RANGERS returned to winning ways with a 1-0 victory over relegation-threatened Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium.
Jordan Hugill’s 15th strike of the campaign was the difference on Teesside, the game’s only goal arriving in the 32nd minute.
This was a professional away performance to overcome former Hoops boss Neil Warnock and his new Boro team – the R’s looking comfortable for long spells to collect their first victory since football returned.
After Rangers were narrowly beaten in Tuesday’s west London derby versus Fulham, QPR manager Mark Warburton made just the one change to his starting XI here.
Joe Lumley took the place of Liam Kelly in goal.
The R’s again lined up in a 5-3-2 formation: Lumley; Todd Kane, Osman Kakay, Geoff Cameron, Yoann Barbet (captain), Ryan Manning; Dom Ball, Luke Amos, Ebere Eze; Bright Osayi-Samuel, Hugill.
Rangers began brightly enough, and in the fifth minute Eze would have been disappointed with miscuing from close range after escaping the attention of Jonny Howson.
Boro’s maiden attempt came in the ninth minute, as Britt Assombalonga drove straight at Lumley. Soon after, at the other end, home goalkeeper Dejan Stojanovic was forced to tip the ball over the crossbar when Kane’s right-wing cross caught some strong North East wind and nearly dropped in.
QPR were hardly spectators but Lumley – on his return to the side – pulled off three fine stops in five minutes to keep things level.
In the 16th minute, the R’s custodian saved at point-blank range from Ashley Flecther, who raced in behind the visiting defence. Then, four minutes later, he repelled Assombalonga’s box blast.
Lumley also saved from Fletcher once more on 21 minutes, denying the Boro man after he was slipped in by Patrick Roberts.
However, it was Rangers who would go in ahead at half-time – that courtesy of Hugill.
On the half-hour mark, the former Boro loanee spurned a fine opportunity, fluffing his lines when put clean through on goal by Osayi-Samuel.
But there would be no such repeat two minutes later.
Manning’s stunning cross-field pass put Hugill in the clear once again and, when he spotted Stojanovic off his goal-line, the R’s striker coolly lobbed the ball over the home ‘keeper from fully 30 yards.
Rangers ahead, then – but they would have to contest the rest of this fixture without Hugill, who injured himself while putting his team in front. Ilias Chair replaced him.
The R’s – subsequently the better team before the break – went close to adding a second goal six minutes from the interval. Stojanovic was on hand to push away Manning’s fierce, low free-kick effort from 20-yards out.
On the stroke of half-time, meanwhile, sub Chair drove low at Stojanovic after the visitors broke at pace.
Having enjoyed 64% of the play in the first half, Rangers continued to enjoy plenty of time on the ball at the beginning of the second period.
The first real moment of note arrived in the 57th minute. Boro’s Roberts swung in a cross from the right which looked set to find Assombalonga at the near post, only for Kakay to intervene in the nick of time.
Chances weren’t exactly flowing come the hour mark, but Rangers looked comfortable enough. In the 65th minute, former R’s loanee and Boro’s Ravel Morrison fired way beyond the upright, with the hosts being limited to long-range attempts.
QPR made a second change in the 70th minute. Aramide Oteh replaced Eze.
Opportunities continued to be scarce as the clock ticked down. In the 72nd minute, Barbet produced a brave block to keep out Assombalonga’s edge-of-the-box blast.
Crucially, though, Rangers remained largely in control of proceedings until the very end to take the points.
Substitute Lukas Nmecha went close for Boro when he shot just over in the 81st minute, while the R’s survived a scare when Kakay and Assombalonga came together in QPR’s box in the 89th minute.
Fortunately, the latter was booked for simulation – and Rangers survived five minutes of added time thereafter.
One-nil to the Super Hoops.