Walker; Marsh, Green, Viveash, Pointon (Roper 95); Wrack, Keates (Dyer 104), Porter, Brissett; Rammell, Watson (Ricketts, 77).
QPR ended Walsall’s plucky resistance with extra time goals from Danny Maddix and Steve Slade. Up till then the Midlands side had given a good account of themselves and fully deserved to be on terms at the end of normal play. Rangers just about deserved to scrape home based on the number of chances they created and missed, but they did so in front of their lowest crowd for 33 years. Rangers now have the chance to push on in the League Cup when they meet Charlton in Round Two
RAY HARFORD saw his team, grateful for a rare Danny Maddix goal, produce only their fourth victory in his 32 games in charge at Loftus Road as they edged nervously past Second Division Walsall to earn a second-round meeting with Charlton.
Maddix, the Jamaican international, was on hand to turn the ball over the line nine minutes into extra time after James Walker, who had produced an outstanding display in the visitors’ goal, could not hold a scorching volley from substitute Steve Slade.
It was Maddix’s 13th goal in his 11 years at Loftus Road and helped paper over the cracks of another disappointing QPR performance. Slade himself scored four minutes from time, winning a header on the edge of the Walsall area before cheekily chipping the ball over Walker, to add to Mike Sheron’s opener. Rangers were not wanting in opportunities against a Walsall side unbeaten four games into the campaign. Sheron was the main culprit in failing to put daylight between Rangers and their early-season uncertainty. He could claim Walker made an excellent save to his third-minute shot from close range after Kevin Gallen held the ball up for him. But there was little excuse from Tony Scully’s ensuing corner for skying an eight-yard effort over the crossbar after Gavin Peacock had laid the opportunity on a plate.
With the tie balanced on a goalless edge, Walsall had QPR looking nervous every time they attacked. Jason Brissett, capitalising on Andy Watson’s dummy, attacked his full-back after 27 minutes and made headway into the penalty area. Even though Matthew Rose recovered initially, Brissett still managed to get in his shot which whizzed inches wide of the far post.
QPR should have gone ahead 15 minutes before the interval. Ian Baraclough centred from the left, Karl Ready’s downward header was well saved by Walker and, after Steve Yates ploughed in for the rebound, the ball spun out to Sheron. But again the former Stoke City striker sent his shot over the bar. To Sheron’s credit, he refused to shirk responsibility and after 68 minutes, he brought a roar of relief from the home crowd. Receiving a misplaced pass from Watson, Sheron dribbled his way cleverly into the visitors’ penalty area only to lose his footing. But as Richard Green and Adrian Viveash dithered, Sheron, grounded, managed to scythe the ball into the net past the surprised Walker.
But 10 minutes from time, Andy Rammell produced a powerful header from Michael Ricketts’ left-wing cross. Although Harper in the Rangers goal initially produced a superb one-handed save, he could not prevent the ball going over the line.
A goal from Mike Sheron midway through the second half appeared to have carried QPR through last night but with 10 minutes remaining Lee Harper palmed the ball into his own net, having initially made a smart save from Andy Rammell’s header.
It was clear that Rangers no longer approach a home fixture with relish, their nervousness plain for all to see, while it was also evident that few in a small crowd had paid heed to the chairman Chris Wright’s plea to them to get behind team and manager.
Walsall, in contrast, were sprightly and ever eager to prey on their opponents’ discomfort. Chris Marsh, down the right, took every opportunity to advance over the halfway line and make full use of the open spaces to spring the counter-attack.
There could have been goals at either end inside the first two minutes, Richard Green powering a shot too high and Mike Sheron forcing James Walker to push the ball over athletically.
Rangers were never convincing yet gradually took control, lifted by Sheron’s readiness to get involved in deeper positions even if his finishing let him down. When he shot from point-blank range Walker was well positioned to make the stop and when two attempts to force the ball home following a corner had been charged down Sheron was again wasteful. In the middle of that flurry Walker dived to his right to foil Kevin Gallen.
In the 26th minute Jason Brissett accelerated into a gap down the left but unfortunately for the visitors he delayed his shot and found the angle too tight. It was a rare chance for Walsall, but at the start of the second half they threatened again as Neil Pointon aimed firmly for the right-hand corner of Lee Harper’s goal and saw the goalkeeper claw the ball away with difficulty.
Rangers needed sharper movement to throw the dogged Walsall defenders off their trail. They were not lacking in effort but their level of skill and composure left a lot to be desired and so often ruined positions of promise.
Danny Maddix and Steve Slade struck in extra time to send Rangers surging into the second round of the Worthington Cup – and give them their first win of the season. Striker Mike Sheron had finally broken the deadlock in this first round tie following the goalless first leg. Sheron scored in the 68th minute after a 40-yard run. He stumbled at the end of it, but still managed to stab the ball home. Walsall would have been further behind at that stage but for some fine work from keeper James Walker, who blocked a shot from Sheron as early as the first minute. Sheron missed two further golden chances as Rangers piled on the pressure. And the Saddlers keeper also did superbly to get to a well struck shot from Kevin Gallen. The chances were falling to Rangers, but Walsall were by no means out of it and threatened in breakaways. Walsall, fourth place in the Second Division after a fine start to the season, equalised in the 80th minute through veteran striker Andy Rammell. But nine minutes into extra time Maddix put the home side back in front – then Slade finished off the job with six minutes to go.