Match report: QPR 1 Ipswich Town 0 – Matt Phillips scores 88th minute winner as Blues drop out of the Championship play-off places again
Matt Phillips scored in the 88th minute as Ipswich Town lost 1-0 to Queens Park Rangers at a wind-swept Loftus Road this afternoon.
The Blues were battered in a one-sided first half but reached the break level thanks to a series of fine Bartosz Bialkowski saves.
The second period was more even and, as the match entered the last 10 minutes, it looked as though the tide was turning in the favour of Mick McCarthy’s men.
Alex Smithies made a fine close-range stop from Freddie Sears, then Brett Pitman’s crisp volley was blocked in the box as a travelling army numbering more than 3,000 tried to suck the ball into the net.
It was QPR who made the breakthrough though, Phillips stooping to head home substitute Abdenasser El Khayati’s cross into the net with just two minutes to go.
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Ipswich threw the kitchen sink at the hosts in response and twice came desperately close to equalising in stoppage-time.
Sears fired a golden opportunity straight at Smithies, then moments later the home keeper made a sublime close-range stop from the same player after Jonas Knudsen’s long throw-in had caused havoc.
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A frustrating afternoon was then compounded when Ryan Fraser pulled up clutching his hamstring at the death.
Town have now lost three of their last four games in all competitions to exit the FA Cup and slip out of the Championship play-off places once more. This was only QPR’s second victory in 12 matches under new boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.
Blues boss Mick McCarthy made three changes to his team following the 2-1 midweek home win over Reading. The injured Luke Hyam was replaced by Kevin Bru in midfield, while Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Daryl Murphy – both out-of-sorts against the Royals – were replaced by that evening’s super subs Brett Pitman and Luke Varney. That meant a change to a 4-4-2 system, with Sears and Fraser on the flanks and Pitman/Varney up top.
Bialkowski made a superb double stop with just 40 seconds on the clock. First he beat away Phillips’ angled effort, then he got up to keep out Massimo Luongo’s follow-up attempt. It was a phase of play which rather set the tone for the next 45 minutes.
Conor Washington hit the post for the hosts, although the offside flag was raised, then Christophe Berra twice got his team-mates out of jail with some covering tackles On one occasion Knudsen’s clearance had been charged down, on the other Luke Chambers had been spun high up the pitch.
Bialkowski made another fine save in he 20th minute. This time he bravely threw himself at the feet of Junior Hoilett at the far post after Phillips’ ;low cross had evaded everyone in the six-yard box.
QPR created another golden opening just before the half an hour mark after passing their way down the right side. A quick pass from Sebastian Polter sent Hoilett racing clear, but he chose to shoot – Bialkowski equal to the near post effort – rather than square to an unmarked Phillips.
Livewire left-winger Hoilett was popping up all over the place and he curled an effort just wide. At the other end, Pitman hit a tame shot that Smithies easily picked up and there were ironic cheers from the crowd.
The R’s continued to press and twice more they went close in the closing stages of the half. Full-back James Perch fired into the side-netting, following Phillips’ low cross, then Hoilett rifled wide after some slick interplay.
McCarthy changed tactics at the break, moving Sears to the left, Varney to the right and asking Fraser to operate in behind Pitman. It helped. Suddenly the B,ues weren;t being overrun in the middle.
Pitman’s looping header was easily caught, then Hoilett rifled another shot wide. It was far more even.
McCarthy shuffled his pack just before the hour, replacing Varney and Skuse with Murphy and Giles Coke. The two teams continued to trade half chances, Fraser dragging a shot across the face of goal and Bialkowski watching a Phillips shot wide.
Berra’s imperious afternoon continued when he brilliantly cut out Paul Konchesky’s low cross ahead of Washington. Luongo’s shot through the crowd was then comfortably dealt with by Bialkowski.
The game then exploded into life in the final 10 minutes.
Knudsen’s long throw was flicked on by the head of Berra, scrambled further forwards by Pitman and somehow Smithies managed to save from Sears at the near post. Three minutes later, Pitman met Bru’s corner with a sweet volley but Grant Hall threw himself in the way of the goalbound shot.
It was QPR who made the crucial breakthrough though. Sub El Khayati showed neat footwork before clipping a cross to the far post and Phillips stooped to nod home from close-range. Several Ipswich players appealed vociferously for handball earlier in the move but the referee waved away their protests.
The Blues threw everyone forwards at the death and twice they came close to forcing an equaliser in stoppage-time. After Fraser found Knudsen on the overlap, his cross picked out Sears but the striker shot straight at Smithies.
Then, in a nerve-jangling final phase of play, Smithies ending saving from Sears from point-blank range after another Knudsen long throw had caused chaos on the box.
QPR (4-2-3-1): Smithies; Perch, Onuoha (cpt), Hall, Konchesky; Faurlin (Tozser 59), Luongo; Phillips, Washington (El Khayati 81), Hoilett (Mackie 70); Polter. Unused subs: Ingram, Chery, Angella, Petrasso.
IPSWICH TOWN (4-4-2): Bialkowski; Chambers (cpt), Smith, Berra, Knudsen; Sears, Skuse (Coke 58), Bru, Fraser (Toure 90+); Varney (Murphy 58), Pitman.
Unused subs: Henly, Foley, Digby, M-Niles.
Attendance: 17,044 (3,188 away)
Referee: Mr C Breakspear.