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Late, late heartbreak for Rangers at Blackpool
Late, late heartbreak for Rangers at Blackpool
Saturday, 1st Dec 2007 11:09

Ben Burgess broke Rangers' hearts with a last second winner for Blackpool at Bloomfield Road on Saturday.

It just felt so cruel. To make us stand there in the freezing cold (and my God it was bitter) for 90 minutes, get our hopes up that we'd managed to ride out the storm and get a draw, and then we concede another last minute goal, well, there aren't really the words for how it felt. If there is some greater power watching down on us and making decisions like this, well he/she is needlessly cruel.

Damion Stewart was the man who made the mistake for the goal - his first for many a long week and at the end of another solid display. He was still sitting, motionless on the edge of the penalty area long after the other players had hit the showers and the fans left. He's been in the form of his life recently, we can only hope this doesn't dent his confidence too much.

Heartbreaking it may have been, but not unexpected. QPR made very little use of having a vicious wind at their backs in the first half, the hosts set about taking advantage right from the kick off after half time. While QPR had slung in just a couple of corners and crosses in the first half Pool peppered the Rangers penalty area with high balls after the break. In conditions the likes of which I haven't seen since the infamous Wycombe game it seemed only a matter of time before the home side's numbers came up in what was effectively a lottery.

The fact it took until the 92nd minute to happen was thanks mainly to some last ditch defending, excellent goalkeeping and poor finishing. You can't argue Blackpool didn't deserve it, but that doesn't make it any easier to bare.

There was good and bad news before kick off with Akos Buzsaky suitably recovered from his midweek knock at Stoke to take his place in the midfield. Michael Mancienne on the other hand was missing, he too left the Stoke game early through injury, and was joined on the sidelines by Sam Timoska and Jake Cole who've both got this horrible bug that seems to be going around. Dexter Blackstock was suspended so there were changes all over the place. Martin Rowlands moved to right back with Malcolm and Stewart the centre halves in front of Camp in goal and with Barker at left back.

In midfield Sinclair started on the right wing with Ben Sahar given a surprise recall up front, but often wide left. Buzsaky also spent some time wide left but was mainly in the middle with Bolder and Leigertwood. Vine started up front.

Blackpool had former QPR defender Ian Evatt on the bench after ten weeks out with an injury and welcomed back Ben Burgess into the starting line up in attack. Andy Morrell and Gary Taylor Fletcher dropped to the bench after the midweek home defeat by Norwich.

With a gale force wind at their backs QPR began by attacking the home end and could have taken the lead inside the first minute when Rowan Vine's low shot flicked off a defender and flew just wide of the bottom corner. In the horrendous weather set pieces and crosses, particularly at the end of the ground QPR attacked first, were always going to be important and sure enough from the set piece won by Vine Buzsaky whipped the ball right under the cross bar and forced Rachubka to tip it over the bar.

Sadly Rangers didn't really do enough of that on the day. They didn't cross the ball enough, they didn't win enough corners. They tried to play De Canio's usual passing game but more often than not the moves broke down because if a pass was even slightly overhit it immediately flew out of play on the wind. We didn't play the conditions at all well.

Blackpool's first opportunity fell to Shaun Barker who sent a looping header wide then Ben Burgess had two cracks at opening the scoring on his return to the line up. On the quarter hour Burgess came in goal side of his man to meet a low cross with a crisp half volley that Camp did superbly to tip around the post with a strong left hand. Burgess tried his luck from distance in the next attack but Camp was able to watch that one sail over the cross bar and into the car park which sits behind the goal instead of a stand.

Blackpool were forced into a change early on when Keith Southern failed to recover from a robust hit from Bob Malcolm and was replaced by Fox.

Rangers looked pretty good with the ball, and fairly secure at the back without it. Rowan Vine had a long range shot easily gathered by Rachubka and then beat four men on a mazy dribble into the penalty area which unfortunately only yielded a corner.

QPR' best chance of the match came before half time when Rachubka was penalised for handling a passback. The former Huddersfield keeper seemed to look to the referee to see if he was allowed to pick up the ball but then didn't wait for the signal which was a clear "no you can't" with much arm waving from referee Clive Oliver. The referee did his best to help the keeper out, but wasn't listened to. Consequently Rangers were faced with an enticing indirect free kick just outside the six yard box left of centre.

Predictably Blackpool hauled every man back onto the goal line as Chris Barker seemed to be sizing up a shot. Traditionally these kicks are tapped to the side and blasted although recently I have seen players blast directly for goal in the hope that a deflection off one of the many players in front of them will satisfy the indirect rule. QPR did neither, instead shifting the ball out to the edge of the area for Buzsaky to have a shot, his low drive rattled around in the area for a couple of seconds before being turfed away by the relieved Pool defence.

I have to say it didn't really strike me as sensible to turn down the chance for a smash on goal from eight yards in favour of one from 18 but hey what do I know?

At half time Rangers removed Sahar who, once again, had been ineffective and offered little to the side. The physical aspect of the Championship seems to b all too much for him I'm afraid and it seems that it would be best for both sides if he went back and started rebuilding his reputation at Chelsea, no doubt starting with a goal against us in the FA Cup such is life.

Marc Nygaard came on in his place which seemed sensible enough but what was infuriating was the change in the style of play. The time for some long ball football and focus on set pieces was the first half with that massive wind behind us, not in the second when every ball pinged forwards by QPR held up in the air and actually started to come back towards the kicker. I can count on the fingers of one hand the times QPR actually made it out of their half in the second period.

In the first half Nygaard should have started and we should have bombarded them. In the second we should have played possession football and tried to prevent Blackpool teaching us a lesson in playing the conditions.

There were one or two bright moments, Rowan Vine started the half very well but was on the end of four or five hefty challenges during the match and left the pitch early, battered and bruised, to be replaced by Gareth Ainsworth. Buzsaky, who went as close as ay Rangers player to scoring in the second half with a curling shot from 20 yards that flashed wide of the top corner by about two feet, also left early with his injury problem in mind. Stefan Moore came on for him and went to left wing but Scott Sinclair had seen nothing of the ball in the second period and Moore suffered the same fate after Sinclair had moved up front.

Buzsaky picked up the game's first booking before he went off, thoroughly deserved it was as well after he flicked a ball past the last defender with his fist. A cynical attempt to cheat the officials and they were right on top of it. Rowlands was the other QPR player booked, a horrible late tackle on Burgess by the corner flag, he can have no complaints either. He'd been lucky to get away with kicking Hoolahan's legs out from under him on the referee's blind side in the first half as the two of them attempted to get in at the back post during a Pool counter attack.

As Rangers' threats were removed Pool took over the game and forced them further and further back. Simon Grayson, sensing the visitors were struggling, put Andy Morrell and Gary Taylor Fletcher on and went with a three pronged attack that caused us all manner of problems. Wes Hoolahan was ran riot in the second period on both wings and through the middle depending on how the mood took him. They were wearing us down with every passing minute.

Hoolaan's trickery almost brought the opening goal when a free kick won after Malcolm chopped him on the edge of the box was taken immediately and passed through to Andy Morrell. Camp raced from his line and denied the former Coventry man with a great one on one save, the rebound eluded Burgess and Rangers scrambled the ball away. Camp denied Morrell more comfortably when he tried his luck from distance but other than that all Morrell seemed to do was hit the deck under minimal contact looking for free kicks.

The three pronged attack was causing us real problems and shots began reigning in on Lee Camp. Burgess fired a powerful shot in after a scramble in the area but the ball flew directly above the keeper and he saved well with two hands. A header into the side netting from a Taylor Fletcher cross. He'd have the last laugh though. Taylor Fletcher missed a sitter of his own as time ticked on, completely fluffing a seemingly simple chance at the back post when Morrell put a low cross through the penalty area.

Blackpool had dominated the closing stages so much that I was actually looking at my watch and hoping we would make it out of a game we really needed to win with a point. Three minutes of stoppage time was advertised and some of the home fans started to leave their seat, but their was a final, gut wrenching twist to the story. Crainey launched a final long ball down the field but everything seemed to be under control with Damion Stewart once again awaiting its arrival under little pressure. However the ball carried further than he was expecting on the wind and he got caught under it. At full stretch he could only send a horrible flicked header across the face of his own goal and there stood Burgess, unmarked and struggling to believe his luck, to plant a header beyond Camp and into the bottom corner.

The home end erupted, a vital three points snatched at the death for them. Some QPR fans sat in bemused and distraught silence, some left before the kick off had even been taken. The final whistle followed a matter of seconds later.

A very poor start to a big week against three poor teams. I had us down for seven points from these three games but an inability to play the conditions and a dire second half have already ruled that out. Blackpool weren't anything great, but they weren't bad either and were certainly better than us on the day. If they can get people like Burgess and Evatt back in their side and keep them there they may stand a chance of staying up, I'd still bet against them for now though.

Mind you I'd back us to stay up and there was little evidence of how we're going to do that on show here. I have faith that January's transfer window will herald a change of fortune for us but there are enough games before that for us to be cut adrift and face an uphill battle. We simply must beat Palace and Scunthorpe this week.

January brings no guarantees of course, because we don't know who we're going to sign or if they'll work out. But it's our best hope at the moment because we're not good enough as things stand.

Blackpool: Rachubka 7, Barker 7, Jackson 7, Gorkss 7, Crainey 7, Welsh 6 (Taylor-Fletcher 59, 6), Southern - (Fox 12, 6), Jorgensen 6, Hoolahan 8, Burgess 8, Slusarski 6 (Morrell 54, 7)
Subs Not Used: Evatt, Parker
Goals: Burgess 90 (assisted Crainey)

QPR: Camp 8, Malcolm 6, Stewart 7, Leigertwood 7, Barker 6, Rowlands 6, Buzsaky 6 (Moore 75, 5), Bolder 5, Sinclair 6, Vine 7 (Ainsworth 68, 5),Sahar 4 (Nygaard 46, 4)
Subs Not Used: Goodchild, Bailey
Booked: Buzsaky (deliberate handball), Rowlands (foul)

QPR Star Man - Lee Camp 8 - Once again kept the score down and was unlucky to end up on the losing side. Some great saves, particularly the one from Burgess in the first half, and a better command of his area than normal although that is still an area for him to work on - his height counts against him there of course. Still, great performance here, almost won us another point.

Referee: Clive Oliver (Northumberland) 7 Blackpool seemed to be very unhappy with him for most of the match but I didn't think he was too bad at all. I notice in an interview in Blackpool's superb, if a little pricey, programme that he describes himself as an injured ex player looking to stay in the game and you can tell. Haven't seen the advantage rule used so well or so often for some time - great to see.

Attendance: 8,527 (1500 QPR fans approx) Blackpool get terrific backing from the fans behind the goal, particularly two impressive drummers at the back of the stand (Pete if you're reading this, that's a bloody drum mate) and they stayed right behind their side throughout. QPR were also well backed numbers wide but the appalling conditions they were kept in, the weather and lack of a roof meant all energy was invested entirely into keeping warm and chants were hard to get going. A half naked conga line in the second half was interrupted by the stewards who threw one of the fans out onto the street still minus his clothes for gesticulating towards the home fans.

Photo: Action Images

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