Freeman strike not enough to silence Terriers
RANGERS’ improved second-half showing wasn’t enough to overturn a two-goal half-time deficit, as high-flying Huddersfield Town left Loftus Road with a 2-1 victory.
Town’s dominant first-half display ultimately did the damage, with goals from Izzy Brown (26 minutes) and Nahki Wells (37) putting the visitors in the ascendancy.
QPR did improve after half-time – and substitute Luke Freeman struck for his first goal for the Hoops in the 60th minute.
But Rangers couldn’t subsequently add a second, against a Huddersfield side now up to third in the Sky Bet Championship table.
R’s boss Ian Holloway made two changes to his team for the visit of the in-form Terriers, following our controversial 1-0 defeat at Blackburn Rovers last weekend.
On that particular afternoon, of course, Conor Washington’s 61st-minute strike was adjudged not to have crossed the goal-line – even though video replays proved otherwise – before Rovers struck in second-half stoppage time.
Against Huddersfield, Joel Lynch missed out altogether, while Darnell Furlong dropped to bench. So Grant Hall and Matt Smith deputised – the latter for his first QPR start since joining from Fulham on deadline day of the January transfer window.
Once again, goalkeeper Alex Smithies also started for his 50th R’s appearance.
So Rangers – in a now-accustomed 3-4-3 formation – lined up as: Smithies; Nedum Onuoha, Hall, James Perch; Pawel Wszolek, Massimo Luongo, Ryan Manning, Jake Bidwell; Jamie Mackie, Smith, Washington.
Visitors Huddersfield – on a fabulous run of 10 wins from 12 fixtures in all competitions before kick-off – enjoyed an extremely-bright start.
Indeed, David Wagner’s side twice went close with less than a minute played.
First, Brown drove at QPR’s defence before shooting straight at Smithies, before Aaron Mooy’s dangerous low centre from the right somehow flashed across the face of goal without a touch.
But Rangers enjoyed opportunities of their own after that.
In the fifth minute, Bidwell blazed over after Manning’s initial corner while, three minutes later, a neat move involving Luongo, Hall and Washington saw the latter shoot low to force a fine stop from Danny Ward, who tipped the ball onto the post and wide.
And Smith’s header, from the resultant corner, flew over the crossbar.
The physical Smith was already heavily involved in the action for Rangers and, in the 14th minute, the striker also shot high and wide on the half-volley.
With a quartier of an hour gone, this had already been an open spectacle – as was expected given both teams’ attacking outlook.
Another excellent opportunity arrived for the R’s in the 24th minute.
Wszolek’s cross from the right wasn’t cleared properly by the Terriers’ defence and, when the ball dropped to an unmarked Manning on the edge of the box, he could only shoot over.
Visitors Huddersfield then took the lead when the next big chance of the contest fell their way only two minutes later.
Rangers couldn’t clear their lines and when Wells eventually crossed for Brown from the left, the Chelsea loanee slid home at close range to put Wagner’s charges ahead.
Huddersfield took control of proceedings somewhat after that, looking assured and comfortable in possession in the process.
So it was no real surprise when Town doubled their advantage going into half-time.
Following a free-flowing move in the 37th minute, Elias Kachunga’s attempted pass defected off Hall and into the path of Wells, who finished emphatically from 12 yards.
Huddersfield now looked imperious – and Rangers were left with a mountain to climb in the closing period.
There was a bit of a delay early on in the second half. Town’s Christopher Schindler needed treatment after a collision with Mackie.
When play eventually got back underway, QPR made a double change in the 53rd minute.
Both Freeman and Kazenga LuaLua were introduced, at the expense of Mackie and Bidwell.
A minute later, Rangers were denied what looked to be a penalty.
Washington drove into the box before appearing to be bundled over by Kachunga. But the referee waved away the claims.
Freeman, meanwhile, had an almost-instant impact.
Three minutes after coming on, the former Bristol City man played in Washington down the right, whose subsequent low centre was just beyond Smith.
But Rangers did eventually pull a goal back on the hour mark – and it was Freeman who got it.
The midfielder looked sharp after his introduction and, when the ball broke his way level with the penalty spot, his expert left-foot finish gave ‘keeper Ward little chance.
The R’s had already looked like a different team in this second half. Was what looked like an unlikely comeback now on the cards?
On 66 minutes, Wells almost restored Huddersfield’s two-goal lead when he broke on the counter attack. But his low shot crept just inches wide of Smithies’ left-hand post.
Meanwhile, straight up the other end, Washington also drove past the target.
Washington was again involved in the 70th minute, crossing for Smith before the latter forced an acrobatic save from Liverpool loanee Ward.
But Freeman had quite an impact after his arrival and, in the 76th minute, he led another R’s attack.
Eventually, Washington crossed for Perch, but the ball was too high for the latter to direct an effort on target.
Holloway used his last roll of the dice in the 80th minute. Yeni Ngbakoto replaced Wszolek.
A minute from time, the R’s had another penalty claim dismissed. Smith’s header looked to hit a hand in the box – but a spot-kick wasn’t forthcoming.
Given a lengthy stoppage at the beginning of the second half, some seven minutes were added on at the death.
Rangers subsequently pressed hard for an equaliser, with both LuaLua and Smith going close. Huddersfield also had a chance of their own when Brown shot over, following a swift counter.
But the R’s couldn’t find the leveller they craved before the referee finally called time in W12.