Rotherham United V Queens Park Rangers
RANGERS slipped to their third-successive Sky Bet Championship reverse, losing 1-0 at bottom-placed Rotherham United.
Winless in their previous 15 league fixtures, Izzy Brown’s 24th-minute strike for the Millers was the difference at The AESSEAL New York Stadium.
In truth, the margin could have been greater had the home side – under the caretaker charge of Paul Warne – made the most of a number of second-half chances. Goalkeeper Alex Smithies also saved the Hoops more than once.
It mattered little, however, with QPR – backed by almost 1,000 travelling R’s fans – unable to respond to the first-half setback.
Rangers boss Ian Holloway made three changes to his team for the trip north, following last Thursday’s 2-1 Loftus Road defeat to Wolves.
James Perch missed out through suspension – on the back of his red card against the Molineux men – while a hamstring injury, also collected against Wolves, prevented Jack Robinson from featuring.
Meanwhile, Seb Polter (quad) wasn’t quite fit enough to start, and dropped to the bench.
So in came Jake Bidwell, Jordan Cousins and Yeni Ngbakoto, with the R’s operating in a 4-3-2-1 formation.
Rangers lined up as follows: Smithies; Nedum Onuoha, Grant Hall, Joel Lynch, Bidwell; Cousins, Sandro, Massimo Luongo; Ngbakoto, Tjaronn Chery; Conor Washington.
There was plenty of action to note in the opening few minutes.
R’s custodian Smithies was forced into a smart parry with less than two minutes on the clock, following Lee Frecklington’s fierce drive from inside the box.
Moments later, and at the other end, Washington’s curling effort from 20 yards was wonderfully tipped over by the Millers’ Lewis Price.
Meanwhile, from the subsequent Chery corner, Lynch’s glancing header was cleared off the goal-line.
A fast start indeed – and in the fourth minute, another QPR attempt saw Ngbakoto test Price with a 20-yard effort of his own.
This was very much an end-to-end spectacle already. In the 11th minute, Joe Mattock’s hanging centre from the left ended with Danny Ward nodding just wide of the target for Rotherham.
After that, chances dried up somewhat – and this entertaining contest became a bit more of a scrap.
But the home side edged in front with the next real opportunity of the game, in the 24th minute.
It was a well-worked move that saw Brown break clear of the R’s defence, as his neat one-two with Ward put the Chelsea loanee clean through on goal.
Thereafter, Brown kept his cool, shooting beyond Smithies from just inside the penalty area to give Rotherham the lead.
Rangers squandered a big chance to level on the half-hour mark.
Washington eventually wriggled free of his marker down the left, and when he subsequently drove into the box before pulling the ball back to Chery, the Dutchman’s low attempt was blocked away by the leg of Price.
Three minutes later, Smithies was called into action at the other end to keep out Anthony Forde, following the Millers man’s distance blast.
Rangers spent the remainder of the opening half trying to force the issue in their search for an equaliser, though they lacked the cutting edge in the final third.
After the half-time break, the scrap continued with the game now finely balanced.
But Chery almost levelled matters with a stunning free-kick effort in the 55th minute.
The R’s number 10’s attempt saw Rotherham ‘keeper Price fashion an equally-impressive save, flinging himself to his right to tip the ball over the crossbar.
Three minutes later, Brown’s drive from range for the hosts at the opposite end was held well by Smithies.
With his team still trailing, Holloway opted for a change just short of the hour mark, replacing Ngbakoto with Polter.
Rangers were now having to live on the edge a little, and shortly after the substitution, Smithies produced a fine save to keep out an inswinging centre that could’ve easily crept in.
In the 66th minute, meanwhile, Rotherham’s Richard Wood stabbed wide from a corner kick.
With the clock ticking down, another R’s sub arrived in the 72nd minute. Ben Gladwin was introduced, coming on for Sandro.
But it was so nearly 2-0 come the 74th minute.
Ward used his pace to beat Hall and race onto a ball from deep, before his low, daisy-cutter attempt flashed only inches wide of the post.
If you thought that was close, Rangers’ goal would lead an extremely-charmed life 12 minutes from time.
First Ward thundered a shot against the bar, before Joe Newell somehow fired the rebound over at close range, with the goal gaping in front of him.
The chances kept on coming for the hosts.
In the 81st minute, Smithies saved well from Ward, before Gladwin had to clear off the line to deny Newell.
The Hoops were fortunate to still be only a goal behind.
A minute from time, Holloway threw on Pawel Wszolek, for Chery, with his last roll of the dice.
Rangers, though, couldn’t find a route back into the game, again unable to breach the Rotherham defence during five added minutes at the death.