CHRIS Willock’s first goal for the club saw QPR secure a superb victory away at Cardiff City on Wednesday night.
In awful weather conditions – where the wind and rain did not stop all evening – Willock slammed home the winning goal midway through the second period.
At the other end of the field, goalkeeper Seny Dieng pulled off a number of fine saves to keep the Bluebirds at bay and seal a second successive clean sheet.
The victory made it back-to-back wins for Rangers and moves them on to 27 points for the campaign.
In terms of team news, manager Mark Warburton made two changes to the side that started the victory over Luton Town last Tuesday.
Wing-back Niko Hamalainen came in for Bright Osayi-Samuel, who wasn’t in the squad, and Willock replaced Tom Carroll in midfield. Carroll missed out with a knee injury.
In full, the R’s lined up as: Seny Dieng, Todd Kane, Geoff Cameron, Rob Dickie, Yoann Barbet, Hamalainen, Dom Ball, Ilias Chair, Willock, Charlie Austin, Lyndon Dykes.
In terrible weather conditions in south Wales, the first 10 minutes went by without either team threatening their opponent’s goal. There was one early moment of controversy, however, when Cardiff defender Sean Morrison handled a QPR cross inside his own penalty area. Despite loud appeals from those in red, referee Darren Bond did not point to the spot.
The first effort in anger fell the way of Rangers on 11 minutes. Austin intelligently picked out Kane on the right flank and he returned the ball to the frontman with a deep cross and, after chesting it down, Austin volleyed over from a tight angle.
Dykes headed over the crossbar from a deep, inviting Chair cross with 18 minutes on the clock and, at the other end, Kieffer Moore glanced wide from a long Will Vaulks throw-in.
Cardiff midfielder Joe Ralls stung the palms of Dieng with a low drive on 25 minutes and the hosts’ next good moment would involve the same man.
On 38 minutes, Ralls saw a low free-kick well blocked by a man in red but the loose ball dropped for debutant Perry Ng, who forced Dieng into a fine save down low to his right from 18 yards. Defender Morrison – who may have been stood offside – looked certain to bury the rebound but Dieng was equal to his effort as well.
It was a fantastic double save and, as the rain continued to pour, Cardiff were beginning to get on top. The R’s will have been the team more pleased to have heard the referee’s whistle blow for half time.
Dykes look set to connect with a great Hamalainen cross a couple of minutes into the second period, only for a vital touch from defender Curtis Nelson to take the ball away from him.
It had been a brighter start to the half from Rangers and a half chance fell the way of Austin on 56 minutes. He got onto the end of a low Kane centre but could only divert his first-time effort over the bar.
Austin and the R’s thought they had grabbed the lead on 66 minutes. A great bit of interplay resulted in Chair getting in behind the Cardiff defence and, after his chipped shot was deflected into the air, Austin steered the ball home.
Before his celebrations could begin, however, referee Bond blew for a foul against him, adjudging him to have raised his boot too high when sweeping the ball home.
Although Austin’s joy was short-lived, Rangers would get their goal five minutes later. Substitute Macauley Bonne laid off Willock and, after taking a touch, he drilled a low drive into the bottom of the net.
It was a first R’s goal for Willock and also some impact from substitute Bonne, who came close to grabbing a goal of his own on 79 minutes. He connected with Chair corner at the near post but goalkeeper Alex Smithies did brilliantly to tip his effort out for a corner.
Rangers were looking threatening on the counter attack but Cardiff came close to a leveller on 83 minutes when Leandro Bacuna whipped a free-kick goalwards that Dieng superbly tipped over the crossbar.
Dieng came to the rescue again a couple of minutes later. Striker Moore had seemingly picked out the corner of the net with a perfectly-placed header but somehow the goalkeeper got down to his right to claw the ball out.
Four minutes of stoppage time were indicated by the fourth official and Warburton’s men negotiated them expertly to seal a big three points in south Wales.