A BRACE from defender Kaspars Gorkss was enough to help settle a keenly-fought encounter between league leaders QPR and Doncaster Rovers.
Rangers march on at the summit of the npower Championship but the scoreline would prove to be generous considering a battling display by visitors Doncaster.
Rovers hit the woodwork either side of half time but could do little to stop Kaspars Gorkss opening his account for the season, sweeping home a half-chance from a corner.
Heidar Helguson was then felled by Neil Sullivan and the architect of the move, Adel Taarabt stepped forward to double the leaders’ advantage.
After being kept on the back foot for periods of the game Rangers showed the cutting edge and ruthlessness to put Rovers away as Gorkss slammed home his second from a Taarabt corner.
While pundits may point to a display that wasn’t vintage by any stretch of the imagination, Rangers displayed the mark of champions by grinding out a comfortable home victory.
No surprise that Neil Warnock opted to remain unchanged from the victory over Leicester City, with Gary Borrowdale coming in for Antonio German on the bench.
Paddy Kenny started behind a back four of home debutante Kyle Walker, Kaspars Gorkss, Matt Connolly and Clint Hill – with Ákos Buzsáky and Shaun Derry sitting in midfield.
Jamie Mackie, Adel Taarabt and Hogan Ephraim played in behind prospering lone forward Heidar Helguson, whose performances of late have drawn several plaudits.
Doncaster lined up unchanged from the 0-0 draw at home to Leeds United, with Neil Sullivan behind a back four of Mustapha Dumbuya, Shelton Martis, James O’Connor and George Friend.
John Oster, Simon Gillett and Martin Woods were the midfield trio with Dean Shiels and James Coppinger supporting tricky front-man Billy Sharp.
Walker – Connolly – Gorkss – Hill
Buzsáky – Derry
Mackie – Taarabt (c) – Ephraim
Dumbuya – Martis – O’Connor – Friend
Woods – Gillett – Oster
Shiels – Sharp – Coppinger
Kick Off: Queens Park Rangers v Doncaster Rovers
As the sides took to the field at Loftus Road, Rangers could contemplate their best start to the campaign since 1947, as they continue to ride high at the summit of the Championship. As always however Doncaster would look to play their part in the encounter.
In what was the most open beginning to a Championship clash this season, the visitors were not content to rest on their laurels and duly cranked up the pressure on the Rangers defence. Key player Billy Sharp would appear to be the man to watch where the hosts’ defenders were concerned.
QPR were ostensibly not in the mood to hang around and were inches away from the perfect opening as a scramble in the goal-mouth saw the ball roll free to Hogan Ephraim. The R’s wide-man saw his effort blocked at point-blank range.
Doncaster were by no means looking to purely defend, as they carved out their opportunities on the counter-attack. Dean Shiels was proving a thorn in the side in the early offing coming in from the flank to supplement the attacking threat.
Despite the open nature of the game there was little in the way of clear cut chances as the two sides defended resiliantly. It would prove to be individual errors that would hand Doncaster their opening chance with Clint Hill senselessly fouling Shiels outside the area.
Martin Woods’ curling, dipping free-kick came back off the bar with James O’Connor quickest to pounce on the rebound and fire goalwards. Only a stunning intervention from Hill – recovering from his earlier error – saw the hosts remain level.
It was an end to end affair with both sides threatening to create but in effect cancelling each other out, making for a spectacle which continued to bubble under the surface. The fixture was being played out on a knife-edge with the first goal eminently crucial to both sides’ efforts.
Former Chelsea and Tottenham goalkeeper Neil Sullivan hardly had a save to make, but still had to be alert to deny Jamie Mackie. Good work from Kyle Walker down the right saw the division’s top scorer snaffle an effort into the arms of the veteran stopper.
Both sides could leave the field in the first period in the knowledge that the game was still poised perfectly for either side to take the points. Two sides cancelling each other out at present, but it promised better for the second period.
Half Time: Queens Park Rangers 0-0 Doncaster Rovers
A sun-drenched Loftus Road greeted the two sets of players, with the Doncaster defence having to stare directly into the sun in the second period. Again however it was rather a war of attrition at times with neither ‘keeper having a stop to make.
Doncaster – whjle flirting with their traditional passing style – were certainly looking more direct on this occasion with Martis and O’Connor distributing long balls into the channels for the forwards to chase and probe away at the Rangers’ defence.
Rangers however had more pep and vigour about their play, marshalled by talisman Helguson, winning virtually every ball aerially and chasing down defenders, not giving the Doncaster defence a second to breathe and build attacks.
The hosts did grab the advantage in an open game, and while they have been stylish thus far, here was a scrappy goal that would delight the Rangers’ faithful. Ephraim continued to search down the left in spite of being bossed in that position in the first period.
His excellent cross was met by Kaspars Gorkss, and while his initial effort was blocked in the goal-mouth, he made no mistake with the re-bound. The Latvian international slammed home from close-range to secure a priceless lead at Loftus Road.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Doncaster Rovers
To say that the lead was slender was an understatement, epitomised by a stunning effort from James Coppinger just over ten minutes into the second period. After robbing Ákos Buzsáky of the ball he set off on a marauding run down the left flank.
Eventually the man who inspired Doncaster’s promotion two years ago cut inside and saw a dipping drive come back off the cross-bar, much to the delight of ‘keeper Paddy Kenny, who in fairness to him looked well-beaten.
The hosts started to assert their threat, and while Taarabt wasn’t in full flow the R’s looked to the likes of Ephraim, Mackie and Helguson to create their threat. Indeed Mackie showed fantastic strength to hold off defenders before being inches away from laying up Helguson.
Taarabt was able to carve out a chance for Ephraim, but the Moroccan was forced to delay his pass for too long and the ex-West Ham United man rolled home only to be greeted by an offside flag. Unfortunate maybe, but the openings were displaying themselves.
One of the key moments of the game then ensued with Simon Gillett – the man doing a good job on Adel Taarabt – being replaced by forward James Hayter, and thus the Moroccan was let off the leash and able to create a great opening.
Taarabt strode forward with more freedom before rolling through for Helguson. The race for the ball between Sullivan and the Icelandic international represented life in slow motion, but the forward was able to nick the ball beyond the veteran ‘keeper.
Despite getting beyond the stopper and clipping home, referee Roger East couldn’t let the decision go and pulled it back for a penalty kick. Harsh on Helguson as Adel Taarabt stepped forward for the hosts.
The Moroccan made no mistake placing low into the bottom left-hand corner, keeping his goal count ticking over and helping firm up what was becoming a good lead against a side providing QPR their sternest test of the campaign.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 2-0 Doncaster Rovers
The difference between this campaign and the last can be best described by the defensive display shown by Rangers throughout. Notably when Woods was crowded out by five players following the second goal and forced to lash over the bar.
Clint Hill – still nursing an injury – was looking commanding in the back four, as well as goal-scoring hero Kaspars Gorkss providing an excellent solidity that was clearly lacking in Jim Magilton’s naïve QPR last time out.
While Shaun Derry was withdrawn holding his calf, it was testament to Rangers’ squad that Warnock was able to draw on regular first teamer of last season Mikele Leigertwood, who proved combative alongside Buzsáky.
The ease with which Rangers netted a third made a mockery of Rovers’ initial work-rate with Taarabt – featuring in his first 90 minutes of the season – taking a corner from the left with Kaspars Gorkss once again climbing highest to slam home a far-post header.
Sheer simplicity from Rangers who were by now dominating proceedings in stark contrst to the opening period. Gorkss netting a double and re-kindling his free-scoring defender tag as QPR were now three goals to the good.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 3-0 Doncaster Rovers
Tommy Smith and Patrick Agyemang were given some valuable game time with Jamie Mackie and Heidar Helguson receiving standing ovations from the home faithful, who by now were in full voice as their side look commanding at the summit.
The final scoreline proved to be somewhat flattering on QPR given the nature of the first period. Doncaster however were blown away by three goals and had little in riposte as the hosts dominated the ball and thus took the three points.
QPR now six points clear at the top of the league, while Warnock rightfuly hailed Doncaster after the final whistle believing them to be playoff fodder themselves. The sun shone on Rangers however with fans allowed to dream for another week.
Final Whistle: Queens Park Rangers 3-0 Doncaster Rovers
Queens Park Rangers
Paddy Kenny, Kyle Walker, Kaspars Gorkss, Matt Connolly, Clint Hill, Shaun Derry (Mikele Leigertwood 76), Ákos Buzsáky, Jamie Mackie (Tommy Smith 89), Adel Taarabt, Hogan Ephraim, Heidar Helguson (Patrick Agyemang 86)
Neil Sullivan, Mustapha Dumbuya, Shelton Martis, James O’Connor, George Friend, John Oster, Martin Woods, Simon Gillett (James Hayter 79), Dean Shiels, James Coppinger, Billy Sharp.