Rangers with a Bolton out of the blue
QPR’s 2-0 victory over Bolton improves their record to five wins since the end of October – which might not sound like much to shout about.
However, apart from Rangers’ New Year’s Day success against promotion-chasing Cardiff, each of those wins has been achieved against teams below them in the Championship table.
And, coincidentally, all against teams whose names begin with the letter B… but let’s not read too much into that, unless it hints at an upturn in fortunes when Ian Holloway’s side face Brentford again later in the season.
The point is that, by the time Rangers visit Griffin Park in late April, they have every reason to hope their Championship safety may already be assured.
Because they have finally discovered the knack of winning against the league’s strugglers – a quality that was conspicuously absent earlier in the season.
Failure to put away Burton Albion, Sunderland and, yes, Bolton kept QPR bobbing along with heads only just above the troubled waters occupied by their opponents.
But Rangers now look more resolute in terms of seeing games out and, having fought their way over the line against Barnsley a fortnight earlier, they did the same to Bolton.
Admittedly, whereas the Rs had finished the Barnsley game with 10 men, this time it was the visitors who spent most of the second half short-handed after Mark Little’s dismissal for an untidy lunge on Massimo Luongo.
Yet Rangers had looked the better side before Little’s red card and continued to do so afterwards, even if they were made to wait until the 72nd minute to break the stalemate through Joel Lynch’s header.
Prior to that, Holloway’s side had carved out plenty of scoring chances, with Luongo, Luke Freeman, Jake Bidwell and Matt Smith all thwarted by Bolton keeper Ben Alnwick.
Smith, it must be said, remains enigmatic – an old-fashioned centre-forward whose limited mobility is countered by his aerial strength.
The Rangers striker managed to direct several headers off target before nodding back Freeman’s cross for Lynch to nudge over the line.
And it was Smith who sealed his side’s victory in injury time, heading a floated cross from substitute Paul Smyth accurately into the bottom corner.
Ultimately, a centre-forward who finds the net at some stage in the game will probably have done enough to keep his place in the side.
And if Rangers can collect a few more wins of this type, they will probably have done enough to keep their place in this league.