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Jones the goal in Welsh capital
Jones the goal in Welsh capital
Friday, 17th Nov 2006 16:03

QPR recorded a shock 1-0 win at league leaders Cardiff City thanks to a last minute goal from Ray Jones on Friday night.

QPR have always done what's least expected of them, and results don't come much more unexpected than a 1-0 success in the league leaders' back yard. I mean even Tracy only had us down for a draw in the match preview - you know it' going to be tough when Mrs Stent predicts anything less than a rip roaring success.

What made the result even more unlikely was the presence of the Sky cameras. They normally have a lot to do with poor QPR displays, on Friday night they satisfied themselves with having the game kick off at 7.45pm on the dot while many QPR fans, including the official supporters' coaches, tried to find a radio station covering the match as they battled their way along the M4.

Luckily QPR were slightly more considerate and waited until the 89th minute when absolutely everybody had arrived to score the only goal of the game.

John Gregory resisted the urge to recall Steve Lomas after his ban and stuck with the same side that won at Luton last weekend. That meant Royce was in goal behind the world's scariest back four of Bignot, Mancienne, Rehman and Damion Stewart. In midfield Stefan Bailey provided the bite and Jimmy Smith the silky skills with lee Cook eager to impress any Premiership manager watching at home wide left and Gareth Ainsworth wide on the right.

Up front Nygaard was on hand with his own unique take on the beautiful game with the ever impressive Dexter Blackstock alongside him.

Cardiff had issues at right back after Watford recalled James Chambers from his loan spell. Arsenal's Kerrea Gilbert wasn't fit to return after a shoulder injury and that left teenager Chris Gunter to face the division's form left winger. At the top end Steve Thompson returned alongside the Championship's top marksman Michael Chopra.

The Bluebirds worked hard for a 1-0 win over title rivals Burnley last week but confidence seems to be coursing through the veins of the QPR squad at the moment and John Gregory told reporters afterwards that his squad arrived at the ground stamping their feet and making a row in defiance of City's unbeaten home record.

The game was very slow to get going with the first ten minutes played exclusively in the middle of the pitch. QPR crafted the first half chance when Jimmy Smith received the ball on the corner of the penalty area, turned McNaughton with a deft flick and then curled the ball wide of the far post with a cross shot that narrowly eluded the net and Dexter Blackstock who was lurking for scraps.

Blackstock was involved again a moment later when Purse made a mess of a bouncing ball and allowed the striker in behind him. The former Birmingham centre half panicked and wrestled Blackstock to the ground but referee Joslin waved play on.

Apart from that the only action of note came when Gareth Ainsworth challenged for a header on the halfway line and his foot gave way underneath him as he landed. Ainsworth attempted to run the injury off but that seemed to be more at Gregory's insistence than Ainsworth believing it would get better and after 14 minutes he was replaced by Nick Ward. Ainsworth later returned to the sideline on crutches.

QPR looked much more secure in defence than in recent weeks and restricted Cardiff's possession in attacking areas to a minimum. After a quarter of an hour McNaughton got in behind Mancienne but overran the ball for a goal kick. Two minutes later and QPR were back on the attack when Lee Cook worked his way past Gunter for the first time, swung a cross over and Dexter Blackstock headed wide from eight yards out.

In the twentieth minute Cook tried an effort on goal himself, passing two players on the way to the edge of the penalty area and then curling a left footed effort towards the bottom corner. Alexander was equal to the shot, producing a fine one handed save.

Cardiff did manage their first effort on goal soon after this when Parry volleyed Scimeca's cross over the bar. Rangers then survived a penalty appeal when Michael Copra skipped into the area and was blocked off by Damion Stewart but Joslin again allowed play to continue - does nobody give an indirect free kick for obstruction any more? A lengthy stoppage for an injury to Darren Purse interrupted the home side's rhythm further and played into QPR's hands.

The best chance of the match fell to Blackstock just after the half hour when a hellish bouncing back pass from McNaughton caused Alexander problems and he volleyed it against the QPR striker. Blackstock seized on the rebound and turned it goalwards but lost his footing as he did so and Alexander was able to block it away for a corner.

Cardiff started to get into their stride as half time approached when Gunter skipped past two opposing players and sent a low cross into the six yard box but Stewart blocked it away before Chopra or Thompson could get onto it. The final attacking action of the half saw another cross cleared by Rangers and Parry hammered the rebound high over the bar. Parry compounded his bad luck with a booking in stoppage time after an off the ball incident.

After the break the sides exchanged chances - Blackstock and Cook combined well on the edge of the area but were denied a clear site of goal by Purse. At the other end Zesh Rehman went through the back of Thompson and conceded a free kick twenty five yards from goal which Chopra smashed into the wall.

Rehman normally does four or five of those a game but on Friday he was greatly improved. He conceded far less set pieces, stayed much tighter to his man and won more than his fair share of stuff in the air. That along with Stewart producing his best performance for the club made the QPR defence a much more secure prospect than it's been for a number of months.

The game had, in truth, been a fairly dull encounter but it sprang into life in the fifty fifth minute. McNaughton picked the ball up wide on the left near the halfway line and set off for goal. Nick Ward couldn't get close to his man and McNaughton was allowed to make it deep into the Rangers half before curling the ball over Royce and onto the cross bar. The Rangers keeper was beaten all ends up and looked very relieved to see the ball bouncing back into play.

The incident woke the home crowd up and when Michael Chopra stole the ball from Bailey and skipped past Stewart before firing wide it appeared that City were starting to finally gain the upper hand and dominate QPR. They even got the ball in the net just after the hour when Chopra fed Parry but the flag was correctly up long before the winger beat Royce at his near post.

In an attempt to stem the growing tide of Cardiff pressure Gregory made a change up front. Ray Jones returned from his hip injury in place of Dexter Blackstock whose phenomenal work rate inevitably results in tiredness away from home.

Jones' introduction gave Rangers an added physical presence in the Cardiff half and the game returned to a more even sided affair. Jimmy Smith had a shot deflected wide and Scimeca went close for the hosts.

The game looked to be destined for 0-0 and when Bignot was booked for a cynical foul on Chopra and Cardiff wasted the chance for a very dangerous set piece that seemed the inevitable result. Dave Jones introduced Malvin Kamara for Paul Parry to little effect.

Suddenly three minutes from time the game exploded into life and produced a winning goal. It all started with a Cardiff penalty appeal - Darren Purse turned Rehman in pursuit of a long set piece and then hit the deck. I've seen them given in my time, certainly you'd expect them to be given in places like Cardiff, but Mr Joslin stood tall and turned the appeal away.

Cardiff were probably still contemplating what might have been when Damion Stewart beat Chopra to the ball for the umpteenth time on the night and cleared down field. Even when Ray Jones nodded the ball down there seemed to be little danger and the Cardiff fans certainly weren't too concerned in anything other than mocking Marc Nygaard for losing his footing. In the meantime though Nick Ward had collected possession and ghosted in between his markers before delivering the perfect ball to the back post.

Ray Jones was there waiting and calmly slid the ball into the bottom corner to silence the home fans and send the tiny band of QPR fans in the away end into a delirious state of celebration. The goal was created by Ward's superb skill and cross from the right - he'd had very little of the play and looked off the pace for most of the game to this point but this one moment of brilliance won the game for QPR and showed that there's real potential in Ward.

There was even time for the QPR defence to show just how far they've come. Stefan Bailey hacked into Michael Chopra with a trademark two footed lunge that was slightly less well timed than the numerous others he'd crunched into on the night and conceded a free kick. McNaughton took the set piece but QPR left the penalty area en masse leaving six Cardiff players offside and John Gregory crying with laughter on the touchline.

Could that really be the same defence that shipped three of the worst goals ever scored to Sheffield Wednesday a month ago?

The final whistle sounded a short time later and goal hero Ray Jones kissed his Rangers badge in front of the away end signalling hope in his long running contract saga.

All in all then an awesome result for QPR that lifts them right out of the relegation scrap and provides genuine hopes of moving into the top half of the table with two home games coming next week.

Gregory has clearly done so much with the defence since arriving - the incident in stoppage time summed it all up. Sky gave man of the match to Stefan Bailey, who was excellent without ever reaching the heights of his Luton performance in my opinion. For me there was a clear man of the match - Damion Stewart was a rock at the heart of the defence, winning everything, clearing everything, taking no prisoners. Easily his best game for the club.

The whole team looked a secure, confident unit and I'm really looking forward to the Coventry match now. One of those nights where you're proud to be a Rangers fans.

Teams

Cardiff City: Alexander 7, McNaughton 8, Purse 7, Loovens 6, Gunter 8, McPhail 6, Parry 7 (Kamara 81, -), Ledley 6, Scimeca 6, Chopra 7, Thompson 6.
Subs: Johnson, Howard, Cooper, Campbell.
Bookings: Parry 45

QPR: Royce 7, Bignot 7, Rehman 7, Stewart 9, Mancienne 7,Ainsworth - (Ward 14, 6), Cook 7, Bailey 8, Nygaard 7, Blackstock 7 (R Jones 65, 7), Smith 7.
Subs: Milanese, P Jones, Baidoo.
Scorers: R Jones 87
Bookings: Bignot 76, Nygaard 85, Bailey 91

QPR Star Man - Damion Stewart 9 - Paladini said he was bought to partner Danny, tonight for the first time he looked like he may be able to replace him.

Referee: P J Joslin 6 - Allowed the game to flow, only produced cards when absolutely necessary although it remains unclear to me why Parry was carded. The two penalty decisions are key of course - for me the first one with Stewart on Chopra should have been an indirect free kick. The second I'm still not sure about, at normal speed my first reaction was 'penalty' so chances are the Cardiff fans will be unhappy.

Photo: Action Images



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