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Sunday, April 15, 2007

QPR's Sunderland Defeat - Mangerial Comments & Match Reports

- - - - Played GD Points
Burnley 42 1 51
QPR 43 -13 49
Leicester 42 -13 47
Barnsley 43 -26 47
Hull 43 -16 45
Leeds 43 -23 45
Southend 43 -27 42
Luton 43 -24 37


John Gregory is adamant the positives far outweighed the negatives after the R's winning run came to an end at Sunderland.

Speaking exclusively to www.qpr.co.uk after the 2-1 defeat at the Stadium of Light, the gaffer said: "We came very, very close today. They looked like they'd run out of ideas.

"Having said that, I can take a hell of a lot of positives out of the game.

"The fact that we've come to a place like this and matched arguably the best team in the division for the majority of the game is very pleasing.

"Unfortunately we didn't get the point I thought we deserved, but there a lot of plus points yet again.''

Gregory was disappointed with the R's defending for Grant Leadbitter's winner, commenting: "It was a needless free-kick to concede in the first place and then it went through about 20 players and nestled in the back of the net.

"On another day it gets blocked and we leave here with a point, but it wasn't to be today.'' QPR

BBC - Managerial Comments Sunderland boss Roy Keane:
"I thought it was a good performance and once again the players showed great character.

"They came good again and I've got great faith and trust in them. We're actually playing quite well and the players are enjoying it.

"We've been very much a team together over the past few months and I've got a great staff."

QPR boss John Gregory:
"We thought we'd done enough because Sunderland looked like they'd run out of ideas in the second half.

"Roy Keane made a couple of subs which gave them a lift, but how many saves did Lee Camp have to make?

"Hopefully we just need a couple more points to be safe.

"Leeds won, but we've got two games at home and one away and if we win one of those home games then it should get us over the line." BBC

OBSERVER - Keane keeps his cool as Sunderland edge closer - Spencer Vignes
Hell will probably freeze over before Roy Keane will admit it, but Sunderland are closing in on the most remarkable promotion of recent years from English football's second tier. Win number 14 from an unbeaten run of 17 games stretching back to last year, together with Derby's defeat at Ipswich, means that if other results go their way in six days' time then the Black Cats will return to the Premiership at the first time of asking. And to think they were sixth from bottom in November.

'I haven't got a clue,' was the Sunderland manager's deadpan response to next Saturday's permutations. We are, after all, talking about a man who regards back-to-back manager of the month awards as almost a source of embarrassment. 'No matter what happens next week we will be trying to win, no matter where, no matter what the situation is. That's what we're trying to do at this football club - continue to win football matches. Along the way, things will fall into place. But I'm not looking too far ahead.'
Of this latest win Keane added: 'I thought today was a good performance. We created plenty of chances. Once again the players showed great character, but this was always going to be a difficult game for us. We gave away a sloppy goal - I suppose any goal you concede you can look at as sloppy - but the players came good again. We got the second one and managed to, I wouldn't say hold on, but it would have been nice to get a third goal. We are winning games and the players seem to be enjoying it. There's a good bond between them and I think that's beginning to show. They seem to enjoy each other's company. I'm sure they enjoy mine, but they enjoy each other's and that's ultimately what's important.'

This was far from Sunderland's best performance of the past four months, but they deserve credit for showing patience against a dogged Queens Park Rangers side who travelled to Wearside with three successive wins under their belt. When Dean Whitehead struck David Connolly's through ball past Lee Camp after just six minutes it looked as though the Londoners might be looking at a hiding. But John Gregory's side weathered the storm and equalised midway through the first-half when Darren Ward rashly brought down Dexter Blackstock and Martin Rowlands scored from the spot.

'Premiership? You're having a laugh' sang the travelling fans of Sunderland's lofty ambitions. Throughout the third quarter of the game they looked to have a point. In fact had QPR been a bit more ambitious instead of looking to simply contain the Black Cats they could have done some real damage.

Instead, the visitors were made to pay when Paul Furlong gave away a free-kick on the Sunderland right just outside QPR's area. Carlos Edwards shaped to float the kick into the box, only to roll the ball sideways towards the lurking Grant Leadbitter. The resulting shot from 20 yards tore past Camp and sent the Stadium of Light into raptures, scenes which were repeated within seconds of the final whistle when news of a second Ipswich goal against Derby came over the public address system. Although QPR caused a few late jitters it was a case of too little too late.

'Sunderland have got that devil in them that comes from their manager,' admitted John Gregory, adding that the Wearsiders are the best side his team have played all season. 'A team like us coming here was a daunting task before kick-off and it got even bigger after we went 1-0 down. We showed a bit of character and to be honest that team spirit we've got in our set-up has got us into the position we are in - out of the serious trouble. Hopefully we've got enough now just to get across the line.' OBSERVER

Keane still on course for top
Sunderland 2 QPR 1Pete Oliver at Stadium of Light
In a championship race that has resembled a game of pass the parcel, the music may finally be ready to stop at the Stadium of Light.

With the lead at the top of the table changing close to 20 times during the season and six clubs taking their turn in first place, Sunderland’s timing is perfect.

Having moved into the title-winning position for the first time at the start of the week, Roy Keane’s men avoided the stage-fright that has afflicted their rivals to secure a 14th win in 17 games since they lasted tasted defeat at the end of last year.

Not that there weren’t a few jitters, as they had to wait until the 76th-minute before getting the better of a QPR side that equalised from the penalty spot but barely mustered another attack.

But with Grant Leadbitter coming off the bench to score a stunning match-winner for the second game in a row, Sunderland were able to sustain a run that has seen them go from 12th in the table to within touching distance of the Premiership.

With just three games to go a playoff finish is assured, but anything less than automatic promotion, which could be secured next weekend, will now come as a major disappointment. Although the manager had detected no sign of nerves among his players, nothing settles a side expected to win more than an early goal and it took Sunderland just seven minutes to take the lead.

Dean Whitehead had been left out of the side for only the third time this season for the win at Southampton but returned to lead the team yesterday and seemingly set the tone when he ran on to a neat pass from David Connolly to slide the ball past Lee Camp for his fourth goal of the season. But confidence and complacency can be confused and after Darryl Murphy failed to get a touch to a Carlos Edwards cross to put Sunderland in clear water they gifted Rangers a route back. Sloppy passing conceded possession and when Dexter Blackstock advanced into the penalty area he was upended by Darren Ward as the keeper advanced too slowly off his line. Martin Rowlands equalised from the spot.

It was an uncharacteristic passage of play from Keane’s side, who have been so ruthless in their pursuit of promotion, but did at least inject vigour into their effort to avoid becoming the latest leader of the division to suffer from an attack of vertigo.

Set pieces were a constant source of danger to the visitors, who were fortunate to survive when Jonny Evans missed a heading chance from a Ross Wallace free kick and Murphy should have done better when he missed the target after getting a run in behind the Rangers defence. Edwards was proving equally elusive but when the winger gave Whitehead his next chance the captain was unable to force home his second goal.

Attacking options are never a problem for Keane, though, and with three strikers to choose from on the bench, Stern John got the nod at the start of the second half as Murphy moved out wide as replacement for the injured Wallace.

Murphy played a one-two with Connolly that Sunderland’s leading scorer was unable to finish off and John then shot across the face of goal as Rangers were forced into defensive mode. Yet for all that Camp was barely forced to make a save and Edwards failed to hit the target when he had made the most of a chance to go one-on-one with Rangers full-back Mar-cus Bignot. As at Southampton on Monday, Keane finally sent for Leadbitter to try and find a way through and again the local lad did not disappoint.

The midfielder had only been on the field for 15 minutes when he collected a free kick from Edwards and lashed a low shot past Camp from 20 yards to propel Sunderland a step closer to the Premiership.

Star man: Carlos Edwards(Sunderland)

Player ratings. Sunderland:Ward 6, Simpson 6, Nosworthy 6, Evans 6, Collins 7; Edwards 8, Whitehead 7, Yorke 6 (Leadbitter 61 mins, 6), Wallace 6 (John ht, 5); Connolly 5, Murphy 6 (Stokes, 77 mins)

QPR: Camp 6, Timoska 6, Cullip 4 (Kanyuka 43 mins, 6), Stewart, 6 Bignot 6, Rowlands 7, Lomas 7 (Idiakez 83 mins), Bolder 6, Smith 6, Moore 5 (Furlong 69 mins, 6), Blackstock 5

Scorers: Sunderland:Whitehead 7, Leadbitter 76

QPR:Rowlands 21pen

Referee:M Jones

Sunday Times

Keane interventions proving decisive for Sunderland

By Louise Taylor, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 10:25pm BST 14/04/2007
Sunderland (1) 2 QPR (1) 1

Despite stumbling rather than striding towards this latest victory, Sunderland are now within touching distance of the Premiership and could conceivably be promoted as soon as next Saturday.

Top of the Championship and unbeaten in 17 League games they had another of Roy Keane's 'Midas touch' substitutions to thank for the three points, Grant Leadbitter once again stepping off the bench to score the winner.

"We should have maybe won the game a lot more easily but the players showed a lot of character," said Keane.

His QPR counterpart, John Gregory, who has steered his team towards safety, said: "Roy's are the best side we've played this season, it's a Premiership set- up here and we had a daunting task but Sunderland looked like they'd run out of ideas and we thought we'd done enough for a point. But Roy made one or two substitutions that gave them a bit of a lift."

If Keane is enjoying his place in the managerial sun right now, Gregory could tell him about life in the shade. Less than a decade ago, when he was in charge of a Premiership title challenging Aston Villa, he was tipped to coach England but, when he lost his subsequent job at Derby, the one time QPR midfielder spent three years out of work before returning to Loftus Road as manager last autumn.

Yet precarious as his new profession is, Sunderland fans are increasingly convinced that Keane is no mere mortal and could walk on the River Wear if he so wished. Chants of "We're going to win the League" duly reverberated around the ground after Dean Whitehead propelled Sunderland into an early lead. Cued up by David Connolly's adroit swivel and flicked pass, the midfielder accelerated through QPR's defence before beating Lee Camp courtesy of a low shot from just inside the area.

So far so straightforward but this was to be no simple victory procession. Instead QPR equalised when Darren Ward hauled Dexter Blackstock down in the box and Martin Rowlands converted the ensuing penalty.

Although Sunderland's Nyron Nosworthy and Jonny Evans again shone in central defence and the tricky Carlos Edwards's initially impressed down the right, Keane's players' final passes, crosses and shots were generally proving wayward and they struggled to impose a consistently high tempo while spurning several half chances.

Keane, though, is proving a dab hand at not only rotating his players in a manner to make even Rafael Benitez dizzy but making vital substitutions. So it proved when he introduced Leadbitter and the midfielder responded by directing an unerring 25- yard shot beyond Camp after Edwards had squared a free kick to him. Coincidentally - or maybe not - Leadbitter had scored the late winner at Southampton last Monday after beginning on the bench. Telegraph

Sunderland 2 QPR 1: Leadbitter's sweet strike sinks QPR
Sunderland maintain charge to stay on course for automatic promotion place
By Simon Turnbull at The Stadium Of Light
Published: 15 April 2007
According to Boylesports, the Irish bookmaker backing Sunderland with £10 million of sponsorship, the club are 100-1 shots to finish in a Champions' League qualifying position next season. The trouble is Roy Keane has to get his team to the Premiership first.

Still, they are three points closer now, after holding their nerve yesterday against a Queens Park Rangers side who succeeded in knocking them out of their stride for much of a fitful Championship encounter. Sunderland got off to a flying start with a superbly-fashioned Dean Whitehead goal but were left grounded and frustrated when Martin Rowlands equalised from the penalty spot midway through the first-half.

For the second time in five days, it took a thumping drive by Grant Leadbitter to get Keane's side across the winning line. The substitute midfielder's 76th-minute strike kept Sunderland on top of the table, with a 13th win in an unbeaten run that stands at 17 games now.

With Sunderland four points clear with three matches to go, they could clinch promotion next week if they win at Colchester and Derby lose at home to Luton. Not that Keane is putting any champagne on ice just yet. "No matter what the situation is, we're just trying to win our matches," he said. "The players showed great character today. They had to be patient."

They did indeed after surging ahead with a peach of a goal in the seventh minute. It came from a sweeping move that was launched with a pass out of defence by Nyron Nosworthy and continued with a brilliant prompting feed on the turn by David Connolly. That allowed the overlapping Whitehead to stride into the right side of the Rangers penalty area and beat the goalkeeper Lee Camp with a neat side-footed finish.

It was a goal of the highest order but it counted for nothing by the 23rd minute. Rowlands put Rangers on level terms from the penalty spot after Dexter Blackstock had crashed to the ground on the left side of the Sunderland box under challenge from the diving Darren Ward.

It was a counter-blow that came out of the blue, though as the opening half progressed John Gregory's well-organised Rangers side succeeded in disrupting the flow of Sunderland's play, restricting them to a handful of fleeting chances. The most notable was another Whitehead shot, headed away.

Sunderland's frustration increased after the interval, with little rhythm to their play and Rangers quickly closed down any space that opened up. Stern John, a half-time replacement for Ross Wallace, did get a sight of goal in the 54th minute but steered his shot across the face of the target.

With half-an-hour to go, Keane sent on Leadbitter for the labouring Dwight Yorke. It was a switch that gave Sunderland more of a grip in central midfield and paid a rich dividend with 14 minutes remaining. Shaping to launch a free-kick into the penalty area from outside on the right, Carlos Edwards instead fed the ball sideways to Leadbitter, whose low drive found the back of the net from 20 yards out.

It was not quite as stunning as the winner struck by the young midfielder at Southampton on Monday but it could prove to be just as vital. Independent

Sunderland clinched maximum points thanks to Grant Leadbitter's fearsome 76th minute strike at a packed Stadium of Light.

The Black Cats midfielder came off the bench and for the second game in succession, bagged the all-important winner to send plucky Rangers home with nothing to show for their efforts.

In a first half dominated by the hosts, Roy Keane's men stormed into a seventh minute lead.

Dean Whitehead was the recipient of David Connolly's neat pass and with the freedom of the 18-yard box, the Black Cats' skipper duly tucked the ball under the advancing Lee Camp.

Undeterred, back in the side and back on penalty duties, Martin Rowlands fired the R's on level terms midway through the half.

Dexter Blackstock was sent tumbling to ground by Darren Ward inside the box and Rowlands made no mistake, firing home with aplomb from the spot.

Rangers played second fiddle in most departments in the second half, but to their credit, they never gave up, with substitute Inigo Idiakez forcing Ward into two fine saves in the closing stages.

After six weeks out nursing a hamstring strain, Rowlands returned to the starting XI at the expense of broken leg victim Gareth Ainsworth.

Stefan Moore was given the nod to partner top-scorer Blackstock in attack, while true to form, Roy Keane maintained his rotation policy, drafting Whitehead, Daryl Murphy and Ross Wallace back into the Sunderland starting line-up.

With an expectant home crowd cheering their every move, Sunderland created the first opportunity of the match on three minutes.

Connolly's neat pass found Whitehead, whose shot from an acute angle was superbly blocked by Danny Cullip.

The breakthrough the hosts' partisan supporters craved arrived just four minutes later.

Connolly again turned provider, sliding in an inch-perfect ball to Whitehead, who took two touches to set, before calmly stroking the ball under the advancing Camp from 15-yards.

Rangers were made to wait until the 18th minute for their first opportunity on goal.

Samspa Timoska's slide-rule pass found Moore, whose neat cut back from the by-line was hacked to safety by Nyron Nosworthy, with Blackstock waiting to pounce.

Buoyed by that chance, the R's grew in stature and after Danny Simpson conceded possession all too easily, Moore's pass was deflected into the path of Blackstock.

His pace took him beyond Nosworthy and when Ward clipped the striker's heals, referee Mr Jones was left with no alternative but to point to the spot.

Rowlands stepped up from 12-yards and sent the Sunderland custodian the wrong way, for his ninth goal of the season.

Undeterred, the Black Cats continued to ask questions of the R's backline, with Stewart in the right place at the right time to clear his lines with Connolly poised on the edge of the six-yard box.

Sunderland finished the half in the ascendancy, with Murphy thrashing wide from a tight angle and Whitehead seeing his goal-bound shot headed off the line by Timoska.

After Cullip and Adam Bolder were each booked in a 60-second spell, Rangers were dealt a further blow on the stroke of half-time when the former limped off and was replaced by Pat Kanyuka.

Sunderland continued to pepper the Rangers goal at the start of the second half, with the lively Connolly firing over from 18-yards.

To their credit, the R's were by no means overawed by their high-flying opponents and when Jimmy Smith's corner kick was met by the towering Kanyuka, only a timely deflection prevented the R's substitute from testing Ward.

That brief foray silenced the home crowd briefly and sensing his side required fresh legs, Keane introduced Grant Leadbitter at the expense of the tiring Dwight Yorke.

It was the otherwise quiet Carlos Edwards who forced Camp into his next save, firing a shot on target from the edge of the box, which the R's custodian did fantastically well to hold on to at the first attempt.

As the clock ticked towards the 70th minute, Gregory made a change of his own, introducing Paul Furlong and withdrawing the hardworking Moore.

But it was Sunderland sub Leadbitter who made the desired impact for the hosts' 14 minutes from time.

After Furlong conceded a needless free-kick deep in his own half, Edwards' deft lay-off from the right hand corner of the penalty box fell perfectly for the young midfielder, who smashed a fearsome right-footed drive into the bottom corner.

Idiakez replaced Steve Lomas soon after and with his first touch, sent a curling free-kick into the hands of Ward.

The same player tested Ward again in the dying moments, yet despite three minutes of added time, a second comeback proved beyond Gregory's men.

Sunderland: Ward, Simpson, Evans, Edwards, Whitehead, Murphy (Stokes 77), Nosworthy, Collins, Connolly, Wallace (John 46), Yorke (Leadbitter 61).

Subs: Fulop, Elliott.

Scorers: Whitehead 7, Leadbitter 76

Bookings: Simpson 80

QPR: Camp, Bignot, Cullip (Kanyuka 43), Bolder, Rowlands, Lomas (Idiakez 83), Moore (Furlong 69), Stewart, Timoska, Blackstock, Smith.

Subs: Cole, Nygaard.

Scorers: Rowlands 22 (pen)

Bookings: Cullip 41, Bolder 42, Furlong 76

Referee: Mr M Jones

Attendance: 39, 206 QPR

y Nick Alexander at the Stadium of Light

Full-time: Sunderland survive a nervy finish to pick up a huge win, their fifth in a row ... and news comes through that Derby have lost to a late goal at Ipswich. The Black Cats go four points clear at the top.

93 mins: Keeper Camp fires a free-kick into the box, Whitehead clears, surely that is time.

92 mins: Connolly cuts inside and curls a shot well over, not for the first time today, the striker is desperate to score.

92 mins: Edwards is stopped by Stewart as the winger looks to shoot.

90 mins: Three minutes of added time.

89 mins: Bignot blocks Connolly's shot after a clever back-heel by Leadbitter.

89 mins: Whitehead threads a lovely ball to Edwards who stands on it and falls over.

88 mins: Idiakez tests Ward with a right-foot shot, it is end-to-end stuff now.

87 mins: Connolly's curler from outside the box is high and wide.

87 mins: Leadbitter tries to pick out John who is unmarked in the box, the cross from the left is too long.

86 mins: QPR put Sunderland under pressure.

84 mins: Idiakez comes on and immediately takes the free-kick, which is driven straight at Ward.

83 mins: Evans again tussles with Furling and QPR get another free-kick, this time it is a yard outside the area and Sunderland are not happy with the decision.

82 mins: Bolder's shot hits the wall.

81 mins: Evans backs into Furlong and QPR get a free-kick 30 yards out, in a central position.

79 mins: The crowd is noisy now, they sense another important victory.

77 mins: Stokes comes on for Murphy.

76 mins: Goal flash Sunderland 2 QPR 1 Edwards catches Rangers out, squaring a free-kick to Leadbitter who smashes a first-time shot into the corner from 25 yards.

76 mins: Furlong flattens Evans with a late challenge, Sunderland get another free-kick by the angle of the penalty box.

74 mins: Bolder fouls Edwards and Sunderland get a free-kick.

71 mins: Sunderland have to defend for a spell, the crowd gets edgy.

69 mins: Furlong replaces Moore.

68 mins: Connolly's pass is poor, it is not happening for Sunderland.
[ Continued at...]

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