Queens Park Rangers 1 Charlton Athletic 0 match report: Charlie Austin powers home to hail Harry Redknapp milestone

 

QPR celebrated Harry Redknapp’s 30 years in football management yesterday with a spectacular winning goal by Charlie Austin that was a more fitting tribute to his career to date than the rest of the game.

Rangers were completely in charge but could not find a second goal, which emphasises the value of their iron-clad defence, breached only twice this season at Loftus Road, where only one visiting side has taken a point.

Redknapp’s men drew level on points with Burnley and Leicester City at the top of the Championship, but this is not a team built along the lines of some of his more freewheeling, attacking sides. It may have been frustration as much as modesty, or the lingering effects of his knee operation, that prevented Redknapp mounting the stairs to the Loftus Road press room after the game to revel in his three decades at football’s sharp end.

Instead, Kevin Bond, his assistant, said: “He doesn’t like to focus on that sort of thing. Obviously it’s a fantastic achievement. He’s grateful to everyone for making him aware of it, but his only focus is on the team and the game, and thankfully for him it’s been a good day all round. Harry’s teams in the past have been built around flair, letting people play, but another clean sheet is a great thing to have.”

Yesterday’s game was probably marginally better than Redknapp’s first game in charge of Bournemouth in November 1983, a goalless draw away to Southend United in the old Third Tivision. And a big improvement on his debut in the dugout, as caretaker in December 1982, a 9-0 defeat away to Lincoln City. But the lack of flair, especially in the penalty area, was very evident.

Rangers had only one goal to show for a dominant first-half display – but what a goal. Austin took a pass from Joey Barton after 40 minutes, stepped inside Jordan Cousins and hit a 25-yard shot that soared past goalkeeper Ben Hamer’s left hand and into the top far corner of the net for his first goal in five games.

Otherwise the home side were good to watch until the ball reached the penalty area, where their nerve failed them. The visitors had one shot on target, by Cousins, with Hamer seeing more of the ball than any of his team’s outfield players. The Charlton manager Chris Powell’s verdict that his team “lacked belief in the final third” was nothing short of a masterpiece of understatement.

Despite playing the full 90 minutes, Barton later tweeted a picture of an X-ray of his broken left hand, taken after he had driven himself to hospital.

QPR (4-1-4-1): Green; Simpson, Dunne, Hill, Assou-Ekotto; Barton; Phillips (Johnson, 77), O’Neil, Jenas (Henry, h-t), Kranjcar (Wright-Phillips, 64); Austin.

Charlton (4-2-3-1): Hamer; Wilson, Dervite-Vassoue, Morrison, Wiggins; Cousins, Stephens; Pritchard (Harriott, 58), Jackson, Stewart (Sordell, 87); Church (Kermorgant, 58).

Referee: Dean Whitestone.

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