QPR 2 Pompey 0

Jamie Ashdown is beaten by Clint Hill for QPR's second goal
Jamie Ashdown is beaten by Clint Hill for QPR's second goal
Samantha Quayle. Picture: Jordan Hampton

Flying start for Pompey with Cardiff swept aside

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It began so encouragingly yet fizzled out in disappointing fashion.

Last night’s defeat at QPR had plenty in common with Pompey’s transfer window failure which continues to dominate discussions.

In fairness, the Blues’ woeful lack of success in bringing in new players on Monday had little to do with a 2-0 loss at Loftus Road barely 24 hours later.

The precocious talent of Adel Taarabt ensured the destination of the three points went to the league leaders as the midfielder finally kicked into life during the second half.

Unfortunately, Jamie Ashdown also played a major part with a calamitous mistake which led to the deadlock being broken in the 59th minute.

Up until then, Steve Cotterill’s men had looked defensively sound, comfortable even, in a gutsy display punctuated by the occasional threat on the QPR goal.

There was even the odd round of boos from frustrated home fans as their side left the field at half-time.

Rangers were finding it tough, no question about it, in their mission to tighten their stranglehold on top spot.

Then came the decisive moment.

Taarabt picked the ball up outside the penalty area and drove in an effort along the floor which Ashdown appeared to have comfortably covered.

But, inexplicably, the ball squirmed through his hands and rolled into the far corner.

It was another moment to break the hearts of Pompey fans – and there have been plenty of them over the past two years.

For Ashdown, who has steadily grown into an impressive performer this season, it was an horrific error which cost his side so, so dear.

That man Taarabt, completely anonymous for the opening 45 minutes, would have a say in the goal which cemented QPR’s victory.

His 73rd-minute corner was headed home by the soaring Clint Hill, despite Ashdown’s brave effort to keep it out.

It was a result so harsh on Cotterill’s men and for so long appeared unlikely to arrive.

In the first half alone, the visitors dug in with a rugged display in which Jonathan Hogg, in particular, caught the eye.

Greg Halford saw a free-kick brilliantly saved by Paddy Kenny, while Dave Kitson lobbed the ball on to the roof of the net from a tight angle.

It was the large away following who provided the best atmosphere as the Rangers supporters sat on their hands stewing.

Even after Taarabt’s opener, Hogg shot wide when he should have scored and, later, David Nugent dragged an effort past the far post.

It took a wonder save from Kenny to deny substitute Nadir Ciftci in the 89th minute, with the keeper somehow clawing the youngster’s header over the bar from point-blank range.

But a defeat it was for Pompey, capping a hugely-disappointing 48 hours which saw a barren transfer deadline day on Monday.

Saturday’s visit of Derby has now become a must-win occasion for Cotterill’s men, who lie 20th in the Championship.

Before the game, the return of Aaron Mokoena and Kitson following suspensions contributed towards three changes to the side who performed so abjectly against Burnley a week earlier.

Ibrahima Sonko and Kanu found themselves on the bench to accommodate the duo.

In addition, an injury to Carl Dickinson signalled a second start of the season for Hermann Hreidarsson.

The fans’ favourite slotted in at left-back, while Mokoena partnered Halford in the centre of defence and Joel Ward moved up in to midfield.

With Cotterill employing a 4-5-1 system, Liam Lawrence was asked to play an advanced central-midfield role behind Kitson.

It was an encouraging start from the Blues, who looked the better side in those opening stages.

On 23 minutes they had a sniff of goal when Hayden Mullins fed Kitson and he cleverly wriggled his way into the box.

But, as Kenny came off his line, he could only lift his shot on to the roof of the net from a tight angle.

Pompey fans were appealing for a red card to be brandished in the 33rd minute when Kenny miskicked horribly.

Matthew Connolly fouled Lawrence as he attempted to race on to the ball with the net gaping but the QPR defender earned only a yellow card.

From the resulting free-kick, Halford fired in a tremendous shot from 35 yards which Kenny pushed behind brilliantly.

The hosts’ sole effort of note came just before half-time when Alejandro Faurlin crashed a 30-yard effort which Ashdown gathered low down.

After the break, a run from the scintillating Taarabt teed up Ishmael Miller, who shot narrowly wide.

Then, on 59 minutes, the Moroccan winger let fly from just outside the area, only for Ashdown to fumble it into the net.

The visitors responded with Lawrence delivering a low cross from the right into the area which Kitson dummied and Hogg curled wide when he should have done better.

Rangers doubled their advantage on 73 minutes and sealed victory in the process.

Taarabt’s right-wing corner was met by Hill, who climbed highest to plant a header past Ashdown.

There was still time for Nugent to drag a shot agonisingly past the far post.

Then in the final minute, Kenny pulled off a stunning point-blank stop to somehow keep out Ciftci’s header.

Rangers held on with their clean sheet intact, though, and came away with another three points to keep up their charge to the Premier League – and keep Pompey nervously looking over their shoulders at the other end.