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Controversial Cook strike wins point
Controversial Cook strike wins point
Saturday, 24th Feb 2007 19:11

QPR and Plymouth shared the points in a 1-1 draw at Loftus Road on Saturday.

The old and the new clashed head on at Loftus Road on Saturday and predictably shared the spoils. In one dugout stood Ian Holloway, looking for all the world like a man who was very uncomfortable with the whole situation and wished he was elsewhere - protests about the QPR goal apart he kept a lower profile than usual down on the touchline.

His Plymouth side looked like we used to. Lots of balls into the channels, not enough ball to the feet of a talented winger, strong at the back, physical, uncompromising, direct, quick and ultimately successful - well relatively so, how we'd love to be 12th.

In the other dugout John Gregory, looking for all the world like a man who is starting to wish he'd stayed in the seat next to Jeff Stelling.

His QPR side continue to look half his, and half the mistakes of his predecessors. He knows how he wants to play, and he loves his new formation which doesn't fit the players, but there aren't the players and resources to pull it off just now and he seems to be lost in a world of square pegs and round holes.

A left winger wasted up front, a right winger at left wing and centre halves in both full back positions a set up Holloway at his lowest Santos-up-front moment in W12 would have been proud of. When Gregory did eventually change it, moving Cook into the position that he's excelled in all season and provided the tireless Dexter Blackstock with a partner Rangers had a goal disallowed, a penalty appeal turned down and a shot brilliantly saved in five minutes. Frustrating isn't the word.

Both managers have their limitations - despite Holloway's QPR rattled round in the lower-middle of the table. We can only hope and pray now, having got rid of him, that despite Gregory's we manage to do the same. Those that said "Holloway has taken us as far as he can" a year ago just how far do you think a club in our state can actually go? Oh to be 14th again.

Gregory tried again with his new set up that had so far brought a win, a draw and a defeat. Lee Camp got a good reception on his second home debut for the club in goal. At the back Mancienne, Cullip, Stewart and Timoska set up in a back four, Rowlands and Ainsworth were the wingers, Lomas and Bolder started in the middle. Up front Lee Cook partnered Dexter Blackstock.

Rangers started really well, keen to get the crowd on their side with an early goal. In the first minute Dexter Blackstock burst through after a mistake by Seip in the area but McCormick saved one on one and then got up and in position in time to turn the rebound from lee Cook around the post.

Plymouth were without Barry Hayles and Kevin Gallen, denied a return to his former club by the terms of his loan, so partnered former Swansea target man Rory Fallon with Sylvain Ebanks Blake.

They also started with Chelsea loanee Scott Sinclair wide left and his battle with club mate Michael Mancienne was one I was particularly looking forward to seeing. It didn't start well for Rangers with Sinclair taking Mancienne to the touchline and skinning him with a nutmeg before over hitting a cross. So much has been said and written about the young winger these past few weeks and with only two minutes on the clock at this point it looked set to be a long afternoon but this was actually as good as it got.

As Rangers had done with Cook when Holloway was in charge they didn't pass Sinclair the ball enough to his feet where he could run at the full back, relying on him to chase loose passes into the channels more often than not. Sinclair for his part got more and more frustrated and petulant as the game went on - arguing with the officials and opponents in equal measure. Mancienne had the better of the contest from this moment onwards.

So after these two breaks at either end the game settled down. Cook and Ainsworth both found their paths to goal blocked on the edge of the area by the giant and impressive Timar while at the other end Lee Camp re-introduced himself to the home fans with a fine save from Ebanks-Blake's well struck drive.

Rangers conceded a succession of free kicks around their penalty area and gave the ball away too much, Lomas particularly culpable. Plymouth kept playing their system, hitting Fallon early and working off his flicks and knock downs, and kept things tight at the back with Timar and Seip dominating Blackstock and Cook. There wasn't a lot to tell between the two sides.

That was until the half hour when two headers from Nalis turned the game Plymouth's way. First of all the Frenchman sent a looping effort from a corner just wide but QPR didn't heed the warning and within seconds he'd scored. Danny Cullip conceded another needless, silly foul on Ebanks Blake just inside the Rangers' half, as the free kick was taken I decided to watch the gang in the penalty area rather than the ball - God knows why, I think QPR are starting to effect my powers of rational thought this season.

Timar started offside and never left that position until he headed the ball down into the path of Nalis who scored. No flag, so the goal was allowed.

It took until the stroke of half time for Rangers to threaten an equaliser - Lomas played a ball through to Rowlands but it was overhit and the keeper got their first. McCormick allowed the ball to spill loose and Blackstock attempted to nip in but succeeded only in giving the keeper a swift blow to the head but after a brief skirmish play was allowed to continue.

QPR didn't start the second half particularly strongly either and it was only a trademark tackle from Timoska denying Ebanks-Blake a run in on goal that kept the score within reach. Now this is the time there should have been a change for me. Lee Cook will in all likelihood win QPR's Player of the Year award this season, and he has more assists than anybody else in the league - he's done that from the left wing position.

Blackstock was really struggling as the only recognised striker out there against a physical defence and needed a partner. Ainsworth wasn't having a particularly great game so the sensible thing would surely to have been replace Ainsworth with either Jones or Furlong and get Cook wide on the flank where he could do some damage. Still what do I know?

In the end a goal from a corner that shouldn't have been allowed drew QPR level.

Their first move of the half provided the set piece in the first place - Cook's ball into the box found Ainsworth whose shot deflected agonisingly wide. From the corner McCormick seemed to have things under control but dropped the ball under heavy pressure from a cluster of Rangers players at the back post. Cook hooked the loose ball goalwards but saw it blocked on the line at which point referee Richard Beeby seemed to blow his whistle to me, and you can hear it on the replay as well, Cook banged in the second loose ball anyway and the goal was allowed.

Plymouth chased the official away down the pitch and Lilian Nalis was booked for his protests. The sides then traded half chances - sub Peter Halmosi played in Norris who forced a great save out of Camp, Blackstock sent a long range header wide of the post.

Gregory finally did move Cook out to the left wing at this point and stuck Martin Rowlands up front alongside Blackstock. Rowlands almost marked this change of tactic with a goal but an attempt at an instinctive first time lob from a tight angle in the penalty area sailed over the bar.

Plymouth were reduced to ten men 12 minutes from the end when Nalis booted the ball away after a free kick had been awarded and collected a second yellow. I'm not sure what the Plymouth captain was thinking really, he just seemed to lose it and although I hate referees handing out cards for petty things like this he can have few complaints.

Rangers finally introduced a second recognised striker to the fray immediately. Martin Rowlands was replaced by Paul Furlong and they stepped things up a gear from here with three key incidents almost providing a winning goal in the final ten minutes.

First Furlong sent a half volley flying towards the bottom corner but McCormick tipped the ball wide. Then from a Lomas long throw Stewart seemed to be blatantly held down by Timar but Mr Beeby waved the appeals away.

The final action of the game saw Furlong finally find the net, sending a great half volley into the bottom corner, but a linesman's flag prevented the Loft from erupting and denied QPR a full three point haul. It looked well offside to me at the time but subsequent replays place a big question mark over the incident.

All that remained was to glance at the other results on the scoreboard, and play the now weekly game of "how have Birmingham City screwed us over this week?" Southend, Luton, Leicester, Leeds and now Hull all gifted points by Steve Bruce's multi million pound squad this season. While I was busy cursing the Brummies Paladini was engaging in light banter/humiliating Holloway in front of the whole world outside depending on who you believe.

Another game, another dose of frustration, another controversy off the pitch - 12 games left and for me this really can't end a moment too soon. If I didn't have to go to work I think I'd go to bed now and get someone to wake me up in May. Ian Holloway, for all of his time at QPR and soft spots for the club, must have been glad to get back on the bus and go home with his point away from all the insanity, tension and politics. Hopefully Gregory can ignore all of those things and keep us up.

QPR: Camp 7, Mancienne 8, Cullip 6, Stewart 7, Timoska 7, Ainsworth 6, Lomas 5, Bolder 7, Rowlands 6 (Furlong 81, 7), Cook 7, Blackstock 6.
Subs Not Used: Cole, Kanyuka, Ray Jones, Smith.Booked: Bolder (foul), Cullip (foul).
Goals: Cook 59.

Plymouth: McCormick 8, Connolly 7, Timar 8, Seip 7, Sawyer 6, Gosling 6 (Halmosi 64, 7), Nalis 7, Norris 7, Sinclair 6, Ebanks-Blake 7 (Hodges 82, 6), Fallon 8.
Subs Not Used: Doumbe, Summerfield, Djordjic.
Sent Off: Nalis (80 - two bookings).
Booked: Nalis (dissent), Nalis (kicking the ball away), Norris (foul), Timar (foul)
Goals: Nalis 32.

Attendance: 13,757.

QPR Star Man - Michael Mancienne 8 Came out on top in the key battle with Scott Sinclair. Got skinned in the first couple of minutes but wasn't troubled by him for the rest of the game.

Referee: R Beeby (Northamptonshire) 5 - Shouldn't have allowed the QPR goal and seemed to blow his whistle as it went in. Should have awarded Rangers a penalty near the end. Plymouth's goal looked offside. So if it's key decisions you like your referee to be right with Mr Beeby isn't your man.

Photo: Action Images

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