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Rangers forced to settle for a point
Rangers forced to settle for a point
Saturday, 28th Oct 2006 16:12

Despite battering Leicester for a full 99 minutes on Saturday QPR relied on a Martin Rowlands penalty to get them a point and nearly blew it altogether with another defensive calamity at the end.

Following two successive defeats Rangers managed to stop the rot at home to Leicester City. We could only muster a draw as once again we started the game too slowly and gifted our opposition a head start.

Our recent defensive displays, or rather a lack of them, have made going to games all the more nervy of late. Poor making, ridiculous individual errors, general madness and our habit of gifting the opposition an early goal instantly put pressure on the team. Gregory knows the weaknesses but hasn't, as yet, been able to mould the back four into a tighter and tougher unit.

Simon Royce returned in goal with Bignot staying at left back, Pat Kanyuka came back in at centre half alongside Damien Stewart. Rehman moved to right back, where he had one of his better displays at Southampton a few weeks ago.

Lomas replaced Bircham in the centre of park and Smith, Cook and Rowlands made up the midfield. Dexter Blackstock continued in attack alongside Marc Nygaard who received a surprise call-up to the side.

Rangers had the first chance of the game early on and the stadium DJ for one certainly thought it had hit the back of the net. Following neat work by Cook on the left he crossed brilliantly for Blackstock who curled a cracking volley just wide of Leicester's goal. The DJ obviously thought the ball had gone in and music blasted out of the speakers around the stadium!

Then just minutes later we once again shot ourselves in the foot in the early stages of a game. It's happened far too often in the past couple of months and we simply can't carry on gifting a goal to the opposition within 10 minutes.

The Foxes won a free kick and Tiatto sent a looping ball into the area, none of our defenders attacked the ball and Royce seemed in two minds whether to come out or not. He didn't manage to get there and Kisnorbo sent a header into the back of the net. No one had picked the goalscorer up and from set pieces especially we look lost at sea when high balls are played into the area.

From then we came back at Leicester but for all our possession we just couldn't find the composure in front of goal. Stewart was the first to have a go after he met a set piece, but his shot was well saved by Logan - if his shot had gone anywhere else the stopper wouldn't have had a chance.

Ian Hume was looking lively upfront for the Foxes and he managed to get the better of Kanyuka and his powerful shot was well saved by Simon Royce. This was the last we would see of 'Big Pat' as he signaled to the bench that his troublesome hamstring had gone…again. Hopefully it's not another case of us rushing another player back too quickly. He was replaced by Mancienne who slotted in at right back with Rehman moving across to link up (or not as the case may be!) with Stewart at centre half.

The back four took a while to settle down and Mancienne didn't really get into the swing of things till the second half. Ex-Fulham striker Hammond tested Royce with a crisp low shot but that was well dealt with by our keeper.

Going forward Lee Cook was again our biggest threat and he was a handful for the Leicester defence all day. In fact, during the second half the Foxes doubled up on him but even that at times was unable to stop him running at will.

Towards the end of the half Blackstock twice had chances to equalise but neither effort was strong enough to beat the impressive Logan. Blackstock was really doing the running for two men as his strike partner Marc Nygaard was woefully ineffective. He didn't win enough in the air for a man of his size and he certainly didn't do anything to win over the fans who are growing increasingly fed up with his antics.

The first chance of the second half fell to Rowlands who was handed a free kick after Cook was brought down just yards outside the box. Following his success with dead-ball situations we were all hoping for another cracker. Unfortunately it wasn't to be as he was closer to the box and his shot ended up ballooning over the bar.

Rowlands followed this up with a sweet half volley which went dangerously close. His effort smashed the post and was another indication of Rangers stepping up the pace to grab an equaliser.

Loanee Mancienne was the next player to venture forward and have a go at the Leicester goal. His run started in his right back position and after beating three men he sent in a low shot - that was easily saved by Logan.

Nygaard was taken off after 58 minutes as his embarrassing antics drew a chorus of boos from the crowd. His rolling around on the floor after a nothing challenge certainly isn't going to do him any favours with the home fans.

Gallen partnered Blackstock in attack but we strangely continued to lump high balls to our strikers. Gallen has never been an aerial threat and it's fair to say that it isn't one of Blackstock's strengths. Despite scoring some headed goals recently he can easily got out-muscled by some of the bigger centre halves in this league, and lets face it there are certainly a few.

In these kind of positions I think we would see more benefit from someone like Shabazz Baidoo coming in. He's quick, frightens defenders and is a decent impact player. What Gregory thinks of him I don't know but he's more likely to make an impact than someone like Gallen who doesn't have those attributes.

The breakthrough finally came on 69 minutes when Rangers were awarded a penalty after McAuley was adjudged to have handled in the penalty area. Rowlands played the ball into the box and Blackstock's effort had beaten the keeper but was stopped from going in by the arm of McAuley. Initially no one seemed to appeal but after a quick glance to his lino he pointed to the spot and Leicester were down to 10 men.

Rowlands stepped up and made no mistake from the spot for his fifth goal of the season. The Foxes then made a change by bringing on McCarthy who had a strange face mask on. He went into defence and Leicester did their best to get as many men as possible behind the ball.

Blackstock was next to test Logan but his header was aimed straight at the keeper. Rangers continued to press but seemed unable to make chances count and it looked to be one of those afternoons. It could have got a lot worse though when there were yet again communication problems at the heart of our defence.

Royce decided to stay off his line after a ball was played into our area and Rehman attempted to clear the ball. Hume was quick off the mark and his shot was saved by Royce and then Fryatt followed it up but his effort thankfully made its way into the hands of a relieved Simon Royce.

During the second half Hume had been getting more and more frustrated and saw a yellow card for his antics. He was lucky as I though he should have received one earlier for kicking out at Bignot when he was grounded.

Leicester fought throughout and defended well and have a decent keeper in Logan. They took their chance well and will be glad with a point. QPR have at least stopped the losing run but this was one of the games that we need maximum points from at home.

As Gregory has rightly pointed out, the players raised their game when he first came in but perhaps some of the bad habits are starting to creep back in. Defensively I don't think they've ever gone away, we defended resiliently at St Mary's but generally have been shambolic at the back all season. However, I am still more confident with Gregory at the helm rather than Waddock as the team just didn't play like a unit with him in charge.

Cook was again the shining light going forward, he has come on leaps and bounds this year and was impressive again today. He loves to come inside and run with the ball, but perhaps the only criticism of this is that he often runs into crowded areas. It would be great to see him beating his man and hitting the by-line and whipping some crosses in.

Lomas done his job well in midfield, he broke up play and made simple passes. He does have a habit of making stupid challenges and he picked up a yellow for one in the first half. Rowlands again grabbed the goal and although he wasn't in the game as much as he would have wanted he's a danger going forward and he can track back too.

Jimmy Smith was largely missing today for me. He seems a box-to-box player but during the game he didn't get involved as much as needs too. Blackstock did plenty of running up-front but wasn't supported enough by his fellow strikers during the game.

Our back four are quite frightening at times, we still don't seem to have dropped zonal marking at set pieces and it just isn't something we've got to grips with. Bignot has done well since being asked to swap positions but you can't help thinking that this is only really a short term option.

Mancienne got better as the game went on, he's still very young and although he can clearly play football he needs adapt to the physical side of this league. It would be great to have Kanyuka involved week-in week-out but this looks some way off after today.

Overall, at least we stopped the losing streak - but we need to get back on track as we are still involved in a relegation battle. We've some tough away trips coming up and Loftus Road need to be become a place where we regularly turn teams over again. Hopefully Gregory will instill some further discipline into the team at the back as this is one area we need to improve and fast.

QPR: Royce 6, Rehman 5, Kanyuka 6 (Mancienne 23,6), Stewart 6, Bignot 7, Rowlands 7 (Ainsworth 75, 6), Lomas 7, Smith 6, Cook 8*, Nygaard 5 (Gallen 58, 6), Blackstock 7.
Subs Not Used: Paul Jones, Rose.
Booked: Lomas, Smith
Goals: Rowlands 68 pen

Leicester: Logan, Stearman, McAuley, Kisnorbo, Johansson, Wesolowski (Maybury 46), Kenton, Tiatto, Welsh (Fryatt 74), Hume, Hammond (McCarthy 69).
Subs Not Used: Henderson, Sylla.
Sent Off: McAuley (68).
Booked: Hume.
Goals: Kisnorbo 7.

QPR Man of the Match - Lee Cook - Once again was superb going forward, Gregory knows he can't defend and the focus now is on him doing damage in the oppositions half. He put in some great crosses and was a threat to Leicester all afternoon - managed to do well in the second despite having two players on his tail.

Attendance: 12,430

Ref: K Stroud (Dorset). 6 - Did well to spot the handball for the penalty and sending off decision. Made some poor decisions as well though; needlessly blowing up when there hadn't been a foul and then ignoring blatant fouls. He was very picky at times and clearly didn't have a clue with one throw-on decision in front of South Africa Road - he quickly changed his mind when everyone jumped up screaming at him!

Photo: Action Images

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