QPR’s unbeaten league start to 2017 ended in disappointing fashion at the hands of Burton Albion at Loftus Road.
After a four-match unbeaten sequence, Rangers were undone by a goal in each half in W12, as the Brewers took full advantage of a lacklustre R’s display to clinch maximum points.
Luke Murphy opened the scoring in the 11th minute with a strike from distance, before Lloyd Dyer doubled the visitors’ advantage shortly after half-time with a well-taken goal.
The Hoops pulled a goal back through substitute Conor Washington on 63 minutes – his fourth goal of the season – but it proved to be a mere consolation, as the visitors hung on for a narrow win.
Ian Holloway made two changes for the visit of Burton to Loftus Road, lining up in a 3-4-3 formation.
Michael Doughty made his first start of the season at the expense of Ryan Manning, whilst Kazenga LuaLua came in for his first start in a QPR shirt, with Jamie Mackie dropping to the bench alongside Manning.
The back-five remained unchanged. Alex Smithies lined up behind a back three of skipper Nedum Onuoha, Grant Hall and Joel Lynch, with Jake Bidwell and Darnell Furlong occupying the wing-back roles.
In midfield, Doughty – after an impressive loan spell at Swindon Town in the first half of the season – partnered Massimo Luongo.
In attack, LuaLua and Pawel Wszolek played just off lone striker Idrissa Sylla.
Burton handed a debut to Lasse Christensen following his loan move from Fulham just 24 hours earlier, whilst another Cottagers loanee, Cauley Woodrow, was named on the Brewers bench.
The opening exchanges were somewhat overshadowed by what appeared to be a serious injury to Burton defender John Brayford.
After a lengthy spell of treatment, the full-back was eventually replaced by John Mousinho – but the change certainly didn’t deter the visitors, who took the lead on 11 minutes.
Dyer’s pull-back fell at the feet of Murphy 25-yards from goal – and his low drive beat Smithies, who was rooted to the spot.
There was a stunned silence around Loftus Road – and in truth, the goal seemed to shock the R’s players too, as they failed to find their stride in an uncharacteristically flat opening to the game.
Indeed, it was the Brewers who created the next opportunity of note on 26 minutes, when Jackson Irvine – returning from injury – headed wide from a set-piece.
The R’s first effort of any substance arrived two minutes later, when Sylla back-heeled the ball into Wszolek’s path, but his low drive was blocked.
That half-chance briefly sprung the Hoops into action, yet despite a slightly improved performance, opportunities remained scarce for Holloway’s men.
It was a first half to forget for the R’s, who – despite three minutes of first half stoppage-time for the afore mentioned injury to Brayford early on – failed to muster a single shot on target in the opening 45 minutes.
Boos rang around W12 on the half-time whistle, as the R’s were left with it all to do in the second half.
Holloway reacted by introducing Washington at the expense of Hall at the start of the second period, as the R’s switched to a 4-4-2 formation.
But on 52 minutes, former QPR loanee Dyer doubled the Brewers’ advantage, calmly slotting home beneath Smithies to leave Rangers with a mountain to climb.
It was a disastrous start to the second period for the hosts, but the R’s did at least try to muster a response, with Furlong’s cross-shot palmed away by Jon McLaughlin moments later.
And the goal the R’s fans and players alike were craving arrived on 63 minutes – and it was half-time substitute Washington who got it!
The Northern Ireland international saw his first shot charged down, but reacted quickly to slam home from a tight angle and half the deficit.
At the other end, Dyer thrashed high and wide, as the game swung from end to end.
Dyer was at it again on 70 minutes, as the Brewers broke from inside their own half, only for the diminutive winger to be thwarted by a stunning Smithies save.
Rangers were on top now though and LuaLua’s ball across the box was begging to be tapped home, but somehow evaded three or four onrushing Hoops.
Doughty was replaced by Manning with 16 minutes to play, as Holloway’s men went in search of an equaliser.
Manning’s cross was poked wide by Sylla, before Mackie entered the fray on 87 minutes as a final throw of the dice.
Rangers huffed and puffed their way to the final whistle, but the afternoon ultimately ended in frustration, as Burton climbed out of the relegation zone with a much-needed win.