Despite His White Boots

Football, football, football and, if the mood takes me, more football.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

QPR 3 Preston 2

Paolo Sousa's late gamble paid off as Rangers won an exciting game with a late goal. Once again the home side started very strongly, and should have been a goal to the good within two minutes. After Lee Cook's swerving shot was too hot for keeper Andy Lonergan, Patrick Agyemang looked certain to score the rebound against his former club but he didn't connect cleanly and allowed Lonergan to save again. Before too long though, Cook turned provider again and this time Heidar Helguson made no mistake from his wicked cross.

In a disturbing echo of the Burnley game, Rangers conceded a lot of possession after their early surge faded out, and when a couple of opportunities to clear were missed, Chris Sedgwick sent a good header across Radek Cerny for the equaliser. Youl Mawene blasted over moments later as Rangers wobbled. However, Helguson restored the lead with the kind of goal we haven't seen since the days of Andy Thomson. God only knows what actually happened but after a corner was helped back into the six yard box, the ball was somehow in the net and Helguson was celebrating his second. A few of these scrappy strikers' goals can make a big difference over a season.

Into the second half, Agyemang's low volley was turned away by Lonergan but Preston again came back into the game and were denied only by a couple of last ditch tackles. When Cerny went to ground to push the ball away from Sean St Ledger, practically everyone in the ground, including the players, was intent on what St Ledger, who had stayed on his feet, was going to do with the loose ball. Everyone except the referee who inexplicably pointed to the spot, and Callum Davidson made no mistake.

Rangers were well on the back foot until Sousa made a bold double substitution with 10 minutes left. Both full-backs were removed as Rangers went 3-4-3. The momentum shifted immediately and Cook's cross caused chaos in the Preston box until Lonergan finally grabbed it. And the gamble paid off when Dexter Blackstock, one of the substitutes, rose majestically to head Martin Rowlands' free kick into the top corner. You can see why Blackstock doesn't really fit into the system that Sousa wants to play, but if you get the service right, he will head the ball into the goal, which generally helps. Rangers are used to closing games out at Loftus Road, having won 6 out of the last 7 by a single goal, and there were no more alarms.

Looking at the table now, this was a genuine six-pointer (for once), as Rangers find themselves just a point off the playoffs instead of trailing by 7 with a defeat. Positives to take from the game are the goals from Helguson, Cook's continued improvement and, most of all, Sousa's aggressive substitutions. Iain Dowie may have been a little harshly treated at Loftus Road, but there's no way he would have made that kind of change on the back foot at 2-2. On the downside, Rangers conceded a lot of possession for long periods, and if Mahon isn't having a good game (which he didn't today), this will happen with Cook and Ephraim in the midfield. Still, onwards and upwards, and with three eminently winnable games coming up let's see what we can do.


Post a Comment

<< Home