Helguson Drives Stoke Potty.
Today the R's got back on the road after the International break and faced a tricky trip to Stoke. Stoke were coming back after a heavy 5-0 defeat at Bolton last time around, whereas Rangers' were returning after a fantastic couple of performances against Chelsea, Spurs and Man City. A fantastic game was in prospect and the Lofty Heights gang took to the road in full force.
Jenson, along with Lofty and Smithy took to the road at roughly the same time as Jess, PK, Luke and myself as we headed north to the Potteries.
Just 35 minutes into the journey up the M40, Jenson's unmistakable Black car was whizzing up behind my car at about 130mph, I took evasive action and promptly got out of his way before taking my place in the following car as Jenson lead the way on what was a smooth journey for the remainder of the M40, M42 and M6 before arriving at the Britannia Stadium just before 2pm.
On the short walk to the ground we all checked on the progress on Lofty's Movember 'handlebar'tache, its all for a good cause and he has raised over £500 for charity, great work by Lofty!
After a quick burger outside the ground we made our way in and picked up a few more refreshments, it was a rare occasion that no-one from the gang enjoyed a light alcoholic refreshment. A few cheeky bets were placed as we all shared views with Michael and Debbie before Iceman made his entrance in the Britannia and enlightened us with his usual light humour. Richard and Sophie were the last of the gang to arrive before we all took our seats ahead of kick off.
When we received the team news there were a few shocks that arose, both of which were unexpected.
Jay Bothroyd missed out through injury, Clint Hill was his replacement. Due to this change Armand Traore took his place at left wing and Shaun Wright-Phillips supported Heidar Helguson up front.
Also, in the warm up the R's were rocked as Brian Murphy picked up an ankle injury and was stretched off the field, leaving the R's with no substitute goalkeeper for this fixture.
As the game started the Britannia erupted into their usual rendition of 'Delilah'. I must say it was very impressive and the atmosphere on the back of this made for what could've been an intimidating day in Stoke.
After eight minutes the R's found themselves a goal behind after a nervy start to the game.
Joey Barton was dispossessed in midfield by former R's striker Peter Crouch. Crouch then played a perfect through ball to Jonathan Walters and the former Ipswich striker placed his shot beautifully into the opposite bottom corner, with Paddy Kenny having no chance of reaching the shot.
Walters run off to the far corner to celebrate with the Stoke fans with his rather impressive Movemeber 'handlebar' tache that he has grown.
Stoke were having the better of the exchanges but the R's were slowly beginning to get a hold of the game and on the 22nd minute the balance of power evened out.
Armand Traore put in a perfectly flighted ball into the penalty area and the giant 5ft 10 Heidar Helguson expertly rose and put a bullet header into the top corner of the net! You wont see a better header for quite some time!
This settled Rangers' and the smart pass and move flowing football that we are becoming used to under Neil Warnock.
the R's kept pushing and probing Stoke's defence and got their just rewards a minute before the break.
Mackie and Wright-Phillips played a great one-two with each other which let Mackie free and he drove into the Stoke penalty area with a seemingly great opportunity to shoot and force a save out of Sorensen in the Stoke goal, instead Mackie unselfishly cut the ball back to the advancing Luke Young and his shot hit the roof of the net!
Cue the mad celebration from all the R's fans, especially Jess! Jess placed an each way bet on Young to score first at 50/1, hence why she was ecstatic to see her favourite player, marginally behind Paddy Kenny, score his first goal for the R's.
Rangers' entered the half time interval worthy of their 2-1 lead and the 1,300 travelling support went into the break extremely with how the half went and looking forward to a second half of a similar kind of outcome.
Just before we returned to our seats we had a quick catch up with Jo(who had missed the R's second goal) and Matt and then got to our seats two minutes into the half.
Rangers' started the half just as they finished the first and within nine minutes of the restart a third goal arrived.
Barton's corner was cleared but only as far as the R's captain and Barton's left wing cross was gratefully received by Helguson, who in turn poked home his second goal of the game.
Four minutes later Helguson thought he had grabbed a hat-trick. Young's shot was blocked and fell into the path of Wright-Phillips and his shot hit the post before Helguson tapped home the rebound. Unfortunately for the Iceland International he was adjudged to be offside.
By now the Stoke fans were extremely riled by a refereeing performance that in all fairness was very poor but this was clearly affecting the team, Tony Pulis was moaning about everything including time wasting, despite at one point his own player taking an extended amount of time over a free kick.
Stoke grabbed a second goal on 64 minutes.
Etherington's corner was met by Crouch and Shawcross was on hand to apply the finishing touch from a yard out.
From that moment on Stoke huffed and puffed, moaned and groaned but just could not break the R's defence despite creating some good chances in what was a nail biting final ten minutes.
The final result was well deserved as the R's controlled two thirds of the match, with Stoke enjoying a good 20 minute spell at the start and the end of this fixture.
The concentration and quality of the R's play was a joy to watch at times and you can really see this team gelling and maturing with every game. Paddy Kenny only had one save to make all game and the only other contributions from Kenny were clearances and picking the ball out of the net twice.
Helguson was immense up front, with Traore unplayable down the left wing and causing all sorts of trouble for the Stoke defence. Mackie's work rate was also second to none and it will only be a matter of time before he returns to the scoresheet for the R's.
We make our way onto Man of the Match now. We have several nominations for this one today. Jess has put forward Luke Young for a great display and goal before being off due to injury. Mackie and Barton were superb, they worked and battled throughout the whole ninety minutes.
Heidar Helguson was superb once again and was deserving of his two goals, the header was an absolute peach!
However our Man of the Match today is a unanimous decision in the camp with Alejandro Faurlin claiming the title with an fantastic controlling performance in the R's midfield. Faurlin has really matured and is enjoying life in the Premier League and is controlling the R's midfield in a Xavi like way, Faurlin rarely gives the ball away and is always at the heart out most of the R's play. What a brilliant player!
After queuing for about half an hour to get out of the car park, we finally got on the road and had a really easy drive home. Both cars arrived home safely at their destinations at 7.45 this evening.
Bring on the next trip to Norwich next Saturday!!