QUEENS Park Rangers set a marker for the chasing pack as they pulled off a solid victory over Coventry City this afternoon.
The performance was one of substance rather than style but Rangers boss Neil Warnock will undoubtedly be delighted with their second maximum in three days.
After Paddy Kenny kept out a flurry of chances in the opening half, Kyle Walker’s effort caused the unfortunate Kieren Westwood to put through his own net.
The mercurial Adel Taarabt was at his creative best as his cross for Tommy Smith saw Rangers double their lead and see off a disappointing Coventry City side.
The victory will not have enthralled the Sky viewers but nevertheless it will have banished Rangers’ television hoodoo and displayed their promotion credentials to the chasing pack.
Neil Warnock opted to remain unchanged following the thumping win over Swansea City at the weekend – Giorgios Tofas stepping up to the bench in place of Hogan Ephraim.
Paddy Kenny therefore started behind a back four of Kyle Walker, Kaspars Gorkss, Matt Connolly and Clint Hill – with Alejandro Faurlín and Shaun Derry partnering in the middle.
Jamie Mackie, Adel Taarabt and Tommy Smith once again started in advance of the midfield with the lone forward Heidar Helguson keeping out Rob Hulse.
Coventry started with Keiren Westwood in goal with a back four of Richard Keogh, Nathan Cameron, James McPake and Richard Wood.
David Bell, Lee Carsley, Michael Doyle and Gary McSheffrey lined up in midfield with Marlon King being supported up front by the sizeable Clive Platt.
Kick Off: Coventry City v Queens Park Rangers
The television cameras came calling once more for Queens Park Rangers and the question marks over Taarabt’s potential display were being posed prior to kick off. The Moroccan has been criticised for his performances in front of the masses, but today he would have to reign in his instinctive tendencies.
The playoff chasers Coventry City went into the game on the back of a defeat and were looking to set the record straight against the league leaders. The Sky Blues would look to their formidable strike force of King and Platt to haul them back into contention.
The game opened in fairly even fashion with both sides making their styles of play evident from the off. Adel Taarabt was showing useful movement in behind, looking to receive the ball and test the Coventry rearguard.
In contrast City were looking for the height of Platt in the front-line with Gary McSheffrey foraging in behind and Marlon King showing his useful touch and turn in the early offing. Coventry’s style was substance over style but it was also proving difficult to combat.
QPR could look to Taarabt for their first opening, skipping past a couple of challenges down the left before having his subsequent left-footed effort blocked by young defender Nathan Cameron. The Moroccan showing an early glimpse of his capabilities.
Coventry were playing on the break with Platt bringing talent such as McSheffrey into play and a nervous Rangers back-line was having to be alert to the attacking potential that the former Birmingham City wide-man possesses.
Indeed the defence was tight to their markers and in fairness to Kaspars Gorkss was having a useful amount of joy from Platt in the air. King however was proving an early thorn in the side with his experience proving vital for the hosts.
Despite not being able to display a great deal of football, Rangers did have brief flurries of attacking opportunity, notably when Adel Taarabt and Alejandro Faurlín combined effectively. The duo linked up nicely to create the latest opportunity.
The Moroccan and the Argentine exchanged passes before Taarabt jinked inside of his marker but rather scuffed his low effort towards the target – Kieren Westwood was able to gather comfortably but the warning signs were evident.
Coventry’s style of play didn’t afford them a great deal of possession but nevertheless opportunities started to come in thick and fast and Paddy Kenny had to be at his best to deny Clive Platt from close range.
King picked up the ball on the left flank and cut inside to great effect before picking out a cross for strike partner Platt. The former Colchester United man nodded an effort goal-bound only for Kenny to stick out a palm and thwart him down to his right.
Rangers seemed unable to sustain any kind of pressure and once again had Kenny to thank for keeping the scores level. A cross from McSheffrey found Richard Wood in the heart of the area and he glanced an excellent header on goal.
For all the world the ball appeared to be nestling into the top right-hand corner, only for Kenny to throw out a hand and deny the former Sheffield Wednesday defender. It was a truly breathtaking stop and another warning for the visiting side.
Alejandro Faurlín was the man to thank moments later as he cleared another Wood effort off the line. In fairness to Rangers it was possibly drifting wide of the mark but the Argentine was alert to swipe the ball away from danger.
Just as the game appeared to be drifting into half time, Jamie Mackie had a key opportunity to open the scoring for the visiting side. Kyle Walker was instrumental in the build up once more and his ball inside to Mackie saw the striker with his back to goal.
The former Plymouth Argyle man spun his marker before drilling a right footed effort inches wide of the left-hand upright. It was agonisingly close for Rangers and Mackie who went into the break goalless with Coventry City.
Half Time: Coventry City 0-0 Queens Park Rangers
Rangers started off the half in a more buoyant fashion, evidently motivated by Neil Warnock’s half time words. They pressed in the early exchanges courtesy of a useful effort by Taarabt on the counter-attack.
The midfield playmaker strode forward from midfield before cutting inside and curling a snap-shot towards the bottom right-hand corner. The Sky Blues stopper was more than equal to the shot however, gathering low to his left.
Just under five minutes into the half and Rangers had the lead, and it came from a rather unlikely source. Kyle Walker went on another surging run down the right flank and beat McSheffrey all ends up.
The Tottenham Hotspur loanee cut back on the by-line and sent a rasping cross into the area, it was deflected by Westwood and to the great surprise of many, nestled into the back of the net handing QPR a priceless advantage.
GOAL: Coventry City 0-1 Queens Park Rangers
Rangers had a concerted period of pressure broken up by the occasional successful direct ball from the hosts. Indeed the visiting side were starting to prove their worth on the break and moments later doubled their lead.
Shortly after the hour mark some more useful build up saw Taarabt steal a march on his marker and clip an expertly weighted cross into the area. There Tommy Smith was lurking to glance a delightful header beyond the forlorn Westwood.
GOAL: Coventry City 0-2 Queens Park Rangers
Smith’s strike was well-received in the away end with just over 1000 travelling fans from West London buoyant by the manner and timing of the goal. Effectively it snuffed out Coventry from truly gaining any momentum and foot-hold in the encounter.
Coventry were by now struggling to build as much pressure as they did in the latter part of the opening period and the lack of possession was beginning to disappoint what had been a less than vocal crowd at the Ricoh Arena.
The Sky Blues responded by bringing on Stephen O’Halloran and Callum Wilson, but despite the endeavours of the latter was unable to bring any real joy from what was proving a stubborn defensive unit in QPR.
There was a brief moment of controversy when Coventry supporters appealed for a back pass when a Rangers defender appeared to stroke an effort back to Kenny in the heart of the area. Mr Swarbrick didn’t agree however and play continued.
Rangers threw on Leon Clarke and Martin Rowlands – the former Sheffield Wednesday man nearly found an opening for his first QPR goal. Clarke sped away down the left flank and bore down on Westwood’s goal.
His right-footed effort was well saved at point-blank range from Westwood and cleared away for a subsequent corner. Rangers managed to cling on without conceding and secured a vital three points away from home.
Final Whistle: Coventry City 0-2 Queens Park Rangers
Westwood, Keogh, Carsley, McPake (Eastwood 87), Bell (Wilson 71), Doyle, King, McSheffrey, Platt, Wood (O’Halloran 71), Cameron.
Queens Park Rangers
Kenny, Hill, Derry, Taarabt (Rowlands 84), Helguson (Orr 89), Faurlin, Mackie, Gorkss, Walker, Connolly, Smith (Clarke 80).