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Baidoo seals handy replay
Baidoo seals handy replay
Saturday, 6th Jan 2007 20:34

QPR are still in the FA Cup, but with a replay at Kenilworth Road their reward for a 2-2 draw at home to Luton on Saturday there'll be a good number of supporters who wish they weren't.

 

In my student days conversation would often switch to something along the lines of "greatest ever moment experienced while following your club." All the Arsenal, West Ham, Tottenham and even the bloody Ipswich fans I hung around with had tales to tell of European away fixtures, cup finals and play off successes.

All I had was a promotion from the third tier, in second place to Plymouth, achieved by beating Sheffield Wednesday. Hey, I'm being harsh - that was clearly the best season for being a QPR fan in more than a decade and was the best year of my life without exception but when there's people talking about "that time we beat Inter Milan" it doesn't sound as significant as it should.

Apart from that glorious promotion season the great moments have been in slim supply at Loftus Road so you end up reflecting on single games like the Oldham semi final or great goals like Trevor Sinclair's awesome strike against Barnsley.

In the end I started trying to play up to the piss taking and name silly moments following QPR that have made me laugh - like the legs on a plastic chair outside the Goldhawk melting and tipping my Grandad out onto the Goldhawk Road before a game with Tottenham on a hot summers' day.

Now the funniest moment on the pitch has a number of contenders but for me, top of the list has got to be Devon White reacting to a frustrating goal mouth scramble at the Loft End against Everton by punching the ball over the line with his fist. Neville Southall looked ridiculous enough as it was without going beetroot and chasing the referee down the pitch frantically waving his arms around.

Devon White made me laugh before he even got out on the pitch as it was and when he did things like that it was brilliant. Clearly Shabazz Baidoo was feeling nostalgic yesterday as he reached out both hands and forced the ball over the line to peg Luton Town back to two all. Shabazz isn't as loveable as Big Devon of course, and a replay at Luton is the last thing we wanted, but come on denying Luton Town a victory by punching the ball into the net - that's funny stuff.

Gregory named the same defence that had kept a clean sheet against Colchester on Monday. That was Royce in goal behind Kanyuka, Stewart, Mancienne and Bignot. Changes were made in midfield with Gallen dropped from the matchday squad altogether and replaced by Jimmy Smith. Other than that it was as you were with Ward and Cook the wingers and Lomas the holding midfielder. Up front Dexter Blackstock was looking to end his eleven game goal drought which stretched right back to Rangers' victory over Luton at Kenilworth Road in November. Alongside him Ray Jones received a decent reception before the game with news of him signing a new contract announced to the crowd.

Luton named former Ranger Richard Langley in their midfield and he was booed by a section of the home crowd throughout the match. That seemed a shame to me, it's not Langley's fault he was released at the end of last season. He responded by having a decent game at the heart of the Luton team. Dean Kiely was refused permission to play by Portsmouth so Marlon Beresford started in goal behind a defence missing Marcus Heikkinen and others through injury. Up front Rowan Vine and Warren Feeney were paired together again after looking very impressive in the televised game with Birmingham last week.

Last week Rangers started nervously and grew into the game against Colchester, this time they just picked up where they left off and started the match well. Smith and Ward both hit long range efforts narrowly off target in the first nine minutes. Smith then tried his luck with a free kick from left of centre that took a horrible bounce on the slippery pitch and Beresford had to be right on top of his game with Blackstock waiting to tap in any fumbles from the keeper.

In the 17th minute Smith was in thick of things again on the edge of the area when he cracked a shot on goal from just inside the area. Coyne blocked the ball back to Smith who then had his legs hacked out from under him by Steve Robinson as he went to shoot for a second time. It looked a nailed on penalty but referee Mr Bates waved the protests away. They say what comes around goes around and by the end of the match it was Luton surrounding the referee.

As the half wore on the weather began to have more and more of an influence. The storm that had done enough to postpone Reading's game with Burnley had made its way into West London and the rain was flowing down in sheets midway through the first half.

This made it difficult for the goalkeepers and Simon Royce did well with a couple of routine saves from Feeney and Brkovic before the half hour mark.

At the other end Rangers responded to the worsening conditions by swinging two corners right under the cross bar to test Beresford. Cook's first delivery was right on the money and needed tipping over the bar to prevent a goal without anybody getting a touch. The second was even better and Beresford was given no chance by Blackstock who powered in at the near post and headed home that much needed goal. The players celebrated together by wallowing in the mud by the corner flag - clearly Blackstock finally getting the goal his performances have deserved was a relief to everybody.

Frustratingly Rangers reacted to taking the lead in exactly the same way as they had done against Colchester - by panicking. Smith vanished from the game after a great start, Lomas was nowhere and Ward was having his worst game for the club wide on the right. Luton started to walk through the middle of the QPR midfield at will.

Last week on the stroke of half time Kevin McLeod sent a cross over from the left that went all the way through the six yard box without anybody getting a touch and Rangers went in ahead. This week Mancienne tried to nip in front of Feeney but missed the ball, he fed Vine and the hosts weren't quite so lucky. Vine's twenty yard effort may have taken a slight nick off one of the defenders but it beat Royce all ends up and Luton were level. It was a nice move from the Hatters but had the centre of the R's midfield been in the game at all at this stage, and had Mancienne not tried to be too clever with Feeney, then it could have been prevented.

Incredibly, after dominating for the majority of the first half, QPR fell behind in the opening stages of the second half. The midfield came out for the second half in much the same frame of mind as they'd left it in the first and Luton were soon cutting through again. Brokovic crossed from the right, Royce came out for the ball and then seemed to change his mind and Feeney was in the right place at the right time as the ball bobbled off him and into the empty net.

Rangers picked themselves up and set about Luton again. Within two minutes of falling behind Smith sent a wild shot across the face of goal that Blackstock instinctively attempted to turn goalwards but could only divert the ball into the Upper Loft. However badly the side are playing Lee Cook's set pieces are always a valuable asset and his outswinging corner around the hour mark was headed by Blackstock but Dean Morgan highlighted the importance of a man on the post with a goal line clearance.

As so often happens with QPR players the day after they've signed a long contract Ray Jones picked up an injury midway through the half and was replaced by Paul Furlong. Jones did seem ready to return to the action after treatment so hopefully he won't be too bad and he can travel to Hull for that crucial match next weekend.

That change didn't seem to do a lot to change the course of the game and Luton could have moved further ahead 22 minutes from the end when Warren Feeney broke into the area onto Richard Langley's through ball but Damion Stewart bravely blocked his shot. Feeney hit a shot narrowly over the bar as well and the Hatters seemed comfortable with the QPR midfield failing to take any kind of hold on the game.

With 20 minutes left Gregory gave his two most ineffective players the hook and within moments the home side were level. Nick Ward struggled all afternoon. In poor conditions and playing out of position in a foreign league it is understandable, but Gregory could hardly have left him out there the way he was playing and Shabazz Baidoo went on wide on the right instead of him.

Steve Lomas was having one of those days where nothing goes right for you and he was also mercifully replaced at the same time. Marc Bircham came on for him and suddenly things looked a lot better. After an excellent first thirty minutes from Rangers Luton had things all their own way but these changes put Rangers back on top. Lee Cook fired a warning shot on goal after cutting in from his wing on the very next attack and within minutes of the changes the R's drew level.

Once again Lee Cook was the provider with an excellent corner from the left side. Damion Stewart headed goalwards but saw his effort cleared off the line, Blackstock tried to force the ball home and eventually the ball flew into the roof of the net off Shabazz Baidoo's hands.

Every single Luton player surrounded the referee in protest and when Mr Bates spotted his linesman on the pitch and waiting to speak to him it seemed the goal would be chalked off. After a short discussion the goal was allowed to stand and the visitors fumed. Mike Newell raced out of his technical area to confront the linesman in front of the Paddocks.

Who would have thought that Mike eh? A linesman with a penis making a mistake. Maybe, as we suspected at the time, incompetence in match officials has bugger all to do with their gender. Still why let facts get in the way of a good rant.

In the remaining 15 minutes Rangers pressed to avoid a replay at Kenilworth Road but never really threatened getting a third goal. Luton seemed happy to take Rangers back to theirs but with one of the game's outstanding performers Rowan Vine still up front they were always a threat roared on by a terrific away following.

There was one further chance for each side before full time. In the eighty fifth minute Paul Furlong worked some space in the penalty area but dragged his shot wide from a poor angle. At the other end Luton were awarded a free kick at the death and the script seemed written for Richard Langley to put his former club out with the last kick of the game but his shot was very poor and sailed into the School End.

Rangers now face what I predicted in the match preview, the worst case scenario, a replay at our most despised of all away grounds. What we can expect from the replay at Luton a week on Tuesday will be decided tomorrow lunch time when the draw for the fourth round is made. Pull Chelsea or Manchester United and it becomes a massive game for both clubs. Pull Southend or Barnsley and I could well be rattling round the away end by myself.

To be honest, always happy to think the worst, I think we'll probably pull a handy home draw and then get beaten in Bedfordshire. After waiting so long for a plumb cup tie that could be almost as heartbreaking as having to play a replay in Luton in the first place, but like I said beforehand - think of the worst case scenario and watch it unfold.

QPR: Royce 5, Bignot 7, Mancienne 7, Stewart 7, Kanyuka 6, Cook 7, Smith 6, Lomas 4 (Bircham 71, 8), Ward 4 (Baidoo 71, 7), Blackstock 8, Jones 6 (Furlong 63, 6).
Subs not used: Cole, Rehman.
Scorers:Blackstock 31, Baidoo 75

Luton Town: Beresford 6, Davis 7, Coyne 7, Perrett 6, Robinson 6, Vine 8, Feeney 7, Morgan 7, Langley 7, Brkovic 7, Barnett 6.
Subs not used: Brill, O'Leary, Boyd, Keane, Holmes.
Scorers: Vine 44, Feeney 46
Bookings: Barnett 82, Langley 90

QPR Star Man - Dexter Blackstock 8 - Worked hard up front as always but finally got a goal today to go with the all round performance. Great player to have in your side.

Referee: Mr A Bates 4 - Failed to produce cards for several fouls from both teams that really deserved them. Also got the game's two crucial decisions wrong - Rangers should have had a penalty in the first half and their second goal should never have stood. Ably assisted by a couple of poor linesmen - the one at the Loft End in the first half wouldn't know the offside law if it walked up and introduced itself to him.

Photo: Action Images



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