Town 1-3 QPR
Saturday, 11th Jan 2014 16:58
Second-half goals from Niko Kranjcar, Gary O’Neil and Armand Traore saw QPR to a 3-1 victory at Portman Road, Tommy Smith volleying a spectacular injury time consolation for the Blues. Town had been the better side before the break with visitors’ keeper Rob Green making an important stop to deny skipper Luke Chambers.
Mick McCarthy returned to his 4-3-3 formation with Paul Anderson starting on the left of the three-man attack alongside David McGoldrick and Paul Taylor, although with the trip regularly switching around throughout the half.
Yossi Benayoun headed an early Tom Carroll cross well wide for the visitors, but it was the Blues who enjoyed most of the possession in a cagey and uneventful opening.
Chances were rare in the opening quarter of an hour but with Rangers getting on top and forcing two corners, although Joey Barton was unable to create any threat from either. From the second, McGoldrick broke for the Blues but was unable to find Anderson on the left of the area.
On 17 the Town top scorer shot over from 25 yards as the momentum swung back towards the Blues, whose support was boosted by 120 Fortuna Dusseldorf fans in the lower tier of the Sir Bobby Robson Stand.
A minute later, Taylor saw a shot blocked after good work from Luke Hyam on the left, then in the 22nd minute Aaron Cresswell’s effort was blocked after Anderson had twice crossed from the right. Soon after Hyam was booked for a foul on Barton.
Town repeatedly went close to going in front in the 25th minute in a goalmouth scramble from which QPR were fortunate to escape. Chambers exchanged passes with Anderson, who stabbed the ball back into his path inside the area on the right.
The Blues right-back’s shot was superbly saved by Rob Green and Hyam was just prevented from touching home the rebound by one-time Town loanee Danny Simpson's challenge. Chambers cut the loose ball back across the box and it was half-cleared by Barton.
But Rangers were unable to get the ball completely away from goal and Hyam ran in from the left and found Chambers, who turned his shot over from eight yards. The Blues were somewhat unfortunate not to be in front.
After Anderson had failed to make the most of a break down the right when Clint Hill was caught in possession, Gary O’Neil sent a dangerous ball across the Blues’ six-yard box, Ryan Tunnicliffe diverting it behind at the back post.
But overall Town were still on top with McGoldrick hitting a 31st minute shot which was deflected wide.
Town keeper Dean Gerken was forced into serious action for the first time in the 34th minute when O’Neil chipped a cross in from the right. One-time Town target Charlie Austin headed goalwards but Gerken tipped over.
Almost immediately the action moved to the other end, Taylor breaking away on the right at pace but his shot was blocked. McGoldrick subsequently volleyed the dropping ball not far wide from 25 yards.
There was a scare for the Blues in the 37th minute when, after a mix-up between Smith and Skuse, Austin found himself through on goal. However, Berra got back to make a superb saving challenge.
The game had developed into an exciting end to end affair and the visitors threatened again a minute later when Chambers cleared ahead of Austin after a freekick had fallen to the striker off Skuse. Moments later, Barton was replaced by Karl Henry having suffered what looked like a groin injury.
A minute before the end of normal time, Anderson hit a powerful 25-yard strike which Green couldn’t hold onto but reclaimed ahead of McGoldrick. Second later, Skuse played in Taylor, the striker losing his footing as he looked to take the ball past Benoit Assou-Ekotto.
A thoroughly entertaining half came to an end with the stalemate yet to be broken. After a very quiet opening, the Blues had gradually take control and had most of the better chances, although with the visitors also having threatened.
Taylor struck a low shot which Green claimed soon after the restart with Blues continuing where they had left off before the break in the early stages.
But it was the visitors who went ahead in the 52nd minute. Niko Kranjcar brought the ball in from the left across the edge of the area before hitting a low shot which Gerken appeared to get a hand to but was unable to prevent from crossing the line.
On 58 QPR skipper Hill got his name in referee Phil Dowd’s book for wasting time at a freekick after Assou-Ekotto had fouled Taylor.
Rangers increased their lead in the 66th minute. Austin hit a low 25-yard shot which Gerken saved down to his left but palmed back into the path of the on-rushing O’Neil, who followed up to tap home. The Town keeper, so impressive in recent matches, will be disappointed not to have pushed his save away from the danger zone.
The Blues had been less of a threat having gone behind but hadn’t been put under particular pressure by the West Londoners prior to their second goal.
Manager McCarthy switched Hyam and Anderson for Stephen Hunt and Frank Nouble for the final 18 minutes. Soon after, Taylor scraped a shot wide.
QPR’s victory was sealed in the 74th minute when Tommy Smith miscontrolled Hill’s ball over the top allowing sub Armand Traore to nip in behind him and slip the ball past Gerken to make it 3-0.
Taylor twisted and turned before shooting over in the 79th minute then, following good work from McGoldrick, Skuse hit a low effort which looked goalbound until striking Hunt.
Mings took over from Chambers for the final four minutes, hitting a low shot which was blocked moments after coming on. As the game moved into its final scheduled minute, Austin shot low to Gerken, who claimed.
The Blues pulled a goal back soon after the fourth official had raised his board. Sub Hunt whipped over a corner from the left and Smith spectacularly volleyed home his third goal of the season.
Town continued to push for an unlikely comeback, Hunt scuffing well wide, but referee Dowd’s whistle signalled the end of the Blues’ nine-game unbeaten run.
The home side had been the better team before the break but once QPR had got in front there was only going to be one winner.
Keeper Gerken will be disappointed not to have pushed Austin’s shot away from goal rather than into O’Neil’s path for QPR’s second and may think he might have got more on Kranjcar’s opener, although the Croatian international should have been closed down before hitting his strike, while Smith will hold his hand up for the error on Rangers’ third. His superbly taken late goal is likely to be scant consolation.
The travelling Fortuna fans continued to sing in the Sir Bobby Robson Stand long after the final whistle.
The result sees the Blues drop out of the play-off zone and into ninth ahead of Tuesday's FA Cup replay at Preston and next Saturday's visit to fourth-bottom Millwall.
Town: Gerken, Chambers (Mings 86), Smith, Berra, Cresswell, Hyam (Hunt 72), Skuse, Tunnicliffe, Anderson (Nouble 72), McGoldrick, Taylor. Unused: Loach, Edwards, Tabb, Hunt, Lee, Nouble.
QPR: Green, Simpson, Dunne, Hill, Assou-Ekotto, Barton (Henry 40), Carroll, Benayoun (Traore 68), O'Neil, Kranjcar (Phillips 85), Austin. Unused: Murphy, Onuoha, Wright-Phillips, Johnson. Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire). Att: 18,369 (QPR: 1,534).
Photo: Action Images
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