QUEENS PARK RANGERS battled back from behind in the second half to secure a passage into the Second Round of the Carling Cup.
The R`s who were good value for their win, played excellent attacking football throughout, as Iain Dowie`s promises of a passing display, at last came to fruition.
After a host of chances the visitors took the lead courtesy of Angelo Balanta`s scrambled effort. Swindon were never out of the contest having chances on the break with Simon Cox slotting home from close range, with a powerful header from Billy Paynter giving the Robins the advantage going into the break.
The R`s came out and took their chances after the break, with Dexter Blackstock nodding home before Damien Delaney slammed home a loose ball through a crowd of players to hand the R`s a well deserved win at the County Ground.
Real Madrid starlet Daniel Parejo was given a start in the middle following his cameo role against Barnsley at the weekend. There were also returns for Damion Stewart following suspension, being joined by Matthew Connolly at full back.
Lee Camp was selected in preference of Radek Cerny, as Iain Dowie will have a tough choice to make for Sheffield United on Saturday. Angelo Balanta also broke into the starting line-up at the expense of Patrick Agyemang, with Samuel Di Carmine taking his place on the bench following his suspension.
Swindon made one change from the side that made a winning start to the 2008/09 League One campaign against Tranmere Rovers on Saturday. Sean Morrison came in for Jerel Ifil, in a side that included former Watford winger Anthony McNamee and ex-Leicester City and Plymouth Argyle midfielder Lillian Nalis.
Kick Off: Swindon Town v Queens Park Rangers
Rangers once again started positively with some excellent interplay between the midfielders and the strikers, making for some pulsating attacking football in the opening stages, with plenty of chances on display.
Angelo Balanta led the Rangers front-line along with Dexter Blackstock, and they helped Rangers carve out some opportunities in the early stages of the game. A succession of corners saw the R`s pen their League One counterparts in their half with Kaspars Gorkss salvaging a succession of Emmanuel Ledesma`s deep corners on the far post. The best of which saw the Latvian centre half nod across the target which somehow evaded all Rangers players in the area, and subsequently the referee blew for a foul.
Daniel Parejo was sitting deep in midfield, making the game tick with some intricate passing play leading to Emmanuel Ledesma creating a golden opportunity. He had given his full back, Yinka Casal, a torrid time in the opening stages, with his cultured left foot causing Casal to block his effort behind. From the subsequent corner Dexter Blackstock tested Brezovan on the volley, but the effort was well held by the Slovakian stopper.
For all of their attacking exploits, once again it was the Rangers defence that was under the microscope, with make-shift full back Matthew Connolly coping admirably in the face of tricky opposition. Town expressed before the start of the cup tie that they would look to give the R`s a test, they nearly drew first blood with Sean Morrison finding himself unmarked to nod wide from close range.
Swindon were persistent in their pressure, and reminded the Rangers fans of their tricky encounters at the County Ground in the past when Billy Paynter brought a magnificent save from Lee Camp. Paynter formerly of another of Rangers bogey clubs, Port Vale, latched onto a poor clearance to send a rasping volley goal-bound, Camp was at his best to claw the ball away with his left hand.
Emmanuel Ledesma seemed inspired down the left flank, and some good interplay saw Matthew Connolly overlap and draw a good save from Brezovan. Once again Ledesma was in the thick of the action, working a chance for Dexter Blackstock on the edge of the area, in the tightest of spaces, the striker managed to weave his magic, but Brezovan did well once again to save from close range.
Blackstock once again was at the forefront of the R`s attack, when the impressive Ledesma, sent a well-guided cross the far post, Blackstock rose highest before sending his looping header over the bar.
Rangers were running their League One counterparts ragged and more chances followed, as Leigertwood hit a speculative right footed effort wide from outside the area, displaying excellent technique as his shot narrowly flew wide.
Rangers nearly took the advantage they deserved barely a moment later when Blackstock broke into the box once again, when it looked for all the world he bundled the ball out of Brezovan`s arms with his hands.He had all the time in the world to square the ball, but got his delivery agonisingly wrong, with Balanta and Cook pleading with the striker as another chance went begging.
But finally the R`s broke the deadlock, to the relief of their vast travelling army from W12. An excellent corner from central midfielder Daniel Parejo found Damien Delaney on the near post, his flick on saw Angelo Balanta prod home in a goal-line scramble. It was more than the R`s deserved for a flurry of early attack.
Swindon Town 0-1 Queens Park Rangers
Rangers attacking talents were never in doubt, but the defensive shortcomings were there for all to see, as Swindon forced the equaliser within a minute.
The inability of the Rangers rearguard to clear an accurate cross from Anthony McNamee saw Matthew Connolly beaten in the air, before ex-Reading striker Simon Cox swivelled and slammed the ball home, to bring a rousing noise from the County Ground, as they sensed more goals were a possibility. Two goals in two for the impressive Cox, and the R`s had to contemplate the scores being level despite all their attacking zeal.
Swindon Town 1-1 Queens Park Rangers
It wasn`t long before the R`s were on the offensive once more, and Ledesma down the right once more was giving his full back a day to forget. His right footed effort narrowly shaved Brezovan`s right hand upright, before he burst through from the midfield to find himself one-on-one with the Slovakian stopper, but his weak left footed effort was stopped and held by the heavily worked custodian.
However Ledesma wasn`t the only winger giving his counterpart a tough day at the office. Anthony McNamee ran Matthew Connolly ragged, indeed the former Arsenal defender was booked for bringing down McNamee as he raced away from him down the left flank.
McNamee once again got the better of Connolly with his pace and trickery, and this time picked out a cross which had been lacking from his previous show-boating displays, it picked out former Southend United and Port Vale striker Billy Paynter who powered his header into the bottom left hand corner from the edge of the 6 yard box, an inspired header to send the Robin`s fans into raptures.
Swindon Town 2-1 Queens Park Rangers
Daniel Parejo had Brezovan stretching once again on the stroke of half time, when his drilled free-kick flew into the post and went wide, such was the luck of the Rangers attacking line-up in the first half, as for all of Rangers attacking endeavours, the defence was lacking in substance, and League One Swindon punished the weaknesses.
Half Time: Swindon Town 2-1 Queens Park Rangers
Iain Dowie took his side into the dressing room 2-1 down, and whatever he said during the interval had the desired effect not soon after, as the R`s shot out of the blocks to draw the game level.
Rangers worked the ball well down the left flank, with Lee Cook working some space for the cross, and his delivery to the far post found Dexter Blackstock who finally broke his duck after a multitude of opportunities, stooping to head home on the far post as he lost his marker. Rangers were back in the game as their boisterous supporters celebrated.
Swindon Town 2-2 Queens Park Rangers
Rangers were fired up by the equaliser and the football came as their confidence grew. Mikele Leigertwood found himself in acres of space in the box and the ball dropped to his right foot, but his effort screwed narrowly wide of the left hand upright. Another let off for the Robins, who were most certainly riding their luck throughout the encounter.
Championship Rangers saw their class shine through as they restored their one goal advantage, turning the game on its head. Emmanuel Ledesma`s corner was only half-cleared by ex-Plymouth Argyle defender Hasney Aljofree, this gave an opportunity to full back Damien Delaney who had the composure that seemed to evade his forward team-mates to slam the ball home through a crowd of players. Rangers restored their advantage as sections of their fans were singing in the rain once more.
Swindon Town 2-3 Queens Park Rangers
Swindon to their credit continued to play some excellent football, that certainly would have alerted R`s first team coach Iain Dowie, as industrious midfielder Lillian Nalis, made a succession of scything passing and enterprising runs. His effort almost pegged the R`s back once again, as his deflected effort from the edge of the area flew past Camp into the back of the net. However it took a deflection off an offside Robins player, and was subsequently disallowed.
Angelo Balanta exhumed a confidence that belied his years, and the presence and aura surrounding his play was a joy to behold. His strength in possession and his ability to hold possession in attacking areas was something that would certainly make Iain Dowie take notice for this weekend`s trip to Sheffield.
The young Colombian worked his way into an excellent position with some direct running, before sending a low drive towards the bottom left hand corner, but overly worked Brezovan was more than equal to the effort.
Samuel Di Carmine was brought on for his debut, as Dexter Blackstock made way with nearing 20 minutes remaining, but it was Swindon who now hand the impetus and bit between their teeth, in search of an illusive equaliser. An excellent cross from the right epitomised the Robins efforts as the ball flashed across the target with the Rangers rearguard at odds to clear once more.
Swindon threw on striker Lee Peacock for John-Paul McGovern, as they looked to throw caution to the wind. Peacock certainly carrying a lot more weight than when he last faced the R`s, relished the aerial challenge, as many attempted flick on`s looked to bring his fellow attackers into play.
Inexcusably referee Mr. Beeby added on five minutes of added on time, which brought excitement round the County Ground, with Swindon continuing to press and Rangers looking to run down the clock. Not so much boisterous chanting from the away end but the chattering of nails, as the Robins pressed the R`s defence to breaking point.
No attacking detail of note in the final stages, other than Mr. Beeby becoming centre of attention once more. Much like the game between Bristol City and Crystal Palace where the referee inexcusably allowed extra time for the corner, in which City claimed the winner as Warnock fumed, the R`s were subject to the same shenanigans, fortunately however it was well defended as the referee blew up six minutes into time added on.
An excellent win for Rangers that promised much for the attacking side of Rangers game, but gave the R`s a worrying prospect travelling up to Sheffield at the weekend.
Final Whistle: Swindon Town 2-3 Queens Park Rangers
Rangers Team: Lee Camp, Matthew Connolly, Damien Delaney, Kaspars Gorkss, Damion Stewart, Emmanuel Ledesma (Matteo Alberti 78), Lee Cook, Daniel Parejo, Mikele Leigertwood, Dexter Blackstock (Samuel Di Carmine 69), Angelo Balanta.
Lee Camp – 7/10
Dealt well in difficult conditions. Rangers were being caught out constantly with the ball over the top as Camp was quick off his line to stop attacks in their infancy. The R’s stopper pulled off an incredible save from Paynter, and certainly gives Iain Dowie a selection headache.
Matthew Connolly – 5/10
Not a convincing display from Connolly, he was run ragged by Anthony McNamee down the left, and was left wanting in the air for Swindon’s equaliser. Admittedly he wasn’t helped by Emmanuel Ledesma, but nevertheless struggeled immensely against League One opposition.
Damien Delaney – 7/10
The makeshift skipper lead from the front, bagging a goal in a good display at left back. His bursting runs forward and incisive passing made him an excellent part of the line-up. His captaincy skills were displayed to their fullest as John Harbin has already signalled the ex-Hull City defender as one of the hardest working professionals at the club.
Damion Stewart – 6/10
Was immense in the air once again, some very powerful headers away and did his best to cope with an onslought of crosses into the box, and the communication with Gorkss gives the R’s options in the centre back role.
Kaspars Gorkss – 7/10
Another defender who won his fair share of headers, and his distribution was also good in order for the R’s to retain possession. Paynter and then Peacock were tough customers, but the Latvian international proved a combative defender in the air.
Emmanuel Ledesma – 9/10
Incredible performance as the County Ground was wowed with the ability of the midfielder on loan from Genoa. Defenders knew what way he was going but couldn’t stop the young Argentinean. Should have capped off his performance with a goal.
Lee Cook – 7/10
Cookie did well to help the R’s into round two, as he relished his role firstly hugging the touchline before moving more central. His trickery and running proved a real test for Swindon as they failed to cope with his excellent cross for Blackstock’s goal.
Mikele Leigertwood – 7/10
Leigertwood once again dispalyed his great technique infront of goal sending a couple of shots narrowly wide, but nevertheless looked a danger. His tackling and ball play was good by and large, and he looked confident in his role infront of the back four.
Daniel Parejo – 9/10
This boy is class, he came forward when required but was happy sitting deep in his midfield role, and spraying passes both short and out to the flanks. He barely broke into sweat at times, as he exhumed class in some of his vision and play.
Dexter Blackstock – 7/10
Took his goal well and looked bright in the build up to some moves. However his inability to take the majority of the chances presented was a real worry as on another day the R’s could have hit double figures. Will certainly need to hit his mark on Saturday.
Angelo Balanta – 8/10
Also close in the running for man of the match, and his tireless work ethic and movement set up many attacks for Rangers. He came deep to collect the ball, showing strength and touch that belied his years. Furthermore he indicated his importance for the forthcoming fixtures, and an exciting future ahead.
Samuel Di Carmine
On for Dexter Blackstock:
His vision was disappointing during one move that saw Rangers break away, Cookie was in space down the left flank, however Samuel opted to run towards goal, and was ultimately dispossessed. Needs to acclimatise to the English game.
On for Emmanuel Ledesma:
Rarely got a touch and was mainly used in defensive departments, as late on it was back to the wall stuff for Rangers
Iain Dowie: – 7/10: Certainly got his players fired up both at the start of the game and after the break. The football that he promised was forthcoming in spells as Rangers surged forward on the counter attack, however the defensive performance made for bleak reading, particularly in the right back position as a bit of pace was all it took to unlock the defence.
Maurice Malpass: – 7/10: He will be well pleased with his sides performance, they played some excellent one touch football throughout, and without entering into a cliché, in spells it was tough to see the respective sides belonging their divisions. Nalis was his midfield marshall and was a truly inspired addition.
Richard Beeby: – 5/10: Not a bad performance from Beeby, but on occasions the fans expected more from an experienced official, as he was conned by both sets of players on occasions, and couldn`t grasp the climbing/backing in rule to save his life. Overall nothing majorly wrong, but certainly room for improvement.
I predicted 2-1 QPR before the start of the game, and once again I wasn’t far off. A weakened Rangers were always going to make this a close affair against a fired up Swindon, backed by a good manager.