Sun-shine R's Back from the Toilett....
After an absolutely shocking week in terms of results for the R's with a tonking being handed by Spurs last Sunday and Burton supplying the customary early League Cup exit on Wednesday evening, it's fair to say we were not entirely looking forward to Saturday afternoon as Sunderland. Things could not get much worse could they???
An easy train journey for Jess, her brother James and I led to us arriving outside HQ just over an hour before kick off as we met Sam and Luke, who were in W12 extremely early, chatting away to Zach on the wall before Lofty and Jenson rocked up with their personalised 'Bestie' and 'Bro' cans of Diet Coke, the bromance they shared in Burton was continuing well into the weekend....
Inside the ground we were finally joined by PK, who was making his first appearance of the season.
With the news of Loic Remy finalising a move to Chelsea and bids for Danny Simpson courtesy of Leicester for £2 million and Armand Traore from Palace for £2.5 million also being accepted it was down to those players whether they wanted to move or stay at the club and fight for their places. Not so ironically Simpson was not in the match day squad yet Traore was. Hopefully the Senegalese left back will opt to stay at the club, especially as it's just weeks after he signed a new two year deal with the club.
Unsurprisingly there was a formation change for today's game with a 4-3-3 being in place -
It wasn't a surprise that the R's started the game quite tentatively and several early misplaced passes did not help the nerves as Sunderland looked to probe early and in the opening minute former Chelsea defender Van Aarnholt saw his effort brush the side netting, an early escape for the R's!!
Ten minutes later and Sunderland's patient play saw Johnson slide Fletcher through on goal however Green was more than up to the task as he safely palmed the Scottish International's effort aside for Clint Hill to mop up and clear the danger.
In the 18th minute the home crowd rose to give a minutes applause for the unfortunate Ali Faurlin who ruptured his ACL for the third time, albeit a different knee, almost definitely ruling him out for the rest of the season.
The R's slowly began to grow into the game as the midfield three of Barton and Mutch in the holding roles with Fer playing just behind Austin in the supporting role, started to pass in triangles before including the wide man and utilising the pace of Phillips and Hoilett, who were providing some superb service for Austin and the late runners in the danger areas. We were also seeing Isla looking to provide overlapping runs past Phillips as he definitely looks like the box to box full back that we will need this season.
On the half hour mark Leroy Fer unleashed a phenomenal 30 yard effort that left Mannone helpless as he saw the ball fly past him, only to see it smash against the bar and then scrambled to safety. Definitely one of the first highlights we will see on Match of the Day tonight!
This gave Rangers' the confidence to start playing the kind of passing football that we were used to in the early part of last season and picked apart teams by creating plenty of chances for Austin to feed on.
Hoilett had a volley smothered by Mannone before the Sunderland 'keeper had to be on his toes to deny Austin shortly after.
As we drifted into added time of the first half it looked like we could be left to rue the opportunities that were spurned, however the final Barton corner of the half was headed back into the danger area by Fer and there was Austin to put his foot through the ball and smash it into the roof of the net for the R's first goal on their Premier League return and Austin's first goal in the top flight, the first of many more I'm sure.
The mood at half time was a very positive one, a complete transformation compared to the gloom that surrounded us before the game. The change back to a more familiar formation that is tried, testing and suits the players we have in the squad definitely gave the team the lift that was so badly needed after last weeks demolition job at White Hart Lane.
Sunderland started the second half the better of the two sides and Rob Green had to be at his best to first deny Rodwell before then saving from Vergini at full stretch.
Rangers' were content to hold the ball in midfield and the majority of the threat was coming from our left side with Hoilett the one that was providing the threat but was often found lacking that final finish.
Zamora entered the fray just after the hour mark as Austin's work for the day was done after only training twice at the end of the week following the hamstring strain that was picked up in training before the Spurs game.
Zamora's introduction saw the R's play deeper and contain from the midfield whilst leaving Zamora on his own to try and hold the ball up and allow Phillips and Hoilett to join up as we looked to hit Sunderland on the counter attack.
This plan was executed perfectly up until the 85th minute and that's were the nerves really started to kick in!! Traore replaced Hoilett for the final five minutes to shore up the defence, however moments after coming on he really should have sealed the victory. Zamora played in Traore, who made a superb run in between two Sunderland defenders to leave himself one on one with Mannone on his unfavoured right foot and dragged the shot wide when he really should of scored.
The final moments saw the R's defend deeper and deeper, creating even more tension for R's fans!
Then the heart in the mouth moment came as Giacharrani let fly with his effort looking to be heading for the back of the net but Green was more than equal to it, beating the ball away to safety to ensure that three points were on the board and the doom and gloomers were not to be out in force tonight.
All in all we deserved the three point against a decent Sunderland team that will be safe in mid table come the end of the season. If Sunderland can sign themselves a decent striker by the end of the transfer window then they will definitely fare a lot better than they did for the majority of last season.
We can be extremely happy with the performance today which was a huge improvement on the Spurs game last week. Our home form is going to be the key to survival this season and with two very good performances against Hull and Sunderland, two very good teams in this division, it can only put us in good stead for the rest of the season.
Onto our Man of the Match. The gang were split three ways today with Lofty, Sam and PK going for Hoilett. Jenson, Luke and Zach voted for Fer as Jess, James and I voted for Phillips. With it being a tie this one goes down to Editors choice.... with my final decision being to give the award to Junior Hoilett.
With the transfer deadline being on Monday we will look to be as up to date as we possibly can before enjoying the International break ahead of the visit to Old Trafford in two weeks time.
In the meantime, Keep The Faith!!!