A DOUBLE from Aleksandar Mitrovic condemned the R’s to another disappointing afternoon at Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium in this Sky Bet Championship clash.
A strike in the first half and spot-kick in the second from the Serbian international wrapped up a 2-0 victory for the league leaders and ensured Rangers’ recent woes continued.
Heading into this one, R’s boss Mark Warburton made six changes from the side that suffered defeat to Peterborough United prior to the international break, with Moses Odubajo, Yoann Barbet, Lee Wallace, Stefan Johansen, George Thomas and Lyndon Dykes replacing Albert Adomah, Jimmy Dunne, Sam McCallum, Andre Dozzell, Ilias Chair and Andre Gray in the starting XI.
Gray and Adomah were missing from the squad all together due to slight knocks, while Dykes returned to the starting line-up for the first time since our away clash with Millwall back in February.
This ultimately meant Keiren Westwood lined up behind a back five, from left to right, of Wallace, Dion Sanderson, Rob Dickie, Barbet and Odubajo.
Sam Field and Luke Amos lined up with Johansen in midfield, behind Thomas and lone striker Dykes.
Opponents Fulham made the short journey from SW6 to W12 in confident mood sitting top of the Championship table, knowing that just a few more victories will secure their return to the Premier League.
And in front of an electric atmosphere in west London, it was the visitors who carved out the first opportunity of the game.
In-form forward Mitrovic tested the Rangers backline within the opening first few minutes, only for his effort to drift wide of Westwood’s post.
The R’s had to wait until the seventh minute for their first chance of the game. Thomas was the man with it and after being drafted into the side for his first start league start of the campaign, the Welshman fired his effort into the side-netting.
The attacking intent from both sides continued in the early exchanges and Joe Bryan was next to try his luck with a wicked volleyed strike, only for Westwood to be on hand to palm it away from danger.
In the 14th minute, Fulham’s attacking quality would eventually shine through. A smart cut-back from Fabio Carvalho found Mitrovic, who calmly slotted home from close range to give the visitors the lead.
After going behind, the R’s quickly went in search of a route back into the game. Dykes shot wide, before Barbet’s ambitious effort sailed over Marek Rodak’s crossbar.
The 26th minute gave Rangers another almighty scare - Carvalho again troubling the QPR defence, only for his effort to loop off the post before Barbet hacked clear.
However, Warburton’s side had begun to grow in confidence. Sanderson brought the ball out from defence and unleashed a powerful effort on the Fulham goal – but Rodak was equal to it and the search for an equaliser continued.
With half-time looming, the game continued to open up.
Dykes initially had a chance for the R’s, before Bobby Decordova-Reid forced Westwood into action to deny the former Bristol City forward.
Dykes then linked well with Thomas with a smart lofted ball who, from a tight angle, could only fire straight at Rodak.
The second half began in frantic fashion. Amos troubled for the R’s before Sanderson had to be on hand to stop Tom Cairney breaking from midfield with a wonderfully-timed sliding challenge.
As we approached the hour mark, Fulham were certainly on top. Mitrovic's flick from Harrison Reed's corner tested Westwood, before Mitrovic’s header had to be cleared off the line by the increasingly-busy Barbet.
The 69th minute saw the arrival of Ilias Chair, who replaced Johansen as we went in search of an equalising goal.
Three minutes later, Charlie Austin replaced Thomas, with the 32-year-old partnering Dykes up front.
But the 76th minute handed Fulham the perfect opportunity to double their advantage.
Neco Williams' cross was adjudged to have hit the arm of Wallace and after a brief pause, referee Gavin Ward pointed to the spot.
Mitrovic subsequently stepped up and made no mistake from 12-yards out.
Andre Dozzell quickly replaced Amos and the R’s knew they had a mountain to climb.
With the clock ticking down and frustrations among the Rangers ranks beginning to grow, Austin had what can only be described as a half chance, with his touch letting him down at the vital moment.
Five additional minutes were then signalled, but the R’s simply lacked a cutting edge.
A red card for assistant manager John Eustace and a booking for Warburton from the technical area certainly added more frustration to what was a disappointing afternoon in W12.