GOALS from Grant Hall and Ilias Chair helped Rangers to a 2-1 Sky Bet Championship victory over Derby County at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium.
Hall got the ball rolling for the R’s – who extended their recent unbeaten run to four matches – with a 34th-minute blockbuster, before the Rams levelled matters heading into half-time through Martyn Waghorn (43).
It was QPR who would ultimately prevail, though, as sub Ilias Chair struck just two minutes after his arrival in the 75th minute to move the hosts up to 12th in the league table.
Following the goalless draw at Nottingham Forest on Saturday, R’s boss Mark Warburton made just the one change to his starting XI for the visit of Derby.
Presumably rested, Angel Rangel missed out altogether. So Todd Kane deputised at right-back.
Rangers lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation: Liam Kelly; Kane, Hall (captain), Yoann Barbet, Ryan Manning; Dom Ball, Geoff Cameron; Bright Osayi-Samuel, Marc Pugh, Ebere Eze; Jordan Hugill.
Visitors Derby went into this clash in decent form – beaten just twice in the league since talisman Wayne Rooney’s arrival at Pride Park at the turn of the year.
It was the Rams who fashioned the first attempt of the contest and what a good opportunity it was, too, as unmarked Brighton loanee Matt Clarke fired Max Bird’s left-flank corner over in just the third minute.
Rangers’ maiden effort came six minutes later, as Eze warmed the hands of Kelle Roos with a range shot that the visiting goalkeeper gathered at the second attempt.
Clear chances didn’t exactly flow in the first half, though the R’s did threaten once more in the 20th minute as they looked to up the ante. Barbet’s 25-yard free-kick only just evaded the foot of the right-hand post.
Derby also edged a bit closer in the 26th minute. Max Lowe’s cross from deep was met by Waghorn in the box, with the former Glasgow Rangers man shooting just over.
It was Rangers who would open the scoring, though, courtesy of a stunning strike in the 34th minute.
After Manning did well to retain possession, visiting defender Clarke failed to deal with Cameron’s left-flank centre before Hall’s 16-yard half-volley crashed against the underside of the bar and in.
Not a bad way to register your fourth goal of the campaign.
However, Derby would go in level at half-time – as Rangers’ lead lasted just nine minutes.
Another Bird corner kick was this time met by Waghorn, whose downward header clipped the inside of the right-hand post before bouncing into the net.
Into the second half, and Derby almost took the lead in fortuitous circumstances in the 53rd minute, as Tom Lawrence’s intended cross so nearly looped over Kelly and in. Backpedalling, the R’s custodian just about managed to claw the ball over the crossbar.
Three minutes later, it was Barbet’s turn to produce an important intervention – sliding to prevent Waghorn from racing through on goal, following Jack Marriott’s clever pass.
As the game started to become stretched, Rangers made a first change on 62 minutes when Jack Clarke replaced Hugill. Osayi-Samuel was pushed up into the central striker role.
Moments later, the R’s almost regained their lead. Substitute Clarke’s right-flank cross was met by Pugh at the back post, who forced Roos into a fine low save.
A second Hoops sub arrived in the 73rd minute, as Pugh made way for Chair.
It proved to be an inspired change from Warburton, as the Moroccan midfielder struck the winning goal just two minutes later.
Rooney’s misplaced pass handed possession to Eze on the halfway line, who subsequently drove at the Derby defence before slipping in Chair in the penalty area.
The latter made no mistake thereafter, shooting low beyond Roos at the Loft End to clinch all three points – the R’s seeing out the game thereafter, with Kelly saving spectacularly from Waghorn during five added minutes, to edge into the top half of the Championship.
Two-one to the Super Hoops.