Handy Andy Seals The Points
The long awaited return of the football season finally arrived today and spirits were high on the back of the fantstic signing of Charlie Austin on Thursday. The visitors to Loftus Road today were Sheffield Wednesday, a Dave Jones side looking to improve on last seasons long struggle to survive.
Jess and myself set off to Loftus Road at 11.30am from South London hoping for a quick journey around the M25 before a swift Westfield shopping trip before meeting the gang, however due to the usual unreliability of that sodding motorway we crawled around and parked up around the corner from the ground at 1.30.
Jess took to the shopping trip by herself as I went to meet Lofty and Jenson just outside the Loft entrance.
As we caught up after the summer apart the team news arrived as Jenson broke it to us seconds before Sam text the team to myself.
Unfortunately Sam missed the game due to looking after her two sons as she had no baby sitter and PK missed the game due to his Mum being poorly. Both will return for the trip to Huddersfield next week.
Joey Barton was a shock starter in the eleven as he teamed up with his good friend Karl Henry in midfield. Alejandro Faurlin was also a surprising yet pleasing selection, with the rest of the team picking itself on the back of the pre-season games. New signing Charlie Austin unsurprisingly started from the bench, however we all knew he would play some part, it was just a question of how much.
The R's started the opening ten minutes brightly, looking very dangerous when going forward and when Junior Hoilett hit his shot wide after four minutes you could sense that it could only be a matter of time before the opener would come.
Depsite all the pressure and excellent patient passing, it was Sheffield Wednesday that took the lead with their first shot on target. Nuhiu turned his way clear of Faurlin, Traore and Hill before managing to slip his shot into the bottom corner and past the despairing hand of Rob Green.
Some really poor defending that was reminiscent of what we saw last year. There were a few groans in the stands, however the majority of the packed out Loftus Road crowd got right behind the R's as they searched for an equalizer. The Sheffield Wednesday fans themselves were creating an excellent atmosphere and after Nuhiu scored a flare was lit and made it's way on to the pitch to disrupt proceedings slightly.
Shortly after the goal the visitors had a decent claim for a penalty as Traore pulled back Antonio in the box, if the winger had hit the ground on the first tug then it would have been a definite penalty but he waited for the second and lighter touch and hit the floor far too easily and probably cost his side the chance of scoring a second goal.
After battling away for twenty minutes Rangers' got themselves back on level terms through an unlikely source, albeit from a stroke of good fortune.
Junior Hoilett turned an created enough space on the edge of the Wednesday penalty area in order to get a shot in, however with his shot going comfortably wide Nedum Onuoha stuck his foot out to turn the ball into the back of the net and get the game back on level terms. This was Onuoha's first goal since November 2010 against a much hated Chelsea side.
Two minutes later and the joy turned to elation!
Hoilett's excellent cross field ball picked out the on-rushing Joey Barton but his header was saved and parried by Chris Kirkland and Andy Johnson wrapped his foot around the ball to delightfully volley home from 12 yards out.
At half time you can say that on the balance of play we deserved to be in front and created a lot of problems for Wednesday when we were attacking. A certain Joey Barton was a class above the rest and his bravery to win the header that led to the second goal just shows how he is willing to do anything to win when he is on a football field.
Just a minute into the second half and Wednesday had an excellent opportunity after a sloppy pass in midfield allowed Jermaine Johnson to wriggle free of Traore, who was having a shocker, and Antonio was free in the six yard box and could only fire wide when it seemed easier to score.
Rangers' spark had fizzled out slightly as the visitors stifled the attacking threat of Johnson and Hoilett, both of whom were impressive during the opening 65minutes. Zamora was proving to be as useful as a chocolate tea pot.
His final contribution was finally winning his first header of the game after 68 minutes, which was ironically cheered by the home fans before some sarcastic applause as he was replaced by our new shining light in attack, Mr Charlie Austin.
Within five seconds Austin won his first header of the game and created more issues for the visiting defenders than Zamora did in the entire 68minutes on the field of play.
Sheffield Wednesday came so close to levellig up with 15 minutes to go as Maghoma sent an excellent shot flying past Rob Green and hitting the post before coming out and being cleared by Traore.
Wednesday then had another penalty appeal turned away, this time Jermaine Johnson theatrically tumbled over Joey Barton's outstretched leg and at the time the yellow card that was brandished for diving looked very fair. However the replays we have seen tonight show contact and maybe the visitors can feel very hard done by on this occasion.
With five minutes to go Austin was given a great opportunity to open his R's account as he met a superb cross from the right but slightly got under the ball and his header was flighted over the bar.
Overall you could see the gulf in class between our team and Sheffield Wednesday. We looked to be a lot more superior when going forward and created a lot of problems for them, however our defensive frailties could have haunted us on more than one occasion today and the mistakes made would have been punished in the Premier League but the few occasions that arose today we got away with it.
Chris Kirkland had a great game today and saved the visitors on a number of occasions and made some brilliant saves against Hoilett and Johnson respectively.
On to our first Man of the Match of the season.
With one vote from Jointy is the impressive Joey Barton, who was superb in all areas today. One vote was awarded to Junior Hoilett by Jess, Hoilett was very troublesome throughout the game and looked a lot more like the player we bought off Blackburn last summer. The remaining four votes were awarded to Alejandro Faurlin by Lofty, Jenson, Luke and myself. Faurlin got better as the game went on and produced a great battling performance in the centre of the field.
Special mentions have to go to Andy Johnson, who was impressive in leading the line and had he been a little more selfish in the first half we could've walked away with another goal or two. The second mention goes to Nedum Onuoha who was excellent in defence today, battled well against the tricky Nuhia and took his goal well, albeit quite fortuitous.
Lofty will return with his always entertaining report after taking the trip to Exeter with Jenson on Tuesday night.
Let's hope we can win a cup game!!!!