QUEENS Park Rangers stumbled to their first defeat in five games as Burton Albion climbed out of the bottom three with a comfortable win at Loftus Road.
Rangers were two goals down before they even got going against a hard-working, but ultimately relegation-threatened, Burton Albion side.
Luke Murphy powered home from the edge of the area following a Lloyd Dyer pull-back before Dyer himself slid home the Brewers second of the game after the break.
The Brewers were on their way to their second away win of the season – with only substitute Conor Washington able to breathe life into a drab home performance.
A rare goal for the forward as he thrashed home at the second opportunity to bring about some nerves among the visiting side, but ultimately it wasn’t enough as QPR and Ian Holloway slip up at home once more.
Ian Holloway made two changes from the side that drew at home to Fulham last weekend – Ryan Manning and Jamie Mackie dropping out with Michael Doughty and Kazenga LuaLua coming in for QPR.
Alex Smithies started behind a back four of Darnell Furlong, Nedum Onuoha, Joel Lynch and Jake Bidwell. Grant Hall sat in front of the back four with Pawel Wszolek, Massimo Luongo, Doughty and LuaLua playing in behind Idrissa Sylla.
Burton meanwhile started in a 4-5-1 formation – Jon McLaughlin starting behind a back four of Tom Flanagan, John Brayford, Ben Turner and Damien McCrory. Matty Palmer, Luke Murphy and Jackson Irvine played through the middle with Lasse Vigen Christensen and Lloyd Dyer playing off Marvin Sordell.
FURLONG – ONUOHA – LYNCH – BIDWELL
WSZOLEK – LUONGO – DOUGHTY – LUALUA
FLANAGAN – BRAYFORD – TURNER – McCRORY
PALMER – MURPHY – IRVINE
CHRISTENSEN – SORDELL – DYER
Levels of expectancy were high at Loftus Road as they played host to Burton Albion for the first time in the club’s history. Rangers had been in decent form of late, expelling a horrific run of six successive defeats by winning three of the last four games.
Rangers announced the capture of midfielder Sean Goss prior to kick off, and one would have thought that would be enough to inspire a performance from the Rangers engine room – today seeing Michael Doughty feature at the expense of Ryan Manning.
The early showing from the home side was far from impressive however, Albion able to keep hold of the ball and create openings at will. The pace and movement of Marvin Sordell and former QPR loanee Lloyd Dyer was causing Rangers some serious issues.
The Brewers were forced into an early change when former Derby County man John Brayford was replaced by John Mousinho owing to an injury. It was the visitors however that took a deserved just after the ten minute mark and it was a Nigel Clough addition that made the difference.
Dyer once again played architect down and when he found LUKE MURPHY, the Leeds United loanee did the rest – powering home from distance, past Alex Smithies and into the bottom right hand corner. A fine goal but a hammer-blow for a below par QPR.
Rangers seemed to struggle to string passes together and were extremely flat in a lacklustre opening period – a Michael Dougty pot-shot was all that Rangers could point to by way of an opportunity with Brewers top scorer Jackson Irvine looping a header over the bar.
The lull in play was broken with the occasional effort on goal, but both defences were holding firm to block the respective speculative drives from distance. Irvine could have done better when he was fed by Fulham loanee Lasse Vigen Christensen only to fire over the bar to Smithies’ left.
Half time at Loftus Road – one shot on target; one goal and Ian Holloway would have it all to do in the dressing room to get his side back up to standard after a lackadaisical opening stanza in W12.
Sensing his side needed some impetus up front – Conor Washington was brought on for Grant Hall for the second period. Idrissa Sylla was producing very little in the way of openings, opportunities or options for the home side and that bit of support – Holloway hoped – would make a difference. Hall the unfortunate party to be hooked.
Washington displayed some energy up front but across the pitch it seemed very flat indeed – this was reflected in the stands where the noise was less than evident, certainly against the backdrop of the noise generated against Fulham last weekend.
Things went from bad to worse when Christensen worked an angle and fed LLOYD DYER – his sliding effort went through Alex Smithies’ legs and doubled the lead for Burton Albion. The Brewers were able to cope with the occasion far better than their hosts and appeared to be playing for their manager.
Nigel Clough has been linked with a move to Nottingham Forest – a club for which he played – and even chairman Ben Robinson has admitted that Clough has a tough decision ahead of him. Nevertheless his players were making him proud with a performance full of energy and creativity.
Washington was a shimmer of light on an otherwise cloudy day – not just cloud though, rain and hail teaming down in W12 in spells. His willingness to run and put in a shift was so starkly opposed to strike partner Sylla, who had hardly touched the ball in this fixture.
LuaLua was putting in crosses with no-one really on the end of them – Furlong’s cross nearly caught out the under-worked McLaughlin in the Burton goal but it was palmed away. Just after the hour mark however, QPR got their impetus – through the workhorse Washington.
CONOR WASHINGTON saw his first time effort saved well by the ‘keeper McLaughlin only for his follow up to beat the Burton stopper – Rangers’ first real genuine effort on goal and it yielded the desired results – QPR halving the arrears and it was game on.
Rangers were now the attacking force in the fixture in a bid to level proceedings, but Burton were the ones creating the more dangerous openings. Dyer missing a couple of golden opportunities on the break as Holloway’s men threw themselves forward in search of a leveller.
Balls kept raining in on the Burton goal without reward LuaLua sending a cross in that managed to evade everyone – Ryan Manning was then thrown on for Doughty and his cross was poked wide by the underperforming Sylla.
It served to highlight that Rangers need options in attack – Sylla at present a sure-fire starter despite performances waning in the past few weeks for the Guinean. The sale of Polter has prompted his regular inclusion but it’s an undeserving inclusion of late.
The feel-good factor from the goal dissipated quickly and as the chances dried up as the game entered the final moments – Jamie Mackie was thrown on in a bid to take a point but in truth they did not come close to troubling McLaughlin at the final knockings.
Rangers truly turfed up for 15-20 minutes of the second half but it was not enough on the day against a clearly motivated and organised Burton Albion side. Back to the drawing board for Rangers who have a tough test against Newcastle United to come.
Queens Park Rangers: Smithies; Furlong, Onuoha, Lynch, Bidwell (Mackie 87); Hall (Washington 46); Wszolek, Luongo, Doughty (Manning 74), LuaLua, Sylla.
Subs not used: Ingram, Perch, Shodipo, Eze.
Burton Albion: McLaughlin; Flanagan, Brayford (Mousinho 5), Turner, McCrory; Palmer, Murphy, Irvine; Christensen (Akins 72), Sordell (Woodrow 87), Dyer.
Subs not used: Bywater, Williamson, Miller, Barker.
Referee: Mr G Eltringham