QPR UNDER-21S returned to winning ways in style with a resounding 8-1 victory over Barnet on Monday afternoon.
Angelo Balanta, Peter Skapetis, Mo Shariff and Connor Hubble were all on the scoresheet as Rangers banished last week's home defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion by running riot at The Hive.
The Bees’ solitary response after a mistake in the R’s defence was a rare blemish on an otherwise hugely satisfactory outing for Marc Bircham’s dominant youngsters.
Skapetis was one of five Under-18 players involved and the striker made an instant impression, winning a penalty within five minutes as Rangers made a flying start. Frankie Sutherland stepped up for the resulting spot-kick but was denied by Dillon Barnes, saving low to his right.
The goalkeeper‘s fortune was short-lived, however, as the R’s took the lead moments later in bizarre fashion. Barnes‘s clearance struck Skapetis, rebounding off the R’s striker and into the unguarded net to gift Rangers a fortuitous but deserved lead.
Barnet responded well and could have equalised on 14 minutes as Mauro Vilhette broke the R’s offside trap. The Bees striker burst through on goal but failed to find the target, skewing wide from eight yards.
Rangers made their hosts pay almost immediately as Skapetis doubled his tally at the other end. Barnes could only parry Hubble’s effort from the edge of the area, allowing Skapetis to tap home the rebound.
Pressure was unrelenting on the home goal and the visitors created another opening on 22 minutes. Shariff’s pinpoint cross from the right found Balanta, who stooped at the back post to nod home his first of the afternoon.
Balanta didn’t have long to wait to add his second as Rangers bagged a fourth from the re-start. Another dangerous cross from the right, this time from Jake Downs, fell kindly to the striker who made no mistake from six yards, volleying into the bottom corner.
Neat interplay saw Shariff cap another fine, flowing move by adding his name onto the scoresheet on the half-hour mark. Shariff was allowed space before firing a low shot into the far corner from 20 yards.
The R’s were proving the dominant force but were on the backfoot briefly three minutes later as a misplaced pass amongst the R’s backline allowed Barnet to reduce the deficit. Vilhette strode through, making amends for his earlier miss by slamming the ball past the under-worked Joe Lumley.
Respite was brief for the hosts, though, as the ball was in the opposite net three minutes later. Good work by Sutherland on the right teed up Hubble, who rifled his volley into the top corner.
There was still time for more as Rangers stretched their advantage with a seventh on the stroke of half-time. Balanta’s corner found Shariff, who rose highest to head in off the crossbar to notch his double.
Another Balanta corner proved Barnet’s downfall seven minutes into the second half as the winger sealed an excellent display with a hat-trick. Balanta’s centre evaded the entire Bees defence, flying straight into the top corner as Rangers made the perfect start to the second half.
Set-pieces continued to cause the Bees problems, who had the woodwork to thank for keeping the scores down as Hubble’s free-kick ricocheted off the post with the help of a deflection.
Max Ehmer also went close to extending the R’s lead from a Sutherland corner midway through the second period but Barnes flung himself to his left to claw away the defender’s header.
Rangers eased off in the closing stages as Barnet rallied for a late consolation strike. Substitute Ishmail Kamara almost provided one but his rasping effort cannoned back off the post. They went even closer with ten minutes remaining but were twice denied by resolute R’s defending, as Ibrahim and Luke Gambin both saw their shots blocked on the goal-line.
Rangers weathered the late pressure to preserve their emphatic seven-goal lead which should provide the perfect confidence boost ahead of Friday’s trip to Millwall.
QPR: Lumley, Downs, Monthe (Simmonds 45), Champion, Ehmer, Parmenter, Hubble, Sutherland (Brown 72), Skapetis, Balanta (Francis 53), Shariff.