Leon Balogun’s winner keeps QPR top of Championship table
QPR remained top of the Sky Bet Championship after a 2-1 win over Wigan at Loftus Road to cap a perfect week for the west London club.
Sam Field put Rangers ahead and Leon Balogun quickly restored their lead after Nathan Broadhead’s equaliser.
Rangers’ victory was their fifth in six matches and came 48 hours after boss Mick Beale delighted fans by turning down the chance to manage Wolves.
Field opened the scoring after 12 minutes with a crisp left-footed volley from Stefan Johansen’s left-wing corner.
Johansen’s delivery went over Lyndon Dykes, and Field swept the ball home from nine yards out for his second goal for QPR – his first came on his debut, in February 2021.
Wigan levelled out of nothing 10 minutes later when Rangers failed to clear a long free-kick.
After Jack Whatmough and then Max Power won the ball in the air, Will Keane nodded down to Broadhead, who sent a right-footed volley beyond keeper Seny Dieng and into the bottom corner of the net.
But Balogun, against his former club, netted within a couple minutes with his first goal since joining the R’s in August.
Again it came via a Johansen corner, this time from the right, with Balogun rising to power a header past keeper Ben Amos.
Johansen went off after picking up a knock in the final moments of the first half, which gave Wigan respite from the Norwegian’s set-piece deliveries, and exciting young striker Sinclair Armstrong was withdrawn at the interval.
But Rangers remained a threat and Amos pushed away a strike from Tim Iroegbunam before an audacious piece of skill by Ilias Chair almost led to another goal.
The Morocco international embarrassed Jason Kerr on the left-hand side, cheekily turning away from him and whipping a ball across the face of goal which Dykes was just unable to get to.
Rangers’ recent ability to win without talisman Chris Willock will be a hugely encouraging sign for Beale.
Last time around their season disintegrated under Beale’s predecessor Mark Warburton, partly because Willock was sidelined in March by a hamstring injury.
Rangers also struggled badly without Willock earlier this season but have been excellent since he suffered another hamstring injury, with Chair in scintillating form.
They were deserved winners but survived a late scare when Josh Magennis’ acrobatic effort struck the inside of the post after the forward, who appeared to foul Balogun in the build-up, was found by Graeme Shinnie’s cross.