A fantastic 30 yard strike from Charlie Austin was enough to secure 3 more points as QPR’s excellent home form continued. The former Swindon front man’s 8th goal of the season was enough to separate the two teams in what was a fairly tepid London Derby.
On a day when Harry Redknapp celebrated 30 years in football management, he has Austin’s goal as a great memory for his own personal milestone. With Charlton just 5 minutes away from going into the break on level terms, Austin picked the ball up just inside their half. He rode one challenge before looking up and smashing a right foot shot that arrowed beautifully into the top right corner.
Charlie Austin lets fly for the goal
Charlton keeper Ben Hamer, who had pulled off several saves earlier, was helpless as he was rooted to the spot as the ball flew past him and into the back of the net. It was a goal that was so good I’d originally thought Nico Kranjcar had scored it, my shouts of ‘Nico, Nico’ were quickly corrected by my good friend, Indy R’s own Steve Sayce. I blame the excitement of the moment and maybe the four pints of pre-match Guinness too!
The goal was richly deserved by the home side after dominating large parts of the opening 45 minutes of this match. From pretty much the first minute, QPR kept possession well but were struggling to find a way past a well drilled albeit uninspiring visiting team. Charlton’s 4-5-1 set-up pretty much came looking for a point.
With Rangers playing the same formation, the game almost had a chess-like feel about it. For all of the patient build up and neat passes, Charlton seemed to block off a lot of QPR’s tidy passing football. With Hoilett once again missing through injury, the R’s missed the attacking options they had enjoyed so well against Derby earlier in the month.
A lot of QPR’s football started from the full-back positions, Assou-Ekotto in particular catching the eye with his composure on the ball, although his style is more Adel Tarrabt than Clive Wilson.
Benoit Assou-Ekotto memorably evades two Charlton players
When QPR did create chances, they were thwarted by the Addicks custodian Hamer. He was first called into action making a fine double save; firstly parrying a shot from Austin before comfortably getting down low to Gary O’Neil’s tame follow up shot. Matt Phillips also tried his luck; his low drive was saved well. The game was threatening to look like it was going to become like one of those games with the opposing keeper having a blinder and frustrating the home side.
The visitors did have a couple of chances of note to grab a goal themselves. Simon Church, playing the loan role up front, shot weakly from just outside the area straight into the arms of Rob Green when he should really have passed to a team mate who was in a better position. The R’s keeper then had to make a smart save as a shot from about 25 yards at pace forced him to palm the ball to safety. Other than that Charlton, like most of the teams who have visited Loftus Road this season, seemed happy to soak up the home team’s pressure without really wanting to venture too far forward.
Richard Dunne gets physical with Charlton’s Morrison
The second half saw a change for the home side. Karl Henry replaced the ineffective Jermaine Jenas, who seemed off the pace of the game and was possibly struggling with a recent injury. Henry came on and did what he usually does; tidy on the ball and getting the ball to either Barton or Gary O’Neil when he could. The R’s midfield did struggle to out-fox their Charlton counterparts in this period, much to the frustration of some of the home fans.
Certain passages of play were met with anxious groans; not something I could personally justify myself. From the absolute shambles of the past year, the current season has seen a huge turn around both in terms of player attitude and appilication. I’m not sure why people are anxious when we now have a team of players who appear to be focused in the aim of winning football matches?
A second goal was proving hard to come by for QPR. Joey Barton had a good chance to grab his first goal in front of the Loft End. His free-kick was beaten away well by Hamer as he threatened to repeat his recent goal at Reading. SWP then came on for the very out of sorts Kranjcar, who had muddled his way through the game in a way that Berbatov has done in recent games for the Tarquins from down the road.
Wright-Phillips, missing from action during the last few weeks, did provide some attacking impetus out on the left and almost scored that second elusive goal himself. He attempted a kind of scoop shot which sailed over Hamer but came back off of the bar. It would have been another cracking goal but it wasn’t to be for the former England International.
The last action of the game included a booking for Charlton captain Jackson. His kick out at Assou-Ekotto was of frustration as the Cameroonian International had got the better of him. It also high-lighted the difference in class between the two teams and how certain players/teams have no answer for moments of brilliance.
This result saw Rangers go joint top of the league with both Burnley and Leicester although we still remain in 3rd place. These 3 teams are now also 7 clear of 4th place. The next 3 games give QPR an excellent chance to cement a place in the top two before a particular tough set of games over the Christmas period. So far, so good for the R’s.
Another win at home but I think Harry will want us to gain all 3 points at Doncaster next week as it has been a while since we last won away, now 2 months ago at Yeovil. Still, The R’s go marching on in a steady but equally impressive fashion.
Green 6, Simpson 7, ASSOU-EKOTTO 8*, Hill 6, Dunne 6, Kranjcar 5 (Wright-Phillips 7), O’Neil 7, Barton 7, Jenas 5 (Henry 6), Phillips 7 (Johnson 6) , Austin 7.
(Photographs provided by Sandra Sayce and are used with permission)