Queens Park Rangers added to their superb start to the 21/22 season on Wednesday night, as they beat Neil Warnock’s much-fancied Middlesbrough side 3-2 at the Riverside, despite playing 45 minutes with just 10 men.
It was an incredibly entertaining game between the two sides in midweek, filled with end to end action and plenty of drama, another example of just why so many people love the second tier. Middlesbrough took the lead early on thanks to a fairly dubious penalty decision, labelled as ‘ridiculous’ from Rangers boss Mark Warburton. However, QPR showed plenty of character to come back, levelling early in the second half via a Johnny Howson OG. A red card to Moses Odubajo soon followed, and many would have expected Boro to use their numerical advantage and go onto win.
However that was not the case, a Lyndon Dykes volley put Rangers in front, before QPR again came back from adversity to make it 3-2 after Matt Crooks had levelled the scores for Warnock’s side.
The winner was scored by fan favourite Chris Willock, a player who has really come into his own in the past 6 months under MW, showing that talent really does run in the Willock family.
The result has left Warburton with some tricky decisions ahead of their weekend clash with Barnsley – here we look at 2 dilemmas the QPR boss will face.
Who plays up front
Warburton started with Scottish forward Lyndon Dykes on Wednesday, the selection certainly bearing fruit, as the hard-working Scot was excellent throughout, holding the ball up well and being rewarded with his 56th-minute goal. Warburton’s selection proved correct, however, it was mainly forced due to Charlie Austin’s slight injury that kept him out of QPR’s previous fixture with Hull City. And one thing the boss wouldn’t have wanted to see was Dykes hobbling off with 25 minutes to play.
The extent of his injury isn’t yet known, however, if it is to prove serious, then Rangers may find themselves having to rush Austin back to a full 90 against the Tykes, something that could prove an issue. Another potential problem facing the R’s Gaffer is the incident involving Austin towards the end of the game against Boro, replays appear to show Austin head-butting Grant Hall as he attempted to free himself from the defender’s clutches. Boro fans were furious that it went unpunished, and retrospective action could be heading the way of the experienced goal-getter.
If Dykes is injured and Austin banned, who does MW start, youngster Charlie Kelman is the other striker in the first team, however is seen as incredibly raw and not yet ready to shoulder the responsibility of a starting role. He may find himself thrust into the spotlight come 12:30 on Saturday though if Warburton’s hand is forced.
Can Lee Wallace go again?
One of the standout performers in 2021 for QPR, former Glasgow Rangers captain Lee Wallace has been a key fixture in the Rangers’ defence since their fortunes turned at the beginning of this calendar year. Wallace has shown plenty of energy (despite his age) with his wealth of knowledge and experience making a massive impact within the dressing room, according to the QPR staff.
One issue that Wallace does have, is that he sometimes struggles to cope with the brutal nature of the Championship, with 3 games in 7 days potentially being too much for the Scottish left-back.
Could this mean that QPR fans will get to see Norwich City loanee Sam McCallum in action at Loftus Road? The energetic fullback has yet to be given a start for the R’s but may see that chance come his way if Wallace isn’t past as ready for the Saturday fixture.
McCallum will have big shoes to fill, however, his energy and athleticism could prove a handful for the Barnsley right-hand side to deal with, thus giving Warburton another dimension to his attacks.