Queens Park Rangers vs Birmingham City. Sky Bet Championship.
Loftus Road StadiumAttendance15,097.
Report and free match highlights from the Sky Bet Championship match between QPR and Birmingham at Loftus Road as Tahith Chong's third-minute goal proved enough for victory for the Blues on Saturday afternoon.
Saturday 18 March 2023 20:40, UK
QPR's woes continued as Tahith Chong's early goal gave Birmingham a 1-0 victory at Loftus Road.
Rangers, hammered 6-1 at Blackpool in midweek, have now lost seven of their past eight matches - and three of their four since Gareth Ainsworth took over as boss.
Since topping the Sky Bet Championship in October, their dismal results have seen them slump to just six points above the relegation zone.
Just as they did at Blackpool, Rangers conceded in only the third minute, with the poor defending which has plagued their season evident yet again.
Reda Khadra went past Albert Adomah and played in Juninho Bacuna, who pulled the ball back from the left for Chong to apply the finish from near the edge of the six-yard box.
Ainsworth - QPR's third manager this season, following the departure of Michael Beale and sacking of Neil Critchley - has installed a much more direct style than his predecessors.
Rangers launched the ball forward at every opportunity but struggled to create clear-cut chances, although Lyndon Dykes fired over after being found by Adomah's low cross and, after the interval, Jimmy Dunne's back-header was kept out by Blues keeper John Ruddy.
Birmingham comfortably coped with their opponents' route-one tactics and very nearly doubled their lead on the hour mark.
Adomah attempted to volley clear Chong's right-wing free-kick but instead sliced the ball towards Lukas Jutkiewicz, whose header was tipped onto the post by keeper Seny Dieng.
The introduction of Stefan Johansen at least gave Rangers a touch of creativity and the Norwegian's 68th-minute corner was headed wide by Rob Dickie.
But that was a rare scare for the visitors, who defended well and deserved to take the points.
While QPR remain in danger of relegation, Birmingham's win took them nine points clear of the drop zone, leaving them virtually safe.
Ainsworth will hope to get some of his key players back after the international break.
The unavailability of several of the squad, including playmakers Ilias Chair and Chris Willock, has been a major factor in Rangers' decline.
And there was another injury blow when Osman Kakay - a right-back playing as a makeshift left wing-back - was forced to go off at half-time.
There were a couple of late chances for the hosts, with Dunne heading wide and Dykes failing to find the target after a scramble in the box.
QPR's Gareth Ainsworth:
"We've got eight cup finals to go and we need to win a couple of them. I believe we can do that.
"In the next couple of weeks, with all the injuries coming back, I think that will boost the squad and the morale will raise.
"I've got players coming back who haven't played for months and haven't been in this sort of decline, so they're quite fresh and will be mentally OK.
"Hopefully we'll get them up to speed and be strong against Wigan, which is a game we really need to win.
"I'm hoping that the likes of Kenneth Paal, Ethan Laird, Leon Balogun, Ilias Chair, Chris Willock and (Jake) Clarke-Salter (will return) - we've got some big names in the treatment room and I think once they're back we'll see a different side out there.
"They were very solid defensively and we could take a lesson from that because the goal is too easy. We've conceded an easy goal after two minutes and that's the tale of the game.
"They've thrown bodies and defended their box like their lives depended on it. I wanted that from my boys."
Birmingham's John Eustace:
"I'm very proud of the collective effort of the whole group and I couldn't be more pleased with the result," said Eustace.
"We knew how we could hurt QPR, especially on the transitions, so to see the goal go in like it did was really pleasing.
"Then we had to show the other side to us, which we're very good at; we stick in there, we fight and we scrap.
"The way we defended in the second half, like our lives depended on it, was fantastic. Collectively it was a very good performance.
"We've had massive injury problems and loads of issues off the field at the club. All we've done is just get on with it.
"We've made sure that this club has a no-excuse culture, so whoever plays will be 100 per cent committed, and I think you saw that today.
"If the process is right and you believe in what you're doing, you'll come through in the end."