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  • Writer's pictureBy Yann Tear at Loftus Road

Upbeat mood after QPR draw with Albion is totally fitting for a night dedicated to legendary Stan Bowles

QPR (1) 2 Field 17, 81

West Brom (2) 2 Johnston 25, Diangana 27

The new-found surge of optimism is starting to take root now - and it feels like it was meant to be on a night when Rangers honoured one of their all-time greats.

QPR badly wanted to make their own send-off to the great Stan Bowles one to remember, and they duly served up a dish the former king of Loftus Road would have approved of.

On a night of breathtaking drama, Sam Field scored the opener and the leveller either side of a two-goal salvo from the Baggies, but that barely tells the tale of night of high-octane thrills.

Rangers had a penalty saved at 2-1 down and at the end their overwhelming pressure threatened to result in a repeat scoreline from the famous 1967 Wembley League Cup final against Albion. All the game lacked was that final poetic goal to make it 3-2.

This was the first home game for the club since the sad news came of the passing of the 75-year-old maverick after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer's.

Anyone lucky enough to witness that silky left foot and elusive sashaying around bemused defenders will understand why it is R's fans have been eternally in love with one of the great stars of that wonderful 1976 team.

Many of his team-mates that ran Liverpool so close in the title race that year turned up to wave to fans at half-time. Among them, Gerry Francis, Ian Gillard, Frank McLintock, Don Shanks and Dave Thomas were all booked in to come and share the occasion.

A fan mosaic was unveiled across the entire length of the Stanley Bowles Stand, with the wording ‘Bowles 10’. In the company of Bowles' son Carl and two grandchildren, close friend Shanks joined the throng ahead of kick-off.

Chants of 'Stanley, Stanley,' rang out along with heart-felt applause in the 10th minute - the shirt number he graced.

And the force seemed to be with the R's when they took the lead 17 minutes in, having already created a couple of decent half-chances.

Ilias Chair picked up a loose ball to fire low from outside the box and keeper Alex Palmer made a hash of it, spilling the ball in front on him. New Swiss striker Michael Frey nearly picked up the pieces but went down under a challenge from the keeper. No matter, Lucas Andersen was there to square to Field for a tap-in.

The lead was short-lived. Mikey Johnston - a winger on loan from Celtic - was allowed to cut in from the left past Jimmy Dunne and Paul Smyth before unleashing a shot that flew in off the near post past Asmir Begovic's right hand.

And we had hardly drawn breath before Grady Diangana fired Albion in front after collecting a cross and cutting into space before rifling home from 12 yards.

Rangers should have restored parity after 51 minutes when Adam Reach handled an Andersen cross to concede a penalty, only for Palmer to save Frey's spot-kick low to his left.

Moments later and Field was denied by a superb illegal clearance off the line from Cedric Kipre, which replays showed to have been handled from just under the bar. The action was so quick that no-one saw it - at least no-one appealed.

But the R's relentless pressure eventually told, with Field picking up the pieces to nod in from close range from a ball rebounding off an upright - Steve Cook's effort almost going in before Field's follow-up.

In a frantic finish, Cook - of all people - sent an overhead kick looping goalwards, only for former Rangers man Darnell Furlong to somehow head out from off the goalline.

Rangers were mightily unlucky not to win, but there can be no denying they have turned a corner in their fight for survival, giving play-off hopefuls like Albion such a testing night.

Three wins on the bounce ahead of tonight - two of them away from home - have brought about a significant mood shift at Loftus Road. The identity of their previous opponents was also significant.

Leicester City have been cutting a swathe through the Championship on a seemingly unstoppable march back to the Premier League, but Rangers beat the Foxes in their own back yard.

The identity of the match winner added more fuel to that growing belief that this season is going to end well. It was only his fourth goal of the campaign in 30 appearances - mostly off the bench - and he has more bookings to his name than strikes, with six, but Sinclair Armstrong embodies future hope in W12.

The 20-year-old Irishman's dynamism is a source of excitement and although he did not play a part against Albion, he is a useful weapon waiting in the wings.

So, there is still work to do for Marti Cifuentes' team, but they have another precious point in the battle to stay out of the bottom three and look more than capable of kicking on.

QPR: (4-2-3-1) Begovic - Dunne, Cook, Clarke-Salter (Fox 80), Paal (Dykes 80) - Hayden (Hodge 60), Field - Smyth, Andersen (Willock 72), Chair - Frey

Albion: (4-2-3-1) Palmer - Furlong, Kipre, Pieters, Reach (Pipa 60) - Yokuslu (Chalobah 79), Mowatt - Fellows (Ajayi 54), Diaganaga (Swift 79), Johnston (Weimann 79) - Wallace

Attendance: 16,818


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