RANGERS will bemoan their lack of killer instinct as despite controlling the game, they could only managed a hard-fought point against plucky Blackpool.
The Tangerines took the lead in under 20 minutes with a Gary Taylor-Fletcher crackerjack from distance deservedly handing Pool the lead.
From this moment onwards the Tangerines were entrenched in their own half and sought to make it a difficult day at the office for the R`s.
Two half time subs and a formation shift shocked the R`s into life – with Dexter Blackstock equalising, as he was first on hand to nod home as Akos Buzsaky`s free-kick cannoned back off the cross-bar.
In a game officiated in a pernickety fashion by a perennial bottler the R`s managed to scrape through a winnable game with a valuable point.
Rangers made a couple of changes from the side that were defeated by Derby in W12 on Saturday. Matthew Connolly and Akos Buzsaky made way for Peter Ramage and Lee Cook, with Connolly notably dropping out of the 16.
Former Tangerine Kaspars Gorkss came back to the bench after being omitted from the squad on Saturday.
Blackpool started with the potent strike force of loanee Steven Kabba and Vital QPR`s one to watch, Ben Burgess – Gary Taylor-Fletcher started on the right flank, with former Crewe and Real Sociedad winger David Vaughan on the left.
In a game where former players didn`t take as much precedent as expected, Ian Evatt was the only ex-Ranger to start for Pool, with Zesh Rehman unavailable due to his loan terms and Daniel Nardiello suffering a fresh injury set back.
Queens Park Rangers v Blackpool
Both sides were looking good in the early stages as they vied for possession. Rangers were looking to dispel a first home defeat, and started in sprightly fashion, with Lee Cook in particularly lively form as he supplied Dexter Blackstock in the opening stages, but he could make appropriate connection on a poor clearance.
Lively Cook was involved once more, as some good build up play involving Ramage, Ledesma and Blackstock found Cookie in space down the left, but his errant shot flew wide of the left hand upright. The R`s were threatening – but evidently lacking that killer instinct or deadly blow.
There was a distinctive silence around Loftus Road early on, one would have thought the proposed 10 minute silence during the Derby game had taken place in W12 tonight – the ground awash with a lack of atmosphere, as a lacklustre opening on the field was proving difficult viewing for many fans.
When Martin Rowlands spurned a further opportunity for the R`s it seemed like another one of those days as R`s fans began to re-count the déjà vu of games against Coventry City and Derby County, where the R`s knock on the door, but never seriously threaten.
The R`s were made to pay for their toothless attacks, and how! Gary Taylor-Fletcher was the man of the moment as he sensationally handed the Tangerines the lead. A long ball directed towards man mountain forward Ben Burgess, was nodded away by Stewart into the path of winger, Taylor-Fletcher, who fairly let fly unchallenged to send a dipping, curling drive, beyond the despairing five of R`s stopper Radek Cerny.
For all of Cerny`s woes between the sticks, there was nothing he could do about this one – an excellent strike handing Pool a lead which perhaps didn`t reflect the chances, but a goal nevertheless you could see coming a mile away.
Queens Park Rangers 0-1 Blackpool
The Loftus Road crowd was growing visibly frustrated as their side continued to produce very little in terms of cutting edge. Some fancy touches from Ledesma and Parejo weren`t finding their desired targets as Parejo seemed to be playing the game at walking pace.
Ledesma fired a wayward effort high and wide of Paul Rachubka`s upright as Rangers were looking lacklustre in attacking areas. Keith Southern has some hearts in mouths at the Loft End when he drilled an effort from distance inches wide of Cerny`s left hand post.
Rangers continued to plug away and Lee Cook was proving industrious down the left flank, his cross for Blackstock was diverted away for a corner. Gavin Mahon found himself in a similar position to weekend Derby scorer Martin Albrechtsen from the resulting corner, but couldn`t produce a similar end product, with the Pool rearguard throwing numbers at the effort.
Blackpool were looking to the pace and power combination of strike force Burgess and Kabba, both proving a handful on the counter-attack. Welsh international David Vaughan was giving Peter Ramage a tough time down the left as the R`s, for all their attacking exploits, were a ticking time bomb in some instances at the back.
Martin Rowlands` wayward effort summed up the R`s first half, as he strode up to the ball left footed, but his misguided effort with his weaker foot flew wide by a distance.
Chants of “4-4-2” were reverberating around Loftus Road as the moans and groans were greeted with every poor touch, with Parejo and Ledesma particularly frustrating as Dexter Blackstock was becoming particularly isolated upfront.
The first half drew to a close, with a strike worthy of winning any encounter separating the sides. A chorus of boo`s were ringing in the players ears as they left the field – As Iain Dowie had plainly got it wrong.
Half Time: Queens Park Rangers 0-1 Blackpool
Under previous regimes, a call for change would have made the manager more ardent in his views, not so Iain Dowie who must be praised for making a couple of bold substitutions at half time, that made him popular with the Rangers faithful if not with Mr. Briatore.
Daniel Parejo and Emmanuel Ledesma left the field with Mikele Leigertwood and Patrick Agyemang taking the field in a surprise 4-4-2 formation.
Rangers surged out of the blocks in the second period as the newly found confidence was visible in every free-flowing move – this time there was a new zest and zeal about them that wasn`t displayed in the first period.
Cook, one of the only players to come out of the first half with some credit, started to take the game to Barker. His direct running beat his respective full back, but his shot was well saved by former Manchester United stopper Rachubka. Cook should have perhaps looked at Patrick Agyemang in acres of space alongside him, but nevertheless some positive play from the R`s.
In the thick of the action once more, Cook produced another in a string of excellent crosses as Blackstock could only send a tame header straight at the Pools stopper. In truth it was one way traffic as the R`s couldn`t break the resistance of the Tangerines backline.
Ian Evatt was proving a worthy adversary, with his aerial prowess and dominance proving a tough test for the R`s strike force. It seemed that Dexter Blackstock was being marked by the former R, when it perhaps would have been better served to have the pace of Agyemang to test the resilience of the ex-QPR and Chesterfield man.
Substitute Mikele Leigertwood was the next to test Blackpool as his speculative 25-yard drive flew narrowly wide of Rachubka`s left hand upright. In truth it began to look like one of those days for Rangers as they continued to carve out some half chances, but the scything pass and shot still managed to elude the R`s.
Dexter Blackstock thought he`d handed Rangers the lead, and in truth so did the majority of the crowd. Blackstock rose highest to head home from a Martin Rowlands corner, but the referee deemed the striker had fouled his man in the process – in fact it looked no different to two or three tame headers he`d given before, but this one was singled out for special treatment.
Iain Dowie gambled and threw on Akos Buzsaky in a final attempt to salvage something from the game with under 20 minutes remaining. He replaced Gavin Mahon in what has proved a risky tactic indeed when you consider the two games he hasn`t played in were a 3-0 defeat away at Sheffield United and withdrawn with the scores level on Saturday.
The gambit paid off as Buzsaky had a big hand in the R`s equaliser. A free kick won on the edge of the area was given by official Mr. Hegley. The expectation was palpable around the ground as the Magical Magyar took to his marks. An outstanding effort came back of the cross bar, before Dexter Blackstock followed up for his fifth goal of the season.
Blackstock once again displayed his goal poaching credentials, nodding home from close range, reacting fastest to the rebound. An excellent goal that was set to breed confidence in the side.
Queens Park Rangers 1-1 Blackpool
Rangers fans could sense blood, as they got behind their team in the hope they could carve out more opportunities to win the match.
In truth the entire second half was played out in the Blackpool half, with the Tangerines offering very little in terms of counter-attacking football, although the surprising power of forward Steve Kabba saw him work himself some good positions in spells.
Lee Cook once again swung in a delightful cross, only for Blackstock to spurn another in a string of opportunities as his weak headed effort fell straight into the arms of Rachubka.
The R`s continued to press forward, but once again the lack of a final product was proving a real problem, as a stubborn rearguard held the R`s at bay. The trickery of Buzsaky was creating chances for Rangers that they could only dream of before the break.
Blackpool to their credit would not lie down, as they put men behind the ball and defended stoutly – not allowing the R`s to create the necessary opportunities with which to take the game.
Some speculative drives from distance, most notably from Ben Burgess towards the end was all they could muster in terms of attacking prowess as they were forced to defend for the majority of the second half.
Rangers finished the game to a mixture of boo`s, but even the fans who bafflingly chose to boo a team trying its heart out must have seen and appreciated Blackpool`s defensive efforts – and appreciate a hard fought point on Rangers` part.
Final Whistle: Queens Park Rangers 1-1 Blackpool
Rangers: Radek Cerny, Peter Ramage, Damien Delaney, Damion Stewart, Fitz Hall, Emmanuel Ledesma (Patrick Agyemang 46), Lee Cook, Daniel Parejo (Mikele Leigertwood 46), Martin Rowlands, Gavin Mahon (Akos Buzsaky 73), Dexter Blackstock.
Blackpool: Rachubka, Southern, Evatt, Vaughan (Broomes 83), Taylor-Fletcher, Jorgensen (Fox 89), Kabba, Camara, Edwards, Barker, Burgess.
Radek Cerny – 5/10
Didn`t really have much to do in truth, but nevertheless had another couple of shaky moments, nearly kicking Kabba up in the air in the first half, and dropping the ball with no-one round him in the second period. How long will Dowie persist with this keeper?
Peter Ramage – 6/10
Did well again today and certainly justified his selection in the side. He acted as another central defender when cover was required, but doesn`t have the necessary capabilities to get forward and help out Ledesma/Rowlands on the attack. Does his duty well first and foremost however.
Damien Delaney – 6/10
Against a quicker winger Damien may have had a few problems today, luckily when the counter attack was on he had Gary Taylor-Fletcher to contend with, who will be the first to admit his pace is not his strong point. Was caught out a few times in his search to go forward, but by and large did OK, if not setting the world alight.
Damion Stewart – 7/10
Was extremely useful in defence again, and made it a tough day for Ben Burgess. The tall forward and Damion had a great aerial tussle every time, and Stewart seemed to win the majority. He looked to distribute the ball from the back in intelligent fashion, playing across the line to Ramage or Delaney and only resorting to long ball when absolutely necessary.
Fitz Hall – 7/10
Similar to Stewart in the respect he dealt with Burgess well, a potential threat was snuffed out in that respect. Hall was also playing the ball about nicely, and the two seemed to have established a working partnership, which will make it harder for Latvian international and former Pool defender Kaspars Gorkss to make an impact.
Emmanuel Ledesma – 5/10
Very disappointing from Ledesma, it seems that his Carlisle performance is a far cry from the tawdry, predictable display we saw in the first half display. A player who cannot keep to formation, he voids the right wing berth and roams inside, offering Rangers little to nothing in terms of width on the right side. Will need to improve to disposes Rowlands down the right.
Lee Cook 8/10
His creativity changed the game, and was a rare bright point in an otherwise drab fixture in W12. His accomplished crosses were crying for the head of a striker, but negligible movement in the middle ensured that alot of his work went to waste. Cookie will come again, in what I believe to be his best performance since his return to the club. It`s a real shame it didn`t yield more.
Daniel Parejo – 4/10
Frankly stunned at this poor performance from the Spanish Under 21 international. When we signed him, it was games like this that R`s fans said would question his mentality, a question that was answered tonight in my mind. He simply didn`t look like he wanted to be there, and gave the ball away in lacklustre fashion nearly every time he offloaded. I`m sure that Briatore will have a word with Dowie for withdrawing him and he`ll be straight back in the team for Saturday however.
Martin Rowlands – 7/10
Martin was the hub of the midfield alongside Mahon in the first half, as Parejo seemed to play wherever he felt. He moved the ball around well, seeking the ball wide and making surging runs forward in search of an opening. He was moved out to the right, where we saw some vintage Rowlands of old. A decent display from Rowley.
Gavin Mahon – 7/10
A lot of unsung work from Mahon made him one of the best players on the pitch. Nearly every attack passed through Mahon in some fashion, as he gave the ball away only twice in his time on the field. His passing was excellent and his ball winning was spot on as he sat in front of the back four with a view to protecting them from more counter attacking disaster. A good display that not all fans seemed to appreciate fully.
Dexter Blackstock – 6/10
Had a whole host of chances to finish off Blackpool in the first half alone – in the second period his movement deteriorated slightly as he couldn`t establish a meaningful partnership with Agyemang. Distinctly isolated in the first period, but he took his goal well in the second – Some may say he couldn`t miss, but you`ve got to be there to score.
Sub: Mikele Leigertwood – 6/10
Replaced Daniel Parejo
Showed alot of strength in the tackle and provided another head with which to defend and go forward for set-pieces. He was certainly an improvement on Parejo the moment he took to the field.
Sub: Patrick Agyemang – 6/10
Replaced Emmanuel Ledesma
Never really got going in the second half -despite threatening to get in behind on numerous occasions. Had Cook squared him the ball, or had he picked an easier pass at a moment in the second half, the R`s could have nicked a win, the margins were that tight. A good hard-working display as he works himself back in.
Replaced Gavin Mahon
Changed the game with his excellent free-kick, and he looked head and shoulders above most other R`s players when he came on. His trickery was classy and his passing was exemplarily, I cannot wait for Akos to get back to full fitness.
Iain Dowie: 6/10 – Picked the wrong side and the wrong formation for a home game against a bottom half side, but in all fairness saw the error of his ways and changed it in a bold way. That must be congratulated – that boldness will be tested come Saturday against Birmingham.
Simon Grayson: 6/10 – His team stuck to orders and made things very difficult for Rangers. A hard earned point for him and his side, and that is reward enough for a display where they found themselves on the back foot for the majority.
Mr. G Hegley: 4/10 – Extremely pernickety in his decision making, and could have let the game flow a lot more. He is a frustrating referee at times as he choked on the big decisions, only choosing to blow his whistle persistently for minor offences.