Leon Balogun: QPR boss Beale rues Nigerian’s early withdrawal as injury strikes defender again

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Leon Balogun, QPR vs Luton.
Complete Sports
Queens Park Rangers coach Michael Beale attributed Leon Balogun’s early exit to his side’s 3-1 loss to Luton in Saturday’s Championship clash.
  • QPR coach feels Balogun’s exit disrupted game plan
  • Nigerian could not continue after early knock
  • 34-year-old has been integral to QPR’s resurgence

WHAT HAPPENED? Balogun had started the early kickoff at right-back for QPR but only lasted 14 minutes before he was replaced by Ossie Kakay after sustaining a knock and his side went behind four minutes later, followed by two further goals in the second half to give the home side the win.

The Nigeria international was returning to the team after missing last Friday’s 2-1 win over Reading and Beale was disappointed that his game plan was disrupted after selecting the 34-year-old to deal with specific threats that Luton presented.

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WHAT DID BEALE SAY? “It was a huge blow because Leon has played there [right-back] a lot in the Bundesliga, Rangers and in Europe so I knew on a game like today [Saturday] where there will be a lot of aerial contact a lot of stuff in the box around set plays, that having an extra centre-half in terms of profile and size would be really important. To lose him early affected us slightly,” Beale told the club’s inhouse channel after the match.

THE BIGGER PICTURE: Balogun has had an impressive start to life in London after joining in the summer from Scottish giants Rangers, having been part of a QPR defence that kept four clean sheets in five games before the meeting with Luton.

The 34-year-old has been hailed for his leadership and experience that has brought some calmness to a young back four but his poor injury record is threatening to halt him.

He missed the Super Eagles friendly match against Algeria due to another injury last month and after completing 90 minutes in back-to-back matches, he is back on the treatment table again.

QPR headed into the fixture following three straight wins while Luton were unbeaten in their previous five league fixtures but goals from Elijah Adebayo, Jimmy Dunne (own goal) gave them a 2-0 lead before Ethan Horvath scored in his own net to reduce the arrears.

Luke Freeman added the third for the home side to see the visitors slip from third to fourth on the table.

WHAT NEXT FOR BALOGUN? Beale termed Balogun’s injury “just contact on the grass” but he is keeping his fingers crossed that he will not be out for long given their next match is on Wednesday at home to Cardiff City before visiting Wigan Athletic on Saturday.