A BRACE by former Saint, Dexter Blackstock helped Rangers to a handsome victory over Southampton at Loftus Road, a result that sends the R`s into an early play-off position.
Dexter opened the scoring under the eyes of R`s co-owner Lakshmi Mittal, in the early stages by lashing home a close range effort, following some tentative set-piece defending. Rangers cause was helped by referee Mr. Friend as he deemed that debutante Oliver Lancashire`s tackle constituted as violent conduct, as the Saints were reduced to ten men.
Undeterred, the Saints drew level following a good spell of possession despite their inferior numbers. Adam Lallana, a player who exhumed confidence throughout the fixture, broke into the area to slide home following a slick one-two.
Rangers retook the lead in controversial circumstances, when Martin Rowlands` flighted free kick found Damion Stewart who placed home from what appeared to be an offside position. The R`s hammered home their advantage when Agyemang`s bursting run and shot was saved well by the inspired Davis, only for Blackstock to follow up and strike again from close range.
Agyemang, an inspired substitute got his deserved goal, striking home with style, as his right footed shot flew into the bottom corner from distance.
Merely casting an eye over scoreline would suggest a dominant display, however much was done to paper over the cracks of some naivety in the Rangers rearguard, as at times the R`s were second best to ten men, before some inspired substitutes led the way to late glory.
Rangers made one change from the side that drew away to Bristol City. Suspended Emmanuel Ledesma served his one match ban, with Hogan Ephraim filling the right midfield berth in his stead.
The R`s also lined up with former Saint, Dexter Blackstock, employed in his usual position of lone striker, whilst nemesis Patrick Agyemang who had a brace in his last two appearances against Southampton started on the bench. Other than that the R`s remained unchanged as they sought to maintain their 100% home record in all competitions.
Southampton started without the experienced campaigner in Michael Svensson as a precautionary measure following complications with his knee injury. In a relatively young side, Paul Wotton stood out as one of the more experienced players, alongside talented youngsters such as Oliver Lancashire, Andrew Surman and Adam Lallana.
Bolstered by a young, talented squad, the Saints were looking to ensure that the home defeat against Blackpool was a blip rather than a trend, after some recent good results was scuppered by the Tangerines.
Queens Park Rangers v Southampton
Rangers started the encounter on the up and took the game to their visitors, when son of former Wimbledon player Alan Cork, thumped the ball out of play on the right flank. It was from here that Rangers drew first blood.
A long throw from midfielder Gavin Mahon was flicked on by a Saints defender to the far post where Lee Cook was lurking; former Saint Dexter Blackstock broke away from his marker to power a drive past Kelvin Davis from close range. An unstoppable fininsh in a barstorming start, with the R`s infront after 37 seconds.
Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Southampton
Rangers continued to press with Dexter Blackstock at the forefront of every attack just running inches short of Daniel Parejo`s well timed through ball. Southampton started to assert some pressure on proceedings with Simon Gillett`s header drifting harmlessly wide following some slick build up.
Dexter Blackstock was proving a real menace to an inexperienced central defensive partnership, his sublime trap from a hopeful long ball created a chance, but his right footed effort couldn`t match his previous exploits, as his tame shot was blocked at the near post.
Adam Lallana was looking bright in the middle of the park, and his left footed drive made Radek Cerny work. Cerny who had previously opted to punch an easily catchable cross, saved low to his left, as Lallana`s drive threatened to creep in the corner.
Play quickly resumed to the other end as an intelligent quickly taken free-kick by Real Madrid loanee Daniel Parejo. Lee Cook was the benefactor as the free kick found him down the left, Cook fizzed a left footed cross into the far post where Blackstock was lurking but Cork did enough to stop the former Saint from notching once more.
Cerny was once again under the spotlight as Connolly`s shouts for his keeper to come and collect a pass, the keepers reactions were delayed, as McGoldrick`s toe poke rolled narrowly wide of the upright. In the build up Lee Holmes was injured with suspected medial knee ligament damage and withdrawn in place of Nathan Dyer, a substitution that brought jeers from the home crowd in the light of his recent media coverage.
It was Dyer who stretched the R`s defence to its fullest, when his excellent run and shot from the left was bravely nodded away by Delaney. Indeed Dyer and Lallana were the Saints players impressing in the early stages, well marshalled by experienced holding midfielder Paul Wotton.
The major talking point came on the half hour, when a swashbuckling run by Damien Delaney found him free down the left flank. Debutante Oliver Lancashire came across and scythed the full back down. A tough challenge with both feet off the floor Mr. Friend had no hesitation in dishing out a red for the youngster.
The initial surprise by the Rangers fans, and the furore of the Saints suggested a surprising decision, however upon further inspection the challenge was strong and warranted stern action. Opinion remains divided in a challenge where a yellow card may have sufficed. The resulting free kick by Parejo was comfortably saved by Davis, whose part in the protests should have perhaps earned him a yellow.
Rangers were now in full flow as a magnificent cross field pass found Lee Cook in space on the left, his cut back found full back Damien Delaney, who not for the first time found himself in a forward position, and the Irish international`s fierce effort was tipped over the bar.
The attacking might of the Rangers line-up was counter-acted by some naivety in defensive area`s with Andrew Surman`s cross finding the unmarked Lallana. The central midfielder did not get the goal his efforts deserved on this occasion as a tame volley rolled into the arms of former Czech international Cerny.
As previously mentioned, Rangers outstanding attacking players continued to spread the play, probing the Saints for an opening. Lee Cook was performing well and his cross from the left found Blackstock who could have helped himself to a hat-rick at this point, but once again not getting the goal his overall play deserved.
Next was the turn of Damien Delaney as Rangers continued to turn the screw on their visitors from the south coast. The Irish full back latched onto an accomplished through pass from Mikele Leigertwood before beating his full back and laying it back to Blackstock. Dexter thundered a subsequent left footed drive against the foot of the post with Davis well and truly beaten. Saints could once again breathe a sigh of relief.
Southampton created one more chance before the break as Lloyd James crossed from the right after some hesitancy by Delaney in the defence. Simon Gillet stormed in towards the six yard box, only to place his shot straight at Radek Cerny, and see what was to become an important offside flag raised.
With that the referee drew the first half to a close, a half packed with incident and free-flowing attacking football from both sides. Former Saint Dexter Blackstock handed the R`s the positive impetus to build upon, and the sending off condemned the Saints to a 1-0 deficit going into the break.
Half Time: Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Southampton
Rangers began the second half in the ascendency as they began to assert their numerical advantage. The first half sending half of Oliver Lancashire was highlighted early in the second period as Paul Wotton thundered studs up into a challenge with Daniel Parejo, which the referee chose to ignore. A red for one tackle and no free-kick for another, when in truth they were not markedly different from each other in terms of malice.
The midfield trio of Leigertwood, Mahon and Parejo combined well as Mahon drilled a well timed right footed effort, but Davis was more than equal to it. And it was coincidentally from here that Southampton found their way back into the fixture.
Some quick thinking by Kelvin Davis saw Adam Lallana bound clear through the middle with the defence under immediate pressure. No tackle was forthcoming as the young midfielder coasted through the middle, before playing a neat one-two with Simon Gillet, culminating with Lallana placing home from close range with ease.
It was certainly deserved from the Saints point of view as Poortvliet`s youngside continued to plug away in the face of inferior numbers, and just deserts was served up in exquisite fashion by the young Southampton side.
Queens Park Rangers 1-1 Southampton
A disappointing goal to concede for QPR, they immediately set about their task of restoring the advantage. Hogan Ephraim`s deflected cross nearly crept in the near post from the right, but Kelvin Davis pulled off an excellent stop at his near post to deny the West Ham youngster on his return to the side, following a bout of shin splints.
Rangers made a bold double substitution on the hour mark with a view to getting back in front. Hogan Ephraim and Daniel Parejo were withdrawn in favour of Patrick Agyemang and club captain Martin Rowlands. – Rowlands in particular receiving the adulation of the Rangers faithful as he took to the field.
Consistent pressure from Rangers caused Paul Wotton to ride the back of Blackstock, handing the R`s a free kick on the left. It was from this free-kick that Rangers struck and controversy ensued.
Martin Rowlands` right footed cross into the heart of the penalty area saw Damion Stewart unmarked, and he tapped home left-footed. The linesman Roger Vaughan kept his flag down despite Stewart markedly standing in an offside position.
The offence was hardly subtle either, right infront of the linesman`s eyes who must have been watching another game – unless he thinks scoring a goal isn`t interfering in play? Good fortune for Rangers as the Saints fans continued to feel hard done by, this time justifiably so.
Queens Park Rangers 2-1 Southampton
As Southampton`s discipline started to crumble, Patrick Agyemang made inroads into the Saints defence, somehow his pacey, powerful and overall skilful run didn`t culminate in another Rangers goal. The game continued to simmer under the surface with Nathan Dyer and Delaney picking up bookings in a short space of time.
Substitute and former R`s target Tomas Pekhart won a free-kick from Damion Stewart, and Surman`s twice taken free-kick found a crowded penalty area, and Radek Cerny opted to punch once more. Pekhart`s subsequent looping, deflected volley was dealt with by the Czech stopper.
More fantastic direct running from Agyemang manoeuvred his way into a crossing position down the right, his cross was delightfully chested down by the hard-working Blackstock, but the excellent build up play wasn`t matched by the finish as Leigertwood blazed over from close range.
Yet more selfless work from Agyemang finally reaped the rewards for Rangers, as Dexter Blackstock doubled his tally for the day. Gavin Mahon once again retrieved possession in the middle feeding Lee Cook wide left, his run found Agyemang who took the mantle and ran direct towards goal leaving defenders in his wake.
His subsequent shot was excellently saved by Davis, but Dexter Blackstock was not to be denied as he was in the right area, following up in the six yard box to slam home from close range. Dexter`s second and Rangers third, the game itself was sewn up.
Queens Park Rangers 3-1 Southampton
Southampton hadn`t lost their zest and zeal for attacking football throughout the match as McGoldrick couldn`t fire past Cerny from close range, and Tomas Pekhart`s speculative volley flew narrowly wide of the right hand upright. The Czech forward on loan from Tottenham was left unmarked at the far post as Gillet`s testing cross highlighted issues in the defence.
Gillett had another go from distance after another of many industrious runs from Lallana, but Cerny was more than equal to the effort, saving low. The game itself appeared over as a contest with Patrick Agyemang breaking out the show-boating skills down the right flank.
Martin Rowlands` direct running down the right flank should have created a goal for himself, he cut back from the byline and somehow managed to pick out the legs of the forlorn Kelvin Davis, who looks at odds to save it and frankly appearing fed up!
He soon had more to be fed up about as Partick Agyemang bagged the goal his performance deserved and what a splendid strike it was to round off a thoroughly enjoyable occasion at Loftus Road.
It was he who started the move and finished it as Rangers got their fourth and frankly a scoreline that flattered their performance. His one-two with Dexter Blackstock saw him outside the area on his right foot, and following two successive braces against the Saints, the Ghanaian wouldn`t pass up this opportunity. Excellent technique saw him drill his shot low and hard past the despairing dive of Kelvin Davis.
Queens Park Rangers 4-1 Southampton
What a difference a year makes in W12, from despair and a club seemingly on its backside, to chants of “The R`s Are Going Up!” are frankly baffling and typical in the modern climate of football.
And with that Mr. Friend drew matters to a close in a thoroughly entertaining affair for the neutral, and both sets of fans alike. Some interesting officiating, chances and goals galore in W12 as Rangers have certainly caused waves in the Championship.
Final Whistle: Queens Park Rangers 4-1 Southampton
Attendance: 13, 770.
Referee: Mr. K Friend.
Rangers: Radek Cerny, Damien Delaney, Damion Stewart, Gavin Mahon, Mikele Leigertwood, Daniel Parejo (Martin Rowlands 59), Dexter Blackstock, Peter Ramage, Matthew Connolly, Lee Cook, Hogan Ephraim (Patrick Agyemang 59).
Saints: Kelvin Davis, Paul Wotton, Andrew Surman, Lee Holmes (Nathan Dyer 22), David McGoldrick, Morgan Schneiderlin (Tomas Pekhart 68), Adam Lallana, Simon Gillett, Lloyd James, Oliver Lancashire, Jack Cork.
For all of the match stats click here
Radek Cerny – 6/10
Radek did not look confident and opted to punch when the ball was easier to catch at times, not inspiring confidence in his defence. He wasn`t helped by the sun at times admittedly, but if it`s a problem put a cap on. Made a couple of useful stops, but by and large left his defenders wanting.
Peter Ramage – 7/10
Looked very accomplished and solid at right back, his composure and heading ability at full back gave the R`s another head with which to defend. Newcastle perhaps could have done with this player yesterday as Peter continues to improve game on game.
Damien Delaney – 7/10
Did well going forward at times, and was hacked down for the sending off. His is one of Rangers key attacking players in spells, attacking in stealth as defences seek to mark the more conventional attackers. Had a couple of good efforts on goal, and by and large defended well.
Matthew Connolly – 7/10
Connolly looked accomplished at the back and always looked to pick the right pass going forward. He was good in the air and played with a confidence that promises alot for his future. Did look a little worried when forwards ran at him, but was left over-exposed at times by the midfield.
Damion Stewart – 8/10
Damion bagged himself another goal to cap off an excellent performance. Once again he looked composed on the ball, perhaps too much so at times, but nevertheless his goal was integral, however suspicious it might have been. Gorkss and Hall are going to struggle to get a look in.
Hogan Ephraim – 6/10
Some decent trickery on the ball, but rarely used the touchline as an outlet, preferred to come inside looking to pick the right pass. Didn`t get down the touchline as much as he could have, but nevertheless a decent return for Hogan.
Lee Cook – 7/10
Continues to remain quiet following his return home to W12. Hasn`t quite recaptured the form that saw him make the Premier League move down the road, but here`s to hoping that he can kick on and produce more chances for Rangers.
Gavin Mahon – 7/10
Got Rangers out of alot of trouble with his strength on occasions, however pushed too far forward leaving the back four exposed. Doing yet more unsung work in the middle alongside Mikele winning the ball and moving it on. Gavin will want an improvement to his defensive side come Wednesday.
Mikele Leigertwood – 7/10
The more attacking of the two central midfielders, Mikele kicked on and produced a great deal for the R`s. He lost out a few times in the tackle, and at times he almost lapsed to give the Saints an opening a la Sheffield Untied, but by and large a competent display.
Daniel Parejo – 6/10
Daniel never really got going in this one, and seemed more intent with arguing with the official about off the ball incidents that punishing his perpertrators with the ball. Dowie was right to take him off as he was getting some occasional rough treatment, and Rowlands looked better in his stead.
Dexter Blackstock – 9/10
Relishing his role leading the line, Dexter has made the position his own. Doing enough work for two, Dexter really stuck it to his old club, standing out at the key performer and notching twice in the process. His place is set in stone for the moment as he kicks on in his new found role.
Martin Rowlands – 7/10
Replaced Daniel Parejo
Martin came on and added something different to the R`s attack that Parejo didn`t seem to have. He was charging every ball down and winning it back for Rangers, before distributing very well. Should have bagged himself a goal but unbelievably shot straight at the still Davis from close range. Will be looking to start on Wednesday after an excellent performance from the bench.
Patrick Agyemang – 8/10
Replaced Hogan Ephraim
Another creative spark, Patrick was a real catalyst for Rangers kicking on and bagging more goals. Piled forward on the counter attack, and his blend of pace and power had the Saints backline beaten all ends up. Got himself a truly excellent goal, with oddly enough his most difficult of a host of chances. His stinging drive from outside the area left Davis with no chance, and another one that will be pushing for Wednesday.
Iain Dowie: 7 – Got a little lucky today, when the result could have been very different. Was right not to change things too much from the Bristol City fixture, with Hogan the rational choice. Good decision to unleash Agyemang and Rowlands to win the fixture, decent performance and goal difference boosted by three.
Jan Poortvliet: 6 – The Dutchman will be incredibly proud of his youngsters and rightfully so. The score flattered Rangers at times who were put under considerable pressure by the accomplished Lallana, and perhaps had Poortvliet had his full compliment of players throughout, the score could have been different.
Mr. Friend: 4 – That is not to say he wasn`t good from my point of view, but he and his fellow officials was plainly awful in the big decisions that went Rangers way. The sending off was perhaps borderline, along with the goal that appeared several yards offside, made it a good day for myself and my fellow R`s supporters, but Southampton have every right to feel hard done by, with Mr. Friend living up to a well deserved reputation as a ‘homer`.