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Cole keeps the Wolves from the door
Cole keeps the Wolves from the door
Saturday, 28th Apr 2007 21:59

Wolves took a giant step towards taking part in the play offs by beating QPR 2-0 at Molineux on Saturday.

Well we talk a good game I suppose. After a week of euphoria at securing our league status and discussions about picking the best side, not coming back next season unless we're ready to get promoted and not letting up so we have momentum going into the new campaign QPR took a team without a number of first team regulars to Wolves and rolled over for the home side.

That's a ridiculously negative start to a match report really, because we've done so well and played brilliantly to get ourselves out of trouble, but I did afford myself a wry smile when the team was read out at 5pm after what was said at the forum on Thursday.

QPR's best side going to win the game had Cole in goal with Camp back at Derby and Milanese coming in for a very rare start at left back. Kanyuka and Stewart were the centre halves with Cullip and Mancienne both still missing and Bignot played right back. Timoska was rested to the bench. In midfield Cook was mysteriously missing, Smith started in front of him, Lomas and Bolder played in the centre and Rowlands wide right. Up front Blackstock was also absent without reason leaving Furlong and Nygaard to lead the line.

Rangers put up a bit of a fight for an hour and could have taken the lead immediately after half time just as Wolves' nerves looked like getting the better of them. Had that goal gone in it could have been a very different game. Still, there was a look of "which gate does the Marbella flight leave from?" about the team.

The game kicked off in blazing sunshine in front of a crowd 4000 below capacity which seemed strange for such a big game. The empty seats weren't in the away end though, an impressive following from QPR took up near enough our full allocation.

The first half was a tense affair with few chances. Rangers didn't make a great start - a massive fresh air shot from Stewart swung the big Jamaican off his feet and knocked the ball out for a needless corner but Rangers survived with the scoreline, if not Stewart's pride, still intact.

Keogh blasted a low shot wide of the post but other than that Wolves created few clear cut chances. A scandalous decision by the linesman to award Bothroyd a free kick for essentially kicking the ball out and then finding a defender to run into and hit the deck allowed them a dangerous set piece on the edge of the box but Cole got a good punch on the ball and the chance was gone.

Cole had few shots to save but commanded his area well. I'm not keen on keeper's punching the ball but he seems to prefer it and yesterday it went ok for him. One thing that he did struggle with though was his kicking with a couple of clearances bouncing straight out of play and one dodgy back pass clearance luckily evading the Wolves players on the edge of the box.

With that in mind he could well have done without Pat Kanyuka playing him into trouble on the half hour with a back pass that was straight out of the Matthew Rose house of horrors. Keogh seized on it but Cole sprang from his line and executed an excellent tackle on Keogh to deny him the opening goal.

At the other end Nygaard and Furlong were' being frustrated by the offside trap. That's right, a Mick McCarthy team playing a merciless high line offside trap who would have thought it? Furlong did get a few decisions out of the referee though as he battled gamely with Craddock and Breen. Whatever Rangers tried though Matt Murray frustrated them - there can be few keepers around with such a command of their areas as he has, he was unflappable and will surely be in the Premier League sooner or later whether Wolves make it there or not.

Murray needed to be on his guard 20 minutes in to spare Breen's blushes. The Irishman allowed a ball to bounce and found himself in the unenviable position of chasing a loose ball towards his own goal with Paul Furlong breathing down his neck. In the end he made a complete hash of a clearance and almost lobbed his keeper with Jamie Pollock like precision - only Murray's gigantic frame prevented serious problems for Breen and his team.

As the half wore on both teams created excellent chances at the back post. Michael McIndoe, as he had done twice against Birmingham last week, appeared there as Rangers struggled to clear their lines but hammered a very presentable chance into the stand. Moments later he kept a similar effort low, but dragged it right across the face and out for a goal kick.

In between these two opportunities QPR worked the ball across the area well themselves with Furlong and Smith both involved in teeing up Milanese. The Italian's volley looked to be travelling but was blocked away for a corner by Collins - Milanese seems almost certain to leave the club this summer without a goal to his name which, looking through some f the fantastic goals he has scored in his career on his website, is a real shame.

Jimmy Smith was very unlucky not to give QPR a lead either side of half time. First good work down the right from Martin Rowlands followed by a cross to the back post found Smith unmarked but he just couldn't get the ball out of his feet after the first touch and Murrary bravely blocked down at his feet.

Then with the first attack of the second half a more typical 20 yard effort from the Chelsea man dipped over Murray's head, hit the underside of the cross bar and bounced back out into play. Martin Rowlands was first on the scene for the rebound but it bounced just too high for him and he headed high and wide. An inch lower and Smith would have scored, anybody but tiny Rowlands and the rebound would have been converted anyway.

Wolves were starting to get nervous, the home crowd that had been so loud and proud at the start was now almost silent, it looked as though QPR were gaining an upper hand. Not so, Wolves found another gear from somewhere and stepped up into it overwhelming QPR for the remainder of the game.

Bothroyd missed a gift header from six yards out, failing to even find the target, Keogh fired wide from eight yards out when he should have done better but the miss of the afternoon award went to McIndoe who inexplicably fired wide with the goal at his mercy.

In the 57th minute a low free kick, driven in by Bothroyd was well saved by Cole down to his left but QPR never quite recovered their shape and when the ball was played back into the area Keogh rose unmarked at the back post to head goalwards. Cole flung himself across his line and produced a magnificent one handed save but the rebound fell to Keogh and he lashed home. The game's outstanding player had his goal, but it was harsh on the keeper who looked like his heroics had kept the scores tied.

To make matters worse for Rangers Pat Kanyuka then pulled up with an injury and although he may have been fit to carry on Gregory couldn't risk spending any time under so much pressure with ten men and immediately sent Sam Timoska on to play at the heart of the defence. Seconds after the change Keogh again found space at the back post but Cole came out quickly to save brilliantly one on one down at his feet.

Having watched Keogh a fair amount when he was at Scunthorpe his movement in and around the area always has been first class, against more organised defences than QPR had out by this stage, so we were always going to struggle against him and the lads had Cole to thank for keeping the score down.

Rangers were being overrun right across the park. In midfield Bolder and Lomas were battling gamely but they were up against Seyi Olofinjana who is a big old unit and difficult to run past or shift when in possession.

In the 65th minute it was Kightly's turn to have a one on one situation with Cole but again the QPR keeper came out on top. Olofinjana sent McIndoe away and he crossed to Kightly who looked certain to score but Cole had other ideas. Kightly had the last laugh though, like Keogh he followed up being denied by a magnificent Cole save with a goal, although he had to wait two more minutes for his. Damion Stewart seemed to allow a ball from Bothroyd to run across his own box, Kightly beat Cole to the ball and slipped in the clinching second.

It was no more than Wolves deserved, and their crowd were really into it by this stage, but it was harsh on the Rangers' keeper who picked himself up and gave the men in front of him an exasperated shrug.

The second goal had come just as Gregory was preparing to send on Ray Jones so instead of chasing an equaliser the youngster simply had to enjoy his game time and he showed some nice touches and an ambitious bicycle kick in the final five minutes which failed to find the target.

QPR's best chance of the afternoon saw Martin Rowlands cut into the area from the right hand side but his left footed shot on goal, which he tried to bend round Murray and into the far corner, dropped straight into the keeper's arms. Jimmy Smith got a booking for a foul and then Nygaard and Breen got involved in some afters where a fussier referee may have produced a red card. Thankfully Mr Pike was as sensible as ever made do with a couple of yellows and quick lecture.

Gregory sent Stefan Bailey on for the final ten minutes and he flew into challenges in the usual manner, including a naughty late on down at the other end of the pitch by the corner flag on one of the Wolves players - Kightly I think. Still he looked more confident on the ball than he has done in the past so it will be interesting to see what the summer holds for him.

The home side were better than QPR, but not by a huge margin. They had the two outstanding players on the pitch in Kightly and Keogh and they proved to be the difference with a goal apiece. Had Rangers fielded Cook and Blackstock then things may have been more interesting, certainly more even.

Ultimately though our strength in depth is poor, and while optimism is flowing through the club after a great recent run John Gregory still has a massive job ahead of him this summer. Take Blackstock and Cook out of the QPR team and we're a toothless shadow of what we can be, take Cullip and Mancienne out of the defence and we're going to concede goals. Damion Stewart in particular suffers from the lack of Cullip. These positions need better cover for next season as part of an overall improvement programme.

It's encouraging to hear Gregory talking about a smaller squad with more quality in it and two players for every position because at the moment as soon as Cook is injured it's a square peg that gets bashed into the left wing hole and when Blackstock sits out the goal threat diminishes dramatically. On our budget Gregory certainly has a large and complicated job to sort out this summer. Not quite as big as his opposite number McCarthy has if Wolves get up through the play offs - that team would be almost as out of its depth as his Sunderland side were.

One Wolves player who would have no trouble stepping up is Matt Murray, easily the best keeper in our league this season, but QPR had a goalkeeper in form of their own on the day in young Jake Cole.

On to Stoke next week now and with several thousand of their fans suddenly keen on coming to Loftus Road it promises to be an interesting atmosphere. Let's hope Cook, Blackstock, Mancienne and Cullip are back - sticking a spanner in Stoke's promotion bid after the way we've been treated up there on our last few visits would be a lovely way to end.

Wolves: Murray 7, Collins 7, Breen 7, Craddock 7, McNamara 7, Olofinjana 8, , Potter 7, McIndoe 6, Kightly 8 (Gleeson 83, -), Keogh 8 (Little 90) Bothroyd 5 (Ward 79, 6)
Subs not used: Davies, Hennessey
Scorers: Keogh 55, Kightly 66
Bookings: Breen 70 (fighting)

QPR: Cole 8, Bignot 7, Kanyuka 6 (Timoska 59, 6), Stewart 6, Milanese 6, Rowlands 7, Bolder 6 (Bailey 76, 7), Lomas 6, Smith 6, Furlong 6 (R Jones 67, 6), Nygaard 6
Subs not used: P Jones, Moore.
Bookings: Smith 64 (foul), Nygaard 70 (fighting)

QPR Star Man - Jake Cole 8 He's surely done his future prospects at Rangers no harm at all with a fine display between the sticks. He's clearly spent too long at the Tony Roberts school of kicking but his shot stopping was superb and work under difficult crosses was sound enough. He'll have gone up in many fans' estimation with this performance.

Referee: M Pike 8 - As at the start of the season when he refereed the Preston game he allowed the game to flow, kept cards to a minimum and showed a good deal of common sense. The only decision in the match I really disagreed with was made by the linesman.

Attendance: 24, 931

Photo: Action Images



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