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Foxes hunted as Rangers head to victory
Foxes hunted as Rangers head to victory
Wednesday, 2nd Jan 2008 11:31

QPR made it seven goals in two games and one defeat in seven matches by sweeping aside Leicester at Loftus Road.

Ian Holloway said his side were “bullied” out of this one by QPR – if he’d added out played and out paced to that I might have taken him more seriously. Despite the ban, Rangers embarked on a highly successful New Years fox hunt with Buzsaky on fine form and Vine and Blackstock catching the eye. Leicester shouldn’t have been bullied, if that is indeed what happened and I’m not sure it was. Looking at the teams lining up for the minute of applause in memory of Phil O’Donnell there was a clear height advantage to the visitors, and with Steve Howard introduced from the bench later on one thing that Leicester shouldn’t have been was bullied.

Rangers simply had more class than their opponents. Buzsaky looked the best player on the pitch again, Rowlands was sublime at times and showed a range of passing that could see Leicester splash the cash on him this winter (lets hope not), Blackstock was back to his hardworking best and Chris Barker also caught the eye with some impressive play going both ways from left back.

Despite the impressive win at Watford De Canio made changes to his line up. Akos Buzsaky came back into the midfield at the expense of Angelo Balanta. With a hand in two goals at Vicarage Road Balanta can maybe count himself unlucky but it’s important to ease kids like that into the side and those that were there on Saturday saw enough to know we’ll be seeing a lot more of him in the coming months and years. Marc Nygaard also dropped down to the bench with Rowan Vine given a recall in the final match before his loan spell ends.

Those changes meant the usual back four of Malcolm, Stewart, Rehman and Barker started together for a final time before Malcolm returns to Derby, where he is suspended by the club after a misdemeanour on the M1 over Christmas. In midfield Rowlands remained in the centre after a somewhat awesome display at Watford and he was partnered by Adam Bolder with Ainsworth on one wing and Vine on the other. Up front Akos Buzsaky played off Dexter Blackstock.

Leicester fought tooth and nail to get Barry Hayles in from Plymouth and Steve Howard from Derby in time for the match but by kick off had only selected one of them. Hayles made the line up alongside Fryatt, Barry’s second game against QPR in a week after playing a part in Plymouth’s Boxing Day victory over us, but Howard was only on the bench. To tell you the truth I breathed a sigh of relief when I read that prior to kick off because I was dreading facing the pair of them keen to do well on their debuts. They were dealt a blow in the run up to the match with loaned keeper Martin Fulop called back to Sunderland as Roy Keane continues to wonder if spending £8,m for a Scottish goalkeeper may have been a big mistake. Paul Henderson came in to replace him.

Rangers were soon flowing forwards in the style that reaped rich rewards against the Hornets. Rowlands, linked with a £1.5m move to Leicester this transfer window, spread the play wide to the right with a 50 yard ball that Ainsworth pulled out of the air perfectly and slid across the face of the goal. Leicester scrambled the ball out as far as Bolder on the edge of the box and he forced Henderson into his first action of the day with a well hit drive towards the top corner that the keeper dealt with comfortably.

Lee Camp raced from the line to clear a through ball away from Hayles but it was QPR who went in front after a quarter of an hour through an increasingly familiar source. Akos Buzsaky whipped across an undefendable inswinging corner kick and big Damion Stewart met the cross with a firm header into the back of the net despite some desperate attempts to keep it out by defenders on the line. Four goals in six matches and five for the season already for Stewart from centre half – at 40/1 for the first goal he may well replace Danny Shittu in the Northern R’s first goalscorer betting from now on, in fairness to him it doesn’t take much to score when it’s Akos Buzsaky taking the corners. His deliveries are first class.

Leicester almost hit back when Iain Hume sent a 25 yard free kick flashing past the post. The free kick came as a result of a great run from Matty Fryatt who shrugged off what looked like a foul from Rowlands only to then be awarded a free kick after a good tackle by Damion Stewart – strange piece of refereeing for me. Hume got his next dead ball situation spot on but by that time Rangers had scored twice more.

Blackstock headed over and Vine sent an effort that was either a clever flick or a poor piece of control wide of the post before Rangers doubled their lead in the 26th minute. Martin Rowlands picked Rowan Vine out wide on the left with a sumptuous right footed pass on the half volley. Vine teased his man and then delivered a deep right footed cross to the back post. Blackstock climbed highest in a crowd of three players and nodded the ball back across the face of goal presenting Bolder with a simple tap in after he arrived in the penalty area late, unmarked. This was a fantastic all round goal with Rowlands, Vine, Blackstock and finally Bolder all playing a part in a nice move and well worked strike.

Akos Buzsaky curled a low free kick round the wall but straight at Paul Henderson. There was only one team in it and Ian Holloway had seen enough. He immediately introduced Howard to his attack replacing defender Joe Mattock. Why Holloway felt the need to move heaven and earth to get the big striker signed in time to play in this game to then start with him on the bench mystifies me. This was a trick he played several times at QPR – how long did he chase Dean Marney for? And how many times did we use him? Howard did play for Derby a couple of days previous but looked Leicester’s biggest, and fittest, threat when he came on and should have started the game – I fancy the scoreline would have been different if he had.

The new striker Holloway did start with, Barry Hayles, was almost completely anonymous for the entire match but apparently he “showed what he’s about” according to his manager. Not a great deal on this evidence.

Adam Bolder saw yellow for a silly challenge on Gareth McAuley as he jumped for a bouncing ball on the edge of his own area but there were few other worries for QPR as they cruised through to half time. Howard won his usual share of flick ons after coming on but they mostly drifted through to Camp and the home side dealt with a tall and physically strong Leicester side from a couple of late corners to keep the sheet clean at half time.

As with Watford in the last game I expected Leicester to come out and have a bloody good go for ten or 15 minutes and it looked like that was going to be the case when Steve Howard let rip from fully 20 yards with a half volley that smashed against the middle of the post with Camp struggling to get across and cover it. Stearman headed a corner wide after Hayles saw a shot blocked away.

QPR made the most of the let off with a killer third goal 11 minutes after the break. Rowan Vine was heavily involved again, twisting and turning his man half to death down by the corner flag and then flighting a perfect cross up to the back post for Dexter Blackstock to send a thumping header into the roof of the net. This was Blackstock’s first goal since the first day of the season and came on the back of an improved all round display from him – it reminded me very much of a headed goal he got against Burnley, also in a 3-1 win at Loftus Road – last season. Hopefully this will signal a return to form for him.

He certainly looked a revitalised man in the closing half an hour. He could have had a hat trick by the time he was replaced by Simon Walton in stoppage time. First Chris Barker, much more impressive in both attack and defence than he has been in recent games, sent a glorious low cross into the Leicester box which narrowly eluded Blackstock’s outstretched leg at the near post. His next chance was all of his own making, muscling McAuley out of the way after confusion between the former Lincoln man and Henderson had meant a long ball was allowed to bounce on the edge of the area. Blackstock took McAuley across the face of goal and should probably have had a dig at that point but he seemed keen to get the ball back on his left foot and by the time he’d turned him sufficiently for that the angle was against him and McAuley blocked it away for a corner. Still, this is more of what we expect to see from Blackstock, he’s been lacklustre in recent weeks but was a real handful for Leicester to deal with and his goal gave the R’s a three goal cushion over their visitors.

Game over, or so it seemed, within three minutes Leicester had pulled a goal back and set the R’s supporters back on edge a little. Gareth Ainsworth was very, very harshly penalised on the corner of the penalty area for a foul on Stephen Clemence when it looked very much like he’d taken the ball off the end of his toe with a clean tackle. Everybody who saw Leicester at Wolves last week on Sky knew what was coming but in the end those on the pitch could do little about it. Iain Hume stepped up and beat the wall and Camp with an excellent free kick into the top corner of the net. Leicester, having never looked like being in the game, just wouldn’t go away.

Both sides made changes with Alan Sheehan replacing the hapless Bruno N’Gotty in the Leicester side and Gavin Mahon making his QPR bow replacing Gareth Ainsworth. Later Marc Nygaard came on for Adam Bolder, an attacking substitution on paper but with Leicester showing the usual Holloway traits of having lots of big men chasing lots of long balls into the channels his height and presence was an added bonus at the back as well as going forwards.

Leicester would have had the home fans in a real panic if they’d taken either of their golden opportunities with a quarter of an hour left to play. Steve Howard headed wide when free enough in the six yard to do better, and when Fryatt went one better and did get a header on target from close range seconds later it went straight at Camp who did well to save and deflect the ball out for a corner. Still, Leicester weren’t good enough on the day to deserve anything much more than a sound beating and QPR were able to see the game through with some classic Italian corner of the pitch possession sessions in the closing ten minutes.

Vine had actually started the game slowly in my opinion and showed a poor touch on one or two occasions but he put in two great crosses that resulted in goals and by the end of the game was showboating to great effect as QPR ran the clock down. Every time he got chopped down by a frustrated Leicester player he turned and smiled to the QPR fans and he threw his shirt into the crowd at the end of the match as well – if he really isn’t going to sign then it would be a shame because I think he’s a quality player at this level.

So outplayed rather than bullied. Leicester already look like a Holloway team – they’re big and physical and they’ll kick a ball into the channel whether there’s anybody there or not. QPR are starting to look like a proper side now and with new arrivals starting to flood in hopefully things will only continue to improve. Holloway looked and sounded like yesterday’s man, thanks for the great times and all but I did raise a wry smile when he was talking about being out battled and out fought when there problem wasn’t lack of battle or fight at all – it was lack of ability and creativity with possession of the football. QPR could have bullied Leicester all they liked but without the likes of Buzsaky, Rowlands and Vine providing quality from midfield it would have counted for nothing.

This was certainly a great way to start the New Year and with the league form picking up it’s almost a shame we have to go to Chelsea now when confidence and momentum could have seen us pick up another three valuable points at the weekend.

Still, with seven goals in two games and confidence high Rangers v Chelsea Reserves could be slightly more interesting on Saturday than it may have been a month or two ago. Hope to see as many of you there on Saturday as possible.

QPR: Camp 7, Barker 8, Stewart 8, Bolder 7 (Nygaard 74, 6),Blackstock 8 (Walton 90, -), Ainsworth 7 (Mahon 67, 6), Buzsaky 8, Rowlands 8, Malcolm 7, Vine 7, Rehman 7
Subs Not Used: Cole, Balanta
Booked: Bolder (foul)
Goals: Stewart 15 (assist Buzsaky), Bolder 26 (assist Blackstock), Blackstock 56 (assist Vine)

Leicester: Henderson 5, Stearman 5, McAuley 5, Kisnorbo 5,Mattock 5 (Howard 31, 7), James Chambers 5 (Wesolowski 57, 5),N'Gotty 3 (Sheehan 62, 5), Clemence 6, Hume 7, Fryatt 6, Hayles 5
Subs Not Used: Hayes, Kenton
Booked: Wesolowski (dissent), Hayles (foul)
Goals: Hume 59 (assisted Clemence)

QPR Star Man – Dexter Blackstock 8 - Leicester never got to grips with him and as a result he scored one, set up another and went close to bagging three or four more besides. This was the hard working, never say die Blackstock that we got used to seeing last season and long may that continue. His best performance for quite some time – should flourish with the improvement in quality out of the midfield from Rowlads and BUzsaky.

Referee: Pat Miller (Bedfordshire) 5 Pretty average display overall. Not too many cards but a number of poor decisions, including the one to penalise Ainsworth for the free kick that Hume scored – he’d gone close in the first half after Stewart was harshly punished as well. Not too bad but not great either. Standard stuff.

Attendance: 13,326 (800 Leicester fans approx) As usual the atmosphere was lacking a little something on New Years Day. Poor away support and hangovers not helping. It was good to see the usual empty blocks in Ellerslie Road full though and I’d expect that to be the case more and more as things improve for us.

Photo: Action Images

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