then came a rather confusing period of play where Ross Wallace lost his head and rifled a corner at Hogan Ephraim’s shins in a inciting fashion as the winger looked to pull his socks up. This bizarre change of temprament prompted the referee to take the players aside and cool the situation.
A collection of walking hoody advertisements in the stand did little to quell the suspect temperament of the pint-sized Scotsman who was evidently ruffled by the chirpy Ephraim. It proved however that the break in play would only do Rangers harm as the Lilywhites took the lead.
Richard Chaplow went over to take the corner while Wallace dealt with his anger issues, and some tentative defending saw full-back Billy Jones was on hand to lash the ball beyond Ikeme from close range. Perhaps unjust but the first blow was struck in a pulsating encounter.
GOAL: Preston North End 1-0 Queens Park Rangers
The R’s looked to keep it tight at the back before the break as Preston searched for their second while on top. Despite a good wave of pressure from Ferguson Jnr’s side, they couldn’t conjure any chances of real note going into the break.
Parkin and Mellor were proving worthy advasaries in the air, but the style of play the Ferguson purports on the break didn’t allow them to unlock their potential. By comparison Rangers were still nervy in the back-line, but the potential was evident going forward.
Without Jay Simpson the R’s looked a little laboured in the final third with Antonio German relatively anonymous – a couple of errant touches scuppered his progress to goal. Despite looking lively, Rangers didn’t have the guile or class to finish their chances.
The two sides went into the break with the home side far the more contented, but there remained potential for Rangers to edge their way back into the game, providing they could find their shooting boots when opportunities presented themselves.
Half Time: Preston North End 1-0 Queens Park Rangers
Neil Warnock wasted no time in asserting his authority on the second half with youngster German making way for Rowan Vine, who completed his first 90 minutes in some time on Tuesday night against Derby.
Rangers began the second half with renewed vigour and drive as evidently Warnock had transmitted message effectively to the players. The talented Taarabt linked up with Faurlín once more to fire an effort at the Lilywhite’s ‘keeper Lonergan.
The visitors were looking far the more dangerous of the two sides and the sun reared its head over the main stand. The change in fortune was epitomised by the irresistible Taarabt who was pulling all the strings in behind Chaplow and James.
The Moroccan was scything open the defensive unit with ease but that final elusive opportunity evaded Rangers and how they were punished for this lack of cutting edge moments later. The Rangers defence imploded once more to hand the hosts an undeserved second.
Kaspars Gorkss let the ball bounce beyond him and after losing control of the situation tussled with Parkin for the ball. The striker – who in fairness was giving as good as he got – hit the floor and rookie official Andy Haines was in little doubt as he pointed to the spot.
Callum Davidson stepped forward for the hosts in a bid to double their advantage and the dead-ball specialists left the crowd in no doubt, slamming a left-footed kick into the top left hand corner – three goalkeepers wouldn’t have got near the excellent spot-kick.
GOAL: Preston North End 2-0 Queens Park Rangers
QPR were far from beaten however as they ploughed forward in search of foot-hold in the fixture. While the two goals was harsh on the balance of play, it will be these goals that would remain the only memory after the dust had settled.
Lee Cook was preparing himself to come on in a bid to give Rangers some extra attacking impetus as Warnock could sense that the R’s needed extra flair and creativity going forward. There was a plethora of creative players on the field already, the most effective of which was the number 39.
Taarabt was sparkling behind the lone striker Vine and was creating the vast majority of opportunities for Rangers and the next skill in his repertoire was the most breathtaking yet as he laid on an assist for the visitors to halve the deficit.
The Moroccan has been criticised for a lack of vision previously but showed shades of Pele in the 1970 World Cup as he nonchalantly rolled aside for the bucaneering full-back Peter Ramage. While not Carlos Alberto, the passionate Geordie placed his effort home to perfection.
It was a strike of sheer class from Ramage as he rolled beyond an excellent ‘keeper in Lonergan and handed Rangers a grain of hope and something to hold on to as they prepared themselves for what would be a testing remaining 30 minutes.
GOAL: Preston North End 2-1 Queens Park Rangers
Much like at Pride Park, Derby earlier this season their was an air of inevitability about what was to come as Rangers laid siege on the Preston goal – an onslaught that they hoped would yield a deserved equaliser.
Cook had now sat down as Rangers now had the bit between their teeth, searching for what would be a deserved equaliser. Indeed the skill and trickery of Taarabt remained influential as the visitors ploughed forward in waves of attack.
Taarabt was the architecht once again as Rangers clawed themselves level with another excellent piece of vision and execution releasing the unmarked Tamás Priskin. The Hungarian had lost his marker and comfortably rolled home for the equaliser.
GOAL: Preston North End 2-2 Queens Park Rangers
It was the least Rangers had deserved as Deepdale fell hush, Priskin celebrated in front of the travelling support with great delight and relish, and at last he had broken his duck and hopefully hit his turning point in a QPR shirt.
A certain member of the Vital QPR messageboard had promised to take off his shirt and dance around with joy should Priskin score – I’m sure there were sorry people in Essex this afternoon and indeed the number8 household as he no doubt fulfilled his promise/threat.
The action was fast-flowing and pulsating as Warnock countered the myth that he cultivates long-ball teams. At times Rangers were playing the calibre of football for which they were famed under Magilton, but now they have added a grit and steely determination to add to their repertoire.
They should have had the lead moments later when a Vine effort from the edge of the area was only parried by Lonergan and with the goal at his mercy Alejandro Faurlín could only blast over the bar from point-blank range.
The Argentinean is yet to score for Rangers despite his impressive performances to date, but as the chances keep coming for the young midfielder he is sure to break his duck sooner rather than later. He didn’t have time to feel forlorn as the chances came thick and fast.
It was Vine this time that was quickest to react in the area when the ball ran loose but once again he didn’t have his shooting boots available, slamming it over the bar from close-range. The travelling support now sensed that these chances could have a baring on the fixture’s future.
Indeed the Lilywhites then started applying the pressure on the visitors with Neil Mellor played in over the top. In truth he looked a long way offside while strike partner Parkin battered covering defender Gorkss out of his path.
Mellor bared down on goal but Carl Ikeme pulled out a stop of genuine class to deny the former Liverpool man, while Gorkss reacted fastest to Parkin’s rebound to thwart Preston and spare the blushes of the officiating team.
Parkin was starting to throw his weight around connecting with an elbow on Mikele Leigertwood. The referee spotted the infringement but didn’t deem it worthy of a card, but from a seat in the stands it seemed like the elbow more clumsy than malicious.
As the game grew to its conclusion there was a glut of head-injuries, stout defending and tentatively seeking options going forward. It seemed that QPR and Preston were playing like sides in the midst of extra time – both sides wanted to win but neither wanted to lose.
Adel Taarabt was withdrawn with minutes remaining on the clock, and received a standing ovation from the visiting support. Another truly stunning display from the Moroccan, who showed a selfless streak and excellent vision during his time on the field.
Ákos Buzsáky took his place and his first action was to take a corner – it nearly paid immediate dividends as a Lilywhites defender sliced an effort inches over the bar. Moments later Gorkss glanced a header narrowly over the bar but Rangers continued to dominate.
The final whistle went as Rangers had a real go at their counter-parts today despite going two goals down – unjustly so – early in the second period. Taarabt was once again the driving force behind the R’s as they came up inches short of a memorable come-back.
Full Time: Preston North End 2-2 Queens Park Rangers
Queens Park Rangers
Carl Ikeme, Peter Ramage, Kaspars Gorkss, Damion Stewart, Matt Hill, Mikele Leigertwood, Alejandro Damián Faurlín, Tamás Priskin, Adel Taarabt (Ákos Buzsáky 90), Hogan Ephraim, Antonio German (Rowan Vine 46)
Preston North End
Andy Lonergan, Billy Jones, Elliott Ward, Sean St Ledger, Callum Davidson, Ross Wallace, Matt James, Richard Chaplow, Darren Carter (Chris Sedgwick 60), Jon Parkin (Chris Brown 72), Neil Mellor
Carl Ikeme – 7/10
The Wolves ‘keeper has grown more assured in recent games and today was another good, solid display from the loanee. He managed to claw away crosses from a crowded penalty area despite his inferior height advantage among the likes of Parkin, Mellor and latterly Brown.
He made a truly excellent save to deny what would have been a bitter blow as Neil Mellor raced through on goal, reacting quickly to palm the snap shot away to his left. Further saves and confident kicking made him seem a potentially useful acquisition.
Ikeme was rumoured to be going back to Wolves early, but given Neil Warnock’s understandable lack of activity in the loan window, he is now poised to stay for the duration of his spell which ends shortly – on the evidence of this display it can only help Rangers.
Peter Ramage – 8/10
He has all the hallmarks to become a QPR legend, with such incredible passion and desire for this club combined with what was incredibly assured display both defensively and going forward. There can be no doubt that Rambo has the will to succeed at Rangers.
He has been excellent since returning to the side under Warnock and while he has been derided in the past by sections of support his passion and enthusiasm for this football club has never waned, and that was something which was evident today.
Ramage took his goal with all the composure of a centre-forward and himself showed great endeavour to get forward to Taarabt’s incredible pass. While his crossing was also particularly good, crying out for a centre-forward to tap home some of the tricky centres.
Damion Stewart – 6/10
Damion wasn’t at his best again today and the one thing that continues to blight his performances is a distinct lack of concentration. Wildly slicing clearances, committing needless fouls and letting the ball bounce and giving the attackers the advantage.
Saying that he had a very tough test against two big, experienced forwards and while he started off having evident difficulty he managed to get the better of Parkin on a couple of occasions as the game wore on.
As mentioned however his otherwise useful performances are blighted by spells of madness and maybe Gorkss alongside him isn’t giving him the same assurance as previously as the defence at times threatens to implode.
Kaspars Gorkss – 6/10
It is not difficult to see that Gorkss’ performances have dramatically dipped over the course of the season and he looks a shadow of the rock that graced Loftus Road last season. Whether it’s a different style of play, persistent change in management or otherwise, Gorkss has not been the same.
Aerially he was acceptable today and his distribution has stopped going along the floor and instead he opted for the aerial route – something which I don’t argue with given a slight lack of confidence on his part.
Under Warnock he can only improve, but quite how long the R’s boss gives the defensive duo given the lack of clean sheets remains to be seen. A Chris Morgan-like figure may well be round the corner as Warnock craves his ‘ugly defenders’.
Matt Hill – 6/10
Hill was once again good in spells but not consistent enough, and sadly still seems to be the scape-goat for those looking for someone to blame. He by no means played badly per se, and won a considerable amount in the air despite his inferior size.
Ploughing forward against his former club, Hill was creating space for himself to support Ephraim and particularly in the second half was exploiting gaps and proving a danger. It seemed for some that one misplaced pass blew his efforts up in smoke.
He frustrated his former supporting fans by snuffing out the majority of attacks down that flank, ushering his opposition winger – Ross Wallace – wide and you could hear the vocal home supporters becoming frustrated by the lack of enterprise and product down that wing.
Mikele Leigertwood – 7/10
I don’t think I have a great deal to add on this chap as we all seem to know where his strengths lie and what his weaknesses continue to be. He looked excellent in the tackle and his strength was incredible at times to hold off Parkin and drive the R’s forward.
The problem that continues to blight Leigertwood is his distribution. After doing all of the hard work he couldn’t pick that crucial pass, and after noticing this he instead knocked short for either Taarabt or Faurlín to do the creative work.
Leigertwood certainly has the potential to play a big role under Warnock, despite having a well-documented spat with him at Sheffield United. Forgive and forget is the order of the day and hopefully Leigertwood can focus on the positives of today’s display.
Alejandro Damián Faurlín – 8/10
Faurlín was once again in top form and can only improve under the guidance of Warnock. His talent is clear, his passing and creativity is simply awesome, he just needs to maintain the status quo and hope that one day he can hit the back of the net.
Faurlín was forlorn as he once again spurned a guilt-edge chance and at the moment the goals seem to be the only thing missing from his repertoire – but nevertheless he continues to prove a viable investment despite the reported price tag.
He dispels the myth of the Argentinean footballer – a mythical creature built up by the tabloids. He can not only do the creative side but also digs in with excellent tacking, and wins the ball in the air – breaking the archetypal vision of a South American midfielder.
Tamás Priskin – 7/10
The Hungarian is probably the most maligned member of the squad and certainly given his treatment at Loftus Road in recent games, he bounced back in style today, answering his critics with an excellently-taken strike.
After being laid in by another stunning Taarabt centre the forward composed himself before coolly slotting home beyond Lonergan and celebrating infront of the travelling faithful – a goal that visibly lifted his spirits and won his some favour with fans.
Providing he can hit the target his perceived lack of effort won’t be highlighted as much – maybe it was the change in boots? Instead of his ‘Banana Boots’ he opted for the Raspberry selection today and boy did it pay dividends.
Adel Taarabt – 9/10
Most of the match report dictated how very special his performance was and he was the weapon that made Rangers tick – creating a glut of chances for others and showing his selfless side in a stunning display.
The Spurs loanee will no doubt have a lot of options before him come the end of the season, but if he continues to play the way he is then Harry Redknapp cannot continue to ignore the fine talent that is the Moroccan.
I have been quick to criticise Taarabt for his weaknesses, but he showed today that he is capable of banishing some perceived selfish tendencies laying on two goals with effortless class and having a lot to do with the R’s second half revival.
Hogan Ephraim – 7/10
Hogan looked useful at times today but needs to find some consistency if he is to remain in the side ahead of Lee Cook – who was seemingly only side-lined today at the behest of the medical team. His running was a constant menace however.
There was an instance that typified Hogan in the second period whereby he ran the length of the field fending off all-comers and earning his side a corner. It may not sound too impressive, but the run itself was majestic.
The most gratifying thing from watching Ephraim is the way he seems to play well in a system with like-minded players. For instance on the counter-attack at the end of the fixture he, Taarabt and Priskin broke away at different angles making it virtually impossible to defend.
Antonio German – 5/10
German didn’t really see a great deal of the ball but in truth he could have done better with the limited opportunities he was given in the first period. A couple of chances came his way but his first touch really let him down.
I’m sure German would be the first to admit he didn’t take his chance in the first half, but while he didn’t deserve to be hauled off at half time it was probably in the best interest of the club and the team performance that he was.