Harry Redknapp might take his QPR team back to Dubai again if this is the effect it has. He woke on his 66th birthday yesterday to tabloid headlines about drunken nights out during a warm-weather training break in the Gulf state last month. But a hard-earned victory for the alleged sinners over the Saints – only QPR's third win in the 15 games since he took over in November – was the perfect answer from his team.
"The story was an absolute load of nonsense," he said. "We trained every day. I worked the socks off them. I let them go out one night. This has come from someone who has tried to disrupt the club. It has not come from players, it has come from a football agent. They may have got drunk that one night out, I don't know. I let them go out but I told them not to be late for training and everyone was on time.
"Today I think it [helped unify the team]. They were disgusted with it, the players, they couldn't believe it. They had a meeting between themselves and I said this is what has been written, there's only one way to show people and that is to put in a performance and that is what they did."
He denied that three players rested for last week's game against Manchester United – Adel Taarabt, Andros Townsend and Jamie Mackie, all of whom warmed the bench yesterday – had been disciplined for speaking to the paper in question. "It's a mischievous no-story," he added. "Someone had been punting it around 10 days ago. Forget it, it's history, fish and chip paper."
It was a perfect end to a potentially difficult day. Redknapp won only three Premier League games at St Mary's as manager of Southampton in 2004-5, but yesterday he left the field with a fist-pump of delight to the QPR fans, and the birthday present he craved – three points.
Loïc Rémy put them ahead with his second goal since his £8m transfer from Marseille, and they overcame an equaliser presented by Julio Cesar, the goalkeeper. He later went off injured, but his replacement, Robert Green, made a wonder save to preserve the win after Jay Bothroyd had restored QPR's lead with his first League goal of the season. "It gives us a chance, but it's still going to be tough," Redknapp said.
Saints fans had come to jeer an unpopular former manager on the way to relegation. That fate may still befall him, of course – Rangers remain at the bottom of the Premier League table – but this result was a reminder to Southampton that they are by no means clear of danger themselves.
The defeat spoiled Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino's 41st birthday, also yesterday. It leaves him with only five points from six games since he replaced Nigel Adkins. "It is something that worries us all and something we need to work hard to change," he said. "They had three chances and scored two. We weren't able to capitalise on our chances. That is how we explain the game."
Southampton's first chance came after 11 minutes when Rickie Lambert escaped the outstanding Christopher Samba for the only time in the match to head back across goal, where Jason Puncheon failed to make contact. Rangers went ahead four minutes later when a long diagonal pass from Junior Hoilett caught out both Maya Yoshida and Danny Fox, Rémy scoring with a shot that went in off the covering Fox – only QPR's fifth goal in 11 games. That silenced the home supporters, and their team were unable to lift them as Samba took care of a series of high balls, but right on half-time, Saints were luckily level. Jay Rodriguez shot from 30 yards and Cesar fumbled to Gaston Ramirez, whose mishit shot looped in under the bar.
Green replaced Cesar, who had collided with Rodriguez, just in time to see Ji-Sung Park beat Yoshida to the ball and cross low to Bothroyd, who could not miss. But then Green guaranteed Redknapp a happy birthday by flinging himself to his right to keep out a header from José Fonte that had looked a certain equaliser.
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