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  • Writer's pictureBy Yann Tear at Loftus Road

QPR begin month of home games with deflating New Year's Day defeat to Cardiff City

QPR (0) 1 Smyth 52

Cardiff City (1) 2 Goutas 16, Ng 74

Rangers slipped to a fourth defeat in five games as they were undone by two headers at corners.

It was a hugely disappointing start to the new year and a January calendar comprising entirely home fixtures. The FA Cup tie next weekend against Bournemouth is followed by increasingly vital fixtures against Watford, Millwall and Huddersfield.

The Marti Cifuentes bounce feels well and truly over now and even if Rangers did manage a fine goal through Paul Smyth to make it 1-1 after the interval, that is still only two goals scored in six matches.

They remain in the relegation zone, four points from safety.

Rangers could have done without falling behind so early - and to a very defendable set piece at that. All it took from an inswinging Joe Ralls corner was for Dimitrios Goutas to get the better of Ziyad Larkeche to nod past Asmir Begovic.

And after Rangers had drawn level and started to ask questions of the Welsh visitors, they fell behind again 15 minutes from the end when defender Perry Ng rose at the far post to head in a flag kick from Ryan Wintle.

It took an age for the Hoops to get going but, attacking the Loft End in the second half, they finally animated a semi-comatose New Year's Day crowd and the noise levels rose as half-time sub Rayan Kolli's angled cross from deep was met by Smyth's unerring far-post volley.

It was only the Ulsterman's second goal of the campaign for Rangers and he almost bagged a second for the afternoon with a low left foot shot from the edge of the area which flashed narrowly wide.

Asmir Begovic did well to keep out two Rubin Colwill shots - one after the Cardiff player had burst into the danger zone from the left, the second from a low first-time effort from a corner.

And the R's were indebted to the experience stopper again when substitute Josh Bowler wriggled past players before almost finding the bottom corner.

But the keeper was powerless to stop Cardiff from regaining the lead with another corner swung into the six-yard box which should have been dealt with as a matter of routine.

Sinclair Armstrong came within a whisker of levelling it in the final minute of the 90, holding off a defender to get in a header which keeper Jak Ainwick saved with an acrobatic leap.

But in truth, Rangers did not do enough, failing to cash in when they were on top in the moments after drawing level. There was a distinct lack of guile in attack and the absence of injured pair Chris Willock and Ilias Chair did not help.

Lyndon Dykes did add some experience to a very raw-looking line-up which seems to be in a state of perpetual flux. However, there was precious little for home fans to get excited about. Against a mid-table Cardiff side who were also under-strength because of injuries, it was a missed opportunity.

A crucial month lies ahead.

R's: (4-3-3) Begovic - Cannon, Dunne, Clarke-Salter (Fox 80), Larkeche (Kolli h/t) (Armstrong 81) - Dozzell, Field, Paal - Smyth, Dykes, Dixon-Bonner (Adomah 67)

Bluebirds: (4-3-3) Alnwick - Ng, Goutas, McGuinness, Collins (Panzo 90) - Ralls, Wintle, Siopis (Adams 90) - Meite, Etete (Bowler 60), Colwill Tanner 74)

Attendance: 16,849

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