Tuesday 1 January
Yet another glorious attacking performance combined with guts and skill, yielded a 3-1 home victory in a crucially important six pointer.
A goal from the goal machine himself Damion Stewart making it four in seven for the Jamaican defender. Adam Bolder doubled the lead heading in from close range after some good work from Rowan Vine on the left.
After the interval, two became three when Dexter Blackstock powered in a header. A consolation came from Canadian Iain Hume, a pint point free kick leaving Lee Camp no chance at all.
Rangers made two changes following the 4-2 demolition of Watford. Akos Buzsaky and Rowan Vine were reintroduced, making way for them were Angelo Balanta and Marc Nygaard. This game was the last chance to see Vine and Bob Malcolm whose loan periods expire post-match. Rangers' new signing Gavin Mahon had to settle for a place on the bench.
For former Rangers boss Ian Holloway, there were a couple of new additions to the squad. Barry Hayles was handed his debut, but Steve Howard was on the bench. Joe Mattock continued at left-back despite picking up an injury at the weekend, Collins John however didn't make the 16 through injury.
Rangers looked in confident mood early on with Vine making some jinking runs down the left, accompanied by Buzsaky and Rowlands in the middle playing neat passes. The first chance of the game came for Rangers from the in form Martin Rowlands, the midfielder sprayed the ball wide to the right, Ainsworth met the pass and fizzed a low cross into the box. After some tentative defending Adam Bolder unleashed a shot to sting the palms of Fox's stopper Paul Henderson. An early warning for Holloway's men.
At the other end, Damion Stewart was adjudged harshly to have brought down danger man Matty Fryatt, Iain Hume gave the rangers fans a taste of his free-kick technique, firing narrowly wide of the right hand upright.
Leicester did not heed the warnings of Rangers expansive and attacking game, and paid the price on 16 minutes. It was Damion Stewart to notch his fifth of the league campaign, impressive figures for the Jamaican defender. A corner swung over from the right by Buzsaky was met powerfully by the onrushing Stewart, and his unstoppable header had Henderson beaten, and looking on at some ponderous marking.
Barry Hayles then gave the Rangers defence a warning, when he ghosted into the box. But the former Plymouth striker was off balance, and his chip towards goal drifted wide of the right hand upright.
It wasn't long though before Rangers doubled their advantage; it took 27 minutes, with the resurgent Adam Bolder heading into an empty net after some excellent build up play. An exquisite 40-yard pass from the in form Rowlands, found Rowan Vine wide left. His pinpoint cross was met by the head of Dexter Blackstock, who placed the ball excellently into the path of Bolder to nod into an empty net. A goal created with simplicity and style.
Holloway reacted to this by withdrawing Joe Mattock and replacing him with striker Steve Howard to change formation to 4-3-3. A bold move indeed in desperate circumstances. However, it was Rangers who continued to dictate the flow and tempo of the game, with Akos Buzsaky's free kick saved low to Henderson's right for the last chance of the half.
Leicester must have had a Bristolian accent ringing in their ears at the beginning of the second half, as they started the sharper. A build up of pressure, accompanied by some clever runs by Fryatt and the nuisance of Hayles, led to an early opportunity. A probing corner by skipper Steven Clemence, found the head of Richard Stearman, who has netted previously for the Fox's at the school end, his header though drifted wide.
The pressure culminated with Steve Howard unleashing a venomous effort towards goal, only to be denied by Lee Camp`s left hand upright. Not the return the striker`s work ethic had required. The Rangers defence often coped with difficulty as the ex-Luton and Derby, towering forward won a succession of flick-ons to test the tenacity of the Rangers back line.
Rangers though always looked a danger on the break with the Fox's defence holding a very high line. The move that ensued would prove to be the goal that wrapped it up. On 56 minutes an excellent run and cross by Rowan Vine, was powered home by Dexter Blackstock for his first goal since the opening day of the season. The young forward rose majestically to give Henderson the task once more of picking the ball out the net. An excellent run culminating with an excellent header.
For some reason the Rangers defence still wasn't quite settled with banks of 4 being pinned back at times, constantly giving possession away, well the script has been written before. But a moment of class gave the travelling fans a moment to savour. On the 59th minute another one of many baffling decisions given by Mr. Miller, lead to a free kick in a promising area for Leicester. Iain Hume fired a well-placed set piece past the despairing Lee Camp. The shot was hit with real venom, and Camp was left standing aghast as the shot flew into the top left of the target.
Fingernails were being chewed around the ground, with Fox`s fans dreaming of a reversal of circumstances from when they visited W12 a few years ago, when Rangers produced an inspired comeback. After spells of pressure when the Rangers defence were their own worst enemies, holding their line too far back and inviting pressure on it seemed another goal was forthcoming. However, a world class save to deny Fryatt from point blank range, was truly outstanding from Lee Camp, epitomised Rangers fighting spirit, and compounded Leicester's misery.
Gavin Mahon took to the field for his home debut, which was certainly a bright note of the second half, but he never really had the chance to display why Rangers have chosen to invest in his talents.
The Rangers faithful met the final whistle with jubilation, who can now look forward to the mouth-watering prospect of Stamford Bridge, and who knows, perhaps getting one over on the old enemy!
Queens Park Rangers: Camp, Barker, Stewart, Bolder (Nygaard 74) Blackstock (Walton 92) Buzsaky, Ainsworth (Mahon 67) Rowlands, Malcolm, Vine, Rehman.
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|17. Crystal Palace||17||3||6||8||-8||15|
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