BY KAI BENNETT
Mark Warburton was delighted with his QPR’s “great character” and praised debutant Stephen Duke-McKenna.
The west London club defeated Middlesbrough 2-1 at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Rob Dickie scored the opener in the 15th minute of the game before Lee Wallace added a second just three minutes later. Boro did pull one back through Yannick Bolasie.
Rangers goalkeeper Seny Dieng was sent off just before the hour mark.
Speaking to QPR’s official website, Warburton said: “We were very good in the first 20-25 minutes especially. We went very attacking with our line-up. We wanted to expose them by getting on the ball and dominate the football. We cut them open at will in the first 20-25 minutes. We got on the half turn and played forward. We looked a really good team.
“Rob Dickie hits a screamer in the top corner from 30 yards and then we get the second goal, which was well worked and we were in a good position.
“We gave away a really soft goal but it was almost like we got bored doing the simple things. The sending off changed everything. Then to a man they stood up and showed great character, great qualities to work hard behind the ball. You saw Lyndon [Dykes] tirelessly working. Young Stephen [Duke-McKenna] came on and made his debut and I’m delighted for him. All over the park, they showed great quality and character.
“You saw them, getting out, stopping crosses, getting their bodies in the way, winning first contacts. They had to work hard, they worked tirelessly all afternoon. They all put a real shift in and we had to. If we didn’t do that we would’ve paid the price.
“Having gone 2-0 up and then giving a soft goal away, we had to defend, but also be on the front foot. If we would’ve dropped too deep and invited them on, then you make your own problems. It was about getting the balance right, but they deserve enormous credit.
“You saw the immediate reaction after the sending off. Human nature is to drop deep and defend. The key thing is to remain on the front foot. We went one up top. Then we made a change to go to a 4-3-2-1. We wanted to make sure Lyndon wasn’t isolated and still be able to hurt them on the counter.
“If we were good and we moved the ball well, we could hurt them. That was our plan. They are very good at what they do, they’ve got a great squad. Look at the names they’ve brought in. That was a big three points for us this afternoon.”
Warburton discussed what Duke-McKenna can bring to the squad.
“He’s a player doing well in the B team. We have to be able to use these players. The physicality is a big aspect because you saw what they [Middlesbrough] were doing, they were throwing balls into the box, so they’re very very dangerous. Stephen worked tirelessly up top there, he closed them down, forced that mistake on the far side, to win us the throw. That allowed us to kill 30 seconds. I’m delighted for him, he’s worked hard in training and he’s earned his opportunity. We have got to use the squad in these run of games. [This season] is so demanding for the players, but a vital three points and we go above last year’s total.”
Warburton was pleased with the improvements after the midweek defeat against Rotherham.
“We looked sharper. I was really pleased. We want to get into pockets, we want to get on the half turn, we want to play one and two touch and we did that. When we do that we look a very good team and we can hurt teams. We’re our own worst enemy, we look most exposed when we have the ball at our feet. We have to be better behind the ball and maintain our shape better behind the ball but I’m really pleased. [It was] a great response.
“We went to Rotherham, which is a tough journey and we got back very late. We come to Middlesbrough, now it’s all about Swansea on Tuesday. Again they’re fighting for the play-offs. We have to make sure we go there and deliver a performance.
“The team deserve so much credit, they work so hard every day. That run before Christmas was so tough to take because we were playing well. You saw the performances and we didn’t get the rewards. It changed after Christmas and we’ve got above [last season’s points tally]. I still want to push on and get as many points as possible in the last four games. I’d like to get into the top 10 and cement ourselves in the top 10 and build for next season.”
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