Stoke City missed the chance to go back on top of the Championship when they suffered their worst defeat of the season, against a rampant Queen's Park Rangers. The Loftus Road team have now beaten all of the top three in the division since Christmas, yet remain eight points from both the play-off positions and the relegation zone. "We need to acquire the mentality to face the teams lower in the same way as we face the top teams," Luigi De Canio, the QPR manager, said.
The Stoke City manager, Tony Pulis, refused to use the dismissal of Andy Griffin, the captain, as an excuse for his side's second defeat in a week, but said he went to see the referee, Andy D'Urso, and asked him to take another look at his decision. Griffin was shown a straight red card just before half-time for a tackle on Hogan Ephraim that barely seemed to warrant a free-kick.
By that stage, Stoke were already two down, with both goals coming from impressive strikes by Mikele Leigertwood. The first came in the 12th minute when the midfielder fired a crisp left-footed volley into the net from 30-yards. Just moments earlier, Leigertwood had nearly given Stoke the lead when Liam Lawrence's cross deflected off his thigh and against the underside of his own crossbar.
Stoke missed the long throws of the suspended Rory Delap, but that was not the only reason they longed for the Republic of Ireland international. His replacement was Salif Diao, a man once labelled "the new Patrick Viera". Unfortunately for Stoke it was still very much the old Salif Diao on display, as QPR dominated in midfield.
The second goal came in the 21st minute from the kind of fluid passage of play that QPR produced all afternoon. Leigertwood finished a move he started when he lashed a rising right-footed volley into the net from a Rowan Vine knock down. Stoke were three down 10 minutes after the restart courtesy of an emphatic QPR counter-attack. Vine, Ephraim and Patrick Agyemang combined to set-up the unmarked Akos Buzsaky, whose low drive was as decisive as the play that preceded it. QPR have now beaten the top two in the division by a three-goal margin in recent weeks. "It was a good afternoon," De Canio said. It is the kind of day of which Loftus Road hopes to see plenty more in the coming seasons.
Goals: Leigertwood (12) 1-0; Leigertwood (21) 2-0; Buzsaky (55) 3-0.
Queen's Park Rangers (4-4-2): Camp; Mancienne, Hall (Stewart, 79), Connolly, Delaney; Buzsaky, Leigertwood, Rowlands (Ainsworth, 81), Ephraim; Agyemang, Vine (Blackstock, 75). Substitutes not used: Pickens (gk), Lee.
Stoke City (4-4-2): Simonsen, Griffin, Cort, Shawcross, Pugh; Lawrence (Buxton, 62), Diao (Gallagher, 55), Whelan, Cresswell; Fuller, Sidibe (Wilkinson, 46). Substitutes not used: Hoult (gk), Parkin.
Referee: A D'Urso (Essex)
Booked: QPR Mancienne. Stoke Cresswell.
Sent-off: Stoke Griffin.
Man of the match: Leigertwood.