Andre Gray scored a dramatically late winner as QPR came from behind to beat a resilient Derby 2-1 on Monday night.
Tom Lawrence’s bright opener had given Wayne Rooney’s bottom-of-the-table Rams the dream start (10), but Chris Willock’s composed finish saw Rangers level after the break (50).
But in the final minute of normal time at Pride Park, substitute Gray took control of a loose ball, took two touches, turned and fired in the goal that sealed a fourth win in five games for Mark Warburton’s team.
They move above West Brom into third as a consequence, with Derby unable to add to their points tally after another largely encouraging performance.
How QPR’s reappearance broke Derby hearts
Given the fact Derby had taken four points from Championship front-runners Fulham and Bournemouth over the last eight days, they had every right to be brimming with confidence for the visit of another high-flying side – and inside 30 seconds, they were almost ahead.
Nathan Byrne rode a challenge on the right, steadied himself and pulled the ball back across the box for Graeme Shinnie, who dragged a shot wide of the right-hand post, with Lawrence unable to react quickly enough to stick out a leg and divert the ball past Seny Dieng.
However, he did just that less than 10 minutes later. The fearless start to the game continued as Shinnie’s glorious defence-splitting pass found the Wales international, who nipped a yard or two ahead of QPR defender Jimmy Dunne and thumped a shot into the roof of the net that left Dieng rooted to the identify.
Derby sat slightly deeper after that, allowing QPR to rule possession, but the visitors struggled to transform that into meaningful openings; Charlie Austin’s header over the bar from Ilias Chair’s free-kick was about as good as it got in the first half.
That all changed after the restart and, within minutes, the visitors were level. Austin chased a long ball down the left channel, dipped into the penalty area and hung up the ball for Willock, who sent an emphatic side-footed finish into the top right corner – a strike that extended QPR’s scoring streak to 31 league games in series.
As the visitors pushed for a winner, Chair headed a Willock cross over the bar and, around 15 minutes later, the Morocco international connected with another cross from the former Arsenal trainee and sent a header onto the woodwork.
On this event, though, it helped to set up the winner, as Gray collected the loose ball and produced a moment of magic to win the game in the most incredible fact.
Man of the match – Chris Willock
QPR are really getting into the groove at the moment and Chris Willock is playing a meaningful role in them doing so. The goal at Pride Park – where he looked comfortable on both flanks – was his third in four games and he was instrumental in the build-up to Gray’s winner, too.
What the managers said…
Derby’s Wayne Rooney: “I feel, tonight, we got what we deserved. We’re better than that, we know that. There wasn’t a without of effort, we were sloppy on the ball and lost it too easily. We started really well and got the goal early on but from there, really, everything we worked on, we didn’t do well enough.
“At half time, I said to the lads that we were lucky to come in 1-0 up, that it was a wake-up call and that we needed to be better and not make so many silly mistakes. I didn’t think we deserved anything tonight.”
QPR’s Mark Warburton: “We looked much better in the second half. We lacked intensity in the first half; we were tentative and lacked any real speed and purpose about our play. We gave away a soft goal and they never really threatened us much after that, respectfully.
“It was pleasing because we had to enhance. It’s about that belief, that character and, for us, that was a really important win tonight.”
Derby return to action at 3pm on Saturday, December 4, when they travel to Ashton Gate to confront Bristol City, while QPR great number Stoke at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium at 2.30pm the following day – in a game live on Sky Sports Football.
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