Queen’s Park Rangers 2 West Brom 3
It may have had more in common with their displays in the early part of the season rather than their away performances in 2019, but the Baggies found a way to take all three points at Loftus Road in what could turn out to be a hugely significant result. It makes it eight wins from the last nine on the road in the league, with Elland Road their next destination after Saturday’s home game against the Blades.
Albion’s January signings were very much in evidence at Loftus Road as both Montero and Murphy scored while Murphy and Holgate provided the assists for the first and third goals. The second goal was all Jacob Murphy’s own work in what was a breakthrough performance in an Albion shirt for the Newcastle loanee.
The nature of the victory with a 94th minute winner made it all the sweeter, but the defensive deficiencies of Moore’s team made this victory much harder than it should have been. The Baggies were quick out of the blocks and took an early lead with what was Jefferson Montero’s first touch of the match. As was common throughout the game, the attack came down the Albion right. A neat interchange between Holgate and Livermore put Murphy though on goal – his cross-shot was half cleared and the Ecuadorean was on hand to fire home.
Albion looked comfortable for a while with the hosts unable to create any meaningful chances until they were gifted an opportunity following a mistake by Stefan Johansen. In what was a disappointing evening for the Norway captain, he gave the ball away in the centre of the pitch – Rangers broke quickly and Wells found Freeman who fired powerfully in off Johnstone’s right hand post.
The goal gave the Rs confidence and it was suddenly a very different game. It was much more open up until the break with both sides having chances but after half time, the home side were very much on top.
The Baggies defence had to work hard to keep Rangers out and Ahmed Hegazi was once again excellent in the heart of the back line. It was the hosts turn to gift an opportunity to the opposition but, when Lynch’s poor clearing header fell to Jacob Murphy about 30 yards out, he still had an awful lot to do. He used his pace to streak past the three defenders in front of him and fired a fantastic shot into the bottom corner of the net for the goal of the game.
QPR’s second equaliser followed was from what was at the very best a soft penalty. Having watched the replays, I think it was a dive by Hemed and, if the FA are to start meting out punishments for simulation consistently, Rangers’ Israeli forward should be the next in the dock – I won’t hold my breath, though. As it was, he became the first player to beat Sam Johnstone from the spot this season and it was all square heading into the final 15 minutes.
Darren Moore’s substitutions we’re spot on at Loftus Road. Harper had replaced Montero early in the second half and Gareth Barry had come on for Johansen. Albion looked like the most likely to grab an equaliser and the Baggies fans were delighted to see Matt Phillips make an appearance for the last ten minutes, replacing the excellent Sam Field.
With the hosts playing the last few minutes with ten men following an injury to Luke Freeman, the Baggies were knocking on the door relentlessly, but it looked like it wouldn’t happen. Then, another nice move on the right hand side, a back heel from Harper into the path of Holgate who pushed to the byline and pulled it back for Livermore to sweep home a neat finish. Cue wild celebrations amongst the 1,200 travelling supporters for what could be a huge moment in Albion’s season.
It was by no means a great performance, and it was a game that could have gone either way but, for once, the Baggies got the rub of the green to a degree. Having said that, two huge calls by the referee went against Darren Moore’s team – not only was there the penalty decision, but Rangers’ ‘keeper, Joe Lumley, clearly handled well outside the area in the second half to prevent the ball running through to Jacob Murphy who would have had an empty net in front of him.
There were massive Baggies performances all over the pitch. Not only did Murphy announce himself, but Sam Field and Jake Livermore were impressive in the middle of the park and the Dawson-Hegazi partnership was outstanding once again. J-Rod was out of the limelight for once, but he worked as hard as ever, while the introduction of Barry and Harper was decisive in securing the points.
The win moves Albion to within a point of second-placed Sheffield United whom the host a the Hawthorns on Saturday evening, and keeps the momentum that was generated at Villa Park. If the Baggies can pick up four points from the next two games, they will be handily placed for the run-in.