QPR v Barnsley - Sky Bet Championship - Saturday, 3rd February 2017 - Loftus Road
Following an unspectacular opening half, the midfield man’s 48th-minute blockbuster lit up this Loftus Road affair – and eventually proved enough to move QPR 10 points clear of the division’s bottom three.
The R’s – who returned to winning ways after back-to-back league defeats – were actually reduced to 10 men in the 71st minute, following substitute Ryan Manning’s bad challenge on Matt Mills just four minutes after the former’s introduction.
However, fortunately Ian Holloway’s men were able to hold onto their lead in the end – and even spurned a hatful of opportunities to improve the 1-0 advantage towards the death.
Hoops boss Holloway made five changes to his team for the visit of Barnsley, two of them enforced.
Injury ruled out both Darnell Furlong and Massimo Luongo, while Alex Baptiste, Jake Bidwell and Aramide Oteh dropped down to the substitutes’ bench.
So into the side came James Perch, Joel Lynch, Pawel Wszolek, Jordan Cousins and Matt Smith.
Deploying a 3-5-2 formation, the R’s lined up as: Alex Smithies; Perch, Nedum Onuoha (captain), Lynch; Wszolek, Scowen, Cousins, Luke Freeman, Jack Robinson; Conor Washington, Smith.
On a wet west London afternoon, it was Paul Heckingbottom’s Barnsley who made the brighter start.
In the fifth minute, George Moncur’s edge-of-the-box attempt warmed the hands of Smithies. Then two minutes later, deadline-day arrival Mills stabbed over at close range following Kieffer Moore’s knock-down.
Meanwhile, Barnsley’s Moncur was finding room to manoeuvre in midfield early on and led a Tykes breakaway in the 11th minute – eventually releasing Moore who shot low at Smithies from just inside the area.
The contest turned into a bit of a slog after that, with no further chances arriving up to the half-hour mark.
Rangers huffed and puffed in a bid to improve, and did go close with their maiden attempt in the 32nd minute. Perch headed marginally over from Freeman’s left-flank corner kick.
But it’s fair to say that the standard of this Championship affair left a lot to be desired before the break.
QPR had goalkeeper Smithies to thank for a fine save on the stroke of half-time, tipping over when Barnsley’s Adam Hammill let fly with a dipping half-volley from 20 yards.
The R’s were quicker out of the traps at the beginning of the second period.
Soon after the re-start, Smith had strong-looking appeals for a penalty waved away, after he appeared to be dragged to the ground inside the area.
However, undeterred, the home side hit the front in the 48th minute.
It was quite the effort to break the deadlock, as former Tykes ace Scowen curled home in style from fully 25 yards to finally bring this game to life.
That was Rangers’ first shot on target – though it mattered little as Holloway’s charges now held a 1-0 lead.
Up the other end, Barnsley looked to reply in the 57th minute. Following Moncur’s right-wing centre, Bradshaw spun and shot at Smithies.
The visitors’ cause was then helped when QPR were reduced to 10 men on 71 minutes.
Introduced for Cousins only four minutes earlier, it was admittedly a poor challenge from sub Manning, as he slid in late on Barnsley’s Mills. And referee Tony Harrington wasted little time in brandishing a straight red card.
Now a man light, Smith made way for Bright Osayi-Samuel six minutes later, as Rangers looked to protect their lead.
Despite the numerical disadvantage, the R’s should have wrapped up proceedings nine minutes from time.
Onuoha headed Freeman’s free-kick back across goal, finding an unmarked Washington in the process, but the latter couldn’t find a way past ‘keeper Nick Townsend from six yards.
Would Rangers and Washington live to regret that miss?
One thing’s for sure, the home side had Lynch to thank for a superb intervention on their own six-yard line in the 87th minute, following Moncur’s low effort that looked in all the way.
Soon after, Washington spurned another fine chance to double the Hoops’ advantage. Through on goal, he again fired straight at Townsend.
Four minutes were added on at the end, and to their credit the hosts continued to go in search of a second.
In the 92nd minute, sub Osayi-Samuel latched onto a lovely Wszolek pass but again Townsend came to the Tykes’ rescue. Then Wszolek himself wasted yet another good opportunity when the R’s broke on the counter attack once more.
However, thankfully the solitary goal was all that Rangers needed, as referee Harrington finally called time in W12.
One-nil to the Super Hoops.