Is Harry Redknapp going to pull off a hat-trick of great escapes? He guided both Portsmouth and Tottenham to safety after taking over when they were in the relegation zone, but keeping QPR up has always looked the hardest of the three tasks. Yet who would bet against him after three Redknapp signings scored yesterday to give Rangers back-to-back Premier League wins for the first time since December 1995.
Loïc Rémy cancelled out Steve Fletcher's opener for Sunderland with his third goal since moving from Marseille for £8 million before spectacular second-half strikes from distance by Andros Townsend and Jermaine Jenas, two deadline-day captures from Tottenham, Redknapp's previous club, sealed the three points.
Townsend, 21, is on loan from Spurs to his ninth different club while Jenas, 30, the former England midfielder, was signed on a free. But Redknapp played down suggestions that he was especially pleased by the identity of the scorers. "No, it doesn't make any difference," he said. "I'm pleased for Loïc getting his third goal for the club, and Andros is a young player I think has got a good future, but it was a good performance. We went for it with two wingers and two out-and-out strikers and I liked the look of it. It's the best we've played since I've been here."
The timing of that improvement in results and form could not be better. QPR are now only bottom of the table on goals scored and are four points behind 17th-placed Aston Villa, whom they visit next Saturday. "We still need to have a fantastic run," Redknapp said. "It's not going to be easy but we've given ourselves a chance, and even teams on 30 points are still in it."
That includes Sunderland, who are looking over their shoulders again after taking five points from the last 21 on offer. "We've never thought of it any other way," manager Martin O'Neill said. "We've difficult fixtures coming up so we've got to work at it. It's been tough and we have to fight through these last nine games."
They had little to offer in the early stages as QPR, for once, looked like a team who have had millions invested wisely rather than squandered. Junior Hoilett shot inches wide, Townsend curled one over the bar and Bobby Zamora, playing with hip and ankle injuries, only just failed to get a touch on Hoilett's pass.
So, of course, Sunderland scored with their first shot after 20 minutes. Breaking quickly from defence, Alfred N'Diaye found Stéphane Sessègnon on the right, where he got past two defenders and into the penalty area. Adam Johnson returned his cross low in front of goal for Fletcher to stab home.
It was potentially a huge blow for a QPR team who had not scored in front of their own fans in the League since Boxing Day and were now 70 minutes away from equalling an unwanted Premier League record of six home games without scoring. But on the half-hour Townsend cut inside and tried a shot that looked unlikely to trouble Simon Mignolet until it hit the Sunderland captain, John O'Shea, and was deflected into the path of Rémy. He finished nervelessly, shooting across the goalkeeper into the bottom far corner to claim his first goal at Loftus Road.
Sunderland began the second half more convincingly, especially troubling QPR down the wings. But, just as in the first half, the next goal came against the run of play. O'Shea claimed that he had been fouled as he headed clear following a free-kick on the right from Jose Bosingwa, but no free-kick was awarded and the ball came to Townsend 22 yards out. He chested it down and hit a superb dipping volley that flew over Mignolet and in for his first Premier League goal.
Would QPR find a way to shoot themselves in the foot again? No. Instead they profited once more as a clearance dropped to Jenas a similar distance from goal and he belted it low past Mignolet's left hand.