Queens Park Rangers V Barnsley
QPR registered a third successive home win at Loftus Road on Tuesday night, as Ian Holloway’s men beat Barnsley 2-1 in the Sky Bet Championship.
Idrissa Sylla’s eighth goal of the season handed Rangers an early seventh minute lead, before the R’s second half dominance was rewarded thanks to a 66th minute Angus MacDonald own goal.
Barnsley halved the deficit 11 minutes from time, when Grant Hall’s slip allowed Tykes substitute Tom Bradshaw to nip in and finish, but Rangers ran out worthy winners, as the R’s fine form in W12 continued.
Following Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Cardiff City, and perhaps with one eye on the trip to Leeds United at the weekend, Holloway made five changes to his starting XI, with the Hoops lining up in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Ryan Manning, Luke Freeman, Pawel Wszolek, Yeni Ngbakoto and Sylla were handed starts, with Joel Lynch, Sean Goss, Jamie Mackie, Conor Washington and Matt Smith making way.
Alex Smithies started in goal behind a back-four of Perch, Hall, skipper Nedum Onuoha and Jake Bidwell.
Manning partnered Massimo Luongo in central midfield, with Freeman, Ngbakoto and Wszolek providing support for Sylla in attack.
Barnsley, who headed to Loftus Road in the wake of a 2-1 reversal against Derby County at the weekend, included loanees Ryan Kent and Adam Armstrong, from Liverpool and Newcastle United respectively.
In an even opening, it was visitors who created the first half-chance of note when Armstrong’s long-range sixth-minute shot was easily saved by Smithies.
But it was Rangers who opened the scoring a minute later, albeit in rather fortuitous circumstances.
Wszolek’s cross was delicately flicked on by Freeman at the near post and the ball squirmed off Sylla and past Adam Davies, who could only watch helplessly as the Guinean’s effort nestled into the net at his right-hand post.
Buoyed by their opening goal, the R’s were on the front foot again a minute later – with those supporters in the home end screaming for the award of a penalty kick.
Sylla appeared to be bundled to ground inside the box, but the referee waved away the appeals, and Perch blasted the follow-up shot over the bar.
Paul Heckingbottom’s side responded well to their early setback, however, with first Josh Scowen, and then Alex Mowatt, firing over from the edge of the box.
It was certainly an all-action start and midway through the half Ngbakoto let fly with an audacious volley from the edge of the box, which Davies did brilliantly to tip onto the post.
The woodwork came to the visitors’ rescue again four minutes later. This time Perch climbed highest to meet Freeman’s pin-point cross, only to see his headed cannon back off the bar!
The Tykes continued to pose a threat themselves, though, with Armstrong seeing his shot blocked by Hall on the half hour mark.
The visitors seemed destined to equalise three minutes before the break, but Bidwell was in the right place at the right time to expertly flick Marley Watkins’ goal-bound shot off the line.
It was an inspired piece of defending from the former Brentford man, that preserved Rangers’ slender one-goal advantage at half-time.
Barnsley made a change at the start of the second period, with Bradshaw replacing Mowatt, before Rangers were forced into a substitution themselves three minutes into the half, as Perch limped out of the action to be replaced by Darnell Furlong.
A flurry of QPR corners at the start of the half roused the home faithful, but in truth, the opening ten minutes – despite plenty of honest endeavour from both sides – offered little by way of clear-cut chances.
Rangers had the visitors pinned in for long spells, with Freeman, Manning and Wszolek becoming more and more influential, as Holloway’s men went in search of the all-important second goal of the contest.
Ngbakoto could – and probably should – have doubled the R’s advantage on 63 minutes, but after a lucky deflection diverted the ball into his path, the Frenchman’s weak effort flew wide.
But it mattered little, as the hosts made their territorial dominance count three minutes later, thanks to a dazzling piece of wide-play from Wszolek.
Sprinting clear of his man on the right flank, the Polish wide-man’s teasing centre caused havoc in the Tykes six-yard box, and with Sylla ready to pounce, MacDonald inadvertently sent the ball past Davies for an own goal.
That proved to be Wszolek’s final involvement, with Washington replacing the Pole 20 minutes from time.
Barnsley were handed a lifeline on 79 minutes, however, when Hall’s defensive slip at the heart of the Hoops defence allowed Bradshaw to nip in and slot the ball past Smithies to halve the deficit.
The Tykes pushed for an equaliser in five minutes of second half stoppage-time, but Rangers – to a man – defended doggedly, to make it three wins on the spin at Loftus Road.