ANTONIO German’s first senior goal helped Queens Park Rangers secure a crucial win in their fight against relegation.
The young striker showed excellent instinct to place home his first opportunity on 25 minutes, after veteran Neil Sullivan had parried Jay Simpson’s initial effort.
Despite a much-improved opening to the second period, the R’s were pegged back as Doncaster strike duo Billy Sharp and James Hayter combined for the latter to roll home the equaliser.
The hosts typified their new-found spirit by remaining committed to the cause and ultimately creating the winner, with a move carved out to perfection.
German and Ákos Buzsáky combined for Simpson to chest down and rifle home beyond Sullivan – and Loftus Road was sent into raptures.
A nervy finale saw the visitors press the R’s, as a nail-biting finish ensued. However Rangers managed to cast off the shackles of successive defeats to pick up a much-needed three points.
Reacting from the defeat last Saturday, Mick Harford saw fit to make one change to his side with Antonio German making his full debut in place of uninspiring Hungarian Tamás Priskin.
Carl Ikeme continued behind a back four of Peter Ramage, Kaspars Gorkss, Damion Stewart and Matt Hill – with Alejandro Faurlín and Matt Connolly continuing in the centre of the park.
Ákos Buzsáky and Lee Cook provided the width for Rangers with German partnered by the R’s top scorer Jay Simpson – young defender Joe Oastler made the bench for the R’s.
Doncaster meanwhile began with Neil Sullivan behind James O’Connor, Sam Hird, Elliott Ward and James Chambers with Mark Wilson and skipper Brian Stock in the middle.
The wide men were John Oster and James Coppinger with hot-shot Billy Sharp and James Hayter starting at the expense of Dean Shiels.
Kick Off: Queens Park Rangers v Doncaster Rovers
A very different atmosphere graced the players as they took to the field at Loftus Road, with positive change in the air at the news that Flavio Briatore had relinquished his chairmanship of the club. Despite the visible relief around the ground, it was a slow start from the Rangers side once more.
A lacklustre opening saw Doncaster and Rangers cancel each other out as the distinct lack of noise became apparent around the ground. This can be attributed to nerves, as five successive defeats weighed heavy on an already confidence-sapped side.
Doncaster as ever came to Loftus Road with the intention of playing expansive, passing football – and they certainly attempted to carry this out in a bid to force their unlikely aspirations of a playoff place.
Shap shots seemed to be the order of the day with the two sides traded blows from distance, Matt Connolly’s effort blocked wide with a succession of Doncaster corners culminating in a speculative effort from midfielder Mark Wilson.
Moments later it was Ákos Buzsáky’s strike failed to bring Sullivan into action – the Hungarian driving forward before hitting a powerful, dipping effort over the bar from 25 yards out.
Rovers still pressed, undeterred by a decent spell of home pressure, and looked dangerous on the counter attack, with only a smart stop from an R’s defender preventing Brian Stock from hitting an effort on target.
Aside from the isolated opportunities, the two sides were cancelling each other out with mediocrity the overriding characteristic to come from a game riddled with errors in terms of distribution and decision-making.
Peter Ramage could be considered lucky to escape a first half booking, conceding two free-kicks in quick succession for stern challenges, but referee Mr Whitestone continued to belie his pre-match billing with a lenient display.
Yet more drives from distance ensued, and you would be forgiven for thinking that if Doncaster had brought their shooting boots then they may well have been a goal to the good. Sharp proved the key tormentor once more providing the opportunity for Elliott Ward to send an effort wide of the mark.
Suddenly the R’s sprung into life and displayed that calibre of football that had seen them challenging at the right end of the table earlier this season. Faurlín was once again at the centre of the move, receiving the ball from Buzsáky before playing a neat ball to Lee Cook down the left.
The R’s winger provided genuine quality once again into the heart of the area for Jay Simpson to nod goal-bound and draw and excellent reaction save. It wasn’t enough as young forward Antonio German was on hand to roll the ball home for his first senior goal.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Doncaster Rovers
It was a move that came from nowhere, with little indication that this spark of life would arrive. The now head-bandaged Faurlín was providing some excellent distribution from the heart of the park, and the tenacity to compliment his ability.
It was Neil Sullivan that once again denied Rangers on the stroke of half time with a stunning reaction save. Lee Cook’s corner was chased down by Kaspars Gorkss and the Latvian was denied from close range by the evergreen Scotsman.
As the half was drawn to a close by the official it was apparent to even the most optimistic supporter that Rangers had edged themselves in front in an even game blighted by mediocrity. Rangers wouldn’t have cared however – scoring a crucial first-half goal.
Half Time: Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Doncaster Rovers
Mick Harford had evidently motivated his side from the off in the second half, as the R’s came racing from the blocks in a bid to extend their advantage.
Faurlín once again displayed his talent in the middle of the park, allowing the ball to roll across his body outside the area before hitting an effort inches wide of the right hand upright. The Argentinean dragging his effort a tad, but proving a useful player at the heart of midfield.
It seemed like Rangers would extend their advantage, not least when a Cook corner from the left found German in the middle. The youngster nearly had his brace as he leapt highest to nod inches over Sullivan’s bar.
It proved to be a turning point as Doncaster levelled with their first attack of the second half. A long ball was played for Billy Sharp and the former Scunthorpe United front-man was able to hold the ball up and roll his marker all too easily.
The pint-sized forward squared for James Hayter as the man who fired Rovers into the Championship put them back on level terms at Loftus Road with an expert close-range finish.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 1-1 Doncaster Rovers
It seemed to be the same old tale of woe for Rangers who despite pressing manfully in the opening stages of the second half, were caught with a sucker punch on the counter attack. Indeed while Sharp was proving a thorn in the side, his influence had significantly waned.
Undeterred Cook showed excellent effort down the left to carve out an opportunity, in truth however it owed much to the dire defending of Doncaster, allowing the wide-man to prod tackle his way past three players.
His eventual cross evaded the run of German by inches, and indeed everyone in the box as Rovers defenders were relieved that their lack of concentration and tenacity hadn’t been punished.
Doncaster were mainly looking to press on the counter-attack as Rangers continued to search for the winning goal. Corner after corner ensued, and when Buzsáky’s cross fell to the feet of Connolly the bright lights of Blackpool must have given him eyes for goal.
Connolly belied his defensive tag by lifting the ball over his onrushing marker with composure and precision before seeing his subsequent volley deflected inches wide. An effort that spurred on the crowd and his fellow team-mates.
Despite the territorial dominance, Rangers weren’t seeing the majority of the ball and Rovers continued to search for that incisive pass or piece of creative spark to haul them in front and turn the tide of Rangers attacks.
James Coppinger has proven to be a special player in the past, scoring important goals on their path to promotion, and his effort from close range was well held from Carl Ikeme, who had been a spectator for vast periods of the game.
The game continued to teeter on the brink, with the fixture finely poised going into the final 15 minutes. One feature that had proven reliable from the visitors’ aspect was their offside trap and unified defensive line.
Adel Taarabt was lining up on the touchline as supporters and players grew frustrated at the number of offside decisions and the sheer efficiency of the Doncaster rearguard. As luck would have it however Rangers managed to break through the mire and carve out a goal of genuine quality.
Another in a string of excellent flick-ons by German saw Buzsáky receive the ball wide right. The Hungarian displayed the calibre of pass that made him a firm fans favourite by dinking a perfectly-weighted pass to Jay Simpson.
The Arsenal front-man wasted little time in displaying his credentials as top goalscorer by taking a touch to chest the ball down, before lashing home right-footed into the bottom left-hand corner. A cultured finish from a quality forward.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 2-1 Doncaster Rovers
Peter Ramage made way for Taarabt after another committed display at full-back, with Matt Connolly slotting back into defence. It didn’t take long for Connolly to be withdrawn also owing to an injury for the former Arsenal defender.
Gary Borrowdale came on to be the third right-back of the fixture, and it was very much a case of baton down the hatches and hope to survive as Doncaster’s influence understandably grew as the game wore on.
Rovers continued to pump the ball into the box searching for their now three pronged attack of Hayter, Sharp and Shiels – a goalscorer the last time the two sides met at the Keepmoat.
Nerves were jangling at Loftus Road, as the side that had incurred five successive defeats started to worry about their defensive plight.
It was the grit, determination and character of the side that saw them through in the end, despite a gruelling five minutes of injury time. If this was Mick Harford’s last game in charge, then he has left a useful legacy in place on today’s display.
Final Whistle: Queens Park Rangers 2-1 Doncaster Rovers
Queens Park Rangers
Carl Ikeme, Peter Ramage (Adel Taarabt 77), Kaspars Gorkss, Damion Stewart, Matt Hill, Ákos Buzsáky, Alejandro Faurlín, Matt Connolly (Gary Borrowdale 85), Lee Cook, Antonio German (Rowan Vine 90), Jay Simpson.
Neil Sullivan, James O’Connor, Sam Hird, Elliott Ward, James Chambers, John Oster, Mark Wilson (Gareth Roberts 83), Brian Stock (Jordan Mutch 85), James Coppinger (Dean Shiels 83) Billy Sharp, James Hayter.