This may be far from the QPR team that finishes the season, but they at least offered the ideal start. A squad with a multitude and complications and questions coming into this campaign produced the one, simple thing that can ease the most fractious of situations: an opening-day win.
Most conspicuously, there was the presence of Joey Barton - both in the starting line-up and by the end. Despite stating on 14 May that he will certainly not be playing in the Championship and then only featuring in friendlies behind closed doors, the afternoon ended with the midfielder given a standing ovation from the entire home crowd after a fine display - if not one without a few typical controversies.
More hearteningly, Andy Johnson scored the winning goal in his first appearance since damaging his cruciate ligament last September.
None of that was without a few complications on the pitch, it must be stated. After the game, a “livid” Dave Jones certainly said his piece. The Sheffield Wednesday manager railed against two referee decisions which arguably swung the game. In the first half, with the away side leading 1-0 after six-foot-six new signing Atdhe Nuhiu’s fine 20th-minute strike, Michail Antonio appeared to be brought down in the box. In the first few minutes of the second half, Barton denied substitute Jacques Maghoma a clear goal-scoring opportunity with what seemed a foul. Referee Scott Mathieson waved both appeals away, and even booked Maghoma for a dive.
Jones criticised the referee in the strongest terms and also railed against the fact league rules effectively prohibit such comments.
“It’s an embarrassment,” Jones said. “I don’t know what league you put him in because if you can’t see that here you can’t see it anywhere. Someone has to say something.”
The only thing that could be said about QPR’s resilience, however, was complimentary. Despite the disjointed manner with which this team has been put together allowing Wednesday the openings to both score and cause such panic, Redknapp’s side rallied amiradbly. Ultimately, as may be the story of this season, they had too much quality. The comeback effectively started when Barton whipped in an exceptional cross on 29 minutes from which Junior Hoilett should have scored. From the spell of pressure that created, Nedum Onuoha eventually turned in a Hoilett shot on 40 to equalise. Three minutes later, a Barton header forced a save from the excellent Chris Kirkland, but that only allowed Johnson to volley into an empty net.
That finish was celebrated with glee and, for all Jones’s complaints and the fact Maghoma hit the post on 72, there was no real sense of tension around Loftus Road thereafter. QPR still had the better of the game and the better of the chances, with substitute Charlie Austin heading just over for what would have been a debut goal.
By then, Barton had been applauded off. Speaking on television, Redknapp added to the plaudits.
“He's got on with it today as he has all week. He's been great in training and I picked him on merit, he knows the game, he tucks in little holes and passes perfectly, that's why I put him in the team.”
Whether Barton remains in that team or not, they at least start the season with three points.
QPR (4-4-2): Green 6; Simpson 7, Onuoha 7, Hill 6, Traore 6; Barton 8 (Wright-Phillips 81), Henry 7, Faurlin 7, Hoilett 7 (Jenas 90); Johnson 8, Zamora 6 (Austin 69)
Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Kirkland 8; Palmer 6, Gardner 6, Helan 6; Antonio 6, Coke 6, (McCabe 69) Prutton 6, Mattock 6 (Maghoma 37); Johnson 6, Nuhiu 7 (McCabe 79)
Man of the match: Andy JohnsonReuse content