QPR boss explains decision to get best out of Willock by benching him in Stoke success

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MARTI Cifuentes admitted it was a tough call dropping Chris Willock from the starting XI of last night’s memorable 4-2 home win over Stoke City.

The Hoops’ form at Loftus Road in 2023 has been nothing short of abysmal, with only a solitary victory on the board before the Potters arrived in town on Tuesday.

QPR were handed an 11th minute penalty following a late challenge by Enda Stevens on Steve Cook, with striker Lyndon Dykes making no mistake from 12 years.

However, the hosts were pegged back on the stroke of half-time by Ryan Mmaee to give Cifuentes little time to change his team talk.

Things became a bit easier eight minutes after the restart when Stevens clumsily tackled Ilias Chair to add a second yellow to the one collected for the earlier penalty.

But despite being a man down, Stoke went in front courtesy of Wouter Burger, only for Dykes to unleash an excellent 79th minute shot to draw the Hoops back on terms.

The unfortunate Ben Pearson put the ball into his own net 10 minutes later to give QPR the lead once again.Willock had entered the fray just after the hour to replace Elijah Dixon-Bonner.

And there was still time for substitute Willock, who came on just after the hour to replace Elijah Dixon-Bonner, a selection call which paid off for the gaffer in his first win since taking over.

Cifuentes explained to QPR TV: “Actually it was a very difficult decision to not start him because I am very happy with him.

“But perhaps he became low after the last game starting after a long period without playing.

“We decided together with him that he should be very important for us in the last 30 or 40 minutes of the game.

“With that time I was right, he helped us with his qualities scoring a fantastic goal.

“I am very happy for him because we need him.”

The Loftus Road chief added: “It was not because it was a little bit of this big load he had and the injuries he got in previous months I’m sure he will be starting again soon.

“But now he is fresh and ready to start against Preston. We need to be humble now, try to recover everybody and face a new big challenge on Friday.

“We have a few hours to recover. It is about enjoying this, but being humble enough to understand that we need to achieve much more.”

Cifuentes was also full of praise after the big striker’s brace took his tally to three in what has been a difficult campaign in front of goal for everyone at club.

He revealed: “We had a very good conversation with Lyndon actually during the week and I told him that, for me, he is an experienced player, he is an international player for Scotland and he must be a very important player for us.

“Obviously the second goal is quality in my opinion.

“It was a great execution of the quality he has as a striker.

“I think we need to learn as well how to activate him better to get more chances.

“But all the credit to him, especially on the first goal because he will say it is a penalty but to take the courage in a situation like this, to take the goal and responsibility, I am very pleased about this.

“Hopefully there will be much more to come.”


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