BIRMINGHAM // An expensive makeover was designed to transform Queens Park Rangers, and so it has. The problem is that while they have bought Premier League players, they could soon be a Championship club.
They are running out of matches and chances to plot a passage to safety. In losing to a previously out-of-form West Brom side, an opportunity to move five points clear of the bottom three was spurned as Rangers extended their awful away record. Now relegation rivals have both games in hand and seemingly easier fixtures in the rest of the campaign.
If Rangers are to remain among the elite, the conquerors of Liverpool and Arsenal will have to carry on upsetting the odds. They face Tottenham, Chelsea and Stoke before concluding the campaign at Mark Hughes' old club, Manchester City.
His £14 million (Dh81m) January spending spree has started to reap a divided at Loftus Road, where Rangers have won their last three games, but not on their travels.
"We can't just think that our home form will be enough," Hughes said. "We need to improve the away form and pick up points and this was an opportunity. What we produced wasn't good enough."
This was a fifth successive away defeat and came against a team with little other than pride and prize money to play for.
It was inflicted by Graham Dorrans, whose second goal of the season was one to savour. Peter Odemwingie teed up the Scot, who unleashed an unstoppable 25-yard shot. Paddy Kenny got his fingertips to it but it was it with sufficient force that he could not keep it out.
Arguably the outstanding player in the Championship during Albion's promotion campaign two years ago, Dorrans has struggled to make an impact in the higher league.
This, however, was evidence of his quality. "It was a marvellous strike," said manager Roy Hodgson.
Albion were equally impressive when a slick move involving Dorrans and Chris Brunt culminated in Odemwingie backheeling the ball into the path of Billy Jones, who struck the post. Shane Long, too, should have doubled their lead in injury time.
"We were better in the second half, albeit we had clearer chances in the first half," Hughes said. Most fell to the supposed specialist scorer.
With Djibril Cisse still suspended - the French forward has now been banned for seven games in his brief Rangers career - Bobby Zamora was the sole striker.
Three opportunities fell his way but did not result in a goal: Ben Foster saved an early shot, when Zamora had shouldered Gareth McAuley aside; the target man headed wide after Joey Barton's cross; and, following a delightful diagonal ball from Taye Taiwo, Zamora's drive was stopped by Foster.
Samba Diakite and Jamie Mackie also came close but an equaliser eluded them, leading the victorious manager to draw a comparison.
"You see Queens Park Rangers today and the Queens Park Rangers we met earlier in the season," Hodgson added. "There is a major shift in Premier League quality but that quality hasn't come cheaply. There has been a major investment." And so, unless Rangers claim some major scalps, it might be a particularly costly relegation.
It was a frustrating day for Rangers' relegation rivals. Blackburn Rovers went down 3-0 at Swansea City, while Wolverhampton Wanderers drew 0-0 at Sunderland to remain at the foot of the table.