QPR 1-3 Watford

Championship leaders QPR were humbled by an extremely impressive Watford side at Loftus Road as Neil Warnock’s team lost for the first time in the league this season.

I decided not to go to this game after what happened last year when the Hornets took on the Hoops at Loftus road, it was postponed and the decision had been made 25 minutes before kick-off. So obviously I was very disappointed and had to go all the way back to Watford without seeing any football. So I watched this game at a friend’s house. Anyway, that’s enough of me whinging and moaning.

Rangers went into the fixture 90 minutes away from equalling the club record of 20 league matches without defeat, but they were outplayed by a Hornets side that counter-attacked brilliantly. Also, Rangers had not conceded more than once in any of their previous 10 home league fixtures this season and had defeated high-flying Cardiff in their previous match at Loftus Road.

QPR’s 4-2-3-1 system normally offers plenty of protection to the defence, but they were run ragged by the likes of Graham, Mutch, Will Buckley and Don Cowie as Malky Mackay’s side took their tally to 38 goals in the Championship this season, more than any other team.
The evening started well enough for the home side, who almost took the lead when former Hornets striker Heidar Helguson forced a one-handed save from the highly-rated Scott Loach with a crisp strike from 14 yards.

But Watford, who defeated Leicester last weekend to end a run of seven games without a win, soon hinted that they had the ability to cause their opponents problems when Buckley ghosted into the QPR area before forcing a save from Kenny with a low strike across goal.

Buckley should perhaps have placed his shot further away from Kenny, but there were no such problems for Graham, who poked the ball beyond the QPR keeper from eight yards to open the scoring. The Watford striker had been left completely unmarked as he converted Andrew Taylor’s cross and there was more sloppy defending shortly afterwards as Buckley was played through, but once again he could find no way past Kenny.

However, Mackay’s team doubled their advantage when Mutch’s looping cross evaded both Martin Taylor and Matthew Connolly as they challenged for the ball and nestled in the bottom corner with Kenny caught flat-footed. However, Watford’s Stephen McGinn appeared to be struck by an object thrown from the crowd as he joined Mutch to celebrate the goal but it seemed as though nothing could knock the visiting team out of their stride.

That second goal meant that Neil Warnock’s team trailed by two goals at the break and things got even worse for Neil Warnock when the decisive third goal came minutes after the restart, when the home side’s failure to clear their lines was punished by Graham, who took one touch to steady himself after collecting a through ball before shooting beyond Kenny.

Rangers – and manager Warnock in particular – were incensed by the absence of an offside flag but replays suggested it had just about been the correct decision by the referee’s assistant to allow play to continue.

QPR’s mercurial forward Adel Taarabt had shown occasional glimpses of the brilliance with which he has illuminated the Championship this season and he was inches away from pulling a goal back with a curling free-kick. But it had been a largely disappointing performance from Rangers, who struggled to retain possession and were occasionally overrun in midfield.

And Watford went close again before the break after Mutch collected a return pass from Graham at the end of a sweeping move, but his shot was blocked by Clint Hill.

Another sweeping break required a brilliant headed clearance on the line from Shaun Derry to prevent Mutch from scoring again, while Graham had a follow-up effort blocked after a low strike had been saved by Kenny. Skipper Taarabt was substituted before the hour mark but Rangers did not give up and Loach made good saves to deny Jamie Mackie and Hill.

Rangers, who were clearly frustrated by a series of decisions that they felt went against them, also had a penalty appeal turned down after Martin Taylor tangled with Mackie. The home did eventually score, with former Watford trainee Tommy ‘Smudger’ Smith converting a lay-off from Mackie, but the goal came too late to affect the result.

So after that much-deserved win, Watford climbed up to eighth place in the Npower Championship League table and must surely be favourites when Watford host Preston North End at Vicarage Road on Saturday. Can’t wait.

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