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New signings and youngsters jump start R's
New signings and youngsters jump start R's
Saturday, 12th Aug 2006 16:39

Following on from the goal mouth action of the last ten minutes on Tuesday, Rangers were looking for all three points against Southend.

New signings Dexter Blackstock and Zesh Rehman both started - the later accompanying Milanese, Rose and Stewart in front of Jones. Rowlands started the game as the holding man with Cook, Ainsworth and Ward making up the midfield. Blackstock was partnered by Ray Jones following his effective substitute appearance on Tuesday night - in what was an extremely young forward line.

Lomas was dropped to the bench with returning captain Kevin Gallen and youngsters Cole, Kanyuka and Baidoo. Before the match a minute's respect was paid to Kiyan Prince, both sets of supporters joined in a round of applause in front of the young man's parents.

Rangers started positively and attacking was foremost in their mind. Dexter Blackstock must have set some kind of record after managing to get booked within 20 second of his debut - for diving of all things. It was the start of a bad afternoon of referring decision for the man in black. In fact, the first few minutes of the game were bizarre to say-the-least as he couldn't even get simple things like throw-in's correct and he left both players and the crowd bemused!

Lee Cook had the first real effort of the game after five minutes when his free kick went just wide of the keeper's left hand post. QPR quickly found their feet and enjoyed passing the ball around. Rowlands started brightly and showed he can break up play as well as offer attacking options. Five minutes after Cook's shot, Blackstock had the next chance. After good link-up play from the attaching three - his shot from 12 yards was tipped over by Flahavan.

It was noticeable straight away that for the first time in what seems like an eternity, we actually had a number of options going forward. Jones provided the aerial threat as well as quick link up play, Blackstock's pace was a danger all afternoon and Ward always wanted the ball and was eager to break and shoot from distance.

Southend were stifled by QPR early on but they still kept to their passing game throughout the match. The much hyped Freddy Eastwood didn't have much of a look in during the first period as Rehman had a steady impressive debut at the heart of the Rangers defence.

Flahaven almost gifted Rangers an opening goal as he misjudged his kick after he came rushing out of his area. The ball fell to young Ray Jones but his effort was wide of the target. The Rangers front two were continuing to cause problems and their pace and eagerness to close Southend defenders down was good to see.

The keeper was again soon in action diving low to save from a Cook effort and a powerful Ainsworth drive which was heading for the top corner. For all our pressure we couldn't quite break the Shrimpers down. But just after 30 minutes our pressure paid off as we took the lead. We were awarded a free kick 25 yards out and Rowly struck the ball sweetly and it sailed past the stranded keeper.

Just 10 minutes later we added a second as the youngsters and new signings continued to impress. Blackstock found space wide out right and crossed for his giant strike partner Ray Jones. He won the aerial battle with Flahaven and his header bobbled around yards from goal. Nick Ward was on-hand to make no mistakes and put the ball over the line for his first Rangers goal. Flahaven had to leave the field following his challenge with Jones as he blood gushing down his face and was replaced by Collis.

QPR went in at half time 2-0 up and seemingly in control of the game, but as Rangers fans know well we have a nasty habit of sitting back upon leads. Whether this was true or just that Southend got a rollicking at the interval I don't know. The Shrimpers were hungry for the ball and made far more attacking advances than in the first half.

We managed to have the first chance of the half though as Jones' effort was tipped over by the stand-in keeper. We lost our shape almost immediately after this, firstly Milanese went off with a head injury and it took a few minutes for him to be bandaged up - a look he seems to quite like. Initially Cook wandered back into the full back position but soon Rose came over to cover and Rowlands filled in at right back. Ainsworth was also switching positions and covering Rowlands - all in all in was a constantly changing line-up.

During this period, Cook also went down which meant we were down to bare bones down the left! Alan McDonald was barking instructions out down on the touchline and made his viewpoint known to the Southend player who wanted to carry on playing as well as Steve Tillson! Good old Macca, our players certainly won't mess with him!

As a team we lost our shape though and Southend took over and we had Jones to thank as he saved well from Gutteridge. On 55 minutes Martin Rowlands was replaced as he was struggling in the centre, I think this was more of a precaution but was a good move by Waddock. Rowlands can be a big player for us so best not to take any risks with him. Lomas came on and slotted straight into the holding midfield role. Once (fingers crossed) Rowlands becomes fully fit it'll be like having a new signing as he wasn't really at the races last season - with another competition in this area he's the one who can make us tick in the middle.

QPR had a couple of chances after this as first Jones struck the corner of the bar and post and then Ainsworth was guilty of missing a great chance as he miss-hit his shot. Southend carried on having a go and Freddy Eastwood was guilty of shooting wide on a couple of occasions as well as missing a great header just yards from goal. QPR can be thankful that again Paul Jones was on good form as he produced heroics a few times.

Kevin Gallen entered the field on 75 minutes to replace Ray Jones, he looked to be just off the pace but this was not surprising considering the amount of football he's played. But what it does give is yet another option to Waddock for future games. Ainsworth continued to challenge for everything that came his way and ended up once again challenging for a ball with his head down by the Ellerslie Road stand. He's probably the only player I've ever seen do this - but he just appears to love it!

There was yet time for one more superb saves from Jones as he stopped a cracking shot from Campbell-Royce, once of Southend livelier players going forward.

All in all it was a most welcomed victory and one that will breed confidence for the players. It is just the sort of thing we need with so many new faces and youngsters in the squad now. Waddock and Macca will certainly have a job keeping them all happy. Rehman looked composed in defence and did his job well, Stewart appeared happier having him alongside him and although he got dragged out of position a few times it was an improved performance.

Milanese had a better performance and will hopefully get better with improved fitness levels; Rose did a solid job at full back. Despite the improved defensive performance, Southend still had their chances, especially in the second half, and we may well have been punished if it was against a top team or if Jones hadn't been in such good form.

Ward is settling in well and hopefully will get used to the quicker pace in the forthcoming weeks. It was upfront where we were a different side to Tuesday night, no more lone striker - this time we had two forwards moving and constantly harassing the defense. They both did well and our whole team has a more youthful feel about it.

Although it's easy to get carried away by one victory, this season is still going to be a hard test for our squad - but this was a move in the right direction. As players settle in and form relationships in key areas of the park, hopefully we'll begin to see the results of our youth system and new signing this campaign.

QPR: Paul Jones 8, Rowlands 7 (Lomas 55, 6), Rose 7, Rehman 7, Milanese 7, Ainsworth 6, Stewart 7, Blackstock 7, Cook 7, Ray Jones 8* (Gallen 75, 6), Ward 7.
Subs Not Used: Cole, Baidoo, Kanyuka.
Booked: Blackstock, Rose, Ray Jones.
Goals: Rowlands 31, Ward 41.

Southend: Flahavan (Collis 44), Francis, Prior, Barrett, Hammell, Maher, Gower, Guttridge, Campbell-Ryce, Bradbury (Paynter 72), Eastwood. Subs Not Used: Hunt, Clarke, Lawson.
Booked: Guttridge.

Att: 12,368

QPR Man of the Match: Ray Jones - This was a tough choice as young Jones shined alongside Blackstock as well as new signing Rehman and the other Jones in goal. Ray Jones gets my vote because of his impact on our lackluster strike force of late and it's encouraging to seeing him develop. He linked well with Blackstock and created a lot of problems for the Shrimpers.

Ref: I Williamson (Berkshire). 5 - Mr Williamson started the game in a bad way and didn't get much better - the opening few minutes of confusion was bizarre and he continued with strange decisions all afternoon.

Photo: Action Images

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