CHARLIE Adam’s 52nd-minute strike was enough to hand Stoke City a 1-0 victory over QPR at the Britannia Stadium.
Defeat was harsh on Rangers, who undeservedly left the Potteries empty handed after enjoying the better of the possession throughout.
Nevertheless, it was Adam who made sure the home side took all three points, firing home after Robert Huth’s free-kick eventually bounced up into his path on six yards.
Rangers boss Mark Hughes made just one change to his side for the trip to the Britannia, with Ale Faurlin taking the place of Jamie Mackie, who dropped to the substitutes’ bench.
The R’s lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Julio Cesar in goal. Jose Bosingwa, Anton Ferdinand, stand-in skipper Ryan Nelsen and Armand Traore made up QPR’s back four.
Samba Diakite and Faurlin assumed defensive midfield roles, behind the more advanced trio of Esteban Granero, Adel Taarabt and Junior Hoilett. Djibril Cisse led the line in attack.
Hughes greeted the Rangers fans with a fist-pump prior to kick-off and, backed by a now-vocal away following, QPR made an extremely positive start.
The R’s enjoyed a wealth of possession in the opening stanza and fashioned their first chance of the contest in the eighth minute. Cisse swiped at a great opportunity on 12 yards, miscuing after good work from Traore down the left.
The home side raced down the other end seconds later, going close after Adam saw a crisp drive from distance deflect wide.
Rangers looked comfortable in possession throughout the first half while Stoke grew into the match with every minute that passed.
Jon Walters lashed over from a Peter Crouch knock-down in the 24th minute, while Tony Pulis’ side missed their best chance of the half 13 minutes later. Steven Nzonzi broke away from Faurlin down the right before feeding Crouch, who saw his side-footer deflect agonisingly wide of the post.
But it was the R’s who missed arguably the opportunity of the half just a minute before the break.
Hoilett seized on a loose pass in midfield and when the former Blackburn Rovers ace combined with Cisse before freeing Taarabt, he could only dink an over-elaborate effort over the crossbar.
Taarabt also went close on the stroke of half-time, curling an effort just past the post following Faurlin’s pull-back.
Despite a promising first-half display, QPR’s hard work was undone when the Potters took the lead just seven minutes after the interval.
Walters’ flick-on from a Huth free-kick saw Crouch turn the ball into the path of Adam, who smashed home from six yards.
It was harsh on the visitors but they continued to press. Taarabt’s deflected effort had Asmir Begovic backpedalling before the Stoke custodian flung himself backwards to tip the ball over. Bosingwa also saw a shot deflected wide when free in the box.
Taarabt then missed another golden chance just short of the hour mark. Hoilett’s cross deflected back out to the charismatic Moroccan on the edge of the penalty area, who shifted his way past his marker before dragging wide.
Rangers continued to probe and Granero forced Begovic into a stunning one-handed stop in the 70th minute, after the Spaniard’s 12-yard effort looked destined to find the top left-hand corner.
Hughes opted to introduce fresh legs in the 79th minute, introducing Bobby Zamora at the expense of the excellent Faurlin.
With an extra man attack, the R’s continued to drive forward but couldn’t quite muster an equaliser that their efforts warranted.
In fact, they had Cesar to thank for keeping the margin of defeat to just single goal, after the Brazilian goalkeeper saved brilliantly from Walters in the dying minutes.