Rotherham United had a taste of capital punishment as they lost out to Queens Park Rangers by the odd goal in five, despite a brave late rally.
In a similar pattern to last Saturday’s reversal at Swansea, the Millers were not at the races in the first period, as they faced a two-goal deficit, despite Michael Smith’s first goal of the season.
However, Paul Warne’s side showed their never-say-die spirit after the break and they gave QPR a scare when sub Freddie Ladapo struck with six-minutes remaining, but, it was too little, too late, as the hosts hung on for victory.
For the trip to West London, Warne made four changes to his starting line-up.
The Rotherham supremo was boosted by the return of experienced left-back Joe Mattock, following a hamstring injury while Irishman Trevor Clarke was rewarded for his impressive substitute cameo at the Liberty Stadium, by earning his first start of the campaign, in a more advanced role.
Warne also freshened up his attacking options with Kyle Vassell given a rare chance to impress behind the towering presence of Smith, who was asked to spearhead the Rotherham front line.
There was also welcome news on the visiting bench with club skipper Richard Wood and Ladapo returning after hamstring and hip injuries, respectively, as Warne used his full allocation of substitutes.
The hosts made a lively opening and they had the first opportunity of note when Chris Willock and Lyndon Dykes combined to great effect and Ilias Chair was the grateful recipient, as he fired a left-footed effort into the side netting from a tight angle.
The Millers gradually settled into the Loftus Road affair and Dan Barlaser looped an inviting centre into the box and Clarke got the run on his marker, to meet his cross, but he failed to trouble Seny Dieng in the home goal with his downward header.
At the other end, Chair made something out of nothing to ghost past Wes Harding with ease before advancing down the by-line with menace but Barlaser snuffed out the danger with a timely tackle before QPR came within a whisker of the opener when Barlaser’s pass was intercepted by Bright Osayi-Samuel, who embarked on an incisive run, which took Ben Wiles out of the game before the home winger evaded the last-ditch tackles of Mattock and Angus MacDonald to strike goalwards, but fortunately for the Millers, the ball smashed against the woodwork before falling to safety.
However, Rotherham failed to heed the warning as QPR went ahead, in their next attack.
Following promptings in and around the Millers box, Osayi-Samuel latched onto the loose ball and with neither Barlaser and Mattock prepared to make a tackle in the box, he was able to pick out Chair, who fired instinctively towards goal, and the ball took two deflections, firstly off Wiles and then Angus MacDonald, which slightly changed the trajectory and it was enough to deceive Jamal Blackman, who was in no position to prevent the ball finding the visitors net.
The Millers were temporarily unsettled by the setback and Chair turned creator with a dangerous cross which former Rotherham midfielder Dominic Ball attempted to turn goalwards, but his skimmed header struck MacDonald en-route to goal, which turned it away from goal before Osman Kakay blazed over from a promising position, moments later.
Chair and Osayi-Samuel were running the show for the home side and the Moroccan playmaker showed fleet of foot to work a shooting position but Wiles bravely blocked his effort before Osayi-Samuel danced into the box, but he was unable to get his shot away, on this occasion.
Despite being second best for the opening half-hour, Rotherham had their best spell of the first 45 when Smith looked to be upended in the box, but nothing was given and with QPR still at sixes and sevens, Harding latched onto the loose ball to deliver a centre which Smith cushioned into the path of Barlaser, who took aim from outside the box with a carefully steered effort which brought a fine save from Dieng, who tipped the ball over, acrobatically.
However, Rotherham managed to get themselves back on level terms, seven minutes before the break, when Florian Jozefzoon pulled the ball back into the path of Harding, who delivered a cross of great quality and Smith needed no second invitation to nip in front of his marker to powerfully head the ball in the heart of the home net giving Dieng no chance.
The Millers’ joy proved short-lived, though, as QPR took a stranglehold on the game, in first half stoppage time but not before they had threatened the visitors’ goal, on a couple of occasions.
Firstly, Osayi-Samuel planted a cross which debutant Willock attempted to turn home, but Harding did enough to deny him before Chair had Rotherham in a daze to strike a cross-cum-shot which Blackman parried instinctively and Osayi-Samuel looked set to fire into the unguarded net but his effort struck MacDonald, on his own goalline, before smashing against the foot of the post and rolling to safety.
However, Mark Warburton’s men took a firm grip on the game, with two goals in first half injury time.
Osayi-Samuel, who was Rotherham’s tormentor in chief, had both MacDonald and Mattock on the backfoot as he worked his way into the box, and with neither Millers player putting in a meaningful challenge, he fired into the far corner of the goal, as Blackman was helpless on his own line.
With Rotherham still reeling from the strike, QPR turned the screw with a third goal when Yoann Barbet clipped a ball forward and Barlaser was in a tussle with a visiting forward in the box, and unluckily, the ball struck the arm of the Millers playmaker, as he appeared to be not looking at the ball, and the referee harshly pointed to the spot.
Scottish international Lyndon Dykes punished the Millers to the full from the resultant penalty when he drove a low effort into the middle of the visitors’ goal, as the ball evaded the despairing dive of Blackman.
Half-time- QPR 3 Rotherham United 1
Warne made a double change at the break and one of those substitutes, Jamie Lindsay took aim from distance, but his long-range effort flew into the stand behind the goal before QPR came close to a fourth goal when Dykes’ flick-on saw Willock win a foot race with Harding but MacDonald showed good anticipation to cut out his cross – with Chair lurking for a tap-in and Blackman in no man’s land.
Minutes later, Chair struck a free-kick harmlessly over the bar before Dykes sneaked behind the back of the Rotherham rearguard, but he had the ball took off his toe, before he could strike towards goal.
There was no shortage of endeavour in Rotherham colours, and they were largely nullifying the threats of Chair and Osayi-Samuel but QPR were showing good game management to hold the Millers at an arms’ length until Harding’s ball over the top found Michael Ihiekwe in space, and the visiting centre-half showed good composure to rifle a low effort into the far corner of the goal, but the flag had long been raised.
In a seemingly last throw of the dice, Ladapo was thrown into the fray and the move almost paid immediate dividends when last season’s top marksman latched onto Smith’s flick-on to shoot goalwards but his effort lacked conviction, as it was straight down the throat of Dieng before he broke clear, moments later, but again, he failed to make it count and Barbet came out of nowhere to deny him.
Minutes later, another sub Matt Olosunde had a trademark pacey run which seemed to outfox Niko Hamalainen, who seemed to take the leg of the American, as he looked to cross, but the referee waved away Rotherham appeals for a spot kick with Ihiekwe booked for dissent, in the aftermath of the incident.
However, Ladapo, at the third time of asking, gave Rotherham a glimmer of hope, with six minutes to go, by reducing the deficit.
There looked little danger for QPR until Lindsay swung over a delicious centre which was inch-perfect for the head of Ihiekwe, who guided a downward header towards the bottom corner of the net, and despite beating the full-length dive of Dieng, the ball cannoned against the foot of the post, but Ladapo was on-hand to nod home the rebound into the empty net.
Warne was throwing caution to the wind and Hirst, was introduced in a fifth change, in a three-pronged Millers attack and it almost brought due reward when Mattock hung up a centre which the Leicester loanee nodded goalwards, but Dieng plucked his effort out of the sky, under pressure from Matt Crooks.
There was late panic in the QPR ranks and the Millers almost made it pay, in the last attack of the match, when Ladapo pounced on hesitation in the home box but a combination of Dieng and Conor Masterson denied him at close quarters before the final whistle brought relief to the hosts and sense of what might have been for Warne’s spirited side.
Full-time- QPR 3 Rotherham United 2
Queens Park Rangers 3
Rotherham United 2
Teams: QPR- Dieng, Kakay, Masterson, Barbet, Hamalainen, Cameron (Carroll 66), Ball, Osayi-Samuel (Adomah 79), Chair, Willock (Bonne 60), Dykes. Unused- Kelly, Kane, Wallace, Bettache, Alfa, Kelman.
Rotherham- Blackman, Harding (Hirst 85), Ihiekwe, A MacDonald, Mattock, Jozefzoon (Olosunde 59), Wiles, Barlaser (Crooks 46), Clarke (Lindsay 46), Vassell (Ladapo 74), Smith. Unused- Johansson, Jones, Wood, Miller.
Referee- O Langford