QPR grabbed their first away win since September following an excellent second half performance at a very wet and windswept Bloomfield Road. After a first half in which Blackpool were the better of the two sides , the R’s stood firm and stepped up a couple of gears to claim a very important three points in the chase for an immediate return to the Premier League.
Following another injury to Andy Johnson, Harry Redknapp decided to revert back to what has seemed to be his favoured 4-5-1 formation. Gary O’Neil started the game on the right side of midfield with former ‘pool man Matty Phillips over on the left. Jermaine Jenas played the ‘spare’ role, supporting Charlie Austin when he could.
Blackpool enjoyed some good spells during the first half and quite comfortably enjoyed the better of the game in the first 45 minutes. The hosts had numerous chances to take the lead as QPR struggled to get to grips with the quick passing game that Blackpool played,which was helped slightly by the wet weather conditions. Rob Green was called into action on a couple of occasions and saved well from efforts by Steven Davis and Craig Cathcart. The best effort of the half though came from Dan Gosling, who fired just wide when he looked as though he would open the scoring.
QPR dealt fairly comfortably with the home teams efforts; the defence stood firm with both Dunne and Hill resorting to some fairly basic/old school defending of clearing the line without any hesitation. I think this may have hindered our usual passing a game as the R’s struggled to get into any kind of rhythm. As the teams trooped down the tunnel at half-time, I think most of us would have been pleased if the game remained a drawer after a tough first half played out in horrible weather.
The second-half brought a change to the QPR line-up. Clint Hill was replaced by Nedum Onouha after what seemed to be an injury to the R’s captain. Joey Barton also seemed to drop back and almost play in between the two Rangers centre-backs, possibly to help with the distribution of the ball. The turning point of the game though was the introduction of Niko Kranjcar, who came on for the hard-working but ineffective Gary O Neil. Kranjcar played on the left with Philips moving over to his more familiar role on the right.
Kranjcar seemed to be the link that was missing to Ranger’s passing game. He hugged the touchline but seemed to find more space than any other player and was at the heart of every good move from the minute he came on. Little Tommy Carroll impressed too as his energy fused with Phillips wing-play began to take effect. It only seemed a matter of time until we would get that all important first goal.
The R’s took the lead around the 60th minute. After some terrific harassing from Charlie Austin, Matt Gilkes hurried clearance was intercepted by Jenas and the ball broke to Phillips. His shot took a wicked deflection and skidded off the wet turf to give the home keeper no chance. The former Blackpool man ran over to the travelling support as the away stand started to wobble in goal celebrating ecstasy.
With a goal under his belt, Phillips almost scored his and Rangers second goal of the game. A wonderful pass from the back by Barton was superbly controlled in one movement by Phillips and he ran onto goal but Gilks saved well at his near post.
Phillips also had another decent effort, dragging a shot wide after some good work again by Barton and Kranjcar. However, the second goal that Rangers were looking for soon came in what was easily the move of the match. Kranjcar turned and spun a ball into Jenas. His pass found Simpson who played the ball into Phillips. His one-two with Jenas resulted in a lovely ball into the box which was met hungrily with a thumping header by Charlie Austin, who celebrated his 11th goal of an impressive season.
It was a move that would have graced the top tier of the game and was worth the time and effort that just under a 1000 QPR fans had made to witness it. It was a hug-a-stranger goal celebration and a great moment to be a part of.
There was almost a third goal soon after and that would have been a great one had it had gone in. Another sweeping ball from Kranjcar found Phillips who was in acres of space. He held the ball up and played a pass into the feet of Carroll. His lovely improvised first time chip was brilliantly clawed away by Gilks and denied the Spurs loanee a first QPR goal. The Blackpool players looked a little dazed after this great period of play by the R’s and I think they didn’t feel they could match the step up in class showed by the visitors.
Despite 4 minutes of added time, the game ended comfortably in the end for the Superhoops. After a tough opening 45 minutes, QPR came out and played possibly their best 45 minutes of football this season, certainly away from home anyway. Kranjcar, Barton, Austin and Phillips were all excellent in the second half and it was a good team performance in difficult weather conditions.
It was the perfect tonic for the upcoming visit of Leicester City, where QPR can look to get 3 points on home turf where they have excelled so well so far at Loftus Road.
Ratings: Green 7, Simpson 7, Hill 6 (Onouha 7) Dunne 6, Assou-Ekotto 7, O’Neil 6 (Kranjcar 8) Carroll 7, Barton 8, Jenas 7 (Henry 5) , PHILLIPS 8*, Austin 8.