Rangers rescued by Austin's powerful treble - report
Monday, 22nd Dec 2014 22:44 by Clive Whittingham
QPR climbed out of the bottom three and continued their excellent home form with a 3-2 victory against West Brom on Saturday. Charlie Austin netted the club’s first Premier League hat trick in nearly 20 years.
There's a nervous desperation around QPR home matches which is resulting in white knuckle goal-fests.
QPR cannot afford to lose at home, particularly to the teams close to them at the bottom of the table, because they're unable to find a way to even win a single point away from Loftus Road . Start suffering defeats in Shepherd's Bush as well and there'd be little point carrying on after Christmas.
That situation manifests itself first as nerves – QPR had conceded the first goal in 12 of their 16 league games this season prior to Saturday and you can now make that 13 from 17. Once behind though it brings out a care-free, Kevin Keegan-like desire to just flood everybody forward and start throwing bits of brick and old boat at whatever stands in the way. West Bromwich Albion the latest side to emerge from a breathless encounter in W12 on the wrong end of a topsy-turvy defeat in a game they should probably have won.
QPR's set up in home matches is well known, and not exactly a startling surprise from the deepest recesses of Jose Mourinho's secret big-game play book. It's a 4-4-2 with only Karl Henry in the middle of midfield any sort of nod towards protecting a back four which is often left exposed as a result, particularly in wide areas where Leroy Fer on the left and Eduardo Vargas on the right give only passing consideration to the full backs behind them.
When Eduardo Vargas also lost possession trying to force a first meaningful attack, Silvestre Varela was permitted to run the remaining length of the field in the opposite direction and bundle the ball through Robert Green and into the net after executing a one two on the edge of the area. While Harry Redknapp hopes the team's away form will eventually catch up to the home results, here it looked like the opposite was happening.
West Brom looked like a slick Premier League side finally finding its feet. QPR looked like a creaking Championship one finally being found out.
But under a dramatic winter sky, there were plenty of plot twists to come. QPR have goals in their team and, faced with little option but to pour forward and try to outscore their opponents, the chief supplier of those stepped up like never before.
James Morrison, who looked like being the key man in an away victory to begin with, suddenly turned into a penalty-conceding machine. First he held Leroy Fer in place at the near post by wrapping both arms around the Dutchman's waist – referee Craig Pawson pointed straight to the spot when goalkeeper Ben Foster subsequently fumbled the ball into Fer's path. Charlie Austin, who'd missed a spot-kick on the first day of the season against Hull , lashed home right footed. Crucially, only four minutes had passed since that second West Brom goal. Momentum had swung. The mountain seemed more of an uphill slope. Something was afoot.
The home side also benefitted from an enforced change. Yun, who'll wake from dreams of Stephane Sessegnon in a sweaty panic for weeks to come, wasn't fit to continue with his water-torture and was replaced by grizzled veteran Clint Hill. First chance the former Palace man had, Sessegnon received a swift boot to the shins after the ball had gone. The Frenchman didn't want to know after that, cutting a grumpy figure for the remainder of the game.
Pawson initially embarked on a quest to even things up. Farcically penalising Henry for very little on the edge of his own area allowing Gardner to strike a deflected free kick towards goal and draw a save from Rob Green. The keeper later thrust up a hand to palm Sessegnon's powerful drive away, and Richard Dunne was rightly yellow carded for crashing into the back of Varela as he threatened to turn away into space once more. The half time positives from a QPR point of view could be scribbled on the back of a postage stamp with a thick pen: only one goal down, could scarcely play any worse second half.
In the event, they didn't need to play a great deal better to turn the whole thing around. The Baggies' chronic vulnerability at set pieces reared its head again either side of half time. Before the whistle a long free kick towards Caulker was eventually struck towards goal by Vargas and Austin only just failed to turn the ball into the net with a nifty back-flick. Then, two minutes into the second period, a header from Dunne dropped back into play off the cross bar from Barton's well-flighted delivery and Bobby Zamora was able to turn the ball back into the path of Austin to smack in from three yards out.
The tempo had increased noticeably after the restart. Barton actually succeeded in selling Richard Dunne short with a pass from the kick off – difficult to do even if you're trying to achieve it – but having abandoned his always-unsuccessful creative midfielder ambitions he revelled in a chaotic 45 minutes of football, charging around and throwing tackles in left right and centre. That's what he's good at, and he was excellent here for 45 minutes.
Barton should have had a penalty for his efforts too. Clearly tripped by a lazy hanging leg from Morrison, again, he was told to get to his feet by referee Pawson, possibly because the fall to ground was so exaggerated and theatrical. Blatant spot kick though, Morrison behaving as though he’d put QPR on his coupon.
Austin, Vargas and Henry all had shots blocked and the Loft began to hum. At the other end West Brom almost scored directly from a corner. Green sprung from his line to punch a cross away when he could have caught the ball. It had all gone a bit Zippo's Travelling Circus and it was anybody's to win or lose. Pawson refereed like a man on the brink of losing control, without ever quite doing so – Steven Caulker blatantly fouled Saido Berahino after he'd been introduced for Brown Ideye and play-on was waved. Then Sessegnon clattered into Barton with two feet showing and a free kick was awarded to West Brom.
As the frenzy unfolded, fingernails were bitten to the quick. It was frantic stuff now. Too much for Bobby Zamora's hip – his replacement by Niko Kranjcar came about 15 minutes later than it should have done. Redknapp had earlier removed Vargas for Junior Hoilett, which made little sense until the Canadian winger cut in from the right wing and laid a perfect pass in for Austin to snaffle up for a hat trick but Ben Foster raced off his line and saved well. Already doing the work of two men, Austin was at one point found down by his own corner flag, executing a tackle and hacking the ball away. He too was starting to look spent, and may have been a candidate for substitution himself, but while he remained on the field there was always a chance for the Super Hoops.
Austin’s sharp eye for goal and keen nose for space allied perfectly with West Brom’s abysmal defending from dead balls. It was mindblowingly frustrating to see Barton completely miscue a corner four minutes from time, when his deliveries had been a primary source of terror for the Baggies all afternoon. Luckily, the Midlanders even struggled to cope with a duffed effort and skewed the clearance behind the goal rather than away down the field. QPR's captain made a far better fist of his second chance and Austin, inexplicably unmarked, powered in a header at the near post.
Match ball secured, Rangers just needed to defend for four minutes of regulation time and three added to the end. You'd have been a brave man to stick much money on that and, sure enough, in stoppage time Berahino found space in the area and rattled the top of Rob Green's post from a narrow angle. Keeper Ben Foster ventured forward for a late corner but QPR cleared and the final whistle followed immediately afterwards.
Austin was almost childlike in his keenness to grab and hold onto the match ball when the final whistle finally allowed the QPR fans to retreat below decks to take on whiskey and valium. His boy’s own story continues - now 31 goals in 52 appearances for QPR in his first 18 months with the club, and 11 in 15 appearances in this his first ever Premier League season. Crucially, his all round game is coming on leaps and bounds. You couldn’t help but watch Liverpool on television a day later and conclude that everything they’re missing from their attack is currently rampaging around in blue and white hoops.
QPR’s survival in the top flight depends on them keeping Austin fit, and wearing those hoops through until May.
QPR: Green 7; Onuoha 6, Dunne 7, Caulker 6, Yun 5 (Hill 30, 6); Vargas 6 (Hoilett 67, 6), Barton 7, Henry 6, Fer 5, Zamora 6 (Kranjcar 80, -), Austin 9
Subs not used: Ferdinand, Phillips, McCarthy, Mutch
Goals: Austin 24 (penalty, won Fer), 48 (assisted Zamora), 86 (assisted Barton)
Bookings: Dunne 38 (foul)
West Brom: Foster 5; Wisdom 6, McAuley 5, Lescott 6, Pocognoli 5 (Gamboa 91, -); Sessegnon 7, Gardner 6, Morrison 5, Dorrans 6, Varela 6; Brown 5 (Berahino 69, 7)
Subs not used: Baird, Yacob, Myhill, Mulumbu, Dawson
Goals: Lescott 10 (assisted Sessegnon), Varela 20 (assisted Sessegnon)
QPR Star Man - Charlie Austin 9 Not a close run thing.
Referee - Craig Pawson (Sheffield) 6 A weird one. Got the Fer penalty correct, although you rarely see them given, and the Barton one wrong, although you can see why the theatrical fall put him off. But just always felt like he was on the brink of losing control of it. I’m probably being very harsh.
Attendance 17,560 (1,800 West Brom approx) An odd feeling around Loftus Road at 2-0 down because, with the recent home games going the way they have and Charlie Austin in form, it still felt like Rangers might win the game. And so it proved. The QPR fans are getting better at sticking with their team when goals go in against them.
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