Wolverhampton Wanderers V Queens Park Rangers
QPR ended their six-game losing streak with a huge three points at Wolves.
The R’s took the lead through Idrissa Sylla in the 53rd minute before Dave Edwards levelled for the hosts just eight minutes later.
In the closing stages, Wolves pushed hard for a winner but Rangers remained disciplined in defence and were always a threat on the break.
And so it proved with just three minutes remaining when Paweł Wszołek bundled the ball home from close range to the delight of the R’s bench, and the travelling supporters.
The R’s certainly had to work hard for the victory but boss Ian Holloway will take great pleasure from the way his side fought to regain the lead against the in-from Wolves side, and ultimately take maximum points back to west London.
Holloway made four changes from the side that lost at Brighton, with Joel Lynch, Sandro, Ryan Manning and Jamie Mackie coming in for Nedum Onuoha, Jordan Cousins, Massimo Luongo and Ariel Borysiuk.
With Onuoha suspended, and Cousins (hamstring) and Luongo (groin) missing out through injury, three of those changes were enforced on the R’s boss.
It provided 20 year-old Manning, a Republic of Ireland U19 international, with the opportunity to make his first start for the club following his arrival from Galway FC two years ago.
Smithies lined up between the sticks, with Jake Bidwell at left back and James Perch on the right. Joel Lynch captained the side with Grant Hall alongside him in central defence.
Mackie, making his first start since April, began on the left wing with Paweł Wszołek on the right and Manning in the centre alongside Sandro.
Yeni Ngbakoto played just off Idrissa Sylla in attack.
Wolves were unchanged for the side that beat Bristol City 3-2 at Molineux on Boxing Day.
The first real chance of the afternoon fell to Helder Costa on the edge of the R’s box in the 7th minute, but thankfully he was unable to keep his shot on target.
And in the tenth minute, the hosts went even closer to opening the scoring. Costa found Nouha Dicko in space on the left but his shot was brilliantly blocked by Hall.
While QPR enjoyed a good period of possession, with debutant Manning looking very comfortable on the ball, it was Wolves who created the next chance of note in the 22nd minute. Bright Enobakhare burst through the centre with only Smithies to beat, but the R’s stopper’s out-stretched leg prevented the hosts from taking the lead before the ball was scrambled clear.
And on 35 minutes Dicko again went close, this time diverting his header wide from 12 yards after a great ball in from the left by Costa.
On the stroke of half-time, Sylla had a chance to put the R’s in front when Bidwell’s cross to the far post found him, and the Guinean striker brought the ball down well on his chest, but could only scuff his shot wide of the post from ten yards.
Costa warmed the palms of Smithies from distance shortly after the re-start, while Dave Edwards headed just wide as the hosts made a strong start to the second half.
But on 53 minutes it was Rangers who took the lead to bring their goal drought to an end. Wszołek broke down the right before firing the ball across the six-yard box, and Sylla got across his man to convert the ball beyond Carl Ikeme.
And in the 57th minute the R’s almost doubled their lead when Sylla teed up Ngbakoto on the edge of the box but his looped effort clipped the roof of the Wolves net, with Ikeme beaten.
But in the 61st minute the hosts were level. Costa picked the ball up in space on the right and had the time to pick out Edwards in the centre who smashed the ball beyond Smithies from close range.
With a little over 20 minutes remaining, Sandro was replaced by Borysiuk as Holloway looked to add some fresh legs to the centre of the park.
Wolves sub Joe Mason created a great chance to give Wolves the lead on 73 minutes with a neat turn in the box, but Hall was equal to it and managed to block his subsequent shot.
The in-form hosts – who had picked up ten points from their previous five fixtures before this one – pushed hard for a winner but Rangers were working just as hard to contain them, and looking to catch them on the break.
In the 78th minute, Holloway made his second change, replacing Ngbakoto with Conor Washington.
The Northern Ireland forward took up a position on the left flank as the R’s aimed to at least secure what would be a solid point on the road, while his pace would add to the visitors’ counter-attacking threat.
Wolves enjoyed a sustained period of possession, with Bidwell blocking Ivan Cavaleiro’s shot from 20 yards, and moments later the same player got to the R’s byline before firing the ball across the six-yard box. Thankfully, there was no Wolves player able to get the vital touch.
But in the 87th minute, Wszołek battled to prod the ball beyond Ikeme and restore the R’s lead. The ball appeared to be heading out of play but Wszołek, along with Mackie, fought their way through and it was the Polish winger who managed to divert the ball beyond the out-rushing Wolves keeper.
The hosts struggled to create any chances of note in the closing stages, enabling QPR to see out 2016 with a massive three points.