Preston North End v QPR - Sky Bet Championship - Saturday, 2nd December 2017 - Deepdale
QPR suffered the agony of conceding an 88th minute winner this afternoon when they looked like they had battled their way to a creditable draw after playing much of the game at Deepdale with ten men.
Jamie Mackie was dismissed on 22 minutes for a late tackle on Tom Clarke.
The R’s produced a courageous performance and looked like they would come away with a deserved point but with just two minutes remaining Jordan Hugill broke Rangers hearts with a late winner.
Ian Holloway made three changes from the side that drew with Brentford on Monday, with Ilias Chair coming in to make his first league start for the R’s, while David Wheeler and Pawel Wszolek were also in the line-up.
Jordan Cousins and Idrissa Sylla dropped to the bench. Luke Freeman served a one-game suspension following his fifth booking of the season against the Bees.
The R’s lined up in a 4-5-1 formation, with a back four which consisted of Jake Bidwell, Jack Robinson, Alex Baptiste and Wszolek.
Josh Scowen and Mass Luongo were joined by the attacking Chair in the centre of the park while Mackie and Wheeler operated on the flanks.
Conor Washington led the attacking line.
Rangers went into the game looking for their first away win of the season against a team who had not won on home soil since the middle of September.
On three minutes Luongo almost produced a defence-splitting ball for Washington but home goalkeeper Chris Maxwell was out quickly to smother the danger.
A minute later Scowen won a free-kick on the edge of the box and stepped up to take the resultant set-piece in the absence of Freeman, and his effort fizzed just over the crossbar.
At the other end, Smithies had to be alert to deny Alan Browne with a save to his right, while the same player headed over from close range seconds later.
But on 22 minutes the game swung hugely in Preston’s favour when Mackie was shown a straight red card for a challenge on Tom Clarke.
As the pair clashed for the ball, Mackie was just beaten to it which resulted in him catching the Preston man. The home players quickly surrounded referee Mr Simpson who dismissed the R’s forward.
Lining up in a 4-4-1 formation, Rangers set themselves up to be difficult to break down, and did so to good effect.
The hosts went close in the 29th minute through Clarke but his header from Paul Gallagher’s free-kick drifted just wide from ten yards.
The R’s players worked tirelessly to contain the hosts but on 37 minutes they came close to breaking the deadlock, this time through Ben Pearson who drilled a low shot inches wide of Smithies’ upright.
As the half drew to a close, QPR will surely have been satisfied with how they contained Preston following Mackie’s dismissal.
After the break, Smithies was quickly called upon to keep the game goalless when Tom Barkhuizen volleyed goalwards. The R's stopper was equal to it, pushing the ball over the crossbar.
At the other end of the pitch, QPR had claims for a penalty turned away when Wszolek’s cross from the left seemed to catch the arm of a Preston defender before being gathered by Maxwell, but the referee dismissed the appeals.
Chair went close on 55 minutes for the R’s with a low drive from the edge of the area after good work by Scowen on the left but the Moroccan’s effort went narrowly wide.
Defensively, the R’s were throwing their bodies on the line for the cause, with Baptiste and Robinson making numerous blocks, challenges and clearances.
On 68 minutes, Smithies was called into action to stop Gallagher’s fierce drive from 25 yards as the hosts stepped up the pressure in search of the opener.
Hugill also went close for North End with a clever headed flick which looped just over the R’s crossbar.
With just under 20 minutes remaining Holloway made his first change of the afternoon, replacing Wheeler with Matt Smith who led the line, with Washington moving to the left flank.
On 75 minutes, Chair almost capped a fine full debut with a goal when his free-kick from the left nearly found the far corner but bounced just wide.
The R’s then enjoyed a period of sustained pressure with Chair and Smith causing problems for the home defence.
But as they looked set to complete a hard-working job on Preston, the hosts grabbed the winner with just two minutes left on the clock.
Hugill was put in behind the Rangers defence and he slid the ball beyond the out-rushing Smithies to grab all three points.
The R’s players, knackered after giving their all, fell to their knees in disappointment.
Deep in injury time, Robinson went forward and unleashed a stunning effort from 25 yards which Maxwell did well to save.
After the full-time whistle defender Alex Baptiste was shown a second yellow card by referee Jeremy Simpson for dissent and was subsequently also sent off.
It was a team performance that was full of grit and determination that deserved a share of the points but it wasn’t to be.