QPR’s impressive start to life back in the Championship continued with another victory, this time against bottom of the table Barnsley at Loftus Road. Many R’s fans eyed this fixture as an opportunity for Harry Redknapp’s men to improve upon a goal tally to complement the excellent work in preventing goals being conceded.
There were no changes to the Rangers line-up which meant the 4-5-1 formation that drew the plaudits the previous weekend remained the same. This meant there was no start for recent signing Javier Chevanton who was amongst the substitutes.
As with the pattern of a lot of our games so far this season and despite the neat and tidy football and being very comfortable in possession, the R’s struggled to create goal scoring chances during a very tepid first half. At times, there even seemed to be one or two players in midfield either getting in each other’s way or carrying out the same role. Both Tom Carroll and Ale Faurlin saw a lot of the ball, the loanee from Spurs in particular looked to move it about sprightly at every attempt.
With both Hoilett and Matt Philips picking up injuries in recent weeks, the width/attacking threat from the flanks in recent games have been provided by our full-backs. However, in this first half, Barnsley seemed to nullify this threat with Simpson in particular not getting forward as much as he did the week before versus Middlesbrough. The creative threat of Niko Kranjcar was similarly dealt with as he saw very little of the ball too. Barnsley seemed happy to let the home team enjoy the bulk of the possession. One player who caught the eye for the away team was David Perkins, who covered most area’s of the pitch during the first period with an energetic display.
Perkins clears off the line for Barnsley
The first half only provided one clear goal scoring opportunity for QPR. Some nice work on the left hand side saw the ball fall to Charlie Austin. His first time effort was saved excellently by the out-stretched boot of Jack Butland; the ball then fell to Faurlin whose effort was again clawed away by the keeper. It was a great double save, the first real work the keeper had to make and he was very alert to it. Butland looked very confident and assured through-out; its such a shame a good young English goalkeeper can only get a game for a struggling championship side. Barnsley’s only real effort of any mention came late in the half when a hopeful deep cross put over on the left hand flank by Tom Kennedy soon arrowed goalwards but was dealt with comfortably by Rob Green. Barnsley also had a shout for a penalty when Kranjcar blocked an effort, the Barnsley players appealed for handball but the ref ignored their shouts.
Despite the possession and the tidy football, I felt, as did most of the home crowd, that we needed some width out on the flanks in order to stretch the play and work in some threat. There were no changes at half-time but there was a change in the terms of tempo for the R’s. The opening exchanges of the second half saw the five man midfield almost diamond shaped at times. Gary O’Neil’s influence on the side has gone quietly un-noticed it seems this season. Again, his work rate was impressive and his intelligent passing was there to be seen. Carroll is beginning to show some steel in his performances too as he has had to mix his neat passing and good vision with some good old fashioned tackling. Joey Barton, after a very good start to the season, has blended into this Faurlin/Carroll mix and probably hasn’t had the influence on games that he had a month or so ago. Faurlin was almost playing off Charlie Austin at times in the second half, almost squeezed out of his midfield berth in fact and looking a little lost.
Ale Faurlin and former teammate Peter Ramage
It seemed to be that either Carroll or Faurlin who would have to make way for Hoilett at some point; this was the case when the Argentianen made way for the pace of Hoilett. Needless to say, this change was soon to make the difference in this encounter. Kranjcar had a shot on target that was hacked away unconvincingly by McCourt . The hosts pressure though finally paid off. A quickly taken short corner on the left dropped into Junior’s feet. He beat his man as he dribbled into the penalty area and squared up the ball for Charlie Austin who finished smartly. It was almost like a training ground routine, very simple but very effective and it was this bit of class which has proved vital for us so far this season. This goal finally broke the visitors’ resilience, the defensive set-up that had worked hard to prevent any goals was starting to tire and heads dropped. There was also an injury to former R’s man Ramage which meant his part in the game was to come to an end. He left the field to a great ovation from the home stands, whilst not always at his best at QPR, he played well in his favoured central defensive position when he was played there under Warnock. He always came across as a hard working and honest player, exactly the type of player that is always appreciated in this part of West London
Hoilett skips inside to set up Austin for the opener
Rangers doubled their advantage shortly afterwards. Austin picked the ball up and went on another of his surging runs, this time across the edge of the penalty area and into the box and was brought down by Crainie. The former Burnley man then got up and converted his 3rd penalty in as many games, sending the keeper the wrong way. I happened to have a good view of the penalty and even managed to capture a video of it on my phone camera.
His penalty taking so far has been excellent, all three of his penalties have been despatched confidently & clinically giving the keeper no chance. His technique is very good, I’m sure he sells the keeper a dummy on this particular penalty when he looks one way but shoots the other. Rodney Marsh predicted at the beginning of the season that Charlie Austin would win us 6 games on his goals alone; well Rodney, that’s 4 out of the 6 already! His 2 goals capped off another very impressive display, he plays very direct and likes to run with the ball at his feet unlike an orthodox striker playing that lone role. The last time QPR played successfully with one up front was the promotion season with Heidar Helguson but he very much brought others into play as opposed to being direct like Austin. Very different types of striker but both very much in the mould of a traditional QPR striker.
Chevanton came on with 5 minutes or so to play, it was a bright cameo which almost brought about a third goal; his dipping volley from the edge of the area almost creeping in had caught most of the crowd out.
As with most of the recent performances, Rangers were made to work for their victory by an opposing team who had very little attacking aspirations. The Rangers defence had a very quiet afternoon; Rob Green had little to do in keeping his 8th successive clean sheet. What little threat Barnsley did offer was effortlessly mopped up by Richard Dunne and Clint Hill.
Charlie Austin took his recent tally of goals to 5 in 4 games with another hard working performance. His two goals made him the games stand-out player but he was run close by good performances from Carroll and O’ Neil.
This win now takes Rangers three points clear of third place as we head into another International break. We now have 3 fairly tough away games coming up but I think a realistic points return of 4-6 points will be an excellent haul before Derby visit Loftus Road at the beginning of November.
Ratings: Green 6, Simpson 6, Dunne 7, Hill 7, Assou-Ekotto 6, Kranjcar 6, Barton 6, Faurlin 6, Carroll 7, O’Neil 7, AUSTIN 8*
Subs: Hoilett 7, Chevanton 7, Henry 6.
Subs not used: Traore, Ehmer, Jenas, Murphy
Photos provided by Sandra Sayce and are used with permission.