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Waddock makes his point
Waddock makes his point
Saturday, 9th Sep 2006 16:29

Dexter Blackstock's first goal for QPR earned them a face saving draw against Plymouth.

Rangers went into the game without key duo Gareth Ainsworth and Martin Rowlands. Their absence had a catastrophic affect on the team's performance against Ipswich but Gary Waddock seemed to have learned some lessons from that and picked a different side to the one that capitulated against the Tractor Boys.

For starters Steve Lomas, his efforts in the Ipswich game still causing QPR fans the world over to wake up in cold sweats, was mercifully dropped to the bench. He was replaced in midfield by Egutu, or Monday, Oliseh who made his full debut alongside the recalled Marc Bircham. Lee Cook kept his place on the left side while Nick Ward started wide right despite landing back in the country from Australia's game with Kuwait just a day before.

Oliseh and Ward switched positions frequently during the match. Marc Nygaard made his first start of the season alongside Dexter Blackstock while Waddock's back-four-in-progress of Rose, Stewart, Rehman and Milanese nervously took to the field in front of keeper Paul Jones.

Plymouth paired long term Ian Holloway target Barry Hayles with exciting youngster Sylvain Ebanks-Blake up front.

Rangers started the brighter of the two teams and Lee Cook's third minute cross found Nick Ward unmarked but the Aussie headed over the bar.

Plymouth's first opportunity came from a free kick which Buzsaky swung over and Hayles headed wide when he should have scored. Hasney Aljofree was booked a short time later for a mistimed tackle - it seemed a little harsh to card him for his first offence but with the linesman in front of the away end operating a trigger arm Plymouth policy Rangers needed all the help they could get from the man with the whistle.

On our last few visits to Plymouth we've been treated to linesman from "the Devon FA." Interesting that the Plymouth programme no longer lists where the linesmen come from. Some of the decisions in the first half from the man with the yellow flag were so blatantly bad not only would I not be surprised to hear he's from "the Devon FA" I wouldn't bat an eye lid if you told me he was on the Plymouth Argyle coaching staff.

QPR's best away support of the season so far was in excellent voice early on. They started with a call for Holloway to give them a wave, which he did, and then guilt seemed to set in a little and a "Gary Waddock's blue and white" army chant began and lasted a good eight or nine minutes until it was rudely interrupted by QPR taking the lead.

Lee Cook certainly looked like he was in the mood for a performance, about time too after a slow start to the season, and his magnificent left wing cross into the corridor of uncertainty between keeper and defence found Blackstock who applied a slight touch which sent the ball into the bottom corner.

Plymouth could have really gone to pieces after this set back, the mighty Sheffield Wednesday and Walsall have already left Home Park with wins this season, but to their credit they increased the tempo of their performance and flew back at Rangers.

On twenty minutes Marc Bircham executed a terrific tackle on the edge of the penalty area which sent the ball spinning out for a corner. Referee Marriner saw things differently and awarded a free kick - not quite sure how he thought the ball went from Barry Hayles foot under complete control to behind the goal if Bircham had no involvement in it but there you go. Bircham got a yellow card for his troubles as well.

Rangers were fearing Plymouth skipper and set piece specialist Paul Wotton but it was Buzsaky who took the kick and, to Wotton's obvious disgust, lifted the ball harmlessly over the bar. Two minutes later and Plymouth's chance of the half was missed by Hayles inside the six yard box. Rehman, Stewart and Jones were having real communication problems during the first half resulting in all sorts of loose football in the penalty area.

At the moment I'm reasonably happy to put their problems down to it being early days. We've got five games in two weeks now and if they're still performing like this after those then we could have real problems. Plymouth's thirty first minute equaliser highlighted their short comings.

Another long ball into the right channel looked like it would cause Rangers few problems but Rehman totally fluffed his attempted intercept and Ebanks-Blake didn't need to be asked twice. He rounded Jones and rolled the ball past Stewart and into the net. The incident clearly got to Rehman and he was a walking disaster area until half time.

In the thirty fifth minute another mess, this time between Milanese and Rehman, left Ebanks-Blake facing the goal with just Jones to beat and with the Welshman really looking his age and hesitating on the edge of the area a second goal looked odds on but Stewart got across and produced a superb tackle to deny him.

Hayles spurned another guilt edge chance before the break when Buszaky got to the byline and cut the ball back but Hayles couldn't connect. Stewart was booked for upending Ebanks -Blake as the struggle continued. All in all Rangers were easily second best by the time the whistle was blown for half time and the break was exactly what they needed.

After the restart there was an immediate improvement. Rehman seemed to have settled and composed himself after a frightening end to the first half while at the other end Nygaard and Blackstock nearly fashioned a second goal in the opening moments.

Nick Ward, clearly suffering from a hectic week of travel for the most part, slung an excellent cross into the back post towards Blackstock who knocked the ball down under pressure from keeper McCormick and Nygaard's goalbound volley was bravely blocked by Aljofree. There was still a half chance for Bircham as he collected the loose ball on the edge of the box but he sent the ball into the QPR fans behind the goal.

This was the one and only occasion Rangers went into the Plymouth penalty area in the second half without the bloody yellow flag being raised. Mostly it was for offside, sometimes he decided to award a free kick against and on one absolutely ridiculous occasion he stuck his flag up to say that Lee Cook's cross had gone out for a goal kick. From where Cook was and where the ball ended up the only way he could be right is if the ball had headed seven yards out to the right before coming back a full twenty. It's not often I use the word biased but if that linesman wasn't looking for an easy ride in front of the Plymouth terrace then I'm an astronaut.

Buzsaky and Ebanks-Blake had been the chief threats in the first half and they set about Rangers in a similar vein after the break. The former made mugs of Cook and Milanese before getting all greedy and shooting wide when he could have set up a team mate, the latter sent a close range header over the bar when placed to do better as Plymouth started to dominate again.

On the hour the third member of Plymouth's attacking trio, Barry Hayles, was denied a certain goal by a magnificent tackle from Matthew Rose covering his hapless centre halves from right back. When Rose half heartedly wandered out before the match sporting the captain's armband there was, shall we say, a mixed response in the away end. He didn't have a particularly good game but this was a hell of a tackle.

Lee Cook became the fourth player to be carded by the referee after a minor tussle on the touchline with Norris.

Stewart twice denied the home side the lead with late blocks on first Norris and then Hayles and Ebanks-Blake missed another seemingly easy header from a Buzsaky cross.

Rangers only move of the final half an hour not curtailed by the linesman saw Oliseh hold onto the ball too long to set Cook away, but then produce a magnificent cross field ball to Nygaard whose low drive to the near post was parried behind by McCormick. Oliseh struggled on his full debut, looking badly short of fitness, but this pass and an outrageous bit of skill to beat the full back twice in two seconds right in front of the away end gives hope that he could be half decent.

Ray Jones came on towards the end, but with Lomas' introduction causing the midfield to melt into the back four - as it does whenever he's brought on - Rangers spent the final five minutes defending for their lives. When five more minutes were added on it looked like Plymouth might snatch something but Rangers upped their work rate, Nygaard in particular going through the pain barrier to make a big effort for his team mates in the closing stages, and held on for a barely deserved point.

So an improvement on the Ipswich performance and a point away from home for QPR. Cook turned in his best performance of the season and Bircham was a tower of strength in the midfield. Blackstock got his first for the club and although he was poor for nearly all of the match Marc Nygaard stuck his hand up in the final ten minutes and put in an unbelievable amount of work chasing the ball down for his side as the pressure grew. Those are the positives.

The negatives, well Paul Jones continues to look nervy and hesitant, a far cry away from his performances last season. Stewart and Rehman are all over the place as a partnership, although the former looked pretty good in the second half, and they need to settle down and get to know each other quickly. Milanese was a shadow of the player who was such an asset last season, Ward looked absolutely knackered and turned in his worst performance so far for Rangers, Oliseh wasn't at he races fitness wise and the team played very little football overall.

Plymouth look exactly like any other Ian Holloway side. One decent midfielder surrounded by cloggers, Barry Hayles and some fleet footed kid up front. They spent the afternoon knocking balls into the channels time after time after time in the hope that someone would run onto them. If Rehman hadn't had his brain explosion then this tactic would have been totally unsuccessful as opposed to just mostly unsuccessful. They do look to have unearthed a real gem in Ebanks-Blake though.

All in all a draw between two of the division's poorer sides. Any point gained without Rowlands in that midfield is a minor miracle so yesterday was a good result. Rangers now face promotion favourites Birmingham on Tuesday before two crucial six pointer games with Colchester and Hull City.

Plymouth: McCormick 6, Connolly 6, Doumbe 8, Aljofree 7, Hodges 6, Norris 7, Wotton 6, Nalis 6, Buzsaky 8 (Chadwick 74, 6), Hayles 8,Ebanks-Blake 9 (Reid 76, 6).
Subs Not Used: Capaldi, Sawyer, Summerfield.
Booked: Aljofree.
Goals: Ebanks-Blake 31.

QPR: Paul Jones 6, Rose 6, Stewart 6, Rehman 4, Milanese 5, Oliseh 5, Ward 5,Bircham 8 (Lomas 76, 6), Cook 8, Nygaard 6 (Gallen 90, -),Blackstock 7 (Ray Jones 88, -).
Subs Not Used: Cole, Kanyuka.
Booked: Bircham, Stewart, Cook.
Goals: Blackstock 17.

Attendance: 12,138

QPR Star Man - Marc Bircham 8 - Held the midfield together very well and narrowly beats Cook to the man of the match award in my opinion. To see how effective Bircham was you only have to look how a backs to the wall effort descended into shooting practise for Plymouth when he was replaced by Lomas. Cook had his best game of the season so far but did lose the ball in bad areas towards the end of the match.

Ref: A Marriner (W Midlands) 6 - Not too bad although three of the four bookings were very harsh. Aljofree, Bircham and Cook can all count themselves very unlucky. In fairness to Marriner it's not easy to referee a game when you've got the likes of Mr Pike clutching the yellow flag - if it's in Hoops penalise it is not a valid law to run a football match by Mr Pike. Strap on a pair and give some decisions both ways next time.

Photo: Action Images

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