Rangers Winless Streak Continues!
10/03/09 at 7.45 p.m.
Rangers headed north this evening hoping to put a disappointing winless run behind them. Despite Doncaster`s poor start to the season, they had, until Saturday, had a fine run of form which had brought them to the heady heights of 15th in the league - only three points behind QPR in 11th.
Rangers certainly started the brighter of the two teams, but a defensive howler between Damion Stewart and Radek Cerny one-third of the way through the first half, leading to an own goal, set the tone for the night. And with Rangers so ineffective in front of goal these days you just knew there was going to be no way back.
Despite some good work in midfield and a variety of shots from outside and inside the box, the best of which fell to Samuel Di Carmine late in the second half, Rangers didn`t really deserve to come away from the Keepmoat with anything. If you can`t score you are not going to draw - let alone win!
And, at the end of the game, Doncaster - who had been hot favourites for relegation a few months ago - were now on the same number of points as QPR. That`s not good news!
The Rs made three notable changes to the line-up which had started against Sheffield United last Saturday. In an orthodox 4-4-2, Mahon returned to midfield, at the expense of Jordi Lopez, who dropped to the bench. Matteo Alberti started the game alongside Mahon in midfield, with Liam Miller also finding himself on the bench this evening. Mikele Leigertwood and Wayne Routledge completed the four-man midfield. Peter Ramage returned to the first team line-up (as right back) after several weeks on the sideline, as Matthew Connolly moved to the left-back berth to cover that position for the injured Damion Delaney. Gorkss and Stewart continued in central defence.
Up front, there was again no sign of Heidar Helguson as Dexter Blackstock and Samuel Di Carmine once again began a match together, hoping to have better luck than against the Blades. Along with Lopez and Miller, the bench consisted of Fitz Hall and youngsters Romone Rose and Angelo Balanta.
Doncaster made three changes to the team which lost to Cardiff City on the weekend. Manager Sean O`Driscoll brought back top scorer Paul Heffernan, who had been unwell on the weekend, to partner James Coppinger in a two-pronged attack. Jason Price, who had played on Saturday in his place, found himself on the bench this evening. Adam Lockwood returned to the Donny`s defence for John Spicer, who dropped to the bench; while Mark Wilson came back into the midfield at the expense of Brian Stock (who missed the game through injury). O`Driscoll opted for a formation which included wing backs who would support a three-man defence or three-man midfield.
Kick off: Doncaster v Queens Park Rangers
After a tentative opening few minutes, Samuel Di Carmine had a good chance which went out for a corner after being cleared by Matthew Mills. From the resulting corner, taken by Matteo Alberti, Dexter Blackstock rose highest but his header was weak and was easily claimed by Donny goalkeeper, Neil Sullivan. From the resulting clearance, Coppinger took the ball downfield but he was expertly marshalled by Matthew Connolly who effortlessly won the ball from him.
But really, to be honest, neither side were able to string more than three or four chances together in the first fifteen minutes. Other than Di Carmine`s chance, there was little to note by way of attack from either side, other than a speculative effort from distance from Martin Woods and a header from Blackstock from deep inside the penalty, which flew to the right of the goal.
Then, on 22nd minutes, disaster struck - and against the run of play. And what a mistake it was! Rangers had, in fact, looked comfortable even if they hadn`t created much - but they certainly didn`t look like they were going to give anything anyway. At least, that was, until Damion Stewart back-headed the ball, after a long punt upfield by Lockwood from a free-kick, thinking that he would be heading the ball into the safe arms of keeper Radek Cerny. Except that Cerny had come racing out of his goal to claim the ball himself - so that the ball flew past him and ended up in the Rangers` net instead.
No wonder Sousa stood on the touchline with his arms crossed looking subdued and perplexed!
Doncaster 1 - 0 Queens Park Rangers
Donny were able to double their lead on 30 minutes following a Woods` corner which Paul Heffernan headed past Cerny. Connolly had looked as if he had dealt with the ball with a firm header out. However, the ball rebounded back into the box off Hird and found the unmarked Heffernan, who had no difficulty in scoring from a simple header from close range. Terrible defensive play, Rangers!
Doncaster 2 - 0 Queens Park Rangers
Following a free-kick conceded by Peter Ramage, QPR`s defence were found wanting yet again. Woods sent the ball into the area and Heffernan found himself with a simple chance from about 6 yards out after poor marking by the Rangers` back four. Luckily he couldn`t quite control his shot and it skimmed past the left post for a goal-kick - instead of into the goal, phew . . .!
Mikele Leigertwood was trying his best to change the score line, producing two outstanding shots in quick succession. The first, a right-footed shot from inside the area, flew over the bar. The second, two minutes later, was a shot from distance which flew wide of the left-hand post.
So, as the clock ticked down, it looked unlikely that Rangers were going to be able to do anything about going in two goals down, despite putting on some pressure and winning a couple of corners. And so it turned out.
Half time: Doncaster 2 - 0 Queens Park Rangers
The second half started with both teams retaining their starting XI, although a couple of the QPR substitutes were doing their warm-up exercises even at this early stage of the half!
After 52 minutes, Sousa took Gorkss and Alberti off, bringing Jordi Lopez and Romone Rose on in their place. Ramage came inside in a three-man defence, with Mahon covering them, while Sousa filled the midfield with, what he hoped would be, more attacking options.
And the change almost immediately had a positive effect. Lopez fed the ball cleverly through to Blackstock who knocked it off to Di Carmine. Di Carmine had a good shot which just flashed past the post - but it would not have counted as he was deemed offside by the linesman. Shortly after that effort, Blackstock had a chance himself that was deflected for a corner, which was taken by Lopez, but it was headed clear by Paul Heffernan, taking up defensive duties.
From a QPR free-kick a few minutes later and with Rangers packing the Doncaster penalty area, Jordi Lopez decided to have a go himself - only to kick the ball high and wide. What a wasted opportunity! And we nearly paid the price immediately as Heffernan took a brilliant shot after good work by Coppinger, but Cerny pulled off an equally brilliant save.
Doncaster were clearly not sitting back on their lead and soon Coppinger had a go himself. Cerny caught the ball and, having sent the ball out of defence, QPR went up the other end where Sammy Di Carmine had a good shot which fizzed just wide of the post. At least he was trying! (As were Romone Rose and even Wayne Routledge - but to no avail.)
QPR were dominating possession at this time, although the forwards were shooting from distance far too often (for my liking!) rather than trying to work the ball inside the box. I guess that, when you haven`t scored in - how many games? - you will try anything to get the ball into the net, won`t you?
Blackstock raced through the Doncaster defence, making a very impressive run, and faced Neil Sullivan who had come out of his goal. Instead of blasting the ball into the back of the net, however, Blackstock opted to chip the ball from close range and it flew over the bar. Another missed opportunity!
With just over 10 minutes left, Sousa decided to bring Liam Miller on for Mikele Leigertwood. Rangers immediately went on the attack with Jordi Lopez, but yet again it came to nothing. Instead, from the Donny clearance, Cerny was called on to make a one-handed (right-hand!) save from Coppinger after Wellens had created yet another breakaway move (in fact, all Donny`s breakaway moves seemed to have started with Wellens, now I think about it!)
Connolly found himself under pressure and had to back-head the ball to Cerny - but thankfully, this time, Cerny cleanly claimed the ball. No goal!! And QPR were able to start another attack. Meanwhile, Heffernan continued to cause QPR`s defence all sorts of problems - but this time, Damion Stewart came back in time to clear the danger.
And shortly after that, Heffernan was substituted by James Hayter. This was followed by another QPR attack. An excellent shot blasted from about 16-yards by Sammy Di Carmine called for an equally outstanding save - and Sullivan duly obliged. Still no QPR goal!
Dean Shiels replaced James Coppinger shortly after but he didn`t make much of an impact for Doncaster. The clock was winding down by now although the fourth official`s board showed four minutes of injury time - four short minutes in which Rangers would have to get two goals to at least secure a draw.
But nothing much happened in those final minutes and it was another long drive back from a disappointing away game for the Rs` faithful, including our very own Boxer.
Doncaster had done their homework tonight. Whilst QPR fans had been anticipating a nice, open game with Wayne Routledge demolishing the Donny defence; instead, the three-man Doncaster defence kept Routledge quiet throughout most of the game. The odd time he did beat his man, he was able to do a little bit of damage - but not enough to help us turn this game around. With QPR`s attack so ineffective, stifling Routledge was a shrewd move and, after Stewart haplessly turned the ball into his own net, you just knew there was only going to be one result tonight - and it wasn`t going Rangers` way!
Final whistle: Doncaster 2 - 0 Queens Park Rangers
Doncaster: Neil Sullivan, Matthew Mills, Gareth Roberts, James Chambers, Adam Lockwood, Paul Heffernan, Mark Wilson, Martin Woods, Richie Wellens, Sam Hird, James Coppinger
QPR: Radek Cerny, Peter Ramage, Kaspars Gorkss, Damion Stewart, Matthew Connolly, Gavin Mahon, Mikele Leigertwood, Wayne Routledge, Matteo Alberti, Dexter Blackstock, Samuel Di Carmine