QPR v Sheffield United - Sky Bet Championship - Tuesday, 31st October 2017 - Loftus Road
IAN Holloway’s 300th game in charge of QPR ended in victory, as Rangers battled valiantly to see off league leaders Sheffield United at Loftus Road.
After Saturday’s 2-1 home win over Wolves, this time it was Idrissa Sylla’s fourth-minute goal that booked this latest W12 success over Chris Wilder’s in-form charges.
Following a defensive calamity in the visiting ranks, Sylla took full advantage to slide home into an empty net from six yards.
And a feisty affair followed thereafter, with the R’s showing true grit throughout to secure a second Sky Bet Championship triumph in the space of four days.
Rangers boss Holloway made one enforced change to his team following that weekend win over Wolves.
Joel Lynch picked up his fifth booking of the season against the Molineux men on Saturday, hence ruling him out of this one through suspension. So David Wheeler came into the starting XI.
That meant the R’s – in a 3-4-3 formation – lined up as: Alex Smithies; Alex Baptiste, Jack Robinson, Jake Bidwell; Jordan Cousins, Josh Scowen, Massimo Luongo (captain), Luke Freeman; Wheeler, Sylla, Conor Washington.
When the game got underway, Rangers started positively – and duly took the lead in only the fourth minute.
In truth, the opening goal arrived in extremely-fortuitous fashion, as United goalkeeper Jamal Blackman collided with fellow loanee Cameron Carter-Vickers when trying to deal with a long ball forward.
The ball subsequently dropped kindly for Sylla on six yards, who certainly had no cause for complaint when gifted with the simple task of tapping into an unguarded net.
The perfect start for Holloway’s men – and things got even worse for the visitors when ‘keeper Blackman was stretchered off following that incident. Reserve Simon Moore took his place.
A double blow for the Blades, then, but they should have levelled matters three minutes later.
Paul Coutts’ left-wing corner was met by an unmarked Jack O’Connell at the back post, but he somehow volleyed over.
However, the R’s continued to look bright – pouring forward at every possible opportunity.
Sylla almost doubled his tally in the 17th minute, attempting to catch the visiting sub goalie off his line with an audacious 35-yard lob. But Moore just about recovered in time to claim the ball.
Five minutes later, Rangers broke again and, when Freeman played in Washington, the latter’s rasping drive from 18 yards flashed past the post.
The chances kept on coming.
In the 33rd minute, Washington sped away down the left before crossing for Sylla, who couldn’t keep his header down.
At the other end, meanwhile, the visitors spurned another fine opportunity to equalise a minute later.
David Brooks ended a teasing run by sending over a lovely, dinked centre for Leon Clarke – but the former QPR man could only sky over from 10 yards.
Then in the 36th minute, Washington latched onto Luongo’s ball over the top, driving into the box before lashing high and wide.
Due to visiting subbed ‘keeper Blackman receiving lengthy treatment early on, some six minutes were added on at the end of the first period.
No further goals arrived before the break, though Holloway will have been pleased with his side’s work in the opening half – despite a scare just seconds before the interval.
Enda Stevens got in behind the home defence before crossing low for Clarke. But he could only direct a tame effort at Smithies from point-blank range.
A goal behind, Sheffield United began the second half on the front foot.
Though it was Rangers who were first to go close in the closing period – Sylla heading just wide on 54 minutes, after Freeman’s free-kick was eventually worked back into his path.
The visitors continued to press forward, with Smithies forced into a routine stop four minutes later when Billy Sharp shot low from 12 yards.
The R’s then made their first change just short of the hour mark. On a booking, Cousins made way - replaced by Darnell Furlong.
With half an hour left, this game was now finely poised.
The Loftus Road crowd proceeded to get behind their team and, in the 66th minute, almost saw a Rangers second. Luongo turned smartly before firing narrowly wide from 20 yards.
A second R’s sub arrived moments later, as Jamie Mackie came on for goalscorer Sylla.
Now a big 20 or so minutes remained for the Hoops.
The visitors had the ball in the net through Clarke in the 72nd minute, who touched home Sharp’s left-flank centre. But the lineman’s flag came to Rangers’ rescue.
Meanwhile, QPR should have had a second goal 15 minutes from time.
Excellent trickery from Freeman ended with the playmaker finding an unmarked Mackie on 12 yards, who blazed over.
Some opportunity to put the game to bed. Would the R’s live to regret that miss?
Like they were for most of the evening, Rangers continued to be superb defensively, seeing out four additional minutes at the death for another impressive home victory.
One-nil to the Super Hoops.