RANGERS slipped to their fifth Sky Bet Championship reverse in six, as Kemar Roofe’s second-half hat-trick helped to inflict a 3-1 Loftus Road defeat against Leeds United.
After a tight opening, Thomas Christiansen’s outfit upped the ante going into half-time and after the interval to take a deserved victory.
First Roofe headed home Gjanni Alioski’s left-wing cross in the 63rd minute to put Leeds in pole position in west London.
And five minutes later, the attacker touched in substitute Pawel Cibicki's centre from the opposite flank to strengthen the Whites’ advantage.
Pawel Wszolek’s bizarre final-minute goal – originally a ball sent back into the box that caught out visiting goalkeeper Felix Wiedwald – threatened to set up another grandstand W12 finish.
But the R’s couldn’t ultimately find a second, with Leeds and Roofe adding to their respective tallies in stoppage time at the end to rubberstamp this away win.
Rangers boss Ian Holloway was able to welcome back captain Nedum Onuoha into QPR’s starting XI, following the latter’s three-month injury lay-off.
There were three changes for the R’s in total following defeat at Preston last weekend.
Both Alex Baptiste and Jamie Mackie missed out altogether through suspension, after their respective red cards at Deepdale, while David Wheeler dropped to the bench.
So in came Onuoha, Luke Freeman – after his own one-match suspension – and former Leeds forward Matt Smith.
Meanwhile, there was also a place among the substitutes for Grant Hall – out since April with tendinitis.
QPR began in a 4-4-2 formation, lining up as: Alex Smithies; Wszolek, Onuoha, Jack Robinson, Jake Bidwell; Freeman, Josh Scowen, Massimo Luongo, Ilias Chair; Conor Washington, Smith.
When the game got underway, clear-cut opportunities were limited during the opening stanza. But there was goalmouth action at both ends.
Following a quiet start, Leeds went close in the sixth minute when Roofe’s teasing cross from the left looked to be heading towards a couple of visiting bodies in the box. But R’s keeper Smithies was on hand to claw the ball to safety.
At the other end, three minutes later, Wszolek broke free of his man down the right before his subsequent low centre for a waiting Smith on six yards was cleared.
Then came Washington efforts in minutes 11 and 16, the striker first heading Freeman’s free-kick over before the same two combined for the former to volley just wide from 20 yards.
Leeds threatened once more in the 18th minute, Caleb Ekuban heading Luke Ayling’s cross from the right over, before Rangers twice went close again.
In the 26th minute, Smith nodded Bidwell’s ball from deep off-target, then a lovely move only a minute later ended with Freeman firing over from Wszolek’s right-flank delivery.
In truth, opportunities dried up after that.
Much of the first period was as tight as it started, though Leeds arguably finished the half stronger following a spell of pressure.
There was an outstanding goal-saving challenge to deny United on the stroke of half-time.
In the 45th minute, Roofe burst clear of the Hoops’ defence. But left-back Bidwell arrived in the nick of time – producing a fantastic sliding intervention when the Leeds attacker wound up to shoot inside the penalty area.
Into the second half, and the visitors started where they left off at the end of the closing period.
After Scowen’s wayward effort from distance for QPR, in the 50th minute, Leeds broke three minutes later. Sub Cibicki tested Smithies with a strong low effort, who then did well to hold on to the shot.
Rangers were having to try to weather another mini-storm – but their resistance was finally broken just after the hour mark.
Alioski crossed from the left – and Roofe rose well to head into the bottom left-hand corner from eight-yards out, past a stranded Smithies.
Holloway reacted almost instantly, making a first R’s change of the afternoon. Bright Osayi-Samuel replaced Chair.
Then QPR went close to levelling matters in the 65th minute. Bidwell’s outswinging ball from the left found Luongo, who headed into the side-netting.
However, the visitors continued their dominance thereafter and, after Smithies produced a smart low stop to keep out Samuel Saiz from the edge of the box, Roofe doubled his and Leeds’ account in the 68th minute.
Sub Cibicki this time provided the assist from the right, before the former Oxford United man nipped in front of his marker to prod home past Smithies.
Rangers had to come from two goals down to complete a dramatic late comeback against Brentford last time out in W12 – and would now have to do so again if they wanted another point.
QPR made a second change in the 71st minute. Idrissa Sylla took the place of Bidwell.
Freeman then blasted over as the R’s looked for a way back into the match, ahead of the hosts using their third and final sub.
Hall’s introduction one was certainly a welcome one following his long-term absence with injury. The former Spurs man replaced Scowen.
Leeds threatened to add gloss to their advantage six minutes from time, but Saiz couldn’t pull off what would have been an outrageous dink from 16 yards.
Then came Wszolek’s truly-freak 90th-minute reply for QPR.
The Poland international’s hopeful ball into the box eventually looped over United custodian Wiedwald, before the Goal Decision System ruled that it had crossed the goal-line.
A lifeline for Rangers – but one that they couldn’t take advantage of, unfortunately, to spell a third home league defeat of the campaign.
Sub Sylla missed a golden chance when slipped through on goal, just after five minutes were added on at the death.
Then Roofe ensured that he would be taking home the match ball in the fourth minute of stoppage time, firing in following a Leeds counter attack.