Mark Warburton expressed his frustration as QPR’s play-off hopes were effectively ended with a 1-0 defeat at Stoke City.
The Rs failed to register a shot on target as they suffered an eighth defeat in 11 matches, falling six points behind the play-off fray with two games remaining.
Despite the absence of boss Michael O’Neill, who underwent hip surgery in midweek, the hosts sailed to a comfortable and deserved victory.
Hoops stopper Keiren Westwood was on top form to deny the likes of Romaine Sawyers and Josh Maja in an opening period of one-way traffic.
However, the Potters’ persistence paid off when Jacob Brown rifled home from an acute angle seconds before the interval – his 13th league strike of the season.
George Thomas threatened an unlikely leveller and struck the post with a header, but the visitors’ late efforts were fruitless as they suffered another setback.
Warburton said: “I’m very disappointed with the first-half performance; we looked like a team trying not to win. We were better in the second half, but still two or three gears below where we should be.
“I talk a lot about having no regrets in what you do, and if you leave the pitch with no regrets then you can hold your head high. Maybe they need to feel that regret.
“There’s still a lot to play for. We have a responsibility to the QPR fans, each and every one of them. When I hear people say they’re meaningless games, you’re a pro playing in front of people who have paid money to see you play so I can’t have that.
“We’ve got two games to beat last year’s points total and then we’ll see where that leaves us, but it is frustrating because the team were in a really strong position and we’ve let ourselves down.”
Stoke, who have now won five of their last seven league games, took the ascendancy from the first kick and nearly opened the scoring inside two minutes through Lewis Baker.
Their dominance continued throughout a busy opening period with Sawyers’ venomous strike through a sea of bodies saved well by a busy Westwood.
The Potters secured a well-deserved lead shortly before half-time when Brown was on hand at the end of a corner kick to stab home.
Taylor Harwood-Bellis and Maja threatened to double their advantage but were both thwarted by Westwood, while, by contrast, Stoke stopper Joe Bursik remained untested all afternoon.
Assistant boss Dean Holden said: “When we scored the goal, it was the least we deserved going in 1-0 up at half-time. We went in with 16 crosses, seven corners and 10 shots, which was pleasing.
“We knew what they were going to come with; it was win or bust for them. But we restricted them to very little and I think we controlled the game without the ball in the second half.
“Overall, it was good to get a 90-minute performance at home, which we’ve not done enough of.
“It was a pleasing day all round, but the big frustration is that it’s five wins from seven and it’s too little, too late. But at the same time, nobody can question the character of the players as well.
“We’re playing against good teams so credit to the players, and we’ve got to finish as high up the league as we can now.”
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