Not One For The Football Purists.....
Last night the R's played host to a Brighton side that have had an indifferent start to the season. The visitors were missing their top scorer Ulloa so this provided Rangers' with the opportunity to seize the opportunity to open up a three point gap at the top of the Championship.
With this being a mid week game Jenson and myself worked in and around London in our respected jobs, with Jenson making an early arrival at 3.30pm and I was at the ground for around 5.30, a tad keen you may say!! Lofty was next to arrive shortly after myself and the three of us congregated just outside the Upper Loft entrance and had a good chinwag before making our way in the ground for a few refreshments.
It wasn't long before the three of us were joined by Michael, Zach and Pete (as well as some of Lofty's friends with names I failed to catch). As always we put the football world to rights, discussing the latest talking points including the 'Y' word etc. We then got onto the subject of the team selection and agreed that the team selected and formation was probably the best available, especially with the number of midfielders we possess within our squad.
We then discussed Bobby Zamora's exclusion from the match day squad (later to find out he's out until xams due to needing knee surgery). Pete was personally gutted as Zamora has been pushing for an inclusion into the Commonwealth Para Olympic squad....... personally I think he would be more of a hinderance to them and they are fully equipped with all they need to go and make a solid account at the Games, but it just goes to show how the level of his performance is being judged by others rather than me ranting on about him.....
Three changes were made to the side that beat Birmingham at the weekend.
Junior Hoilett and Zamora missed out through injury, whilst Tom Carroll dropped to the bench. SWP, Matty Phillips and Karl Henry took their places.
The game was an even encounter throughout the first half, with the R's making the better chances but there was a game of chess being played in the midfield and both teams found it extremely difficult to break one another down.
Matty Phillips and Charlie Austin had good chances in the opening exchanges with their efforts going wide and straight into the arms of Kuszczak respectively.
Keith Andrews had the first opportunity for Brighton as his 20 yard sweetly struck drive fizzed just over.
The R's then had Nedum Onuoha pull up after a chase with Ashley Barnes and had to be taken off with what looked like a hamstring injury. He was replaced by Benoit Assou-Ekotto, meaning that Clint Hill reverted back to a more familiar centre back role alongside Richard Dunne, with BAE moving into the left back position.
BAE made an immediate impact and was showing no signs of fatigue after his late night session on GTA 5 as his cross was superbly dummied by the hard working SWP and Charlie Austin turned before dragging his shot wide of the target.
The R's did find the back of the net when Matty Phillips excellent run and cross from an acute angle in the Brighton box evaded everyone and Joey Barton tapped home only to see the linesmans flag rise to signal offside.
Barton was then controversially penalised for two separate offenses within two minutes and on both occasions winning the ball hard but fair. The second foul ocured behind the referees back yet he reacted to the Brighton player being on the floor and wrongly booked Barton! This lead to a furious appeal by Barton and he was very lucky not to talk himself into a second booking!
The referee's performance was opitomised as he failed to spot Danny Simpson going over the top of the ball and crunching the ankle of a Brighton player. A free kick was rightly awarded despite the foul happening behind the officials back and somehow he got away without picking up a caution.
The first half was not one for the neutral and this was largely down to the midfield being battled out there and Brighton's ability to keep the ball without really offering too much attacking threat. Ashley Barnes was working hard for his team but was not receiving the supply or support of his midfield to really make a difference in the attacking third and often found Richard Dunne on hand to pick up the pieces and clear up in the R's defence.
The same can be said for Charlie Austin as he worked his socks off and often found himself coming deep to try the ball up but the midifeld were not running into the huge gaps in behind the Brighton full backs that we could probe and create more clear cut chances from.
Brighton started the second half the better of the two teams but yet again were found wanting more in the final third and did not create too much threat to Rob Green's goal.
As the half grew the R's started to become more lively and started to create a little more in the attacking half.
Rangers' first real attempt on goal came from a Joey Barton free kick that was destined for the top corner but Kuszczak pulled off a fantastic save and tipped the ball around the post to leave the R's midfielder even more frustrated.
Mid way through the half it again looked like the R's scored when Matty Phillips managed to get his foot on the end of a bobbling ball in the area following a Barton corner. Phillips effort struck the underside of the bar and looked like it crossed the line from our angle, however the referee and his assistant failed to give the goal and the score remained 0-0.
As the minutes ticked down Richard Dunne had a great opportunity from 8 yards out but his header from a Barton corner flew well over the bar.
Overall 0-0 is a fair result as both teams didn't really look like scoring. I'm surprised that the R's didn't gamble more at the end to try and pinch the three points but it looked like they were scared of being caught out on the Brighton counter attack that could've been an issue with the lack of pace that our two centre backs possess.
Brighton are a good technical team and do keep possession well and once they get Ulloa back and potentially strengthen their attacking options then you can definitely pushing for at least the play-offs come the end of the year.
As for the R's, we really need to give more support to Austin in the attacking third as he is working hard to hold the ball up but just isn't getting the midfielders to play off him and go behind him in the space being created by him coming in deep and leaving space in behind the opposition back four. With Johnson and Zamora now both being injured for a number of weeks we really need to bring in someone that will provide this support and get Austin on the scoresheet as he's doing everything right, he's just not getting the supply in the box where he has proven to be deadly.
It wouldn't surprise me if Harry Kane is the next arrival from Spurs before the Yeovil game at the weekend.
Onto our Man of the Match.
Once again we have found the gang split on the voting but we do just about have a winner. Luke opted for BAE who showed some good signs on his debut. Jess voted for Barton, I voted for Austin's hard working performance as Sam voted for Phillips. Trevor supplied a guest vote of SWP and an excellent display, especially with his hard work in the defensive areas. However, with votes from Lofty and Jenson, Richard Dunne is our Man of the Match for a solid performance at the heart of the R's back four.
Lofty returns on Saturday as we hit the road for the first time in a month and take the 'long ol poke' to Yeovil. How will the Somerset pies rate when we do the taste test? Stay tuned!
Adios for now!