RANGERS fell to a 1-0 defeat to relegation-threatened Barnsley on their long-awaited return to Championship action.
Six games unbeaten before Coronavirus stopped English football in its tracks, QPR weren’t able to pick up where they left off before the break – instead turning in an admittedly jaded display at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium.
Elliot Simoes’ seventh-minute strike ultimately did the damage – the R’s unable to ever really get going on a difficult afternoon in W12.
R’s boss Mark Warburton was minus the services of Geoff Cameron for the visit of Barnsley – the latter serving a one-match ban for his dismissal in our fine 3-1 victory at Preston North End in March.
Former QPR skipper Grant Hall and midfielder Marc Pugh also started in that Deepdale fixture, but have since left the club, of course.
Rangers lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation: Liam Kelly; Angel Rangel, Conor Masterson, Yoann Barbet (captain), Ryan Manning; Luke Amos, Dom Ball; Bright Osayi-Samuel, Ilias Chair, Ebere Eze; Jordan Hugill.
The R’s started pretty sluggishly and ended up paying the price when falling behind after only seven minutes.
Midway into the home half, Ben Williams won back possession for the Tykes before sliding in Simoes, who kept his cool to poke the ball past an onrushing Kelly from inside the box.
And three minutes later, one-nil was so nearly who.
A low ball in from the right found Jacob Brown in acres of space in the penalty area, and the Barnsley man really should have done better than dragging the ball past the foot of the left-hand post.
A let-off for Rangers, who played second fiddle to their visitors for much of the opening period.
Barnsley looked far the more threatening throughout the half, while chances for QPR were extremely limited. The hosts’ first and only real effort at goal came in the 22nd minute – Eze’s ambitious attempt from a 40-yard free-kick landing onto the roof of the net.
The visitors went close again a minute before half-time. Alex Mowatt’s free-kick into the area was headed against his own bar by Masterson, before Rangers scrambled clear.
Hoops boss Warburton reacted by making a change at the break. Olamide Shodipo replaced Amos.
A minute into the second half, Barnsley’s Marcel Ritzmaier warmed the hands of R’s goalkeeper Kelly with a low distance drive.
QPR enjoyed a bit more possession after that, and Hugill should have made more of meeting Manning’s left-flank free-kick in the 52nd minute, sending a mistimed header wide.
Eight minutes later, Hugill – with his back to goal – also spun and shot wide from 12 yards.
Rangers made a second change on 61 minutes, as Ball made way for Lee Wallace.
And in the 68th minute, the R’s should have levelled matters with their best move of the match.
On the counter attack, a sweeping three-man move ended with Hugill slipping in Eze, who advanced to the edge of the box before blasting just over.
Rangers made a third sub in the 80th minute, as Todd Kane replaced Rangel.
Two minutes later, Eze’s fierce drive from range deflected up into the arms of visiting custodian Jack Walton.
With time running out, the R’s went mightily close in the 88th minute. Eze sent Hugill through on goal, though the latter saw his low box attempt blocked by Walton.
Unfortunately, that was as close as Rangers could come – Barnsley standing firm during four minutes of added time to collect all three points.