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21:45 1st April 2016


A TEN-MINUTE second-half purple patch from Middlesbrough helped the automatic promotion chasers to all three points against QPR at Loftus Road.

After going a goal down when Boro’s Jordan Rhodes gave the visitors a 17th-minute lead, Rangers levelled matters after Jamie Mackie scored in stunning fashion just past the half-hour mark.

The Teessiders missed a penalty early in the second half when Grant Leadbitter was denied by R’s goalkeeper Alex Smithies.

But goals in minutes 51 and 57 from Gaston Ramirez and Ben Gibson respectively put Boro in the ascendancy.

After that, the acrobatics of Smithies kept Rangers in it, and the hosts set up a grandstand finish when Tjaronn Chery scored from range in the 86th minute.

Unfortunately, a third goal proved beyond QPR, as Boro left west London with the win.

R’s boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink made two changes to the side which drew 1-1 at Preston North End last time out.

Grant Hall and Matt Phillips both returned to the team, at the expense of Clint Hill (hamstring) and Junior Hoilett.

Meanwhile, there was a space among the QPR substitutes for full-back Jack Robinson – the long-term absentee who, before this one, had never previously played for the Hoops following his move from Liverpool in August 2014.

Rangers enjoyed their fair share of possession early on in W12 and, with less than five minutes played, Boro goalkeeper Dimi Konstantopolous was forced into a smart catch from Ale Faurlin’s long-range thump.

Visitors Middlesbrough grew into the match after that. Indeed, Aitor Karanka’s side should have led come the 11th minute.

Albert Adomah’s right-wing cross was to a tee for Rhodes – but the Boro hotshot couldn’t get enough conviction on a header. His glancing effort was deflected wide for a corner.

However, Rhodes wouldn’t pass up on the next opportunity and, in the 17th minute, Middlesbrough took the lead.

A slip from defender Hall put the Scotland striker in the clear, before Rhodes rounded Smithies to slide the ball into an empty net.

Rangers hustled and harried to try and find a way back into the contest thereafter.

As the half-hour mark arrived, Boro had so far defended excellently well. But they would soon find themselves pegged back, with the Loftus Road faithful on their feet to celebrate a spectacular equaliser in the 31st minute.

Faurlin’s free-kick eventually fell for Mackie on the edge of the box who, with his back to goal, spun and shot on the half-volley with his weaker left foot. The ball bounced off the underside of the bar and in.

There was a momentary pause while referee Simon Hooper consulted his linesman to check the whole of the ball crossed the line, but fans’ favourite Mackie was soon wheeling away with a smile that said it all. Parity was restored, Rangers were level.

That goal gave QPR added confidence, though the rest of the first period was probably even. Boro’s Stewart Downing shot over before half-time, but the effort never troubled ‘keeper Smithies.

The visitors enjoyed their first chance of the second half just two minutes in. Again, Adomah provided a lovely centre, but Rhodes – albeit on the stretch – could only head over. 

For the first five minutes of the closing period, Boro enjoyed the lion’s share of possession.

They duly earned themselves a penalty in the 50th minute, after Adomah went down under challenge from Faurlin in the box.

A big opportunity for Middlesbrough to regain the lead – but they couldn’t take it. Leadbitter stepped up to shoot and he was denied by Smithies, who dived low to his right to tip the ball away for a corner.

It was the R’s custodian’s third penalty save this season. However, unfortunately, that good work was soon undone from the resultant set-piece. 

Leadbitter atoned for that penalty miss, crossing for Ramirez who headed home in the 51st minute.

Harsh on Smithies – and it was a case of much of the same when Boro added a third goal in the 57th minute.

Just after the goalkeeper produced a stunning stop to thwart George Friend following a free-flowing move from Karanka’s men, the subsequent, short corner was worked to Gibson to nod beyond Smithies.

Hasselbaink changed things up after that. First, Hoilett was brought on for Phillips, before Mackie made way for Nasser El Khayati.

Sandwiched in between those subs, Chery shot only inches wide from Seb Polter’s knockdown.

Polter himself was unlucky when seeing a goal chalked off in the 71st minute. It was adjudged that Hoilett, who crossed from the right-hand byline, had ran the ball out of play.

But video replays suggested that part of the ball had actually stayed in.

Middlesbrough should have made it 4-1 with 15 minutes left to play. Gabriele Angella’s mistake allowed Rhodes to run through on goal, but – again – he couldn’t find a way past the excellent Smithies.

Rangers made their third and final change in the 79th minute. Conor Washington, fresh from his goalscoring exploits for Northern Ireland, replaced Faurlin.

The game was now beginning to peter out – that before Chery made matters interesting when he reduced the deficit to just a goal four minutes from time.

The Dutchman took aim from 25 yards, and his lovely effort fizzed past Konstantopolous.

Five minutes were subsequently added on. For much of the second half, this had been an accomplished display from Middlesbrough. But could Rangers snatch an unlikely point?

Sadly not. The R’s pressed for one, but were denied in their attempts as Boro – who should have made it 4-2 on the break through sub Adam Forshaw – held on for the victory.
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