A SUPERB first twenty minutes from Queens Park Rangers was enough to secure a 2-1 victory away at Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium, despite being reduced to ten men.
Rob Dickie gave the R’s the lead with a fantastic long-range effort, before Lee Wallace doubled Rangers’ advantage minutes later.
Neil Warnock’s side battled back and Yannick Bolasie’s header late in the first half seemingly gave them the perfect way to do this.
Mid-way through the second half, Seny Dieng was shown his marching orders for a late tackle on Duncan Watmore, meaning Mark Warburton’s side had half an hour to play with ten men, but Rangers dug in deep and were able to leave Teeside with the victory.
Warburton made four changes from the side that suffered defeat to Rotherham United only a handful of days ago. This saw Lee Wallace, Albert Adomah, Chris Willock and Ilias Chair all returning to the side.
Niko Hamalainen, Sam Field and Charlie Kelman were named on the bench while Jordy de Wijs continued to nurse the nose injury he suffered at the New York Stadium.
This meant that Seny Dieng resumed in goal behind a back three of Osman Kakay, Rob Dickie and Yoann Barbet.
Wallace returned to his left-wing back role with Albert Adomah occupying the right wing-back position.
Stefan Johansen was placed in holding midfield behind Willock, Chair and George Thomas, whilst the in-form Lyndon Dykes occupied the lone striker role.
In what could epitomise a mid-table clash, hosts Middlesbrough headed into this one in 10th, whilst Rangers sat a point below in 11th and it was Warburton’s side who started brightly.
Thomas was first to threaten Boro’s defence early on, only for Paddy NcNair to cut out the 24-year-old at the final moment.
Rangers continued to threaten early on.
A great run and ball from former Middlesbrough winger Adomah found Chair at the far post and despite the Moroccan’s lunging effort Jordan Archer was on hand to collect the ball and break down another early QPR attack.
With 13th minutes on the clock, Willock was able to create the most dangerous chance of either side so far.
After driving at the Boro defence, beating one, then two defenders, his shot was then driven straight into Darnell Fisher.
But, only two minutes later and Rangers’ early pressure finally paid dividends.
An unbelievable 30-yard strike from Dickie left Boro keeper Archer clutching at straws – giving the R’s a deserved lead on Teeside.
The good start made by Warburton’s side quickly turned into a great one when Wallace headed home to double our early lead.
A wonderful team move by the R’s saw Willock picking out Dykes at the far post, who was able to knock the ball down to his Scottish counterpart Wallace, who from point blank range couldn’t miss, 2-0!
After Rangers doubled their lead, this seemed to wake Middlesbrough up and with twenty-eight minutes on the clock they had found the perfect route back into the game.
Djed Spence was able to beat Dykes down the right-hand side, before picking out Yannick Bolasie who powerfully headed home.
Despite being pegged back, Rangers continued to move the ball well, but with only five minutes of the half left Middlesbrough should have been level.
A swift counterattack through Watmore, eventually found Bolasie but the Senegal international did well to deny the Everton loanee – despite tacking an unfortunate whack for his troubles.
After a prolonged period of treatment, this knock to the R’s stopper meant we headed into an additional five minutes on top of the first half.
The hosts tried to grab an equaliser before half time, with Watmore going close on two occasions. But the patched up Dieng was on hand both times to tip the former Sunderland man’s efforts away.
This meant that at the half time stage we headed in ahead.
Following an even start to the second half, it was Rangers who went closest.
Another well worked QPR move eventually saw the ball falling to Johansen on the edge of the box, but the former Norway international could only fire over.
With 56 minutes on the clock, Warburton’s side felt aggrieved when Wallace was brought down by McNair in the box, but referee Matthew Donouhe waved play on.
And only moments later, the R’s were down to ten men.
Troublesome Watmore was able to beat the offside trap and the on rushing Dieng could only bring down the Boro wide man.
This last ditched tackle left referee Donouhe with no choice but to show the Rangers stopper his marching orders.
Joe Lumley was then sent on, replacing Thomas, with nothing eventually coming from the resulting free kick. But this game changing decision now meant that Warburton’s side now had half an hour to play with only ten.
This decision certainly changed the complexion of the game with the Super Hoops having to now show their defensive resolve as Warnock’s side starting to turn the screw as they went in search of the equalising goal.
With 70 minutes played, Lumley was finally called into action.
A fine fingertip save from the Rangers keeper saw him denying George Saville from close range, ensuring Warburton’s side clung on to their now slim lead.
A double change from the R’s gaffer, saw Sam Field and Dominic Ball replacing Adomah and Willock respectively as we looked to add some more defensive steel to our midfield.
This initially seemed to have done the trick, with Middlesbrough increasingly becoming frustrated, as they started to spurn numerous opportunities in front of goal.
But, as the clock ticked on, what was once an open free flowing clash had quickly turned into a scrappy affair with Rangers keen to clear their lines at every opportunity.
Stephen Duke-McKenna entered proceedings for what is his first professional appearance in a QPR shirt.
As tensions began to grow, Middlesbrough continued to push forward in search of the illusive equaliser.
Once again, a fine reaction save from Lumely kept out the hosts, as the seconds continued to agonisingly tick down.
As we reached the 90th minute, Warburton’s side found out that we would have to see out an additional five minutes if were to leave Teeside with the victory.
And that they did.
Substitute Ball was able to wind down the clock with a great run into the corner and Warburton’s side clung on to the three points and we returned to the capital with 59 points on the board and look ahead to Tuesday’s trip to Swansea City.