Brighton stretched their lead to 3rd place Huddersfield to 12 points, after a huge win at Loftus Road coincided with a Terriers defeat away at Nott’m Forest; it now means the Seagulls are just 7 points away from the Premier League with 5 games to get them.
Ryan Manning had the first opportunity of the game for the hosts, but the midfielder’s speculative effort from 30 yards swung straight into the hands of Albion goalkeeper David Stockdale. Uwe Huenemeier surged into a great position to meet Solly March’s wonderful delivery to the back post, but Manning was well positioned to head clear just in front of the German defender. The pair continued to cause problems inside QPR’s penalty area, and after Huenemeier forced a clearance to the edge of the box, March took aim and volleyed wide of the target. March looked lively for the Seagulls during the opening stages of the game, and the winger tested Alex Smithies with a stinging drive from 25 yards that the QPR goalkeeper gathered low down. Conor Washington then took advantage of an under-hit pass from Steve Sidwell in the centre of midfield, but the striker fired over the crossbar from 20 yards after racing towards goal. Albion had the ball in the back of the net just after the half-hour mark, but Glenn Murray’s close-range tap in from Anthony Knockaert’s cross was correctly ruled out for offside. Stockdale was then called into action as Manning received the ball on the edge of the penalty area, but the midfielder’s tame effort was comfortably dealt with. Seb Pocognoli brilliantly intercepted a close-range strike from Washington inside the box, before Bruno came to Albion’s rescue with another important block from James Perch’s shot inside the six-yard box. Pocognoli drilled a low effort towards goal from 30 yards, which took a deflection off Murray before being guided over the goal line by Tomer Hemed, but once again, the linesman’s flag was correctly raised for offside shortly before the break. Following pressure from Dale Stephens at the start of the second half, March broke forward and fired a low shot towards goal, but the winger’s effort nestled into the side netting. The Seagulls took the lead in the 58th minute when Murray received a pass from Hemed and raced through on goal before coolly slotting the ball past Smithies for his 21st goal of the season. Albion were awarded a free-kick on the edge of QPR’s penalty area in the 64th minute, and after Pocognoli took responsibility, the Belgian full-back found the top corner with a wonderful left-footed effort that clipped the underside of the crossbar before going in. Pocognoli then came to Albion’s rescue when he cleared the danger after Stockdale spilt Smith’s header from inside the box. However, the striker wasn’t to be denied from the resulting corner, as he glanced home to score in the 74th minute. Rangers were boosted by Smith’s goal and came agonisingly close to levelling soon after, but Stockdale was on hand to clear off the line with his feet from Idrissa Sylla’s scuffed attempt. The hosts piled on the pressure late on, but Albion defended well to clear multiple deliveries into the penalty area and held on for their 26th victory this season.
Stockdale (7); Made a fine save from Smith when 2-1, and commanded his area well.
Bruno (7); A strong performance against 2 tricky players in Morrison and Robinson; attacking was a little off, but it was more about the defensive duties.
Hunemeier (7); Another towering game from the German; had a handful with Smith against him, but commanded him well and looked powerful in the air.
Dunk (6); Forced off at half-time through illness again, but had a pretty easy first half.
Pocognoli (8); How crucial could that goal be? Spectacular free-kick, only topped off by a mature defensive performance too.
Knockaert (7); Closed down quickly by the QPR players; found some space at times but was hit and miss in this game.
Stephens (7); Had his work cut out playing against a 3 man midfield, but covered the back 2 well and was eager to get the ball moving quickly.
Sidwell (7); Little room to move in the first half, but opened up well for him in the second when spaces started to open up.
March (7); Like Knockaert, he was a little hit and miss; gave Perch a run for his money nevertheless.
Murray (8); You don’t doubt him in those situations; cool, calm head and an expert finish four his 21st of the season.
Hemed (7); Quiet first half other than his disallowed goal, but played the precise ball over the top for Murray’s goal.
Tomori (7); Filled Dunk’s boots well and was ken to put his body on the line for the cause.
Murphy (6); Replaced Hemed to help sure up the midfield as QPR searched for an equaliser.
Norwood (N/A); Not much time to make an impact, only to add an extra body to midfield.
QPRFC - BHAFC; Smith (74); Murray (58), Pocognoli (64);
Att; 16,503 (3,219 Brighton)