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Sub Jones sends Cobblers Crashing out of Cup
Sub Jones sends Cobblers Crashing out of Cup
Tuesday, 22nd Aug 2006 16:36

Rangers progressed into the second round of the Carling Cup thanks to a late goal from Ray Jones in an entertaining match.

For the first time in 2 years, Rangers won a cup tie. However, we did do our best to throw away a comfortable 2-0 lead. With a much changed team from Saturday, it was left to 18 year-old Ray Jones to save our blushes.

Gary Waddock made no less than seven changes from the side that drew with Preston on Saturday. Cole replaced Jones in goal, Bignot and Howell came in at right and left back respectively, with Rose and Milanese rested and Rehman and Stewart continuing their promising partnership at the heart of the defence. Baidoo cam in for Ainsworth on the right, with Bircham and and Bailey replacing Ward and Rowlands in the middle. Cook kept his place on the left with Captain Gallen partnering Blackstock up front. It was a makeshift line-up, with certain back up players getting a valuable 90 minutes under their belts. Former Rangers keeper, Lee Harper, started on the bench for the Cobblers.

The game started at a quick pace and it was Northampton who almost opened the scoring after 6 minutes- a James Quinn half volley well saved by Jake Cole. Rangers soon got into the game and Lee Cook narrowly shot wide from 25 yards. This was the beginning of a good night for Lee Cook who looked dangerous all throughout the match. Gallen then went close with a looping header after good work down the right from Dexter Blackstock.

Rangers deservedly took the lead on 18 minutes. Lee Cook set off on a jinking run past two Northampton defenders and his shot was deflected in past the helpless Mark Bunn. I doubt the shot would have gone in without the deflection, but I wasn't going to complain as I had money on Cook to score the first goal at 12/1! Cook again came close 6 minutes later, but his shot from distance just fizzed past the post. It was becoming one of those performances from Cook which shows what a great player he can be- if only he could find some consistency. Rangers sooned switch from 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 formation. Gallen dropped back into midfield and Baidoo and Cook were given freedom to support Blackstock.

Damion Stewart was having a good game at the heart of the defence, but a terrible mis-placed pass gifted Andy Kirk with a good shooting opportunity. Fortunately for Rangers and Stewart he hit his shot from 20 yards straight at Jake Cole. I don't think it will be the last time this season that we see Stewart make a mistake like that. Northampton were getting more and more on top as the half wore on and Andy Kirk almost hit the equaliser but his powerful shot cannoned off Jake Cole's near post. Half time came at the right time for Rangers as it was only a matter of time before the Cobblers equalised.

Northampton made one substitution at half time with Jerome Watt replacing Bradley Johnson. Watt was to play an important role later in the game and Rangers reverted back to a 4-4-2 formation. The R's soon doubled their lead two minutes after the interval, when Crowe was penalised for handball right on the edge of the area, about 6 yards from the goal line. Gallen hit a low speculative shot into the crowded area, and it somehow found its way into the far corner, via another deflection. At this point I turned to my friends and said 'that's game over'! Being a QPR supporter, I should have known better!

Northampton refused to give in and got their reward on 54 minutes. There looked to be little danger when Watt picked up the ball 25 yards out. However his shot crept low past Jake Cole into the corner. I think Cole will be disappointed with conceding a goal like that. It was hardly the most powerful shot he'll face this season. At this point I think every Rangers fan in the ground knew what was likely to happen.

Shabazz Baidoo was beginning to come to life and was causing problems for the Northampton defence, resulting in a low shot being well saved by Bunn. Baidoo spent most of the match in an unfamiliar wide right position but was given permission to drift in and got stronger as the match wore on. Egutu Oliseh was soon given his Rangers debut, replacing the tiring Gallen on 74 minutes. It seems at the moment, many fans feel Kevin might not get a place in the team. His performance tonight was typical of a player coming back from injury. He played part of the game up front and some in midfield. He did ok at times but definitely needs to get fitter. He is still a quality player and he has the ability to see passes that no other player in our team can see- in the first half he was inches away from delivering 2 perfect passes which would have resulted in goal scoring opportunities. However, his lack of pace is even more obvious now as we have had the pleasure of seeing pacy strikers such as Blackstock, Jones and Baidoo in recent weeks. I, for one, hope (and think) he still has a big part to play this season.

15 seconds after making the sub, Northampton equailsed with an excellent turn and shot from Andy Kirk. Questions must be asked as to how he managed to find so much time and space 16 yards from goal, but there is no doubting the quality of the finish. It seemed the game was destined for extra time, but fortunately we had a super sub ready to come on and save the day.

Bircham, who was given the captain's armband once Gallen went off, seemed to be struggling with cramp and was replaced by Ray Jones. (A quick note- Lee Cook was given the captain's armband once Birch went off- the first time 3 Rangers supporters have been captain in one match!?) This substitution was to later prove vital in the outcome of this tie. Northampton had a shout for a penalty turned down with 8 minutes left when a near post corner seemed to hit Bignot on the hand. The Northampton supporters and their bench seemed certain it was handball, but I didn't see it clearly enough to make a judgement.

With 3 minutes to go Rangers took the lead for the second time on the night. Bignot produced a rare inch-perfect cross for Ray Jones to rise and head into the top corner from 10 yards. It was a fantastic header from the young striker and it shows if we can produce quality balls into the box he has the ability to finish them. Jones has really grown in confidence over the past 3 weeks. When he came on at Leeds he looked a bit nervous, but since then he has really grown and his cracking header can only help this. Stewart limped off in injury time to be replaced by Pat Kanyuka. Hopefully this was just a precaution and he will be fit to play on Friday night.

Rangers held on to progress into the 2nd round of the Carling Cup. It was a very entertaining cup tie, and considering the side we put out, has to be looked upon as a very good result. Many of the players hadn't played much, if any, first team football this season and if the game had gone into extra time, many of them would have struggled. Andrew Howell had a good debut. He was good in the air and confident pushing forward to support Cook and looked like he is definitely one for the future. I'm not Bignot's biggest fan but he also had a good game. Bircham and Bailey did ok in the middle of midfield but neither did enough to give Waddock a selection headache. Oliseh looked very comfortable on the ball when he came on, and having seen him at Aldershot, he looks like he could prove to be a good signing. If Rowlands and Ainsworth aren't fit for Friday night it will be interesting to see who plays alongside Cook and Ward in the midfield. I would have thought Jones and Blackstock will be reunited up front in that match on Friday.

The draw for the next round is on Saturday afternoon. With the top Premiership teams not entering the cup until Round 3, I would take a league two side at home- I fancy us to get Barnet for some reason.

QPR: Cole 6, Bignot 7, Stewart 6 (Kanyuka 90), Rehman 7, Howell 7, Bailey 7, Bircham 6 (Ray Jones 84), Baidoo 7, Cook 8*, Gallen 6 (Oliseh 76, 6), Blackstock 7.
Subs not used: Paul Jones, Donnelly.
Booked: Ray Jones.
Goals: Cook 18, Gallen 47, Ray Jones 87.

Northampton: Bunn 7, Crowe 5, Chambers 6, Kirk 7, Aiston 7, Jess 7, Burnell 6, Brett Johnson 6 (Bojic 68, 5), Dyche 6, Bradley Johnson 5 (Watt 46, 7), Quinn 6 (Gilligan 85).
Subs not used: Harper, Cross.
Goals: Watt 54, Kirk 77.

Att: 4,569

QPR Man of the Match: Lee Cook- An excellent performance from the wing wizard. He caused Northampton's defence problems throughout and came close to adding to his goal on more than one occasion. He was given more freedom to go forward and at times was unplayable. Fingers crossed he can carry on this form week in week out.

Ref: P Miller- 7- He did his best to keep his cards in his pocket all evening but had to book Jones when he kicked the ball away in injury time. He wasn't too fussy and didn't really have a great deal to do as both teams played the match in a good spirit.

Photo: Action Images

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