Promotion favourites toppled in W12
CONOR Washington and Matt Smith were on target, as Rangers ended a seven-game winless run by toppling promotion favourites Wolves at Loftus Road.
An action-packed Sky Bet Championship encounter, QPR took a 41st-minute lead when Washington finished past John Ruddy at the second attempt.
Back came Wanderers two minutes later, as Leo Bonatini thundered in at close range following good work from Diogo Jota.
But it was to be Rangers’ day and, after upping the ante after the break, substitute Smith headed home Joel Lynch’s hanging cross to earn Ian Holloway’s men an impressive victory in W12.
R’s boss Holloway made three changes to his team for the visit of high-flying Wolves, after our 1-1 draw at Bolton seven days ago.
Jordan Cousins made a first senior appearance since January following his prolonged absence through injury, while defender Jack Robinson also returned after breaking his arm in training recently.
Washington was brought into the starting line-up, too, meaning Jamie Mackie and Pawel Wszolek dropped down to the bench – and Ryan Manning missed out altogether.
QPR - in their usual 3-5-2 formation - lined up as: Alex Smithies; Alex Baptiste, Lynch, Robinson; Cousins, Josh Scowen, Massimo Luongo (captain), Luke Freeman, Jake Bidwell; Washington, Idrissa Sylla.
Opportunities weren’t exactly free-flowing during the opening exchanges, but the R’s more than held their own in a fast-paced first 10 minutes.
Wolves goalkeeper Ruddy was first to be tested in the 12th minute.
Cousins’ right-wing centre was headed down by Bidwell, before Washington’s turn and shot was collected by the visiting custodian.
But chances continued to be at a premium after that, with Wolves’ first effort at goal not arriving until the 26th minute. Jota dragged wide from 20 yards.
When the half-hour mark arrived, both sides had done a good job of cancelling each other out, in what had become a bit of an untidy affair.
But Rangers would eventually break Wolves’ resistance four minutes before half-time.
Excellent pressing from the R’s ended with Luongo winning back possession with a sliding intervention. The ball then subsequently zipped into the path of Washington and, when his prodded attempt was repelled by Ruddy, the striker followed up to finish well from a tight angle.
First blood to the Hoops – but visitors Wolves levelled matters only two minutes later to go in at half-time level.
Jota’s buccaneering run down the left saw the Atletico Madrid loanee advance to the byline, before his pull-back was hammered home by Wanderers top scorer Bonatini from six yards.
Undeterred, Rangers started the second half on top – and almost regained their lead in the 52nd minute.
First Freeman displayed fine feet before leathering a 20-yard effort against the crossbar, then Luongo blasted the rebound over from the edge of the box.
Thereafter, QPR continued to press forward in the search for a second goal.
But some of the best football of the match almost saw Wolves edge in front in the 62nd minute.
A sublime interchange of passes between Jota and Bonatini eventually teed up the latter on six yards – but he could only shoot over.
This had certainly been the more-entertaining half and, in the 65th minute, Holloway opted for a double R’s change with this game now finely poised.
Smith replaced Sylla, while Wszolek was introduced for Cousins.
The game was also fast becoming an end-to-end spectacle, with Rangers almost striking again 20 minutes from time.
Bidwell’s outside-of-the-foot cross was met by sub Smith, who crashed a header just inches past the foot of the left-hand post.
Two minutes later, the R’s went close again when Washington looked to lob Ruddy – who initially came for Lynch’s high ball into the penalty area – only for Danny Batth to head off the line.
Up the other end, in the 74th minute, Jota then worked a chance for himself just inside the QPR box, but Smithies saved well with his body.
Chances were now frequent, and you felt that there would almost certainly be more drama before this contest came to a close.
And so there was, as Rangers struck with what turned out to be the decisive goal nine minutes from time.
Lynch’s hanging left-wing centre was to a tee for Smith, who produced a salmon-like jump thereafter before nodding beyond Ruddy from 12 yards.
Fantastic scenes ensued at Loftus Road and, as the R’s looked to preserve their lead, the closing minutes – including five added on – were naturally a little tense.
However, Holloway’s men held their nerve at the death, taking three welcome points off the league leaders at the start of the weekend.
Two-one to the Super Hoops.