QUEENS Park Rangers were dumped out the FA Cup in customary lacklustre fashion to compound 20 years of hurt in the competition.
Rangers have one of the worst records in this competition, two wins in 16 years and without a win at the first attempt since Trevor Sinclair`s overhead kick in 1997.
It was your typical Rangers cup affair, a multitude of changes, players played out of position, comical defending, injuries and ultimately defeat.
First a Joel Lynch own goal set Blackburn Rovers on their way, a decent save from stand-in keeper Matt Ingram cannoned in off the defender Lynch for the opener.
The second on the other side of half time was almost a carbon-copy – a shot, a useful save, and Liam Feeney this time tucked home from close range.
Rangers did give their supporters some home when Yeni Ngbakoto was bundled over in the area and Jake Bidwell smashed home from the spot, but the home side failed to make the most of reducing the arrears.
In truth Rovers looked the more comfortable team as the game progressed with Rangers unable to get the ball in the area and create any chances of note.
So – Rovers beat QPR for the third time in that wretched aforementioned run, while Rangers once again contemplate staring through the window at the party to which they’re not invited.
Ian Holloway made five changes from the side that beat Ipswich Town last Monday. Out went Alex Smithies, Jordan Cousins, Ariel Borysiuk, Ryan Manning and Idrissa Sylla and in came Matt Ingram, Nedum Onuoha, Ben Gladwin, Massimo Luongo and Eberechi Eze.
Ingram started in goal behind a defence of James Perch, Onuoha, Joel Lynch and Jake Bidwell. The midfield comprised of Pawel Wszolek, Grant Hall, Luongo and Gladwin with Eze playing deep of Jamie Mackie.
Blackburn started with David Raya behind a defence of Derrick Williams, Gordon Greer, Jason Lowe and Elliott Bennett. The midfield saw Ben Marshall, Hope Akpan, Charlie Mulgrew and Liam Feeney line up behind Danny Graham and Sam Gallagher.
PERCH – ONUOHA – LYNCH – BIDWELL
WSZOLEK – LUONGO – EZE- GLADWIN
WILLIAMS – LOWE – GREER – BENNETT
MARSHALL – AKPAN – MULGREW – FEENEY
GALLAGHER – GRAHAM
Back to back wins had bred an ill-deserved feeling of confidence going into this fixture – in a competition where it would be fair to say Rangers are not blessed with positive form. Indeed Blackburn have beaten Rangers three times in recent run of two wins in 16 years.
Couple that with the fact that Rangers have not won without a replay since THAT Trevor Sinclair overhead kick in 1997 and the confidence of two wins on the spin somewhat dissipates and pales into insignificance.
There was a buzz around the ground – or at least the three sides that the club elected to open – for young Eberechi Eze and some neat tricks and flicks early on did get fans to their feet, albeit playing significantly deeper than perhaps anticipated.
Eze won an early free-kick after he wriggled through a forest of legs, only for Ben Gladwin to curl a free-kick into the grateful arms of rare starter David Raya – in truth the shot did well to reach the Spanish stopper.
Charlie Mulgrew went close at the other end from a set-piece but was unable to steer an effort on target. There appeared to be a real lack of quality on display due primarily to the vast amount of change among the respective line-ups, but that didn’t stop Rovers from taking a lead inside ten minutes.
Elliott Bennett put in a hopeful far post cross which saw Gallagher beat a static Jake Bidwell to the ball. His header was smartly saved by Matt Ingram only for the ball to canon back off JOEL LYNCH and creep over the line.
Quite an apt goal to concede considering Rangers comical form in the competition. A Ben Marshall pot shot drifted wide from distance as Rovers pushed to extend their early advantage.
Worse was to come for Rangers as young midfielder Eze went down under no challenge and was forced off shortly before the 20 minute mark – He was replaced by Yeni Ngbakoto.
Rangers pressed but never looked like creating an opportunity of note. Indeed the languid legs of Gladwin seemed to slow progress and attacking endeavour with the best he could elicit was a weak effort from distance that started wide and went wider.
The lack of creativity and enterprise was evident, only Pawel Wszolek was getting any joy – beating his man on occasion and sending in crosses. The lack of presence in the area was a particular disappointment with Jamie Mackie the one man to aim for.
Joel Lynch attempted to take a drab affair by the scruff of the neck when he drove forward and fired a venomous drive wide of the right hand upright. Chances, however, were very few and far between.
Referee Simon Hooper summed up the occasion by signalling for a second corner in succession but got fed up with amount of time the home side were taking to get themselves sorted and blew up for the end of the half.
A performance that certainly did no augur well for a second half to remember. Two teams that made a world famous domestic cup competition look like a Sunday morning tear up on the Hackney Marshes.
The home side had a flea in their ear and Jamie Mackie nearly earned them a leveller in the early stanza. His run from the touchline saw him beat what seemed four or five men before ultimately seeing his shot blocked.
It was typical Mackie, like being drawn into a cartoon fight and emerging from the dustball unscathed and somehow still in possession – terrific tenacity from the Rs lone forward against the side that left his season in tatters the last time they met in this competition.
Perch then dollied the ball over the bar with his weaker foot, cutting in from the right. With nothing doing in the opening ten minutes Gladwin was mercifully withdrawn and the more direct Olamide Shodipo on in his stead.
Joel Lynch could have levelled when Bidwell`s corner was half cleared but his shot into the ground sat up nicely for Raya to claim. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you what was coming – despite seeing most if the ball in the second half, Rangers went two goals down.
The ball was quickly up the other end following that set-piece and Gallagher was left totally unmarked as he bore down on goal. His curling effort was well saved again by Ingram, only for LIAM FEENEY to tuck home from close range.
An hour gone, a two goal deficit, an injury, an own goal – yes ladies and gentleman it’s a QPR FA Cup third round tie. All that was missing was a penalty, and referee Hooper duly obliged – against the script however, it went to the home side.
It was soft to say the least – Ngbakoto challenged aerially Gordon Greer for the ball and went down under the challenge of the Scotsman. JAKE BIDWELL was the surprise choice for penalty-taker, but he smashed it down the middle giving Raya no chance.
Akpan stemmed the tide of home pressure when he shot straight into the midriff of Ingram from distance. Yeni Ngbakoto could have levelled proceedings but glanced his header wide from a Wszolek cross.
By now Rovers had elected to starve the game of play and chances and it was proving highly successful. They threw on Ryan Nyambe for Hope Akpan – slotting in at right back, while Ranges responded by bringing on Jordan Cousins for their final change.
Anthony Stokes then replaced Danny Graham with minutes remaining – Rangers though should have levelled as the game went into four minutes of added on time. Jordan Cousins the guilty party, lashing wide from close range when it appeared easier to score.
Ben Marshall earned a card for a wild challenge on Cousins before Wes Brown replaced Sam Gallagher in a bid to hold what they had. It most certainly worked as QPR spent most of the time playing the ball around the back four and doing their best to avoid putting it anywhere near the box.
The final whistle was met with the indifference it deserved from the crowd. A plethora of changes was never going to pay dividends even against a ropey Rovers outfit.
The respective appalling runs go on for Rangers as they look on at the fourth round draw with a usual sense of misery and bitterness.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS: Ingram, Perch, Onuoha, Lynch, Bidwell, Wszolek, Hall, Luongo (Cousins 82), Eze (Ngbakoto 18), Gladwin (Shodipo 56), Mackie.
Subs not used: Lumley, El-Khayati, Hamalainen, Manning.
BLACKBURN ROVERS: Raya, Mulgrew, Greer, Williams, Bennett, Feeney, Akpan (Nyambe 74), Lowe, Marshall, Gallagher (Brown 90+3), Graham (Stokes 87).
Subs not used: Steele, Tomlinson, Mahoney, Travis.
Referee: Mr S Hooper