QPR beat Wigan to give new manager Mark Hughes first league win

On taking over at QPR, Mark Hughes talked about his players having to understand quickly what was required. On this evidence it is to adhere to a tight shape, fan out when in possession to offer options, and shoot more.

Simple, maybe, but in the last days of Neil Warnock QPR too often lost their way and games when teams got at them. Here, Tommy Smith's 81st-minute 30-yard shot that sealed the win illustrated Hughes's point when he also stated that conversion not creation was what has hobbled QPR this season.

A dire run of two points from 27 is now five from 30 and Hughes said: "I'm delighted – a good performance, initially we were a little apprehensive but I thought we settled reasonably quickly and started to get the ball down to pass and move."

Asked if his players had worked specifically on being more ruthless in front of goal, he said: "We're working on everything in fairness. But fair play to the lads it's been a difficult period – only two weeks since we've come through the door, for them to show the attitude and commitment that they're doing shows them great credit. It's not easy when you're down the bottom end of table and you have to have mental strength – I sense there's a real togetherness."

Despite this being a contest between two sides stuck in the exit chamber of the Premier League this was a riveting watch. Bottom place (Wigan) against 18th (QPR) in late January sounded like an advert for a tense and torpid affair but it was pacy and entertaining to the close as Hughes registered his first Premier League victory as QPR manager.

Wigan's Victor Moses raced down the left from near halfway to leave Luke Young flailing before zipping a ball across Paddy Kenny that no team-mate could convert. This followed Jordi Gómez delivering a cross that a dozing home defence allowed Steve Gohouri to meet unmarked but he missed wide right.

Despite their more clinical edge, QPR still spurned chances. DJ Campbell's smart dummy allowed the ball to find Heidar Helguson but after he ran at the defence a left-foot effort went wide.

Campbell looked sharp until opportunity came knocking: a flipped pass from Joey Barton removed the defence but found only a static Campbell and strike partner Helguson.

Akos Buzsaky then missed with two attempts though he would end the period planting a 25-yard free-kick beyond Ali al-Habsi that pinged in off the right post. Preceding this the muscular Jamie Mackie beat a clutch of players and blazed the ball at Wigan's goalkeeper who saw it swerve and saved with a left glove.

From the ensuing corner QPR won the penalty that opened their account. Barton's delivery from the left quadrant was poor but James McCarthy decided to stick out an arm and handle the ball for some reason. Helguson stroked home for a ninth of the campaign.

When Hugo Rodallega, one of the too many quiet visiting players, blasted a 30-yard free-kick beyond Kenny that was 2-1 and Wigan had a glimmer. But the home side continued to pour forward and before Smith's killer strike QPR could afford to miss a penalty – Helguson this time seeing his kick produce a fine save from Habsi to his right.

The Hoops are now 16th and clear of danger, for the moment at least. But Roberto Martínez's side continue at the bottom, having scored a paltry 19 times, this league's lowest. He said: "We couldn't control the game and we got punished from two dead-ball situations and obviously a very unfortunate penalty from our point of view. Once we got the goal back we were starting to get on the ball ,we were starting to push Queens Park Rangers back.

"But we are disappointed because we expected to come here and have a better performance all-round."

Martínez is targeting eight wins from the last 16 games for survival – not impossible, but hard.

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