Henry’s surprise strike brings just reward to Austin’s bravery – report
Wednesday, 29th Jan 2014 16:52 by Lewis Jones
A rare, spectacular goal from much-maligned midfielder Karl Henry sealed a 2-1 win for Charlie Austin-inspired QPR against lowly Bolton on Tuesday night. Lewis Jones was there for LFW.
They say money can't buy you love or happiness but it sure can win you points in the Championship.
QPR and Bolton had served up an error scattered opening 41 minutes of football that would have been more at home on a boggy pitch at Hackney Marshes on a Sunday morning. Like two drunks fighting over a kebab dropped outside a nightclub, both sides had little balance, co-ordination or confidence in what they were trying to produce - especially the hosts, who pranced about in their own half playing suicide ball after suicide ball and allowing Bolton ample opportunities to attack.
Thankfully, the level of attacking intelligence in this division is woeful.
Only a thunderbolt unleashed from the boot of Trotters striker Craig Davies that nearly snapped the crossbar in half awoke the crowd and QPR players from a slumber that has been a worrying occurrence in first-half’s this season. Bringing the stats book out to play, the R’s have scored only 33% of their goals before the oranges are served up – the lowest percentage of any team in the league.
But what stands this QPR side out from the crowd in this league of surprisingly low quality is their ability to ruthlessly conjure up a goal through moments of individual supremacy.
Niko Krancjar's sexy swivel and right footed curler did it at Ipswich, Matt Phillips' power did it at Blackpool and Charlie Austin does it on a weekly basis, including notching the important opening goal here before crab football supremo Karl Henry, a £1m signing from Wolves, smashed home a half volley to seal the points midway through the second half.
There’s a phrase I’d never thought I’d write.
Jay Spearing’s late strike resulted in some mild squeaky bum time but QPR, and Rob Green in particular, stood strong for a vitally important three points.
Unlike previous weeks, QPR's 15-goal striker Austin was spared carrying the load alone and had some help from Phillips on a miserably cold and drizzly evening at Loftus Road to drag his team in front on 41 minutes. It was the first moment of quality produced by Rangers but that’s what a combined transfer fees of £10m can get you in the Championship. One perfect cross, one perfect header. The perfect game changer.
So far, despite some quarters quite rightly bemoaning Tony Fernandes’ seemingly endless supply of investment (expect more in the next 48 hours no doubt), it’s been money very well spent.
As a fantastic article on Austin in http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/football-league/from-brickie-to-big- Independent pointed out, just six years ago the R’s frontman was plying his trade in the Wessex Premier Division. More accustomed to building brick walls than running through them in order to sustain a Premier League promotion push, Austin has learnt the hard way to make it to the top and his never-say-die attitude in leading QPR’s charge makes for refreshing viewing in a modern day football era where 17-year-old children are made millionaires before even kicking a ball at senior level.
Following on from his recent winning goals against Huddersfield and Doncaster, Austin’s determination, work ethic and drive to succeed played a pivotal role in securing his side’s fourth straight league victory. He was supported too by a refreshed Phillips, who is getting stronger and more confident by the week.
Within 40 seconds of the kick off, Wanderers defender Tim Ream had to be helped by two physio’s from the field with his nose hanging from his face after a nasty clash with Austin. He was replaced by Hayden White, who was making his professional debut and a timely reminder of the already swollen strength of QPR’s first team squad in comparison to others despite Harry Redknapp’s constant desire to spend his way out of a problem.
Despite the severity of that coming together, Austin, looking groggy, gave the painful area a quick rub with some Vaseline and got straight back into the action.
After a lengthy stoppage, and some pathetic attempts from both sides to pass the football, Austin was down again, this time with what looked a serious shoulder injury after a typically robust aerial challenge. Many modern day footballers would have been down the tunnel quicker than you could say “that’s my £1,000 appearance fee sorted” - but not Austin. The QPR physio team strapped up the right shoulder, to go along with his already heavily strapped left one, and he charged back into battle.
The deafening roar of the 14,000 home fans as he bravely strode back out onto the field emphasised his importance to QPR’s chances of winning football matches. The groans when he hit the floor and the cheers when he battled on were arguably the loudest Loftus Road got all night, bar some ironic cheering of Bobby Zamora’s sublime second half cameo and piss taking of Karl Henry’s seemingly hidden world class football ability with cries of “Henry for England” from a section of the ground. It seems as though the main enjoyment within the stands at the moment hails from taking the Michael out of one of their own rather than drinking in the success of team that has lost just one home game all season. Personally, I’m all for people getting entertainment for their hard earned money, but in this case I’m not sure it’s proving to be a help to the team. Once again, the atmosphere continues to be a very strange one.
Bolton had already had a couple of potential fruitful openings by this point. Benoît Assou-Ekotto, uncomfortably playing as a makeshift right-back with Danny Simpson and Nedum Onuoha missing through injury, and left-back Armand Traore both lazily squandered possession deep in their own half but a couple of good defensive recoveries by the full-back’s aided by some dallying by the Bolton forwards kept the scores level.
Craig Davies had already thumped a couple of half chances from tough angles into the side netting and into the Loft after some great work by his namesake Mark, who was head and shoulders the best player on the pitch, before the striker nearly broke Loftus Road’s crossbar in two on 36 minutes.
Cutting in from the left flank after Assou-Ekotto once again lost the ball, Davies left Rob Green motionless with a rocket of a strike that flew back off the underside of the bar. Fine margins can separate teams in this league. It would have been a goal that Bolton probably deserved up until that point.
The thunderous echo of that strike ricocheting around Loftus Road acted like an alarm clock in the ears of the R’s players, who upped the tempo, got the ball into more dangerous positions and took the lead with their first real chance on 41 minutes.
That man Austin shifted the ball into the feet of Phillips just inside the corner of the box and like a lightning bolt he showed no ill effects from his early injuries to burst to the back post. There he cleverly latched onto White, who was a nervous wreck on his debut and hardly had much spring in his feet. One pin-point cross from Phillips and a bullet header later and all the woes of QPR’s stodgy first half were all-but vanished into thin air.
Buoyed by the goal, the hosts finished the half strongly and Tom Carroll, who was non-existent up until that point, orchestrated a passing move through the heart of the Bolton midfield but couldn’t finish with any real vigour from the edge of the box as Andy Lonergan pushed his effort around the post.
The rapid improvement continued into the second period as Rangers, who were now passing with a little more pace through the midfield into Andy Johnson, Phillips and Niko Krancjar, forced Bolton to retreat deeper in their own half.
That pressure told on the Trotters backline but it took another fine individual moment of quality from a seven figure purchase to double the advantage on 52 minutes. Henry was brought to the club as chief fire fighter and has done everything asked of him in that role; especially early in the season in vital 1-0 wins at Leeds and Bolton.
But this was a side that QPR and Wolves have never seen from the sideways pass merchant. Latching onto a half cleared ball from a corner, his first touch, whether meant or not, set himself perfectly for a crack at goal. With R’s fans in the Loft jumping in front of loved ones screaming “SAVE YOURSELVES, WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST”, Henry executed a perfectly conjured up half volley and the melt-in-the-mouth strike nestled into the bottom corner. It was his first goal in a league match since 2008.
With the game seemingly won, Harry Redknapp pulled Austin from proceedings in order to further protect the injured shoulder that a few journalists post match were speculating was dislocated in the first-half. His fitness ahead of Saturday’s game with third place Burnley will be hot topic over the next few days.
The returning Zamora replaced him to some completely pointless jeers from the crowd, which were made to look even more ridiculous when he turned in arguably his best 20 minutes work for 12 months. The cynic in me wants to bring the attention of the fact that Redknapp spoke in the week about Zamora being allowed to leave and the word on the street was that there were some scouts watching (wait for it) the former England international. But, whatever his agenda, Zamora was in fine fettle for the remaining minutes, winning flick ons, holding the ball up effortlessly and even laying through two perfectly waited through balls, one with the outside of his foot, that could have yielded a third goal.
First, Johnson, very much playing for a penalty rather than looking to knock the ball around Lonergan, took a tumble in the area but the keeper had clearly got there first while another perfect Zamora ball couldn’t quite come down in time for Phillips to get a strike on goal with only Lonergan to beat.
It was far from one-way traffic though as Green had to be on his game at the other end while Richard Dunne and Clint Hill also had to remain switched on.
Lively substitute Lee Chung Yong, roared on by many a screaming South Korean fan in the stands, forced a flying one handed save from Green on 62 minutes after yet more dynamic work from Mark Davies. Minutes later Medo again tested the in-form stopper with a 25 yard strike that he pushed to safety and when Lee skipped past Assou-Ekotto on the byline seconds later, Green once more had to be alert to quell the danger. His concentration levels have been superb all season. Touch wood.
The R’s were denied a fifteenth clean sheet of the season though when Spearing’s timid drive with six minutes left from the edge of the box was clumsily deflected in by Dunne, who looked to have got his feet in a bit of muddle. It had all stemmed from QPR substitute Shaun Wright-Phillips, who replaced a quiet Krancjar, falling over the ball on the halfway to great amusement in the home end. The laughter may have turned to anger if Bolton had found a late equaliser, which they nearly did through Lee in stoppage time, who once again got the better of Assou-Ekotto before curling a wild effort over from 18 yards.
This fourth straight victory lifts QPR three points clear of Burnley, with the Clarets, who gave the R’s a fair and square beating at Turf Moor earlier this year, due in Loftus Road on Saturday lunchtime. Bring the same level of performance as they did here and the reliance on individual quality will not be enough to get them off the hook. Improvement needed.
QPR: Green 7; Assou-Ekotto 5, Traore 6, Hill 7, Dunne 6; Kranjcar 6 (Wright-Phillips 76, 6), Carroll 6, Henry 7, Phillips 7; Johnson 6, Austin 7 (Zamora 69, 7)
Subs not used: Murphy, Diakite, Hoilett, Ehmer, O’Neill.
Goals: Austin 41 (assisted Phillips), Henry 52 (unassisted)
Bolton: Lonergan 6; Mills 5, Knight 6, Ream 6 (White 4, 4); Baptiste 5; Mark Davies 8, Danns 6 (Lee 57, 7), Medo 6, Spearing 6, Pratley 6; Craig Davies (Jutkiewicz 67, 5)
Subs not used: Bogdan, Eagles, Moritz, Vela
Goals: Spearing 85 (unassisted)
QPR Star Man – Matt Phillips 7 No QPR player really stood head and shoulders above anybody else in this mediocre display but the former Blackpool man looked sharp. His assist for Austin’s opener was a peach and you get the feeling the more game time he gets the more confident he’ll become. A player of his ability will be a big asset in the run-in.
Referee – Andy D’Urso (Essex) 8 Hardly noticed his performance until the QPR penalty appeal in the second half, which he got spot on. Kept his cards in his pocket and let the game flow naturally.
Attendance –15,097 (520 away) Another strange atmosphere, with fans turning to ironically cheering their own players to entertain themselves, which says a lot for the level of excitement this QPR side bring to the table. Not a game that will live long in the memory.
Tweet @loftforwords @_LJones_
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