Blackburn Complete Decade of Woe
QUEENS Park Rangers are now without a win in the FA Cup for ten years after a slender defeat at the hands of Blackburn Rovers.
The Premier League side were more than matched by their Championship counterparts, despite QPR boss Neil Warnock naming a weakened side at Ewood Park.
Adel Taarabt, Matt Connolly and Heidar Helguson were all missing for the visitors who had to endure another blow when Jamie Mackie was stretchered off with a worrying injury.
Junior Hoilett's strike just over ten minutes from time secured the victory, with Rangers crashing efforts back off the bar from Petter Vaagan Moen and Kaspars Gorkss.
Rangers have now been defeated by Arsenal, Swansea City, Vauxhall Motors, Grimsby Town, Nottingham Forest, Blackburn Rovers along with Luton, Chelsea, Burnley and Sheffield United.
A decade of misery has been capped off this afternoon and despite having the better of the second half exchange, Rangers must now concentrate on league action.
Warnock elected to make three changes from the side that drew at home to Bristol City, with Petter Vaagan Moen, Leon Clarke and Gary Borrowdale coming in for Adel Taarabt, Tommy Smith and Kyle Walker.
Paddy Kenny started behind a back four of Bradley Orr, Kaspars Gorkss, Clint Hill and Borrowdale with Alejandro Faurlín and Shaun Derry continuing in the heart of midfield.
Leon Clarke, Vaagan Moen and Jamie Mackie started behind lone front-man Rob Hulse with youngsters Michael Doughty, Michael Harriman and Bruno Andrade taking their place on the bench.
Blackburn started with Mark Bunn in goal behind a back line of Michel Salgado, Ryan Nelsen, Grant Hanley and Gael Givet.
The trio in midfield were Morten Gamst Pedersen, Jason Lowe and Junior Hoilett with El-Hadji Diouf and Mame Biram Diouf playing off Benjani Mwaruwari.
Kick Off: Blackburn Rovers v Queens Park Rangers
A chance for Queens Park Rangers to avenge their disappointing Ewood Park appearance last time out, Rangers travelled to face Premier League Blackburn Rovers, a team in transition with one eye on progressing in the FA Cup.
Neil Warnock made no secret of his desire to prioritise the league and the resting of Adel Taarabt and the blooding of young talent on the bench somewhat highlighted his priorities against the Premier League opposition.
Nevertheless Rangers started in a positive fashion, pressing their opponents on the ball and looking to open up Rovers on the counter attack. The hosts by comparison were looking to play to the strengths of their forward line - which included some impressive Premier League talent.
Morten Gamst Pedersen was attempting to pull the strings in midfield with Mame Diouf playing off the midweek two-goal hero Benjani. The Zimbabwean striker, who netted a brace to put pay to Roy Hodgson's job at Liverpool, wasn't getting a great deal of joy from the R's defence.
A glimpse of Blackburn's brisk, direct attacking style was epitomised as a Junior Hoilett ball over the top found it's way to Mame Diouf. The Manchester United loanee fended off Kaspars Gorkss before drilling wide of the left-hand upright.
It was a move that highlighted Rangers' lack of pace, in particular the returning Gary Borrowdale, who was having a torrid opening as both Mame Diouf and Hoilett gave him a stern examination in the early offing.
As expected their wasn't a gulf of class between the two sides but a speculative drive from Rob Hulse was Rangers' first shot in anger, as Ryan Nelsen expertly marshalled the Premier League defence. The experience of Gael Givet was also proving a useful asset in a bid to stop the hard-working Mackie.
The concern for Queens Park Rangers was their own naivety, as while Sam Allardyce is no longer in charge of Rovers, their set-piece play still needs to be given a great deal of respect. Cheap free-kicks encouraged the hosts to pile on the pressure.
The marking was distinctly lacking as a right wing cross from the lively Pedersen saw Mame Diouf unmarked in the area. His header was expertly tipped away by Paddy Kenny high to his right to preserve the clean sheet for the time being.
The R's goal was living a charmed life however and Kenny was to thank again moments later. Another Pedersen cross found Givet unmarked in space and the QPR stopper somehow tipped over from point-blank range to deny the full-back.
It was Rangers' turn to assert some impetus on the encounter and an expertly-flighted ball from Vaagan Moen found Mackie down the right. His direct run and shot was cleared off the line by young defender Grant Hanley and swept away to safety.
Then came a moment of disaster for Rangers as Mackie and Givet came together and both were left in agony on the turf. After a prolonged period of worrying waiting, both players were carried off the field with nothing but best wishes for both players from the Rangers' faithful.
Givet was replaced by Josh Morris, while Bruno Andrade had his second appearance of the season as he replaced Mackie. Sadly a section of the home crowd lacked a little class in booing Mackie from the field, an injury it transpired that has been diagnosed as a double leg fracture.
A malaise swept across the ground with the home supporters turning out in disappointing numbers despite the decrease in prices across the board. This was reflected in the atmosphere that would hardly serve to inspire those on the field.
The malaise was nearly shattered in first half stoppage time as Vaagan Moen burst into life. A free-kick 35-yards from goal had the Norwegian over the ball and looking to test Mark Bunn. He absolutely rifled a left-footed effort which was tipped onto the bar by the former Northampton Town stopper.
It was a rocket which nearly lit up what was proving a less than inspirational cup clash, and with a little more luck Vaagan Moen would have had his first in the Rangers shirt. It was in fact the final chance of the half as the two sides went in goal-less.
Half Time: Blackburn Rovers 0-0 Queens Park Rangers
The two sides took to the field in the second half, looking to continue what was a fairly positive opening period. They weren't over-awed by any stretch of the imagination as Shaun Derry seemed to have little interest in reputations.
Rovers would continue to attack where the line was weakest, and a smart move by Steve Kean in introducing Jason Roberts at the expense of the anonymous Benjani saw them attack the right wing and the already booked Gary Borrowdale.
Matter were becoming increasingly frustrating for Rangers who didn't seem to be getting the rub of the green from the officials. A lot of decisions were going against them and this is certainly borne out in the final statistics.
Vaagan Moen's snap-shot at goal was all either side had to offer in the opening exchange, but after the Norwegian was set-up by Hulse he saw his shot drift wide of the right hand upright and away to safety. The encouraging signs were there, but a little more luck was required to realise an FA Cup victory.
If Rangers needed any more warning that Rovers could strike at any second - another soft free-kick led to a glorious opportunity. Mame Diouf ghosted in at the far post from a Salgado cross and only his poor control let the R's off the hook as the ball tamely rolled away.
That ruthlessness that Rovers displayed in dispatching Liverpool was not in evidence on this occasion, despite the set-pieces of Pedersen being a constant menace. QPR however were looking a little more dangerous on the counter-attack.
Hulse and Clarke were linking up nicely at times, with the latter putting in his most encouraging performance of the season. His effort and clever running as well as his flick-ons were proving a distinct positive on the day.
Add to that the youthful exuberance of Andrade, who while proving a little rough around the edges, was causing problems to the young full-back Morris. Winning a succession of corners for the visitors and helping to create some pressure.
It was becoming one way traffic, with the ambition of the hosts purely contained in a counter-attacking format, and it proved frustrating for sections of the home crowd as one errant long ball too many prompted the groans of disappointment.
Despite dominating a good proportion of the ball and chances in the second period, they didn't truly test Mark Bunn and as a result were nearly punished. Mame Diouf hared away on the counter-attack and his right-footed shot skipped up off Hill and forced Kenny into another smart save.
Once again the second half showed that the perceived gulf in class between the two divisions may not be as wide as documented, particularly in light of a weakened QPR side. Sadly the ruthlessness in front of goal was the difference as Blackburn scored the crucial goal.
El-Hadji Diouf worked the ball well down the right before squaring for the lively Junior Hoilett
. The attacking player had made a couple of mazy runs just previously and slammed this chance beyond a disappointed Kenny.
GOAL: Blackburn Rovers 1-0 Queens Park Rangers
One goal was in truth always likely to be enough in this tightly-fought encounter and with Rovers in front they opted to defend their lead in favour of attacking the Championship leaders. As a result Rangers started to apply more pressure to the hosts.
Five minutes from time a deep free-kick from Vaagan Moen saw Gorkss climb highest in the area. The Latvian's header cannoned back off the cross-bar and away for a goal kick. The second time that Rangers had struck the bar on the day.
Despite possessing a greater degree of attacking talent, Blackburn seemed intent not to entertain and instead play out for the victory but keeping the ball in the corner flag and eating away at the clock wherever possible - evidently not wanting to get caught by a sucker punch.
The Premier League side retained possession well in the latter stages and Derry was eventually booked after taking his frustrations out on the hosts. Nevertheless Rovers had the last laugh as they progressed, edging Rangers out in an even encounter.
Final Whistle: Blackburn Rovers 1-0 Queens Park Rangers
Mark Bunn, Michel Salgado (Amine Linganzi 83), Grant Hanley, Ryan Nelsen, Gael Givet (Josh Morris 30), Morten Gamst Pedersen, Jason Lowe, Junior Hoilett, Mame Biram Diouf, El-Hadji Diouf, Benjani Mwarurawi (Jason Roberts 46).
Paddy Kenny, Bradley Orr, Clint Hill, Kaspars Gorkss, Gary Borrowdale, Alejandro Faurlín (Lee Cook 83), Shaun Derry, Leon Clarke, Petter Vaagan Moen, Jamie Mackie (Bruno Andrade 31), Rob Hulse (Michael Doughty 89).
Petter Vaagan Moen:
The Norwegian international had a positive first start in a Rangers shirt and hopefully this is an indication of things to come from the midfielder.
His shot in the first half alone is enough to hopefully nudge Taarabt away from a couple of set-pieces in future. A blistering effort helped compliment a positive performance overall.
Paddy Kenny put in a sterling display between the sticks and certainly didn't deserve to be on the losing side. He made a string of outstanding saves in the first half and second to deny the Premier League side.
The former Sheffield United man looked every bit a top-flight 'keeper making some smart stops and bolstering what was a makeshift back-line.
Orr was useful overall on the day and despite being caught wanting on a couple of occasions he was solid by and large.
He would benefit from being a little calmer in possession, as at times the ball was given away all too readily by the full-back - but he coped well with a barrage of attacks at times.
Gorkss marshalled Benjani expertly, but was dragged out of position all to frequently by the pace of wide-men Diouf, Hoilett and Mame Diouf.
He was forced across to cover the full-back positions where Borrowdale had been caught out, but by and large did well against some tough opposition.
Hill bounced back from his Bristol City nightmare with an accomplished display at the heart of defence alongside Gorkss - both he and the Latvian didn't give Benjani a sniff in his 45 minutes of action.
The centre-half was dominant in the aerial battle throughout and coped well with the power and pace of Jason Roberts - a forward that has caused issues to many Premier League defences this campaign.
We had a glimpse into Rangers' past today and I've no need to tell you that it wasn't too pretty. Blackburn singled him out for treatment on the counter-attack and eventually this told.
He was caught for pace on numerous occasions by Mame Diouf and Hoilett and Rangers will hopefully bolster their defence prior to next weekend.
Faurlín was looking comfortable in midfield against Premier League opposition and coped well, particularly with the aerial challenges.
The Argentinean was creative at times, and with the help of Shaun Derry made life difficult for Rovers' more creative players.
Derry looked useful in the middle of the park today, predominantly sitting deep and tackling hard before attempting to set up counter-attacks.
The veteran looked tough in the tackle and eventually received a booking for his troubles, but he will be delighted with the solidity of his display.
Leon put in his best performance in a Rangers shirt today and his lively running and passing gave supporters home that his free transfer gamble may amount to something.
His intelligent flurries of play was all to fleeting, but when he received the ball to feet, he was strong and used possession wisely.
Moen had a good, solid debut in a QPR shirt and certainly displayed some of his vast potential against Premier League opposition today.
His crackerjack effort in the first half lit up a drab fixture and with a little more luck his creativity could have seen Rangers through to the next round - it wasn't to be for the lively Norwegian.
What a huge loss this could prove to be as a strong challenge between he and Gael Givet saw the R's front-man pick up a double-leg fracture and have to now watch on from the sidelines.
He was lively early on before seeing his afternoon end early in dramatic circumstances. Evidently we wish him nothing but the best, and a full and speedy recovery.
Hulse's performance was indifferent, one moment he could hold the ball up and play off expertly, and another minute he could be found wanting by the experienced Ryan Nelsen.
He coped well at times against the younger talents, but Nelsen was far too experienced for the striker and by and large it showed.
Coming on for the injured Mackie, Andrade impressed in spells and supplemented several Rangers attacks down the right flank.
At times he showed inexperience but his youthful exuberance was a breath of fresh air as he ploughed forward with great enthusiasm.
Cook didn't really have a lot of time on the ball but it was good to see him back in a QPR shirt, despite not being fit.
The midfielder came on for Hulse prompting Clarke to go up front and seemed to play at the heart of midfield alongside Shaun Derry - only a few moments on the field so difficult to judge.