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  • By Dan Evans at Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium

Returning Chris Willock fails to spark QPR’s attack in West Brom defeat

Queens Park Rangers (0) 0

West Bromwich Albion (0) 1 Bartley 69’

The return of Chris Willock was not enough to inspire Queens Park Rangers as they fell to a disappointing 1-0 loss to West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.

A disjointed performance was punished midway through the second half when West Brom’s Kyle Bartley headed home the decisive goal, meaning QPR fell to their first home defeat since the middle of August.

Despite welcoming talisman Willock back into the starting XI after more than a month on the side-lines, a nervous start by the home side meant a bumper crowd never really found its voice.

West Brom arrived in West London with the confidence of a team in throes of a new manager bounce and with a level of playing talent on the field that suggests they should really not have been starting the day second bottom of the Championship table.

Former Rangers forward Matty Phillips and ex-Millwall man Jed Wallace were dangerous from the get go, although it was fellow attacker Grady Diangana who passed up the game’s first real chance when he tapped wide from close-range after a Jason Molumby shot had been parried.

A disciplined defensive approach from the visitors prevented QPR from building attacks from the back in Beale’s preferred style, and after both Rob Dickie and Leon Balogun had coughed up possession in their own half on separate occasions they soon began to take the route one approach.

Luke Amos managed to get on the wrong side of the West Brom midfield for the first time on 25 minutes, opening up the game and releasing the excellent Tim Iroegbunam before the Aston Villa loanee shot wide of the near post.

With the home support lifted for the first time, Rangers started to look more like themselves.

Willock remained rusty yet his clever tricks and intelligent flicks began to work more often than they did not, whilst Ilias Chair’s increased influence on the game once again proved he is more than simply a support act.

Lyndon Dykes came closest to opening the scoring though, expertly controlling a Chair pass on his chest before forcing Alex Palmer into a sprawling save from all of 20 yards.

A confusing QPR performance only posed more questions as the interval approached, with yet another aimless Dickie long ball causing Loftus Road to groan with frustration before some brilliant Willock footwork to start an attack in injury-time gave supporters hope there would be something worth returning for after half-time.

QPR looked the more likely as the second half unfolded, but it was a rare moment of quality on an agricultural early winter afternoon that decided the game in favour of the Baggies.

After a mistimed challenge by Sam Field on the edge of his own box brought down Bartley, a glorious John Swift set-piece landed perfectly on the head of the big centre-back to head past Dieng on 69 minutes.

With Willock’s influence understandably waning as the minutes passed, and QPR’s bench lacking options due to recent injuries picked up by Tyler Roberts and Stefan Johansen, an equaliser never came close to materialising.

A shot from QPR’s top scorer that flashed across the face of goal five minutes from time proved a rare moment of panic for the visitors.

It was the type of performance that should perhaps be expected this early into a new manager’s reign at a club that barely spent a penny in the summer, but given what we have seen of Beale, QPR and Willock so far this season, Loftus Road felt justifiably disappointed at the final whistle.

Queens Park Rangers: (4-3-3) Dieng – Laird (Armstrong 89), Dickie, Balogun, Paal – Amos (Dozzell 61), Field, Iroegbunam (Adomah 83) – Willock, Dykes, Chair. Subs not used: Archer, Dunne, Thomas, Shodipo

West Bromwich Albion: (4-3-3) Palmer - Furlong, Bartley, O’Shea, Pieters (Townsend 83) – Molumby, Yokuslu (Livermore 89), Swift – Wallace (Gardner-Hickman 89), Phillips (Reach 83), Diangana (Thomas-Asante 63). Subs not used: Button, Rogic


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