Queens Park Rangers 2 Cardiff City 1: Paul Smyth nets winner on debut as QPR overcome Bluebirds

Paul Smyth (right) marked his Queens Park Rangers debut by scoring against Cardiff City (pic: John W

Paul Smyth (right) marked his Queens Park Rangers debut by scoring against Cardiff City (pic: John Walton/PA) - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Sky Bet Championship: Queens Park Rangers 2 (Smith 62, Smyth 72) Cardiff City 1 (Ralls 54p)

A debut goal from forward Paul Smyth earned Queens Park Rangers all three points as they came from behind to beat Cardiff City 2-1.

After starting the opening period slowly, QPR grew into the game and could have led at the break had they taken one of several chances just before the interval.

The Rs fell behind early in the second half, but battled back superbly to win, with Smyth’s goal the crowning moment.

QPR made four changes following the loss at Millwall on Friday, with Jack Robinson, Josh Scowen, Matt Smith and Smyth coming into the starting XI.

After missing the last game through illness, Robinson returned at the expense of Grant Hall, who dropped out of the matchday 22.

Scowen was also absent for the trip to the Lions through suspension, but took the place of Pawel Wszolek, with Jordan Cousins moving to right wing-back.

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In attack, Smith and Smyth, who was making his debut following his summer move from Linfield, replaced Bright Osayi-Samuel and Idrissa Sylla.

For the visitors, former Rs trio Brian Murphy, Matthew Connolly and Junior Hoilett all started on their return to Loftus Road.

With eight minutes on the clock, a misplaced pace from Scowen handed the Bluebirds the chance to attack.

Forward Rhys Healy strode forward for the Welsh club, before shooting from 10 yards, drawing a good save from Alex Smithies in the home goal.

Healy went close again in the 19th minute, flashing a shot narrowly over the bar from a tight angle following a swift Cardiff break down the left.

Thankfully, the Rs were able to stem the tide a little after that, though were still struggling to create chances of their own.

When Robinson marched into the City half with the ball in the 26th minute, the defender unleashed a rasping drive that flew over the bar - a rare shot for the hosts.

With 15 minutes left in the half, Nedum Onuoha gifted the ball to the Bluebirds around 25 yards out.

Former QPR man Hoilett sped towards goal, but was denied the chance to open the scoring by a fine covering tackle from Alex Baptiste.

Onuoha almost atoned for his error in the 38th minute when a Luke Freeman corner picked him out at the far post, but the Rs captain could not get his header on target.

A minute later, a slick move down the right from the west Londoners saw Baptiste pass to Smyth around 12 yards out.

The Northern Irish youngster shot first time, but saw his effort sail over the bar and into the School Road end.

Holloway’s men were certainly enjoying their best period of the half, with Smith nodding a Freeman free kick at goal in the 41st minute that Murphy could only push onto the post.

The former Bristol City attacker went close again two minutes later, narrowly heading a cross from Massimo Luongo wide of the far post.

Not too long after that, referee Tim Robinson signalled the end of a half which saw the Loftus Road side finish strongly after taking their time to get going.

Just nine minutes into the second half, QPR conceded the opener when Joe Ralls converted a penalty.

Home defender Jake Bidwell fouled Callum Paterson in the box, with referee Tim Robinson awarding the spot kick which Ralls dispatched past Smithies.

Five minutes later, the Rs nearly let in a calamitous second when a cross from the right took a nick of Onuoha, but Smithies was able to save on the line.

From the keeper’s distribution, the west Londoners broke, with the counter ending when Freeman’s shot from range was deflected onto the bar.

It seemed to lift QPR, who were able to draw level through Smith in the 62nd minute against the Bluebirds.

A long throw into the box from the left by Robinson found Smith, who looped his close range header into the net.

Holloway’s men could have added a second less than a minute later, but Luongo was unable to turn home a pass from the left by Freeman.

The Rs went close again in the 64th minute when Smith nearly turned a Cousins shot into the net, but Murphy was able to save with his feet.

With 18 minutes remaining, QPR hit the front for the first time with Smyth crowning his debut superbly.

The 20-year-old latched on to a flick on from Smith just inside the Cardiff half, before bearing down on goal.

Under pressure from Bruno Ecuele Manga, Smyth was able to dink his effort over Murphy to send the home fans delirious.

The Rs perhaps should have been pegged back in the 78th minute when a corner eventually dropped to Cardiff defender Sol Bamba at the back post.

However, the Bluebirds skipper was unable to get his effort on target, pushing it wide of the goal.

Less than a minute later, City thought they had level when Hoilett fired past Smithies from close range, but the goal was ruled out for offside against the ex-Rs winger.

The Bluebirds continued to press in the closing moments, but QPR were coping well with what was thrown at them.

The Rs could have even added a third, but substitute Aramide Oteh was unable to get the better of Murphy following a quick break deep into stoppage time.

It was the perfect way to start 2018 for Holloway’s men, though, who host MK Dons in the FA Cup on Saturday.

QPR (3-5-2): Smithies; Baptiste, Onuoha, Robinson; Cousins, Luongo, Scowen, Freeman, Bidwell (Lynch 84); Smith, Smyth (Oteh 77).

Subs: Lumley (GK), Wszolek, Chair, Osayi-Samuel, Sylla.

Cardiff (3-4-3): Murphy; Manga, Bamba, Connolly; Paterson, Peltier (Damour 59), Ralls, Bennett; Hoilett, Zohore, Healy (Mendez-Laing 67).

Subs: Etheridge (GK), Richards, Tomlin, Pilkington, Halford.

Subs: Tim Robinson.

Attendance: 13,801 (including 1,427 Cardiff fans).