ILIAS Chair’s double was enough to secure a 2-0 victory for Queens Park Rangers over Birmingham City at a rain soaked Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium.
The Moroccan’s strikes which came on either side of half-time did the damage, as Rangers secured victory over the Blues and finished off what has been a tough September for Mark Warburton’s side.
Heading into this one, R’s boss Warburton made three changes from the side that suffered defeat on Friday evening at the Hawthorns, with Andre Dozzell, Lyndon Dykes and Charlie Austin replacing Stefan Johansen, Jordy De Wijs and Andre Gray.
This saw Rangers lining up with Seny Dieng in goal, behind a back line of Moses Odubajo, Rob Dickie, Jimmy Dunne and Yoann Barbet, whilst Chris Willock, Dominic Ball, Dozzell and Ilias Chair occupied the midfield positions, with Dykes and Austin leading the line for the Super Hoops.
Of course, as we approached this one the R’s were looking to bounce back following Friday’s disappointing defeat to the Baggies, which has saw Rangers condemned to three back-to-back league defeats.
In addition to this, opponents Birmingham City were also looking for a return to form, as recent defeats to Fulham and Peterborough respectively have seen Lee Bowyer’s side sliding down the table, despite their strong start to the campaign.
The game itself started slowly, with both sides struggling to maintain possession of the ball. But it was the visitor’s aerial ability which threatened early on.
Initially a clever set-piece from Roberts troubled Dieng in the R’s goal, before Chair was able to carve out Rangers’ first chance of the evening.
A delightful ball from the Senegal international found the 23-year-old down the left-hand side only for his cross to beat Dykes and sail safely out of play.
And it took until the 15th minute for Warburton’s side to create their first real opening of the game, some clever passing from Austin picked out Chair at the far post, who quickly tried to find Rangers' centre forward with a fine ball, only for Roberts to clear the danger at the vital moment.
The Super Hoops had grown in confidence and only a minute later Dykes was able to force Matija Sarkic into the first save of the evening.
A somewhat scuffed shot from the edge of the box was eventually comfortable for the Blues stopper, but an effort on goal, nonetheless.
In the 19th minute the visitors had the perfect opportunity to take the lead, a direct run and smart cross from Jeremie Bela found Troy Deeney at the far post, who headed across the box, but former Brentford man Scott Hogan could only fire his header straight at a grateful Dieng and it remained all square.
Minutes later Rangers had an appeal for a penalty with Odubajo going down from Bela’s tackle, however despite the R’s appeals, referee Michael Salisbury waved play on, only for the ball to fall to Chair, who with an audacious effort could only put his effort narrowly over.
But, in the 29th minute the best chance of the half fell to the man you would want it to, Austin.
A fine through ball found Chair in space down the left-hand side who was able to cleverly pull it back to the 32-year-old, but he could only fire the ball into a body of Blues defenders before it fell comfortably into the arms of the Montenegrin international.
As we approached the 34th minute Rangers were able to take the lead!
Full-back Odubajo whipped in a low cross ball which beat its initial target Willock but found Moroccan international Chair at the far post and courtesy of a kind deflection his shot nestled into the Birmingham net for his second strike of the campaign.
With only ten minutes of the half remaining, Chair was quick to go close again as he looked to double his and Rangers’ tally, but this time Sarkic was on hand to deny the R’s No.10.
But, after taking the lead Warburton’s side had grown in belief, with a fine flowing move between Dozzell, Dykes and Austin only highlighting this.
As the rain began to lash down over the Kiyan Prince Foundation, the Super Hoops continued to maintain possession of the ball and as the referee blew for the half-time whistle Waburton's side were greeted with cheers for a first half well done.
With only seconds of the second half on the clock Rangers could have further extended their lead, a powerful run from Dickie saw him breaking into the box, before picking out Chair.
His cross was blocked, but due to the rain the ball slowed down allowing for him to have a second bite of the cherry.
This time the ball was deflected out for a corner and the eventual set-piece was cleared from danger, with the moment passing as a result.
The R’s then faced a prolonged period of defending, as our visitors from the second city looked to find an equaliser.
Substitute Lukas Jutkiewicz who just replaced the departing Deeney fired narrowly over before a moment’s hesitation from the R's defence almost saw Tahith Chong pouncing down the right-hand side.
But, once again it was the increasingly influential Chair who went close.
After finding space down the right, the 23-year-old drilled his effort at the goal and saw it narrowly drift wide of the post.
Warburton’s side then had two chances in quick succession, first Dickie was unlucky not to find a teammate with a clever chest, before Dunne’s headed effort drifted wide.
The 63rd minute saw the arrival of Luke Amos for his first Sky Bet Championship appearance of the campaign, as he replaced Dozzell in the centre of midfield.
And in the 65th minute, Amos' arrival instantly paid dividends, his ball found Dykes, who found Chair, who in turn was able to find space on the edge of the box, before calmly slotting home, double his and Rangers’ tally for the evening.
Warburton’s side were on top, and with that almost made it three, a fine run from Willock eventually found Austin on the edge of the box and with the soaked loft end looking to suck the ball in the R’s striker could fire over.
As the clock slowly ticked down, Birmingham pushed for a route back into the game, with the arrival of Chuks Aneke adding even more of a physical presence to their powerful frontline.
But Rangers made changes themselves, with Albert Adomah and Andre Gray replaced Dykes and Austin respectively and this injected some energy into the R's.
Following Friday nights late goals, Warburton’s side knew the importance of game management and as we approached the final five minutes that is exactly what was on display.
A skilful run from Willock eventually drew the usual foul, before Adomah fired into the side netting.
As we approached the final moments of the 90, gaps in the visiting defence started to appear, with Chair and Willock keen to exploit, Chair unlucky not to seal his hat-trick.
Four minutes additional time was added, with Aneke having the best chance of the added time, but as referee Michael Salisbury blew his full-time whistle Chair’s goals either side of half-time were enough to seal the victory and Rangers ended their recent run of three straight league defeats in perfect style.