Cole Skuse (right) reacts after a decision goes against him on Saturday.

Cole Skuse (right) reacts after a decision goes against him on Saturday.

Ipswich v QPR: Ipswich Town’s nine-game unbeaten run was brought to an end as they once again came up just short against one of the Championship front-runners, QPR ruthlessly exploiting three defensive lapses in the second half to run out 3-1 winners at Portman Road.

The Blues had produced arguably their best performance of the season in an entertaining and end-to-end goalless first half, but that was quickly forgotten as Niko Kranjcar, Gary O’Neil and Armand Traore all netted after the break.

Tommy Smith scored a fantastic consolation goal in stoppage-time – providing an acrobatic finish at a corner – but the damage had been done, Kranjcar having dribbled past three players for his goal, Gerken pushing a long-range shot straight into O’Neil’s path and Smith making a hash of a long ball over the top.

It was only the fourth defeat in 24 games for Town, who have now lost to the division’s top three (Leicester, Burnley and QPR) at home.

Mick McCarthy’s side drop from sixth to ninth as a result, while QPR remain hot on the heels of second-place Burnley.

The first half may have ended goalless, but it was a 45 minutes as entertaining and end-to-end as you could wish for.

Ipswich dominated possession in the opening exchanges, passing the ball about as patiently and confidently as they have done all season.

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Their first chance arrived in the 10th minute when Paul Taylor robbed Clint Hill of possession on the halfway line, driving forwards but failing to get his head up to spot the superb run of David McGoldrick to his left, eventually running into traffic.

Town began to gradually step up the pressure and continued to look a real threat on the counter-attack. After a poor Joey Barton corner was cleared, Taylor sent McGoldrick away with a raking pass, he wriggled his way into the box but could only fire over as QPR players buzzed around him.

The Blues went even closer in the 24th minute when Luke Chambers played an inadvertent one-two with Paul Anderson, his close-range shot pushed out by Rob Green and hacked away by Barton following an almighty goalmouth scramble.

If Taylor had been guilty of poor decision making at the end of a good counter-attacking move earlier in the match, it was Anderson’s turn in the 29th minute. It was Hill who once again got caught on the ball high up the pitch, Anderson intercepting and racing clear before dallying when he should have either gone for goal or squared to McGoldrick.

QPR had produced little going forwards, but suddenly came to life as the match entered a frenetic end-to-end spell on the half hour mark.

First O’Neil’s low cross flashed across the face of the goal after good build-up play including Kranjcar and Austin.

Soon afterwards Gerken made a magnificent reaction save from Austin’s close-range header, adjusting in the blink of an eye to tip the ball over the bar, following O’Neil’s teasing cross.

Ipswich, again, countered quickly from the resultant corner. This time Taylor was crowded out in the box by the back-tracking defenders.

The goalmouth action did not relent. After Smith and Cole Skuse left a long ball to each other, Austin looked destined to score until Berra produced a fantastic saving slide tackle in the box.

Minutes later, Chambers hacked the ball clear after Skuse had inadvertently stopped Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s free-kick delivery dead on the edge of the six-yard box.

The breathless half ended with Barton limping off with a thigh injury and Green saving Anderson’ crisp 30-yard shot at the second attempt.

The deadlock was finally broken eight minutes after the restart. Kranjcar collected a throw-in out by the left touchline, turned Chambers, drifted past Luke Hyam and Taylor before sending a low, angled shot into the bottom right corner of the goal.

It was Premier League class from the former Tottenham man, but poor defending from an Ipswich point of view.

The goal allowed QPR to take the sting out the match. And when their second arrived in the 66th minute it looked game, set and match.

Benayoun found Austin with a reverse pass, he raced forwards, Berra backed off and the shot from the edge of the box dipped at the last minute. Gerken still should have done better, palming the ball straight into the path of the on-running O’Neil for a tap in.

QPR’s third arrived in the 74th minute and on this occasion there was no doubting that this was a mistake. Smith swung and missed at Hill’s long boot upfield, allowing sub Traore to chest forwards and poke past an exposed Gerken.

Ipswich were well-beaten, but Smith netted a superb consolation goal just as the match entered stoppage-time. The centre-back met Stephen Hunt’s corner delivery with an acrobatic kick from 12 yards out to beat Green.

IPSWICH TOWN (4-3-3): Gerken; Chambers (cpt) (Mings 86), Berra, Smith, Cresswell; Skuse, Hyam (Nouble. 72), Tunnicliffe; Taylor, McGoldrick, Anderson (Hunt 72).

Subs: Loach, Tabb, Edwards, Lee.

QPR (4-5-1): Green; Simpson, Hill (cpt), Dunne, Assou-Ekotto; O’Neil, Barton (Henry 40), Kranjcar (Phillips 85), Carroll, Benayoun (Traore 67); Austin.

Subs: Murphy, Johnson, Wright-Phillips, Onuoha.

Attendance: 18,369 (1,534 away)

Referee: Philip Dowd

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