QUEENS Park Rangers fought their way to an inspired home victory over fellow playoff hopefuls Preston North End.
Adel Taarabt lit the touch paper when he coasted through the visitors midfield and fired into the top corner from outside the area.
It was the Moroccan that was brought down for the penalty after the break, which Ákos Buzsáky dispatched with aplomb.
Jay Simpson rounded off a fine, flowing team move when he slotted past a forlorn Andy Lonergan, with Wayne Routledge completing the rout from distance in emphatic fashion.
In an entertaining, end to end affair the Lilywhites looked most likely to strike through former Liverpool striker Neil Mellor, but he was snuffed out by an exceptional R’s defence.
There was even game time for former Preston men Patrick Agyemang and Gareth Ainsworth, the latter drawing a rapturous applause from both sets of support following his introduction.
It was a performance and result that graced the occasion as QPR discovered their lethal streak for the second home game in succession.
Jim Magilton made several enforced changes to his side with Martin Rowlands dropping out with another heartbreaking injury, while his central midfield partner Ben Watson served his one match suspension.
Mikele Leigertwood was another injury victim, with Peter Ramage slotting in at right-back, and Gavin Mahon and Alejandro Faurlín the pairing in the centre of midfield.
Radek Cerny sat behind a back four of Ramage, Kaspars Gorkss, Damion Stewart and Gary Borrowdale, with Faurlín and Mahon anchoring the midfield.
The attacking trio of Ákos Buzsáky, Wayne Routledge and Adel Taarabt sat in behind lone front-man Jay Simpson in an attacking line-up for the hosts.
Preston started with Andy Lonergan in goal, buoyed by signing a new contract during the week, with Youl Mawene and Neill Collins at the heart of defence, flanked by Michael Hart and Billy Jones.
Chris Sedgwick and Scotland international Ross Wallace occupied the flanks with Velice Sumulikoski and Richard Chaplow the preferred partnership in the middle and Darren Carter dropping to the bench.
The strike duo was a formality with in-form duo Neil Mellor and Chris Brown undoubtedly the men to keep an eye on from the R’s perspective.
Ramage – Stewart – Gork?s – Borrowdale
Mahon (c) – Faurlín
Taarabt – Routledge – Buzsáky
Hart – Collins – Mawéné – Jones
Sedgwick – Chaplow – Sumulikoski – Wallace
Brown – Mellor
Kick Off: Queens Park Rangers v Preston North End
The game started in somewhat tentative fashion with Rangers looking to recreate the calibre of performance that saw them blow away Barnsley in the previous clash in W12.
In Preston the R’s faced resilient opposition, and the determination and grit of the Lilywhites engine room was nicely complemented with the skill and power of players such Wallace and Mellor.
It was the hosts that managed to get a good foothold on the game after a nervy opening, with Gavin Mahon in particular slotting nicely into the middle of the park alongside Alejandro Faurlín.
The former Watford man was pulling the strings in the middle of the park, not withstanding some excellent skill at times that wouldn’t have gone amiss in the Taarabt repertoire.
Indeed he threaded the ball through to the young Moroccan but experienced ‘keeper Lonergan was quick off the mark and smothered the ball at the loanee’s feet.
Rangers were looking expressive going forward with Akos Buzsaky, Wayne Routledge and the aforementioned Taarabt interchanging to great effect.
The hosts attacked with great swagger and style and none more so than Tottenham Hotspur loanee Taarabt when he handed the R’s a deserved lead shortly after the ten minute mark.
A clearance from Radek Cerny, was chested down with his back to goal by Adel Taarabt and once he turned his marker, his eyes were fixed upon one thing only.
He parted the midfield like the Red Sea with an exhibition of pacey and purposeful running before unleashing an unstoppable, dipping drive from fully 30-yards.
The ball fairly flew into the top right hand corner past the despairing dive of Lonergan, as Loftus Road rose to applause a truly memorable strike.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Preston North End
Rangers should have doubled their advantage moments later, as they continued to assert their early dominance on the clash.
A slip from full back Michael Hart let Routledge in down the left, and for the second week in succession with the goal at his mercy he was thwarted by a wonder-save from Lonergan.
The defence had to be sharp once more when Routledge once again beat Hart all ends up before speculatively drilling the ball from close range only for Collins to block at point-blank range.
The visitors’ play wasn’t without its charm however, with Alan Irvine’s philosophy of passing football in clear evidence and the movement of Mellor a particular problem.
The striker and his equally sizeable partner Chris Brown were causing problems in the heart of the Rangers defence without ever truly getting a clear-cut opportunity.
All the visitors could point to was the effort of Macedonian Velice Sumulikoski, who had a point to prove after being discarded by Magilton during his spell at Ipswich Town.
His strike from distance was speculative to say the least as it flew into the upper loft and epitomised the lack of killer instinct that blighted the Lilywhites against West Bromwich Albion last week.
More excellent build up play from QPR nearly saw Taarabt double his and the hosts’ advantage, linking up well with Buzsáky before firing inches wide of the upright.
The R’s were looking dangerous on the counter-attack and as Tottenham loanee Taarabt burst away on the break before using the foresight to make the pass to Routledge – unfortunately the product didn’t match the vision with the ball cleared from the former Villa man’s feet.
Preston were desperate to get back into the game and more good movement from Mellor made angles for a through ball from Richard Chaplow.
The former Liverpool man looked a little laboured once he reached the ball and could only fire a left-footed drive straight down the throat of R’s custodian Cerny – a virtual spectator thus far.
Former Celtic and Sunderland man Ross Wallace nearly got in on the act moments later when he fired a dipping left-footed drive inches over Cerny’s cross-bar.
Play quickly switched back to the other end with a quick throw out from Cerny, and a sublime through ball from Buzsáky found the busy Routledge through on goal.
Lonergan once again made himself big to deny the winger in his new-found role behind Simpson who himself was playing second fiddle to the attacking talent that sat around him.
One of those men was Ákos Buzsáky, determined not be outdone by Taarabt’s incisive invention, the Magical Magyar let fly audaciously from the right flank, only to see his stunning drive clip the cross-bar on its way out.
It was clear to see that Rangers were once again playing with smiles on their faces, and the feel-good factor had returned to W12 with the fans’ voices in full flow.
The supporters cheered off their side after what was a dominant first period. Preston however were only a goal away from causing home heartbreak and the inventive duo upfront would have to be marshalled well if the R’s were to see the result through.
Half Time: Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Preston North End
The R’s took to the field knowing that a similar calibre of display would see them through to their second home win in succession, and ‘more of the same’ must have been the rallying cry from R’s boss Magilton.
It seemed to be a day where all Rangers attacking flair and creativity was coming together and being matched by a ruthless streak that had been re-discovered in recent times.
Gary Borrowdale nearly got into the act from full back when his 25-yard strike was expertly tipped away by Lonergan as it flew towards the top left-hand corner.
From the resultant corner the full-back pinged in a cross for Kaspars Gorkss, but the Latvian could only head wide after some heavy-handed marking from the Preston rearguard.
Once again though the visitors were full of creative threat with Sedgwick and Wallace carving out the majority of opportunities from the flank.
The latter’s enterprising running created openings in the early stages of the second half as the R’s threatened to let the visitors back in as they did against Barnsley.
When it matter most however the Rangers big-guns stepped forward with Kaspars Gorkss and Damion Stewart the colossi at the heart of the QPR defence.
It was from one such attack that the hosts piled forward on the counter-attack with the pace of Routledge taking him away from his markers. He squared for Jay Simpson, who in turn struck straight down Lonergan’s throat with Taarabt perhaps better placed on the right wing.
Then came a turning point in the fixture with Radek Cerny pulling off a low stop to deny striker Chris Brown and Preston an arguably undeserved equalising goal.
Moments later Taarabt seized on a half-cleared corner down the right, before being tripped by forward Neil Mellor. Referee Russell Booth paused for a moment before pointing to the spot.
Taarabt was himself keen to take the spot-kick but Routledge and Mahon pulled rank on the youngster who accepted the decision with sportsmanship.
Ákos Buzsáky was the players’ choice in the absence of first choice penalty taker Martin Rowlands. He strode forward and planted the ball into the bottom left hand corner.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 2-0 Preston North End
That second goal was crucial for Rangers who could now play without the shackles of their nerves and return to their fully expressive selves of the first period.
Indeed the exhibition of passing football returned to Loftus Road with Adel Taarabt the toast of the home support – what a difference a few weeks make in football.
More interplay such as this was key in unlocking the Preston defence once more as a countless amount of passes saw the ball fall to the feet of Buzsáky.
The Hungarian rolled the ball through for Jay Simpson who at first appeared second best to the ball. For an inexplicable reason Youl Mawene simply stopped and allowed Simpson to open his body and roll in off the right hand upright.
A goal that wouldn’t have looked out of place at the Emirates Stadium, with a finish that would have reminded some Arsenal supporters of a striker named Thierry Henry.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 3-0 Preston North End
Sensing the game was complete Magilton used his bench by introducing former North End striker Patrick Agyemang and Rowan Vine in place of goalscorers Simpson and Buzsáky.
That wasn’t to be the end of this tale however as the Preston defence once again parted on the counter-attack with Wayne Routledge at the forefront of the R’s attacking force.
He ploughed through the midfield before drilling low and hard beyond the forlorn Lonergan between the sticks for the visitors.
It was a goal to grace any occasion and will certainly have relieved Routledge given some of the key chances he has spurned in recent games.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 4-0 Preston North End
There was still time for the R’s to introduce fans’ favourite Gareth Ainsworth for his first appearance at Loftus Road for quite some time.
Every touch of the ball was graced with cheers of elation from the supporters, with special credit going to the Preston fans who applauded the man who was three times a North Ender.
The game was drawn to a close after three minutes of injury time with some supporters pleading with the referee not to blow the whistle and halt the entertainment value.
A day at Loftus Road that will live long in the memory as QPR fans can look to the future with great excitement before another tough test against Reading during the week.
Final Whistle: Queens Park Rangers 4-0 Preston North End
Queens Park Rangers
Radek Cerny, Peter Ramage, Kaspars Gorkss, Damion Stewart, Gary Borrowdale, Gavin Mahon, Alejandro Faurlín, Ákos Buzsáky (Patrick Agyemang 66), Adel Taarabt, Wayne Routledge (Gareth Ainsworth 87), Jay Simpson (Rowan Vine 66).
Preston North End
Andy Lonergan, Michael Hart, Youl Mawene, Neill Collins, Billy Jones, Chris Sedgwick (Paul Parry 64), Richard Chaplow, Velice Sumulikoski (Darren Carter 65), Ross Wallace, Chris Brown (John Parkin 65), Neil Mellor.
Radek Cerny – 7/10
Had very little to do but dealt with all he had to with aplomb. His defenders were very strong and organised in front of him which meant he wasn’t tested all that much.
Pulled off a couple of shrewd saves to deny Preston where it mattered most, and arguably a definitive turning point came when he thwarted Chris Brown at 1-0.
Peter Ramage – 7/10
Relatively solid in returning to the defence with a great deal of aerial duels fought and won, and doing his best to cope with a tricky character in Wallace on the wing.
In truth Wallace will have had far more of an impact on the game that the defender would have liked, but nevertheless it came to very little.
Damion Stewart – 7/10
The Jamaican central defender was solid in the air once again and was a major figure in thwarting the Lilywhites when they looked at their most dangerous.
The defender had a tough battle against Brown and Mellor but never lost his positional sense despite some tricky movement by the pair.
Kaspars Gorkss – 7/10
The Latvian central defender returned following international duty and slotted straight back into the back-line with little fuss.
His aerial dominance against Brown and Mellor was a particular delight, and as a former Blackpool player it wouldn’t have gone down well with the visiting fans.
Gary Borrowdale – 6/10
After a sluggish start to the game Borrowdale picked up in the second half and contributed to Rangers’ attacking threat in the final third.
He was finding the going tough against North End’s aerial threat, but once the visitors’ attacking threat waned he was able to burst forward and support Buzsáky and even nearly got on the scoresheet with a rasping effort.
Gavin Mahon – 7/10
There were some worries about the re-introduction of Mahon into the starting line-up with supporters spoiled by the style of Watson and Rowlands.
But the doubters would have been pleasantly surprised by a dominating display full of effort and strength to helped Rangers take control in the middle of the park.
Alejandro Faurlín – 7/10
The R’s midfielder stepped up to the mark today with a sterling display alongside Gavin Mahon. His eclectic range of passing was magnificent today.
He distributed well from close range and across the field to switch play. Indeed he picked out Taarabt on several occasions in close succession to help the counter-charge.
Ákos Buzsáky – 9/10
The Magical Magyar more than lived up to his name today and against a footballing side such as Preston he was given the time to display his skills.
His penalty was powerfuly dispatched but that was only the tip of his talents on the day where he pulled all the strings in the R’s attack with breathtaking composure and accuracy.
Adel Taarabt – 9/10
What a difference time makes in football – they say time is a healer and that was certainly in evidence today. He was hailed by the supporters for not only his eye for goal but also his vision.
His passing was excellent today, which is something he has been criticised for in recent times. He unleashed an incredible effort on goal for the opener, before contributing to several other goals.
Wayne Routledge – 8/10
Routledge ran the defenders ragged today with a display of direct running and raw pace. His dribbling was mesmerising at times as he attempted to work an opening for his fellow forwards.
He must have thought his luck was out, being thwarted by Lonergan on two separate occasions, but he had the final laugh striking home from distance into the bottom corner.
Jay Simpson – 7/10
Simpson struggled to get into the game at times, but held the ball up nicely at times and dropped deep to help in Rangers free-flowing passing game.
His goal displayed a great insinct, fending off some laboured defending from Mawene to coolly slot home in off the right hand upright.
SUB: Patrick Agyemang – 6/10
Replaced Ákos Buzsáky – 66
The R’s striker remains on the periphery of the set-up but this would have been a timely reminder for Magilton and his former employers.
While he couldn’t find that goal he desired and at times resembled Bambii on Ice, he showed heapfulls of willing and effort and caused the defenders all manner of problems.
SUB: Rowan Vine – 5/10
Replaced Jay Simpson – 66
Vine came from the bench in a bid to bag himself a goal and get himself back into Magilton’s plans after being left out today.
In truth he had a couple of chances but appears to be suffering from a severe lack of confidence in front of goal.
Replaced Wayne Routledge – 87
The R’s winger returned to action for his first appearance at Loftus Road in more than 17 months after relinquishing his coaching role.
Ainsworth was cheered onto the field and given a rapturous reception during his time on the field. His passion and commitment didn’t disappoint the adoring crowd.
Jim Magilton: 8/10 – Tactically spot on today and the attacking trio sat behind the striker paid dividends with a breathtaking display of skill.
Nine goals in two home games must have delighted the R’s boss with his side finding a killer instinct and putting a playoff team to the sword.
Alan Irvine: 6/10 – Believed that his side’s missed chance followed by the penalty decision were two key turning points in the game – he was right.
His side looked useful in spells but couldn’t get a spell of concerted pressure for all their pleasant football. They paid the price for not defending adequately against a relentless QPR attack.
Russell Booth: 6/10 – Not a bad performance today from the official despite not getting a great deal of help from an inept linesman on the dugout side.
It seemed like three balls had crossed the line for both sides that he didn’t spot which made for amusing viewing along that flank.
Overall there wasn’t many decisions I could argue with, and maybe Routledge should have been booked for what I would deem diving.
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