JAY Bothroyd set up an FA Cup Fourth Round date with Milton Keynes Dons after scoring the solitary goal against West Bromwich Albion.
After failing to keep a clean sheet and win away from home for over a year, QPR recorded back to back wins on their travels courtesy of the impressive Bothroyd.
Hounded out of a loan spell at Hillsborough, the forward put in a fine performance culminating in a header that squirmed beneath the body of Boaz Myhill.
Rob Green was masterful between the sticks, denying West Bromwich Albion on three occasions with saves of genuine class, as the Baggies rued a profligate streak this time out.
Bothroyd will take the headlines with a goal that sets up the Fourth Round tie, but a team performance brimming with confidence and organisation will boost confidence in W12.
Harry Redknapp named six changes from the side that drew at home to Tottenham Hotspur. Julio Cesar, Ryan Nelsen, Fabio da Silva, Stephane Mbia, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Adel Taarabt dropped out with Rob Green, Anton Ferdinand, Tal Ben-Haim, Alejandro Faurlín, Jay Bothroyd and Djibril Cissé came in.
Green started behind a defence of Nedum Onuoha, Clint Hill, Ferdinand, and Ben-Haim. The trio in midfield comprised of Shaun Derry, Ji Sung Park and Faurlín, with Bothroyd and Jamie Mackie playing off Cissé.
Steve Clarke made four changes from the West Brom side beaten by Reading. Ben Foster, Jonas Olsson, Liam Ridgewell and Chris Brunt dropped out with Boaz Myhill, Goran Popov, Gabriel Tamas and Markus Rosenberg started in their stead.
The Baggies started with Myhill behind a defence of Billy Jones, Gareth McAuley, Tamas and Popov. The midfield comprised of Graham Dorrans, James Morrison, George Thorne and Jerome Thomas, with Romelu Lukaku starting alongside Rosenberg.
KICK OFF: WEST BROMWICH ALBION v QPR
A positive start to 2013 looked to be under threat in what would undoubtedly prove a stern test in the Midlands. Rangers’ weakened outfit was facing a strong, if injury-stricken West Bromwich Albion side without a few first teamers for the cup clash.
The fixture was played out in reserve conditions at times in a ground lacking atmosphere, with both sides fielding under-strength sides. Redknapp’s men we organised and decisive in possession despite their change in personnel – frustrating the home side in the early offing.
Shaun Derry was the archetypal midfield terrier, winning the ball deep and distributing intelligently while his midfield colleagues in Alejandro Faurlín and Park Ji Sung also contributed to what was a counter-attacking ethic.
The improved performance failed to yield chances of note, with shots being blocked and crosses going awry. The hosts’ intent was unrelenting as they looked to settle the encounter as a contest as soon as possible.
Tal Ben Haim was rather harshly penalised for a foul on the edge of the area as Chelsea loanee Romelu Lukaku took a theatrical tumble as Jerome Thomas prowled on the edge of the area with the ball at his feet.
A belated flag from the linesman gave the Baggies the decision but it was truly a free-kick to befit the occasion. Graham Dorrans – who the hosts may be looking to offload in January – slammed a poor free kick straight into a packed wall.
Albion were looking the better team as the half started to wear on, James Morrison’s speculative drive was ably blocked by Derry while Goran Popov got in behind only to find Green’s reflexes in fine fettle to palm away from the target.
Popov once again rounded off a free-flowing move when he received a pass down the left to centre well for Lukaku. The forward couldn’t engineer an effort of note, placing straight at Green who once again ably fielded the effort.
Rangers had their first effort of note on the counter attack when Jay Bothroyd nearly pulled off his Cardiff party piece, cutting in from the right before unleashing a rasping drive that was tipped around the post for a fine save by Myhill.
Green was called upon once again as the half wore on when former QPR loanee Thomas sent a cross goal-bound with the stopper in fine form to deny the wideman. The two sides rather ambled into the break in an utterly forgettable half of football.
HALF TIME: WEST BROMWICH ALBION 0-0 QPR
Queens Park Rangers made one change at the break with Shaun Wright-Phillips replacing the ineffectual Djibril Cissé. Might we be as bold to suggest that may be the last time we will see Cissé in a QPR shirt.
The second half resumed in much the same way as the first, Rangers this time were looking more sprightly with Redknapp taking over touchline duties from Steve Cotterill. The desire and commitment was brimming from Rangers who started to build opportunities.
Thomas was cautioned for a rather innocuous challenge on Ji Sung Park by an officiating team that seemed to delay every decision with the intent on playing advantage at every opportunity. An admirable attribute when used sparingly, and correctly – too many times the decision was delayed for no apparent reason causing confusion among the players.
Wright-Phillips seems to be playing a great deal more confidence following his goal at Chelsea – his shot sparked a melee in the heart of the Baggies area that culminated in Faurlín burying a shot into an admirable block by Tamas et al.
The wide-man was at it again moments later, latching onto a fine Faurlín pass before touching elegantly clear of his marker and striking a deflected effort that drifted harmlessly into the arms of the reinstated Myhill.
The Baggies pressed for the game’s opener and Lukaku’s direct run nearly earned desired results when he opted to strike low to the right, an effort that was ably fielded by Green as Rangers looked to keep their third clean sheet of 2013.
Lukaku opted for power over placement but picked out a barrage of willing blockers in the heart of the QPR penalty area – a far cry from the Mark Hughes team that was comfortably turned over a few short months ago.
Peter Odemwingie was brought on at the expense of Thomas, and received a warm applause from the QPR supporters given his recent links with the club. Rangers would have to be wary to stop the forward putting them to the sword.
It was becoming rapidly apparent that one goal was going to settle the encounter and with just under 15 minutes remaining the visiting side struck. Faurlín’s outswinging corner from the left was met by the head of JAY BOTHROYD whose header squirmed under Myhill.
The ‘keeper will be understandably disappointed with his part in the QPR goal as Bothroyd started a new year with a bang. Handed back by Sheffield Wednesday, Bothroyd looked to put his side in the Fourth Round while Wednesday trailed to Milton Keynes.
Green then displayed why he is an England international with a string of stunning stops to deny the Baggies. Popov’s excellent centre was met with a rasping drive from Rosenberg only to be denied high to his right by the inspired stopper.
Moments later Green denied Rosenberg from close range once more as Albion clearly had that sinking feeling. The goalscorer then left the field to a hero’s reception, much to the humour of many – being replaced by Stephane Mbia – setting up the famed false nine formation.
West Brom went more attacking by comparison with Yassine El Ghanassy entering the field at the expense of Tamas. Chances were soon presenting themselves for the home side who were looking to force a close game to extra time.
Green continued to deny the attack-minded hosts – El Ghanassy, Dorrans and Popov were all denied in the latter stages of a game that offered little in terms of inspiration but much in terms of sheer perspiration.
Mackie was replaced by the rested Taarabt in a bid to hang onto possession and there was indeed time for the Moroccan to display some of his moves before the referee brought the curtain down on a professional QPR victory that sets them up nicely for West Ham this weekend.
FULL TIME: WEST BROMWICH ALBION 0-1 QPR