QPR v Milton Keynes Dons - FA Cup Third Round - Saturday, 6th January 2018 - Loftus Road
Following a lukewarm opening period, Ian Holloway’s charges enjoyed a wealth of possession after half-time against Robbie Neilson’s Milton Keynes Dons.
However, it was the League One outfit who would ultimately progress through to round four after landing a killer blow on the hour mark.
Ousseynou Cisse capitalised on Josh Scowen’s blemish to subsequently curl home from 16 yards – and punish Rangers for their inability to break down the Dons.
R's boss Holloway made just one change to his side after our 2-1 New Year’s Day league victory over Cardiff City in W12.
Massimo Luongo was rested, so into the team came Moroccan youngster Ilias Chair.
Meanwhile, Monday’s match-winner Paul Smyth kept his place in the starting XI, once again partnering Matt Smith up front – who also scored against the Bluebirds.
Ebere Eze was named among the substitutes following his return from a loan spell at Wycombe Wanderers for the first half of the campaign.
QPR – in a 3-5-2 formation – lined up as: Alex Smithies; Alex Baptiste, Nedum Onuoha (captain), Jack Robinson; Jordan Cousins, Scowen, Chair, Luke Freeman, Jake Bidwell; Smyth, Smith.
There was little to report on in the opening stages – though Rangers were forced into a 10th-minute change.
Baptiste landed awkwardly after going in for a challenge. So Grant Hall came on in his place.
The first real chance of the contest arrived on 14 minutes.
Freeman sent in an inviting cross from the right – but neither Smith or Bidwell could turn the ball towards goal at the far post.
Then just two minutes later, visitors MK Dons went even closer when they were denied by only the woodwork.
Robbie Muirhead’s 18-yard effort deflected onto the foot of the right-hand post and out to safety.
Two near-misses but, in truth, the first half was largely one of little quality.
However, that being said, the R’s probably should have been awarded a penalty on the half-hour mark.
Following some decent home approach play, Smyth appeared to be bundled over by Cisse just inside the box. But referee James Linington dismissed strong appeals for a spot-kick.
As half-time approached, QPR enjoyed a bit more possession, going close once more a minute before the break.
Chair’s low effort from 20 yards crept only marginally past the left-hand post.
The Hoops made a second substitution ahead of the closing half – replacing Cousins with Pawel Wszolek.
And visiting goalkeeper Lee Nicholls was tested less than a minute into it, pushing away Scowen’s 15-yard blast following the latter’s run from just inside MK Dons’ half.
The R’s also spurned a good opportunity to lead in the 47th minute, as Robinson turned another Scowen effort over from inside the box.
Rangers were now beginning to up the ante and, two minutes later, Smith’s close-range header was held well by Nicholls.
But the visitors continued to hold firm – and it was they who took a surprise lead against the run of play in the 60th minute.
Scowen’s attempt to keep the ball in only served to spark an MK Dons counter attack and, when Cisse took possession before advancing into the area, he curled home in style.
First blood to the Dons, then – and QPR subsequently threw on their final sub, introducing Eze for Chair.
Rangers kept up the pressure thereafter.
In the 62nd minute, sub Eze’s goal-bound attempt was blocked away by the visiting defence.
And three minutes later, Freeman’s prodded effort at close range was hacked off the goal-line. Smith then headed over from Bidwell’s hanging left-flank cross.
Chasing an equaliser, the R’s also had to be wary of the Dons ending the game on the counter attack.
Neilson’s side almost did just that in the 74th minute – though thankfully Muirhead’s 15-yard shot crashed into the side-netting.
Rangers’ search for a levelling goal then continued, as Smith, Freeman, Smyth and Hall all went close.
However, despite some seven minutes added on at the death, it proved to be another early FA Cup exit for QPR.
The R’s still surged forward in numbers, but lacked the cutting edge – a common theme throughout the afternoon – to claw themselves back into the tie.