QUEENS PARK RANGERS 4 (Helguson 40 P, Mackie 53, Taarabt 63 P. Hall 82)
REFEREE James Linington made all the headlines for the wrong reasons at Loftus Road as he handed Queens Park Rangers two soft, soft penalties while denying the Reds a blatant spot kick early in the second half with the game on a knife edge and the home side leading 1-0.
The opening day of the season is always full of optimism although Mark Robins' new look Reds face a baptism of fire at the home of promotion hopefuls Queens Park Rangers. Barnsley's new boys were led by skipper Jason Shackell while Jay McEveley and Goran Lovre also featured from the start. Fellow new arrivals Jeronimo Neumann, after clearance came through in time; Michael Boulding and Liam Dickinson were on the bench. Kieran Trippier, who signed on loan for the Reds on Friday afternoon, was ineligible as the Club were waiting for the paperwork to be registered.
The only major change from last weekend's pre-season win at Chesterfield was a recall for Hugo Colace, who replaced Jacob Butterfield in the heart of the Reds midfield.
QPR handed debuts to Paddy Kenny, Bradley Orr, Clint Hill, Shaun Derry, Adel Taarabt and Jamie Mackie.
Although early August, the teams were greeted by a monsoon as kick off approached but the torrential rain did little to dampen the spirits of the thousands inside Loftus Road, including 800 or so Barnsley fans. The home side fired the first shot in anger inside two minutes as Alejandro Faurlin blazed one high and wide after the Reds had cleared Orr's free kick.
The Reds were quickly on the break and Queens Park Rangers had to defend well from Martin Devaney and Bobby Hassell down the right flank. Stephen Foster the probably should have done better on five minutes as he met McEveley's corner but flashed a free header just wide of the post. It was a bright and confident start from the men in all red.
Foster was almost embarrassed on 13 minutes as he let Hill's long ball bounce and it skipped through to give Mackie a sight of goal but the Reds defender recovered to make a telling block. Rangers should have been in front seconds later as Heidar Helguson somehow managed to miss at the near post from Orr's corner. It was a free header for the striker but he put it over the top. Taarabt forced Luke Steele into a fine save on 15 minutes with a rasping drive from 30 yards that the Reds number one managed to tip around the post.
Great play on the edge of the area by Hassell, Gray and Hammill gave Colace a great chance to strike one from 30 yards on 20 minutes and the Argentine was only inches away from finding the top corner with a great effort. Steele was again in fine form on 25 minutes to turn Taarabt's effort away while Andy Gray was only a tight flag away from a clear run on goal ten minutes later.
Barnsley's good first half performance was thrown away in an instant on 39 minutes as Taarabt twisted and turned his way past Shackell and into the area before collapsing over Foster's legs just outside the six yard box. Foster was the wrong side but it was more a case of the midfielder looking for a penalty, which referee James Linington rightly or wrongly gave. Helguson made no mistake from the spot.
The Reds were almost level in stoppage time as Kenny made a horrible mess of dealing with Hassell's free kick. The QPR keeper dropped an easy catch for Shackell to attack but the Reds skipper could only watch as his header smacked into the post and away. Barnsley were through QPR again seconds later when Colace did well down the left to gift Hammill a great chance but the winger sliced his effort through the area. Devaney reacted quickest but could not direct his effort into the net.
Reds boss Mark Robins wasted no time changing things, sending Iain Hume into the action at half time. The change almost paid immediate dividends as Hume and Goran Lovre did brilliantly well to tee up Hammill but the winger saw his effort strike the post and QPR managed to hack the ball clear. Hume's corner again had Kenny flapping but Colace could not turn the loose ball in at the far post.
QPR should have killed the game on 49 minutes as the Reds defence went walkabout from Hill's cross and Mackie had a free header just eight yards out but nodded straight at Steele.
Barnsley were denied a clear, clear penalty on 51 minutes as Hall blatantly handled Foster's header in the area. It was as obviously a penalty as you are ever going to see and far more definite than QPR's in the first half but amazingly referee James Linington gave nothing.
Rangers made the most of a shocking decision just two minutes later when Steele spilled Helguson's cross into the path of Mackie and the striker made no mistake slotting it home from two yards out.
Barnsley were clearly aggrieved by what had transpired in the opening ten minutes of the half and Nathan Doyle drove a shot inches wide of the post on 55 minutes. Orr picked up the first caution of the game on the hour mark after cynically stopping Hammill in his tracks. Hume's free kick had Rangers scrambling but Foster could not drive the ball through a crowd from 12 yards out.
Referee Linington again handed Queens Park Rangers a chance from the spot on 62 minutes as Helguson nipped in to punish sloppy play by Doyle in the area before throwing himself to the ground as if he had been shot. It was another very, very soft penalty but Taarabt wasn't complaining and fired home from 12 yards.
Rangers finally clicked into gear to play the kind of football which had them labelled as pre-season promotion favourites. Mackie raced at the heart of the Barnsley defence on 67 minutes before finding Taarabt but the impressive midfielder could not plant a fiercely struck shot into the bottom corner from 18 yards out.
The Reds were in on 70 minutes as Hammill nipped past a couple of challenges before finding Hume in the area but the striker could not apply the finish and shot wide. Barnsley were doing their best to gift QPR a fourth on 71 minutes as McEveley diverted Taarabt's free kick goalward from only six yards out but somehow Steele was able to claw it away from the back of the net. Taarabt then went inches away crafting a goal seconds later as he fired a cross through the heart of the Reds six-yard box but there was no one able to apply a finish.
The Reds were cut open on 81 minutes as Rangers finally scored a goal of real quality. It was Hogan Ephraim who made it with a fantastic defence splitting pass from the right hand side that gave Hall the simplest of tap ins at the back post.
Antonio German almost added a fifth for Rangers in stoppage time as he raced onto Josh Parker's pass but his effort was well blocked by Hassell and hit the sidenetting.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS: Kenny, Orr, Hill, Derry (Leigertwood 79), Hall (c), Taarabt (Parker 77), Helguson (German 83), Faurlin, Mackie, Gorkss, Ephraim.
Subs: Cerny, Clarke, Connolly, Borrowdale.
BARNSLEY: Steele, Hassell, Foster, Shackell (c), McEveley, Devaney (Hume 45), Colace, Doyle, Hammill (Neumann 75), Lovre (Butterfield 85), Gray.
Subs: Preece, Dickinson, Boulding, Potter.
Mr JJ Linington
Mr A Davies and Mr RP Whitton
Mr CJ Berry
Attendance - 13,445
Match Report by Rob Knowles
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