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Rangers went into the Mansfield game on a good run of form and unchanged from the team that won 4-0 against Port Vale last week.
Clarke Carlisle and Dennis Oli though were back on the bench and surprisingly we saw no Doudou on the bench. Doudou did well when he came on last week and I was hoping he'd get another chance.
Rangers started the game well and were well on top from the first minute. Gallen linked well with Furlong and the in form striker had a great chance to put us ahead. Unfortunately his shot beat the keeper but went the wrong side of the post.
It was a good start for Rangers and we looked like a side full of confidence. Leroy was linking well with Gallen on the left and Padula was getting forward to get in some good positions. Mansfield were being cut apart time after time and it seemed only a matter of time before we scored.
Furlong went close with a header after a goods cross from Leroy and Richard Langley had a chance but his shot was to weak to cause any real threat. Gallen was looking good and a good run from our top scorer saw him hold off two challenges and hit an excellent shot, which was well saved by the keeper.
We were looking sharp and inventive going forward but at the back we were far from impressive. A poor back pass by Furlong put us under pressure but it was easy enough to deal with. Shittu had a head start on the Mansfield forward but Nick Culkin didn't come out to get the ball and Shittu was forced to rush his clearance instead of having a simple back pass.
This is one of the weakest areas of Culkin's game, he just doesn't seem to communicate with his defenders and looks a nervous wreck at times.
It was a warning to Rangers but we soon got back to attacking and took a deserved lead. Leroy did well to pass to Gallen whose through ball beat the offside trap and Paul Furlong hit a strong shot across the keeper and into the back of the net.
It was Furlongs fourth goal in four games and Loftus Road was buzzing. The crowd were signing loud and it was celebration time, as it seemed we were in for a goal feast this afternoon. The P block sang, "We're sorry Paul Furlong" which was good to hear after the abuse the striker has had this season. Shame the rest of the ground didn't join in.
We were cruising at this stage but the referee was doing all he could to get Mansfield back in the game. Some of his decisions bordered on madness as his linesmen gave offside against us for fun and he refused to notice Furlong was being manhandled for the entire game by Keith Curle.
Furlong was booked after chasing a loose ball and colliding with the keeper. It was a 50/50 ball but a booking was very harsh. As ever with Rangers though just when things look like they have come together it all falls apart very quickly.
A throw in on the left saw Rangers half asleep and an unmarked Mendes headed against the bar with Culkin nowhere to be seen and with that danger avoided the rest of the defence stood and watched as Christie had a free header and equalised into an empty net. It was abysmal defending and we'd thrown a way a lead far to cheaply. This gave Mansfield new hope and they got tough in the tackle and made it difficult for us.
Andy Jones came on for Mansfield and his impact was pretty immediate. An elbow to the face of Bircham saw him get the yellow card despite that offence being a straight red anywhere else.
The ref had lost the plot and a red card didn't seem far away. It came after Jones caught Langley with a high late challenge and to be fair he had to go, as it was a second booking.
What was amazing though was that Langley was also booked despite being the one who was fouled. Why he was booked I'll never know as it was Langley and Padula holding Bircham back from a fight which could have seen us down to ten men as well.
So with them down to ten men it should have been an easy win for us. Well that's what the crowd and players seemed to think as we went to sleep and waited for Mansfield to roll over and die which they never did.
Padula went close to restoring the lead with a cracking shot which was saved and Gallen hit the bar from the rebound. Langley also had a shot but it was nowhere near giving us a goal.
Mansfield rallied and finished the half the stronger side. A number of corners, one of them a shocking decsion by the referee, followed and we had to defend well to stop them taking the lead. At half time it was good to get a break and let the team organise themselves to come out and win the game.
It really only seemed a matter of time against ten men but what we were about to witness will have worried Ian Holloway and any fan dreaming of promotion this season. Quite simply Rangers came out for the second half thinking they had won the game and were a complete shambles.
With the crowd urging them forward to get the second goal they seemed to panic and the ball was like a hot potato with no player brave enough to hold onto it and make something happen. Mansfield sensed the panic in our team and some tough tackling saw far to many of our players go missing.
A poor pass by Langley saw Bean lose out. It looks a foul on TV but we still had enough men back to avoid the disaster, which followed. Mansfield passed through us as if they were Real Madrid whilst we just stood hoping for an offside. It never came and Christie had the simple task to placing the ball past Culkin who doesn't inspire much confidence in a one on one situation.
Mansfield were ahead and Loftus Road was stunned. The noisy away fans got what their superb support deserved but we still had enough time to come back and take charge of the game.
We should have got level within five minutes. A free kick on the left saw Bircham curl the ball in and Furlong was blatantly pulled to the floor by Curle. A penalty was given and this was our chance to get level.
Curle did his usual job of delaying the penalty and then trying to put Gallen off. He really should have been booked for this and he also told the keeper which way to dive. As soon as he pointed to the left I knew Gallen would miss. He didn't look confident to me and his penalty was put to the left and was low enough for the keeper to make a decent save. It was devastating for Gallen and Rangers and we seemed to lose a lot of confidence after that miss.
The next 15 minutes or so saw us provide little to no threat going forward. We'd restored to long balls and giving it away cheaply.
Furlong and Gallen were holding the ball up but the support from midfield was woeful and Langley was having one of his poorest games in a long time. Nothing was going right for him or Bircham who were working hard for the team but just offered nothing going forward.
A cross in from Forbes almost saw us get level but Bean needlessly stuck an arm up to handball as Leroy came in behind him unmarked to volley into the back of the net. It was rightly disallowed and just added to our frustrations.
Bean was having a quiet game but for a defensive midfield player to play on the wing he's going to need players moving off the ball for him and that never happened.
Bean was taken off and on came Dennis Oli to add some pace and directness to the right wing.
It was here that I think Holloway will have regretted dropping Doudou from the bench. His tricky and unpredictable runs would have caused a few problems but instead we had Oli who for all his potential is not really ready for this level at the moment. He started brightly though and a good run down the right saw a cross in for Furlong who missed a great chance to get us level.
Gino Padula then went off after being subject to some late tackles. He appeared to be injured so Danny Murphy got another chance. It just wasn't happening for us though and another chance for Leroy added to anger on the terraces. Leroy had time and space but fired against the side netting instead of hitting it across the keeper as Furlong had in the first half.
The chant from the P Block to "sing the ball into the net" was falling on deaf ears as Rangers fans sat in amazement that we couldn't break down ten men Mansfield and the frustration was unbearable.
Holloway made another change must to the bemusement of the Rangers fans. Danny Shittu went off to be replaced by Clarke Carlisle as the fans booked the decsion made by Holloway. Have to say it did seem a strange one but Holloway has since said he thought Carlisle would cause more problems from ser pieces and Angell coming on would force us into playing to many long balls. That's makes sense I suppose but it makes you wonder why Angell has been given another contract if he can't get on against ten men Mansfield.
We continued to make a few half chances but we couldn't find the goal we needed. Gallen did well on the right to cut into the box but his cross shot was half cleared prompting a scramble, which saw Gallen get another chance, which hit the side netting.
It just wasn't our day and when Leroy hit a volley, which saw a great save from the keeper most of us gave up all hope of getting a point. The game was no taking on huge significance for us. I honestly began to believe that if we lost this one the playoffs would be beyond us even though we would have stayed 6th. Being unable to break down Mansfield or even look like having an idea of how to do it doesn't bode well for upcoming games against the top five.
Four minutes of injury time was shown and Rangers fans headed for the exit. It looked over until a long ball by Carlisle caused unbelievable panic in the Mansfield defence. With only Leroy and Gallen near the ball they fluffed a header which fell to Gallen and with the keeper well off his line Gallen hit a superb shot on the turn to equalise for Rangers.
The Loft exploded into celebration and Gallen had saved us again. It wasn't over though and with 2 minutes left we looked for a winner. Mansfield had gone to pot and a cross in from Forbes caused panic and Bircham hit a shot wide of the post.
We then got a free kick with virtually the last kick of the game and with everyone forward this was the chance to win the game. It was an utter disgrace to then see Danny Murphy hit a pathetic long ball straight at the keeper and blow or last chance of victory. It's not Murphy's fault we drew the game but his delivery from this set piece really was poor from a player who can do so much better.
So a 2-2 draw and not the result any of us wanted or expected. We should have won the game easily after a superb opening 20 minutes but after that we were lucky to go home with a point. It is a real worry that we are unable to break down a team who puts men behind the ball and even more frightening that Mansfield were unable to open us up as easily as they did.
We'll nee to show a huge improvement to get anything out of games against Swindon, Bristol City and even Huddersfield in the next two weeks.
Man of the Match: Paul Furlong
13. Nick Culkin: A disappointing performance from Culkin who never looked confident for some reason. 5/10
2. Terrell Forbes: Tried to get forward but didn't have his best game. He didn't have much to do at the back though. 6/10
3. Gino Padula: Was a real threat going forward but some nasty tackles ended his afternoon. 7/10
4. Steve Palmer: He was far to slow at times and that left Shittu with far to much work to do at the back. 6/10
6. Danny Shittu: Was left isolated at times defending and didn't have a great game but worked hard to get us back in the game and was unlucky to be taken off. 7/10
14. Leroy Griffiths: Started the game well full of skill and energy but faded along with the rest of the team in the second half. 6/10
9. Richard Langley: His worst game in a long time. Didn't look fully fit but thats no excuse for the number of times he gave the ball away. 5/10
8. Marc Bircham: Like Langley he was woeful in midfield and despite seeing a lot of the ball he did very little with it. On paper his partnership with Langley is the best we have but they didn't do their case much good in this game. 5/10
22. Marcus Bean: A quiet game and no surprise when he was taken off. 6/10
10. Kevin Gallen: Gutted to see him miss the penalty but that seemed to inspire him in the second half. He can play better than this but he was still our most creative player. 7/10
29. Paul Furlong: Held the ball up and was always a threat. He should have scored more than the one he did get but playing like this he is a real asset to the team.
20. Dennis Oli: Full of running and pace but didn't cause them many problems. 6/10
16. Danny Murphy: Gave the ball away a lot and didn't have much of an impact. 6/10
5. Clarke Carlisle: On to offer a threat from set pieces and then ended up taking most of them. 6/10
Late Gallen Goal Could Cost Stags Deer
By Simon Skinner
Rangers failed to beat a resolute, if not niggly, Mansfield side in a tempestuous encounter at Loftus Road. Just how dearly the two dropped points will cost us in the end of season run in is anybodies guess. I have a feeling we may look back on this game with heavy hearts come May.
Following the 4-0 hammering handed to Port Vale last week Holloway stuck with the same side despite having a couple of players fit following injury. Culkin was in goal behind the back four of Forbes, Shittu, Palmer and Padula. The midfield four was Bean, Langley, Bircham and Griffiths with Gallen and Furlong in attack. Clarke Carlisle and Denis Oli had recovered sufficiently to make the bench at the expense of Doudou and Fitzgerald.
Things started well and Rangers could have been a couple of goals up within the first ten minutes. Paul Furlong poked an effort wide with his left foot; he may have hit the target if he had used his right. Minutes later and Furlong was in the thick of the action again. This time he was shown the yellow card for a lunge at keeper Welch. It seemed harsh as the ball was there to be won but the referee seemed to have taken an instant dislike to the Rangers front man.
Furlong was soon trying for goal again when he sent a thumping header wide following a Marc Bircham cross. He tried to get onto another cross moments later but found himself thrown to the ground by footballs most loathsome individual, Keith Curle. Referee Robinson ignored his claims and only seemed to want to penalise the attackers of both sides for any confrontation with defenders.
Kevin Gallen tested Welch's reflexes with a shot that needed a good save but Rangers hit the front a few minutes later. Leroy Griffiths picked the ball up wide and fed a neat pass to Gallen. His slide rule ball split the Stags defence and Furlong fired confidently past Welch. This was Furlongs fourth goal in four games and he really seems to be in form at the moment. Rangers should have used this goal as a platform to win the game but instead found themselves pegged back moments later.
Mansfield attacked the Rangers right and a ball was swung toward the near post. Junior Mendes jumped with Culkin and got there well before the Rangers keeper. His header came back off the bar and fell to Iyseden Christie for a simple finish to equalise. It was a shocking piece of keeping from Culkin who, despite conceding very few, seems to inspire little confidence in the Rangers faithful. It often seems as if he is tethered to his goal or held in a Perspex cage such is his reluctance to leave his line. When he does it causes palpitations amongst players and fans alike. Maybe now is the time for Chris Day to make his return?
Rangers had dominated for long periods and were handed an even bigger advantage when Mansfield sub Andy Jones was sent off. Having come on in the 26th minute for Wayne Corden he found himself booked for a swinging arm on Bircham after 27 minutes. Then, eight minutes later and without a touch of the ball to his name he felled Langley with a wild lunge and left the ref no option. Disley and Langley were also booked in the resulting melee as the ref looked as though he would lose control. In truth Bircham was lucky to escape censure for his involvement, as was rent-a-gob Curle.
Still the pattern of play continued, Rangers piling forward and Mansfield repelling all boarders. Welch produces a stunning save from a Gino piledriver and a combination of Shittu and Furlong managed to rattle the bar in the resulting scramble. 1-1 at half time was not a true reflection of the Rangers dominance but the only people to blame for that were the Rangers players.
Mansfield went ahead straight after the break following some shocking defending from the whole Rangers defence. Langley, admittedly having a stinking game, tried, once again, to be too clever in midfield. He served to give the ball away in a dangerous area and leave the back four exposed. The through ball caught them square and Christie was left with a clear sight of goal and made no mistake, firing home via the post. Christie had been the pick of the Mansfield players and had shown a real willingness to work hard in and out of the box, you can't hide the fact though that he had been given two chances and taken them both.
The lifeline was thrown out by Keith Curle almost immediately as he gave away a penalty. Curle was involved in his usual wrestling match with Furlong and for the second time, threw the Rangers striker to the ground. This time the ref gave a spot kick and Gallen quickly picked up the ball. Curle now started his histrionics and time wasting in an effort to distract Gallen. He spent a couple of minutes moaning at the ref and then tried to get in Gallen's face as he tried to keep his composure. The ref didn't help the situation with his week handling of it and in the end he booked Curle. Three minutes had now elapsed since the award and everybody knew what was coming next. Gallen tried to place the ball to Welch's right, but his kick was weak and easily saved.
Mansfield could easily have had a penalty of their own when Culkin seemed to take Christie's legs from under him. It looked nailed on from where I was but the ref didn't agree and Rangers had got away with another one.
Paul Furlong spurned a great chance when a ball fizzed in from the right was deflected though his legs by the slightest touch from Curle. On another day Furlong may have claimed a hatrick but everybody seemed to know that Rangers were having one of those days. Unfortunately, those days come all too often against teams we should easily beat.
Still the chances came and went for Rangers as the tried to get themselves back into a game they were somehow losing. Griffiths brought a good save from Welch from the left and Gallen showed no composure at all when smashing the follow up into the side netting. Griffiths found himself with an identical chance minutes later but this time sent his effort into the crowd when a cool head was needed to find the target.
With the disheartened Rangers fans streaming from the ground in droves Kevin Gallen showed his class with a stunning finish for the latest of equalisers. A long punt up field caused pandemonium in the Mansfield defence with keeper and defender both going for the ball. The defenders touch was poor and Welch found himself in no mans land. The ball fell to Gallen and in one fluid movement with his back to goal; he swivelled to send a lobbed volley over the stranded Curle and in. It was a sublime finish from Gallen and no more than Rangers deserved given the balance of chances.
Make no bones about it this was a poor result against a team that should have been well beaten by the break. In the shake up the difference between a play off place will be as little as one or two points. These two dropped points added to the two dropped points at Northampton a couple of weeks ago could be extremely costly. Rangers seem to have an ingrained problem in beating teams that are clearly worse than them and an even bigger problem against depleted opposition. Add the fact that we cannot take a penalty to save our lives, a showboating midfielder and a keeper that makes everybody nervous and the next couple of months could be nerve-racking to say the least.
Man of the Match: Paul Furlong
Latest | February 2003