A VINTAGE performance from debutante Adel Taarabt spurred QPR on to a thumping opening day win against Barnsley.
The Moroccan international was irresistible throughout as he scythed open the Tykes rearguard on countless occasions to round off a thoroughly convincing debut.
He had a hand in the first after being hacked down by fellow debutante Jay McEveley, with enigma that is Heidar Helguson rolling home comfortably from the spot.
In a game that had everything, penalty appeals, goalkeeping clangers and countless talking points Rangers had more than their share of fortune as Fitz Hall effectively punched the ball clear of the penalty area, an incident that incredibly went unpunished.
Luke Steele then spilled a Hogan Ephraim centre with Jamie Mackie able to sneak home his first Rangers goal before Taarabt netted a well-deserved goal from the spot after Helguson was felled.
Hall then rounded off the scoring after more effective work down the flank from Ephraim, as Neil Warnock’s hot-shots fire their way to the summit of the npower Championship.
Neil Warnock made four changes from the side that drew with Plymouth in the final friendly with Shaun Derry, Kaspars Gorkss, Heidar Helguson and Adel Taarabt replacing Mikele Leigertwood, Matt Connolly, Patrick Agyemang and Ákos Buzsáky.
Paddy Kenny lined up behind a back four of Bradley Orr, skipper Fitz Hall, Gorkss and Clint Hill with the midfield trio of Derry, Alejandro Faurlín and the more advanced Adel Taarabt.
Jamie Mackie and Hogan Ephraim played just off lone striker Heidar Helguson, who has been handed another lifeline at Rangers under Neil Warnock.
Barnsley made one change from the side that triumphed over Chesterfield in the last of their pre-season outings with Hugo Colace coming back into the line-up at the expense of Jacob Butterfield, while new signing Jeronimo Neumann received clearance in time to take his place on the bench.
Luke Steele started behind the unchanged back-line of Bobby Hassell, Jason Shackell, Stephen Foster and Jay McEveley, while the aforementioned Colace partnered Nathan Doyle in the middle of the park.
Adam Hammill and Martin Devaney played wide looking to supply debutante Goron Lovre who was playing just off lone front-man Andy Gray, reacquainting himself with former boss Neil Warnock.
First Half: Queens Park Rangers v Barnsley
In true British fashion the opening game of the season was met with an horrendous downpour as the two teams took to the field at Loftus Road. Barnsley and QPR had both strengthened heavily in the summer with several debutantes on display in W12.
Every name was cheered vociferously by a buoyant home crowd, who would now get to gage their own aspirations and hopes against the product that Neil Warnock has spent the summer fashioning. Indeed the pre-season test against Plymouth Argyle would prove to be a good barometer.
The early showing proved combative and gritty as both sides battled for the early supremacy with a couple of challenges testing referee James Linington, Alejandro Faurlín hit the only noteworthy effort in a cagey opening, high and wide of the left hand upright following a useful knock-down.
Rangers were looking useful in patches, with Heidar Helguson attempting to play target-man and Adel Taarabt’s trickery and skill once again gracing Loftus Road. The Moroccan was looking imperial in the middle of the park with an array of excellent passing and skill.
It was surprisingly set-pieces where Rangers looked decidedly questionable with Stephen Foster able to engineer a free-header from a corner, unfortunately for him the ball drifted over the bar and away to safety.
Jamie Mackie was foraging in behind the Tykes defenders, and his infectious enthusiasm seems to have won the accolades from the Loftus Road crowd. He was a whisker away from getting an effort on goal, only for Jason Shackell to put in an excellent last ditch tackle.
Even the most ardent defender of Heidar Helguson would have been hard pushed to back him in the subsequent opportunity when Ephraim managed to knock a Taarabt corner back across goal but the Iceland international conspired to nod over from a few yards out.
The R’s kept plugging away and nearly had their rewards when Taarabt took control of a loose ball – nudging Mackie away – before firing a fierce right footed drive towards goal. Steele was able to tip the snap-shot round the post.
Momentary confusion in the heart of the QPR defence came about when Kenny’s clearance wasn’t sufficient, and in the move that followed Hugo Colace struck the outside of the ‘keeper’s right hand upright – a let off for the Rangers back-line.
Taarabt was playing key tormentor once more as his sublime over the top through ball found Mackie. The Moroccan clipped the ball nonchalantly with the outside of his right boot, but the former Plymouth man found his touch too heavy to capitalise.
The former Spurs midfielder then called Steele into action once more when a curling drive from the left was tipped away by the former Manchester United stopper. The R’s number seven was looking in fine form in a decent first half.
He and Hogan Ephraim combined to perfection to find Taarabt in behind the Tykes rearguard. A tremendous jinking run culminated in Jay McEveley bringing down the recent capture and a penalty – albeit soft – was given.
Hearts were in mouths as Heidar Helguson stepped forward to take the spot kick, but the spot-kick was not of a man that seemed down on his luck. The Icelandic international exhumed confidence as he coolly slotted home into the bottom right hand corner.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Barnsley
Rangers were now looking more confident as the pressure seemed to have subsided at least for the time being. The R’s, spurred on by Taarabt were looking more relaxed and despite a couple of decidedly worrying moments for Kenny and his aerial judgement, they went into the break ahead.
It wasn’t a vintage first half display for QPR, but the mantra of Neil Warnock to succeed even when you’re not at your best, was starting to shine through. Several noteworthy performances from the hosts, who were a goal to the good at the break.
Half Time: Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Barnsley
Mark Robins responded to the deficit by withdrawing Martin Devaney at half time, with Iain Hume replacing him in what appeared to be a like for like change. Admittedly a smile was raised on my part to see him take to the field given his horrendous injury, with the scars still very visible.
They were sprightly from the off in the second half as the Canadian found Goran Lovre in space, only for the forward to see his effort come back off the upright and Bradley Orr cleared away to the sanctuary of a corner.
A little more composure in front of goal could have seen the R’s double their advantage with Jamie Mackie failing to convert a useful Clint Hill cross. The former Plymouth man dollied his header straight to Steele and appeared frustrated following the opportunity.
The came the incident that potentially changed the course of the game. An ball into the box was only half cleared and Fitz Hall saw the ball slap his hands, which were well above his head. Presumably it was only the referee that missed the incident, because the fans and management of Barnsley were incensed.
Lucky indeed to get away with such a key incident in a keenly-fought match, Rangers strived to make that the pivotal turning point. It proved to be the case as the hosts doubled their lead shortly after with another stroke of luck.
Ephraim and Faurlín linked up to perfection with the former West Ham United man striking the ball across goal. An embarrassing spill by Steele allowed Jamie Mackie to steal in and tuck home from close range.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 2-0 Barnsley
It would be fair to say that Mark Robins felt aggrieved with the decision not to hand his side the penalty and this clearly manifested itself as he had stern words with the fourth official during Mackie’s jubilant celebration.
From there onwards Rangers hit cruise control and Barnsley’s temperament was becoming questionable. The running of Taarabt was persistently cut down in his infancy, as well as Mackie’s runs being halted all too often.
It would be long before the hosts made their dominance count as space started to appear all over the park. Helguson proved his sharpness by charging down the blind-sided Nathan Doyle before nicking the ball off the former Hull City man.
Doyle swiped at clean air before clipping Helguson in what was a cast iron spot-kick – Taarabt blased the ball home expertly, but the whistle had already gone and the ball had to hauled back to the spot. The Moroccan this time held the ball in his hands.
Once again Steele guessed too early and left Adel Taarabt the easiest of tasks to roll into a gaping hole vacated by the ‘keeper. He celebrated with Hogan Ephraim and the team rallied to celebrate what was now looking a certain win.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 3-0 Barnsley
The hosts were starting to run rampant as it appeared that Barnsley had lost their shape, temperament and organisation – with Mackie, Taarabt and Ephraim able to scythe open the rearguard at will. A rapturous reception was afforded to Taarabt as he left the field.
The same was given to midfielder Shaun Derry who had put in an excellent shift in the heart of the park – with Mikele Leigertwood and Josh Parker taking to the field. The new found rejuvenation then paid dividends moments later.
Ephraim once again chipped away at McEveley and got the better of his man before a truly sublime cross found its way to Fitz Hall. The cruellest irony for the Tykes as the defender rounded off the scoring with a well taking low drive.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 4-0 Barnsley
The game was then given a bitter twist when McEveley cynically dragged Mackie back over the course of what seemed about 30-yards. It sparked a minor melee, something that the Barnsley debutante is no secret to.
It mattered little however as Rangers romped home and finished the day top of the Championship table. With Neil Warnock having a history of getting and keeping teams in a winning position, there could be an exciting few months ahead for QPR.
Full Time: Queens Park Rangers 4-0 Barnsley
Queens Park Rangers
Kenny, Orr, Gorkss, Hall (c), Hill, Faurlín, Derry (Leigertwood 80), Taarabt (Parker 78), Mackie, Ephraim, Helguson (German 83)
Steele, Hassell, Foster, Shackell, McEveley, Devaney (Hume 46), Colace, Doyle, Hammill (Neumann 76), Lovre (Butterfield 86), Gray