Date:Wednesday July 23 2008
A solitary headed goal from Dexter Blackstock was enough to separate the two sides in a drab affair at the Sixfields Stadium.
In a game of few chances and bereft of any quality and substance, there was only ever going to be a goal in it and it came just before the 20 minute mark as Blackstock glanced home a cross from Emmanuel Ledesma.
A game where method ran the rule over substance, and a vast travelling army from West London were denied seeing the potential its side had come to fruition on a summers eve in Northamptonshire.
Rangers named as close to a first team as possible, with the absence of Radek Cerny, Mikele Leigertwood, Rowan Vine and Akos Buzsaky through injury, the R`s lined up accordingly.
Lee Camp, Matthew Connolly, Damien Delaney, Fitz Hall, Damion Stewart, Matteo Alberti, Emmanuel Ledesma, Martin Rowlands, Gavin Mahon, Dexter Blackstock and Patrick Agyemang
Northampton Town v Queens Park Rangers
The match started as on Saturday in tentative fashion with both sides trying to grab a stranglehold on the fixture. Rangers however did look a cut above in glances, with Ledesma and Alberti showing their trickery on the flanks.
The aforementioned Ledesma enjoyed his role running direct from the left flank and really testing the Cobblers full backs, his pass inside to Patrick Agyemang created a half chance for the forward, who right footed drive centrally from the right hand side of the area drifted high and wide as Rangers threatened to take control.
The Cobblers were by no means overawed however as a ball over the top on the counter attack was almost Rangers undoing, Jason Crowe got in behind Damion Stewart but Damien Delaney match a goal saving tackle, diving in to block the former Arsenal trainee`s effort.
On the quarter of an hour mark Matthew Connolly bucanneered forward on the right flank on two occasions, firstly his left footed cross was met by Patrick Agyemang, but his weak header was easily swept away. Barely a moment later Connolly resumed his position forward on the right flank before delivering yet another left footed cross that narrowly evaded Dexter Blackstock as Rangers began to force the issue.
Whilst Rangers attacking impetus never remained in doubt, at the back the gaps were noticeable, with Fitz Hall doing his best to retain possession, linking in the midfield feeding the ball to Rowlands and Mahon, Damion Stewart high and hopeful balls to nowhere were constantly losing possession, and even short range passing was becoming a challenge for Stewart as the R`s seemed unable to keep hold of the ball.
Then however the R`s made the breakthrough shortly before the 20 minute mark. Rangers won a corner after a spell of possession in the Cobblers half, Emmanuel Ledesma`s corner was easily cleared at the front post, he picked up the ball once more off Matthew Connolly before firing a tantalising cross across goal and Dexter Blackstock was on hand to glance home from close range.
It was Rangers fourth goal of pre-season thus far, with Ledesma showing a glimpse of his class in the excellent assist. Rangers on-top and in front.
Northampton Town 0-1 Queens Park Rangers
Rangers kept possession well after the goal, attempting to retain the ball at every opportunity, limiting the Cobblers to a fraction of the ball, with wing-back Danny Jackman and former Rangers youth product Giles Coke looking the most threatening but it was Patrick Agyemang and Dexter Blackstock combined who had the next chance.
Alberti looked a cut above on the right flank, skipping across challenges to deliver yet another excellent cross, with Agyemang unable to convert, Dexter Blackstock saw his sliding effort blocked in front of goal, as the Cobblers attempted to put up the battering ram.
Rangers ended the half calm and patient in possession probing for an opening, and when Martin Rowlands fed the ball into Alberti the Rangers new addition sent the full back sprawling before sending in another excellent cross which never got the goal it deserved.
The half drew to a close, and for all the R`s potential attacking outlets, production was slow and the style of play was undesirable with defenders knocking long out to the flanks and forwards left distinctly isolated, having to come deep to fetch the ball.
Half Time Northampton Town 0-1 Queens Park Rangers
Rangers made no changes at half time with Dowie evidently happy at the first half display, continuity seemed the key to success. Rangers once again as on Saturday started out with a bit of fire in their belly, but it was short lived as the R`s nearly succumbed to an equaliser.
Wing back Danny Jackman, formerly of Aston Villa broke in behind Rangers makeshift fullback Matthew Connolly, before firing a left footed cross across goal, but with the goal at his mercy, former Ranger Giles Coke conspired to miss directly infront of goal.
It was a real let off for Rangers as the forward looked odds on to finish after being unmarked in the middle, but the chance was missed and the R's could live to fight another day.
With the game virtually static the Rangers couldn`t retain the ball infront of their own fans, with the nucleus of a good attack never reaching fruition as the final incisive pass was never forthcoming. Then came a change that would certainly spark life into the R`s. Matteo Alberti who had been excellent throughout if not spent for energy, he was replaced by player/coach Gareth Ainsworth a day after his Rangers side beat Windsor & Eton.
Some good hold up play by Agyemang in the area once more, he used Matthew Connolly as a foil before looping a cross into the far post, with Blackstock climbing for the header with his defensive counterpart, he didn`t account for the battering ram that is Gareth Ainsworth, as the winger made a b-line for the ball, flattening everything in sight including Dexter Blackstock. Dexter and co were well and truly Ainsworthed!.
Gareth`s tenacious tackling and commitment proved that there were no half measures when it came to friendlies, and several other players on the pitch would have done well taking the veteran`s example with some playing clearly playing at walking pace.
A succession of substitutions ensued over a five minute period with Rangers withdrawing Fitz Hall, Martin Rowlands, Dexter Blackstock, Patrick Agyemang, Damien Delaney and Emmanuel Ledesma in place of Simon Walton, Adam Bolder, Samuel Di Carmine, Angelo Balanta, Zesh Rehman and Hogan Ephraim respectively.
The changes outlined conspired to break the game up as Rangers looked distinctly lacklustre in most departments, dispensing of the 'Champagne Football` under Luigi De Canio, and opting for a more direct approach into the flanks in direct contrast to the comments of Iain Dowie. Albeit the ball was being passed around unnecessarily at the back, but the end product was never forthcoming as Rangers barely threatened to attack their League One counterparts.
Rangers were nearly caught out once more, as a long ball from substitute Liam Davis, a player Dowie would have known well from Coventry City, found Leon Constantine in the clear, the striker could hardly believe his luck but unbelievably fired over the bar in attempting to lob the onrushing Lee Camp.
With 15 minutes remaining, Rangers fans once again saw the glimpses of class in the side, Samuel Di Carmine the on loan striker from Fiorentina, beat two men on the touchline from the tightest of angles before pulling the ball back. Adam Bolder attempted an audacious volley which was deflected narrowly wide, at last giving the Rangers fans something to cheer after a workmanlike second period.
The resulting corner flung in by Hogan Ephraim was met by Zesh Rehman, the resulting ball was cleared away with Mahon firing into a crowd of players with the ball bouncing about the box, no-one could get that decisive touch.
Ainsworth the battering ram continued to receive the adulation of the Rangers crowd after giving nothing less that 110% throughout his time on the pitch, he was head and shoulders above many. His excellent touch on the right flank saw him in space, his cross to Hogan Ephraim let the ex-West Ham United winger provide a sublime one touch blind pass to Angelo Balanta. The Colombian wriggled free from his defender before sending his shot straight into the thankful arms of Mark Bunn.
This drew to an end a lacklustre second period and fixture as a whole, in a game which promised so much more than it delivered, Rangers can feel satisfied at the 1-0 scoreline, however it is clear there is still much more work to do on the system as a whole if the R`s can live up to their billing as promotion favourites.
Final Whistle: Northampton Town 0-1 Queens Park Rangers
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Date:Wednesday July 23 2008
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