When the two lowest-scoring teams in all four divisions go head-to-head, no one anticipates a classic. But yesterday Queens Park Rangers and Wigan exceeded all expectations with four goals, three of them superlative strikes from distance.
The QPR fans went home far happier as Mark Hughes' first home League game as manager resulted in their first League victory in 10 games, and only their second at Loftus Road. The three points also took them back out of the bottom three.
Joey Barton, the Rangers captain, and Akos Buzsaky controlled the centre of midfield and the Hungarian brought the crowd to its feet with a memorable free-kick goal.
Buzsaky has started all three of Hughes' games in charge after being a bit-part player for most of the season. "I felt today would be a close game and we might need his ability at set plays and thankfully that worked," Hughes said. "He and Joey were very instrumental in the result. You give yourself a better chance if you are committed and make things happen and we did that today."
Ali Al Habsi, the Wigan goalkeeper, also saved a penalty from Heidar Helguson, but elsewhere the visitors looked short of quality and remain at the foot of the Premier League table, without a win in seven games. Harry Redknapp, the Tottenham manager, said on Friday that the Wigan manager, Roberto Martinez, was probably cleverer than him but was at the bottom of the League because he "hadn't got the players" and that was proved here.
Wigan were dogged and threatened at times, but could not find the inspiration to turn the game in their favour when it was in the balance. "The hardest thing is to score goals," Martinez said. "We work hard for each other but we can't spend the money on goalscorers."
That was evident when Wigan allowed two good early chances to go begging, and they went behind when James McCarthy inexplicably handled Barton's corner, Helguson converting the penalty. Rangers grew in confidence and in first-half injury-time Buzsaky, who had tested Al Habsi with an earlier range-finder, whipped a 25-yard free-kick over the wall, past the goalkeeper's right hand and in off the post. "An unfortunate penalty and an absolutely outstanding piece of quality for the free-kick," Martinez admitted.
Hugo Rodallega halved the deficit after 65 minutes with a rocket of a free-kick from even further out than Buzsaky's after Barton had fouled Maynor Figueroa and Al Habsi kept Wigan's hopes of a draw alive, saving Helguson's underhit second penalty after Gary Caldwell had leaned on the Iceland forward.
At that stage you suspected Wigan might be destined to steal a point, but 10 minutes from time Tommy Smith, a half-time substitute, decided the game needed another goal-of-the-month contender, this time from free play, and hit the ball into the top corner from 25 yards.
Queens Park Rangers (4-4-2): Kenny; Young, Ferdinand, Hall, Hill; Mackie, Barton, Buzsaky (Derry, 83), Wright-Phillips; Helguson, Campbell (Smith, h-t).
Wigan Athletic (4-1-4-1): Al Habsi; Boyce (Stam, 69), Gohouri, Caldwell, Figueroa; Watson; Gomez (Crusat, 60), McCarthy, McArthur (Sammon, h-t), Moses; Rodallega.
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Man of the match: Buzsaky (Queens Park Rangers)
Match rating: 7/10