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Blackstock returns to haunt Saints
Blackstock returns to haunt Saints
Saturday, 30th Sep 2006 16:20

QPR's resurgence under John Gregory continued with their best result in a good number of months at high flying Southampton.

If Gary Waddock is the QPR man through and through that we're told he is then he'll be over the moon at the week QPR have just had culminating in an impressive 2-1 win at St Mary's. If he's a human being he'll be thinking something along the lines of "you bastards!"

In ten days QPR have been transformed from the clueless, useless, inept side murdered by Colchester and Port Vale and not really caring very much about it to a side that, while still being limited, are taking a pride in their profession and putting their bodies on the line for the cause. Different team, same names.

Suddenly we have a handy looking strike partnership for the first time in a good few years and the defence that looked so God awful two weeks ago is starting to come along a bit now. Early days of course but the pressure has been relieved by a couple of wins and hopefully Gregory can begin building in earnest across October with a two week break followed by three home matches out of five.

Gregory kept faith with the team that had beaten Hull City at Loftus Road last week. There were changes on the bench though. New loan signing Jimmy Smith took his seat with the reserves in the stand in place of Nick Ward. Presumably Gregory is either giving Ward a month out of the side to build fitness and stamina or he just doesn't rate him. Kevin Gallen was also in reserve after recovering from his apparent glute injury.

That meant that Paul Jones returned to his former club behind a back four of Bignot, Rehman, Stewart and Rose. In midfield the rejuvenated Marc Bircham lined up with Bailey in the middle, Cook on the left and Rowlands wide right. Ray Jones and Dexter Blackstock continued together in attack.

With many Rangers fans still taking their seats Southampton, starting the game without playmaker Inigo Idiakez, took the lead with a deflected strike. Rudi Skacel tormented Bignot down the left flank and then set up Licka to hammer over a low cross. The QPR defence had all been sucked into the six yard box with Rasiak and Wright Phillips and that gave Jermaine Wright time to hit a low drive which took a nick off Damien Stewart and flew into the net past Paul Jones.

This was the worst possible start to the game for QPR but in truth they got off lightly. Matthew Rose was clearly not fit to start the game and he endured a nightmare twenty minutes before being replaced by Pat Kanyuka. In that time Paul Jones made an excellent one handed save down in the bottom left corner from a trademark Gareth Bale free kick and Zesh Rehman produced a brave last ditch block to prevent Wright Phillips scoring after more defensive uncertainty.

Lee Cook created Rangers' first chance of the game in the sixteenth minute, carrying the ball infield from the left and finding Rowlands in space but his twelve yard effort from right of centre was tipped round the post by Davis. In truth this was more than Rangers deserved from the opening passage of play.

Kanyuka's introduction changed the run of play completely. Rehman went to right back and suddenly Skacel didn't have things all his own way anymore. Kanyuka and Stewart formed a solid partnership at the heart of the defence which was breached only once before half time when Rasiak headed straight at Jones. Bignot went to left back and was a much more secure option than Rose. Credit to Matthew for showing determination to start the last two games after a car accident but he was clearly not fit enough for either and should be given another chance to impress Gregory when he's 100% again.

Rowlands' near miss seemed to give Rangers some confidence. Stefan Bailey was playing much better than he had done against Hull and along with Bircham he kept Southampton quiet through the middle while rarely giving the ball away. On the left Cook showed a willingness to take on Makin at every opportunity with mixed success while on the opposite flank Martin Rowlands was spraying passes here there and everywhere.

Southampton came close to a second goal on the half hour mark when Licka's free kick took a deflection and Jones just managed to get to it and divert it around the post but the action was increasingly concentrated in the Saints' half.

In the thirty fifth minute a glorious cross field pass from Rowlands found Cook in space down the left. The former Watford man bundled his way past Makin and then sent in the perfect cross for Blackstock to dive full length and head into the corner of the net. Dexter showed respect for his former employers with a muted celebration but there was no such decorum in the away end where 2500 QPR fans went crazy - keen to let the mouthy fat bird and her craggy faced Mum who'd spent the first half hour giving it the big 'un to the away end exactly what they thought of them.

They responded with jiggling and all round obnoxiousness but they were somewhat more muted five minutes later. Neat play between Bircham and Rowlands on halfway came to an end with a loose pass down the line. Kelvin Davis ran out of his area and tried to shepherd the ball away for a goal kick but Ray Jones had other ideas and ran him right down to the line, pinched the ball and slid it calmly into the net from a really tight angle.

Cue more wild celebrations at the other end of the ground and a rather sullen silence from fatty and craggy.

Right on half time it looked as though the visitors would be reduced to ten men when some off the ball petulance from Rehman gave Skachel the chance to hurl himself to the floor like a victim of chemical warfare. D'Urso immediately reached for his pocket and normally that means only one thing but this time he produced only a yellow card.

Rangers were able to make into the half time break with no further scares at either end which meant Gregory had 15 minutes to organise his side to hold onto the victory. Southampton were fairly flat at the start of the second half which made the job slightly easier. Rangers stood firm for ten minutes with few problems and George Burley reacted by introducing the slight figure of Nathan Dyer from the bench. He went over to the right flank to try and trouble Bignot but his first action came in the heart of the penalty area when his mishit volley bounced up towards the top corner and Jones turned it around the post.

Other than that it just wasn't happening for the home side as it had in the first twenty minutes. Kanyuka and Stewart stood like rocks at the heart of the defence and repelled all advances by those in red and white. When Bircham and Bailey started to tire around the hour Gregory replaced them, as he had last week, with Lomas and this time new boy Smith. The fans could sense the upset was on, creating a great atmosphere and constantly bouncing up and down in unison.

Facing few problems at the far end of the ground Rangers actually started to carve out the better chances for themselves. A sixty fifth minute corner from Cook was plum onto the head of Stewart but despite being unmarked he couldn't get a firm enough connection and glanced the ball wide when he should have burst the net.

Burley threw on Kenwyne Jones, a big, powerful striker, to replace defender Chris Baird but again this produced few results in attack and actually gave QPR more space at the other end. Rangers got seeral three on two situations going but Cook, Blackstock and Jones took turns at picking the wrong option at the crucial moment.

Kenwyne Jones worked himself some space in the penalty area with fifteen minutes to play but found the ball bravely blocked away from him by Stewart before he could get a decent effort away. In Baird's absence Rehman and Rowlands stormed down the right flank a moment later, setting up Smith to get to the byline and whip the ball back across the six yard box. Southampton left the ball to each other and the chaos seemed to transfix Blackstock who contrived to spoon the ball over the bar from four yards out.

QPR were full of confidence and even Rehman was joining the attack whenever he could. In the eighty second minute he ran from the halfway line, past two Southampton defenders, but he could only finish the move with a shot into the ever diminishing Southampton crowd.

As the clock ticked down Rangers started to drop deeper and shut the shop up and that invited Southampton into the game more and more. With Rowlands again feeling his calves the Saints started to enjoy success down their left flank and a number of half chances came their way.

Licka fired over the bar from the edge of the penalty area and Rasiak headed the final of Southampton's eleven corners wide of the post. As Andy D'Urso punished QPR's time wasting with five added minutes Rasiak's desperation showed with the most outrageous dive I've seen in many a long year trying to milk a penalty. Now D'Urso, as we know, has never been shy of an outrageous decision against QPR but even he wasn't buying this one - although he didn't produce the yellow card Rasiak deserved.

Licka found his way into the book a moment later though when he took all his frustration out in a big hit on Lee Cook.

A series of big boots into touch from Stewart, Lomas and Kanyuka ran the clock down nicely and after several long months the whistle was blown - QPR had their first away win and Southampton their first home defeat.

It's hard to fault anybody in this performance. Paul Jones made excellent saves when under pressure in the first half and came out and claimed a number of looping crosses in the second half to relieve the burden on his defence. Zesh Rehman looks a far better right back than centre half and in turn Stewart is a different player when he's alongside the quite magnificent Kanyuka. Marcus Bignot is doing well switching between the full back roles and the midfield is much more solid with Bircham and Bailey in the centre. On the left Lee Cook set up another goal with a terrific cross and put another on a plate for Stewart only for the big Jamaican to head wide. Rowlands' passing game was awesome throughout and the two midfielders who came on in the second half both did sterling jobs.

Southampton started very well but seemed to think the job was done after twenty minutes of domination and stuck the cue on the rack. This site tipped them for the title this year and they'll be there or thereabouts but they should have been more clinical with us in the first half. Once Blackstock scored there was only one team in it.

Fatty and Craggy skulked away at full time, stopping briefly for fatty to wobble her arse in the direction of the away end - presumably a special shop mobility cart has to be provided to carry that thing home, you certainly wouldn't get it in your normal, run of the mill people carrier. Ever wondered why McDonalds has double doors? It's so people like that can gain access.

John Gregory didn't speak to the media after the match which according to some tool at the Sunday Mirror is letting us loyal fans down. Well John after consecutive wins and a sudden climb up the table I'd appreciate it if you continued to let us all down - who buys the bloody Sunday Mirror anyway?

Southampton: Davis 4, Makin 6, Pele 6, Baird 6 (Jones 70, 6), Bale 7, Skacel 7, Licka 7, Viafara 6, Wright 7 (Dyer 57, 7), Rasiak 7, Wright-Phillips 7 (Surman 77, -).
Subs not used: Miller, Ostlund.
Scorer: Wright
Bookings: Licka 90

QPR: P Jones 8, Bignot 7, Rehman 8, Stewart 8, Rose 5 (Kanyuka 21, 8), Rowlands 8, Bircham 7 (Lomas 62, 6), Bailey 6 (Smith 62, 6), Cook 7, R Jones 8, Blackstock 8.
Subs not used: Royce, Gallen.
Scorers: Blackstock 35, R Jones 41
Bookings: Rehman 43

QPR Star Man - Pat Kanyuka 8 - Just two weeks after I failed to pick a man of the match from an inept performance at Port Vale there were options all over the pitch deserving of the award. Stewart and Rehman were excellent once the defence was reshuffled while up front Blackstock and Jones were brilliant and led the line wonderfully well. But the game swung Rangers' favour when Kanyuka came on. He sured the defence up and the reshuffle nullified the numerous threats Southampton had been causing. Gregory must be tempted to start with Big Pat against Norwich.

Referee - Andy D'Urso 8 - One of his all time best ever games I think! Just two bookings, both deserved and apart from that play was allowed to flow, free kicks were evenly distributed, competence and common sense was shown. Unbelievable really. Should have booked Rasiak for his outrageous piece of play acting near the end and failed to clamp down on some pretty blatant time wasting from QPR but other than that disturbingly good.

Photo: Action Images

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