TEN-MAN Rangers stretched their unbeaten league run to six games – also moving to within six points of the Sky Bet Championship’s play-off positions with this impressive 3-1 victory at Preston North End.
The R’s weren’t at their flowing best before half-time, and trailed following Daniel Johnson’s 19th-minute penalty effort.
However, Mark Warburton’s charges were a virtually different outfit after the break to deservedly leave Deepdale with all three points.
Grant Hall netted his fifth goal of the campaign on 61 minutes to put the Super Hoops on terms and, despite Geoff Cameron’s 67th-minute sending off for a second yellow card, further strikes from Ryan Manning (78) and Ebere Eze (84) handed the R’s an important win.
Rangers boss Warburton was able to welcome back skipper Hall from injury and into his starting XI for the trip north, after the defender missed the 2-2 home draw with Birmingham City seven days ago.
Injury to fellow centre-half Conor Masterson ruled him out altogether, so Hall took his place in the only R’s change from that Birmingham fixture.
QPR lined up in their usual 4-2-3-1 formation: Liam Kelly; Angel Rangel, Hall, Yoann Barbet, Manning; Dom Ball, Cameron; Bright Osayi-Samuel, Eze, Marc Pugh; Jordan Hugill.
The opening minutes made for an incredibly open contest, with the hosts striking the foot of the left-hand post in only the third minute.
Sean Maguire raced in behind Rangers’ backline and, when he shot from a tight angle, the effort crashed back off the frame of the goal.
The following minutes were somewhat calmer, though the R’s fell behind come the 19th.
After a neat North End move, Pugh was adjudged to have brought down Darnell Fisher in the box, with referee Dean Whitestone wasting little time in pointing to the spot.
Johnson then did the rest from 12 yards, shooting into the bottom right-hand corner of the net – albeit after a touch from Rangers goalkeeper Kelly.
Preston now held the initiative and the remainder of the opening period was relatively uneventful. The home side didn’t exactly have to chase the game, which no doubt had an impact against a typically-resilient North End side.
In the 25th minute, Barbet’s deflected shot – QPR’s first on target – was collected comfortably by Declan Rudd.
Two minutes later, meanwhile, Preston’s Andrew Hughes missed a good opportunity when heading wide from a home corner, before Hall looped a 29th-minute Manning free-kick over with his head at the other end.
That was that in the way of first-half opportunities and, in the attempt to see his team create more after the break, R’s boss Warburton made a double half-time change.
Ilias Chair and Luke Amos replaced Pugh and Ball respectively.
Rangers went close soon after the interval, with Hugill and Osayi-Samuel combining for the latter to blast over with his box attempt in the 46th minute.
In fact, the R’s looked more threatening inside 10 second-half minutes than they did for the entirety of the first period. In the 55th minute, the Hoops had strong appeals for a penalty turned away when Manning’s 20-yard effort looked to strike a Preston hand in the box.
Three minutes later, Eze swung over a cross from the left, but substitute Chair couldn’t direct his header on-target.
Then Rangers finally made their improved showing count, in the 61st minute.
Another Eze delivery – this time from a right-wing free-kick – eventually found its way to captain Hall at the back post, who gratefully prodded the R’s level.
QPR back on terms, then, but they admittedly had their own crossbar to thank only two minutes later.
Fisher’s lofted ball over the top of the visiting defence was headed off the face of the woodwork by Maguire, who then could not connect cleanly with the rebound as it leapt up into his path.
Rangers’ task was also made all the harder when they were reduced to 10 men in the 67th minute.
Cameron’s second bookable offence – for a lunge on Fisher and just 12 minutes after his first – meant that he was subsequently given his marching orders.
But the R’s didn’t exactly relent after that, continuing to fight and push hard as both teams searched for another goal.
Again, Rangers were rewarded with a second goal only 12 minutes from time.
Patient approach play ended with Osayi-Samuel laying the ball to Manning on the edge of the penalty area, who subsequently dug out an exquisite effort that looped over Rudd and in via the underside of the crossbar.
Rangers’ courage in the face of adversity had been admirable and, six minutes from the end of normal time, they put the game to bed.
Chair led the R’s breakaway, subsequently playing in Eze who bent a beautiful effort into the bottom right-hand corner from 16-yards out.
Three-one to the Super Hoops.