Classy Rangers put Town in their place

IPSWICH Town were put firmly in their place by classy QPR in a real mis-match at Portman Road last night.

Town’s previously proud unbeaten record was ended in style by super-fluent Rangers, who cruised to victory thanks to a first-half brace from Jamie Mackie, and then a second-half penalty by Heider Helguson.

Roy Keane’s men simply had no answer against a team who look good bets to be playing their football in the Premier League next season.

In fact, it was a case of men-against-boys for most of the evening, although Town did improve in the second period following the introduction of substitutes Connor Wickham and Tamas Priskin at half-time.

The signs were ominous long before Mackie broke the deadlock on the half-hour mark. In truth, the west Londoners should already have been out of sight.

Livewire Mackie, who had plundered four goals even before last night, notched his fifth in clinical fashion. Although his first shot was blocked by the combined efforts of Tommy Smith and Mark Kennedy, the 24-year-old was quick to pounce on the rebound and steer his effort low into the far corner of the net.

Goal-poacher Mackie doubled the lead, and boosted his own tally to six for the campaign, with another quality finish in the 42nd minute.

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One moment Town were attacking from a corner, the next they were hit on the break. Adel Taarabt roamed free down the left and he tucked the ball inside to Mackie, who ran through from the half-way line before beating Marton Fulop with a drive that skidded into the net from 20 yards out.

There was no way back for Town, even though there was still more than half the game to go - even the most ardent Town fan would admit that.

Any faint hopes of the hosts staging a dramatic late revival were dahsed completely when Helguson tucked home the third from the penalty spot in the 67th minute.

Helugson had actually hammered home a glorious shot from the edge of the box, only for referee Keith Stroud to blow his whistle prematurely for a penalty, after spotting Tommy Smith upending Mackie in the box.

It didn’t really matter, because Icelandic hit-man Helguson swept his penalty beyond the reach of Fulop to make it 3-0. The visitors easily played out the final quarter of the game to complete a comfortable victory.

A dazed Town will now have to pick thenmselves up quickly, because they take on another of the division’s high-fliers, Cardiff City, this Saturday.

Town were on the back foot from the very first whistle to the last, with attack-minded Rangers peppering the target early on.

Fulop was called into action in the very first minute, dropping to his knees to smother Helguson’s snap shot at his near post. The Hungarian was also relieved to watch a 20-yarder from Taarabt whistle wide.

Operating just behind the front-two, the elusive Taarabt was making his presence felt again on six minutes. The Rangers skipper shrugged off the challenge of Luke Hyam and charged goalwards, only for his shot to be blocked by the alert Smith.

QPR had two ex-Colchester United loanees in their side, and the two combined in the ninth minute with defender Matthew Connolly heading firmly over the bar from Hogan Ephraim’s corner.

Town were starved of possession, although a free-kick from Grant Leadbitter did cause some concern in the visitors’ ranks. Connolly, back in his defensive role, could only head Leadbitter’s cross straight into the air, and keeper Paddy Kenny needed two attempts before he could pounce on the loose ball.

Otherwise, it continued to be one-way traffic. Fulop diverted an angled shot from striker Helguson around his near post on 24 minutes, and was then diving to his right to gobble up Taarabt’s long-range daisy-cutter after the skipper had run Town’s defence ragged.

A goal looked on the cards, and it finally arrived via Mackie’s deadly finish on the half-hour mark.

There was a glimmer of hope in the 40th minute, when a long throw by Carlos Edwards dropped menacingly into the six-yard box. Gareth McAuley turned to lash in a shot that ricocheted off a couple of defenders before flying wide of target.

But that was the extent of Town’s attacking threat before the break.

Ipswich boss Keane made a double change at half-time, in a bid to turn the tide, with strikers Connor Wickham and Tamas Priskin coming on for winger Townsend and teenager Hyam.

The changes had an immediate impact. Priskin actually swept the ball into an empty net in the 50th minute, although referee Mr Stroud had already blown his whistle for a foul by Priskin on keeper Kenny, so the goal did not stand.

A minute later and fellow substitute Wickham was in the thick of the action. The 17-year-old fended off the challenge of left-back Clint Hill and squared into the box, only for Edwards to slice his shot wide with the ball rolling out of the reach of the onrushing David Norris.

The statistics will show, though, that the home side could muster just one effort on target during the whole night. And even that was nothing to write home about, as Jason Scotland’s powder-puff shot was easily scooped up by under-worked Kenny.

Fulop kept the scoreline down by saving well from both Mackie and Taarabt in quick succession, but Helguson’s penalty put the icing on the cake for Rangers.

Worringly, you got the feeling that they weren’t even at the top of their game last night!

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