Date: 8th March 2008 at 10:41pm
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RANGERS once again surrendered a one-goal lead, as Sheffield Wednesday took full advantage of yet another inept second half display.

The R`s took the lead through an unlikely source in Damien Delaney after some good work from Rowan Vine. Two substitutions later and Wednesday looked like a different outfit, with Graham Kavanagh nodding home from close range. This was added to a goal from the spot from Deon Burton, as Rangers yet again flattered to deceived in a mediocre second half display.

To compound the misery Hogan Ephraim was handed a straight red for raising his arms towards debutante loanee Franck Songo`o, on a thoroughly disappointing day in Sheffield.


Gigi De Canio made two changes from the goalless draw against Coventry on Wednesday. Dexter Blackstock and Damion Stewart were reintroduced to the side at the expense of Hogan Ephraim and Fitz Hall respectively, with the latter being left out of the 16.

Gavin Mahon recovered sufficiently in time from a medial knee ligament injury to get a place on the bench; meanwhile young sensation Angelo Balanta also claimed a place on the bench.

Brian Laws made a few changes following the Home defeat to West Brom. With Adam Bolder and Jermaine Johnson missing out through suspension, there was a place in the starting line-up for Friday loan signing Franck Songo`o, Ronnie Wallwork also came back into the starting 11.

Wednesday also opted to drop winger Burton O`Brien to the bench at the expense of tricky winger Wade Small. There was no place in the 16 for ex loan Ranger Ben Sahar owing to a hamstring injury.

Kick Off: Sheffield Wednesday v Queens Park Rangers

Wednesday came out the stronger in the opening exchanges with Enoch Showunmi firing high and wide in the 3rd minute. This was accompanied by an effort from Graham Kavanagh, which flew wide of Camp`s right hand post. Wednesday threatened early on and a tantalising cross from Songo`o evaded everyone as the Owls looked to force the issue.

Rangers started to assert some pressure in the game, and Rowan Vine, marauding down the left on numerous occasions, helped to break the deadlock for the R`s. Rangers skipper Martin Rowlands sent an excellently timed pass out to Vine down the left flank; Vine worked his way into the box before laying the ball back to the onrushing Damien Delaney and the defenders finish was clinical, placing past the despairing dive of Lee Grant into the bottom right hand corner.


Rangers were in buoyant mood following their early goal and went in search of a second. Dexter Blackstock worked himself some shooting space on the left-hand side of the area before unleashing an excellent drive just past the right hand post, with Grant firmly rooted in the middle of his goal.

The R`s were in full control at this point and were a post width`s away from doubling their advantage. Some clever work in the penalty box by Patrick Agyemang, led to the striker turning young defender Mark Beevers before placing a shot past Lee Camp with the ball bobbling off the turf and back of the left hand post, with Grant pouncing on the rebound.

Rowan Vine was tearing the Owls rearguard to sunder, with some incisive running but never quite repeating that killer pass that led to the earlier goal. Martin Rowlands was pulling all the strings in the middle of the park; being well flanked by Mikele Leigertwood and Akos Buzsaky down the right.

All Wednesday could offer in return was the lively running of Songo`o and Tudgay, and it was the latter who fed Showunmi once more into the box, but the striker made a hash of the half chance being chased down by 3 defenders in Black and Red Hoops, as the Owls were being outfought in every department.

Law`s responded to the disappointing boo`s from the home crowd by making 2 bold changes 5 minutes from the end of the first period. Enoch Showunmi and Ronnie Wallwork were withdrawn to the ironic applause of the Hillsborough crowd. They were replaced by the popular figures of Deon Burton and Sean McAllister.

The changes proved to be the midas touch from manager Laws as his players began to rally, and the rejuvenated Owls were rewarded one minute into injury time, courtesy of some suspect defending from the R`s. A cleverly floated ball over the top from Songo`o was met by Graham Kavanagh as he ghosted through unmarked to deliver a deft flick past a furious Lee Camp, to hand the Owls a much needed confidence boost.


That was to be the final act of a final half, which Rangers had dominated, but poor finishing and a defensive slip provided the Owls with a goal and the impetus going into the second period.

Half Time: Sheffield Wednesday 1-1 Queens Park Rangers

The Owls came out for the second period a different side, full of confidence and exuberance as they looked to punish the R`s for poor composure infront of goal. But it was the R`s who created the first real chance, Rowan Vine looked to continue in a similar vein to the first half, laying a ball back for Dexter Blackstock, whose near post effort was well saved by Grant; Blackstock looked to pounce on the rebound, but the subsequent effort was fairly tapped wide.

It was Wednesday however who took the lead, this time from the penalty spot. Somewhat of a collectors item as Lee Camp spilled a header from Marcus Tudgay on the edge of his area, and the ball fell to substitute Sean McAllister, he was felled by the aforementioned Camp, and Mr. Swarbrick pointed to the spot, a clear cut decision. Deon Burton stepped up, home fans chanting the substitutes name, hailing the impact of the striker since his introduction, and he made no mistake dispatching the penalty into the bottom left hand corner sending Camp the wrong way.


Wednesday certainly had the momentum at this point and Rangers looked powerless to contribute to proceedings. Disappointing distribution and not retaining possession really made the super hoops contributors to their own downfall.

Kavanagh curled a wonderfully taken set piece just wide of Lee Camp`s left hand upright, before an ambitious effort from Marcus Tudgay attempting to lob Camp from long-distance in an audacious effort that bent away from the target.

Graham Kavanagh then had Lee Camp worried when his dipping shot from the left flank was tipped over in yet another world class save from the R`s custodian, another audacious effort from Wednesday who looked a completely different side in the second period.

De Canio sensed problems in the Rangers side and sent on Gavin Mahon and Hogan Ephraim at the expense of Mikele Leigertwood and Rowan Vine. The latter being furious at his withdrawal throwing his jacket away in disgust. It appeared to have a decent impact with Blackstock again going close, forcing another good save from Grant.

5 minutes from the end a good free kick effort from Songo`o was deflected wide for a corner; from the resulting corner Rangers target Tommy Spurr planted the ball wide as his confidence started to grow and looked a completely different player from the first half.

The game ended in controversial circumstances when Hogan Ephraim was given his marching orders, for losing his cool in the latter stages, barging Songo`o to the ground, and the referee had no hesitation in showing the red card. In the melee that ensued, no one had noticed that the referee had blown the whistle and the game drew to a disappointing close.

Full Time: Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 Queens Park Rangers
Rangers: Camp, Delaney, Stewart, Mancienne, Blackstock, Buzsaky (Balanta 75) Rowlands, Connolly, Agyemang, Vine (Ephraim 63, sent off 90) Leigertwood (Mahon 65)

Player Ratings

Lee Camp 6/10
A solid performance from the keeper, one vital mistake for the penalty as he dropped the ball at the feet of the oncoming striker. Did well to deal with a difficult pitch, a terrible surface made for difficult kicking.

Michael Mancienne 6/10
Good tackler of the ball switched off in periods during the second half as the Owls attacked down the flank, had to tuck in on numerous occasions to help out the centre backs.

Damien Delaney 6/10
A very well taken goal, but was given a torrid time by Songo’o on the left hand side. His lack of pace was exploited in the latter stages, as Songo’o began to showboat.

Matthew Connolly 5/10
His communication with Camp was a worry, and the young defender needs to learn fast if he is to stay in that centre back partnership. It’s happened before in terms of communication; but his heading and covering was good in instances.

Damion Stewart 6/10
Looked ok by and large, but once again the communication problem is a real issue, with Camp coming to the end of the area on occasions when not required. Won some good headers, but his concentration was slightly suspect on occasions.

Akos Buzsaky 5/10
Made little impact on the game, and only appeared to be in the game when Rangers were on the attack. Persistently coming inside to look for the ball, an indication perhaps that he is better suited to a central role.

Rowan Vine 7/10
Gave the defence a torrid time in the first half with some mazy running on the left flank. His direct running caused Owls defenders untold misery. In the second period he lost his impact and was withdrawn.

Martin Rowlands 7/10
One of Rangers better performers on the day. Really was at the forefront of the R’s attack when things were going well, and tracked back and defended when things were against the R’s.

Mikele Leigertwood 6/10
Good first half performance from the central midfielder, who couldn’t transfer it to the second half. Tackled well and distributed ok also.

Dexter Blackstock 6/10
Contributed alot in terms of attack, won a few flick ons that could have been crucial. Will be disappointed with his composure infront of goal as he is still searching for a goal.

Patrick Agyemang 6/10
Made some clever runs, but was closely man marked to dispel the threat of the prolific Ghanaian. Linked up well with the midfield and his strength was a real asset.

Hogan Ephraim
Compounded misery by contributing little and getting himself sent off. Poor stuff from a normally reliable player.

Gavin Mahon
Really improved the midfield when he was introduced, intelligent array of passing out to the flank. His strength and ease on the ball could be crucial in the coming weeks.
Barely got a touch of the ball.

Manager Rating
Luigi De Canio: 5/10: A consistenly poor selection of second half performances are really a worry from the perspective of an R’s fan. There is a feeling that Vine and Buzsaky should be playing through the middle, instead of on the flanks.

Opponent Rating
Brian Laws: 8/10: Admitted he got it wrong after the game, and a masterstroke substitution changed the game, and the Owls claimed the points. Fair play.

Pre-Match Prediction
Well then I predicted a close game, and we certainly had a game of two halves. The correct prediction of 1 goal for Rangers was blown away by 2 goals for Wednesday. If Rangers had taken their chances it may have been a different game.


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