Bottom of the Pile

There was yet more misery for Leyton Orient and their fans last night with them falling to their lowest league position in just over 17 ½ years. I make it Orient last sat bottom of the football league in November 1999 after a 3-1 defeat to Darlington but last night after Newport’s win, the O’s slumped to 92nd position in the Football League.

It was Orient last away game before their winding up order is heard in court on Monday but what remains is a club on its last legs. A team made up of kids and some experienced players crumbled to a Stanley side in similar fashion to the rest of the season. A goal just before half time and one just after the break – both from set pieces ended Orient’s hope of gaining points – a story of the season.

Sean McConville curled in a brilliant third before the winger spotted Charlie Grainger off his line, the ball cannoned off the bar onto Grainger’s head and in. Matty Pearson slotted home his second in added time to send Orient to their 23rd defeat of another horrendous season.

Danny Webb looked absolutely distraught when he got on the team bus post match, “his lowest night in football”. It’s hard to see past anything but relegation out of the football league, a team which has been on a continued downward spiral since August 2014. A squad full of kids who are having their careers in the game severely dented.

These kids should be playing conference football gaining first team football and a experience of playing against men. And before you say it “they probably will be next year”, experience is key at this level but so is the leadership on the pitch which has been lacking for much of the season.

The banner in the away end summed up Orient “Orient. 1881 Our Club” that is what needs to be brought back to the club that so many love. It is gut wretching being in the away end seeing 17,18,19 year olds hung out to dry against seasoned pros. These youngsters have potential but like Barri Twinn said last night “you can never win anything with kids and you can never survive a relegation battle with kids”.

Orient in fact started fairly brightly with the returning Gavin Massey screwing a shot wide before a huge penalty appeal. Massey who drifted into the left channel, knocked the ball past Harvey Rogers who had no intention of playing the ball bringing down Massey. Referee Graham Salisbury waved away protests and that was that.

Stanley were full of confidence using the flanks very well with the full backs continuing offering support to their winger creating overloads. Myles Judd and Callum Kennedy were being left terribly exposed with Accrington creating chances but nothing on target. That was until the stroke of half time when Billy Kee headed home from a set piece to put them ahead.

Set pieces had caused Orient problems all game (where have we heard that before) with Grainger reluctant to come for crosses. Half time came and went but Orient conceded just five minutes after the restart when Matty Pearson headed home from a set piece. Just put this out there Orient have conceded so many goals just after half time under four managers – surely the players have to take responsibility for this. You are taught that the first five minutes of both half are very important from a young age.

After going two down, the floodgates were open for goals to fly in with Sean McConville curling in a wonderful third before his effort from just inside Orient’s half unfortunately going in off Grainger. Stanley added a fifth in stoppage time when Judd was left horrendously exposed on a 2 on 1, Pearson slotted under Grainger to inflict more pain on Orient.

Where now for Orient? Well next Monday is one of if not the most important days for Leyton Orient football club – the result of the winding up order in the high court.

It is clear that the problems and the situation that the club is in is nothing to do with the youngsters or Danny Webb and his management team. But they are the ones that have been put into the caldron to try and save Orient’s football league status. Everyone knows who is the problem but that is out of our hands.

With nine game remaining and seven points from safety, Orient will need a miracle to fight their way out of the predicament they find themselves in. League Leaders Doncaster Rovers travel to Brisbane Road on Saturday, where Orient have lost 14 of their 19 league matches. Defending in the second half last night, the score line could be much worse.

198 travelling fans were at the Wham Stadium last night. Why? Orient is our club and we want that back, a time to see your mates and enjoy football… well I mean try and enjoy football if you look at the last three seasons. As I travel on the five hour train journey home, the fans will always be there wherever the club may be. All I know is Saturday needs to bring a massive atmosphere to Brisbane Road as Adam Meagher stated on twitter

“Have to treat Saturday like our last ever game, get Brisbane Road rocking, savour every minute, regardless of performance/score”.

 The fan base is united but the realisation that in a little over 5 days, Leyton Orient could no longer be. Orient is in the blood for so many and will continue to be for years to come…. Orient till I die…..

 

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Forever an O

A hat trick from Orient youngster Josh Koroma and a goal from Steven Alzate saw Leyton Orient travel home from Wales with all three points. In a week where the HMRC set a date for the club to be wound up after an unpaid tax bill, the O’s squad let the football do the talking.

A starting 11 which included seven academy products raced into a 2-0 lead with Alzate tapping in at the back post on his first team debut while Josh Koroma slotted home minutes later. With the troublesome pitch Newport grew slightly in proceedings but on the stroke of half time Sam Dalby slid in Koroma for his second.

With Newport looking for a route back into the game, Orient held firm into the second half and after wonderful work from Alzate saw the youngster win a penalty. Koroma stepped up and slotted home from the spot to become the youngest O’s player to score a hat trick in 132 years.

A troubling week of off field problems came to an end with a team showing heart, bottle and desire. A manager who wants to be in charge of the club, and the fan base which is united on the fight to keep Leyton Orient in business.

A side which had been decimated through injuries, suspensions and we all know what else. The youngsters have been the bright sparks in a troubling season with Alzate slotting home at the back post in the opening ten minutes. Orient had experience bodies which were helping the young lads through it.

In Josh Koroma, Orient had an outlet and a man who was a threat. The youngster created the first for Alzate before slotting home for number two after a fantastic through ball from strike partner Sam Dalby. The wind and horrendous playing conditions were providing a tricky obstacle but Newport failed to create too much in attacking areas.

Newport tried to rally but Grainger was only forced into a save from Marlon Jackson. 395 travelling fans made the journey to Wales hoping that the players, management and fans can continue to pull together despite problems out of their control. The players obliged with a third in first half stoppage time after a break from Dalby who squared unselfishly to Koroma who tapped home.

Orient were out early in the second half looking to adjust to the conditions once more with Newport undoubtedly getting a rocket from manager Graham Westley. Koroma should have won a penalty for the O’s after breaking through the Newport defence but referee Gavin Ward booked Koroma for simulation.

However, Orient were not to be denied a fourth goal and what a moment for Josh Koroma who grabbed his hat trick which sealed a wonderful win for the East Londerers.

The full reality of the situation that Orient are in finally hit home on Thursday night with the discussion of administration and liquation but at a time like this, Orient will always make you smile.

A club which has been with my family since the mid 60’s with my Dad starting following the O’s as a teen. 50 years down the line, I am in my 16th season supporting the O’s and would not like to think of a situation where there is no Orient on a Saturday. A situation which is similar to nearly every Orient fan, a family traditional where father’s take their sons, granddad’s take their grand children.

The football community has finally woken up to the state of unrest at Brisbane Road but just look around on Twitter or Facebook to what the club means to so many people. I for one know that Orient will always be in Bristow household, no matter what. Because Once an O, always an O…..

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Stead’s Double Leaves O’s Three from Safety

Kevin Nolan’s return to Brisbane Road saw his Notts County side grab a precious three points in their search for survival. Nolan returned after being sacked by Leyton Orient last April and inflicted defeat on his former side as the O’s sit three points from safety. Jorge Grant and John Stead put County ahead before Orient pulled level through Paul McCallum and Teddy Mezague. However Nolan’s County were to have the last laugh when Stead clinched the three points  with six minutes remaining.

Fresh from their 3-2 win away at Plymouth on Tuesday, manager Danny Webb was forced into three changes. Both Nicky Hunt and Liam Kelly were suspended while Sam Dalby dropped to the bench. Teddy Mezague slotted in at the back while Nigel Atangana came in to the midfield and Paul McCallum started in attack.

Notts County  fought back to force a draw in injury time on Tuesday against Exeter made three changes. Thierry Audel dropped out through injury while Alan Smith and Curtis Thompson were named on the bench. Josh Clackstone, Shola Ameobi and Jorge Grant all came in to the starting 11.

Orient looked to start brightly, clearly gaining confidence from their win on Tuesday night. However they were dealt an injury blow when defender Tom Parkes was stretchered off after a clash with Shola Ameobi. Sam Dalby replaced Parkes as Orient had to reshuffle their back line, Callum Kennedy moved to center half while Sandro Semedo dropped to left back, Gavin Massey moved to left midfield with Sam Dalby partnering Paul McCallum in attack.

The first chance of the game came on 17 minutes from Orient’s in form striker Gavin Massey. After a quick throw out from Sam Sargeant, Massey flicked around his defender and ran at the County back line. Massey reached the byline crossing for Dalby and McCallum but a brilliant combination of blocks from Richard Duffy and Marc Bola kept the ball out.

County started to gain a foothold on proceedings with Orient struggling to get forward. Mark Yeates saw a free kick blocked before Nigel Atangana volleyed a Sandro Semedo cross wide for the hosts. Nolan’s men took the lead ten minutes before the break through route one play. A long kick by Adam Collin was poorly dealt with by Mezague and Kennedy, Jorge Grant pounced, nipping in ahead of Sam Sargeant and slotted the away side ahead.

Despite falling behind, Danny Webb’s Orient had recovered well in recent matches and neat play between Massey and Semedo saw the latter fire over the bar. As the half came to an end, the home side were pressing for an equaliser forcing a succession of corners with Richard Duffy nearly putting through his own net but  County held their lead at the interval.

With neither side making changes at the break, it was Nolan’s men who came out the traps the quickest, doubling their lead three minutes into the second half. Shola Ameobi held the ball up, laying off to Mark Yeates who looped a through ball to John Stead. Stead was quicker to the ball than Sargeant and poked the ball towards the goal, his shot clipped the bar, bouncing over the line to send County 2-0 up.

The home side needed an instant response and that is exactly what they got. Gavin Massey found Myles Judd on the right hand side, the youngster’s cross was headed towards goal by Nigel Atangana. The midfielder’s header clipped the bar but captain on the day, Paul McCallum was on hand to halve the deficit.

With Orient right back in the contest, they searched for an equaliser pushing men forward in attack. However, with the home side committing men high up the pitch, County posed a threat on the break wasting chances to make it 3-1. Shola Ameobi saw two efforts blocked  before John Stead wasted a glorious opportunity when he headed wide from six yards out.

Massey was a constant menace for County looking to get behind their back line, coming close when he cut in from the left but saw his curling effort parried away by Collin. But Webb’s men fought back level when defender Teddy Mezague fired home with nine minutes left, to create a grandstand finish.

But they always saw you are at your most vulnerable when you have scored, Orient learnt this the hard way when County grabbed the winner just three minutes later. Bola beat both Judd and Koroma down County’s left, his cross found Stead unmarked at the back post where he diverted the ball home.

Orient searched for another route back into the game but were unable to fashion a real clar cut opportunity in the dying minutes and fell to defeat to one of their relegation rivals, leaving them three points from safety. 

The main difference today, was the experience that County were able to rely on and the poor defending which cost Orient once more. Stead and Ameobi bullied Orient’s back line all game, helping to relieve pressure when they were under the cosh. The experience in attack ultimately won County the game but you cannot under estimate the quality or more like the lack of quality defending shown from Orient.

It was clear that Orient were missing Liam Kelly, Nicky Hunt and Tom Parkes; a major blow to a side full to the brim of youngsters. A make shift back line with a youngster at right back, left winger at left back, left back at center half and a center back who’s played only a handful of games in English football. The full picture of the difficulty Orient have to preserve their football league status.

With Kelly out for another five games and Parkes out for the forseeable future, Orient will be relying on the youth to try and pull them through. Sitting three points from safety, Webb’s men clearly have the fight and passion for the relegation fight but the lack of quality is showing.

The key is still the next three games against Cheltenham, Stevenage and Newport County the results in those will be paramount for Orient’s future as a football league club.

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The Late Late Show by Webb and Co

Sandro Semedo crashed home an injury time winner to move Leyton Orient closer to League Two survival away at Plymouth last night. The O’s came from behind twice to give them their first win in nine games and the first for Rookie Boss, Danny Webb. 

The Pilgrims took the lead after just ten minutes when Ryan Taylor headed a cross back to midfielder Antoni Sarcevic who struck home. The promotion chasers were seeking a second but on the stroke of half time, Orient’s man of the moment Gavin Massey went on a  mazy run and struck the equaliser. Matty Kennedy curled home early in the second half to put Plymouth ahead before hitting the post just minutes later.

Substiute Nauris Bulvitis struck the post before Orient fought they way back once more. With two minutes left, Callum Kennedy’s cross fell to Massey at the back post where he fired the equaliser. With time ticking into added time, Orient grabbed a precious three points.  Massey’s run down the wing found Josh Koroma but his shot was blocked, the rebound fell to Semedo who fired home the winner to send 156 travelling fans in to ectasy. 

After winning the Devon Derby 3-0 on Saturday, Plymouth boss Derek Adams named an unchanged side. Matty Kennedy, Ryan Taylor, Antoni Sarcevic and Jakub Sololik all continued after impressing in their debuts vs Exeter.

O’s boss Danny Webb made three changes to the side that grabbed a late point at Yeovil on Saturday. Yvan Erichot and Nigel Atagana missed out through injury so Callum Kennedy and Josh Koroma started after impressing from the bench on Saturday. Striker Ryan Liburd dropped to the bench with Sam Dalby starting in attack.

Plymouth were full of confidence with Graham Carey whipping in a delicious cross early on but under Danny Webb Orient have found a new sense of belief. Sam Dalby saw a header easily saved by Luke McCormick before midfielder Michael Collins had a tame effort from distance.

However, the Pilgrims took the lead after ten minutes, former O Gary Sawyer crossed for Ryan Taylor at the back post. Taylor, climbing over Tom Parkes headed back to Antoni Sarcevic who struck home. Despite opening the scoring Derek Adams was forced into an early change with Nauris Bulvitis replacing Sonny Bradley in defence.

Plymouth were getting into their swing, carving Orient up through midfield with some great movement between their attacking players. Yann Songo’O headed over from a Carey free kick but Orient still offered an attacking threat. First, good interchange between Sam Dalby and Josh Koroma saw the former have an effort saved by McCormick. Liam Kelly tested McCormick from distance before Ryan Taylor missed a great chance for the hosts. Matty Kennedy mazy run led to a cross for Taylor who swept over from four yards out.

Orient lacked discipline in the first half with Tom Parkes, Nicky Hunt and Callum Kennedy all picking up cautions with the latter injuring Sarcevic who was replaced by Ryan Donaldson.

With Webb’s side still in the game, the main outlet was once more Gavin Massey and just before half time, he produce another special goal. Picking the ball up on the left side just inside his own half, he progressed down the left flank. Reaching the penalty area he cut inside Songo’O and curled a delightful effort into the corner.

In stoppage time of the firsts half, Plymouth had two great chances to take a lead into the break. Centre back Jakub Sokolik volleyed over after Songo’O headed back at the back post before midfielder David Fox volleyed inches wide off Sam Sargeant’s post.

With the scores level at the break, all O’s fans knew the weakness straight after the restart, Josh Koroma had an early effort before the away sides frail defence fell again. Matty Kennedy who had caused Myles Judd problems all night, cut in from the left flank and curled past Sargeant to put Plymouth ahead.

Orient looked for an instant impact with Callum Kennedy crossing for Sam Dalby but the O’s youngster could only see his header fly over. The home side nearly wrapped up victory with an almost identical effort for their second. Matty Kennedy cut in from the left flank but this time his curled shot cannoned off the post to safety.

O’s boss Webb was in his fourth game in charge and has created a spirit and togetherness which continued with them searching for a leveller. Massey saw an effort saved after a neat one two with Michael Collins. Much like Saturday at Yeovil, Orient gained in confidence and were pushing men forward with Dalby and Koroma twice having shots on goal.

Then the games turning point after a corner fell to Bulvitis, his effort hit an O’s defender, crashed off the post and ran along the goal line. With the home side appealing, Sam Sargeant dived on the ball, quickly reacting to set the O’s away on a counter attack. Massey got behind the Plymouth back line, his cross found the unmarked Koroma at the back post but the youngster took a touch before his shot was blocked.

The belief in the men in red was clear to see and they equalised with two minutes to go. Callum Kennedy crossed from the left, Dalby flicked to Massey at the back post who fired under McCormick to level and send the 156 away fans into celebration behind the goal.

Orient could sense a winner as time ticked into stoppage time, Gavin Massey was on his bike down the right flank. He got behind the Plymouth back line, finding Koroma in the penalty area, the youngster saw his effort blocked but the rebound fell to winger Sandro Semedo. Semedo took one touch to set himself before crashing home the winner with the 156 going absolutely barmy in the away end, sealing Orient’s first win since Boxing Day. 

win, a bloody win, just how good does it feel Orient fans? I tell you that no one of the 156 away fans will forget that night in a while especially the scenes in the away end when Semedo struck the winner. We all thought that we had earned a point and were delighted but to grab a late late winner saw limbs everywhere, delight on every bodies faces and a club that is now showing the fight for the badge that so many people hold so close to their heart.

Danny Webb the man who has brought back the passion, fight and desire that every O’s fan expects when they turn up. The team, who are creating chances, have come back twice in four days to earn four points, highlighting the spirit that he has created at Brisbane Road. Despite Plymouth wasting opportunities, I don’t think many people at Home Park last night could begrudge Orient at least point if not all three. There was only one team who were asking the questions in the final minutes.

As I sit travelling the five hours home, the question remains why do it to yourself? Well last night proved exactly why so many Orient fans live and breath the club. The scenes and celebrations from players,  fans and the management team all highlighting the passion they have for the club. I know for one, I don’t care one bit about the black eye suffered after Sam Dalby celebrated with the away fans after Massey’s equaliser.

Let’s stay grounded though we still remain the bottom two on goal difference with Cheltenham. The next four games are absolutely crucial starting with Notts County on Saturday. A game which sees Kevin Nolan return to Brisbane Road before Cheltenham Town visit a week later. Stevenage away and Newport away complete the quartet of games which Orient are hitting with some much needed confidence.

Anyway all I can say is, that is the best Valentines Present I could have asked for, a late win at Plymouth for my beloved Leyton Orient football club even after the black eye.

A massive game Saturday, see you all at Brisbane Road where the atmosphere should be fantastic. Orient have a chance of survival and that is the one thing that despite the position Orient always give you. That hope and dream………….  

 

 

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Gav Gives Glimmer of Hope

Gavin Massey’s finish two minutes from time gave Danny Webb his first point as Orient manager. The former Colchester winger fired home at the back post to earn Leyton Orient their first point of 2017. Yeovil took the lead on the stroke of half time when Francois Zoko pounced on a loose ball inside the box. Despite Orient lying second bottom, the away side continued to push for an equaliser and it duly arrived with two minutes left when Massey was on hand for his sixth league goal of the season.

Following their 1-1 away draw last weekend at Hartlepool, Yeovil manager Darren Way made two changes to his side. Alex Lacey and Matt Butcher dropped out in place of Darren Ward and Alex Lawless.

Following on from their disappointing 1-0 home defeat to Morecambe on Tuesday night, O’s boss Danny Webb made two changes to his line up. Ryan Liburd started in attack after coming on from the bench on Tuesday in place of striker Sam Dalby who dropped to the bench. Liam Kelly made his first start for Leyton Orient since 8th October with Victor Adeboyejo missing out.

With Orient looking to be positive at Huish Park they started well.  Danny Webb opted for a 4-5-1/4-3-3 formation which allowed wingers Gavin Massey and Sandro Semedo to push forward. It was Orient who could have taken the lead early on, after a nice move Michael Collins found Nigel Atangana in the inside right position. The Frenchman cut back onto his left foot but his shot was palmed away by Artur Krysiak for a corner.

Yeovil beat Orient at Brisbane Road earlier in the season, with striker Tom Eaves bullying Orient’s two center halves. The former Bolton striker continued in the same vein at Husih Park but it was Francois Zoko who saw a tame effort saved by Sam Sargeant in the Orient goal.

With Kelly, Collins and Atangana in central midfield, the O’s finally had some structure and a solid foundation. Kelly’s drive and presence in the midfield was driving the O’s forward with him finding Ryan Liburd behind Yeovil’s defence. However the on loan Stevenage striker could only drag his shot wide of the mark.

The O’s have been looking to break quickly since Webb took charge and they wasted a glorious opportunity after 23 minutes. After a shot was charged down the ball fell to Semedo on the right flank, the winger drove into the Yeovil half. Gavin Massey was wide and free on the left side but Semedo somehow opted to go it alone but saw his effort blocked.

Orient looked to pass their way up the pitch but at times were their own worse enemies with loose passes being pounced on by Yeovil. The hosts were starting to grow in to the half as it edged nearer to half time and could have taken the lead. After a free flowing move Ben Whitfield fed right back Liam Shephard in but the full back could only hit the side netting.

The game was ebbing towards half time but for the third time on their travels this season, the O’s conceded on the stroke of half time. Tom Eaves who was a handful all afternoon for the O’s backline, controlled the ball on his chest, swivelled and shot at goal. Sam Sargeant saved his deflected effort but the rebound fell to Zoko who was quickest to react to put the Glovers ahead.

A similar story for the East Londoners who had the better of the chances but when you are at the bottom, you have to take those chances. Webb brought on Callum Kennedy in place of Yvan Erichot who struggled once again. Nicky Hunt moved to center back alongside Tom Parkes with Kennedy slotting in at left back. Paul McCallum replaced the ineffective Ryan Liburd eight minutes into the second half as Orient looked for impetus to gain an equaliser.

Eaves fired wide for the Way’s side after he was allowed space to bring the ball down inside the box. Orient needed to keep the score 1-0 but nearly conceded after Nigel Atangana lost possession but Ben Whitfield could only shoot straight at Sargeant. That was Atangana’s last contribution as Webb threw on Josh Koroma after 63 minutes as Orient moved to 4-4-2.

The O’s were finding it hard to push up the pitch with the game becoming very stop start, Eaves and Akpra Akpro fired wide for Yeovil as they looked to sew up victory but Orient remained in the game. Josh Koroma was lively down the right flank, his trickery was causing the home side problems however when presented with a chance at the back post, he slashed his shot over the bar.

The substitutions had given Orient momentum to push for an equaliser with Massey the prime architect, now playing alongside McCallum in attack. The O’s were the only side looking for a goal but it looked like it wasn’t going to be their day. However, after McCallum headed down at the back post, Liam Kelly missed his shot before Massey fired home to send the 151 travelling supporters into raptures behind the goal to bring Orient level.

With the scores level going into added time, the away faithful were urging their team to push for a winner. However the last chance fell to McCallum who could only glance his header wide of the target as Orient earned their first league point of 2017.

What a difference two weeks makes, you will be saying hang on a minute we have only picked up one point. But, two weeks ago, Orient looked doomed and dejected at Mansfield with a manager that was clear he didn’t want to be there. Yesterday, there was some passion, fight and desire shown by the players to play for the badge.

In Webb we have a manager that has instilled some believe in the group, let’s not forget a group with less experience than any other manager in recent months. However, he is getting them playing and believing in what he is trying to do. A point is not enough, that is what people may say. But you have to start somewhere, a late equaliser, will help to boost morale in the group who saw that everyone of the away support was with them yesterday.

Anyone at the game yesterday will tell you, Hats off Danny Webb, the three substitutions were bold, attacking and ultimately changed the game.

When was the last time we could have said that? Yvan Erichot was horrendous again and rightfully replaced at half time for Callum Kennedy. Ryan Liburd was ineffective in attack and was brought off with plenty of time left to give McCallum time to influence proceedings. And wait for it, we made our third change just after an hour, bringing on Josh Koroma for Atangana as we went 4-4-2 away from home pushing for a leveller.

Koroma showed what he is all about yesterday, a raw prospect but the trickery to cause problems and most importantly time to influence a game. There were many players who deserve a mention but Liam Kelly’s return was a massive boost. The calming head and the ability to bring possession out of midfield. Let’s not forget he is not fully fit yet but pleasing signs.

Plymouth away Tuesday, but I go there with more belief in the group and signs that there is a desire and passion to play for the badge on the shirt.

One point is how does Webb go at Plymouth? A game where we will be major underdogs, does he look more to the Notts County game on Saturday or look for points of Tuesday? Either way, I think despite Webb’s age and lack of experience he is slowly giving Orient fans some light at the end of the tunnel but is it too late?

 

 

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Hoops Get Just Rewards at St James

Newcastle missed their chance to go back to the top of the Championship after Ciaran Clark headed a late own goal against QPR last night. JohnJo Shelvey gave the promotion hopefuls the perfect start, firing home after just 39 seconds. However Rangers quickly grew into the game and deservedly levelled just before half time thanks to Connor Washington.

Newcastle knew a win would take them above Brighton and back to the submit of the Championship with a win. Matt Ritchie looked to have secured that heading in a Issac Hayden cross nine minutes into the second half. The hosts had chances to kill of Rangers however with a minute to go Clark headed a Kazenga Lua Lua cross beyond Karl Darlow to give Ian Holloway’s men a point on Tyneside.

Fresh from their 3-0 FA Cup defeat to Oxford on Saturday, Magpies boss Rafa Bentitez made nine changes. Only Isaac Hayden and Ayoze Perez remained in the starting 11, Daryl Murphy led the line for the Magpies in the absence of Dwight Gayle while Karl Darlow returned in goal.

newcastle-starting-11

Ian Holloway made four changes to his side that lost 2-1 to Burton Albion on Saturday. Connor Washington and Jamie Mackie started in attack with Idrissa Sylla missing through injury while Kazenga Lua Lua dropped to the bench. James Perch started against his old club while Ryan Manning started in midfield. January signings Luke Freeman and Sean Goss were named on the bench.

qpr-starting-11

The game was barely 39 seconds old when JohnJo Shelvey fired Rafa Benitez’s men ahead. Isaac Hayden’s run down the left saw his cross headed out to Shelvey who was arriving on the edge of the penalty area. The former Swansea man unleashed a low drive which beat Alex Smithies in the Rangers goal to give Newcastle the perfect start.

qpr-on-breakThe Magpies started with a fast tempo with Yoan Gouffran next to test Smithies in the Rangers goal but his tame shot was easily gathered by the former Huddersfield keeper. Rangers set up in a 5-3-2 formation looking to hit their hosts on the break at every opportunity and nearly drew level on seven minutes. Jake Bidwell found Massimo Luonga on the left hand side and the former Swindon man cut back on to his right food and curled a shot agonisingly wide of the far post.

 

newcastle-droppingNewcastle were finding it difficult to create going forward with Shelvey and Hayden dropping short to receive possession. However the nervousness around St James Park was easily to feel especially when Rangers countered. Midfielder Pawel Wszolek wasted a wonderful chance when Connor Washington’s through ball found him but he delayed too long allowing Jamal Lascelles to clear the danger.

Rangers were creating by far the better opportunities and the willingness of both Mackie and Washington to run into the channels was helping the away side. Washington’s run in to the left channel should have created the leveller for Holloway’s men. His teasing cross found the late arriving Luonga however Darlow saved smartly down to his left.

Luonga had an effort from distance blocked but Wszolek was causing the home side all kinds of problems defensively. The Polish midfielder was forcing the Magpies back line into mistakes, linking up very well with Washington and Mackie. It was Wszolek persistence which helped Rangers level just before the break. His pressure forced a corner for his side, Ryan Manning’s delivery was only half cleared to Bidwell on the edge of the box. The left back’s shot fell kindly to Washington who tapped home to draw Rangers level.

newcastle-ritchie-swapped-wingsWith the sides level at the break, the home crowd were restless with the amount of poor mistakes through lack of concentration. Matt Ritchie swapped flanks in the second half looking to combine with Paul Dummett down the left. But it was Ciaran Clark who wasted the first chance of the half, heading over a Shelvey corner.

The wasting of possession in defensive errors was giving Rangers confidence, with Holloway telling his players to press the Newcastle defense. Wszolek was presented with a glorious chance to put Rangers ahead when Dummett poor control let in the Polish ace however Darlow saved smartly.

The home crowd was getting ever more restless but were back celebrating nine minutes into the second half. Hayden’s run in the inside right position saw his cross headed home at the back post by Matt Ritchie to restore their lead. The home side were looking to put the game to bed with Ritchie and Shelvey both having efforts blocked on the hour mark before Jamal Lascelles could only screw a shot wide from a corner.

newcastle-after-changing

Newcastle Side after Subs

qpr-after-subs

QPR side two subs

Benitez threw on Sammy Ameobi on in place of the ineffective Daryl Murphy, allowing Gouffran to play centrally with Ayoze Perez just off of him. Holloway threw on new signing Luke Freeman in place of Ryan Manning while former Magpie Kazenga Lua Lua replace Jamie Mackie in attack.

 

Rangers were thankful for Alex Smithies who twice prevented Newcastle from adding a third. First saving smartly from Gouffran then producing a fine bit of keeping against Perez who was one on one with him. But the more Rangers remained in the game, the more anxious the home side were becoming.

qpr-4-3-3Holloway threw on his deadline day signing Sean Goss in place of Darnell Furlong as he searched for an equaliser at St James. The move allowed his side to play 4-3-3 with Lua Lua moved to a left wing berth, allowing him to cut in. The mood on Tyneside was of nervousness which grew with every minute.

The anxious was merited as the clock ebbed towards 90, when Lua Lua cut in from the left hand side whipping in a cross. With only Washington in the penalty area, Ciaran Clark misjudged his header and Karl Darlow could only watched the ball sail over his head and into his own net. The goal sent the travelling Rangers fans into celebration, if they could see up in Gods.

The Rangers bench erupted with jubilation while the moans and groans of the home fans was clear to see. Neither side were able to create and had to settle for a point with Newcastle missing the chance to leap frog Brigthon ahead of the Seagulla clash at Huddersfield tonight.

Holloway’s men deserved a point of Tyneside, with on another day they could have had two or three in the first period. Newcastle missed the presence of Dwight Gayle in attack with Daryl Murphy pretty much non existent for much of the 66 minutes he was on the park for.

Newcastle host Derby County on Saturday and will be aware that Leeds and Brighton are breathing down their neck in 3rd and 4th respectively. Rangers’s point moves them up to 18th, with their performance pleasing Holloway in the away dug out. In Pawl Wszolek they have a player with a lot of potential.

 

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All Square at the Riverside

Middesbrough and West Brom had to settle for a share of the spoils in a 1-1 draw last night. Former Boro man James Morrison fired the Baggies ahead finishing low from just outside the penalty area. Aitor Karanka’s men grew into the game as time went on and drew level when a flick from Marten de Roon found Alvaro Negredo who was caught by Gareth McAuley. Negredo stepped up and slotted home the equaliser.

Both sides pushed for a second goal with Ben Foster saving well from a Cristhian Stuani effort late in the first half before the Baggies struck both posts in the second half through Matt Phillips and Salomon Rondon. However neither side could force a winner leaving Middesbrough sitting in 15th while Tony Pulis’s men sit in 8th.

Fresh from their FA Cup 4th round victory over Accrington Stanley on Saturday, Karanka made seven changes. Only Ben Gibson, Bernardo, Fabio and Adam Clayton remained. Alvaro Negredo return in attack with Adama Traore back on the wing while Victor Valdes returned between the sticks.

With no FA Cup game on Saturday, Tony Pulis named an unchanged side from his sides 2-0 victory over Sunderland 10 days earlier. Saloman Rondon led the line with support from Matt Phillips and Nacer Chadli on the flanks. Former Boro men James Morrison and Chris Brunt also started for the Baggies. January signing Jake Livermore was on the bench.

In a fast start from the away side, Pulis’s men were quick to try and gain the initiative and they duly did with just six minutes on the clock. After a free kick was cleared to the edge of the Boro penalty area, James Morrison was unmarked and fired beyond Victor Valdes to put the visitors ahead.

The away side continued with their high pressing with Matt Phillips almost creating a second after a fine run down the left but his cross was blocked by Antonio Barragan. Next to go close for the Baggies was another former Boro man in Chris Brunt but his dipping right foot volley only nestled on top of Valdes’s net.

Boro had struggled in the early running but were gifted a chance to get back into the game. Martin de Roon was found in the pocket just in front of West Brom’s back line, his flick around the corner found Negredo. The Boro striker’s run was halted by Gareth McAuley who was to have adjudged to brought him down. A soft decision which incensed Tony Pulis in the visitors’ dugout, Negredo stepped up a drew Boro level.

The goal seemed to wake up the hosts who were unlucky not to be awarded a second penalty. Cristhian Stuani cut in from the left flank inside the box and looked to have been brought down by Allan Nyom but referee Stuart Attwell waved away appeals.

The Baggies were sitting deeper looking to absorb Boro’s possession and hit them on the counter attack. The pace of Matt Phillips, James Morrison and Nacer Chadli was a danger for Boro with the three combining to set Rondon away but a brilliant recovery from Adama Traore prevented the Baggies no 9 from shooting.

Traore was a threat down the right hand side, twice whipping in delicious crosses but no Boro player was able to get on the end of them. The movement in the midfield with De Roon and Adam Forshaw was starting to provide fruition and Boro nearly took a lead to the break. A cross from Traore was touched towards his own goal by Allan Nyom but a smart save from Ben Foster kept the scores level.

Victor Valdes was called into action on the stroke of half time when a Brunt free kick found the head of Craig Dawson but Valdes saved smartly to his left.

The home side continued the second half in the same vein pushing the Baggies back but it was the away side who should have regained the lead ten minutes after the restart. A fine run from Chadli in the inside right position saw his whipped cross find the head of Matt Phillips but his header cannoned off the post. The rebound fell to Rondon who shifted the ball onto his left foot but just like Phillips his shot found the far post and bounced away to safety.

Tony Pulis introduced both James McClean and Hal Robson- Kanu from the bench looking to find a second but it was Boro who went close. An Adam Clayton cross found De Roon but Foster tipped his header over.

The game was very open with both sides attacking trying to find a second goal, Boro went close through Gibson and Negredo but both efforts were brilliantly blocked inside the Baggies penalty area. Chris Brunt saw an effort from distance tipped over before Phillips dragged a shot wide of the mark. Boro threw on Patrick Bamford and Rudy Gestede however it was Robson-Kanu who had the last effort of the night but it was comfortably saved by Valdes.

 

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