Ngbakoto strike puts R's into the Carabao Cup second round
YENI Ngbakoto’s first-half effort was enough to see Rangers into the second round of this season’s Carabao Cup.
A tie of limited opportunities, Ngbakoto’s close-range strike did the damage for QPR, who followed up their season-opening victory over Reading on Saturday with their second in four days.
Visitors Northampton Town also finished the game with 10 men, following Leon Barnett’s 53rd-minute dismissal for a second yellow card.
Ian Holloway made nine changes to a Rangers side that overcame Reading in W12 at the weekend.
The R’s remained in the same 3-5-2 shape, but only captain Nedum Onuoha and playmaker Luke Freeman kept their places. Steven Caulker was handed a first competitive outing since last October.
The Cobblers, whose EFL Cup exploits last term saw them overcome Premier League West Bromwich Albion, enjoyed the brighter opening.
Justin Edinburgh’s charges also fashioned the first notable effort at goal. Chris Long’s stinging range drive in the seventh minute was repelled by home goalkeeper Matt Ingram.
At the other end, Rangers’ opening attempt arrived three minutes later, as Jack Robinson’s low drive from distance was comfortably taken by David Cornell.
The tie then became a little untidy. When the midway point in the first period arrived, both sides were struggling to grasp any real foothold.
Chances were also virtually non-existent – that is until QPR finally breathed life into this fixture, nine minutes before the break, by taking the lead.
A short-corner routine eventually saw Freeman cross into the direction of Darnell Furlong in the penalty area, whose header was parried by Cornell.
And Ngbakoto then reacted first to the loose ball for the R’s, smashing home at close range to hand Holloway’s men the advantage.
Ultimately, Rangers would take that lead into half-time – but they were almost pegged back shortly after opening the scoring.
Thankfully, though, Ingram was on hand to first save from Yaser Kasim’s 10-yard effort – after the Northampton man raced clear of the QPR defence – before collecting the ball at the second attempt.
When the second half got underway, the Hoops’ cause was boosted even further come the 53rd minute, as the visitors were reduced to 10 men.
Barnett was shown a second yellow card following a cynical body check on Idrissa Sylla, to put Rangers firmly in the driving seat.
The R’s were then forced into a change four minutes later. Matt Smith appeared to be caught by a flailing arm when going in for a challenge, and was soon replaced by Saturday’s two-goal hero, Conor Washington.
A second substitution soon followed, with young midfielder Ilias Chair replacing Freeman for his senior QPR debut.
Much like the first half, opportunities were still sparse after the interval.
Importantly, though, Rangers – now a man as well as a goal to the good – looked comfortable as the clock ticked down.
Fifteen minutes from time, just after Michael Petrasso replaced Sylla – who went off injured with what looked to be a head injury, Ngbakoto’s rasping 10-yard drive forced a fine block from Northampton defender Aaron Pierre.
That being said, there was a scare for the R’s in the 79th minute. Town substitute Leon Lobjoit headed a right-flank corner towards goal, before Ryan Manning intervened to clear off the line.
Three minutes later, Rangers almost doubled their lead.
After his defensive heroics, Manning saw his 25-yard blast crash back off the crossbar, before Ngbakoto’s follow-up attempt was blocked away by Aaron Phillips.
It mattered not, however, as the R’s did enough thereafter – which included six minutes of second-half stoppage time – to book their place in round two.
One-nil to the Super Hoops.