The presence of Premier League quality in loanee strikers Tomer Hemed and Nahki Wells have had a significant impact on their campaign, both lifting the players in the dressing room, and finally providing on the pitch too as they’ve reached optimum fitness levels. They both hit the back of the net tonight, Wells for the first time this season, as they routed visitors Sheffield Wednesday.
Wednesday have proved tough opponents so far when they’ve got their teeth into a game, picking up points against Leeds, West Brom and a win at Aston Villa. But they’ve also conceded a goal in every single match, and a QPR on the ascendancy kept that run going late into the first half.
With increasing pressure on the visitors' defence, Massimo Luongo chased down a loose ball, poking through to Pawel Wszolek. The Polish winger’s sweeping shot on the turn was parried, but lurking nearby was Tomer Hemed to head home. It’s the Brighton loanee’s second in as many games.
The QPR back four managed to keep a lively Barry Bannan and Adam Reach from doing any serious harm – the latter of which has been one of the division’s most impressive goalscoring midfielders this season. A strong spine through the middle of both sides diverted play down the wings, and there was only a glimpse on show of Reach’s long-range abilities as he fired wide.
There were moments of top-flight quality in the passing from both sides in the first half, but defences failed to give in to each other’s efforts. Each wave of attack was held off, as it turned into an unsuccessful game of red rover. Only brief mistakes and small gaps handed chances to the likes of Hemed, who shot straight at the keeper.
It was a comprehensive midfield display from Rangers, though. Players seemed on the same wavelength, and they all contributed – from the skill and vision of the young Ebere Eze, to the experience of Geoff Cameron, another loanee who has been key in maintaining the team's shape. Wszolek was also heavily involved going down the right, as QPR continued to make use of the possession in the second half. Just before the hour, his short, curling ball from the edge of the box was nodded into the corner by Luke Freeman, the home side doubling their lead. It wasn't just luck, they were now playing football worthy of the goals they were scoring.
Protests came the referee's way shortly after, when the blood-splattered face of Daniel Pudil emerged following a Wednesday corner. The centre-half had clashed with Angel Rangel as the latter tried to clear his lines. Replays failed to fully explain what happened, but Pudil was substituted, leaving the field in anger as he continued to argue for a penalty.
A partly empty Loftus Road had remained mostly quiet throughout the evening, in spite of the display. But they were lifted again towards the end as the addition of Nahki Wells helped bolster the attack, replacing Hemed. As things have fallen into place this season, McClaren has started to alternate between Hemed and Wells as a single striker instead of playing them together. When put through with minutes to go, Wells made use of the space, firing across into the bottom corner for his first QPR goal. A clinical finish from the Burnley forward, who came to London for more game time and is finally getting it. It was both his first for the club, and his first in more than 18 months.
Rangers now leapfrog their opponents into 11th, just a point from the play-off spots. Although they're unlikely to stay there, it shows the real progress they've made over the last two months. They might not be contenders for the top six, but they're certainly not relegation fodder anymore.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies