QPR boss Ainsworth defends under-fire Balogun and Laird

QPR boss Gareth Ainsworth has defended Leon Balogun and Ethan Laird amid criticism from fans.

Balogun, who returned from a five-month lay-off, was involved in a heated confrontation with away supporters following the 1-0 loss at Wigan.

Laird, in his first match since sustaining a hamstring injury against Sunderland in February, was booed by some fans as he lay on the ground before being taken off .

Many fans are frustrated that several players have been unavailable for much of what has been a horrible season.

A dismal run of results has left Rangers three points above the bottom three and in serious danger of relegation from the Championship.

Balogun was impressive earlier in the season after being signed by former R’s boss Mick Beale, but never featured during the ill-fated 12-match reign of Beale’s successor Neil Critchley.

The former Glasgow Rangers centre-back conceded the early penalty that won the game for the Latics and on Sunday posted a message on social media to explain what happened after the game when he approached the away end.

“It was totally honest player giving everything and a totally honest and committed fan giving everything,” Ainsworth said.

“It was probably a breakdown in communication at the end of a game where we’ve lost and people shouting at each other from 25 yards while people are shouting around them. That’s all it is.

“It showed the passion of football. Leon is 100% committed to this football club. He’s is a top guy.

“I have sat down with him and talked to him about how he plays and told him what I thought of him. He went through a tough injury and it has been hard for him.

“I think the frustrations of that time out and not being able to contribute didn’t help, but he is a proper professional and a player you want in the trenches with you and I am pleased he is back.

“I think he’s a real leader and this club has lacked leaders and characters for one reason or another, and when the going gets tough you need these leaders and Leon is one of those.”

Ainsworth said Laird will be fit to face Preston on Good Friday and that he left the field at Wigan because of cramp.

“Ethan is OK. He came off with cramp,” Ainsworth explained.

“Even though there was frustrations from some fans – without knowing the full story or the full facts – I was disappointed that there were a few boos when he came off.

“I hope they were not aimed at Ethan. He gave everything and that’s all you want from your players.

“The boy couldn’t run any more because it was his first game after a few months out. I am in awe of him for doing that.

“There were some negative feelings when he came off but I can’t understand that, and he’s back in training and fine.”