Preston 0-2 QPR: Second half goals from Paul Smyth and Chris Willock keep the visitors on a good run under new boss Marti Cifuentes

1 December 2023 0 By Total Football News
  • Paul Smyth found space at the back post to put QPR in front on 55 minutes 
  • Chris Willock added a second three minutes from time at a cold Deepdale 
  • Big Ange has lost three in a row, but no chance he changes his style: IAKO

Things could finally be looking up for Queens Park Rangers. Under their young Spanish coach Marti Cifuentes, two victories inside the space of 72 hours have raised hopes a relegation struggle isn’t inevitable.

Having battled to overcome 10-man Stoke on Tuesday, they deservedly beat Preston North End in sub-zero conditions to move within three points of Huddersfield in 21st position.

Paul Smyth’s breakthrough goal early in the second-half wasn’t the prettiest but QPR are in no position to be picky about aesthetics after seemingly endless strife. Chris Willock made sure with a close-range finish in the closing stages.

It was, as so often, the Moroccan Ilias Chair who supplied the silky stuff, delivering the inviting crosses from which both Smyth and Willock scored and generally energising Rangers after Cifuentes introduced him at half-time.

Whatever the Spaniard communicated at the break, it had the desired effect. Preston, who look less and less like promotion candidates with every passing game, lacked spark and were there for the taking.

Paul Smyth found room at the back post to put QPR in front at Preston after 55 minutes

Paul Smyth found room at the back post to put QPR in front at Preston after 55 minutes

The Northern Irish forward made an acrobatic celebration after scoring for the visitors

The Northern Irish forward made an acrobatic celebration after scoring for the visitors

Ryan Lowe has some thinking to do. In contrast to QPR, this was their second loss in 72 hours and the blistering start they made to the Championship campaign is now a memory.

MATCH STATS 

Preston North End (3-4-2-1): Woodman; Storey, Lindsay, Hughes; Ramsay (Stewart 87), Whiteman (McCann 73), Browne (c), Frokjaer (Woodburn 73); Keane (Millar 46), Holmes; Evans

Substitutes not used: Cornell (GK); Cunningham, Brady, Ledson, Best

Manager: Ryan Lowe

Booked: Woodburn

Queens Park Rangers (4-3-3): Begovic; Cannon (Kakay 66), Clarke-Salter, Dunne, Paal; Colback (Chair 46), Field (c), Willock (Kelman 90+2); Smyth (Dixon-Bonner 66), Dykes, Dozzell (Larkeche 79)

Substitutes not used: Archer (GK); Cook, Duke-McKenna, Drewe

Manager: Marti Cifuentes

Scorers: Smyth 55; Willock 88

Booked: Dykes

Referee: Josh Smith

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They had a few moments but struggled to break down visitors enjoying that confidence boost that comes with a new manager.

The season has a long way to run but Cifuentes arriving may prove a turning point for the better.

The away fans serenaded the Spaniard with a song about paella and Estrella though given Cifuentes has previously coached in Norway, Denmark and Sweden, he was also well-acclimatised to the cold.

It was a night for scarves, Bovril and bobble hats with temperatures a chilly -3C at kick-off and only heading in one direction.

The Deepdale resembled a kind of grassy tundra with enormous patches of icy turf, blue line markings and the track marks of the equipment that had helped get the game on.

Inevitably, the conditions made it tough going for the players and the first-half was essentially a complete non-event.

Chastened by Tuesday night’s 4-0 thrashing at Middlesbrough, at least Preston made an initial effort.

There was little early evidence of the bold, attacking style Cifuentes wants QPR to adopt after they set up playing 4-3-3. They struggled to keep possession and their travelling fans massed behind the goal sang ‘we’ve got the ball’ in an ironic manner.

The hosts carved out the game’s first opening after 14 minutes, a low Ched Evans strike from just inside the Rangers box that was never bothering Asmir Begovic.

A few minutes later Evans decided to take a touch to control a Duane Holmes cross when he should have just swung his boot and QPR scrambled it away.

Young Spanish coach Marti Cifuentes has overseen two QPR victories in the space of 72 hours

Young Spanish coach Marti Cifuentes has overseen two QPR victories in the space of 72 hours

Preston boss Ryan Lowe has some thinking to do, as their blistering start is now a memory

Preston boss Ryan Lowe has some thinking to do, as their blistering start is now a memory

It certainly wasn’t a night to be taking blows to the nose but that fate befall Preston’s Andrew Hughes when the ever-physical Lyndon Dykes swung his arm to earn a booking.

With blood drawn, Hughes swapped his shirt to a numberless one.

QPR lacked confidence going forward but there was a very brief spell of intent and a Willock shot that caused a moment’s panic before dribbling harmlessly wide.

Preston’s best opening of the half was arguably a chance that never came. Alan Browne seized the ball in midfield and had the perfect opportunity to slip Holmes clear on goal.

He hesitated, perhaps with studs caught in the ice, and when he did get the ball out of his feet QPR could intercept. Scattered boos greeted the half-time whistle.

But the game sprung into life 10 minutes after the restart, when Smyth bundled QPR into the lead.

Chair was the architect, crossing from the left and Smyth got himself in behind Hughes to force the ball home from close range before celebrating with a decent somersault.

Chris Willock added a second goal for the visitors with three minutes left of standard time

Chris Willock added a second goal for the visitors with three minutes left of standard time

It was his first goal for the club since the very beginning of his first Loftus Road spell over five years ago.

Preston tried to respond, with Mads Frokjaer blazing a shot well over before the offside flag very belatedly went up against Liam Millar. Holmes then wasted a good free-kick position with a dreadful effort.

Preston frustrations were evident when Evans bundled over Jimmy Dunne after failing to reach a through pass. That led to a flashpoint between the striker and Jake Clarke-Salter.

QPR almost sealed it but Freddie Woodman made a fine fingertip save to deny Elijah Dixon-Bonner before Willock’s goal sparked a home fan exodus into the frosty night.

 


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