QPR 2 Preston North End 0
Goals ether side of half time by Ebere Eze ended QPR’s seven-game winless run to lift the pressure on the beleaguered manager Mark Warburton, writes Alessandro Schiavone.
The 2-0 win over Preston North End was QPR’s first in over two months as they also kept their first clean sheet of the season with a high-octane display from start to finish.
The Hoops broke the deadlock through their talisman Eze after 16 minutes before the same player doubled the hosts’ advantage from the penalty spot 20 minutes from time.
Much-maligned goalkeeper Joe Lumley silenced the critics with a terrific display to help QPR to their first shut-out in 24 matches and their first win over Preston in over four years.
The victory, which condemned the Lilywhites to their fourth straight defeat, sees QPR move up to 14th and within four points of Sheffield Wednesday in sixth.
Rangers survived an early scare a few seconds after kick-off when skipper Alan Browne volleyed his effort wide from inside the box.
But the hosts, who had a point to prove in front of their disappointed fans, showed plenty of attacking intent and a desire to win at all costs, as they grew into the game with each passing minute.
Winger Bright Osayi-Samuel, who looked unplayable at times, came within a whisker of opening the lead but Declan Rudd dived to smother the chance, before the home side got their noses in front a few minutes later.
Geoff Cameron’s through pass to Eze caught Preston’s struggling defence off guard and the former Millwall player converted the rebound after goalkeeper Declan Rudd had parried into his path his first effort.
Despite finally getting the goal which their performance deserved, Rangers did not sit on their laurels.
Nine minutes later Cameron stole possession in midfield and sent Bright-Osayi Samuel through with an excellent pass but the 22-year blazed his shot wide from a tight angle.
On the stroke of half time, Jordan Hugill, who worked tirelessly off the ball as his ability to run into space caused problems to the opponents, missed a golden opportunity to extend the lead when he skied his effort from the edge of the box after Nakhi Wells had chested down a cross from the right flank.
Preston’s back line struggled to keep pace with Samuel’s electric bursts of acceleration and Eze’s trickery, yet it was QPR’s own profligacy in front of goal that handed them a lifeline for after the interval.
In the second-half QPR picked up where they left off, with the flamboyant Eze showing why he has so many suitors in the Premier League.
On 53 minutes he had another go from distance but his mighty shot lacked direction and was too central to upset Rudd.
But Eze extended the Hoops’ lead in the 67th minute, when he coolly slotted home a penalty, after Marc Pugh had been brought down, to all but claim the three points for his side.
It could have been even better for Rangers on 71 minutes but Hugill, who ran in behind the defence to steal a march on his opponent to win a long ball, fired over the bar.
TheWest Ham loanee, who missed two sitters, can count himself lucky that they did not have a bearing on the result.
With their backs to the wall and nothing left to lose, Preston pressed up high in an attempt to pull one back and reopen the game but QPR centre-backs Toni Leistner and Grant Hall withstood the onslaught with some vital interceptions.
And the tipping point came on 78 minutes when Lumley prevented Billy Bodin from point-blank range with a fantastic outstretched left arm to send the supporters into raptures.
The goalkeeper, who has deputised for the injured Liam Kelly, had come under scrutiny in recent weeks for his poor showings against Fulham and Nottingham Forest but he bounced back with a heroic performance.
With QPR hurtling towards their first win in eight matches, manager Mark Warburton then decided to replace Eze with Luke Amos with five minutes to go.
It was one-way traffic in W12 as Preston appeared deflated, demotivated and distracted. There was an inescapable feeling from the beginning that Alex Neil’s players were not on the same page as their opponents, who went from to strength to strength and finally stopped the rot.
Warburton’s plan to play with a high defensive line and press the opponents in their own half had the desired effect.
QPR managed to turn defence to attack quickly thanks to the outstanding work of their midfielders who overrun their opposite numbers. Solid at the back, adventurous on the flanks and creative up-front, QPR can look to the next couple of games with a new-found optimisim.
They face Birmingham away on Wednesday before travelling to Barnsley on Saturday with their next home taking place in two weeks’ time against London rivals Charlton Athletic.
Line-up: Lumley, Kane, Hall, Leistner, Manning, Cameron, Osayi-Samuel, Pugh, Eze (Amos 87’), Wells(Scowen 68’), Hugill. Subs not used: Wallace, Smith, Ball, Chair, Barnes
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