Date: 9th August 2008 at 8:52pm
Written by:

A DOUBLE from central defender Fitz Hall ensured that Rangers made a winning start to the 2008/09 Championship season.

In wet and blustery conditions in W12 Rangers carried their awkward pre-season form into the new campaign in a performance littered with defensive errors, whilst in the same vain produce a performance full of bright attacking potential.

The R`s started the day as Championship favourites, and if the performance on the pitch didn`t adhere to that tag, the pre-match spectacle was first class. Fire and pyrotechnics welcomed the players onto the field accompanied by the new screen sitting aloft of the School End.

Rangers defensive shortcomings handed striker Iain Hume the chance to open the scoring inside 5 minutes, the Canadian duly oblidged slotting past fellow debutante Radek Cerny. Rangers came back with Fitz Hall, firsly bundling the ball home from close range, before unleashing an unstoppable dipping volley to put the R`s infront.

In a game never short of incident or talking point, Hall squandered the chance for his hat-rick from the penalty spot, before Marciano Van Homoet was given his marching orders for a poorly timed challenge on Real Madrid startlet Daniel Parejo.


Rangers handed debuts to keeper Radek Cerny from Tottenham, along with defenders Kaspars Gorks and Peter Ramage. There were also bows for wingers Emmanuel Ledesma, and the returning Lee Cook on either flank. Mahon and Leigertwood teamed up in the middle, with Patrick Agyemang and Dexter Blackstock the preferred strike force.

On loan Real Madrid player Daniel Parejo started from the bench as Iain Dowie kept faith with the majority of his side who started the final pre-season fixture against Chievo Verona.

Barnsley themselves handed debuts to a couple of players including goalkeeper Luke Steele, defender Darren Moore and forward Iain Hume from League One side Leicester City, as Tykes boss Simon Davy urged his side to call upon the bulldog spirit that saw them reach the semi-final of last years FA Cup .

Queens Park Rangers v Barnsley

Rangers started the fixture in the ascendency with winger Lee Cook seeing alot of the ball in the early stages and being urged on by a noisy Loftus Road crowd, as Rangers plugged away in search of the opening goal.

Gaps in behind the Rangers rearguard were being constantly exploited with debutante Mounir El-Haimour and Martin Devaney seeking space in behind the Rangers full backs. The latter, Devaney, got in behind Damien Delaney after some quick thinking from a throw in and cut the ball back to John Macken. The former Manchester City and Preston striker fluffed his lines from close range shooting straight at Cerny from a central position.

Cerny was finding the going tough in the opening stages, with corners being fired in over his head, the Czech international stopper was reduced to hastily palming the ball away on numerous occasions as his confidence was beginning to be affected.

Rangers managed to carve out an attack in the early stages. The direct approach was proving unsuccessful, with the experienced Darren Moore relishing the aerial battle, Rangers opted to switch play wide, and Agyemang found himself on the flank. The player who backed two goals in the fixture last season attempted to turn provider as his cross found Mikele Leigertwood, who in turn found Luke Steele in truly inspired form, saving from close range.

It was a rare glimpse of Rangers possession as the Tykes seemed far more comfortable on the ball and ultimately after continuous pressing the Yorkshire outfit took the lead. £1.2m signing Iain Hume found space in behind the defence once more, the Canadian coasted clear of the defence before burying a right footed drive under Radek Cerny to hand Barnsley a well-deserved lead in such simplistic circumstances.

Queens Park Rangers 0-1 Barnsley

Cerny was finding the going tough in the opening stages, with corners being fired in over his head, the Czech international stopper was reduced to hastily palming the ball away on numerous occasions as his confidence was beginning to be affected.

Dexter Blackstock came to the rescue of his folorn stopper, when from a corner he nodded over his own cross bar from close range, despite the efforts of his keeper to reach the ball. Small sections of the crowd subsequently called for Lee Camp – but they were rapidly hushed as the majority of the Loftus Road crowd rallied round the R`s custodian in an attempt to pick his confidence up.

Rangers then began to assert some attacking impetus on proceedings as Emmanuel Ledesma`s left footed drive fizzed along the surface, forcing Steele into a comfortable stop at his near post. Fans were reminded of the ability of Mikele Leigertwood prior to the game on the screen, showing his brace against Stoke City – the midfielder displayed similar technique to drill a right footed effort from fully 40 yards out, forcing Steele into another stop.

The R`s had the bit between their teeth as their confidence on the pitch began to grow, and they deservedly equalised courtesy of defender Fitz Hall from a goal-line scramble. Lee Cook`s expertly taken free-kick was parried away by Steele once more, Hall followed up with his effort rebounding off the bar however a joint effort from Hall and Agyemang ensure the ball rolled over the line and Rangers hauled themselves back in the game.

Queens Park Rangers 1-1 Barnsley

The celebrations were in full flow at Loftus Road, and fans barely had a chance to take to their seats before they were dancing once more, as Fitz Hall doubled his tally for the match and for the season this time displaying his class from distance.

Lee Cook was once again at the centre of the action, firing over the corner, which was only half cleared by the Tykes backline. The ball came out only as far as Fitz Hall who showed tremendous composure to fire a right footed looping effort into the bottom left hand corner, with his hooked effort leaving Steele with no chance.

Queens Park Rangers 2-1 Barnsley

Rangers were good value for the advantage on the basis of the final five minutes of the half, however with Barnsley far more comfortable on the ball and looking likely to break the deadlock with every chance, they were never out of the game. This was certainly something that Simon Davey must have reiterated to his players as the clubs went into the break with Rangers on-top.

Half Time: Queens Park Rangers 2-1 Barnsley

Barnsley continued their good work from the first half as Rangers were forced onto the back foot in the early stages. On 52 minutes Lee Cook picked up a yellow card for a foul on industrious midfielder Brian Howard, the R`s winger picked up a yellow card in a string of inconsistent decisions by referee Mr. Swarbrick who refused to book several players on both sides for similar offences previously.

The subsequent free kick was fired into the wall, and looped into the air, before opted to punch to safety when catching looked a sensible option. Rangers though began to show their strengths on the counter-attack, as the Tykes desperately searched for the equaliser, Rangers played swift counter attacking football.

Emmanuel Ledesma broke clear of the Barnsley midfield, before laying a deft touch into Patrick Agyemang in space, Souza had a fistful of Agyemang`s shirt which may have slowed the striker down, but didn`t deter his desire to reach the ball, his lifted effort thwarted by the feet of Luke Steele once more.

Rangers threatened once more as Darren Moore was adjudged by Mr. Swarbick to have fouled R`s striker Dexter Blackstock in the box on 58 minutes. In all fairness to the Tykes new signing, it was a soft decision however his persistent holding in the box could have given the R`s several penalties throughout the fixture. Several played vied for the ball but it was Fitz Hall on a hat-rick who took hold of the ball and placed it on the spot.

After a brief chat with Brian Howard the defender stepped up and had his weak right footed effort saved by the ex-Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion stopper, Steele low and to his right. Some might say unfortunate, some might say justice.

Emmanuel Ledesma had previously fired a plethora of inswinging free-kicks into the midriff of Steele in an attempt for cross. This time the young Argentinean went for goal and nearly caught the keeper off guards as he turned the ball around the post.

Rangers fans rose as one to welcome Real Madrid midfielder Daniel Parejo to W12 in place of Patrick Agyemang. The midfielder on loan to Rangers from the Galactico`s for the season, promised much in his cameo performance.

Rangers once again broke free in the latter stages of the game as Mikele Leigertwood skipped over challenges to find space in the area, however his scuffed effort bobbled wide of the far post, as Rangers seemed to require another goal to kill the game off.

These feelings were well justified as the Tykes laid siege to the R`s goal in the hope of bagging an equalising goal – a goal that would have been well deserved. However their hopes were dashed on 83 minutes when Daniel Parejo took the ball off Marciano Van Homoet, the Dutch defender took exception to the tackle, and put in a vicious knee high challenge, giving even this referee no doubt in his mind as he brandished the red card.

Despite being down to ten men, the Tykes through on Kayode Odejayi and Diego Leon in an attempt to gain an equaliser, and Rangers with space at their disposal started to place some decent football. There were a few hairy moments in the latter exchanges as Barnsley peppered the box with crosses only for Gorkss and Hall to stand tall and lead the R`s to victory – hopefully the first of many.

Final Whistle: Queens Park Rangers 2-1 Queens Park Rangers

Rangers: Radek Cerny, Peter Ramage, Damien Delaney, Fitz Hall, Kaspars Gorkss, Emmanuel Ledesma (Matteo Alberti 84), Lee Cook, Gavin Mahon, Mikele Leigertwood, Partick Agyemang (Daniel Parejo 72), Dexter Blackstock.

Player Ratings

Radek Cerny – 5/10
Shaky performance throughout, but displayed glimpses of why Iain Dowie gave him the shirt. However hard to see why he was preferred to Lee Camp, opting to punch catchable balls and his decision making was suspect at times. Dealt with some shots very well however.

Peter Ramage – 6/10
Did very well on debut in difficult circumstances. Rarely received cover from Ledesma and performed well in clearing the ball and snuffing out attacks from the left flank. Is bound to improve with more games under his belt.

Damien Delaney – 6/10
Looked alot better going forward than at the back. His lack of pace would have found him wanting on another day and had Campbell-Ryce been fit it would have given the R’s food for thought. He was beaten a couple of times, but performed admirably in the air, helped out well in the box at the end.

Fitz Hall – 8/10
He bagged two goals in an eventful five minutes. He had his work cut out in his defensive duties, but he looked composed throughout in order to deny several chances to the Tykes.

Kaspars Gorkss – 6/10
He found it tough going on occasions on his league debut. However he was strong in the air, putting in a number of vital challenges on the ground. Had there been more support in the full back positions it may have made Kaspars’ job a bit easier.

Emmanuel Ledesma – 7/10
His creativity on the ball caused Barnsley full backs problems throughout the encounter. He may have been better served starting on the left, however not at the expense of Lee Cook. He was predictable at times cutting inside, nevertheless some Tykes defenders couldn’t stop him.

Lee Cook – 7/10
An excellent homecoming for Cookie, he was his expressive self down the left flank, and he will be a very important player in the R’s bid for a top 8 position. His enterprising runs, with a classy left foot enabled Rangers to create a host of chances.

Gavin Mahon – 8/10
Stood out in the middle, winning alot of balls in the air, and on the ground. Gavin looked composed throughout, winning the ball back off Barnsley before passing it on to a Rangers player. His heading ability proved vital in the latter stages.

Mikele Leigertwood – 7/10
A strong performance from Mikele as he and Mahon performed well in the middle. However alot of the game went over their heads, and they had to work hard to help the defensive unit and bring the attackers into play.

Patrick Agyemang – 6/10
His movement was excellent, peeling off wide, but the balls to him from defence weren’t as intelligent as the running and he rarely received the ball. He performed excellently down the flanks as he was competitive for the ball.

Dexter Blacktock – 6/10
A definitive improvement from pre-season but still below par from Dex. He did well to get other players into the game, but never looked likely to score goals throughout the game. It says alot for the attack that the best chances came Hall’s way and were taken well.

Daniel Parejo
On for Patrick Agyemang:
Displayed glimpses of his class and vision, with a couple of intelligent passes. An excellent tackle on van Homoet, before he was scythed down horrificly by the defender, he was back to his feet instantly which was admirable considering the nature of the tackle.

Matteo Alberti
On for Emmanuel Ledesma:
Rarely got an opportunity on the ball after being brought on with 6 minutes remaining. Broke down the right occasionally and showed promise.

Manager Rating
Iain Dowie: 6/10 – His inability to discover that the long ball out to the flank wasn`t working, forced the R`s to play into the hands of the Tykes, with centre back Darren Moore gobbling up any direct passing. However he has taken some pressure off himself with a brief foray of attacking football, and ultimately a win.

Opponent Rating
Simon Davey: 7/10 – Somewhat unfortunate that his side couldn`t score the goals required to kill the game off. The addition of Iain Hume for a lofty price tag seems good business on today`s performance. His cause wasn`t helped by a needless red card for van Homoet, who let his manager and his team-mates down.

Mr Swarbrick – A pernickerty performance throughout, and dished out one yellow card for an offence that was commonly committed on a slick surface. Enraged the travelling supporters as the R’s got the rub of the green in instances, however baffled both sets of fans with some poor decision making at times.

Pre-Match Prediction
I predicted 2-0 to the R’s and I wasn’t far off. I envisaged a far different performance however, which may have been a tad foolhardy considering Rangers below-par pre-season. As a defensive unit Rangers were far from solid despite decent individual displays.


Your Comment