DAMIEN Delaney agrees with boss Iain Dowie that Rangers need to work harder when they don't have the ball.
But he insists Sunday's 4-1 thumping of Southampton offered too many encouraging signs to be overly-critical.
"It wasn't a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination and we were perhaps a bit sluggish," Delaney told the Gazette.
"But over a 46-game season, you're not going to play brilliantly in every game.
"The fact we didn't play brilliantly and still won 4-1 was a testament to the strength of the squad though.
"It's a good sign."
The Republic of Ireland international continued: "We were good on the ball, but it's true maybe our closing down and work-rate wasn't good enough.
"Hopefully we'll put that right though. Many of us have won promotion before and know what's required.
"We know they don't hand out places for the Premier League in mid-September.
"This is a testing week for us with three away games in a row, but Bristol City was a test, and we proved an awful lot of things to ourself there.
"We can dig in and hold on to a point if we have to."
Delaney's form is a great source of comfort for Dowie and so is his attitude.
Dexter Blackstock was the star of the day as he netted twice against his old team.
But it was arguably Delaney's marauding runs which best summed up the threat the side can pose when they go forward. From one of them, he got Saints debutant Oliver Lancashire sent off - albeit harshly - for halting his progress with a mistimed tackle.
This is a man who could not wait for the season to get started and he has translated that into some turbo-charged displays down the left flank.
Sometimes there are shades of that old England warhorse Stuart Pearce about him.
But he accepts that in most away games, he will have to reign in that instinct to go forward.
"The manager encourages our full backs to go forward. It's a good weapon to have," Delaney said.
"Obviously, it's not always so easy in away games but last year Gigi De Canio wanted me to go forward in the away games too, but maybe that's the reason we conceded so many goals away from home.
"It may not be so exciting for the fans to watch if we are cautious on our travels, but I'm sure they won't mind if we get a top six or top two place.'
Delaney added: "The challenge ahead of us is massive, but I'm relishing it.
"Half way through my summer break, I just wanted to get back because I was so eager to get started. Pre-season seemed to be dragging on. I've been in this division now for too many years and I've had enough of it. I want to get out of the Championship and test myself in the Premier League.
"We've made a decent start, averaging two points a game and that's the form that should get you up."
Dowie, who said his side were poor out of possession, had the comfort of seeing more evidence of potency and another fine bit of goal-poaching from Blackstock - who has four league goals compared to only six through the whole of last season.
The coach thinks that's down to a better attitude in training.
"He's got to train as he plays," Dowie declared.
"He's a great kid and when the games are on, he's at it. I've had to make sure he's also at it in training every day.
"Now when he trains, he's bang on. He's getting into that habit of intensity every day and it's shown in his displays.
"Also, he's now threatening behind [defences]. He doesn't keep looking for it to feet, he's looking to hurt defences behind and he's got the legs to do it.
"He's got an innate ability and if he continues to develop, he's going to be a very very good centre forward."
Dowie added: "We've got a long way to go. We're pleased with the start but there's lots we can improve on. This game has a habit of tripping you up.
"But we're a young team and we have key players to come back - Fitz Hall, Akos Buzsaky back and Rowan Vine.
"Competition for places is hotting up and that could be valuable for me and I'm confident of the squad we've got - with maybe one or two loan additions.
"We're doing all right but we're not going to shout from the rooftops that we're going to win it. I think that's disrespectful because there are some great teams in this division and at any moment, they can beat you."
QPR (1) 4 SOUTHAMPTON (0) 1 Line-up: Cerny; Ramage, Connolly, Stewart, Delaney; Ephraim (Rowlands 60), Mahon, Leigertwood, Cook; Parejo (Agyemang 60), Blackstock. Subs not used: Camp, Gorkss, Balanta. Attendance: 13,770 GOALS: Blackstock (1, 77), Lallana (54), Agyemang (90). MoM: Damien Delaney.
COVENTRY C, Ricoh Arena Saturday 3pm Championship
Manager: Chris Coleman Position last season: 21st
Form Guide: The Sky Blues were early league leaders until a 3-0 home defeat by Bristol City dampened any inflated ambitions. Last week's 0-0 draw at home to Preston is unlikely to have revived the early excitement and they have now gone four games without a win. Victories have come over Norwich (2-0 at home) and Barnsley (2-1 away) and there was a 1-0 defeat at Doncaster. Newcastle put them out of the Carling Cup with a 3-2 win at the Ricoch Arena.
Players to look out for: Reported QPR summer target Clinton Morrison will do his best to show the visitors what they are missing. The Republic of Ireland striker knows Rs boss Iain Dowie well from their time together at Crystal Palace.
Most recent meetings: Coventry C 0-0 QPR (5 Mar 2008); QPR 1-2 Coventry C (6 Nov 2007); - Championship.
Head-to-head record: CC Wins: 42 QPR Wins: 34 Draws: 26
Match Facts: Four of the last five meetings have ended in wins for the away side. The exception was the last clash in the Midlands in March, which ended 0-0. There have been only six goals in those matches, with only one of them for the home side.
Forecast: Rangers to claim another useful away point.
ASTON VILLA, Villa Park Wednesday 7.45pm Carling Cup third round
Manager: Martin O'Neill Position last season: 6th Prem League Form Guide: Villa's 2-1 at Tottenham on Monday night makes it just one defeat in eight games in all competitions so far. They beat Man City 4-2 on the opening day and drew with Liverpool (0-0 at home). Their only defeat came at Stoke (2-3). A derby at West Brom this weekend follows a Uefa Cup trip to Bulgaria to play Litex Lovech.
Players to look out for: Villa have some very good English players in their ranks, with the dynamic Gaby Agbonlahor and Ashley Young up front and Gareth Barry in midfield the pick of the bunch. [
Most recent meetings: Aston Villa 3-1 QPR (22 Sep 2004) - League Cup; Aston Villa 4-2 QPR (9 Mar 1996); QPR 1-0 Aston Villa (23 Dec 2007) - PL Head-to-head record: AV Wins: 17 QPR Wins: 21 Draws: 9
Match Facts: Rangers have been beaten on their last six visits to Villa Park. Their last success was a 1-0 win in 1992. Rangers have met Villa nine times in cup ties and won only once - a League Cup tie at Loftus Road in 1984.
Forecast: Rangers will give a good account of themselves, but Villa should prevail. They have a manager who has won the competition as a player (with Forest) and a manager (with Leicester) while Villa have a big pedigree as fivetimes winners.
Gazetteforecast success rate: 5 correct out of 7 (71%)