QPR v Bristol City - Sky Bet Championship - Saturday, 23rd December 2017 - Loftus Road
Ian Holloway’s men led after 37 minutes, with Aden Flint’s own goal handing the R’s a half-time W12 advantage.
In truth, high-flying Bristol City were the stronger force after the break and deserved their draw – but it was a much-debated decision indeed that led to the visitors equalising from the spot nine minutes from time, following a melee in the box.
Robins top scorer Bobby Reid stepped up to slide home from 12 yards and rescue a point for Lee Johnson’s charges.
Rangers boss Holloway made two changes to his QPR team after our 2-1 win at Birmingham City last weekend.
Attacking duo Bright Osayi-Samuel – making his first-ever senior start for the R’s – and Idrissa Sylla were drafted into the starting line-up for the visit of Bristol City, with Matt Smith and Conor Washington dropping to the bench.
And for the first time, there was also a place among the substitutes for Under-23s striker Aramide Oteh – following nine goals in his last nine games at that level.
In a 3-5-2 formation, Rangers lined up as: Alex Smithies; Alex Baptiste, Nedum Onuoha (captain), Jack Robinson; Pawel Wszolek, Josh Scowen, Massimo Luongo, Luke Freeman, Jake Bidwell; Osayi-Samuel, Sylla.
Third in the Championship and riding the crest of a wave after their midweek Carabao Cup quarter-final win over Manchester United at Ashton Gate, you could understand if the visiting Robins headed into this league affair high on confidence.
Bristol City certainly looked bright early on.
In just the second minute, midfielder Korey Smith’s 20-yard blast forced a fine reaction stop from Smithies, before the latter reacted quickly to claim the ball at the second attempt.
Meanwhile, Rangers’ first attempt arrived in the seventh minute. Osayi-Samuel’s 12-yard shot was pushed away by City goalkeeper Frank Fielding, before the danger was cleared.
Despite the visitors’ promising start, Rangers came into the game as time progressed. And though clear-cut opportunities were scarce, it was the hosts who were getting forward more frequently come the midway point in the first period.
Chances continued to be limited for the remainder of the half – though it was Rangers who went in ahead at the break thanks to their 37th-minute opener.
Wszolek was hacked down on the right wing and, when Freeman eventually sent over an inswinging delivery, City defender Flint got the last touch – sending the ball past Fielding and in.
Advantage to the R’s.
However, the Robins perhaps should have levelled matters five minutes before half-time.
Defender Nathan Baker lashed a decent opportunity over from 10 yards, after centre-half partner Flint flicked on a left-flank City corner.
Into the second half, and the visitors soon went extremely close to equalising on three separate occasions.
In the 51st minute, Flint so nearly atoned for his earlier blemish – heading marginally over from Joe Bryan’s right-wing corner.
And Rangers were let off the hook on two more occasions in the 53rd minute.
First Josh Brownhill’s eight-yard effort cannoned back off the foot of the left-hand post, before Scowen cleared off the goal-line when Matty Taylor met another Bryan corner kick.
After some early second-half pressure, Rangers fans proceeded to get behind their team – and almost saw an R’s second on 57 minutes.
Freeman fed Wszolek on 16 yards, before the latter forced an excellent one-handed save from Fielding, who tipped the ball around the post.
Holloway then decided to freshen things up in the 63rd minute. The impressive Osayi-Samuel made way for Washington.
And after Baker’s deflected distance effort for Bristol City warmed the hands of Smithies, Smith was also soon introduced for the R’s – replacing Sylla.
A goal down, visitors City began to camp themselves in Rangers’ half as the clock ticked down.
In the 74th minute, Smithies fashioned a smart save to keep out sub Hordur Magnusson’s 25-yard free-kick attempt.
But the R’s – backed by a noisy Loftus Road faithful – continued to dig in.
Admittedly, QPR’s goal led a charmed life after the interval – exemplified in the 78th minute when first Smithies pulled off a sensational stop to keep out Reid’s header, then Cauley Woodrow skied over from close range during the same passage of play.
However, the hosts’ resistance was finally broken in the 81st minute, following a debated penalty award.
Video replays suggested that there was little in Onuoha’s challenge on Flint in the box – before Reid stepped up to bring the Robins level from 12 yards.
And it could have been worse for the R’s three minutes later when Flint touched the ball on to Woodrow on six yards, who span and fortunately shot just inches wide.
A big final five minutes now remained – and that was doubled when as many were added on at the end.
But there was to be no further drama, despite further visiting pressure in the dying embers, as honours ended even in W12.