RANGERS registered a third straight Sky Bet Championship win – scoring three goals in the first half an hour to help them to a 3-2 victory over Luton Town at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium.
Ebere Eze struck just three minutes into what was a breathless W12 encounter, before Nahki Wells was at the double (20 and 28 minutes) to put the Super Hoops into a commanding lead.
Luton gave themselves a glimmer of hope before half-time, as the R’s surrendered possession in their own half and Harry Cornick shot into an empty net to make it 3-1. James Collins then added a visiting second in the 48th minute to set up a grandstand finish.
Fortunately, though, the Luton scoring stopped there – with QPR ultimately seeing out the remainder of the closing half to move level on points with fourth-placed Leeds United.
R’s boss Mark Warburton made one enforced change to his starting XI, following the 2-1 win at Sheffield Wednesday two weekends ago.
Angel Rangel missed out through injury, so Todd Kane deputised at right wing-back in a 3-5-2 formation.
Rangers lined up as follows: Joe Lumley; Toni Leistner, Grant Hall (captain), Yoann Barbet; Kane, Dom Ball, Ilias Chair, Eze, Ryan Manning; Jordan Hugill, Wells.
Brimming with confidence after going into the recent international break with back-to-back victories to their name, it took the R’s only three minutes to edge in front on this occasion.
From the left, Rangers eventually worked the ball into the feet of Eze on 25 yards – who subsequently arrowed an effort into the top left-hand corner of the net, via the outstretched hands of visiting goalkeeper Simon Sluga.
Sluga should undoubtedly have done better with the effort, but it mattered little to the W12 faithful, who were overjoyed by this fast start from the R’s.
The opening goal only served to buoy a now confident Rangers, who almost added a second goal in minutes nine and 18.
First, Chair released Wells, who saw his pullback for Hugill blocked – as was Eze’s subsequent blast on the follow-up.
Eze looked positively on-song and, nine minutes later, the R’s attacker was involved again, his latest goal-bound shot kept out by the Luton defence.
But QPR would eventually add a second, in the 20th minute.
Leistner’s stunning long pass put Wells in the clear, the striker then latching onto the ball and burying his low shot into the bottom right-hand corner.
Rangers were rampant, and only the crossbar could twice deny Eze from adding an R’s third in minutes 22 and 24 – the first effort a thumping drive that was tipped onto the woodwork by Sluga, then a header struck the bar from Manning’s left-wing cross.
QPR’s third goal arrived just short of the half-hour mark.
Wells and Eze combined to effect – the former freeing himself following a slick one-two between the pair before coolly slotting past Sluga from 12 yards.
Incredibly, Rangers were three goals to the good with less than 30 minutes played.
However, yet more drama awaited in this enthralling first half when Luton were handed a lifeline in the 36th minute.
Outside his penalty area, Lumley’s misplaced pass fell to the feet of Luton’s Cornick, who gratefully looped the ball into the unguarded net from 30 yards.
An unfortunate moment for the R’s number one, but the hosts didn’t let that bother them as they sought a fourth goal.
Six minutes before the break, Eze met Kane’s low right-flank cross, only for a covering Luton defender to snuff out the danger. Then on the stroke of half-time, Wells probably should have recorded a first-half hat-trick when meeting Manning’s cross from the left. Unmarked, the Bermudan international could only head off-target from 10 yards.
It really was game on when Luton reduced the deficit to just one goal, though.
The visitors’ second came just three minutes after the interval following a well-worked move. Andrew Shinnie clipped a ball into the penalty area and, when Cornick touched the ball back to Collins, he poked home from close range to make it 3-2.
Rangers went close on a couple of occasions in response. As the hour mark approached, a thrilling finale surely awaited.
The R’s again threatened in the 58th minute. Eze skipped past two players, then played the ball back for Hugill to lift over with his feet from 12 yards.
With the game in the balance, this was now firmly end-to-end stuff. Following a home breakaway in the 65th minute, this time Hugill cut in from the left before firing well wide from 14 yards.
Warburton made a first Hoops change a minute later, as two-goal Wells was replaced by Jan Mlakar. And in the 69th minute, Luke Amos made his return from a recent injury – coming on for Kane.
QPR’s final substitution of the afternoon was made in the 74th minute, as Marc Pugh replaced Chair.
Rangers should have put the game to bed in the 82nd minute. After some patient approach play, Manning’s cutback from the left was blazed over by a waiting Hugill on 12 yards.
Straight up the other end, the R’s had Barbet to thank for what was surely a goal-saving tackle to halt Luton’s Collins from racing clean through.
Three minutes from time, meanwhile, Lumley fashioned a smart low take to keep out sub George Moncur’s edge-of-the-box attempt.
However, this contest – following four added minutes at the death – would ultimately end 3-2.
Rangers arguably made harder work of it in the end than they should have, but it mattered little as Warburton’s men racked up three more points.