TOP-OF-THE-TREE QPR proved too strong for Middlesbrough, but manager Tony Mowbray has warned Nottingham Forest will be an even tougher test tomorrow.
Boro hardly turned up in the second half on Saturday, as the Championship leaders beat the Teessiders by three goals for the second time this season.
Fifth-place Forest visit the Riverside tomorrow night, with Boro’s boss warning that Billy Davies’s side will be even hungrier for three points.
And their task has been made ever more difficult as defender Andrew Davies suffered a hamstring injury.
It had been Davies’s leg that Heidur Helguson’s shot struck to cruelly deflect past Jason Steele for the opener just before half-time.
Rangers used that as a springboard to dominate the second half, with Helguson nodding home a second and Adel Tarrabt firing home a penalty.
“I think Forest are going to be just as tough, if not more difficult,” said a disappointed, yet optimistic, Mowbray, pictured.
“We know to expect a tough game, but if we can show the attitude and commitment of play we have over the last few months, then I know we will be more than a match to them.”
Boro could have been ahead against QPR within a minute when Paddy Kenny fluffed a kick straight at Scott McDonald.
After 15 minutes the game changed as QPR’s tricky wingers Taarabt and Newcastle United loanee Wayne Routledge came into the game.
And it was Moroccan international Taarabt who unlocked Boro’s defence for the opener on 41 minutes, when he picked out Helguson on the penalty spot.
The striker’s shot span cruelly off Davies and looped agonisingly away from a wrong-footed Steele, before bouncing tamely into the net.
That goal seemed to dent the confidence of Boro’s players.
After an hour, Mowbray changed his stagnant midfield to try and reclaim a grip on the game.
But Barry Robson and Merouane Zemmama found themselves two down after only seconds on the pitch.
Routledge left McMahon for dead on the left and his perfect, right-footed cross with the outside of his boot was straight on to Helguson’s head and the Icelander could not miss from six yards.
Eight minutes later the game was completely out of reach, as Zemmama needlessly brought down his fellow countryman Taarabt just inside the box, when there seemed little danger.
Taarabt dusted himself down to send Steele the wrong way and a large section of the home fans to the exits.
McDonald wasted two late chances before Zemmama had a half-hearted late penalty shout turned down, but it was all too little to late for Boro.
Middlesbrough: Steele, McMahon, Hines, Davies (Haas 82), Bennett, Emnes (Zemmama 59), Arca (Robson 59), Bailey, Taylor, McDonald, Lita. Subs not used: Ripley, Boyd, Grounds, Smallwood. Booked: Robson
QPR: Kenny, Orr (Connolly 78), Hall, Shittu, Hill, Routledge, Derry, Faurlin, Taarabt, Helguson (Hulse 84), Buzsaky (Ephraim 69). Subs not used: Cerny, Gorkss, Moen, Miller. Booked: Faurlin, Hall. Goals: Helguson 41, 61, Taarabt 68pen
Att: 16,972. Ref: Keith Stroud (Hampshire)