Rangers went north to Oakwell today knowing that their Championship status was assured but knowing also that they hadn`t beaten Barnsley at their place in over ten years!
Although the game had more of an “end of season” feel to it, with both teams ensured of a Championship spot next year and, therefore, nothing really left to play for; QPR`s final away game of this turbulent season was to end on a very happy note. The boys left the Oakwell Stadium this afternoon with a worthy three points thanks to a super strike from stand-in skipper Mikele Leigertwood.
Ironically, having flirted far too dangerously with the relegation for too long, this win puts Rangers into 13th spot – comfortably mid-table as predicted, even before a ball was kicked, by our very own Jezza99 – and within two points of the top half of the table. Altogether now – I wonder what if!
Neil Warnock made two changes to his team which beat Watford on Tuesday night. Adel Taarabt, who had not recovered from an ankle injury which saw him leave the field of play before half-time earlier in the week, sat this victory out. Rowan Vine, who started on Tuesday, dropped to the bench. In came Tamas Priskin and youngster Josh Parker, for his first start for the Rs` First Team.
So the defence now had Cerny in goal, with Parker as right-back, Dusko Tosic as left-back and Gorkss and Ramage maintaining their central defensive partnership. Leigertwood returned to midfield, along with Ephraim and Alenjandro Faurlin and Akos Buzsaky, both of whom had recovered from their respective knocks taken against Watford. Up front, another youngster, Antonio German, started with Priskin.
Barnsley boss Mark Robins made several changes to the team that had lost to Swansea in their last outing. In came Jon Macken, Bobby Hassell and Jacob Butterfield. Andy Gray found himself out of the team, whilst teammates Ryan Shotton and Martin Devaney dropped to the bench. Carl Dickinson and Rob Kozluk had recovered sufficiently from injury to find themselves on the Barnsley bench, along with youngster Alistair Taylor, who had been named Barnsley`s Academy Player of the Year earlier this week.
Kick Off: Barnsley v Queens Park Rangers
In a somewhat pedestrian opening fifteen minutes, between two sides guaranteed Championship football next season, the only notable effort was from Barnsley`s Ian Hume within the first couple of minutes which required a very good stop from Radek Cerny. He got past the otherwise generally solid central defensive pairing of Gorkss and Ramage, before unleashing a low drive that was expertly tipped onto a post and out for a corner by the R`s keeper.
On eight minutes, Buzsaky, who had himself been fouled, stepped up to take a free kick, but Luke Steele was equal to it. Nothing more of note could be reported, although Rangers were moving the ball around the pitch very well, until 23 minutes. Then, following great combination between our central midfield pair of Alejandro Faurlin and Akos Buzsaky, left back Dusko Tosic, receiving the ball from Buzsaky, ran down the wing and burst into the penalty area. He squared the ball to young Antonio German and the youngster, gifted a sitter only 4 yards out, fluffed his lines and the ball ran under his foot and was cleared to safety. So the score remained at 0-0.
Barnsley went down to the other end and tried their luck. Following a misplaced header from the usually reliable Ramage, Iain Hume found himself within 20 yards of goal and unleashed the ball; but his shot was so far wide of the right-hand post that Cerny didn`t even bother to dive! A few minutes later, Ramage made up for his previous error, blocking Hume`s next effort, Hume having received the ball from a clever chip over the Rangers` defence from Hugo Colace. The ball ran loose to Jon Macken, who looked certain to score from 15 yards out, but again Ramage came to the Rs` rescue and cleared off the line.
Warnock stood on the touchline shouting and gesticulating, exhorting a greater effort from our boys to get forward. The message was received loud and clear. A sweet back heel from Hogan Ephraim to Mikele Leigertwood, following a long throw-in from Josh Parker, allowed Leigertwood to bomb forward. Leigertwood cut in before striking the ball from 20 yards out, unleashing an unstoppable shot which ended up in the top right corner of the Barnsley goal. So, on 27 minutes, the Rs were one up – go Rangers!
GOAL: Barnsley 0-1 Queens Park Rangers
The Barnsley fans were very subdued – a sign that Rangers had, effectively, shut them, and their team, up! Adam Hammill tried to lift their spirits from kick-off with a shot from 25 yards, but Cerny was equal to it. Hammill then ran down the left wing and sent a cross over to Jon Macken but his header was aimed straight at Cerny in the Rs` goal.
Then Hugo Colace, Barnsley`s Player of the Season, ran from deep, stayed onside and found himself clear through with no Rangers defender anywhere in sight. Cerny dived to his right and, making a potentially difficult save look easy, collected the ball thus keeping the score at one nil to Rangers. Hammill, who had taken a knock to his head earlier, was substituted soon after by Martin Devaney.
QPR were not content with a one-nil lead and tried to make inroads into Barnsley`s area as the half wore on. But our lads seemed to have rattled Barnsley who were resorting to fouls on Priskin – of all players! Buzsaky took a free-kick which was cleared by Devaney after the first foul. The second foul, merely minutes later, resulted in Nathan Doyle receiving a yellow, and Hugo Colace having to clear another Buzsaky free-kick, this time taken right-footed from the right wing.
The last moments of the half saw Priskin take a shot which cleared Barnsley`s crossbar and, at the other end Martin Devaney brought a save out of Cerny. And that was it!
The feeling of our very own Superhoop50, who had made the trek up north, was that we were good value for our lead. We were rolling the ball around nicely and seem to have discovered a long-throw expert in young Josh Parker. Goes a long way, is Superhoop50`s view!! Ramage was again a hero in defence whilst Radek Cerny made a couple of blinding saves following one-on-ones which kept the score in our favour. And as for Tamas Priskin – well, he seemed to be the target of some bad tackles because of his, wait for it . . . blinding pace and skill!
Half-Time: Barnsley 0-1 Queens Park Rangers
The second half started very much as the first ended, with QPR looking for a second goal and Tamas Priskin being fouled at every opportunity, but there really was a more distinct “end of season” feel to things.
Bizarrely, Akos Buzsaky found himself in the referee`s book within the opening minutes, because he slotted the ball into an open net unaware that the linesman had raised his flag for an offside.
Iain Hume was trying to get Barnsley`s attacks going. He picked up possession in our half and managed to square the ball to Jacob Butterfield on the edge of the box. Cerny was again equal to Butterfield`s shot.
Then, Josh Parker slid in to make a blinding tackle on Iain Hume and went down in a heap. Thankfully, the magic sponge did its trick and Parker was soon back on the pitch and running and jumping with ease. Parker was definitely a positive in his first-ever start for the R`s First Team.
I was delighted at how all members of the Rs` team were working hard to defend our lead. A superb clearance from Alejandro Faurlin, which lead to a Barnsley corner following a great cross from Luke Potter, was indicative of the way the midfield were tracking back and covering every blade of grass from one end of the pitch to the other. Leigertwood safely cleared Hume`s corner.
On 56 minutes, Rangers made their first substitution: Antonio German, who had missed that sitter in the first half, was replaced by Jay Simpson on.
Nothing much was happening, so Barnsley tried to change their fortune by making a substitution on 64 minutes, Luke Potter being replaced by Carl Dickinson. This seemed to wake the Barnsley fans up who started singing loudly for the first time all game! But it didn`t really seem to wake the game up although Rangers did try a few moves to get us closer to the Barnsley goal!
Two flag-happy assistants seemed to be more active than anything on the pitch. The game was peppered with free-kicks for seemingly silly little fouls. And on 75 minutes, Parker was penalised for a challenge on Martin Devaney. Carl Dickinson crossed the ball, left-footed, from the left wing, but Mikele Leigertwood was on hand to make a good clearance.
The second half really didn`t spark into life at any time. Late on, Cerny was called into action yet again, however, closing the angle as Barnsley attacked, and he again made a superb save; only to see the flag raised for offside. But why was Robins standing on the touchline yelling and gesticulating at the offside decision? Cerny had made his third superb save of the afternoon regardless!
With 10 minutes left, both managers made changes – Warnock replacing Hogan Ephraim with Lee Cook and Robins bringing on Alastair Taylor for Nathan Doyle.
Josh Parker was caught, literally, by Hugo Colace but thankfully didn`t need any treatment. But from the resulting free kick, Buzsaky tried his luck from 40 yards out; but the ball flew high and wide and the scored remained one nil to the Rs. Bobby Hassell himself had a chance for Barnsley on 87 minutes, but, much like Buzsaky`s effort, he saw his effort from just outside the area fly over the crossbar.
In the dying seconds, Warnock brought youngster Lee Brown, a left back, on for Tamas Priskin. He had one thing to do – head a clearance out of the area before hearing the referee blew for full-time.
So, in Rangers last away game of the season, a solitary goal from Mikele Leigertwood in the first half, ensured we left the north of England victorious and can look forward to a party atmosphere at Loftus Road on Sunday week.
Full-time: Barnsley 0-1 Queens Park Rangers
Luke Steele, Bobby Hassell, Darren Moore, Stephen Foster, Jacob Butterfield, Luke Potter (Carl Dickinson 64), Hugo Colace, Adam Hammill (Martin Devaney 40), Nathan Doyle (Alistair Taylor 81), Iain Hume, Jon Macken
Queens Park Rangers
Radek Cerny, Peter Ramage, Mikele Leigertwood, Kaspars Gorkss, Dusko Tosic, Josh Parker, Alejandro Faurlín, Hogan Ephraim (Lee Cook 80), Akos Buzsaky, Antonio German (Jay Simpson 56), Tamas Priskin (Lee Brown 90+3)