QPR 1-3 Town
Saturday, 21st Feb 2009 20:10 by 0
Goals from Jon Stead, Pablo Couñago and Jon Walters saw the Blues to a 3-1 win at QPR after conceding an early goal. The well-deserved victory, Town's seventh on the road this season, puts Jim Magilton's men just two points from the play-offs with 12 games to play.
Magilton made only one change from the side which beat Nottingham Forest in midweek, David Norris coming in on the right of midfielder for the injured Danny Haynes. The Blues continued with their 4-4-2 formation, despite the home side lining up 4-5-1.
As at Swansea a fortnight ago, Town went behind in the third minute from the game's first serious attack. After a freekick, Wayne Routledge was allowed to cross from the right and Samuel Di Carmine nipped in ahead of Jon Stead to hammer the ball past Richard Wright from close in.
Despite conceding the early goal, Town quickly started to get on top and in the 13th minute Mikele Leigertwood headed an Alan Quinn corner narrowly over his own crossbar.
From the subsequent corner, the ball reached Gareth McAuley at the far post, a defender appearing to block his shot with his hand. Referee Stuart Attwell wasn't interested and play continued, the ball reaching David Norris on the edge of the area. The midfielder's shot was helped on by Pablo Couñago to Jon Stead, who slipped the ball under the advancing Lee Camp and into the net for his 10th goal of the season.
Stead was in the thick of the action again a minute later when he blocked a Camp clearance, but the ball looped over the bar and into the crowd.
Town were well in control, taking the game to the home side, who looked very jittery at the back. On 16 Norris hit a weak shot through to Camp.
The Blues should have gone further in front in the 22nd minute when Couñago headed a Civelli corner over at the near post when he really should have scored.
Town had another excellent opportunity in the 36th minute when Couñago intercepted a poor Gavin Mahon backpass and knocked the ball back to Stead with Camp out of his ground. The striker looked set to score two goals against Rangers for the second time this season, but shot narrowly wide of the post. It was a bad miss.
Half-time came with the Blues still well on top against a surprisingly direct QPR side. The Blues had created the vast majority of the game's chances, but as so often this season had failed to take enough of them.
Alan Quinn went about trying to rectify that in the opening minute of the second period, but scraped his shot wide.
The home side were enjoying more of the ball in the second half, but without creating too much of note. On the hour, the Blues brought on Jon Walters for Luciano Civelli, David Norris moving to the left to allow Walters to take up his right-sided role.
Within a minute, Town were in front. Pablo Couñago caught Gavin Mahon in possession 25 yards from the QPR goal and took the ball forward and to the left of two defenders, with Stead well placed to his left, before curling a left-foot shot beyond Camp and into the net for his ninth goal of the season.
Kevin Lisbie replaced Stead for the final 22 minutes of the game, then a minute later the Blues sealed the victory. Alan Quinn played a stunning 40-yard diagonal pass from inside his own half to Jon Walters running in from the right on the edge of the area. The ex-Chester man took the ball down exquisitely and lashed it past Camp for his seventh goal of 2008/09.
The game was all but over and the home fans were by now booing their captain Gavin Mahon with the Blues comfortable despite the home side enjoying much of the ball.
Leigertwood struck a 25-yard shot straight at Wright on 79, two minutes before Owen Garvan took over from the excellent Pablo Couñago. Ben Thatcher picked up the game's only yellow card from referee Stuart Attwell, who had a fine game, for kicking the ball away after a freekick had been awarded.
Lee Cook hit a freekick into the Town wall, then sent in a cross from the left which sub Dexter Blackstock headed straight at Richard Wright.
In injury time, Leigertwood's volley deflected off Garvan and flew over the bar, but the Blues weren't to be denied their seventh away win of the season.
After conceding the early goal, Town dominated most of the first half in a manner they've not really done too often away from home, the opening period of the recent win at Barnsley aside.
The second half display was more typical of the Blues on the road this season, built as it was on solid defending and counter-attacking football.
There were excellent displays all over the field. At the back, Gareth McAuley was absolutely outstanding, winning virtually everything sent into the box in the air or on the ground.
Richard Wright's handling was once again immaculate, in front of watching England manager Fabio Capello, although he was forced into making very few saves by a disappointing QPR side.
Quinn and Norris were tenacious throughout, while the Irishman's pass for Walters's goal was as good as anything you'll see in any game at any level.
Couñago and Stead worked hard and gave the QPR defence a difficult evening. The Spaniard fully deserved his sublime goal, although Walters's later effort probably bettered it for sheer class.
Jim Magilton's first win as a manager was a 3-1 victory in a live Sky game at QPR and this evening's three points could be every bit as important. Town stay 10th, but are now only two points from Sheffield United in sixth with an away game at Preston, who lost 3-1 at Southampton earlier today, next week and a home match against the struggling Saints the following Tuesday. Town's play-off push suddenly seems well and truly on.
Town: R Wright, D Wright, Thatcher, McAuley, Bruce, Quinn, Miller, Civelli (Walters 60), Norris, Couñago (Garvan 81), Stead (Lisbie 68). Unused: Supple, Balkestein. Att: 13,904.
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