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QPR make hard work of Blackpool win
QPR make hard work of Blackpool win
Wednesday, 12th Mar 2008 18:47

QPR made life difficult for themselves but ultimately squeezed home by the odd goal in five against Blackpool on Tuesday night.

Rangers banished their midweek hoodoo at the sixth attempt on Tuesday – but several demons still remain in the psyche of Luigi De Canio’s team. Seven times this season Rangers have lost a game having initially taken the lead, and rarely has a side looked so uncomfortable and nervous at three nil up in a home match as the Hoops did against Blackpool at Loftus Road.

With Rowan Vine causing problems down the left, just as he had done at Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday, the R’s found themselves three goals clear inside an hour with the former Luton man scoring one and setting up another. Whether Akos Buzsaky’s meant his sublime opener is open for debate but there was no doubt about the second, all Vine’s own work, and the third, slammed in by Martin Rowlands after more hard work down the left.

A big score looked likely with Blackpool’s physical but sluggish defence struggling to cope with the runs from deep of Vine, Buzsaky and Rowlands but, not for the first time this season, with a good portion of the game left to play Rangers decided their work was done. Top hat and coat on, cue replaced on the rack and with one hand on the door handle it took a fine finish from Ben Burgess to wake Rangers up to the fact that there was still a game to be lost and as realisation set in so to did the all too familiar blind panic. Blackpool scored again with time still on the clock and in the end the home side was hanging on.

Earlier in the evening Rangers had recalled Fitz Hall to their starting line up in place of Damion Stewart who didn’t even make the bench. Hall missed the Sheff Wed game through injury and seemed to spend a good deal of this match limping or laid out on the floor. Whether it’s a lack of first team football with Wigan before his arrival or a more worrying underlying problem it’s certainly a concern to see him picking up so many tears, strains and pulls – especially when the back up on the bench is provided by Zesh Rehman.

Other than that De Canio kept faith with the side that blew the game at Hillsborough after taking the lead and dominating early on. Camp was in goal behind the back four that also included Mancienne, Connolly and Delaney. In midfield Vine and Buzsaky started wide with Leigertwood and Rowlands in the middle. Up front Blackstock and Agyemang got another chance to find some form together after a laboured display from the pair of them at the weekend.

Blackpool came into the game without Paul Dickov who has five goals from five starts since joining them on loan – he picked up a hamstring injury in the weekend draw against Southampton. They also left Ben Burgess on the bench despite his last minute winner against Rangers at Bloomfield Road in December. Claus Jorgenson also missed out with Michael Flynn and Andy Morrell recalled to the starting eleven.

The game started at a pedestrian pace and indeed my match notes, admittedly put together under the influence of alcohol, detail only a conversation in F Block about the last time Blackpool played here – when we won 5-0, it was 100 degrees, Pool turned up in an all black kit.

Thankfully just as conversation was starting to drift to whether Big Al had a thong on that day or not we scored. Nine minutes in and after good progress down the left by Agyemang his cross was met delicately by Akos Buzsaky. The crowd groaned initially but with Rachubka stranded in goal the ball looped up into the night air before dropping perfectly into the far bottom corner. Did he mean it? Who can tell. If he did it’s yet another example of why he deserves a higher stage than the Championship for his skills because it was sublime.

As they had done at Hillsborough QPR focussed all of their attacking intent down the left flank. A quarter of an hour in another break down that side, this time from Delaney, saw the ball flash all the way across the face of the Blackpool goal with neither Agyemang nor Blackstock in position to turn it home. Buzsaky tried to keep the move alive at the back post but Pool scrambled the ball away. Attention was then drawn to a kafuffle at the back of the South Africa Road stand where the stewards were on their annual foolhardy mission to try and make everybody at the back sit down. They only try it once a season, it always gets the same response and so, with three times as many people standing up as before, the game continued in front of us.

Delaney’ surge down the left and cross wasn’t the first time he’d left his left wing berth to join the attack and it certainly wasn’t the last. Quite often as we attack it’s Delaney, Agyemang and Blackstock in the area waiting for a cross and the big Irishman pops up in the right wing slot fairly frequently as well. Whether he’s given this license to roam, gets carried away or has the positional sense of an schizophrenic gnat I can’t really tell. We will get caught on a counter attack down his side sooner or later because five or six times a match there’s a player running down our left flank and I’m forced to glance round the whole pitch trying to find just where Delaney has disappeared off to now. When it works, like at Hillsborough on Saturday, it’s brilliant and certainly very handy to have such a potent attacking weapon coming from left back where teams possibly won’t be expecting it, when it doesn’t Delaney is reliant on his team mates to cover his position and rescue us which so far they’ve just about managed to do.

Blackpool managed their first serious attack in the 20th minute when a lovely cross to the back post from Hoolahan looked certain to drop plum onto the head of McPhee until Michael Mancienne got up just high enough to flick the ball away for a corner. From the set piece it was Mancienne again calmly dealing with the situation and enabling QPR to spring forward on a counter attack that ended with Patrick Agyemang and then Martin Rowlands being crowded out on the edge of the penalty area. It says a lot for our style of play, and our own fair to crap set pieces, that we actually look more dangerous when the opposition are sending a free kick into our box than we do when we get one of our own around theirs.

As time ticked past the half hour mark McPhee was denied a run on the goal by an offside flag, then after the best move of the half so far he fired a wild shot off towards the corner flag. The move between him and Morrell, and the way he bamboozled the QPR defence with a turn back inside once he’d reached the penalty area, deserved a much better finish.

It looked like Rangers would be heading into the half time break with a one goal advantage but with the fourth official readying his stoppage time board Rowan Vine doubled the lead. Picking the ball up forty yards from goal wide on the left he showed excellent close control and turn of speed to burst into the area and beat Rachubka with a powerful low shot.

This goal showed exactly why Vine is in the team and why he’s such an exciting player at times, but also why he frustrates supporters so much. When you look at the control, speed and finish that went into this goal you can’t help but wonder why a) he doesn’t score more often, b) he doesn’t skin his full back like that all the time, and c) why for the previous 40 minutes or so his first touch had regularly been found wanting – often bouncing off his shin to a Blackpool player ten or more yards away. Still if he could consistently produce these flashes of brilliance then he wouldn’t be in the Championship with us I suppose.

There was still time in the first half for Buzsaky to crack a half volley from the edge of the area that Rachubka managed to turn round the post.

Immediately after half time, and with some supporters still making their way back to the seats from the bar, Rangers slammed in what should have been the game sealing third goal. Again Vine was heavily involved in its creation, tricking his way into the area down the left flank and delivering a low ball to the near post for Agyemang. Evatt did just about enough to prevent the Ghanaian turning in his first goal in six games but was powerless to prevent the follow up being hammered into the net from close range by the tireless Martin Rowlands who’d arrived late and unchecked from midfield.

It could have got worse for Simon Grayson’s men when a soft free kick awarded for a tug on Martin Rowlands that certainly wasn’t apparent to me. Rowlands took the free kick himself, curling the ball over the bar from 20 yards out.

Blackpool took this as the cue for a double change. Fox came on for Southern in midfield and Burgess on for the ineffective Morrell up front. To be honest when the Pool team was announced I was relieved to see Morrell, a player I’ve never rated at this level, preferred to Burgess who always causes us problems. Sure enough, within eight minutes Burgess had made his mark on the game with a cool finish into the bottom corner from 15 yards out after Damien Delaney had lost the ball in his own half and the defence had tried to play Burgess offside.

Ian Evatt wasn’t a million miles away with a hooked effort following a corner and with QPR apparently happy to now try and sit back and soak up whatever they had to offer the game was increasingly being played out down at the School End in front of the noisy travelling support. Once again an opposition manager had taken the game away from QPR with a double substitution – it just remained to be seen whether the clock would beat them to it.

Suddenly Rangers were panicking, strung out across the park like wet washing and offering minimal resistance to the Blackpool come back that was gathering momentum with every attack. De Canio sent on Gavin Mahon for Patrick Agyemang and went to five in midfield in an attempt to stem the tide – it didn’t work, within ten minutes the visitors were back to within one goal. Kaspars Gorkss met a corner with a powerful header that looked like it might have looped into the far corner by itself but Steve McPhee made sure with a towering header at the back post and suddenly it really was game on again.

Luckily unlike Saturday we already had three goals in the bag by the time Grayson made his changes, but there can’t be many teams out that who need to score three before they even start thinking about winning a point. With Fitz Hall clearly struggling QPR didn’t cope with Ben Burgess at all when he came on – struggling to win a single header against the big man. As I said in the match preview Burgess was a name we looked for with some trepidation in League One but he’s somebody a Championship team really should be able to deal with a lot better than we did. Whether it was Hall’s fitness, Burgess’ fresh legs or something else the impact this bog standard lower league journeyman forward had on a team that’s supposed to be aspiring to bigger and better things was alarming.

Martin Rowlands sent a fearsome 20 yard effort a fraction wide of the post and Ruchubka denied Buzsaky from the edge of the area once again but a fourth goal would have been harsh on the visitors.

De Canio sent on Lee and Rehman for the closing minutes, the latter being greeted by the usual disgraceful boos from some quarters, in place of Buzsaky and Rowlands who had both had excellent games.

Stoppage time was played out to a cacophony of desperate whistles from the home fans and there were collective sighs of relief when Keith Hill brought proceedings to an end. The lack of applause from the home fans was noticeable despite the victory – the team had put us through the mill again and it was all so unnecessary.

I’ve never known a team look so uncomfortable after taking the lead. It’s either a mental thing, the amount of blown leads this season playing on their minds, or it’s a tactical one. If De Canio is asking them to sit back and defend and they’re simply not capable of doing it then that would explain it – although De Canio always talks about going for more goals and killing games off so it would seem strange if he’s saying one thing and doing another.

Whether the much talked about lack of a leader in the team is to blame for the blind panic that sets in as soon as we start playing well and scoring goals I don’t know but we need to find out why this is happening and sort it. De Canio has said in the past that one goal is never enough, that we need to go on from two and get three and now it seems even three goals isn’t enough for us to be safe.

Still let’s focus on the positives – we were well in control of this game for the thick end of an hour, playing very nicely and scoring three good goals in the process. Blackpool are no mugs as their results and league position shows – speaking of which we’re now into the top half of the table for the first time since August 2005. With a very poor Scunthorpe United side in town on Saturday dare we all hope for better still?

QPR: Camp 6, Mancienne 6, Connolly 8, Hall 7, Delaney 6, Buzsaky 8 (Lee 85, -), Leigertwood 6, Rowlands 8 (Rehman 90, -), Vine 7, Blackstock 6, Agyemang 6 (Mahon 66, 7)
Subs Not Used: Pickens, Balanta
Goals: Buzsaky 11 (assisted Agyemang), Vine 40 (unassisted), Rowlands 47 (assisted Agyemang)

Blackpool: Rachubka 7, Barker 5, Evatt 5, Gorkss 6, Crainey 6, Taylor-Fletcher 6 (Parker 71, 6) Southern 5 (Fox 53, 7), Flynn 6, Hoolahan 8, Morrell 6 (Burgess 54, 8), McPhee 7
Subs Not Used: Coid, Welsh
Booked: Taylor-Fletcher (foul), Hoolahan (foul)
Goals: Burgess 60, McPhee 73 (assisted Gorkss)

QPR Star Man – Martin Rowlands 8 - Went very close to giving this to Matt Connolly who continues to come on in leaps and bounds and looks like our best January signing to me, but I fear (without looking at the replay) that he may have played Burgess on for the first goal while Rowlands capped a fine display with a goal of his own.

Referee: Keith Hill (Hertfordshire) 9 - Hardly noticed him all night, bit of a dodgy free kick awarded to QPR on the edge of the box in the second half but otherwise hard to fault.

Attendance: 11,538 (600 Blackpool fans approx) - Rangers pretty quiet throughout, even when the team was three nil up. Blackpool very noisy throughout, even when their team was three nil down. Certainly the loudest travelling support at Loftus Road this season.


Photo: Action Images

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