QPR 1 - 2 BURTON ALBIONBurton Albion took full advantage of pulling forward their fixture with QPR as goals from Luke Murphy and Lloyd Dyer inspired a second away win of the season at Loftus Road.
Murphy's first goal in Albion colours was something to behold as he ran perfectly onto Dyer's lay off to smash a 25 yard piledriver beyond a static Alex Smithies after just eleven minutes and that was the platform for a workmanlike and disciplined performance to grab a precious three points. Dyer's fifth of the season, seven minutes after the break was a reward for some excellent passing, the experienced winger drilling a low shot under the keeper to put the Brewers two to the good.
Substitute Conor Washington's effort on 63 minutes halved the deficit and set up a nervy last half an hour but Ian Holloway's side, for all their pressing in and around the Burton penalty area could not fashion a significant chance to produce an equaliser whilst Dyer was thwarted by Smithies as he looked to restore Albion's two goal lead with less that 20 minutes left.
The result pulled Albion up to 20th in the SkyBet Championship above both Wigan and Bristol City and just two points behind Nottingham Forest. Rangers had been in good form going into the game with ten points from their last twelve available in the league in contrast to Albion's run of seven defeats in eight outings in the Championship but the Brewers threw the formbook out of the window to record an impressive victory in West London.
Nigel Clough went for three changes in the search for points at Loftus Road. With Kyle McFadzean struggling with a toe problem the back four underwent something of a reshuffle. Damien McCrory returned to the side at left back meaning a change of role for Tom Flanagan, pushed across to the right hand side. Further up the pitch, Tom Naylor and Lucas Akins dropped out of the starting line-up as Jackson Irvine made a welcome return from injury, his first appearance since the home game against Preston North End at the start of the month, and new loan signing Lasse Vigen Christensen came in to add to more attacking verve to the side. Marvin Sordell continued as the lone striker.
The game was barely 45 seconds old when Albion briefly had an injury concern. Australian midfielder Massimo Luongo drove to the edge of ther box before meeting a meaty challenge from John Brayford to stop him in his tracks. It was a jarring challenge and after momentarily carrying on the popular defender went to ground again shortly afterwards and, unable to continue after treatment from Nick Fenton, made way for skipper John Mousinho with just over three minutes on the clock.
After soaking up QPR pressure for a few moments a swift counter attack produced a stunning goal for the Brewers. Lloyd Dyer and Matty Palmer led the breakout from a booming Irvine header inside his penalty box and when Dyer peeled away at the back post to pick up Palmer's deep angled cross he laid it perfectly into the path of MURPHY to drill home from 25 yards with Alex Smithies rooted to the spot as it nestled in the bottom corner of his net.
QPR began to warm to the task of getting themselves level and Luongo again proved a threat making a late run into the box onto a pass from Kazenga LuaLua only for Ben Turner to stand in the way and block his early shot.
Albion almost extended their lead from a set piece when Palmer curled in a free kick from wide out on the right and Irvine rose highest in the box to loop a header over the bar.
The QPR attacking threat was also evident from Polish midfielder Pawel Wszolek who began to exploit room on the Burton left to try and create something for Idrissa Sylla in the middle.
Mousinho and Ben Turner were kept extremely busy at the back as crosses from the wide areas kept being pumped into Albion's box nut for the main part the pairing held firm and decisively dealt with whatever was thrown in from the likes of LuaLua and Wszolek.
Christensen had been fairly quiet during the opening period until the 40th minute came around and the Dane was allowed to drift into a central area with the ball at his feet before trying a left foot shot that rebounded off a defender with skipper Nedum Onuoha eventually getting it clear despite the presence of Sordell almost forcing an error from the experienced defender.
When the added time board went up showing three minutes, mainly for the injury to Brayford, there were a few nerves amongst Albion followers but with little to trouble either keeper Albion's lead was safely kept in tact until the break.
Half time: QPR 0-1 Burton Albion
Christensen found himself in referee Geoff Eltringham's book in the early moments of the second half for a non too subtle pull back on LuaLua. Six minutes into the second period though Albion doubled their lead in excellent fashion. The attacking trio of Irvine. Christensen and Dyer were all involved with some neat passing. Dyer's burst into the box had QPR back pedalling and after exchanging passes with Christensen the former Leicester winger clinically finished under Smithies for his fifth of the season.
The goal came just as a deluge of hail finished soaking the Loftus Road pitch. A period of the game where Brewers keeper Jon MCLaughlin showed exceptionally good handling as the home side put him under pressure from corners and crosses.
Just after the hour mark it was game on again as half time substitute Conor Washington halved the arrears. A break through the middle had Albion stretched and the former Peterborough man was prowling on the left hand side of the box, seeing his first shot blocked before the rebound came back to him to lash home high into the roof of the net via a deflection.
Sylla then had a great chance to equalise on 69 minutes. LuaLua found room on the left to slide a pass through to the striker on the edge of the six yard box. Turning on the spot he would have expected to find the target but fortunately for Albion Irvine was there to get in a vital block and preserve Albion's lead.
Albion quickly broke up field once more and the combination of Irvine and Dyer almost had Albion's lead restored. Dyer overlapping on the left raced onto a pass and tried to beat Smithies from almost the same angle as before but this time the keeper got something on the ball and scrambled it clear.
Washington too was in the mood for more goals and it took an excellent dash from his line by McLaughlin to deny him inside the box as he ran through looking for the equaliser.
Lucas Akins was brought on to add some fresh legs on the Burton right, Christensen seeing his debut cut short to allow the winger to come on.
QPR were piling on the pressure and pumping more and more balls into the Burton box. Sylla was inches away from connecting with an angled cross on 85 minutes, timing his run well but unable to get a good connection.
Albion were forced into their final change on 87 minutes with a first view of Cauley Woodrow called for as Sordell made his way gingerly off the field. In a last throw of the dice QPR threw on popular front man Jamie Mackie in place of left back Jake Bidwell.
Stoppage time signalled another four minutes for Albion to hold out. Full back Darnell Furlong looped a header over the crossbar as the home side continued to press. Woodrow suffered a cut to the face that necessitated more treatment, adding to the stoppage time and when QPR got back on the attack once more Sylla flicked a header wide with the last chance of the game.
Under the circumstances this was a fantastic victory for Albion, lifting themselves out of the bottom three after falling into it for the first time last week. The first goals of 2017 had taken their time in arriving but when they did, they inspired a crucial win for Clough's men. Now on to Fulham on Wednesday.