Middlesbrough were edged out by QPR in a topsy-turvy clash as they slipped to their first defeat of the Championship season.
Uche Ikpeazu got Neil Warnock’s side off to the perfect start in a hugely impressive first half, but Rangers came roaring back in the second period and, despite going down to 10 men, extended their unbeaten start to the campaign.
Mark Warburton’s side turned the game on its head with two quickfire goals at the start of the second period and then snatched the points after Matt Crooks had drawn level.
Boro rewarded for rapid start
QPR didn’t know what had hit them!
Rangers arrived at the Riverside buzzing on the back of a 3-0 dismantling of Hull at the weekend, but they very quickly discovered that Boro were going to pose an altogether different challenge.
Boro didn’t let the visitors breathe early on. They swarmed all over them in a blistering opening spell, pressing high, pouncing on loose balls, attacking at speed. Isaiah Jones and Djed Spence were positive and direct, Uche Ikpeazu immediately set about roughing up the centre-halves.
Somehow the away goal survived an assault in the sixth minute when first Jonny Howson hit the post, then Jones saw his rebound cleared off the line and then Matt Crooks headed wide. But any Rangers relief was short lived. From the resulting corner, referee Steve Martin blew for a foul when Dael Fry was challenged in the air, and Uche Ikpeazu coolly slotted home from the spot. It was the very least Boro deserved.
Ikpeazu making his presence felt
At the end of last week, Neil Warnock said he initially planned for Uche Ikpeazu to be second or third choice striker this season.
Regardless of who comes in up-top ahead of the August deadline, they’re going to have their work cut out to get the former Wycombe striker out of the team.
He battered QPR in the first half. Everything that went forward struck to him. QPR simply didn’t have the answers. He chased. He won headers. He brought others into play. He got shots away at every opportunity. And he scored. It might sound simple and obvious, but it’s good to see a striker grabbing the ball and taking a penalty.
That’s two in two for Ikpeazu at the Riverside, who has the fans very much on side thanks to his all-action, tireless centre-forward play. Boro look a completely different team with an effective centre-forward to play off.
Ikpeazu didn’t have quite the same impact in the second half as QPR started to put Boro on the back foot. He was replaced by Akpom after 71 exhaustive minutes. Boro’s man of the match.
There was a moment late in the first half that summed up everything good about Boro in the opening 45 minutes.
Isaiah Jones sprinted from the left flank all the way to the opposite side of the pitch to put a QPR defender under pressure and force a mistake. The effort and challenge was greeted by applause from delighted boss Warnock. That’s what he wants: hunger, desire. And he got it in the bucketload in the first half. He must have been overjoyed with what he’d seen as he got the lads in for a half-time debrief.
What followed, however, was a dramatic eight minute turnaround as QPR struck twice to turn the game on its head and stun Boro. In what was a dramatic start to the second period, the visitors drew level when a hopeful cross from the left was turned into his own net by the stretching Jonny Howson.
Within two minutes, Boro looked to have snatched back the initiative as Moses Odubajo was given his second yellow card for sending Jones sprawling. But rather than take advantage, Boro fell behind when Lyndon Dykes’ strike flashed through the legs of Joe Lumley at his front post. The keeper will have been disappointed.
Who was your Man of the Match against QPR?
Second half chaos as Boro lose control
QPR had Boro where they wanted them. Yes, they were down to 10 men, but Mark Warburton’s side are so comfortable and clever in possession, and for quarter of an hour or so after their second goal they managed the game well.
Boro needed a spark. Step forward Isaiah Jones, who snatched possession deep in the QPR half and teed up Matt Crooks to lash home his second goal in as many games at the Riverside.
Again, like the QPR red card, that should have been the springboard from which Boro took control. Instead, they again lost control.
The midfield and defence, so assured in the opening period, was all over the place in the second half and disjointed Boro were made to pay when Chris Willock picked his spot. Warnock’s promotion winning teams of the past have been streetwise and managed games so well but Boro did the opposite here. Indeed, immediately after falling behind, Boro were lucky not to be out of the game completely when Willock again ran through and should have scored, only to be denied by Lumley.
Boro pushed for another leveller, with Djed Spence going close when he met a cross from the left. And the fourth official’s board that indicated 10 minutes of added time was greeted by a roar. But there was to be no final twist.