Queens Park Rangers 4 Sheffield Wednesday 2: Idrissa Sylla nabs brace as QPR overcome Owls
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Sky Bet Championship: Queens Park Rangers 4 (Smyth 8, Bidwell 10, Sylla 15, 53p) Sheffield Wednesday 2 (Forestieri 61, Nuhiu 69)
Queens Park Rangers made mathematically certain their place in the Championship next season after a 4-2 win at home to Sheffield Wednesday.
The Rs enjoyed a dream start to the match, with Paul Smyth, Jake Bidwell and Idrissa Sylla all on target inside the opening 15 minutes as the hosts raced into a three-goal lead.
Despite Sylla extending their lead from the spot early in the second half, the Loftus Road side had to weather an Owls storm midway through the period as the visitors scored twice in quick succession.
The west Londoners, though, held on to win and, coupled with a defeat for Barnsley, saw them officially end any lingering relegation fears.
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QPR boss Ian Holloway made six changes to his starting XI after Saturday’s loss at Hull City.
Alex Baptiste, Jack Robinson, Jordan Cousins, Smyth, Sylla and Bright Osayi-Samuel were all recalled to the starting XI.
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Skipper Nedum Onuoha missed out through suspension, while Joel Lynch was injured and Massimo Luongo was suffering with an illness.
Ryan Manning, Pawel Wszolek and Ebere Eze all dropped to the bench after starting against the Tigers.
It took the Rs just eight minutes to make the breakthrough against Wednesday, with Smyth on target.
Owls keeper Joe Wildsmith came to clear a Bidwell cross from the left, but could only punch the ball to the Northern Ireland international, who prodded home from 12 yards.
The hosts maintained their bright start to the match and were able to double their lead just three minutes later, with Wildsmith again at fault.
A tame effort from Bidwell looked to be comfortable for the Owls stopper, but Wildsmith spilled the ball under pressure from Sylla.
The ball trundled back into the path of Bidwell, who sidefooted home to put the west Londoners in a commanding position.
QPR nearly had a third in the 13th minute after good work on the left flank by Osayi-Samuel saw him tee up Luke Freeman, but Wildsmith got down well to keep the effort out.
The third did arrive two minutes later, however, with Sylla the next man on the scoresheet for the Loftus Road outfit.
Right-back Darnell Furlong cut back inside onto his left foot before delivering a cross from the angle of the box to the far post, where Sylla was on hand to head home from close range.
Despite the Rs’ dominance early on, Alex Smithies had to be at his best in goal in the 21st minute to keep out a looping effort from Adam Reach.
Smithies was called into action again 11 minutes later, this time making himself big to brilliantly deny Atdhe Nuhiu from close range.
Nuhiu went close once more in stoppage time at the end of the first half when heading a Reach cross from the right back across goal, but wide of the target.
It meant QPR took their three-goal advantage into half time, something which would have pleased Holloway after Saturday’s horror show at Hull.
The Rs then added a fourth just eight minutes in the second half when Sylla scored his second of the night, this time from the spot.
Osayi-Samuel was tripped by Tom Lees just inside the box, presenting Sylla with a chance from 12 yards that he did not miss.
Three minutes later, a vicious effort from some 25 yards by Freeman was pushed behind for a corner by the fingertips of Wildsmith, but the set-piece came to nothing.
With the win seemingly secured, QPR were denied their clean sheet when Fernando Forestieri powerfully pulled one back for the Owls in the 61st minute, despite Smithies getting a hand to the shot.
Wednesday then added a second eight minutes later when Nuhiu headed home a Liam Palmer cross from the right, a goal which surely sent a few nerves through the QPR team.
Mercifully for the hosts, that was where Wednesday’s progress stalled as the west Londoners recovered their composure and regained their foothold in the match.
Smithies was tested again in stoppage time, this time by Joey Pelupessy, but the Rs held on to triumph.
With safety now mathematically secured, QPR can enjoy the rest of the campaign, starting at home to Preston North End on Saturday.
QPR (4-3-3): Smithies; Furlong, Baptiste, Robinson, Bidwell; Cousins, Scowen (Manning 67), Freeman; Smyth, Sylla (Smith 69), Osayi-Samuel (Wszolek 77).
Subs: Ingram (GK), Washington, Kakay, Eze.
Sheff Wed (4-4-2): Wildsmith; Palmer, Thornley, Lees, Pudil; Reach, Jones, Pelupessy, Forestier (Boyd 80)i; Nuhiu (Rhodes 83), Joao (Matias 64).
Subs: Dawson (GK), Butterfield, Baker. Nielsen.
Attendance: 12,521 (including 1,529 Sheff Weds fans).
Referee: Oliver Langford.