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Sunday, February 24, 2008

QPR's Home Draw Against Sheffield United - Reports and Comments

QPR 1 Sheffield United 1
QPR are 16th with 40 points with 13 games remaining: 6 points off a relegation space (and 12 points from playoff spot) -
Blackpool 34 42
Sheff Utd 33 40
QPR 33 40
Barnsley 33 40
Coventry 32 39
Southamptn 34 39
Leicester 34 37
Sheff Wed 32 35
Preston 33 34
Colchester 33 32
Scunthorpe 34 32 League Table

Sheffield United boss Kevin Blackwell said he was still in the dark about his long-term future following the 1-1 draw at QPR.
Blackwell was recently placed in charge for the rest of the season and was scheduled to hold talks with club chairman Terry Robinson at the Blades' London hotel ahead of the match at Loftus Road.
However, the former Leeds and Luton boss revealed the meeting had not gone ahead.
"He (Robinson) was late so it did not happen," Blackwell said.
"We will have a chat during the week but I want to concentrate on our FA Cup replay with Middlesbrough on Wednesday first.
"That is a winner-take-all game and we have a massive incentive to win."
QPR took a 19th-minute lead when Martin Rowlands fed Hogan Ephraim on the right and he bamboozled Derek Geary before firing in a low cross that Angelo Balanta tapped in from close range.
But Blackwell got his reward for throwing men forward after the break when centre-back Chris Morgan's sliced shot found the bottom corner of the net with 12 minutes left.
"I thought we thoroughly deserved the equaliser and we should have gone on to win," said Blackwell.
"QPR knew how to play the pitch and the windy conditions and, once we worked it out in the second half, we improved a lot.
"We definitely had more chances after the break and I brought two strikers and a wide-man on to try to win the game - we have to go for it like that if we are to have any chance of making the play-offs.
"For our goal, Chris hit his shot from 15 yards and it bounced four times. He is saying it was from 25 yards and it went in like a rocket but he can dress it up how he likes."
QPR boss Luigi De Canio felt a draw was a fair result from a scrappy match.
"The game was fairly even and I'm not altogether disappointed with a point," the Italian said.
"Both teams were very aggressive and conceded very little space. We did not get the chance to express our true potential and neither did Sheffield United.
"We never got the ball down on the ground and passed it and, once we conceded, the game was more or less set as a 1-1 draw."
De Canio was pleased for Colombian-born teenager Balanta, who scored his first goal for Rangers in only his second senior start.
"Angelo was definitely the best thing to come out of the game," he said.
"He is a young lad with excellent qualities and he has an incredible margin of development.
"It is really important for me to bring young players through because they have the right motivation to succeed." Sporting Life

Luigi De Canio failed to hide his disappointment, as the R's conceded a late leveller to draw 1-1 with fellow mid-table outfit Sheffield United at Loftus Road.
Blades skipper Chris Morgan cancelled out Angelo Balanta's first half strike, as honours ended even in W12.
"I'm very disappointed with the outcome," De Canio told www.qpr.co.uk.
"One goal is never enough in this division and it is never over until the final whistle.
"We made one mistake and it proved to be a crucial one.
"We managed the game very well against a side that restricted us from doing what we wanted, but we should have won the game because we took the lead and looked comfortable.
"They pushed it with their style of play, but we should have finished them off in the first half.
"The two teams were very equal overall."
De Canio reserved special praise for teenager Balanta, who marked his full home debut with his first senior goal for the Club.
"I am pleased for Angelo, he took his goal very well," said De Canio.
"He still has a lot to do. He needs to grow, but he has a great talent." QPR

Kevin Blackwell described United's battling draw at Queens Park Rangers as a 'disciplined and determined display'.
The new United chief was pleased with the point in the capital, which was won thanks to Chris Morgan's equaliser with 12 minutes to go.
Blackwell, speaking after the game, said: "I was disappointed with the goal we conceded but fancied us to get something out of the game. We dug in and they couldn't handle us in the end - another five minutes and we would have won the game.
"I was pleased with our goal, particularly as it came from a set-play. We've talked and worked on improving them and it paid off."
Blackwell added: "We were away to a side full of confidence. They came at us early on but we worked hard to contain them because we knew that they couldn't sustain it. We had to ride our luck at times but Paddy didn't have a shot to save."
The game was United's sixth successive draw and the club have lost just once in 2008. Sheffield United

Sunday Mirror - John Gubba QPR 1 SHEFF UTD 1
Chris Morgan rescued a point for the Blades when he drilled home a late equaliser - but Kevin Blackwell was disappointed not to celebrate his first Championship game in charge with a win.
"We thoroughly deserved the draw - Paddy Kenny did not have a save to make apart from the goal and I felt we could have gone on to win it," concluded Blackwell.
"At this stage of the season we have to be positive and try to win as many matches as we can if we're going to have any chance of making the play-offs. And that is our aim."
Blades skipper Morgan crowned a determined second half rally when he claimed his second goal of the season with a wellstruck drive from 20 yards.
It was no more than the Blades deserved after Rangers failed to build on Angelo Balanta's 19thminute strike.
Balanta, a 17-year-old Columbian, got the Hoops off the mark with a beautifully executed strike set up by a Hogan Ephraim's superb cross.
Frontmen James Beattie and Billy Sharp were replaced by Rob Hulse and David Cotterill after failing to capitalise on Blades' possession after the break - and defender Morgan showed them how it should be done with his 78th minute equaliser.
Ephraim was the main source of danger for Rangers, but Balanta's contribution enthused manager Luigi De Canio.
"Without doubt Angelo was the best thing to come out of this match. He is lad with excellent qualities and potential," said De Canio.
QPR Camp 6; Mancienne 7, Hall 6, Connolly 6 (Stewart 5), Delaney 6; EPHRAIM 8, Rowlands 7, Leigertwood 6, Balanta 6 (Blackstock 5); Agyemang 6 Vine 6.
Manager De Canio 6
SHEFF UTD Kenny 6; Geary 6, Morgan 7, Kilgallon 7, Naysmith 6; Armstrong 7, Stead 6 (Shelton 5), Tonge 7, Quinn 6; Beattie 6 (Hulse 5), Sharp 5 (Cotterill 5). Manager Blackwell 7
Referee S Bennett 6
MAN OF THE MATCH HOGAN EPHRAIM - Always a threat down the right flank for Rangers. Sunday Mirror

Honours ended even in West London, as Chris Morgan's late leveller denied the R's maximum points in an eagerly-contested mid-table battle.
Only goal difference separated the two Clubs at the start of the day, but with Rangers enjoying the lion's share of territory and possession throughout the 90 minutes, Luigi De Canio's men will look back at what might have been after Angelo Balanta's early goal put them in the driving seat.
The youngster's first senior goal on his full debut was the R's just reward for a positive first half showing, yet despite Martin Rowlands and Rowan Vine each going close to doubling the hosts' advantage, United weathered the storm and they were rewarded when Morgan rifled home his second of the season late on.
Gavin Mahon missed out in this mid-table clash owing to injury, which meant Mikele Leigertwood returned against his former Club.
Akos Buzsaky was also unavailable due to suspension, prompting Luigi De Canio to hand youngster Angelo Balanta a rare start.

Manchester United loanee Lee Martin failed to shake off a rib complaint for the Blades, as Kevin Blackwell opted for a front three of James Beattie, Jon Stead and Billy Sharp.

It was former Blade Leigertwood who spurned the R's first opportunity, when he headed over Martin Rowlands' eighth minute corner from the edge of the six-yard box.

Rangers' best passage of football in the opening stages was very nearly rewarded with a goal on the quarter hour.

A superb passing move involving Michael Mancienne, Patrick Agyemang and Hogan Ephraim ended with the latter feeding Rowan Vine, who flashed a 20-yard left footed drive over the bar.

The visitors failed to heed the warning and they paid the ultimate price four minutes later.

After some fine approach play, Rowlands pinged the ball out wide to Ephraim, who dropped a shoulder to bamboozle Gary Naysmith, before playing an enticing cross into the heart of the Blades six-yard box.

Drifting in from the left flank, the unmarked Balanta showed great awareness, applying the deftest of touches to steer the ball beyond Paddy Kenny.

United's first opportunity arrived in the 25th minute, but Lee Camp was equal to it, diving low to his left to tip Beattie's fierce drive upwards, before quickly getting to his feet and punching clear the follow-up.

But it was the R's - inspired by the lively Ephraim - who continued to pose the greater attacking threat heading in to the break, with Rowlands curling a left footed shot a yard or so wide on the half hour.

After Balanta screwed a shot wide moments after the resumption, play briefly switched to the other end, where Michael Tonge dragged a shot wide from distance.

United upped the ante as the clock ticked towards the hour mark, with a succession of corners asking questions of the now overworked R's backline.

To their credit, Rangers dealt adequately as the crosses reigned in, with the returning Fitz Hall mopping up twice in a matter of minutes with strong clearing headers.

Sensing his side required fresh legs after their FA Cup exploits six days earlier, Blackwell introduced David Cotterill at the expense of the ineffective Sharp in the 70th minute.

De Canio responded by making a double substitution, as goalscorer Balanta and Connolly were replaced by Dexter Blackstock and Damion Stewart respectively.

Blackwell did the same moments later and just seconds after Luton Shelton and Rob Hulse entered the fray, Morgan's low 18-yard drive beat Camp to hand United an unlikely equaliser.

Both sides went in search of the all-important third goal of the contest in the time that remained, but on the balance of play, a draw was probably a fair result.

QPR: Camp, Delaney, Mancienne, Rowlands, Connolly (Stewart 73), Agyemang, Ephraim, Vine, Hall, Leigertwood, Balanta (Blackstock 73).
Subs: Pickens, Lee, Rehman. Scorers: Balanta 19

Sheffield United: Kenny, Naysmith, Morgan, Beattie (Hulse 78), Stead (Shelton 78), Kilgallon, Tonge, Armstrong, Sharp (Cotterill 70), Geary, Quinn.
Subs: Gillespie, Lucketti. Attendance: 15, 383 QPR

kipper Chris Morgan rescued the Blades to extend the draw sequence to six matches in all competitions.

The powerful defender fired in from the edge of the penalty area with 12 minutes to go to earn United a point in a difficult trip to Queens Park Rangers.

Colombian teenager Angelo Balanta opened the scoring for Rangers in the first half before Morgan struck to extend United's unbeaten run to seven matches in Kevin Blackwell's first Championship encounter in charge of the Blades.

Boss Blackwell's only change to the starting line-up was enforced because of injury. Sharp and Geary recovered from their problems but Martin's hip complaint forced him to miss the trip to the capital and his place was taken by Armstrong. The hosts included former Blade, Leigertwood, and in-form striker, Agyemang, who netted at Bramall Lane in the earlier league fixture between the teams.

United made a bright start with everyone looking get forward at every opportunity. At times in the early stages QPR struggled to clear cleanly, whilst the rhythm was interrupted by the fact that the ball flew over the main stand, twice! Camp and Morgan were the guilty parties.

On three minutes, following a quick release by Kenny, Tonge fired well over from 25 yards , although he was hampered by a bobble just as he was about to shoot. Rangers won the first corner of the match soon after when Stead was robbed of possession and Leigertwood should have done better with his header after a drilled delivery from Delaney.

United's first corner arrived on 11 minutes when Hall flicked Armstrong's cross away from Sharp but QPR began to enjoy a spell of possession, which included Vine firing over after a break down the right.

The Blades, however, were not so fortunate on 19 minutes, conceding a goal for the first time in four matches following a Rangers break. On the right, Ephraim worked himself a yard to get away from Naysmith and his cross just needed deflecting in by BALANTA, who had made his away in from the left flank.

Rowlands was orchestrating play for the home side after being given too much space to move the ball and he was well supported by Leigertwood. United, though, caused problems in the home defence on 25 minutes following a Tonge corner. Morgan and Beattie both challenged for aerial balls, whilst Rangers cleared as Kilgallon and Stead closed in.

Later in the half the Blades were unable to recreate the form of the first ten minutes. Before the interval, Sharp was crowded out when trying to latch on to a Beattie flick on, whilst, in injury-time, Stead was forced to block a shot from Rowlands.

Both managers resisted the urge to make a change at the interval and in a lively opening, there were half-chances at both ends. On 50 minutes Vine's long-range shot was wide and then Balanta forced a save out of Kenny. For United, with 52 minutes gone, Stead got the better of Delaney and delivered from the right which Armstrong and Beattie challenged for, with the latter deflecting the ball wide. Within 60 seconds, Tonge drilled well wide of Camp's goal.

On 55 minutes Armstrong volleyed across the box but Connolly cleared at the expense of a corner with Beattie poised, whilst Tonge looked to be United's biggest threat and the midfielder won a corner from Rowlands around the hour mark.

The Blades were enjoying more possession than the home side, whilst the more direct style adopted by the visitors made the action frantic and disjointed. Blackwell made a change with Cotterill being introduced for Sharp, which meant a switch to a central role for Stead.

Following a fine ball by Rowlands, Kilgallon was forced to block from Vine, whilst at the other end Hall prevented Stead making progress.

Blackwell threw caution to the wind, using the remainder of his substitutes by replacing the front two and the change served to unsettle QPR. The Blades levelled within a minute of the replacements entering the field following Kenny's long clearance.

MORGAN challenged for the initial header and after the home side could only half clear, the captain swivelled and fired through a glut of bodies, with Camp unable to prevent the ball sliding into the net close to his right post. The subsequent celebration involved all ten outfield players.

Morgan's central defensive partner, Kilgallon, needed to be alert to make a valuable interception from Agyemang, but late on it was United who forced the issue and looked the more likely to claim a second.

With Quinn and Armstrong particularly prominent, Camp and his defenders were put under severe pressure. The Blades won two corners in the three minutes of injury-time but a winning goal, which Blackwell so craved, failed to materialise. Sheffield United

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