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Saturday, December 20, 2008

QPR's Win...Preston's Loss - Reports and Managerial Comments

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QPR Win...Updated Table
- Paulo Sousa paid tribute to his entire First Team squad, as the R's made it three wins on the spin at Loftus Road with a memorable 3-2 victory against Preston North End.
Super sub Dexter Blackstock was the last gasp hero for the R's with a trademark header, but the Rangers gaffer chose to praise each and every member of his squad as opposed to one or two heroes.
"We are a squad, not a team, and every player counts for us," he told www.qpr.co.uk.
- "I am proud for all my players. They are all important for the team and today, with a lot of decisions going against us - like the two penalty decisions - they didn't let it affect them."
With Rangers being held with just over a quarter of an hour to play, Sousa gambled by switching to a 3-4-3 formation, and his bold decision was rewarded with Blackstock's winner just five minutes from time.
"It was a very important tactical change," he said.
"We needed to win the three points and we did, so of course it was a successful change.
"We had worked on changing to a 3-4-3 in training and the players responded to it."
Sousa added: "Dexter's goal was excellent. A good delivery from Martin (Rowlands) and a great, great header.
"I am very happy for him and the rest of the players - they were first class." QPR

SPORTING LIFE/By Andy Sims, PA Sport - Sousa and Irvine's Comments
- QPR boss Paulo Sousa saw a late substitution pay off after Dexter Blackstock came off the bench to secure a dramatic 3-2 win over Preston.
Sousa sent on Blackstock to form a three-pronged attack alongside Heidar Helguson and Patrick Agyemang, and was rewarded when the striker expertly nodded Martin Rowlands' free-kick home four minutes from time.
The victory was all the sweeter after Premier League referee Alan Wiley gave Preston a soft penalty to bring them back to 2-2 and then infuriated the home dug-out when he denied Blackstock a spot-kick.
"We had to take risks to get three points. It's important to be prepared and anticipate situations," said Sousa.
"And it's a better win because we had to overcome the problem with the penalties, so it will give us more power."

Helguson had earlier taken his tally to three goals in his last two games.
The on-loan Bolton forward nodded Lee Cook's cross past Andy Lonergan for the opener, and pounced from close range before the break after Chris Sedgwick had headed an equaliser.
Wiley took centre stage on the hour mark, pointing to the spot after Radek Cerny was adjudged to have brought down Sean St Ledger in the area.
Callum Davidson gratefully slammed home the penalty and Preston were looking good for a point until Blackstock tucked away his 10th goal of the season.
Rangers will once again be expected to splash out in the January transfer window, but mega-rich chairman Flavio Briatore's priority must be to secure the future of Cook.
The on-loan midfielder ran Preston ragged for much of the game, finally showing the sort of form which prompted Fulham to splash out £2.5million on him last summer.
"I believe a lot in my players. I don't have doubts about them, they are getting better and more consistent," added Sousa.

"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.
"I know what's needed and I think we can get it - but if we don't get it it's not a problem for me.
"Lee 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."

- Preston manager Alan Irvine was disappointed not to come away with at least a point.
"I think we deserved something," he said.
"In the first half QPR were the better team and I was praying for the whistle to come, but in the second half we were the better team and I thought we would go on and win." Sporting Life

PRESTON OFFICIAL SITE - Irvine: We Did Not Deserve To Lose
- Manager Alan Irvine was very disappointed not to be coming away from the capital with at least a point after he rallied his troops into an excellent second half display.
Speaking after substitute Dexter Blackstock had scored a late goal against the Lilywhites for the second year in succession, the North End boss thought his half-time team-talk had again done enough to earn the travelling army something to take back up the M6.
"In the first half Queens Park Rangers were the better team and I was desperate for the half-time whistle to blow," said Alan. "I felt as though there were things we could sort out. I believe that we did from the performance of the lads in the second half. We were certainly the best team in the second half.
- "Their first goal was something we predicted. We did our video work this morning and showed them that Cook works the ball well onto his left foot, crosses early and Helguson gets in at the far post, so it wasn't something unexpected and I believe it is something we should have defended better."
- The side got back into the game with the best piece of football in the first half, but again a set piece saw them go behind at the interval: "It was a terrific bit of play by Eddie Nolan and Paul McKenna and Chris Sedgwick got into a great position and executed the goal very well, but I was disappointed we conceded the second goal.
- "However, I didn't think it was something we couldn't come back from. We have an excellent record of coming back from behind and we have an excellent record of scoring late goals and I felt that if we could come in 2-1 down at half-time we had every chance of certainly playing better and getting chances.
- "I think everyone who was at the game would concede that we were certainly the better team in the second half. We were very much on the front foot and dominant. We got the ball wide early and caused them a great number of problems. Most of the game was played in their half."
- After the interval North End camped in the half in front of their travelling support and it was Sean St. Ledger who surprisingly found him self at the highest man in the box before being upended by Cerny in the Rangers goal, with Alan Wiley pointing to the spot.
-"It was good play," continued Irvine. "I haven't seen the penalty again yet, but my first instinct was to look at the referee and of course I was delighted when I saw him point to the spot."
- As the game started to draw to its conclusion Irvine looked like he was about to bring Billy Jones into the action before the R's and he admitted that this was a little too late: " We were all set to make change. As soon as that set piece had been defended we were ready to change it to make sure that we were able to make sure we could cope with Queens Park Rangers going for it; which is what they were doing, but unfortunately we didn't hold out long enough and that meant we needed to score a goal and there was no point making that change."
- However, they still had time to carve out one more good move, having already spurned some good opportunities - one in each half - from two unlikely sources: "Both Youl and Eddie's chances were good chance. I accept they were falling to defenders. Youl's wasn't easier; Eddie's was a lot easier than that. Simon Whaley also got into a great position after they had scored the third and unfortunately he didn't pick out one of our forwards.
- "We didn't deserve to lose. Everybody is very disappointed in there. At half-time we couldn't have complained if that had been the full-time score, but in the second half we could certainly complain." Preston

QPR Official SITE
Dexter Blackstock rose from the bench to nod home a late winner, after Rangers had twice relinquished the lead to high-flying Preston North End.
In a topsy-turvy encounter, Heidar Helguson headed home an early opener, only for Chris Sedgwick to restore parity with a header of his own.
After an Agyemang header fell kindly for the Iceland international to bundle home his and Rangers' second, Referee Alan Wiley plunged the match into controversy by awarding a contentious penalty that Callum Davidson duly thundered home.
Not to be outdone, Rangers threw everything forward in search of a winner and more than deserved to snatch victory thanks to Blackstock's headed goal.
For the visit of the high-flying Lilywhites, Manager Paulo Sousa made a single change. The more attacking Hogan Ephraim came into the side to replace Mikele Leigertwood.
Elsewhere, Agyemang faced his former side, alongside Helguson, and Kaspars Gorkss once again kept Fitz Hall from returning to the starting line-up.
Preston handed a start to striker Jon Parkin after the 'Beast's' heroics against Birmingham City. On-loan duo Eddie Nolan and Ross Wallace retained their places in defence and midfield respectively.
Not two minutes in and the R's should've taken the lead, but for a phenomenal double save from visiting keeper Andy Lonergan.
Lee Cook - operating on the tip of the diamond - strode forward towards the Preston box and rifled a well hit shot that the Lilywhite keeper parried into the path of Agyemang. With the goal gaping, the Ghanaian miss-hit his shot, but Lonergan still needed to dive at full stretch to keep it out.
Rangers kept the pressure up and were duly rewarded in the 16th minute. After winning a throw deep in the Preston half, Cook's determined run and cross met the forehead of a stooping Helguson and he sent the ball beyond Lonergan to register his first Loftus Road goal.
Unfortunately for the R's, the next real chance fell to Preston, and they capitalised in emphatic style. Patient build-up play involving Wallace led to Paul McKenna crossing for Sedgwick to nod home the leveller.
The R's hit back, and Preston's Nolan came to the rescue to clear a beautiful Hogan Ephraim cross before an onrushing Helguson could connect.
The Icelander, however, was not to be denied, and when Martin Rowlands' pin-point corner was headed goalwards by Agyemang, Helguson was on hand to scramble the ball over the line and restore Rangers' lead.
Neat, flowing, wonderful football almost created a chance for Cook, but after Agyemang had slipped through a clever pass for the on-loan Fulham man, he could only watch agonisingly as the ball slipped just too far and was cleared to safety.
Rangers were mesmerising, and Cook, Ephraim and Agyemang combined to almost tee-up Rowlands, but determined Preston defending kept the R's at bay for the time being.
And with that latest chance, referee Wiley blew a halt to proceedings.
Fortunately, Rangers, and in particular Cook, were in no mood to rest up for too long and instantly found their feet in the second period. Cook tested Lonergan with a volley from the edge of the area, seconds after the restart.
An even better chance fell for Agyemang, seconds later, as Helguson was freed down the left and clipped a pass over for his strike partner to let fly whilst airborne. His well-struck effort looked to be fizzing into the side of the net, only for the Preston keeper to dive full-length and palm it away to safety.
Preston were not lying down however, and Gavin Mahon had to be brave to dive in front of a venomous Davidson piledriver.
Preston continued to try and get back into the match and were given a massive helping hand by Wiley. As a Wallace free-kick was floated in, it found a way to Sean St Ledger via Parkin, and as the Irish defender tried to get a touch to send it goal-bound, out came Cerny to apparently push the ball away.
Wiley saw differently, however, and awarded Preston a penalty, which Davidson duly smashed down the middle to bring the Lilywhites, once again, level.
Reacting to the set-back, Sousa replaced Mahon with Leigertwood just past the hour.
And the substitute rose to the occasion, picking up the ball from Rowlands' inside pass before launching a rasping 25-yard drive that whistled wide of the left-hand upright.
Ephraim followed suit some minutes later after he was found lurking a similar distance from goal by Cook. Like Leigertwood, however, the shot went high and wide.
In a positive change, Sousa altered his formation, bringing on Hall and Blackstock and going 3-4-3.
And it almost paid dividends, as Hall played a cracking cross-field pass that found Cook on the left. He bamboozled his way past Nolan and chipped in a cross that bounced here, there and everywhere before Lonergan finally came and claimed it.
Sousa's gamble did pay off, however, as Rangers scored a third to lift the roof off Loftus Road. A foul on Cook gave Rowlands the chance to deliver a fine cross onto the head of the newly-introduced Blackstock, who rose majestically to guide home beyond the despairing dive of Lonergan.
The drama had not ended and Helguson was sniffing around for any chances to complete his hat-trick. A neat one-two with Blackstock nearly played him in, had it not been for a crucial tackle from Davidson.
A raucous noise greeted the final whistle as Rangers fans and players alike celebrated a fine win that saw the R's edge still further to the play-off places.
QPR: Cerny, Delaney (Hall 81), Stewart, Mahon (Leigertwood 62), Agyemang, Gorkss, Rowlands, Ramage (Blackstock 81), Cook, Ephraim, Helguson. Subs: Ledesma, Di Carmine. Scorers: Helguson (16), (34), Blackstock (85) Bookings: Delaney (51)
Preston North End: Lonergan, Davidson, Mawene, Sedgwick (Whaley 90), Brown, Nicholson, St Ledger, McKenna, Wallace, Parkin, Nolan. Subs: Neal, Hawley, Carter, Jones. Scorers: Sedgwick (28) Bookings: Sedgwick (45), Davidson (60)
Referee: Mr A Wiley Attendance: 14,103 QPR

Preston were denied at the death as a superb battling performance ultimately amounted to nothing as late sub Dexter Blackstock secured a second miserable finale at Loftus Road in as many seasons.
Twice pegging back their hosts with strikes from Chris Sedgwick and Callum Davidson, North End were excellent value for a point that never came as both sides went hammer and tongs at one another.
There were two changes to the side that turned out a week earlier, with a switch in midfield as the unwell Richard Chaplow saw his place taken by Barry Nicholson.
North End also lined up with two big men up front with Jon Parkin given his first start in six weeks due to Stephen Elliott's unavailability, with QPR doing likewise as Heidar Helguson partnered ex-North Ender Patrick Agyemang.

The rangy forward, who left Deepdale for London in January, should have put his side in front inside the opening 90 seconds, but Andy Lonergan performed heroics to deny him.

His block from Lee Cook's initial long-range snapshot couldn't have fallen any worse than straight at the feet of his onrushing former team-mate, but with Agyemang looking odds-on to convert the rebound, unmarked, from ten yards, Lonergan reacted expertly to smother at his near post and enthuse the 600 or so PNE supporters behind him in the School End Upper Tier.

The big target man approach did, however, appear to be the way to go, as the game's next clear goalscoring chance - after a decent spell of North End pressure - was converted by Helguson.

Lee Cook was the provider with the left flank, supplying the ideal ball for a tall striker as it landed at head height on the edge of the six yard box, and a firm, downward connection gave Lonergan no chance from point blank range.

It's fair to say that Preston found it difficult to play their usual expansive game against a tall, rangy side on a small playing surface, with the game physical rather than pretty.

Chances were at a premium but there was no let up in the entertainment value in a real blood and thunder battle.

Eddie Nolan continued to grow his fledgling reputation by standing up to the threat posed on him by the 'bigger boys', dealing manfully with the more robust elements of the game, and also producing the quality where needed.

It was his cross that got PNE back on an even keel, whipping the ball in from his right flank with his wrong foot after Ross Wallace had twisted and turned the defence inside out, laying the ball back for the Irishman as he lost his footing on an inconsistent surface.

Nolan's delivery was precise, Chris Sedgwick's header was even better, stooping low to get to the ball before his marker and place the ball perfectly inside the far post as he attacked it from the opposite wing.

The leveller was no more than Preston deserved, and having equalised two minutes earlier, they were nearly ahead on the half hour, but Youl Mawene's volley cleared the bar by an agonisingly small margin after Parkin had flicked on Barry Nicholson's corner.

On such margins do tight games turn, though, and a mere three minutes had elapsed since Youl's near miss than he was helping to pick the ball out of the North End net.

Patrick Agyemang couldn't quite profit from a left wing corner as his attempted header appeared to be missing the target, but he had inadvertantly re-routed the ball perfectly into the path of Helguson, who was lurking in the ideal place to stab the ball home, a mere three yards away from the line.

The ding-dong battle continued with Preston pummelling the home goal for a quick leveller, but having failed to turn pressure into goals, the last five minutes belonged to the hosts, and with Cook a constant thorn in Preston's side and Agyemang more than just a sidekick, it took some dogged defending from the likes of Davidson and St. Ledger to keep the half-time defecit to one, which in itself seemed harsh on the visitors.

Fortune was required if North End were to get back into the game as they deserved, and once Lonergan had denied Agyemang's stunning volley within the first few minutes of the half, it started to go North End's way.

A number of Alan Wiley's refereeing decisons riled the home fans either side of some well worked chances that neither Nolan nor Davidson could convert as they charged forward from full back, but the fluent football inspired largely by the wing play of Sedgwick and Wallace, allied with some strong forward play from Parkin, eventually got its reward.

Jon Parkin, putting in a tireless shift, worked wonders to win the ball back on the edge of the box as a PNE set piece was half cleared, and having slipped a neat ball through to St. Ledger, the defender was stopped in his tracks by keeper Radek Cerny as he dived at his feet.

Though Cerny got a good connection on the ball, St. Ledger was sent flying by the force of the challenge, and Wiley deemed that to be the telling factor in Cerny claiming possession, thereby awarding a penalty to the away side in front of their own supporters.
They were sent into delerium as Callum Davidson crashed the ball hard and low into the netting, and it set up a grandstand finish with the home crowd now throughly frustrated by a combination of the referee and what they saw as the inability of their own team to play the right balls at the right time.
Breathless football at both ends had the heart-stopping on numerous occasions, with QPR firing a warning shot as Hogan Ephraim's 25-yard sizzler only inches away from finding the top corner.
Paulo Sousa's tactical masterstroke ultimately proved decisive, sending on Dexter Blackstock as part of a double change to break North End's hearts.
He had already played a number of telling balls into the box and gone over under Mawene's challenge which was rightfully brushed aside by the referee when he came to condemn North End to defeat.
Martin Rowlands whipped a neat free kick in from the left flank with just four minutes to play, and Blackstock lept higher than anyone else to meet the ball powerfully with his head, and the previously rattled home fans were suddenly in delerium.
It was unfair on a Preston side that had given it their all, but were left with nothing to show for it as Rangers played the game out to a professional finish, winding down time and eventually giving the beating hearts some time to regain a normal beat. Preston

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