QUEENS PARK RANGERS booked their place in the fourth round of this year’s FA Cup courtesy of a dramatic penalty shootout victory.
The game itself was an even affair with extra time required to split the two sides, Micheal Ihiekwe eventually broke the deadlock for the visitors, before Lyndon Dykes’ 115th minute header ensured the tie would be decided by the dreaded shootout.
Rangers converted eight of their nine spot kicks, with shot stopper Jordan Archer on hand to deny Chiedozie Ogbene for the decisive kick ensuring Mark Warburton’s side will be in the hat for the fourth-round draw on Sunday evening.
Heading into this one R’s boss Warburton made five changes from the recent Sky Bet Championship victory over Birmingham City, which saw Archer coming in between the posts, Stefan Johansen, Dominic Ball and George Thomas returning in midfield, whilst Charlie Austin regained his place in the starting XI.
Of course, there was some noticeable absences with our AFCON stars Ilias Chair, Seny Dieng and Osman Kakay missing their first Rangers game due to their representation in the African tournament which kicks off tomorrow.
This ultimately meant Archer started in goal, behind a backline from left to right of Lee Wallace, Yoann Barbet, Jimmy Dunne, Rob Dickie and Albert Adomah. With captain Johansen partnering Ball in midfield, with Thomas playing behind the forward pair Austin and Andre Gray.
Rangers faced a Rotherham United side who headed to west London sitting top of the Sky Bet League One table having picked up six victories from their last seven games, impressive form which included their FA Cup victory over National League side Stockport County a result which confirmed the Millers’ place in the third round of the famous tournament.
And it was Paul Warne’s side who started brightly, with forward Will Grigg putting pressure on shot-stopper Archer, who was making his first start for the R’s since our Carabao Cup victory over Oxford United back in August.
Despite a shaky start, the R’s quickly found their passing game with Johansen and Ball in the heart of Rangers’ midfield enjoying their fair share of possession of the ball.
But in the 21st minute the Super Hoops could and should have been ahead.
A fine through ball from Johansen picking out Wallace who with one touch fizzed the ball across the box for it to somehow beat Thomas and sail safely out of play.
This kickstarted a flurry of chances from Warburton’s side, Gray initially forcing Joshua Vickers into a fine acrobatic save before Austin had the ball in the back of the net only for the official’s flag to be raised before he could wheel off in celebration.
Ball then fired wide in the 32nd minute before Dunne at the far post could only head Thomas’ perfectly weighted cross straight at Vickers in the visiting goal.
However, it wasn’t all one-way traffic with Rotherham having chances themselves to pull ahead.
Initially Michael Ihiekwe went close in the 39th minute, only for Archer eventually to calmly collect the ball before Michael Smith at the far post could only head Kieran Sadlier’s cross wide.
With the half time whistle looming Rangers felt they could have been ahead, but an increasingly frustrated Austin could only fire straight at Vickers in the travelling goal and as Dean Whitestone’s whistle blew it remained all square in W12 at the break.
After the restart the second half burst into life, Smith initially heading over for the visitors before Dickie tried for a repeat of his previous cup heroics with a speculative effort which he fired wide.
Five minutes into the second half, Rangers produced arguably their move of the game so far. Some great hold up play from Austin eventually finding Adomah on the right-hand side who was able to pick out Gray with a fine cross, but Vickers once again was equal to it and the game remained goalless.
The 59th minute saw the arrival of Moses Odubajo who returned to the Rangers squad for the first time since late November and Dykes who replaced Wallace and Austin respectively.
Rangers continued to push for an opener, with substitute Dykes’ arrival instantly making a difference, with the Scottish international finding Gray at the far post, only for the Watford loanee to fire over.
In what had quickly become a scrappy affair in west London, Rotherham began to create numerous chances with Daniel Barlaser eventually firing narrowly wide.
With 20 minutes left on the clock, Warburton rung the changes with midfielders Andre Dozzell and Luke Amos replacing Ball and Thomas as the R’s boss looked to inject some energy into a somewhat weary looking Rangers midfield.
Both sides had their chances, with Barbet having to be alert to head Chiedozie Ogbene’s looping head off the Rangers line, whilst Adomah could only head Amos’ left-handed cross wide for the R’s.
With five minutes left on the clock and extra time beginning to loom both sides pushed for what would surely prove to be a winner, Hakeen Odoffin stinging the palms of Archer, before Dykes forced Vickers into a fine save, but ultimately the search for that illusive break through continued.
Four additional minutes were added onto the original 90 and it was the visitors who looked most likely to break the deadlock, however Rangers defended resolutely and as the referee’s whistle blew, we knew that the tie would be heading into extra time.
Before we kicked off for the first half of extra time substitute Odubajo was replaced by youngster Aaron Drewe whose arrival saw him making his first professional QPR appearance.
The game continued in its end-to-end fashion, but it was Rotherham who went closet to pulling ahead.
Jamie Lindsay firing wide, but they wouldn’t have to wait to long for the breakthrough when only a minute Ihiekwe slotted home.
A fine cross field ball from Wes Harding falling to the feet of Ihiekwe who calmly placed the ball past a helpless Archer and into the far corner.
After going behind Rangers pushed for an equaliser but simply couldn’t break down a stubborn Rotherham defence and at the break Warburton’s side trailed.
The R’s knew they had 15 minutes to find an equaliser if they were to have a chance of progressing through to the fourth round of the famous tournament.
Some silky feet from Adomah created an opening for Gray in the 21st minute of extra time, but at the vital moment the R’s forward slipped and his eventual shot on goal was comfortably pushed away by the Millers backline.
And with six minutes of the second period left the Super Hoops finally were able to break down the Rotherham defensive line.
Adomah picking out Dykes who was able to head home courtesy of the help of goal line technology. The Scotsman’s initial header crashing onto the crossbar and fortuitously onto stopper Vickers and after a brief pause the goal was eventually given, drawing Warburton’s side level.
Rangers pushed for a late winner, but it wasn’t to be, and the tie would be decided by a penalty shootout.
Eight QPR players stepped up and converted their spot kicks, but it was goalkeeper Archer who was the eventual hero after denying Ogbene from 12 yards, ultimately booking Warburton’s sides place in the fourth round of the famous tournament.