Steve McLaren – with a transfer embargo in January, some fans calling for his head already and a relegation fight surely upcoming – can be excused for having a cup run low on his list of priorities.
After a first win of the season at the weekend against Wigan, he made 11 changes for the visit of League One Bristol Rovers, yet was rewarded with a spot comfortably claimed in Carabao Cup round three thanks to two goals in the opening 20 minutes, plus a Matt Smith header midway through the second half.
The match was sparsely attended – 5,007 in total, with the Ellerslie Road Stand down one side of the pitch entirely empty – but those Rs fans who came saw their side take the lead after just three minutes.
Polish midfielder Pawel Wszolek got in on the action as he bagged his second of the season
Matt Smith powered in the Hoops third and final goal in the second half to secure the win
Winger Bright Osayi-Samuel made a direct charge down the left wing; he broke into the box and slotted inside the far post.
The former Blackpool attacker, 20, was easily the brightest spark in the early stages, switching from wing to wing and causing both Gas fullbacks problems. On 15 minutes he cut in from the left and played the ball to the edge of the area, but centre back Alex Baptiste was the wrong player to take a shot from 20 yards.
QPR v BRISTOL ROVERS
QPR: Ingram 6.5; Kakay 7, Baptiste 6, Hall 7 (Owens 65, 6), Hamalainen 6; Wszolek 7, Chair 6.5 (Smyth 60, 6), Cousins 6.5, Osayi-Samuel 8 (Battache 85); Smith 7, Washington 6
Unused subs: Lumley, Oteh, Fox, Felix
Goals: Osayi-Samuel 3, Wszolek 19, Smith 65
Booking: Osayi-Samuel 83
Bristol Rovers: Smith 5; J. Clarke 4 (Broadbent 57, 6), Lockyer 6, Craig 5, Kelly 5; Rodman 6, O. Clarke 6, Upson 5, Matthews 5 (Reilly 67, 6); Payne 5 (Nichols 67, 6), Bennett 5
Unused subs: Bonham, Mensa, Jakubiak, Russe
Goal: Upson 89
Bookings: Craig 28, Upson 34, Bennett 83
Pawel Wszolek was a much better choice to shoot from that range, and proved it with a low drive to make it 2-0 on 19 minutes, although keeper Adam Smith was slow to get down to the Pole’s effort.
For McLaren, the performances of several of the incomers, especially Osayi-Samuel and centre back Grant Hall – returning after knee surgery – will give welcome hope.
Of course this comes with the caveat of limited opposition. Bristol Rovers have a record in League One that reflects QPR – one win in five league games.
They had their chances – Kyle Bennett scuffing wide from six yards just after half time the best of them – but lacked a clinical edge.
The final punishment for profligacy was inflicted on 65 minutes. QPR made their spot in the third round – and a possible date with a Premier League giant – safe when Smith powered in Osman Kakay’s cross.
The game meandered somewhat after the third goal, sparked briefly into life as Osayi-Samuel and Bennett squared up when the Hoops forward took exception to a meaty challenge. After the handbags, both men were booked.
McLaren thus decided to remove his best player on the night, to a standing ovation from the 3,000 or so home fans, replaced by 18-year-old debutant Faysal Bettache, a player so obscure he does not have a profile on the club website.
Rovers were cheered throughout by an impressive 1,750-stromg following, and they had something to cheer when Ed Upson bundled home a late consolation. However their Carabao Cup run ends here, while McLaren’s continues – whether he wants it or not.
Bright Osayi-Samuel broke the deadlock just four minuutes in as QPR made a fast start
By 18 minutes the hosts were 2-0 up thanks to Pawel Wszolek’s strike from outside the box
Giant attacker Smith rises highest to head home as League One Rovers were defeated
Midfielder Ed Upson bundled home a late consolation for the Gas as they are eliminated
Steve McClaren’s side have now won two games in a row as they look to revive their fortunes
Faysal Bettache was one of 11 changes for QPR as Steve McClaren prioritised the league
Grant Hall returned at the back for the Hoops as they easily overcame League One opponents
Goalscorer Smith applauds the 5,007 who turned up at Loftus Road for the cup match