Soares Strike Sinks Rangers
03/04/10 - 15.00
FORMER Crystal Palace midfielder Tom Soares gained revenge over Neil Warnock as his well-guided header earned Sheffield Wednesday a point in W12.
Alejandro Faurlín finally scored his first goal in a Queens Park Rangers shirt as his close range effort set the R's on their way in the first period, as both sides battled in a keenly-contested opening half.
Despite creating the vast majority of opportunities and accruing most of the possession the Owls were never truly out of the game and a swift counter-attack helped secure a smash and grab point.
A brisk move saw Wednesday scythe through the R's midfield and Tommy Spurr's pin-point cross found it's way to Soares to glance home from close range.
As teams in and around the pair failed to capitalise on other results the only side to pick up points were Plymouth who seem to be making a late surge for safety.
Meanwhile QPR can look to another lacklustre home point and despite Neil Warnock maintaining his unbeaten home record it will be scant consolation as Wednesday claimed a point.
Warnock opted to make a solitary change from the side that picked up a point away at Preston North End - with roughly the same formation being deployed to accompany.
Carl Ikeme started behind an unchanged back four of Peter Ramage, Kaspars Gorkss, Damion Stewart and Matt Hill - with Dusko Tosic not in the match-day squad.
Mikele Leigertwood and Alejandro Faurlín sat in midfield with Tamás Priskin, Adel Taarabt and Hogan Ephraim playing behind lone front-man Jay Simpson.
Wednesday started with Lee Grant in goal with Eddie Nolan, Mark Beevers, Darren Purse and Tommy Spurr across the back four - Lewis Buxton shielded the back four.
James O'Connor and Darren Potter started through the middle with Luke Varney and Tom Soares supporting lone forward Marcus Tudgay
Ramage - Stewart - Gorksss - Hill
Leigertwood - Faurlín
Priskin - Taarabt - Ephraim
Nolan - Beevers - Purse - Spurr
Soares - O'Connor - Potter - Varney
Kick Off: Queens Park Rangers v Sheffield Wednesday
Rangers started once again in positive fashion as they took to the field at Loftus Road - conditions forecast a deluge of rain but there was little evidence of this as the game got off to a tepid beginning at Loftus Road.
In what was undoubtedly an important game for both sides it was Rangers that undertook the majority of attacking endeavour in the early stages, with Wednesday seemingly content to hold their shape and attempt to play on the break.
The tentative opening was epitomised by a mediocre effort from Hogan Ephraim. The former West Ham United wide-man customarily jinked inside down the left flank and hit a rather tame effort straight into the grateful arms of Lee Grant.
Rangers were starting to consistently accumulate pressure in the positive areas of the field with Ephraim and Adel Taarabt combining to square for Alejandro Faurlín. The Argentinean midfielder has been crying out for a goal and despite displaying great technique his effort was well-saved by Grant.
Wednesday were providing some danger on the counter-attack with the lively duo of Varney and Soares looking to interchange and support Marcus Tudgay, but tempered ambition really showed with the lack of numbers committed forward.
As such the Owls couldn't create notable opportunities owing to the isolation of forwards who were being adequately marshalled by the R's back four. In particular Peter Ramage who seemed to have Varney well-watched down the flank.
Moments later Rangers created another opportunity from Taarabt's educated feet. The Moroccan looked refreshed after his short-break granted by Warnock and his corner found Tamás Priskin, but the maligned Hungarian couldn't secure an unlikely second in two games.
Poor defending all round gifted Priskin another golden opportunity as a hashed clearance from both teams saw Gorkss eventually step in and clear away. His clearance fell behind the Wednesday rearguard to the feet of the Ipswich loanee.
His first touch was sublime but failed to follow this up with a genuine surge towards goal, instead taking the ball away from the target. He more than made up for this with a rasping right-footed drive which was expertly tipped wide by Grant at point blank range.
If that chance didn't secure the desired outcome what was to follow would give the home fans cheer as the R's finally took the advantage following a string of opportunities. It came from another Taarabt corner which was only half dealt-with by the Wednesday defence.
Ephraim latched onto the loose ball and sent in an excellent far-post cross, Wednesday again showed their achilles heel in defending and Alejandro Faurlín was allowed to slam the ball home left-footed from close range.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Sheffield Wednesday
It had been a good start from Rangers and at last they seem to be able to cap off a useful opening with the important goal and Warnock's men would need to kick on from this point if they were going to secure their Championship safety.
Taarabt was beginning to enjoy himself in behind Jay Simpson and a fantastic series of tricks and flicks saw him bedazzle man-marker Lewis Buxton before firing wide of the right-hand upright. While some may have considered it a little greedy, a player like Taarabt needs licence to perform.
Wednesday by comparison were looking second-best in most areas of the field and the thing that seemed to resonate was the lack of fight and battle. The Owls appeared far from a team battling and grafting to avoid the drop but they still had the players to prove a danger.
The tactics of Alan Irvine were under the spotlight from the Wednesday faithful with Buxton's role evidently not yielding much joy in stopping Taarabt and the front-three left all too isolated whenever they attempted to break away.
Warnock meanwhile could only remain disappointed that the sheer wealth of opportunities hadn't been converted to goals, and this was a distinct advert for a summer splash on consistent forwards with Simpson surprisingly ineffective in the final third.
As it stood the teams went into the break with the hosts a goal to the good, and it would require more of the same with a bit more cutting edge for QPR to not only continue to create opportunities but put them away with a bit more composure.
Half Time: Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Sheffield Wednesday
The teams emerged from the break with QPR again looking to assert their advantage on proceedings, it was nearly defender Kaspars Gorkss that handed the R's the lead. His defensive duties seem to be slipping but only a late clearance could deny him a headed goal in W12.
Moments later the R's could and should have extended their lead when Tamás Priskin found himself unmarked with his back to goal in the heart of the area. While the defenders appealed for offside he fashioned an excellent over-head kick only to be denied by Grant.
The former Derby stopper expertly tipped the Hungarian's effort over the bar as Wednesday continually pleaded with the officials - in truth Priskin did appear to be standing beyond the last man, but once again Rangers missed another guilt-edge chance.
One particular player that was performing well was Peter Ramage, the full-back marauded forward and beyond his respective full back, and his centre highlighted a lack of desire in the area with no real drive to get on the end of a teasing ball.
Wednesday fans were incredulous behind the goal as every time they attempted to attack it was snuffed out into the hands of Ikeme or cleared by the defence as the isolated attackers rarely threatened the R's target - and Irvine was on the end of some disappointed Owls fans voices.
Rangers meanwhile weren't at the top of their game but were still creating odd chances from the edge of the area. Faurlín nearly doubled his tally, but could be accused of hitting the ball too well as his left-footed drive was sent straight into the midriff of Grant.
Nerves were starting to play a part in Rangers' performance however and Wednesday were starting to stamp some long-awaited authority on proceedings. Spurr was allowed to cross from the left and Tudgay popped up in the middle only to nod straight at the under-worked Ikeme.
Rangers seemed to resort to time-wasting measures, with throw ins and set pieces taking longer than necessary as presumably Warnock sensed the tide was turning to his former Sheffield rivals. It was clear the Wednesday fans hadn't forgotten his Blades allegiances.
Taarabt's cross come shot failed to find a Rangers player and the nerves and tension began to surface among supporters. As is the way with Queens Park Rangers the opposition were always going to get an opportunity, and inevitably they took their solitary chance.
It started with Grant as he claimed from an incensed Priskin claiming the keeper went in studs first. He released the ball and a few sharp passes found Tommy Spurr wide on the left-wing. Spurr crossed to the far post where Tom Soares was lurking and glanced an excellent header home.
Soares' effort was excellently taken and showed the great importance of taking your opportunities. Wednesday hardly threatened the R's but in their first genuine opportunity they put Rangers to the sword and truly made them pay.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 1-1 Sheffield Wednesday
Rangers pressed for a winner and there was a great deal more urgency about their play now that Wednesday had levelled. Taarabt was looking to take matters into his own hands with varying degrees of success.
The Moroccan's influence had waned in the second period but he didn't relent late on with his running and trickery, but his end product - whether passing or shooting - was negligible. Lee Cook and Antonio German were on the field as the R's searched for the maximum.
German was looking lively but never truly threatening, as Rowan Vine entered the fray late on. Despite a spirited late showing from the R's with a succession of long balls into the area it proved fruitless as sections booed their team.
One notable incident after the final whistle saw the normally unflustered Peter Ramage riled by a minority of supporters that seemingly made a b-line for the excellently-performing Geordie. Quite why he was singled out is anyone's guess after another useful display.
Warnock's Rangers shot themselves in the foot after a succession of missed chances and lack of creativity and guile in the final third. Defensive lapses also cost them dear as they go to Leicester more in hope than expectation of a crucial three points.
Full Time: Queens Park Rangers 1-1 Sheffield Wednesday
Queens Park Rangers
Carl Ikeme, Peter Ramage, Damion Stewart, Mikele Leigertwood, Kaspars Gorkss, Alejandro Faurlín, Matt Hill, Jay Simpson (Antonio German 73), Hogan Ephraim (Lee Cook 81), Tamás Priskin (Rowan Vine 89), Adel Taarabt.
Lee Grant, Tommy Spurr, Lewis Buxton, Darren Purse, Marcus Tudgay, Darren Potter (Leon Clarke 72), Mark Beevers, James O'Connor, Luke Varney (Jermaine Johnson 69), Tom Soares, Eddie Nolan.
He scored a goal - his first for the club to cap off what was a fine display, head and shoulders above those around him who unfortunately underperformed on the day.
The Argentinean had question marks looming over what days like these would hold for his displays, but the winter seems to have brought the best from the midfielder as he goes from strength to strength.