A SPECTACULAR strike from Tommy Smith helped Mark Hughes secure back to back home wins against a weary Wigan Athletic side.
James McCarthy’s senseless handball shortly after the half hour mark saw Heidar Helguson net coolly from the spot to hand Rangers a crucial early advantage.
The lead was doubled in stunning fashion when Ákos Buzsáky caressed a sumptuous free-kick in off the left-hand upright on the cusp of half time.
Hugo Rodallega halved the arrears with a sublime free-kick of his own before Helguson spurned the opportunity to double his tally when Ali Al-Habsi thwarted his spot kick.
Step forward Smith – the substitute long on the periphery of the set-up following on from his goal that secured promotion – he lashed home a rasping drive to give QPR a much-needed three points.
The Mark Hughes era in W12 started with a bang, but Wigan are left to contemplate life at the foot of the Premier League table.
Hughes named three changes from the side that were victorious over Milton Keynes Dons with Jay Bothroyd, Shaun Derry and Danny Gabbidon dropping out at the expense of DJ Campbell, Joey Barton and Fitz Hall.
Paddy Kenny started behind a back four of Luke Young, Hall, Anton Ferdinand and Clint Hill. The midfield four comprised of Jamie Mackie, Barton, Ákos Buzsáky and Shaun Wright-Phillips with Heidar Helguson partnering Campbell in attack.
Wigan made three changes also following a home defeat to Manchester City with Antolín Alacaraz, Ronnie Stam and Albert Crusat making way for Steve Gohouri, Emmerson Boyce and Ben Watson.
Ali Al-Habsi started behind a back four of Boyce, Gohouri, Gary Caldwell and Maynor Figueroa. The trio in the middle was James McCarthy, Watson and James McCarthur with Victor Moses and Jordi Gomez flanking lone forward Hugo Rodallega.
KICK OFF: QUEENS PARK RANGERS v WIGAN ATHLETIC
The dawn of a new era at Loftus Road with Mark Hughes in charge of his first home league fixture and the importance of such an occasion will not have been lost on the former Manchester United centre forward.
Wigan bring with them an air of dynamism in terms of forward play as displayed in the excellent performance against Manchester City, but their neat passing play has failed to yield the desired goals and ultimately results.
The division’s pair of lowest scorers came out of the tunnel with the words ‘relegation six-pointer,’ firmly imprinted on the minds of supporters – such an important spectacle that would state the intentions of both sides.
Wigan opened the encounter with the first opportunity and it was a golden one from an unlikely source. Jordi Gomez’s free kick from the left found Maynor Figueroa unmarked just inside the area.
His scuffed effort drifted away to Kenny’s left and with the ‘keeper rooted fleet-footed Victor Moses was inches away from connecting with the drive – fortunately only the former Crystal Palace man ending up in the back of the net.
Wright-Phillips was looking his industrious self on the left-flank linking up well with Clint Hill nicely to bring the likes of Ákos Buzsáky and Joey Barton into play. Wigan meanwhile opted for a more patient approach going forward.
Former QPR loanee Ben Watson was at the heart of their passing play, predominantly looking patiently, probing for openings and stretching a tight pitch to scythe open that decisive gap.
By comparison Rangers were in no mood to be patient – Helguson’s useful turn saw him with acres to run at the Wigan back-line. He let fly with a speculative left-footed drive drifting away to Al-Habsi’s left.
Wigan had moments of attacking influence in the early offing with Moses in particular the key tormentor. He managed to engineer space in behind young before firing an excellent cross right the way across the target – the lack of a forward in position was Rangers’ saving grace.
Young himself was close to handing the hosts the lead in fortuitous circumstances when his cross was taken by the swirling wind and tipped over the bar by the grateful Al-Habsi. A sigh of relief for the visiting side in a goal that would have truly compounded their circumstances.
The persistence of Jamie Mackie opened the door for another opportunity when he dispossessed a slumbering defence to bear down on goal. His headed touch was a little heavy as the ball dropped kindly for DJ Campbell.
The surprise starter displayed a distinct lack of confidence and composure as he thrashed wide of the left-hand upright with space and time at his disposal – Rangers by now were the side on top however.
Shots blocked for Buzsáky and Wright-Phillips served to epitomise the direction of the encounter – Wigan now firmly on the back-foot and defending manfully, but always likely to threaten on the counter-attack.
Buzsáky again was the man of the moment after a neat one-two with Wright-Phillips before lashing just wide of the left-hand post before Mackie saw a venomous effort expertly saved at point-blank range by Al-Habsi.
From the resultant Barton corner James McCarthy inexplicably threw out an outstretched arm and Mr Moss had little hesitation in rightfully pointing to the spot – McCarthy had a yellow card to accompany his blushes.
Heidar Helguson inched closer to double figures by netting his ninth of the season, slotting to Al-Habsi’s left and handing a priceless advantage to the home side. An important first half goal in a crucial spectacle.
GOAL: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 1-0 WIGAN ATHLETIC
Shortly after 40 minutes Buzsáky tried his luck from a free kick which brought a smart save from the over-worked Al-Habsi low to his right. The style of the two sides could not have been more diametrically opposed.
When QPR had possession of the ball the way they drove forward with vigour was a joy to behold, the movement in the front line and the desire to be involved was evident – something lacking for quite some time.
Wigan meanwhile were proving patient, playing out from the back and looking for the gap or for the home side to over-commit in order to purport their brand of attacking play – it was all too fleeting for the visiting side however.
Another needless free kick was given away on the edge of the Wigan area and this time Rangers made little mistake. Ákos Buzsáky was the now familiar face over the ball as he composed himself with a set-piece more centrally.
The Hungarian curled a stunning right-footed effort that flew past Al-Habsi, and into the back of the net, cannoning in off the left-hand upright along the way. A goal to truly belie the occasion in a strike that would be well at home in the higher echelons.
GOAL: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 2-0 WIGAN ATHLETIC
It was a goal that would be all too familiar for a Wigan side struggling for confidence – a sucker punch before half time that would make the second half more of an uphill struggle than an achievable feat.
For QPR it meant security going into the break, with Hughes’ charges cheered off after a positive first half. A crucial goal before the break to breathe confidence into the current set up after a truly abysmal run of form.
HALF TIME: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 2-0 WIGAN ATHLETIC
Changes for both sides going into the second period with DJ Campbell forced off with an injury, and Tommy Smith coming on in his stead, while Connor Sammon was introduced at the expense of midfielder McArthur.
It prompted a formation shift for the Latics with Sammon partnering Rodallega in attack and Watson and McCarthy made the centre midfield pairing in a slightly more adventurous move by the cagey Roberto Martinez.
Wigan once again started the brighter of the two teams with Rodallega trying his luck from distance to be denied by Clint Hill, while the relatively anonymous Gomez was also thwarted from distance.
Rangers meanwhile nearly furthered their advantage with another moment of class from Buzsáky. Receiving the ball from the improved Wright-Phillips, the Hungarian set himself with his right before firing a sumptuous volley that brought the best from Al-Habsi.
That effort seemed destined for the top right hand corner not for the Oman international to deny an effort of truly stunning proportions. It marked a remarkable comeback from Buzsaky who seems to be rejuvenated at present.
Albert Crusat was sent on for the ineffectual Gomez before Wigan had a foot-hold back on the encounter. Figueroa’s misplaced pass rolled out of play before Mr Moss called the play back for a foul on the Honduran international.
What was to follow was sublime, Watson and Hugo Rodallega stood over the ball only for the latter to curl a delightful right-footed strike into the top right hand corner – no ‘keeper in the world would have stopped this truly classy effort.
GOAL: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 2-1 WIGAN ATHLETIC
Wigan threw Ronnie Stam on at the expense of Boyce to inject a bit more attacking intent on proceedings, and it nearly paid dividends just minutes later with the Dutchman ploughing forward in search of a chance.
His pass freed fellow substitute Sammon down the right for the former SPL front-man only able to steer a shot across the face of goal and away to safety – much to the relief of the Rangers rearguard and fans at large.
With little over 15 minutes remaining Rangers were handed a second spot kick as Caldwell and Helguson seemed wrangled in a wrestling match. Helguson was hauled to the floor, culminating in the area – Mr Moss had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Helguson stepped up once more but his kick was smartly saved low down to Al-Habsi’s left – and justice was probably done considering the original offence was just outside the right hand side of the area.
It sent nerves chattering around Loftus Road – here was a story line that QPR supporters had seen before. Helguson was not intent on dwelling on his missed opportunity and nearly doubled his tally with a frankly stunning effort.
He took the ball on the left flank with little around him in terms of support. The Icelandic international left fly with a rasping volley on his weaker left foot that caught Al-Habsi by surprise – it drifted agonisingly wide to his left hand upright.
The direction of the encounter ebbed and flowed in a nervy second period as Wigan’s goal had truly thrown the contest wide open – and for the lack of goal this season between the pairing this was proving an enthralling prospect.
Another useful pass from the more central Wright-Phillips fell nicely for the onrushing Mackie – the front-man was brimming with desire and commitment as he surged forward before he lashed wildly at an effort with a defender in his peripheries.
Minutes later QPR did get that deserved third goal and once again it was a goal fit to grace any occasion. Buzsáky was in the thick of the action once more with a fantastic sliding tackle bringing Wright-Phillips into play.
The former Manchester City man sent the ball centrally for Tommy Smith, who shrugged off options to his left to caress a stunning right-footed effort into the top left-hand corner to send Loftus Road into raptures.
GOAL: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 3-1 WIGAN ATHLETIC
Much like the goal on Tuesday night – it was not only met with celebration but more importantly a sigh of relief. Wigan had hauled themselves from the mire today once, but this would prove a bridge too far for the lightweight Latics.
Buzsáky was given a standing ovation and rightfully so given his immense contribution on the day. Shaun Derry was given a cameo to sure up the defence and provide a cool head in the middle of the park.
From then on Queens Park Rangers held the ball very well – much like Newcastle United in the latter stages last weekend. Mark Hughes had his first league win as QPR boss, and it could prove to be one of immense importance.
While Wigan displayed at times how they can threaten, it was a tad powderpuff in the final third with a lack of ambition from the midfield three to drive forward and convert some of the speculative drives through from Moses.
A win for Hughes, a relatively good performance and the re-emergence of Ákos Buzsáky – Rangers now look a side with a more upwardly-mobile mentality with a rejuvenated spirit and desire most evident today.
FINAL WHISTLE: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 3-1 WIGAN ATHLETIC
QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Paddy Kenny, Luke Young, Fitz Hall, Anton Ferdinand, Clint Hill, Jamie Mackie, Ákos Buzsáky (Shaun Derry 82), Joey Barton, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Heidar Helguson, DJ Campbell (Tommy Smith 46)
Ali Al-Habsi, Emmerson Boyce (Ronnie Stam 69), Steve Gohouri, Gary Caldwell, Maynor Figueroa, Ben Watson, James McArthur (Connor Sammon 46), James McCarthy, Jordi Gomez (Albert Crusat 61), Victor Moses, Hugo Rodallega.