IAN Holloway tasted defeat for the first time as QPR boss as Ipswich Town cantered to victory at Portman Road.
Despite a spirited first half showing, the visitors couldn’t capitalise on their dominance and were made to pay when Grant Ward scuffed home from the edge of the area.
A bitter pill to swallow for the visitors, who were caught again early in the second half when Alex Smithies` rare howler saw Luke Varney pass into an empty net.
Tom Lawrence rounded off the scoring when he was quickest to a scuffed Cole Skuse effort to tuck home from close range.
Smithies did atone for his earlier error with a string of fine saves, but Holloway`s men must now go back to the drawing board after a disappointing defeat.
Mick McCarthy made three changes from the recent home defeat by Nottinham Forest. Josh Emmanuel, Teddy Bishop and Freddie Sears dropping out for Adam Webster, Jonathan Douglas and Luke Varney.
Two changes for Ian Holloway from the side that defeated Norwich City – both enforced. Jack Robinson (hamstring) and Massimo Luongo (ill) missed out with returns from injury and suspension for Jake Bidwell and Karl Henry respectively.
Alex Smithies started behind a back three of Nedum Onuoha, Grant Hall and Joel Lynch – James Perch and the aforementioned Bidwell the wing-backs for Rangers. Henry was joined by Jordan Cousins and Tjaronn Chery in the middle with Conor Washington and Seb Polter leading the line.
CHAMBERS – WEBSTER – BERRA – KNUDSEN
DOUGLAS – SKUSE
WARD – LAWRENCE – VARNEY
PERCH – ONUOHA – HALL – LYNCH – BIDWELL
HENRY – COUSINS – CHERY
WASHINGTON – POLTER
There were grounds for optimism at Queens Park Rangers once again – whatever your feelings on Ian Holloway, his enthusiasm is infectious and his players most certainly responded with a good performance against Norwich City last weekend.
Those reasons for optimism were not exactly resonating with the crowd at Portman Road present – dwindling numbers in the stands and the only audible noise in recent weeks has been the heckling of under fire boss Mick McCarthy – a performance needed from his team.
The jitters in the stands were audible; every misplaced pass, every loss of possession was met with groans from the home crowd as Holloway`s men had hold of possession and started to take the lion’s share of possession.
This was highlighted when Joel Lynch`s cross could only be palmed clear by Bialkowski into the path of Tjaronn Chery – the Dutchman unable however to engineer his shot on target. Seb Polter was getting some attention from the Town rearguard, largely unnoticed by referee Mr Woolmer.
Against the run of play, the home side did take the lead shortly before the 15 minute mark. A set piece was punched clear by Smithies to the edge of the area. GRANT WARD picked it up and despite seeing his initial effort deflected he persisted and scuffed an effort beyond a rooted Smithies and into the far corner.
Rangers were enjoying vast swathes of possession but were struggling to test Bialkowski in the Ipswich goal. A couple of pot shots from Chery from distance was all that Rangers seemed able to offer as the home side grew in confidence.
James Perch picked up a yellow card for going in hard on Bialkowski – it appeared as though he’d slipped for the most part but Mr Woolmer saw differently and issued the caution.
It could have even been two when Tom Lawrence`s set-piece found Christophe Berra but with the ball just behind him he could only put his header wide of the mark. The game was hanging in the balance and Rangers perhaps should have levelled prior to the break.
Grant Hall`s lung-busting run from the back culminated in the central defender crossing for Washington. The forward got in front of his marker but his snap-shot volley was thwarted by Bialkowski.
Onuoha chanced his arm from distance late on in the half as he was allowed to wander into the opposition half, but his shot was comfortably saved by Bialkowski. The half drew to a close in controversy when Perch put full back Knudsen out of play – Town players and supporters called for red but nothing was forthcoming.
Rangers came out the blocks with a little more gusto, as you’d expect following an Ian Holloway half time team talk. Jordan Cousins tried his luck from the edge of the area but it was easy pickings for Bialkowski.
Just as Rangers were getting into their stride, a moment of madness from the normally relatable Alex Smithies cost them the second goal of the game – a decisive blow struck by Ipswich following this uncharacteristic error.
A routine ball over the top caught the back three flat-footed and the keeper raced from his line to intervene – his header was rather a deft glance than a clearance and it fell to journeyman LUKE VARNEY to place home into an unguarded net. Madness from Smithies but hardly a regular occurrence for the former Huddersfield Town man.
Holloway responded by hooking Perch and Seb Polter and throwing on Sandro and Idrissa Sylla, switching to a 4-4-2 formation. It did little to stem the growing tide of home pressure, indeed Sandro and Henry were being bypassed quite comfortably at times on the break.
The lead was extended – again somewhat fortuitously from Town`s point of view. Cole Skuse attempted a right footed volley but skewed his effort waywardly – TOM LAWRENCE was on hand and onside as he took a touch and rolled beyond an unguarded Smithies.
Switching to a back four did not really seem enhance Rangers attacking prospects, rather it served to further destabilise a worryingly unguarded defence as Town cut through Rangers like butter as the half wore on.
Sandro and Chery tried their luck from distance but efforts were blocked and saved respectively before Holloway threw on Yeni Ngbakoto for the ineffective Jordan Cousins. A tad more width for Rangers as Ngbakoto took up his place on the left.
An altercation between Chery and Lawrence was predictably handled poorly by the official and when things escalated Mr Woolmer would have to issue a set of yellows.
David McGoldrick could have got his name on the scoresheet when he curled an effort just wide of the right hand upright while Sandro had Rangers best chance of the half, and perhaps the game when he headed Chery`s corner onto the post.
Ipswich then took command and only Smithies was able to deny then another three goals – vintage saves from the Rangers keeper in helping to atone for his earlier error.
First McGoldrick had an effort tipped away to his right before Grant Ward tore through the Rangers defence only to see his shot palmed away by Smithities in another fine reaction stop.
Rangers heads had clearly gone down and it was one way traffic – only Conor Washington was able to offer any resistance in terms of chasing down and looked a little exasperated at his team-mates.
McGoldrick was in the mood and once again found himself through on goal – his lob was thrashed away with disdain by Smithies as the defence in front of him had well and truly crumbled.
Mr Woolmer mercifully blew the final whistle and Rangers trudged down the tunnel. A performance that promised so much in the first half, that fell to pieces after three arguably fortunate goals.
Back to the drawing board for Holloway who has struggling Wolverhampton Wanderers on his radar in W12 next Thursday – thank you Sky.
IPSWICH TOWN: Bialkowski; Chambers, Webster, Berra, Knudsen; Skuse, Douglas; Ward, Lawrence (Best 80), Varney (Sears 68); McGoldrick.
Subs not used: Gerken, Bishop, Bru, Williams, Emmanuel.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS: Smithies; Onuoha, Hall, Lynch, Perch (Sandro 59), Henry, Cousins (Ngbakoto 67), Chery, Washington, Polter (Sylla 59).
Subs not used: Ingram, Wszolek, El Khayati, Shodipo.
Referee: Mr A Woolmer