Goals from Conor Washington and Matt Smith were enough to give Rangers the three points, despite a spirited performance from a tough Wigan Athletic outfit.
The win ensured QPR went 10 points clear of Wigan Athletic and the bottom three. It also meant that Rangers leapfrogged Birmingham City and into 15th place in the Sky Bet Championship, on goal difference. For Latics, the defeat meant they stay in the bottom three, two points behind Bristol City who did have two games in hand after the game at Loftus Road, but lost one of the games in hand on Wednesday night, at home to Fulham, 0-2.
QPR started the game in perfect fashion, as Conor Washington capitalised on a slip from Wigan defender Jake Buxton following Alex Smithies’ long ball and crossed to find Matt Smith, who just managed to put enough on his effort to find the net just four minutes in, despite Wigan stopper Matt Gilks getting a strong hand to the shot.
Rangers’ pressure continued, with Matt Gilks being forced into a smart save to tip over the bar a long range effort from Ryan Manning. However, Wigan fought back. Sam Morsy forced Luke Freeman to play a long ball, which was intercepted by Max Power. Power played a ball in behind the Hoops’ defence to find Omar Bogle, who was eventually brought down by Joel Lynch. Bogle stepped up to take the penalty and sent Smithies the wrong way, to get his third Latics goal in only six appearances, since arriving from Grimsby Town on Deadline Day.
The goal in the 17th minute opened the game up and allowed chances for both outfits. Omar Bogle had a chance to get his fourth in Wigan colours, however, Nedum Onuoha made a goal-saving block for The R’s. The man at fault for Wigan’s equaliser, Luke Freeman, nearly made amends for his earlier mistake, however, his strike from range just narrowly passed Matt Gilks’ goal. Then, Omar Bogle was again lively and forced a last-ditch block from the man who brought the Wigan striker down to concede the penalty, Ryan Manning. Alex Smithies made an important save to deny Jake Buxton’s header from a Jamie Hanson corner just before the break.
After the break, the Wigan pressure continued, with Alex Smithies producing a number of saves to deny a lively Omar Bogle’s effort from the edge of the 18 yard box, at his far post and another header from Wigan centre-back, Jake Buxton.
However, Wigan were punished for not taking their chances, as on the hour mark, Northern Ireland international Conor Washington struck beyond an unsighted Matt Gilks from the edge of the box, after substitute Kazenga Lualua exploited Wigan’s right hand side, with Callum Connolly being caught out of position. This proved to be the winning goal in the game and following the goal, Rangers went on to kill the game off and limit chances for the last half an hour.
Ian Holloway was full of praise for forward Matt Smith, suggesting that Smith was a better player for being played in a system under him at Rangers which allowed him to focus on “scoring a goal” rather than “worrying about defending”.
Warren Joyce was left to rue what he called “two poor goals to concede” suggesting that Latics found it difficult to cope with how direct QPR were on the night. He seemed to be more disappointed with the match-winning goal, however, admitting his side failed to “pick the second ball up” which lead to Rangers being “straight through on the back four”. The Wigan boss felt Latics were “good value” for being level at the break, and felt that The Tics could’ve got an equaliser in the game in the final half an hour.
Up next for QPR is a trip to Preston on Saturday, with the R’s knowing a win could see them climb to 13th in the table, ending any sort of relegation fears whatsoever, with 12 games to play.
For Wigan, they play host to a Nottingham Forest side who look themselves, like Wigan, in serious danger of the drop. Much like prior to the QPR game, Forest lie six points above Wigan, with a win for either side being crucial, Wigan in particular, as they can get out the bottom three with a win.
Queens Park Rangers 2
Bogle 17’ (Pen)
QPR: Smithies, Onuoha, Hall (Lualua 29’), Lynch; Furlong, Manning, Freeman, Bidwell; Wszolek, Washington (Ngbakoto 69’); Smith (Sylla 76’).
Booked: Lynch 15’, Sylla 76’.
Unused Subs: Ingram (GK), Mackie, Luongo, Perch.
Wigan: Gilks; Connolly, Buxton, Burn, Warnock; Power, Morsy, Tunnicliffe, Hanson (Mandron 81’); Grigg (Obertan 73’), Bogle
Booked: Bogle 22’, Grigg 30’, Power 35’ Hanson 46’, Buxton 61’
Unused Subs: Roberts (GK), Perkins, Kellett, Laurent, Weir.