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Sunday, December 21, 2008

QPR's Victory Over Preston: Further Match Reports

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Sunday People
PAULO SOUSA praised his team's versatility after late substitute Dexter Blackstock nodded the winning goal with only four minutes remaining against a battling Preston side.
Heidar Helguson had twice put Sousa's team in the lead in a first half they dominated, but Preston came back both times through Chris Sedgwick and a Callum Davidson penalty.
Desperate for all three points, the Portuguese boss gambled with nine minutes remaining and it paid off as leading scorer Blackstock headed in his 10th goal of the campaign.
"We needed to take a risk as we wanted to get the three points," said 38-year-old Sousa who took the reins last month, and has won all three of his home games.
"It was very important - we had planned for these occasions in training. It was fantastic when Dexter scored and I am proud of my players.
"Each and every player is important for the team. We are learning to adapt to certain situations during the game. We prepared well for this and anticipated the problems. After this game we will have more power - it will give us confidence."
Sousa's team started the brighter and took 16 minutes to open the scoring through Helguson. The striker, on loan from Bolton, headed in Lee Cook's teasing cross from the left.
But after the goal QPR's defence went to sleep and Sedgwick stole in to nod home Paul McKenna's chip after 34 minutes.
With Cook, another loan signing, running the show after being allowed a free role by Sousa, QPR retook the lead 10 minutes before the interval. At the far post Patrick Agyemang headed Martin Rowlands' corner back across goal where Cook and Helguson were quick to react.
From three yards out the pair managed to bundle the ball into the net, though the goal was attributed to the Icelandic international.
After the break Preston hit back and were awarded a penalty when QPR keeper Radek Cerny felled Sean St Ledger in the box.
Left-back Davidson stepped up to score his second spot kick of the season and Preston looked on course for a draw.
But Sousa had other ideas and, with nine minutes left, called for Blackstock.
Five minutes later, after Cook was fouled on the left, Rowlands' freekick picked out the powerful striker. His booming header was too much for Andrew Lonergan and had the Hoops manager punching the air.
His opposite man, Alan Irvine, was bitterly disappointed, and said: "In the first half QPR were the better team. I was praying for the whistle to go before any more damage was done. But after the break we were the better team and I expected us to win the game.
"We deserved something. I thought it was a good game of football but it was disappointing to lose to a late goal. It was harsh to come away with nothing." Sousa, whose team are now only three points off a play-off place, picked out Cook, who is due to return to Fulham in January, for special praise.
He said: "Lee came to us with an injury but is getting better and physically stronger. We need players of Lee's quality to help us." People

Sunday Times/Andy Sims, PA - QPR's Win December 20, 2008
Dexter Blackstock climbed off the bench to secure a dramatic victory for QPR against Coca-Cola Championship play-off rivals Preston.
The striker grabbed his 10th goal of the season four minutes from time to maintain Rangers’ promotion bid.
A controversial penalty decision from referee Alan Wiley had earlier looked to have gifted Preston a point.
Rangers were leading 2-1 courtesy of Heidar Helguson’s double, but in the 60th minute Premier League official Wiley adjudged Sean St Ledger was felled in the area by Rangers goalkeeper Radek Cerny.
Callum Davidson gratefully slammed the penalty past Cerny, only for Blackstock to deny the visitors with his late intervention.
On-loan Bolton striker Helguson took his tally to three goals in the last two games in the first half, either side of Chris Sedgwick’s first goal in a year for Preston.
The hosts, who have been in fine form at home this season, almost went ahead inside the opening two minutes only to be denied by a superb double save from Andy Lonergan.
The goalkeeper hurled himself to his right to keep out Lee Cook’s curling shot, and then managed to block the follow-up from former Preston striker Patrick Agyemang.
They took the lead after quarter of an hour when the impressive Cook swung in a cross from the left and Helguson darted in front of St Ledger and headed past Lonergan.
But 12 minutes later Preston hauled themselves level with their first meaningful attack.
Skipper Paul McKenna was given far too much space in the penalty area and he picked out Sedgwick, who planted a firm header past Cerny and into the corner of the net.
The visitors should have gone ahead moments later, but Youl Mawene blasted over the crossbar from close range following a corner.
And Rangers went back into the lead 10 minutes before half-time when Agyemang brought down Martin Rowlands’ corner and Helguson prodded the loose ball over the line.
They almost had a third when Agyemang played in Cook, but the on-loan Fulham midfielder missed his kick in front of goal.
After the break, Lonergan saved well from Cook and Agyemang, while Eddie Nolan skied a good chance for Preston.
But the game exploded in controversy on the hour when Wiley adjudged Cerny to have brought down St Ledger in the area despite not a single Preston player appealing for a foul.
After the protests from the hosts had died down, Davidson stepped up to thump the ball down the centre past the diving Cerny.
Substitute Mikele Leigertwood and Hogan Ephraim fizzed shots wide as Rangers went in search of a winner.
And the breakthrough came when Rowlands swung in a free-kick which Blackstock met with a glancing header to give Lonergan no chance. Sunday Times

News of the World - QPR 3, PRESTON 2
ALAN IRVINE took an angry swipe at his defenders as Preston’s bid for a third straight win flopped.
- Irvine’s men twice battled back after falling behind to play-off rivals QPR.
- But they were sunk five minutes from time, as sub Dexter Blackstock headed the home side’s winner.
- It brought back unpleasant memories of the side’s trip to Loftus Road last season, when Preston blew a 2-0 lead with minutes remaining to draw 2-2.
Manager Irvine groaned: “We deserved something. We were the better side in the second half and I expected us to win, not come away with nothing.
- “I was disappointed with our defending for QPR’s first goal. We’d shown the lads videos to highlight their strength.
“The second goal just dropped for them but we defended too deep at the free-kick for their third and that was disappointing too.
“The final result was a bit harsh, even though QPR deserved to be ahead at half-time and I was praying for the whistle to come.”
Preston keeper Andy Lonergan had to make a stunning double save after just two minutes.
He did well to beat out a long-range blast from Heidar Helguson, then superbly denied Patrick Agyemang as the North End old boy seemed certain to force in the rebound.
But the visitors’ respite lasted just 16 minutes.
Then on-loan Fulham winger Lee Cook cleverly beat two defenders and crossed for Helguson to head powerfully beyond Lonergan.
Preston withstood more QPR pressure before equalising out of the blue on 27 minutes.
Good work down the right by Paul McKenna saw him pick out Chris Sedgwick and the winger headed his first goal of the season into the bottom corner of the net.
Six minutes later, though, the Londoners were back in front.
Preston’s defence failed to deal with a Martin Rowlands corner and on-loan Bolton striker Helguson squeezed the loose ball over the line from two yards. A short time before, French defender Youl Mawene ought to have put Preston ahead. But he blazed over following a corner.
The impressive Cook almost increased QPR’s lead when his centre skimmed the crossbar.
An Agyemang drive drew a fine Lonergan save before Preston levelled in controversial fashion just before the hour mark.
Defender Sean St Ledger went down under a clumsy challenge from keeper Radek Cerny and referee Alan Wiley awarded a penalty.
The home players protested, but to no avail, and spot-kick expert Callum Davidson duly beat Czech international Cerny with a firmly struck drive.
QPR continued to press, with sub Mikele Leigertwood and winger Hogan Ephraim going close from 25 yards.
And they got their reward in that fatal 85th minute, when Blackstock rose highest to head in a Rowlands free-kick.
Preston are kept out of the play-off places on goal difference, with QPR moving to within a point of them in ninth spot. Irvine added: “We were at the bottom of the table this time last year, so it really shows the clear progress that we have made. This is a very hard division.”
QPR boss Paulo Sousa said: “It was important for us to prepare well. Preston have been playing better football than us recently.
“But I was disappointed with the decision for their penalty.
“I believe a lot in my players. I don’t have doubts about them. They are getting better and more consistent.
“To make a big step, you need players with qualities, different players, to get more alternatives.
“It’s easier for a manager when you have more resources.
But I know what’s needed and I think we can get it.”
Rangers will once again be expected to splash out on a number of new signings during the course of the January transfer window.
But mega-rich chairman Flavio Briatore’s priority surely must be to secure the future of Cook.
Former Portugal star Sousa added: “Lee Cook has come back from an injury and is starting to get better physically, while his skill and quality is always the same — fantastic.
“We need to use players with this kind of quality to achieve success.” News of the World

- See also: Earlier Match Reports & Comments re QPR 3 Preston 2

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