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Austin’s powerful brace moves QPR up to second — report
Sunday, 19th Jan 2014 22:13 by Clive Whittingham

Two more goals for flying forward Charlie Austin sealed an entertaining 2-1 win for QPR against an impressive Huddersfield team at Loftus Road on Saturday.

Take Charlie Austin’s 14 goals away from Queens Park Rangers’ total this season and they’d have 13 fewer points and be outside the play-off zone. Leave them in, including the two powerful efforts that won a close and entertaining match against Huddersfield at Loftus Road on Saturday, and the R’s are back up to second and still on course for an immediate return to the Premier League.

QPR’s next top scorer after the former Burnley man is Matt Phillips with three and having climbed unfeasibly high to head home a last minute winner against Doncaster Rovers on this ground on New Year’s Day, Austin further underlined his importance to Harry Redknapp’s side against the Terriers from the other side of Yorkshire.

Both were typical goals from a player who betrays his brick-layer past with a rough, bustling, physical style that marries up with footballing ability to make him the perfect Championship centre forward. The first was powered home with his right foot at the Loft End after Niko Kranjcar had helped Clint Hill’s long punt onto Andy Johnson and he’d nodded it down in Austin’s path. The second, which turned out to be the winner, was headed home inside a crowded six yard box when Benoit Assou-Ekotto finally cured QPR’s chronic problem with delivering well from corner kicks.

Austin came to QPR with a record of 45 goals in 90 appearances for Burnley but with question marks hanging over his head. Hull City had reneged on a deal to sign him during the summer at the eleventh hour citing a long-standing knee problem, and there was a court case for a violent incident in a nightclub toilet to brush under the carpet as well. Initially it looked like an odd addition for a club chanting a “right sort” mantra in the wake of a horror 2012/13 campaign.

But having spent his late teens and early 20s forging a career at football’s coalface, playing for hometown Hungerford and non-league Poole Town while carrying brick for his father’s building company, before getting a chance at Swindon, Austin has developed into a first class centre forward and vital asset to QPR. His work rate, strength in the air and hold up and lay game are every bit as important as his eye for goal which has never diminished since he turned professional back in 2009. In a QPR team that’s basing its success on defence, rather than creating a slew of chances, Austin now has 14 goals in 27 appearances.

And so he should, some would argue, given that newly relegated QPR spent £4m to bring him in from Turf Moor during the summer — a fair whack for a Championship team that was meant to be trying to trim its wage bill at the time. Huddersfield Town chairman Dean Hoyle said earlier this season that the money spent by the relegated sides - £25-30m on wages alone according to him — was “horrendous” and cited one side paying a loan player £34,000 a week. “Some clubs that have come down from the top division have behaved unbelievably,” he said, and it didn’t need the might of the Met Police’s forensic crime unit to work out which club he’s referring to.

Huddersfield’s wage bill was reduced to £9m for this season and their transfer policy is based on scouting further down the leagues — Joe Lolley arrived this week after impressing in the Conference for Kidderminster and sat on the bench here, Nahki Wells has arrived from Bradford and already starting repaying his transfer fee with a late winner on his debut against Millwall last week.

Here Wells was bright, lively and threatening. He equalised in the sixty eighth minute when Tom Carroll conceded possession on the corner of the QPR penalty area giving the impressive Adam Hammill an invitation to press on to the byline and stand a cross up for Wells to glance home inside the six yard box.

The value of paying good money for quality strikers shone through at both ends of the field, in both a positive and a negative way. While Wells and Austin showed their obvious ability, ultimately Town were denied a draw they definitely deserved, or even an away win they could lay a reasonable claim to, by the profligacy of 22 year old forward Danny Ward, who has only scored five times this season in 21 appearances and wasted three wonderful opportunities to put his team ahead in a first half dominated by the visitors.

He was played into space vacated by Danny Simpson when Andy Johnson and Tom Carroll made a mess of a passing interchange in the third minute but volleyed over the bar. Within 60 seconds QPR had presented Ward with the ball again — O’Neil culpable this time — and with the offside flag down he should have done more than drag a low shot across goal and wide. Then on the half hour Huddersfield got in down the left and a low cross saw Ward and Hill bundle the ball into Rob Green’s arms from point blank range.

Had the ball fallen to Wells, Austin, or James Vaughan who was only fit enough for the bench and 40 minutes of second half action at Ward’s expense, then this game could have played out in a very different way. Sometimes in football you get what you pay for.

QPR had only conceded four goals at home in 12 matches this season prior to kick off so it was possibly a surprise to a sizeable, noisy travelling support in the School End to see their team creating chances quite so readily and enjoying quite so much space in the QPR half.

But then more often than not at Loftus Road this season, teams have come and shut up shop and tried to hold “big spending QPR” to a goalless draw rather than show any ambition and willingness to set about a team that, while expensively assembled, is flawed in a number of areas. Such negativity was entirely absent from Huddersfield’s approach — they came with three centre halves, progressive wing backs, and two lively strikers.

And until now Rangers have almost always lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation that crowds the midfield area and denies opponents space. On Saturday, partly through the absence of Joey Barton with a thigh injury, and also a desire to provide more support for Austin in the form of Andy Johnson, Harry Redknapp fielded a midfield four. The results, against Huddersfield’s five, were regular overloads of visiting players on the counter attack, and a difficult afternoon for Little Tom Carroll who has always struggled when fielded in a 4-4-2 shape at QPR, his parent club Tottenham, and previous loan destination Derby.

Redknapp raised eyebrows when he told the Sky Sports reporter hanging around outside Harlington at the fag end of deadline day that Rangers would “play through Tom” this season but he has been as good as his word. The Tottenham loanee is vital to Rangers because he’s not only the only one who wants to receive the ball in deep areas from the centre backs, but also the only one trying to pass the ball incisively, intelligently, forwards. Without him Rangers are left with Joey Barton’s Hollywood pass roadshow, or a series of midfielders like Karl Henry and Gary O’Neil who only go sideways and backwards. But his slight frame means it’s a big ask, and in a 4-4-2 the added defensive responsibilities have him chasing his own shadow at times. He never hid on Saturday, but he looked like he was drowning against one of the division’s better sides at times.

On several occasions Rangers were forced to commit cynical fouls to bring threatening counter attacks to a close. Murray Wallace struck a powerful free kick straight into Andy Johnson’s face on the end of the wall after Clint Hill felled Ward on the edge of the area. Then Gary O’Neil chopped down Paul Dixon on the other side of the area with the time barely into double figures and Oliver Norwood took a turn with a direct shot that flew through the wall and was well saved by Rob Green. Later, in three minutes of first half stoppage time, Hill was rightly yellow carded by referee Simon Hooper for hauling down Hammill 20 yards from goal and Paul Dixon had a shot blocked away. And with only four minutes left for play Carroll himself was booked for a deliberate trip on Huddersfield substitute Sean Scannell as he threatened to race away into space hunting a late equaliser.

The desire of the masses to see Rangers play with two up front must be weighed against the problems the Super Hoops bring on themselves by only fielding four in midfield. It doesn’t suit Carroll, Barton, Henry or Niko Kranjcar, it doesn’t suit QPR, and it didn’t work — defensively — at all on Saturday. Huddersfield could, and perhaps should, have won.

Despite the extra man in attack, Rangers struggled to pose a threat in the first half. Richard Dunne wasn’t far off converting a tenth minute corner from Kranjcar that was flicked on by Johnson at the near post, and then O’Neil lashed over after Benoit Assou-Ekotto had put in a wonderful cross from the left side. Assou-Ekotto smacked one out of the ground after Danny Simpson had reached the byline and drilled a low cross right through the goalmouth, and was a good deal closer with a 25 yarder when a corner was nudged in his direction by Carroll. Johnson chested the ball down but shot straight at Alex Smithies.

Austin and Henry both hit the bar with headers within five seconds of each other from Kranjcar’s corner just after the half hour — easily as close as either side came to breaking the first half deadlock — but Huddersfield had plenty of opportunities of their own. Wells forced a save out of Green with a near post header after a quarter of an hour, played Jonathan Hogg into a situation he should have done a lot better with them simply shoot low at the keeper, and then tried a low shot after 18 minutes. Later the former Bradford man saw a shot blocked by Simpson after turning in the area when Kranjcar and Carroll conceded possession while playing out from the back.

Johnson’s yellow card on the stroke of half time for a wild challenge on Adam Clayton summed up the frustration and — yet again — surgery was required on the QPR side at half time, with Matt Phillips introduced to offer an outlet wide right, and Gary O’Neil withdrawn after another ineffective display. Copying and pasting from previous weeks, it is a concern that Harry Redknapp is being required to raid his bench so early in games, so often.

The changes improved Rangers, who were much the better of the two teams after the break. Austin’s first certainly settled nerves, but Dunne had already had a firm, downward header cleared from the line from an early corner before that. Phillips hit a powerful drive that Smithies saved well down in the bottom corner but should have done much better with a free header from six yards out with 20 minutes left to play after Henry had been worked in down the right by Kranjcar and crossed well to the near post. After that he reached the byline in the Huddersfield box and laid the perfect low cross on a plate in the six yard box only to find that neither Johnson nor Austin had gambled on the service arriving.

Huddersfield had equalised by then, deservedly so taking the whole game into account but against the run of play in the second half when, despite sending on Vaughan for Ward and Scannell for Norwood, they’d only forced Robert Green into one tip over when Smith guided a deep corner back towards goal and, for one moment it seemed, over the stranded keeper before he scrambled back and got a palm to the ball.

A draw would have perhaps been a fair result, but that reckoned without Austin heading home with 12 minutes left for play — Huddersfield perhaps guilty of switching off at a set piece that that came immediately after a stoppage so Adam Hammill could be treated and eventually replaced by Oscar Gobern from the bench.

QPR enjoyed a late cameo from Armand Traore who, seemingly buoyed by his first ever goal for the club at Ipswich last week, came on for the final ten minutes instead of Andy Johnson and impressed with several lung-busting runs down the left side. But Rangers were still reduced to wasting time by the corner flag during four minutes of added time and they were lucky to survive when Scannell crossed low for Hogg at the near post but Hill produced a match-winning block. Green was grateful to safely claim a last second header from Vaughan after Dunne has miscued his attempted clearance.

Back-to-back victories for the first time since the beginning of October lifts the R’s back into second with two more home games still to come before they head out on their travels again. But it’s the form and fitness of Austin, more than the fixture or anything else, on which so much hangs at Loftus Road this season.

At the moment, his return is almost faultless.

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QPR: Green 7; Simpson 7, Dunne 6, Hill 6, Assou-Ekotto 7; Kranjcar 6, Carroll 5, Henry 6, O’Neil 5 (Phillips 45, 7); Johnson 6 (Traore 81, 7), Austin 7

Subs not used: Wright-Phillips, Onuoha, Diakite, Zamora, Murphy

Goals: Austin 55 (assisted Johnson), 79 (assisted Assou-Ekotto)

Bookings: Johnson 43 (foul), Hill 45+2 (foul), Carroll 86 (foul)

Huddersfield: Smithies 6; Wallace 6, Gerrard 6, Smith 6; Dixon 6, Hogg 7, Clayton 7, Norwood 6 (Scannell 67, 7), Hammill 7 (Gobern 78, 6); Ward 5 (Vaughan 51, 6) Wells 7

Subs not used: Woods, Bennett, Lolley, Holmes

Goals: Wells 68 (assisted Hammill)

QPR Star Man — Charlie Austin 7 Two more goals, and a powerful display of forward play, that meant QPR won a game they could easily have lost. A shoo in for Player of the Season, and all set to bag 20 goals in his first campaign with the club, if he carries on like this.

Referee — Simon Hooper (Wiltshire) 9 No complaints with any of the bookings, allowed the game to flow well and stayed well out of the way. Easy to see why he’s so highly rated at the moment, and probably destined for the Premier League next season.

Attendance — 17,185 (1,868 Huddersfield) A fantastic away following from Huddersfield — both in size and noise — added to the atmosphere that was better than it has been at some of the festive home games, but still not great. How refreshing though to see an evenly contested game, between two teams trying to win the match, played in a reasonable atmosphere — it’s been a rarity in W12 this season.

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Patrick added 22:43 - Jan 19
Very fair review Clive. We had a "get out of jail" card, and his name - Charlie Austin.

N12Hoop added 22:47 - Jan 19
The first 25 mins or so were very uncomfortable watching. We were ponderous and looked disinterested. We could have been buried by then, but Huddersfield had been playing at a pace they couldn't continue and then we started looking the better team in my view. In the 2nd half, with the help of Phillips, who injected some pace and urgency, I thought we dominated and would win comfortably. Unfortunately it wasn't to be. Suspect we will get to the end of the season and Harry still won't know what his starting 11 should be.
The incredible thing given our performances is that we have more points then we had at the same stage of our promotion season.

Myke added 23:39 - Jan 19
Thanks Clive, sounds like a good game. The secret to success, based on this report and throughout the season is not 2 up front, but rather a far greater goal scoring contribution from our mid-fielders and wingers. 3 goals for second top scorer is laughable for a team with serious premier league ambitions. I thought last-weeks 3 goal salvo from our mid-fielders was the herald of something new, but we reverted back to type yesterday. Still, we are scoring more than earlier in the season; that's 7 in the last 3 league games (all won, not 'back to back wins' as you stated). On the flip side clean sheets are now becoming a rarity, I'm glad to hear Hill made a goal saving block at the end as I thought he was slow to get in front of Wells for their goal. Seems Harry is intent on playing Hill and Dunne together, which is a shame as I feel Onuoha offers a better option than one of them.

GloryHunter added 00:03 - Jan 20
Your view of the game echoes my own, Clive. Huddersfield were direct and classy, and very unlucky not to have taken all three points. Having sat near you at Ipswich I was surprised to see that you take very few notes during the match, and I'm amazed at how detailed and accurate your observations are.

GloryHunter added 00:14 - Jan 20
i also agree with your view of the Matty Philips cross that got him real stick from Charlie for not cutting it back to him. Charlie should have gambled. (Easy for me to say, of course, with a bird's-eye view from the upper Loft.)

Marshy added 08:25 - Jan 20
Exciting, but at times frustrating game. As usual we gave the ball away far too often, with LTC being the biggest culprit. I for one won't be too sad to see him recalled early by Spurs. The players really need to work on their passing and set pieces. Kranjcar took numerous corners which were overhit and with no one able to get on the end of them.

The second half livened up when Phillips replaced O'Neill. His presence enabled us to penetrate the opposition half far more, which ultimately contributed to us winning the game.

Where would be be without Charlie Austin!! If you get the ball in the box he will score. Other notable performances were by Kranjcar (despite the poor corners) who at times was fantastic on the ball, and Assou- Ekotto who also showed much class with touch and control.

Bobbofitos added 08:58 - Jan 20
Thanks Clive, had to miss this one. Fantastic writeup, it's very appreciated!

jonno added 09:39 - Jan 20
Kranjcar's corners weren't poor. They were very good, but we never have anyone attacking tha ball from a set piece apart from Austin. There were some great corners from both Kranjcar and BAE - right into dangerous areas with our players just standing and watching instead of attacking the ball.

tsbains64 added 09:45 - Jan 20
credit to Huddersfeild-they came to play-Robbins is doing a fine job. Good report and the money we paid for him seems to be doing the trick-Austin is delivering
Thought Simpson put in a shift which was good to see and Niko can onloy last 65-70 minutes-he looke dhsttered towards the end
One of the better games at Loftus Road this season

francisbowles added 10:42 - Jan 20
While'st I agree with your assessment of 442 v 451, I believe we were even more open in the first half of this one. Kranjcar was pushed up behind the strikers, 'in the hole' or 'in a free role'. This left us, effectively, with three in a narrow midfield and trying to use our fullbacks as wingbacks. It was a very ambitious tactic and Huddersfield by closing down and using the width and space well, caused us many problems. Well done to Harry and the coaches for the half time adjustments which strengthened the midfield pushed their wide players back and gave us Phillips pace on the break.

It does seem that in order not to be outnumbered in midfield we need to play 5. I also think that we must accept that the first half will be like chess, whilst we try to probe away looking for openings and weaknesses whilst ensuring that we cover all the opponents moves. Obviously, a lot depends on the opposition's game plan. If they come to 'park the bus', then we will push on and try and get through whilst the greatest threat is the breakaway. If they come to harass and attack then we will have problems as we try to play our 'tippy, tappy' impersonation, we will lose possession. We will need Green and the defence to be solid and a bit of luck and poor finishing from the opposition. You only have to look at Swansea this season and in the second half of their first Premier season when even we beat them 3-0 at home.

What do we do at the back? I was disappointed when I got to Ipswich to find out that Dunne was back in the team and Onuoha was out but had to admit I was wrong as Dunne was a colossus. Hill has been at the least solid in every game and is our Captain.
In this game Dunne in particular looked uncomfortable and we needed to sit deep as we are vulnerable to pace in the middle of midfield as well.

I believe we need Onuoha in the team, to enable the midfield to get closer to CA. I think AJ, Traore and even Matt Phillips are impact players and have a big part to play but mainly off the bench. IMHO we are more solid with Barton, Henry, O'Neil to do the donkey work for Carroll and Krancjar. Get to half time 0-0! It seems to be the successful formula.

delhisuperhoop added 11:33 - Jan 20
Thanks Clive, I must say I am quite mystified that the club keeps making noises about needing to buy another quality striker and yet we have Remy loaned out to Newcastle and seem adamant that we are going to sell him rather than play him. But surely he would be a 20+ goal scorer in the Championship. Ok he must be on good wages but QPR are edging closer to a Premier League return. I don't get it.

francisbowles added 11:48 - Jan 20
Anyone no what the latest is on Remy's legal case?

DesertBoot added 11:49 - Jan 20
Had Austin been playing for Town we'd have lost this game. As at Ipswich wide open spaces invited the opposition to score.
That said I thought we showed real character after they equalised and it was a rare quality delivery that set up the winner. Younger teams are making it very uncomfortable however especially in the first half.

francisbowles added 11:50 - Jan 20
That should be : Anyone know what the latest is on Rem's legal case?

spudoodles added 13:48 - Jan 20
I would say 8/10 of our corners were completley wasted on Sat, and its been a simiar story in previous games. No excuse for that, nothing more frustrating as a supporter.

Antti_Heinola added 14:20 - Jan 20
Can't agree with Clive or Gloryhunter about Phillips' cutback. Charlie made his move, pulled away from his marker and was free, screaming for it. Phillips had more than enough time to look up and just pass it. AJ, meanwhile, had gone far post. Phillips had two good options, but he split the difference and found neither! Not sure how that's Austin's fault. even Phillips had his head in his hands - he knew he'd erred.
Having said that, I think MP is great and would start him every game. I'd start Traore too and be rid of bloody Kranjcar.
Great, fair report though. Our reliance on charlie is getting more ridiculous by the week, though.

What was your mark for Wells, Clive? It got chopped off above?

Northernr added 14:35 - Jan 20
Oh yeh, that's a bit odd, added in now - 7/10

TacticalR added 16:58 - Jan 20
Thanks for your report.

Huddersfield really hit us hard with counter-attacks at the beginning of the match. We were giving away so many free kicks I thought they were bound to score. Ward looked quite good, although thankfully he didn't put his chances away. Huddersfield simply played better than us in the first half. They were making much more judicious passes, while we were trying to float speculative balls up to Austin and AJ.

Our revival in the second half wasn't just about us - Huddersfield faded having put so much into the first half. Plus Austin scoring after Huddersfield had dominated the first half seemed to knock the stuffing out of them.

Austin just steamrollers through to get goals. I bet he terrifies the opposition. At this level his raw power is effective, although if we do go up I do wonder how effective it will be in the Premiership.

Carroll had a bad game. Perhaps that was because of the lack of options in a 4-4-2, or perhaps the season is catching up with him.

Kranjčar's corners were all too long. I am not sure if that was because Harry had told him to take long corners and the rest of the team didn't follow instructions, or whether he was just overhitting his corners.

cranieboy added 17:55 - Jan 20
I thought most of the corners were ok, the keeper never claimed any of them, defenders never headed them away easily, they were just mainly in a good area but everyone seemed to go near or mid and no-one peeled around the back for what should have been a decent ball to attack, whether its poor communication or training I'm not sure.
Thought Tom Carroll did give the ball away easily, not completing a few simple ten yard passes, though he does see the picture around him but often messes up the easy balls.
Also agree with FrancisBowles regarding our formation to start with, Kranjcar was sitting behind the front two, we seemed to have no one on the left of midfield when defending, BAE got forward ok when possible and Simpson never seemed to have an easy option when he was bringing the ball out. We need to find some middle ground between our tippy tappy stuff and the way we played here. It was an entertaining game, though sometimes frustating for us but always felt we would win in the second half.

dixiedean added 10:58 - Jan 21
the corners debate is intriguing. To me the only bad corner is one which goes straight out ( obviously ) or one cleared by the man at the near post, which is what we have done as long as I can remember. Going back to the 80s , we often played deep corners beyond the far post to Fenwick or Gregory , who would head back across goal and it was very productive. Many of Niko's were similar, but problem is, too many players made the same run from back post to near post, whereas if someone stayed deep they'd have been dangerous and harder to mark . Our 2 best spells in the game came after we had an injection of pace, first Phillips then Traore. MP in particular ran the left back ragged and he proved to be their weak link. Trouble is neither is consistent enough, which must drive HR mad. I've always liked Traore , despite his frequent aberrations, and he Is the only decent crosser we have had for 2-3 seasons. Hudd on the other hand had several people who could deliver great crosses with pace, which are v hard to defend. Bring on Bolton. I bet Freedman is glad he left Palace to go there. Great career move :)

dixiedean added 11:28 - Jan 21
PS spot on about the ref. I thought he was excellent and hardly got a thing wrong. Compared to some of the clowns we endure it was nice not to actually notice the ref. Than again he wasn't confronted with difficult situations like rampaging squirrels, which can test any ref !

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