QPR sign former U's loanees

QUEENS Park Rangers, the new rich kids on the block, are fast transforming themselves into a team of ex-Colchester United loanees!The Londoners have millions to spend in the transfer market this month, following the injection of cash from Indian billionaire, Lakshmi Mittal.

By Carl Marston

QUEENS Park Rangers, the new rich kids on the block, are fast transforming themselves into a team of ex-Colchester United loanees!

The Londoners have millions to spend in the transfer market this month, following the injection of cash from Indian billionaire, Lakshmi Mittal.

And yesterday they completed the signing of two former U's loanees, defender Matthew Connolly and front-runner Hogan Ephraim, to add to the couple that they have already employed this season - left-back Chris Barker and striker Rowan Vine (who was on loan from Birmingham).


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Promising centre-half Connolly spent the first half of this season on loan at Layer Road from Arsenal, before the Premier League club exercised their option to recall him yesterday.

Well down the pecking order at the Emirates Stadium, 20-year-old Connolly has immediately moved on to QPR, signing a lucrative three-and-a-half-year package.

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“It's very difficult to make the breakthrough at a club like Arsenal, so when QPR made an offer I knew it was the right time to move,” said Connolly on signing his new deal yesterday.

“I know what the Championship is all about after my spell at Colchester United.”

Connolly made 16 league appearances for the U's, as a centre-half and occasionally at right-back, and he also scored a couple of goals. He netted in the 2-2 home draw against Barnsley in August, and also in the 3-2 home defeat by Watford last month.

Likewise, Ephraim has also signed a three-and-a-half-year deal, making the equally short move from East London with West Ham, to West London with QPR.

“It's a great time to be at QPR. Big things are going to happen here, because the new owners are very enthusiastic,” confirmed Ephraim, who made 21 appearances for the U's during a loan spell last season.

When the U's visited Loftus Road just before Christmas, Rangers were propping up the rest of the Championship table.

United had already thumped QPR 4-2 at Layer Road at the beginning of October, but Luigi De Canio's men gained revenge with a 2-1 win over the U's on December 22, to clamber off the foot of the table.

It now looks more likely that QPR will make a late dash for the play-offs, rather than be worried about relegation, during the second half of this season.

In addition to Connolly and Ephraim, the Londoners have also recruited Watford's Gavin Mahon, Manchester United youngster Kieran Lee (on loan) and Plymouth's Hungarian front-runner Akos Buzsaky since the transfer window reopened on New Year's Day.

Buzsaky scored both goals against the U's before Christmas, and Rangers have since recorded back-to-back wins at Watford (4-2) and over Leicester (3-1).

Vine has actually returned to Birmingham City, after his loan spell expired, although he too could soon be returning to Loftus Road.

Meanwhile, the U's are preparing for this Saturday's FA Cup third round tie at home to League Two promotion candidates Peterborough.

Skipper Karl Duguid missed the heartening 2-1 win at Charlton on New Year's Day, due to flu, while double goal hero Kevin Lisbie hobbled off with a sore calf with 15 minutes remaining.

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