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Rangers held on day one
Rangers held on day one
Saturday, 6th Aug 2005 18:25

Rangers get their season up and running with a 0-0 draw at the KC Stadium.

Ian Holloway started only two of his new summer signings with Stefan Moore coming on from the bench. Simon Royce, after a heart fluttering week of playing fitness roulette with his back, started in goal with Marcus Bignot at right back and Matthew Rose on the left. New boy Ian Evatt was ruled out so Georges Santos partnered Danny Shittu at the heart of the defence.

In midfield Bircham and Doherty partnered up in the centre with Cook wide left and Rowlands wide right. Up front Kevin Gallen and Paul Furlong were charged with the task of scoring the goals.

Hull fielded their reigning player of the season Stuart Elliott (on the left) and former England International Nick Barmby. Former Port Vale striker Steve McPhee was up front.

Premiership referee Dermot Gallagher took charge, which Rangers know from experience means you can get away with slightly more than you would with most officials. Paul Furlong took this on with a little too much glee, slamming Tigers' full back Mark Lynch into the advertising hoardings after just forty five seconds. Lynch, a summer signing from Sunderland, had to be substituted after a lengthy spell of treatment. He was replaced by Damien Delaney. Furlong escaped without punishment.

Rangers had the first effort on goal after four minutes. Tommy Doherty had settled nicely into his midfield role and he hit a crisp volley from the edge of the box that sailed a foot over the cross bar with home keeper Bo Myhill confident enough to wave it away.

Rangers' trademark physical approach was making few friends on Humberside and the dissenting voices in the home end grew louder when Matthew Rose was given the benefit of the doubt after appearing to handle in the area. Rangers had a penalty appeal of their own turned down when Marc Bircham appeared to be felled in the area.

Hull struggled to find their feet in the opening stages, but profligate finishing from first Gallen and then Rowlands meant Rangers couldn't capitalise. After twelve minutes a terrific ball from Lee Cook looked to have set Gallen up for the opener but after mis-controlling the ball he fired a very presentable chance wide. Two minutes later and Rangers attacked down the left again, this time Martin Rowlands came in on the cross, striking the ball over the bar in search of the top corner.

The visitors were nearly punished at the other end immediately. Matthew Rose got caught under a cross from Elliott and Nick Barmby brilliantly pulled the ball back from the byline first time. The assist deserved a goal but McPhee, thanks to a combination of Bignot and Royce, couldn't provide it. His effort from six yards out deflected and rolled agonisingly wide of the post. Many of the home supporters thought it had gone in.

McPhee was in the thick of things again soon after as Hull started to make real inroads. A flick through from Barmby had the Scot faced with a sitter but he could only hit the top of the cross bar from eight yards. Luckily for McPhee the linesman had long since flagged him offside. Giant defender Leon Cort headed wide from a corner and Ian Ashbee sent the ball rocketing to the back of the away end as Hull searched for the opening goal.

Georges Santos unnerved the Rangers following with some casual play midway through the half. After casually strolling across to a loose ball near the corner flag he was lucky not to be robbed of possession by the hard working Nick Barmby. Now under pressure on the touchline he attempted an audacious thirty yard pass across the face of the penalty area to Dan Shittu who was surrounded by three Hull players. Doherty arrived to help and snuck the ball back to Royce who cleared. Marc Bircham was first on the scene to remonstrate with Georges!

After thirty one minutes another cross from Lee Cook had Myhill and Doherty in a race to the ball, the Hull stopper got there first, just, and clasimed the ball down round his ankles. Within four minutes Rangers had Hull on the back foot once more, Paul Furlong got the ball caught in his feet when 99 times out of 100 he'd have buried the chance. Furs took his frustration out on Myhill, clattering him as he claimed a cross. Again he escaped without punishment.

Rangers fourth guilt edge chance of the half came Furlong's way in the forty first minute. Cook was giving Delaney a torrid time down the Rangers left and another cross from him found Paul Furlong unmarked. Just as Rangers fans expected the net to bulge Furs conspired to glance a header wide. There were definite signs of rustiness in the Rangers attack.

After the break Hull were much the better team. Paul Furlong fired wide from a poor angle but the ball spent more time in front of the Hull fans in the South Stand and Simon Royce had to be alert to save low down from Leon Cort - up from the back for a corner. Incidentally, it will be an interesting battle between Leon and Carl Cort when Wolves visit Humberside - if Carl can stay fit long enough of course!

With an hour gone Gallagher was forced to reach for a card for the first time. Lee Cook hacked into Delaney with a crude challenge, sparking confrontation in front of the dug outs. Delaney appeared to be about to stamp on Cook as the Rangers player lay at his feet but showed remarkable restraint and rightly escaped without a caution. After Bircham and Doherty had been pulled away by team mates Cook was shown the yellow card.

You could have got huge odds on him being the first Ranger to receive a card this season with Furlong, Bircham, Doherty and Santos all on the field!

Clearly getting a taste for the hard line approach Dermot had the card in his hand again all of ninety seconds later. Georges Santos hauled McPhee to the ground as the impressive forward threatened to escape him on the edge of the area and was cautioned.

The free kick was set up twenty yards from goal and right of centre. I've seen Andy Dawson score a few for Scunthorpe from just such a position and he was the man setting up to hit the shot. Hull lined Cort, Elliott and others up in the QPR wall, seemingly to distract the QPR players however before the ball was struck the four Hull players spun away to the back post.

It was ingenious to watch, certainly not something I've seen before, and it screwed Rangers totally. Suddenly they were faced with five Hull players running in at the back post and only Bignot and Santos in attendance. Fortunately the move seemed to confuse Dawson too and he hit a tame shot well wide of Royce's left post. If he'd dinked even an average cross to the back post Hull surely would have taken a lead.

After sixty two minutes Martin Rowlands produced the best effort of the half for QPR. Great hold up play by first Furlong and then Gallen had Rowlands racing through the centre of the Hull defence. He unleashed an effort with his right foot from twenty five yards and Myhill did superbly to stretch himself and palm the ball away one handed. The ball was curling away from Myhill all the time and looked all set for the bottom corner - a tremendous save from the keeper.

From the resulting corner Lee Cook finally produced a good delivery, ripping the ball into the near post where Marc Bircham was lurking looking for a goal. Delaney hoofed the ball away at the crucial moment.

Despite his near miss Rowlands seemed to be struggling with an injury. He'd been on his hands and knees at every possible opportunity trying to stretch his calves and hamstrings, despite his best efforts the knock beat him and he was replaced by Gareth Ainsworth. Tommy Doherty was also called to the bench after an impressive debut and replaced by Dean Sturridge. Ainsworth went wide to the right, Sturridge up front alongside Furs with Gallen dropping back to the centre of midfield.

The new system was very short lived though, almost immediately Dean Sturridge was involved in an innocuous collision on the halfway line and he had to be replaced by new boy Stefan Moore. Sturridge has now managed twenty five minutes at Rotherham, ten minutes against Sunderland, and ninety seconds today in five months of drawing a wage from QPR. We can only hope that this latest set back isn't serious and he'll soon be banging the goals in for us otherwise this will go into Holloway's pile of failed gambles rather than the growing pile of successes.

Hull changed things around themselves - replacing Barmby with Fagan for the final twenty five minutes. Barmby had shown some nice flicks and tricks, passed the ball well, but certainly won't have things his own way as much as he did last season. He did provide a hysterical moment though, running thirty yards to challenge Shittu by the corner flag, predictably ending up flat on his back with Shittu smiling broadly. Dan then fell over himself to the delight of the home crowd.

Santos and Shittu had been dominant at the back for Rangers; Fagan was clearly brought on to disrupt this but made little impact. In turn the QPR substitutions seemed to disrupt things for them. With Doherty and Rowlands off the quality of passing declined and Rangers were forced to resort increasingly to long ball football - playing right into the hands of the dominant Cort.

Gareth Ainsworth hit a shot miles wide and a low drive from another Dawson free kick caused momentary panic in the box before Bircham ran the ball clear as the game petered out into a hopeless draw.

There were plenty of positives for QPR to take from this match. Lee Cook, Tommy Doherty and Martin Rowlands all impressed in the midfield. Rowlands made a terrific contribution, collecting possession from his defence and bringing it into the Hull half, rarely giving the ball away and knocking some great cross field passes into the bargain. Hopefully his injury isn't too serious. Doherty was strong in the midfield and passed economically; Cook was taking on his full back with great frequency and enjoyed good success. His poor corners apart he looked a much more complete winger than the one we bought a year ago.

Shittu was his awesome best and Santos did a good job alongside him, even if he is a little unorthodox and scary at times! On the minus side the forwards looked very rusty. Furlong got little change from Cort and missed two good chances. Matthew Rose was absolutely abysmal and I didn't think Royce looked 100% - certainly not as confident and assured as Hull's keeper Bo Myhill who was very impressive.

For Hull, the wondrous things predicted of Stuart Elliott failed to materialise. He really struggled to get into the game. Similarly Barmby although his passing and Premiership quality footballing brain meant he was always a threat. Fagan was a disappointment from the bench but Myhill, Cort and McPhee were all hugely impressive. It would seem that Hull will have to rely far more on their work rate than last season when they just relied on scoring more goals than everybody else. A top half finish beckons nevertheless.

On to Ipswich and then Sheffield United for Rangers. Shorn of their best players the Tractor Boys represent a much more winnable home game than they did last season, but will still be a real threat. Sheffield United enjoyed the biggest win of day one - 4-1 v Leicester and they already look a daunting prospect!

Hull: Myhill 8, Lynch N/A (Delaney 7), Dawson 7, Ashbee 6, Cort 8, Elliott 5, Barmby 7 (Fagan 6), McPhee 8, Green 7, Coles 7, France 7 (Price 7) Unused Subs: Leite, Andrews
Bookings: Fagan

Rangers: Royce 7, Bignot 6, Rose 5, Shittu 9, Santos 8, Rowlands 8 (Sturridge N/A (Moore 6)), Bircham 6, Doherty 7 (Ainsworth 6), Cook 8, Furlong 6, Gallen 6 Unused Subs: Cole, Shimmin
Bookings: Cook, Santos

Attendance: 22,201

Referee - Dermot Gallagher - 8 - He'll have his critics of course, because he never books anybody, but I like a referee who lets stuff go. Lots of advantage, letting the game flow. Missed the handball from Rose and the trip on Bircham which both looked penalties but you can't fault him really. Refreshing change from the normal book-a-thon referees at this level.

Man of the Match - Danny Shittu 9 - Awesome once more. The guy has everything and will be a top class centre half in the not to distant future. Just wish Celtic and all other teams with enough money would stop conceding so many goals! Honourable mentions for Cook, Doherty, Rowlands and Santos.

Photo: Action Images

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