Mark Hughes' Queen's Park Rangers will host Chelsea in the fourth round of the FA Cup. That is the reward, and a rather generous one, after Rangers beat MK Dons in a replay here last night. It will be a ferocious and contentious tie, unlike last night's game, and Hughes confirmed afterwards that he will speak to Anton Ferdinand, the victim of alleged racist abuse last time Chelsea came to QPR, before deciding whether to select him.
This third-round replay was Hughes' second game in charge, and his first one at home, although if this felt like a new departure it was only in the sense that QPR had won an FA Cup tie for the first time since 2001.
It is not an excessive exaggeration to say that MK Dons' passing made it look like Premier League versus League One, with the roles reversed. It certainly seemed like a game between one side who had not won in 10 games – although missing their three most talented midfielders in Joey Barton, Alejandro Faurlin and Adel Taarabt – and another who had won seven in10. MK Dons created enough chances to spring an unlikely win before Danny Gabbidon's header from a corner 17 minutes from time won Rangers the tie.
The performance can only have reminded Hughes in even more powerful terms the necessity of reinforcements this month. "There was a lack of sharpness to our play, we looked a bit leggy and we know we can play a lot better," he conceded afterwards. "There was a lack of confidence in each other which can be expected after the run the team has been on and there's general things in our play we need to improve upon." Hughes also confirmed that talks are continuing to sign Alex and Henrique from Chelsea and Sao Paolo respectively.
The MK Dons manager, Karl Robinson, was understandably proud of his players: "At times today I thought we showed an awful lot of class. I thought our philosophy was right, our system was right. I still thought we had the better of the chances, and more of the chances, to beat them."
Only towards the end of the first half did Rangers start to create danger: a Luke Chadwick tackle was needed to block Shaun Wright-Phillips, and a Shaun Williams own goal was disallowed as referee Phil Dowd spotted Shaun Derry's embrace of David Martin.
Early in the second half, MK Dons' right-back Adam Smith, on a season-long loan from Tottenham, swung in a perfect cross to Jabo Ibehre who mis-kicked, before shooting narrowly wide himself from distance.
Then in the 73rd minute Akos Buzsaky was about to take a corner, but was replaced, and Wright-Phillips took it instead. Gabbidon headed in at the far-post for a rather surprising and not obviously deserved lead, which Rangers held.
Queen's Park Rangers (4-4-2): Kenny; Young, Ferdinand, Gabbidon, Hill; Wright-Phillips, Derry, Buszaky (Helguson, 72), Mackie; Bothroyd (Orr, 86), Macheda (Smith, 62). Substitutes not used Cerny (gk), Hall, Campbell, Ephraim
MK Dons (4-2-3-1) Martin; Smith, Kouo-Doumbe, Williams, Lewington; Gleeson, Potter; Bowditch (O'Shea, 83), Ibehre, Chadwick (Powell, 73); MacDonald. Substitutes not used McLoughlin (gk), Flanagan, Baldock, McNamee, Williams
Referee P Dowd (Staffordshire).
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