Written by Daniel Lambert
QPR, the team that never wins away, came into this game following three consecutive away wins- the kind of form that needed replicating at the Kiyan Prince Foundation stadium against promotion chasing Blackburn Rovers. Both teams came into the game in the same form winning three of the last four games. Interestingly, Dykes came straight into the side following his period of isolation for Bonne, whilst Rovers made three changes, most notably top scorer Adam Armstrong came back into the side- something which occurred in the reverse fixture back in October.
The game started slowly for both sides trying to find their feet, the first bit of drama fell to some antics with Austin as he shoved Travis over after the Rovers man committed a foul and then appeared to hold his face in agony as a way of conning the referee into a forceful decision. Rangers took control early on as Illias Chair’s attempt on goal was blocked before Rangers recycled the ball into the path of Todd Kane who should have at least hit the target and tested goalkeeper Kaminski. After the first 20 minutes the control shifted to Rovers as Ball clumsily fouled Elliott on the edge of the area with Dieng having to pull off a great save to tip Armstrong’s curling effort over the bar.
It was evident Rovers’ best threat was Adam Armstrong down the left-hand side against Rob Dickie as they continued to feed Armstrong this time getting past Dickie before pulling the ball back to find Liverpool loanee Harvey Elliot alone on the edge of the box who leans back, resulting in a skied shot. That was the best chance of the game so far and one which was wasted.
Armstrong had the final threatening chance of the half beating three Rangers defenders on the left-hand side, a kind deflection put the ball in his path, but a scuffed shot wide meant that Dieng remained fairly inactive in the first half with his back three ahead of him looking relatively secure for a change.
Armstrong continued from where he left off in the first half. Lenihan played a well-timed ball through to Armstrong who managed to round the defender and required Dieng to pull of a save to prevent him scoring. Minutes later Rangers took the lead from a corner, floated in for the ball to rummage into Barbet’s path laying it off to Cameron before deflecting into Barbet’s path again tapping it past Kaminski and take the lead against Rovers after 55 minutes of stalemate between the two sides. That was QPR’s first home goal in 611 minutes, the last one was from fellow defender Rob Dickie in the 2-1 defeat to Bristol City back on December 1st.
Barbet, full of confidence after the opener attempts to hit an audacious ask of an effort, hitting QPR badge on the top of the loft, so much so that It rippled the stadium and the viewers streaming the game. Rovers reacted instantly to going behind making a triple change. Holtby, one of the substitutes to enter the field threatened early on with a volley saved by Dieng and the follow up which Armstrong hit was blocked superbly by Dickie, preventing Rovers from pulling a goal back. Dieng certainly was needed in the second half as Rovers work it along the box with Armstrong sending a curling effort goal wards for Dieng to tip over the bar brilliantly. For all Dieng’s heroics second half he anxiously fumbled an Armstrong cross which thankfully Barbet cleared away- something of a rarity from Dieng who has been so composed and dominant whilst taking the Rangers keeper spot.
Rangers midfielder Bettache entered the field and instantly impressed as he showed quick feet to get out of a tight central area to transition from midfield to attack but made little more of an impact after coming on. Adomah came on for Dykes late on after suffering from concussion, looking groggy as he received treatment before being carried off on a stretcher. Adomah looked lively on a few occasions, pressing from the front vigorously as he dispossessed Branthwaite before failing to gain any ground.
There were very promising signs with the victory, Warburton showing signs of grinding out results and games which we failed to do so last season. Defensive displays have been solid- conceding only 2 goals in 5 games and having faith in our defence to see out games has been a huge bonus from the free-flowing attacking football previously craved under Warburton.
However, watching games like that consistently would be a big opposite to what we have been used to seeing and probably somewhat displeasuring however winning four of our last five games, ending our barren home run and gaining huge confidence ahead of a mixed bag of upcoming games can only be a significant thing in the right direction.