WHAT a game we had unfold in west London as Rangers claimed their first victory in seven games with an injury-time “worldy” from midfielder Dom Ball.
Having appeared to be in control of the match by storming into a two-goal lead at half-time, it looked like QPR would have to settle for a share of the points when Joe Rolls was the beneficiary of two Cardiff penalties in the second half.
Rangers produced a dominant first-half display and took the lead with excellent goals from Ilias Chair and Todd Kane, but penalties once again appeared to be the curse for the R’s as they conceded two second-half spot kicks which Rolls took advantage of.
But Ball had the final say with a stunning strike worthy of winning any game.
Mark Warburton made four changes from the side that lost at Barnsley on Tuesday night, with Todd Kane, Conor Masterson, Bright Osayi-Samuel and skipper Geoff Cameron coming in for Ossie Kakay, Dom Ball, Macauley Bonne and the suspended Rob Dickie.
Rangers were sporting a new-look strip for the game, wearing a classy 1975/76-inspired third kit.
The kit, which has limited availability, was worn with black shorts and socks and is available to purchase via the Online Shop NOW.
The red-and-white R’s started the game strongly and had a great chance to take the lead when Dykes put Albert Adomah through but his clever shot with the outside of his boot was brilliantly saved by former QPR stopper Alex Smithies.
Kane was next to have a go as he let fly from 25 yards but his low drive was well gathered by the Cardiff keeper.
The R’s seemed to have their visitors pinned into this own half and a great ball from Yoann Barbet on the right almost found the head of Dykes but Sean Morrison did well to head behind for a corner while under pressure from the Scotland striker.
From the resultant corner, Ilias Chair’s delivery landed on the right foot of Barbet, but the Frenchman’s collet flew over.
But undeterred, the R’s kept the pressure up and it paid off in the 15th minute when the impressive Adomah stood a delivery up to the far post for Chair who waited patiently for the ball to drop before volleying into the ground with the ball looping over the helpless Smithies.
It was certainly no less than QPR’s impressive start deserved and was a welcome second goal of the season for Chair.
With the game still less than 20 minutes old, the hosts again caused problems in the Cardiff penalty box when a neat ball from Kane found Dykes on the move but he couldn’t get enough power on his first-time shot and it bobbled wide of the near post.
You certainly wouldn’t have thought this was a team that had struggled to score goals in recent games, and on 27 minutes they doubled their tally. Chair’s low centre from the left was deflected into the path of Kane and the full back volleyed the ball into the top corner from 16 yards.
Rangers were playing with a confidence that belied their recent run of results, while Cardiff offered very little attacking threat in the opening half hour.
Marlon Pack’s bouncing volley went wide of Dieng’s upright but it was at the other end of the pitch where the action was taking place.
The creativity of Adomah, Chair and Osay-Samuel was being brilliantly anchored by Cameron and Caroll, while Dykes refused to give Cardiff’s backline a moment’s peace.
The R’s almost made it a third just before the interval with a brilliant break. Osayi-Samuel got to the byline and teed up Chair, but the No.10’s shot on the turn from 12 yards flashed just wide.
Cardiff were given a great chance to get themselves back into the game straight after the break when Barbet felled Kieffer Moore in the box – and it was a chance they duly took, with Joe Rolls converting from 12 yards to half the deficit.
Having been in such control in the opening period, the game now had a very different feel to it.
Just before the hour mark, Junior Hoilett – on at the break – had a close range header saved by Dieng which served as a warning about how close this game had suddenly become.
Osayi-Samuel made good ground down the right after being fed by Caroll and his low centre was flicked goalwards by Adomah, but it wasn’t enough to trouble Smithies.
That was to be Adomah’s final touch as he was replaced by Chris Willock. It was another good showing by the former Nottingham Forest man as he continues to build his match sharpness and fitness.
As the half wore on, QPR worked their way back into the game with periods of possession but the threat from Cardiff was always there.
Moore had a chance from close range for the Bluebirds but was unable to generate any power with his header while Dieng punched clear under pressure moments later.
Lee Tomlin found space on the edge of the R’s box and took a touch before seeing his curling effort drift just wide.
As the game entered the final ten minutes, Warburton brought on Ball for Chair as he looked to tighten up defensively.
But with just five minutes to go the R’s conceded another penalty when Masterson handled in the box, the fifth spot-kick given against QPR in the last four games.
Dieng managed to guess the right way and save Roll’s initial effort but the Cardiff man was the first to react and slammed home the rebound to level matters at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium.
Rangers were now hanging on for a point as Moore drilled a low effort just wide of the upright.
But in incredible fashion, it was substitute Ball who would have the final say in injury time with a simply stunning half-volley from fully 30 yards.
The midfielder chested the ball down before unleashing a bullet into the top corner, a strike which led to all eleven players jumping on top of each other as they secured a valuable three points.
Moore went close late on for Cardiff but saw his header fly over.