Queen's Park Rangers 0 Coventry City 1: Royce's rash turn puts Coventry in the driving seat

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A match devoid of anything save relentless effort was transformed six minutes from time yesterday. After QPR's defender Ian Evatt had misplaced a throw-in, the ball was swiftly transferred forward by the Coventry substitute James Scowcroft to send Gary McSheffrey scampering in behind the Rangers defence, only for him to be felled by Simon Royce. After the Rangers keeper had been sent off, McSheffrey struck the penalty exuberantly past Rangers' replacement keeper Jake Cole and suddenly Coventry found themselves closer to the play-offs than the relegation area.

Rangers' manager Ian Holloway reflected: "That's just football, isn't it?"

Rangers had the majority of possession, but were never able to make it tell, having been reduced by suspensions and injury to one recognised striker - Stefan Moore. Coventry, who contested the ball eagerly, fully earned what their manager, Micky Adams, acknowledged was "a little bit of luck".

QPR rarely seemed likely to transform their enthusiasm into reward, although their hyperactive midfielder Gareth Ainsworth almost managed it. The former Blackburn player provoked a reflex save from the Coventry goalkeeper, Marton Fulop, with a header from a second-minute corner which turned out to be the home side's clearest chance of the night. The match appeared dead on its feet by the time Evatt made his defensive lapse.

Rangers will now travel to Brighton on Boxing Day without their first choice goalkeeper. At least they will have forward Paul Furlong back from suspension - they will need all his strength and experience to prevent this result turning into a mini slide.

Queen's Park Rangers (4-4-2): Royce; Bignot, Evatt, Shittu, Dyer; Ainsworth (Cole, 84), Rowlands, Bean (Cook, 66), Langley; Moore, Santos ( Bircham, 82). Substitutes not used: Milanese, Rose.

Coventry City (4-5-1): Fulop; Whing, Page, Shaw, Duffy; Morrell (Impey, 61), Osbourne, Doyle, Hutchison, McSheffrey (Jorgensen, 88); Adebola (Scowcroft, 76). Substitutes not used: Ince (gk), Thornton.

Referee: U Rennie (South Yorkshire).

* Watford's manager Adrian Boothroyd has agreed a four-and-a-half-year contract at the club. Boothroyd had been on a rolling one-year deal since replacing Ray Lewington in March.