Paul Furlong’s penalty miss with the score still at 1-1 proved crucial as West Brom snatched three points with a late winner at Loftus Road.
QPR looked set to complete an unlikely turn around as Furlong stepped up to take the spot kick he’d won himself after Dexter Blackstock had made a scoring substitute appearance but Dean Kiely guessed the right way and kept his side in the game.
West Brom’s Zoltan Gera produced his own super sub act five minutes from time to break QPR hearts and leave them anxiously glancing over their shoulder ahead of a crucial game in hand on Tuesday night.
Before the match John Gregory described it as the biggest of the season so far – although that pretty much applies to every game from here on in of course. He picked the same side that demolished Leicester two weeks ago with Furlong and Nygaard in attack, keeping out Blackstock on his return from injury. Further back gareth Ainsworth was preferred to new signing Rohan Ricketts despite poor recent form and that turned out to be a great decision with Ainsworth producing his best performance for some time.
West Brom sent a number of long range shots towards Lee Camp’s goal in the opening stages. Koren fired marginally wide of the top corner after being presented with the ball by Idiakez, and Kamara smashed wide with one half of the ground sure the ball had nestled into the bottom corner.
Kamara went on to force a good save out of Camp, who also had to be equal to an instinctive lobbed volley attempt from Kevin Phillips midway through the half.
Going forward Rangers suffered from Inigo Idiakez’s early departure. He was replaced by Steve Lomas after just 13 minutes because of a hamstring strain. With Lee Cook quiet on the left, apart from an early cross that flashed across the face of goal, it was left to Ainsworth to provide the cutting edge.
Three times Ainsworth produced quality crosses into the area, three times Furlong failed to find the target, although the latter two efforts were heavily influenced by Sam Sodje and Paul McShane.
Adam Bolder sent a tame effort in on goal and Ainsworth and Nygaard both had efforts blocked away before half time.
West Brom took the lead almost immediately after the restart. Paul Furlong duffed another effort from an Ainsworth cross and Dean Kiely found Koumas with a quick throw out. Koumas had been well marked by Mancienne in the first half but the introduction of Ellington for Carter at half time opened up more space for the Welshman and he picked out Phillips who sat Cullip down before lashing home the opening goal.
Camp denied Phillips and Ellington goals with fine saves as the Baggies threatened to run riot after their tactical changes.
Gregory responded by introducing Dexter Blackstock and within seconds the former Southampton man had climbed highest at the back post to head home yet another cross from Ainsworth and restore parity.
The goal gave QPR huge confidence and when Furlong raced through on goal there only looked like being one result until Kiely tripped him on the edge of the six yard box. The penalty was the right decision, and the West Brom keeper was unlucky not to be sent off. Just to rub it in a bit he produced a great one handed save to keep out Furlong’s spot kick.
That devastated Rangers and despite a couple of long range attempts from Lomas which Kiely saved they never produced the same kind of threat again.
Tony Mowbray slung on Zoltan Gera for the remaining twelve minutes and with just four minutes left for play he arrived at the back post to superbly hammer Nathan Ellington’s cross into the roof of the net.
Lee Camp 8
Three very good saves in the game, could do very little about either goal.
Michael Mancienne 6
Did exceptionally well against Koumas in the first half, less so in the second once Ellington was sent on. Could have done more to prevent the cross for the second goal.
Danny Cullip 6
Strong performance but too many needless free kicks given away around the area with Koumas around.
Damion Stewart 7
A strong and impressive game against difficult opposition.
Marcus Bignot 6
Caught out a few times with high balls hit in behind him but not bad overall.
Gareth Ainsworth 9
Adam Bolder 7
Good hard work and passing game from the centre of the park. Continues to look like a good signing.
Inigo Idiakez –
Not on long enough for a mark, misplaced a couple of passes in the opening ten before being replaced by Lomas.
Lee Cook 5
Very quiet wide on the left flank, a rare off day.
Paul Furlong 5
Missed four chances in open play and a penalty, we need to be more clinical.
Marc Nygaard 6
Worked hard, never had a sniff of goal. Must have been a little peeved that within 30 seconds of going off his replacement got a lovely header at the back post!
Steve Lomas 6
Some decent shots and work rate but too sloppy with his passing.
Dexter Blackstock 8
Scored a good goal and looked lively and full of running.
John Gregory 7 – The team played very well and the Blackstock sub was inspired. Unlucky to lose today.
Tony Mowbray 8 – Changes at half time brought Koumas into the game more which led to the first goal, seocnd goal scored by his substitute. One of those days where everything the manager tries comes off.