QUEENS Park Rangers retained their uneaten record and their table topping status by pounding a pitiful Middlesbrough side at Loftus Road.
Warnock’s charges flourished in an irresistible second period as Middlesbrough simply imploded on a sun-drenched afternoon in W12.
In a first half that saw a glaring Kris Boyd miss and a cast iron penalty denial for Heidar Helguson, the game proved competitive and promised much for a more open second period.
The home supporters certainly had their wish when Helguson was hauled down by Barry Robson, with the Icelandic international nonchalantly rolling home from the spot from the resultant penalty.
The lead was doubled in emphatic fashion when Adel Taarabt’s classy centre was resoundingly dispatched by Hogan Ephraim and while the R’s tails were up, Boro slipped into slumber.
The third was all too easy as Jamie Mackie had his desired goal – the former Plymouth Argyle forward swept home in typical poaching fashion after another half-hearted clearance.
Rangers march on at the summit of the npower Championship, while Gordon Strachan is left to contemplate the viability of his post as Boro slump away from home once more.
Neil Warnock kept faith with the same side that started against Derby County with Adel Taarabt and Heidar Helguson retaining their places despite injury concerns.
Paddy Kenny started behind a back four of Bradley Orr, Kaspars Gorkss, Matt Connolly and Clint Hill, with Alejandro Faurlín and Shaun Derry the preferred central midfield duo.
Adel Taarabt played in advance of the pair with Jamie Mackie and Hogan Ephraim once again supporting the lone centre forward Helguson.
Middlesbrough made a solitary change from the side that went down 2-0 away at Barnsley last week with Senegalese Mickael Tavares slotting in at right back at the expense of Matt Kilgallon.
Jason Steele started behind a back four of the aforementioned Tavares, David Wheater, Stephen McManus and make-shift full-back Barry Robson.
The midfield consisted of Matthew Bates, Gary O’Neil, Nicky Bailey and Tarmo Kink while Kris Boyd partnered Scott McDonald in attack.
Kick Off: Queens Park Rangers v Middlesbrough
Two teams intent on challenging at the right end of the table, Rangers have made the better start to the campaign. True to form they were quicker from the blocks in this encounter as Wanrock’s charges look to state their intent at the top of the Championship.
The form of Adel Taarabt has been crucial to their early season positivity as he displayed his talent in the early offing after fending off two players before burying an effort which was ably gathered by Boro youth product Jason Steele.
Middlesbrough – searching for only their second ever win in W12 – looked positive with Australian Scott McDonald the ever-busy link between defence and attack. His spirited run and shot saw Boro go close in the early stages after firing wide of Paddy Kenny’s right hand upright.
It wasn’t one for the faint-hearted as Shaun Derry certainly justified his combative billing with a succession of crunching tackles. There were grimaces and cheers in equal measure as Rangers – under Warnock – seemed to have rediscovered their steely edge.
While tackling was important, the more creative parts of their game clearly hadn’t suffered with Taarabt once again looking in the mood to impress. His jinking run earned a free-kick, and he showed the vision to find Hogan Ephraim whose effort was tipped wide by Steele.
Kris Boyd was certainly putting himself about and leaving a lasting impression on defenders Gorkss and Connolly, but to their credit they held the burly Scotsman at bay much to his mounting frustration. His elbows appeared his key weapons as he bore the brunt of fans criticism.
Rangers nearly had the advantage midway through the first half as Jamie Mackie delightfuly controlled a long pass from Kenny, showing excellent strength to keep defenders at bay before laying in Taarabt. It appeared the goal was gaping for the Moroccan as he lurched up to the ball.
Unfortunately for him there were a crowd of bodies to put the ball through, and he steered his effort wide of the right-hand upright. Once again though Middlesbrough were by no means second best as they foraged away on the counter-attack.
Controversy then ensued as Heidar Helguson demanded a spot-kick after a clumsy challenge from the Boro rearguard. The referee had his back to the incident and his linesman opted not to see what appeared a cast-iron spot-kick that rankled with boss Neil Warnock.
Estonian summer signing Tarmo Kink thrashed an effort high and wide before Boyd should have handed the visitors the lead. Barry Robson’s long-awaited corner caught Rangers off guard and Boyd, three-yards out with the goal at his mercy, conspired to scoop wide.
It clearly had some manner of impact as Rangers nearly took the lead in turn at the other end. Taarabt surged from midfield after some neat passing play involving Ephraim and his curling right-foot effort was palmed away from an inspired Steele.
Both sides left the field relatively contented knowing that the situation could be far worse, but would be hoping for a bit more class and composure as an important second period beckoned.
Half Time: Queens Park Rangers 0-0 Middlesbrough
The sun sprang forth in the second half with the two sides taking to the field, one invigorated and the other under-prepared. It took just moments of the half to find out which team belonged to which department as Rangers pounced on some ponderous defending.
Gorkss neatly cushioned the ball for Taarabt whose chipped centre was intended for Helguson. In turn he was hauled down by Barry Robson. The referee again seemed surprisingly nonplussed by the appeal only for his linesman to save him from embarrassment and hand Rangers the spot-kick.
Heidar Helguson stepped forward to take the penalty, with he and Taarabt seemingly sharing spot-kick duties. The Icelandic international was composure personified as he rolled the ball down the centre of the goal for his third of the campaign.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Middlesbrough
Rangers were starting to express themselves as idle mistakes crept into the Middlesbrough side. Strachan’s men were flagging and struggling to keep up with the quick-passing style that the hosts were displaying.
Notable to this success was the lively Taarabt and the stunning work-rate of Jamie Mackie. The former Plymouth Argyle man was involved in the vast majority of Rangers’ action, getting forward to make up the extra man upfront while also tirelessly helping the defenders.
It took merely four minutes to elapse before Rangers were two goals to the good and it was the Moroccan Taarabt that cranked up the notch when his outstanding cross, a ball that exhumed the class for which he is famed, found its way to Hogan Ephraim.
The former West Ham United man peeled away to the front post and slammed home on the volley in what was an excellent move to double the Rangers advantage. The home fans were sent into raptures as they sensed their place at the top would be cemented for a few more days.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 2-0 Middlesbrough
Middlesbrough now looked bereft of confidence, ideas and effort – having seen a few sides of that calibre in recent years, it was easy to see that some players had lost faith in their manager. Nevertheless the pint-sized Scotsman responded by withdrawing an attacking option in Kink for former Arsenal defender Justin Hoyte.
Rangers were by now looking rampant and thirsty for more, and against a defence that seemed to be tripping over their own feet, it looked entirely possible. This was clearly not the same Middlesbrough side that had put in crunching challenges in the opening period.
Before long the tide told once more with Taarabt’s corner finding its way to Kaspars Gorkss. The defender drilled an effort goal-bound only for Jamie Mackie to stick out an outstretched leg and sweep beyond a forlorn Steele.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 3-0 Middlesbrough
Just under an hour gone and Rangers were home and hosed. Ten minutes later Peter Ramage was called into action to replace Bradley Orr – with with looking to Tuesday and what will be a keenly-contested affair against Ipswich.
Ákos Buzsáky took to the field at the expense of Taarabt – who received a standing ovation from the Rangers support. He had truly spurred Rangers on once more in another impressive display for the Moroccan international.
Moments later it was Mackie’s turn to be singled out for the ovation with new signing Tommy Smith allowed to stretch his legs and show a cameo of his capabilities. The game itself was somewhat petering out with the R’s contented with their possession.
Warnock’s side were professionalism personified as they simply didn’t allow Middlesbrough to get and retain the ball. Even the arrival of Leroy Lita from the bench couldn’t stir the visitors who were well and truly beaten in a whirlwind second period.
The referee blew his final whistle and Rangers rightfully celebrated a job well-done. Warnock’s charges were applauded from the field and they must now set their sights on another tough encounter against Ipswich Town mid-week.
Final Whistle: Queens Park Rangers 3-0 Middlesbrough
Queens Park Rangers
Kenny, Orr (Ramage 69), Hill, Derry, Taarabt (Buzsaky 70), Helguson, Faurlin, Mackie (Smith 81), Gorkss, Connolly, Ephraim.
Steele, Bates, Wheater, McManus, McDonald, Boyd (Lita 65), Bailey, Kink (Hoyte 55), Robson, O’Neil, Tavares.