Preston 0-2 QPR: Smyth and Willock goals earn win
Paul Smyth and Chris Willock were on target as new QPR boss Marti Cifuentes secured back-to-back victories with a 2-0 win over Preston at Deepdale.
Rangers had struggled in the difficult conditions in the opening 45 minutes, but goals from Smyth and Willock were enough to secure a second straight victory for the first time this season.
Preston, meanwhile, missed their chance to move back into the top six thanks to a third straight loss.
After Cifuentes had indicated before kick-off that he felt the game ought to have been called off, both sets of players did appear to be treading somewhat carefully during the uneventful opening stages.
It was North End who fashioned the first half-chance after 15 minutes.
Mads Frokjaer’s out-swinging corner-kick was eventually worked out towards the unmarked Ched Evans, only for the Welshman to guide a disappointing shot straight at grateful keeper Asmir Begovic.
Preston were looking the more enterprising of the teams, with Duane Holmes looking particularly lively. Will Keane just could not stretch to meet one of his dangerous crosses.
The hosts were definitely looking the most likely to force any kind of breakthrough, with Rangers rarely threatening at all as the game edged towards half-time.
Whether the wintry conditions had been a factor was debatable, but Cifuentes’ men finally caught a sight of goal in the 38th minute.
Midfielder Willock made a decent run towards the edge of the Preston box, but saw his strike roll harmlessly past the far post.
At the other end Evans saw a shot blocked, and by the end of the opening period both goalkeepers had been largely spectators on a bitterly cold Lancashire evening.
Preston opened more purposefully after the break. A smart corner routine saw Ben Whiteman find skipper Alan Browne, only for his shot to be blocked.
Rangers replied with Smyth guiding a glancing header narrowly off target.
The much-needed breakthrough soon followed from Rangers.
Smyth made no mistake this time, darting into the six-yard box to poke home sub Ilias Chair’s dangerous in-swinging cross.
Chair was inspired, and minutes later lashed in a shot which forced Freddie Woodman into a competent stop.
Preston, who were humbled 4-0 at Middlesbrough on Tuesday night, had lost their way, and they were certainly not helped by Holmes’ poor attempt from a free-kick with 25 minutes left.
Rangers sub Elijah Dixon-Bonner drove an effort narrowly wide as his side sought a potentially victory-clinching second goal.
And Rangers deservedly got their second in the 87th minute.
Chair was the provider again, crossing in for an unmarked Willock to slot home comfortably.