Balanta The Man
23rd February 2008. 3:00pm
Attendance: 15, 383
Rangers picked up a point on an afternoon where Patrick Agyemang fell just short of breaking the Rodney Marsh goalscoring record, and Angelo Balanta scored his first senior goal for the club.
Balanta latched on to a Hogan Ephraim cross to score his first senior goal in his full home debut, his second in total following his start against Watford.
Sheffield United wouldn`t lie down and levelled through centre half Chris Morgan`s drive from the edge of the area, going through a crowd of players past the despairing dive of Lee Camp, to hand Rangers more home heartbreak, and the Blade`s their 6 draw in succession in all competitions.
Gavin Mahon dropped out of the 16 through injury, and was replaced by former Blade Mikele Leigertwood. Fitz Hall made a sensational comeback to the first team, having recently resumed training following a groin injury at the expense of Damion Stewart, and Matthew Connolly in place of Zesh Rehman.
There was a start for youth product Angelo Balanta in place of the suspended Akos Buzsaky.
For the Blades there was one enforced change. On-loan Manchester United winger Lee Martin was unable to join the squad owing to a rib injury, and he was replaced by Chris Armstrong in a formation reshuffle. With a 3 prong attack, with John Stead and Billy Sharp supporting dangerman James Beattie.
Sheffield United were positive from the outset and had Rangers on the backfoot in the opening exchanges. Some pressure from the Blades resulted in Michael Tonge being free on the edge of the area before drilling the ball well over the bar on 3 minutes.
Rangers then had a chance of their own when a pinpoint cross from Martin Rowlands led to a chance for Mikele Leigertwood, the ex Blade spurned the opportunity by heading over from the edge of the 6 yard box.
Rangers then began to assert some pressure on proceedings and a flowing move down the right. Neat work from Ephraim and Agyemang down the right, led to a pass for Rowan Vine. Vine, on the right hand side of the area, cut inside and drilled a left-footed effort from 20 yards narrowly over the bar.
This was a sign of things to come and Rangers broke the deadlock on 19 minutes through wonder-kid Angelo Balanta. A neat pass from Martin Rowlands set Ephraim free down the right flank, the winger turned his defender comfortably to fizz a cross towards the near post; Balanta who ghosted in from the left flank added a deft flick past Paddy Kenny to put Rangers 1 up.
QPR 1-0 SHEFFIELD UNITED
United then started to come back into the game, when a 25th minute corner from Michael Tonge, was contested fiercely by Chris Morgan and James Beattie, with Lee Camp making a tremendous save to his left knocking the ball airborne; the fallen keeper recovered in the presence of Matthew Kilagallon and John Stead to punch clear of danger.
Martin Rowlands then had a chance to double Rangers lead going into the break, his curling left footed effort few inches wide of the post. The team on top, were the team in Blue and White, and Rangers went into the break 1-0 up.
Half Time: QPR 1-0 Sheffield United
Rowan Vine had the best chance in the opening exchanges of the second period. The striker was laid in well, and found himself a loan runner being chased down by 3 defenders, he took his chance early, but in effect snatched at it with Paddy Kenny watching the wayward effort over the bar.
Rangers were trying to put the game beyond the reach of the Blades, Angelo Balanta wheedled his way into the heart of the United rearguard before releasing a tame effort straight into the diving arms of Kenny.
The Blades started to assert some real pressure on the Rangers backline, with Connolly thwarting an Armstrong volley across the box to lead to a succession of corners for the team in red and white. Rangers marshalled by the resurgent Fitz Hall continued to see off the Blades with relative confidence.
Kevin Blackwell then opted to make a change, the lively Billy Sharp was replaced by ex-Bristol City player Dave Cotterill, which prompted a formation reshuffle with John Stead joining Beattie upfront.
De Canio made changes of his own sending on Dexter Blackstock and Damion Stewart entering the field in place of the impressive Balanta and injured Matthew Connolly, who limped off. With chances few and far between at both ends, with the game descending into a scrappy affair and Blackwell used his last throw of the dice taking off Beattie and Stead in place of Luton Shelton and Rob Hulse.
The gamble paid dividends within a minute, with the ball coming into the box Chris Morgan challenged for the ball on the edge of the area, the ball bounced back to the defender, he composed himself to steer the ball through a multitude of bodies, and past the despairing dive of the unsighted Lee Camp.
QPR 1-1 SHEFFIELD UNITED
Rangers ploughed forward in search of regaining their advantage with Patrick Agyemang coming close to extending his stunning goalscoring run when he broke into the box, but he delayed his shot; and it was eventually blocked by the on form Kilagallon, who denied the R`s with a hand on a month or so previous.
It was a blessing for Kevin Blackwell who has suffered last minute heartbreak at Loftus Road on every occasion he has visited, twice with Leeds and once with Luton.
United were the better in the closing stages forcing a succession of corners, but it wasn`t enough for the them as a point seemed a fair result for both sides as Steve Bennett drew proceedings to a close at Loftus Road.
Full Time QPR 1-1 Sheffield United
Lee Camp 7/10
Michael Mancienne 7/10
Damien Delaney 6/10
Matthew Connolly 7/10
Fitz Hall 8/10
Hogan Ephraim 7/10
Mikele Leigertwood 5/10
Martin Rowlands - 7/10
Angelo Balanta 8/10
Rowan Vine 6/10
Patrick Agyemang 7/10
Dexter Blackstock 5/10
Damion Stewart 6/10