Lucketti leaves Holloway luckless

Queen's Park Rangers 1 - Preston North End 2
Click to follow
The Independent Football

Ian Holloway, the Queen's Park Rangers manager, not only wears his emotions on his sleeve, but often swathes them all over the whole garment. After signing a new contract on Thursday, he was not satisfied with saying that it was like winning the Lottery, but had to add that he was "the happiest man alive".

Ian Holloway, the Queen's Park Rangers manager, not only wears his emotions on his sleeve, but often swathes them all over the whole garment. After signing a new contract on Thursday, he was not satisfied with saying that it was like winning the Lottery, but had to add that he was "the happiest man alive".

Oh well, each to his own. And he has done well enough for Rangers for them to be happy too. But anyone going too far over the top is inviting a fall at the next hurdle. And sure enough, at Loftus Road yesterday he was outwitted by his Preston counterpart, Billy Davies, who brought on two substitutes - "because we had to make changes after letting ourselves down" - and won the match to put his club well into contention for a play-off place.

Preston had been getting fed up with being reminded that it was time to match their impressive home form with better away performances. That situation seemed immediately understandable yesterday when Youl Mawene made a lame attempt to head back to his own goalkeeper, but instead presented the ball to Jamie Cureton, who flicked it up on to the crossbar.

That uncertain Preston defence continued to cause them problems, failing to deal with the ball in the swirling breeze and not having an answer at that point to the strength of Paul Furlong, whom they attempted to frustrate by fair means or foul. Their tendency to clear the ball without much forethought also invited trouble, and it came.

After 26 minutes, Preston left Furlong space as the ball came across the penalty area from Lee Cook and he headed firmly beyond Andy Lonergan, who had been badly let down, especially by Mawene.

Rangers steadily controlled their lead, and Andrew Davies and Gino Padula were particularly dependable and constructive on the left side of defence.

After an hour, Preston replaced Dixon Etuhu with Paul McKenna, whose mid-field authority had been badly missed, and Patrick Agyemang with David Nugent, who, within two minutes, provided his team with their first serious threat on the Rangers goal. His low, hard drive was well blocked by Simon Royce, who then offered Preston their equaliser. McKenna had a shot knocked down by Royce, and Nugent raced in, beat him to the rebounding ball, and scored against the game's sense of direction.

In the 75th minute, a ball that should have been swept away only got as far as Chris Lucketti, who hammered it through the ranks of the helpless defence.

Preston then jeopardised their superiority when Eddie Lewis put in a high tackle on Padula and was sent off, leaving the last 15 minutes with a festering resentment that led to bickering and pushing. It came to nothing, but emphasised that Rangers had lost the plot. So the happiest man in the world ended the day saying he had experienced "the most upsetting game of my life".

Comments