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Saturday, February 24, 2007

QPR Held to a 1-1 Draw by Ian Holloway's Plymouth

After today's 1-1 draw, QPR are now out of the bottom three only on goal difference.
Burnley 40
Ipswich 39
Norwich 38
Hull 36
QPR 35
Barnsly 35
Southen 31
Leeds 31


Plymouth Official Site Match Report

THE win that he privately craved eluded Argyle manager Ian Holloway as his former club came from behind to ensure the same score between the two sides the previous two times they had met, including last season in London.

It is a result that did not serve the best interests of neither Holloway's current side, who are becoming detached from the Coca-Cola Championship play-off race, nor his previous one, who remain in potential relegation trouble.

How the home side failed to win the three points they so urgently need is beyond most observers, given that they were afforded every assistance by referee Richard Beeby.

The official first allowed Lee Cook's 59th-minute equaliser to stand despite clear fouls on Argyle goalkeeper Luke McCormick.

After that little helping hand, Beeby then ensured Argyle would have to play the closing stages with only ten men after dismissing Pilgrims' skipper Lilian Nalis, who had headed the Greens into the lead after half an hour, for two yellow cards.

The irony that the two cards were for dissent directly caused by Beeby's poor performance was presumably lost on the official.

Holloway, given the honour of once again occupying the home dug-out by his current successor at Loftus Road, John Gregory, made one enforced change to the starting line-up that progressed to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and subsequently walloped Colchester in midweek.

That switch was in the van, where loan Ranger Kevin Gallen was forced out by the terms of his temporary move from west London to the Westcountry, allowing record Pilgrims' signing Rory Fallon into what is becoming - with Watford on the horizon - an increasingly competitive line-up.

Gregory, briefly a former Argyle caretaker-manager in the Ken Brown-David Kemp interregnum and, subsequently - and equally briefly - a player, kept faith with the exact same 11 that had drawn 0-0 at Leeds in midweek.

The Rs'a attack was therefore led by Dexter Blackstock, who had a successful loan spell at Home Park from Southampton under Bobby Wiliamson's stewardship, and Cook, one of only a few players still at Rangers who were protégés of Holloway.

Kemp, incidentally, was an interested spectator at Loftus Road, along with his manager at Stoke City, Tony Pulis, who enjoyed an interesting walk from his car to the ground past a considerable number of the Green Army.

It will have given him a taster of what he can expect when he brings his Potters, whose weekend game was delayed until Monday evening, to Home Park next Saturday.

Argyle should have been behind before the pre-match applause for Holloway from all sides of the ground had died down.

Blackstock seized on a mistake by the normally 100% reliable Marcel Seip to find himself clear on goal with only McCormick to beat. Some 'only'. The Argyle goalkeeper spread himself quickly at Blackstock's feet to block his erstwhile former team-mate.

The early break set the pattern for the game's opening, however, with Argyle well and truly all hands to the pump to prevent Rangers from cashing in on some decent amounts of possession.

Gradually, though, the Pilgrims' patience saw them edge their way back into the game, and the contest was much more even by the time Sylvan Ebanks-Blake's opportunistic leftt-foot strike from 20 yards was fumble-saved by Lee Camp.

The match settled into a battle for midfield supremacy in which either side nullified the best attempts of the other. For Argyle, Fallon showed himself to be a willing workhorse, and Scott Sinclair was a wound spring that could not fully uncoil itself.

Whenever Argyle stepped up the pace, they immediately became a handful for the Rangers' defence, who were also not very keen at set-pieces. Nalis had already gone close with one header, when escaped the zonal marking to reach David Norris's corner unimpeded, before he broke the deadlock.

Norris was again the provider, his free-kick - and Norris was noticeably much more on dead-ball duty than he has ever been previously - reaching the Frenchman by way of Krisztián Timár's flicked back-header, and the Argyle skipper nodded the sweetly simple move home with precision, rather than power.

Argyle made it to the interval without looking like either scoring or conceding again, although it was a closer run thing with regard to the latter, than the former, when Rangers' captain Steve Lomas played in Adam Bolder.

McCormick rushed from his line to win what was no more than a 50-50 ball, collided with Bolder, and, as he grabbed at the loose ball, took a shoeing from Blackstock and Martin Rowlands as he lay on the floor.

McCormick emerged for the second half, seemingly none the worse, to face, not only the Rangers' attack, but also driving rain.

Argyle's labours were made more difficult, shall we say, 'esoteric' decisions from Beeby, who was clearly on a different wavelength to most other people in Shepherd's Bush.

As the clock clicked round to the hour-played mark, Beeby surpassed all previous idiotic decisions he had made up to that point by allowing Cook's scrambled goal following a right-wing corner to stand, oblivious or ignorant of the fact that McCormick had been the victim of attention that, away from the football pitch, would have earned the perpetrators a criminal record.

Nalis, a most reasonable man, was so infuriated by the shambolic officiating that he earned himself a yellow card for his protestations. To compound matters, immediately after the goal, Argyle won every itsy-flitsy 50-50 decision going.

Holloway sent on Péter Halmosi for young Dan Gosling and the Hungarian winger's first contribution to proceedings was to play Norris in, only for the Argyle number seven's low drive to be met by a good save from Camp.

Beeby was soon back to his worst, sending Nalis off for what will probably turn out to be dissent after the Frenchman's frustrations at yet another random free-kick award led to him kicking the ball away.

Gregory went for broke, introducing Paul Furlong, who nearly repaid the man who resurrected his career by firing in a shot that McCormick had to be alert to keep out.

Queens Park Rangers (4-4-2): 20 Lee Camp; 38 Michael Mancienne, 4 Danny Cullip, 25 Damion Stewart, 27 Sampsa Timoska; 11 Gareth Ainsworth, 16 Steve Lomas (capt), 7 Adam Bolder, 14 Martin Rowlands (29 Paul Furlong 80); 32 Dexter Blackstock, 17 Lee Cook. Substitutes (not used): 12 Jake Cole (gk), 24 Pat Kanyuka, 31 Ray Jones, 37 Jimmy Smith.
Booked: Bolder 28, Cullip 90.
Argyle (4-4-2): 23 Luke McCormick; 22 Paul Connolly, 5 Krisztián Timár, 19 Marcel Seip, 18 Gary Sawyer; 30 Dan Gosling (16 Péter Halmosi 64), 7 David Norris, 4 Lilian Nalis (capt), 26 Scott Sinclair; 9 Sylvan Ebanks-Blake (20 Lee Hodges 83), 33 Rory Fallon. Substitutes (not used): 13 Mathias Kouo-Doumbe, 29 Luke Summerfield, 32 Bojan Djordjic.

Sending-off: Nalis 80 (two yellow cards).
Booked: Nalis 60, Timár 85, Norris 90.
Attendance : 13757
Referee: Richard Beeby (Northamptonshire)

Attendance: 13,757 (2,600 away est.).
Plymouth Official Site

Honours finished even on Ian Holloway's return to W12, despite a spirited second half display from the R's.

Ten-man Plymouth held on for a share of the spoils, after goalscorer Lillian Nalis saw red for two bookable offences late on.

After Dexter Blackstock's first minute miss, Rangers fell behind on 32 minutes, when Nalis applied the all-important touch to Sylvain Ebanks-Blake's flick on.

Undeterred, the R's produced a gutsy second half performance and deservedly levelled matters on 59 minutes, when Cook poked home from close range after a goalmouth scramble.

Buoyed by the creditable point up at Elland Road four days earlier, John Gregory named an unchanged side.

The Pilgrims were minus the services of Kevin Gallen (ineligible) and Barry Hayles (toe), so Rory Fallon partnered Sylvain Ebanks-Blake in attack.

'Ollie's' appearance in the Argyle dugout was greeted with cheers from both sets of supporters, but it was the Hoops who came out of the traps firing on all cylinders.

Indeed the R's should've been ahead inside the opening 60 seconds.

Hesitancy in the heart of the Argyle defence allowed Blackstock the freedom of the penalty area, yet having created room for a shot, he fired straight at Luke McCormick.

The loose ball fell perfectly into the path of Cook, whose right footed half-volley was expertly tipped to safety by the inspired Argyle custodian.

Cook was certainly at the heart of the R's fast start and when he broke free 25-yards from goal, only a perfectly timed blocked from Krisztian Timar thwarted the roaming attacker.

Camp had to be at his agile best in the 13th minute - diving full length to his right to save Ebanks-Blake's stinging left foot drive.

Blackstock was winning his fair share of headers against the imposing figure of Pilgrims centre-half Timar and when his knockdown fell at the feet of Gareth Ainsworth on 22 minutes, only a timely deflection prevented the Rangers winger from firing another shot on target.

After playing second fiddle to the R's for prolonged periods, Plymouth provided a brief reminder of their intentions on the half hour, but Nalis' looping header finished the wrong side of Camp's crossbar.

Rangers clearly didn't heed the warning though and when the same player was given the freedom of the penalty box again two minutes later, he made no mistake, heading Ebanks-Blake's flicked header from David Norris' free-kick past Camp and into the bottom left hand corner.

Despite the setback, Rangers ended the half in the ascendancy.

Steve Lomas sent Rowlands clean through on goal, only for the onrushing McCormick to save with his feet. Blackstock was first to pounce on the rebound, but McCormick again did his job, saving at the second attempt.

Sampsa Timoska came to the R's rescue at the start of the second half, timing his last-ditch tackle to perfection to prevent Ebanks-Blake racing clean through on goal.

Rangers were left wondering what might have been on 55 minutes, when referee Mr Beeby turned down vocal appeals for a spot-kick.

Ainsworth appeared to be punched to ground as he competed for an aerial ball with McCormick, but the official felt otherwise, allowing play to continue.

After a relatively quiet first half by his own exceptionally high standards, Cook provided the catalyst for a Rangers revival just before the hour.

Moments after providing a chance for Ainsworth, which was deflected round for a corner, the mercurial attacker was in the right place at the right time to prod the ball over the line at the second attempt, after McCormick had initially fumbled Rowlands' set-piece under pressure from a sea of bodies on the six-yard box.

Plymouth were aggrieved at the referee's decision to allow the effort to stand, with Nalis booked for his part in the protests.

Undeterred, it was the visitors who created the next opportunity of an enthralling contest on 66 minutes.

Seconds after entering the fray as a second half substitute, midfielder Peter Halmosi played an inch-perfect pass into the path of David Norris, whose first time effort across the face of goal was superbly parried by Camp.

Rangers broke at pace almost immediately, with Blackstock's glancing header drifting wide of the far post after an exceptional Ainsworth delivery.

The R's were enjoying the lion's share of possession and territory by now and when Rowlands broke through the last line of the Plymouth defence, his attempted lob from an acute angle finished a yard or so over the bar.

Sensing his side were on top, Gregory switched Rowlands and Cook, with the latter occupying a role in his preferred left wing position.

Blackstock glanced yet another header wide on 78 minutes, before the visitors were reduced to ten men, when Nalis was shown his second yellow card for kicking the ball away in frustration at the award of a Rangers free-kick.

Paul Furlong entered the fray with 11 minutes remaining and it was he who went closest to clinching all three points for the R's late on, only to see his half-volley tipped round by McCormick on the stroke of full-time QPR

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