Four takeaways from QPR’s 1-0 win against Preston North End – Dykes ends goal drought as Willock shows his worth with defensive shift

QPR are on the verge of securing Championship survival after a crucial 1-0 win against Preston North End on Saturday.

Here are Dan Evans’ takeaways from the game at Loftus Road.


Marti Cifuentes was again forced to defend Lyndon Dykes in his pre-match press conference before taking on Preston, with the striker only scoring one league goal in the first four months of 2024.

The Scottish international has struggled to replicate the goal-scoring form that saw him notch 12 in his first season at Loftus Road, yet he has remained a regular feature of the team under a series of QPR managers over the past three campaigns.

Not for the first time, Cifuentes pointed to how Dykes adds value to the team without scoring goals -creating space for his team-mates with his movement, building attacks with his hold-up play, and winning the ball back high up the pitch with his hard work defensively.

None of Dykes, Sinclair Armstrong or Michael Frey have managed to establish themselves as the guaranteed first-choice striker since Frey’s January arrival, yet it is surely no coincidence that Dykes has started five of the last seven games as QPR’s fight for Championship survival reaches its crucial crescendo.

Ending a run of 15 games without a goal as he capitalised on a mistake from Preston goalkeeper Freddie Woodman was surely a sweet moment for the striker, yet it was another afternoon in which Dykes’ all-round play stood out.

He proved a useful focal point for the likes of Ilias Chair, Chris Willock and Lucas Andersen to play off, as QPR were unfortunate to be restricted to winning by just a single goal.

Dykes twice lashed wide of the target with ambitious shots from distance but the fact he remained on the pitch until the 91st minute was a reflection of a good performance.


With QPR given the tea-time kick-off against Preston, they were in the unusual position of knowing the results of most of their relegation rivals before their game had started.

Cifuentes was not concerned about the situation bringing on added pressure for his side, and he was adamant pre-match that QPR needed to focus on themselves and what they could control.

Ahead of the game against Preston, players and staff did not have their eyes glued to how the likes of Huddersfield Town, Birmingham and City were getting on but instead channelled their attention towards getting the result they needed against Preston.

Whether or not the Rangers players knew how those around them in the table had got on by the time of kick-off, the controlled nature of the performance, in what should have been a more straightforward win, showed their concentration had not been impacted by results from elsewhere.

The fact Huddersfield were heavily beaten by Swansea and Birmingham were held to a 0-0 draw at already-relegated Rotherham ended up being an added bonus that has left

QPR on the verge of holding on to their Championship status.


While Dykes has regularly earned praise from Cifuentes for his work without the ball, it has not always been the case for Chris Willock.

Earlier in the season, it was not uncommon to see Cifuentes race to the edge of the Loftus Road technical area to enthusiastically encourage the creative midfielder to get back in position when Rangers lost possession.

Willock was far more influential against Preston than he has been in recent games, as he combined effectively with Andersen and Chair throughout, but he also put in a real shift defensively.

While Cifuentes’ claim about the four tackles Willock put in being a “career record” was light-hearted, it was the highest total that the 26-year-old has registered in a single game this season and a number he has not matched since September 2021.

However, this does seem to be part of a wider trend of the Arsenal academy graduate increasing his defensive output.

While Chair is often allowed to join QPR’s striker in pressing higher when the opposition have the ball, Willock is tasked with remaining diligent and tracking opposition full-backs.

In the 28 games that Willock has featured in under Cifuentes, he is averaging more than one tackle per 90 minutes after never managing more than one tackle in a game across the whole of last season.

While he has no doubt been helped by Cifuentes’ disciplined defensive set-up, Willock’s application and commitment is another reason, on top of his quality with the ball, that the Spaniard is keen to keep him at the club beyond the expiration of his current contract in the summer.


The renaissance of Jimmy Dunne as a marauding right-back has been one of the key factors in QPR fighting their way out of the relegation zone.

The defender has made an unfamiliar position his own and thrived both defensively and going forward.

However, he was given a difficult time in the 3-0 defeat to Hull, often finding himself isolated against the talented Jaden Philogene.

Dunne was taken off at half-time on Humberside as Cifuentes tried to rescue something from the game, meaning it seemed possible that a run of 11 consecutive starts could come to an end against Preston.

The QPR head coach insisted the performance had not been as bad as the scoreline suggested and that making wholesale changes for the games that followed would be unwise.

That played out in his team selection against Preston, with just two changes made, as Jack Colback returned for a first start since Easter Monday and Kenneth Paal came back in at left-back.

Dunne retained his place on the right despite Reggie Cannon replacing him against Hull and putting in a number of good performances earlier in the season.

Even though he made a somewhat nervous start, giving possession away in his own half on a couple of occasions, he ended up having another fine game.

Dunne registered five tackles and six clearances, and competed well with the dangerous Liam Millar – who looked to be the main attacking threat for Preston.

The Irishman’s best moment was saved for the 83rd minute though, as he recovered brilliantly to close down substitute Milutin Osmajic and deny him a clear sight of goal with a crucial victory on the horizon.

While using Dunne at right-back looked a short-term solution to a position that originally did not seem particularly problematic, he has now made it difficult to imagine anyone else being used there.


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