QPR bowed out of the Carabao Cup at Plymouth Argyle, losing 3-2 at Home Park.
With the game delicately poised at 2-2, Argyle’s Frank Nouble slammed home the decisive winner on 78 minutes to book the Green Army’s place in the second round of the competition.
Rangers started the game emphatically, taking the lead after barely a minute through a Ryan Manning header but that advantage was wiped out when Joe Edwards (32) and Danny Mayor (55) scored for the hosts.
Mark Warburton’s men got back on level terms just two minutes after falling behind with Ossie Kakay netted from distance, but it was the home side who were celebrating at the end, with Nouble the hero for Ryan Lowe’s team.
Rangers’ first competitive line up of the 2020/21 season saw Rob Dickie make his debut while Luke Amos and recent recruit Tom Carroll made their ‘second’ starts for the club.
Dominic Ball wore the captain’s armband in the absence of Yoann Barbet.
Joe Lumley started between the posts behind a back four, from right to left, of Kakay, Dickie, Conor Masterson and Manning.
Ball and Carroll sat just in front of them while Ilias Chair and Amos operated behind a front two of Bright Osayi-Samuel and Aramide Oteh.
They were up against a Plymouth side that had achieved promotion to League One and were participating in their first competitive fixture in six months.
The R’s flew out of the blocks in Devon and were 1-0 up after just 68 seconds with a fine Manning header from Chair’s corner kick.
It was an excellent downward effort from the Irishman who was picked out brilliantly by Chair, and just the start Warburton would have hoped for.
The visitors looked dangerous every time they ventured forward in the early stages but they were served a warning on seven minutes when George Cooper’s curling free-kick from 20 yards for Argyle smashed off the upright before being cleared to safety.
More great passing from Rangers opened Plymouth up again in the tenth minute and Kakay’s low centre from the right required a brilliantly header off his own line by Will Aimson.
On 17 minutes Manning pulled off a superb sliding block to deny Lewis Macleod as Ryan Lowe’s men looked to get themselves back on level terms.
In an open game, Chair released Osayi-Samuel moments later and he picked out Oteh on the right, but the R’s striker saw his low shot well blocked by Scott Wootton.
On 32 minutes the hosts drew level when Ryan Hardie played a lovely deft pass into Joe Edwards, and the Plymouth skipper slotted home from eight yards out.
The goal lifted Argyle and Macleod had a great chance to put them in front six minutes later when the ball fell invitingly to him inside the box but he scuffed his shot wide from 16 yards.
As QPR looked to restore their lead, Carroll played a great ball over the Plymouth backline into the path of Osayi-Samuel, and having done well to bring the ball down and create space for his shot, the R’s forward put his effort wide.
Moments later a cleverly disguised pass, again from Carroll, nearly released Oteh, but home keeper Michael Cooper was quickly off his line to thwart the danger.
Right on the stroke of half-time Argyle had the ball in the back of the QPR net when Cooper’s free-kick from distance bounced straight in but the assistant’s flag had already been raised.
Following the break, Osayi-Samuel was quickly into the flow and got brilliantly to the byline before pulling the ball back but it ricocheted off a defender and intro the grateful arms of Cooper.
Osayi-Samuel had a close-range shot just moments later which was well saved at the near post. It was a positive start to the second period and on 51 minutes Manning was next to have a go as he warmed Cooper’s palms with a powerful drive from 25 yards.
But on 55 minutes it was the hosts who took the lead when Danny Mayor cut inside onto his right foot and fired the ball home from 16 yards.
Having taken the lead so early in this game, this was now a test of QPR’s character – and the responded in excellent fashion, levelling just two minutes later with a fine long-ranger from Kakay.
The ball fell invitingly for him and he didn’t turn down the opportunity as he fired it underneath Cooper for the first senior goal of his career.
Carroll and Osayi-Samuel then combined well but Cooper was again on hand to save, while Manning was next to have a go and was also denied by the Argyle stopper.
On the hour mark, Paul Smyth came on for Carroll who will have surely been pleased with his outing having not played a competitive game since representing Swansea against QPR in January.
Oteh came close to putting Rangers back in front when he took down Manning’s floated delivery before cutting inside. From close range, his shot beat the keeper but was agonisingly blocked on the line by the covering Argyle defence.
With 15 minutes remaining the lively Smyth looked like he had scored for the R’s but his delicate touch beat Cooper but bounced frustratingly off the post.
Warburton made a double change moments later, bringing Olamide Shodipo and Faysal Bettache on for Ball and Oteh.
But before they could even touch the ball, they found themselves 3-2 down when Nouble netted with a stunning far post volley which flew into the roof of the Rangers net.
It was a tough one to take for the R’s who had created so much but they now found themselves battling to stay in the Carabao Cup.
Chair had a header drift wide following a good cross by Manning as Rangers laid siege on the Plymouth goal, while Shodipo’s low centre was well gathered by the impressive Cooper.
Osayi-Samuel and Masterson had further efforts but it proved to be a frustrating afternoon for QPR.
They created enough chances to win this game but were left to rue those missed opportunities.
Next up for Warburton’s men is the first Championship fixture of 2020/21, home to Nottingham Forest next Saturday.