26th February 2008. 7:45pm
RANGERS claimed a point in blustery conditions at Oakwell, with a satisfactory performance that wasn`t entirely earth moving. Both teams had chances to break the deadlock in difficult conditions in South Yorkshire, but no team could make that all-important breakthrough to claim 3 much needed points.
Both teams remain on 41 points a piece with Rangers above Barnsley on goal difference. Guilt edge misses from Istvan Ferenczi and Angelo Balanta were the best chances the game had to offer as stalemate ensued in Barnsley.
Luigi De Canio made two changes from the team that drew with Sheffield United on Saturday. Akos Buzsaky came back in following suspension in place of Hogan Ephraim who made the all-important assist on Saturday. Dexter Blackstock received a shock recall ahead of Rowan Vine, who in turn dropped to the bench. Zesh Rehman dropped out of the squad and Angelo Balanta started his second game in a row.
Barnsley made four changes following the Saturday defeat with Norwich. John Macken, Marciano Van Homoet, Jamal Campbell-Ryce and Lewin Nyatanga came in for Daniel Nardiello, whose loan agreement with the R`s restricted him playing; Rob Kozluk and Anderson de Silva dropped out the 16, whilst Diego Leon had to make to with a place on the bench. There was also a late change for the Tykes when Michael Coulsen was caught in traffic, and ex-Rangers loanee Rohan Ricketts filled the void.
Rangers started brightly in this encounter attacking the end away from the travelling few, and they managed to force a couple of corners. Dexter Blackstock had a good chance to put Rangers infront, when his close range poked effort was well dealt with by home debutante goalkeeper Luke Steele.
Barnsley started to come into the game moments later with FA Cup hero Brian Howard forcing a save from Lee Camp. The Rangers stopper had to get down low to claw away an effort after the slayer of Anfield found a yard of space outside the area.
The Tykes then should have been infront in the 5th minute when miscommunication in the Rangers rearguard led to Lee Camp coming to the edge of his area to fumble the ball away to his right. Istvan Ferenczi found the ball at his feet in an acute angle of the left hand side of the area, the Hungarian opted not to shoot first time and took a poor first touch; Fitz Hall was on hand to clear the goalbound effort away.
Rangers were certainly playing a counter attacking game, and it almost worked to perfection when Dexter Blackstock found himself unmarked on the right hand side of the area. The strikers rather laboured touch trying to get the ball onto his left foot, lost the striker valuable time, and Blackstock fired a wayward effort over the bar.
John Macken was proving a constant menace to the R`s backline, and but for great work by Matthew Connolly would have seen the Tykes infront in the blustery breeze. The strikers effort looked goalbound before an excellent challenge from the former Arsenal trainee.
Brian Howard then had a chance to put the Tykes infront, when Martin Devaney`s corner fell to the midfielder, he got well under the effort and it ended up amongst the travelling Rangers faithful, just over 300 strong.
Jamal Campbell-Ryce was a thorn in the side of the Rangers defence and he looked to be in on goal from the right hand side, the ball held up in the wind as Campbell-Ryce drove wide right to flick a tantalising cross to the far post, where the unmarked Istvan Ferenczi was lurking. The Hungarian`s far post header was thwarted by the woodwork.
Angelo Balanta then had a great chance to put the R`s infront against the run of play, albeit from a half chance. The young Colombian drove forward and chased a loose ball down, it was a straight race between Balanta and Steele, with the striker looking to lift the ball over the keeper with the outside of his right foot, but Steele was on hand to palm the effort away to safety. That drew the first half to a close in truly testing conditions.
Half Time: Barnsley 0-0 Queens Park Rangers
Rangers started the second half in the same manner as the first, with the attacking impetus. Martin Rowlands, trying to take the occasion by the scruff of the neck drove from midfield, running fully 20 yards before unleashing a well placed strike on target. The ball was fumbled by Steele with Blackstock in close attendance, but the striker couldn`t capitalise placing over the bar left footed from close range.
Rangers continued to threaten a goal, this time Angelo Balanta worked his way neatly into the box before rounding Luke Steele, but the ball was caught under his feet, and the precious seconds it took to get the shot away, was enough time for Lewin Nyatanga to clear off the time. A good chance for the R`s.
Then the chance of the game came for the R`s when Martin Rowlands skipped past several challenges on the right hand side of the area to fire a cross across the face of goal. The ball was missed by the onrushing Agyemang and then Blackstock as Rangers attack was thwarted once again. Buzsaky then tried his luck on the rebound but it was blocked by Dennis Souza.
Rangers made a change when Angelo Balanta was replaced by Hogan Ephraim on the right hand side, with De Canio interchanging the wingers during the second half to add to a sense of unpredictability in attack. It nearly paid off immediately as Ephraim`s intelligent pass found Buzsaky on the left unmarked, the midfielder put his foot on the ball, rolled it forward and shot in an instant; the effort didn`t do justice to the build up, with his right footed attempt going over Steele`s right hand post to leave The Magical Magyar with his head in his hands.
Barnsley finally started to contribute to second half play, when Kayode Odejayi was introduced for the Tykes with an awe of expectancy from the Red`s fans. Cheering his every run as his pace and power was becoming difficult to contend with. Barnsley also introduced Diego Leon, and the tricky midfielder stamped his authority on the match with immediate effect. His 70th minute free kick was drilled towards goal and found Lee Camp in superb form, tipping the ball over the bar.
Leon was at the centre of the Tykes attack once more as his fierce dipping effort narrowly evaded the target with Camp looking beaten, the ball dipped narrowly over the bar as Barnsley looked to force the issue.
Referee Eddie Ilderton had a decision to make on 88 minutes when home fans deemed Michael Mancienne had fouled John Macken in the area. It was difficult to tell from the away end, but the ball clearly travelled in the direction of Mancienne`s tackle, so there is a grey area. But it seemed Barnsley were desperate for their penalty with cries from the crowd at the most benign times and situations, cries for handballs by Fitz Hall and Michael Mancienne were appealed for an not given, with Mr. Ilderton not yielding to home pressure.
The final whistle sounded with both teams seemingly happy with a point, not an earth-shattering game that would make any sort of Richter scale, but nevertheless a useful point to take in the fight for survival.
Full Time: Barnsley 0-0 Queens Park Rangers
Lee Camp 7/10
Michael Mancienne 6/10
Damien Delaney 5/10
Fitz Hall 7/10
Matthew Connolly 7/10
Akos Buzsaky 6/10
Angelo Balanta 7/10
Mikele Leigertwood 5/10
Martin Rowlands 8/10
Dexter Blackstock 5/10
Patrick Agyemang 7/10
Hogan Ephraim 7/10