Verdict: QPR showed their nastier side in win over Leeds
PUBLISHED: 17:00 20 January 2020
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Queens Park Rangers reporter Dan Bennett gives his verdict on the 1-0 Championship win over Leeds United.
Saturday was a significant victory for QPR for many reasons.
Firstly, it continued their positive start to the new year at home following the wins over Swansea City and Cardiff City, and also saw them bounce back against one of the division's top sides following the disappointing defeat away at Brentford.
But what was most impressive is that Rangers showed a side of their game that we have seen very little of this year.
There was a resoluteness and a nasty element to their performance which they needed to show against a tough opponent in Leeds.
Mark Warburton's side hustled, bustled and got in the face of the promotion chasers, relentlessly hunting down the ball. Often, they would even resort to tactical fouls to disrupt Leeds' flow and break up the game.
The midfield duo of Geoff Cameron and Luke Amos were vital. Cameron threw himself around and stuck his foot in wherever he needed to, with Kalvin Phllips' late lunge, which resulted in a straight red, showing how his determination had frustrated his counterpart.
Amos too made his mark. The on-loan Spurs man put in a tireless display, constantly chasing down the ball and putting pressure on the Leeds midfield.
Of course Rangers needed their slice of luck too. Nahki Wells' goal could have been disallowed for handball, while it took a superb Liam Kelly penalty save to keep the scores level.
Leeds evidently had their own failings as they were unable to make any of their 17 shots on goal count, with Bamford wasting numerous opportunities from good positions.
But this type of performance, which saw the R's keep just their third clean sheet of the season, is something we need to see more of.
The football this season has been attractive and at times, sublime. When Warburton's side have been on their game, their wealth of attacking talent with the likes of Wells, Jordan Hugill, Ebere Eze, Bright Osayi-Samuel and Ilias Chair, has proven too much for many teams.
However, the grit and toughness shown against Leeds is needed against the better sides in the division and Rangers can take enormous encouragement from the victory, something Warburton was keen to stress after the game.
Special mention has to go to young centre-back Conor Masterson. On his first league start, the Republic of Ireland Under-21 international was immense and put in some magnificent challenges, regularly cleared the ball from danger but also brought the ball out from the back with a swagger and confidence as if he had been playing Championship football for years.
And with captain Grant Hall alongside him, who put in arguably his best performance of the season, Rangers may just have found a solid central defensive pairing.
It won't be easy for Masterson to keep his place, with Toni Leistner and Yoann Barbet returning from injury, but Warburton has already admitted that he is now unlikely to go out on loan after originally admitting that there would be a "very good chance" of it happening.
This was not QPR at their fluid best, but this type of resilient performance should give Rangers massive confidence that they can dig in when they need to as they target a push towards the play-off places.