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R's forced to fight for point after leading
R's forced to fight for point after leading
Saturday, 14th Oct 2006 16:19

Martin Rowlands rescued a point for QPR with a last minute equaliser in a 3-3 thriller against Norwich City at Loftus Road on Saturday.

John Gregory maintained his unbeaten record since taking over the reigns at Loftus Road as the Superhoops took part in a six goal thriller with our visitors from East Anglia.

The Saturday Championship games certainly provided lots of entertainment with 40 goals flying in at the 10 games played. It was no different in W12 as QPR scored some spectacular goals but did themselves no favours with some poor defending as well.

After failing to land a full-back on loan, Gregory made the decision to bring Lomas in at right back following his improvement since he took over. Rehman and Stewart continued at centre back and the versatile Marcus Bignot played at left back. Pat Kanyuka was missing with a hamstring injury but he would have surely played some part after some encouraging first team appearances.

Marc Bircham continued in midfield with the captains armband, his new partner in crime was Jimmy Smith, on loan from Chelsea, who made his first start for the club. Martin Rowlands and Lee Cook provided the width - and were really key players for us yet again today. The youngsters continued in attack with Jones and Blackstock looking to add to their ever-improving partnership.

Unfortunately for the second game running we started far too slowly and found ourselves one down early on. The Canaries took the lead after just four minutes when the lively Darren Huckerby slotted home past the exposed Paul Jones. After his poor game for Wales last week, I wonder if he thought it was all happening again.

The goal was slightly lucky as after some neat build up play down our right, Earnshaw actually miss-controlled the ball that was played into him. Instead it fell to Huckerby and he made no mistake. However, we were far too slow to react and it was all we deserved as our defence watched on.

During the first half I thought Huckerby was a constant threat, he had lots of space to run in to and for a player with such a turn of pace we allowed him too much time and he exposed us a number of occasions. Norwich could have had a second when Earnshaw headed towards goal from a Huckerby corner. Luckily for us Jones made a diving save down to his right hand post - it was a top class save to keep us in the game.

We then started to get going and the midfield began to come into the game more with Rowlands, Cook and Smith all making attacking runs. The equaliser came after 24 minutes when Smith scored his first goal for the club. A pass from Damion Stewart was intercepted and luckily for Rangers the ball fell to Lee Cook who played a nice ball into Smith. He set himself up and sweetly hit the ball from the edge of the box past the Norwich keeper. Rangers were back in the game and Smith was delighted with his goal.

QPR continued to press Norwich and went about looking to add a second. In the meantime Rehman rightly found his way into the ref's book for a number of stupid fouls.

With little time remaining of the first half, QPR were awarded a free kick right outside the Norwich box after Blackstock was fouled. QPR fans had memories of Rowlands free kick against Southend and it was yet again a great strike from the former Brentford man. Rangers went in at half time 2-1 up.

The second half started at a high tempo as Rangers continued to push forward and grab a third goal. Rowlands was in great form down the right and their full-back was having a hard job trying to contain him. He had one great winding run and shot that was well saved by Gallacher.

Rangers had a strong penalty shout at the Loft End as Smith had a shot blocked by Fleming with his arms up in air. The crowd appealed as did the players but the ref wasn't having any of it. Norwich should have equalised when Earnshaw again got the better of our defence and got a shot in but Jones somehow reacted quick enough to save the shot and the ball went up flying up in the air.

Norwich started to come back into the game further and should have gone ahead with a clear cut chance. A ball was played across the box and Croft just had to tap into the empty net but he somehow managed to scuff his shot wide. He had been rightly booed by the Rangers crowd during the game for the way he went to ground so easily - so I suppose there was some justice in the end.

Our front two had been well marshalled by the Norwich defenders but Jones in particular worked very hard all game. He took some knocks too for his efforts. After one of his looping headers was cleared off the line he followed up but took a knock from the Norwich keeper.

Norwich brought on veteran striker Deon Dublin after 67 minutes to add some further punch to their attack and he only needed five minutes before he found the back of the net. It was during this time that we probably started to get a bit too cocky for our good. Instead of trying to kill the game we were overplaying the ball and got caught out.

Norwich took advantage of this when Blackstock lost the ball in central midfield. He was a bit unlucky but before he knew it the Canaries were playing some nice passes on the right hand side of the area and a ball across goal was met by big Dion as he hit the ball past Jones. It was harsh on Blackstock but he will certainly learn from it.

It looked to be heading for a draw but Rangers produced some shocking defending to gift Norwich the chance of a winner. Rehman in fact was the main culprit as he tried to shadow the ball out for a goal kick. Huckerby was quickly on to him and put him under pressure. He got the better of our man and soon Rehman was tugging at his shirt and Huckerby went down under his challenge.

It was a straight forward decision and Rehman was lucky not too receive a second yellow card for his actions. Earnshaw stepped up and slotted the ball past the outstretched arm of Paul Jones.

The points looked to heading to East Anglia but there was time left for one more goal. Rowlands had yet another winding run at the Norwich defence and with seven defenders back in the area there looked to be no way through. But somehow his shot rebounded to him and his second strike went under the body of the keeper.

A draw was a fair result in an action packed affair. Rangers probably had slightly more possession but we didn't take enough of our chances. Norwich were far more clinical in front of goal (apart from Croft's miss) and put their chances away well. They were denied two goals by brilliant saves from Jones who really kept us in the game.

Our defending was shambolic at times and I hope we aren't going back to the endless individual mistakes which costs us so much under Garry Waddock. Lomas did OK at full back but this surely won't be a permanent change. Stewart has improved and cleared plenty of balls. Bignot was fairly steady at left back.

Rehman on the other hand was disappointing. At Southampton he had a better game at right back and I wonder if this is a better position for him. With Kanyuka and another Chelsea loanee competing for places he has now got lots of competition for his place.

Jimmy Smith had a great first half which was topped with a goal. He went out of the game in the second but that's no surprise as he hasn't played 90 minutes at this level before.

Rowlands was excellent. He was back to his old self - the one which terrorised so many defences when we got promoted. Hopefully he can get himself fully fit and continue with this form. Cook also was impressive, he wasn't in the game as much as Rowlands but he seems to make a goal per game at the moment and he puts in some excellent crosses.

Bircham was again in good form; he organised well and surprisingly put in some great passes and crosses as well. With some many attacking options in midfield we need Bircham to be disciplined and sit in front of the back four. Jones had a solid game in goal and kept us in it with two fantastic stops - just the confidence booster he needs after being dropped for Wales.

Jones and Blackstock worked hard, Jones in particular worked his socks off and deserved his round of applause went taken off. In this league they will play against some nasty centre backs and they will get muscled out of games, Blackstock is certainly prone to being pushed off the ball but he has shown some encouraging signs as well.

The forthcoming few weeks is busy in terms of game and Gregory will be getting to his know his players even more. They key is keeping Rowlands and Cook hungry and fit so they can carry on creating and scoring goals of their own. Long may it continue.

QPR: P Jones 8, Lomas 6 (Rose 90, N/A), Rehman 6, Stewart 7, Bignot 7, Rowlands 8*, Bircham 7, Smith 7, Cook 7, Ray Jones 7 (Gallen 77, 6), Blackstock 6.
Subs Not Used: Royce, Ward, Bailey.
Booked: Rehman, Smith, Lomas.
Goals: Smith 24, Rowlands 45, 90.

Norwich: Gallacher, Colin, Fleming, Shackell, Drury, Etuhu, Robinson (Dublin 67), Hughes (Safri 75), Croft (McVeigh 87), Earnshaw, Huckerby.
Subs Not Used: Camp, Ryan Jarvis.
Booked: Shackell.
Goals: Huckerby 4, Dublin 72, Earnshaw 84 pen.

Attendance: 14,793

QPR Man of the Match: Martin Rowlands - Was in great form today and loved running with the ball at his feet. Took his two goals very well and his determination at the end is the reason we got something from this game. Well done that man! Let's hope he stays fit this campaign.

Ref: A Marriner (W Midlands). 7 - All in all put in a decent performance. The penalty was an easy decision and he could have actually send Rehman off. He wasn't consistent with his decisions regarding the hand balls which was disappointing but all in all he didn't do too badly.

Photo: Action Images

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