CHARLIE Austin’s rasping drive was the decisive factor in a lacklustre encounter at Loftus Road.
Rangers celebrated Harry Redknapp’s 30 years in football management with a slender win over of the Addicks, but the hosts made hard work of their counterparts south of the river.
Redknapp’s men dominated the opening exchange with little to show before Austin’s blockbuster effort shattered the monotony of a lifeless affair.
From then on Rangers didn’t get out of first gear and would have paid the price were it not for Charlton’s profligacy and hesitancy in the final third.
Yan Kermorgant slammed over when well placed and Bradley Pritchard pondered life unmarked in front of goal long in enough to see it nicked away from his feet.
Shaun Wright-Phillips saw a shanked effort clip back off the upright in a highly uneventful second half where neither team threatened to make inroads on a narrow scoreline.
Harry Redknapp made one change from the side that were held at Reading. Niko Kranjcar came in for the injured Junior Hoilett, but with doubts over Matt Phillips, Jermaine Jenas and Richard Dunne – all three started against Charlton.
Rob Green started behind a back four of Danny Simpson, Dunne, Clint Hill and Benoit Assou Ekotto. Gary O’Neil and Joey Barton started behind Kranjcar, Phillips and Jenas with Charlie Austin the lone centre forward.
Charlton started with Ben Hamer behind a back four of Lawrie Wilson, Michael Morrison, Dorian Dervite and Rhoys Wiggins. Johnny Jackson, Jordan Cousins and Dale Stephens comprised the midfield trio with Cameron Stewart and Bradley Pritchard playing off Simon Church.
KICK OFF: QUEENS PARK RANGERS v CHARLTON ATHLETIC
There was more than an air of expectancy in the air, and Rangers had more than their fair share of opportunities. Niko Kranjcar nearly celebrated his return to the side, but powered an effort high, wide and handsome from distance.
Charlie Austin broke into the game on the ten minute mark when he received a pass from Danny Simpson and fired a venomous first time drive that was thwarted by Ben Hamer at point-blank range. Moments later Gary O’Neil received the ball from Kranjcar and fire straight at the ‘keeper.
Simon Church fired straight down Green’s throat in a rare Charlton counter-attack before Matt Phillips engineered himself a shooting chance that again found Hamer in fine form, saving low. Kranjcar was once again in the thick of things firing over after receiving the ball from Joey Barton.
The enterprising youngster Jordan Cousins gave Green a scare with a fine effort, pushed away by the stopper, in what was a fairly lacklustre showing from both teams. Rangers were creating vast swathes of opportunity but seemed unable to convert their dominance to goals.
Then from nothing the lead was taken. Barton fed CHARLIE AUSTIN and the forward took out his and the fans’ early frustration but rifling a rasping right-footed drive into the top right hand corner, it gave Hamer no chance at all.
There was very little to speak of in terms of opportunity as the game ebbed into the break. Chris Powell’s tactics to cross balls into the heart of the area was easy pickings for Dunne and Hill, who appeared rock-steady at the heart of the Rangers rearguard.
HALF TIME: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 1-0 CHARLTON ATHLETIC
Rangers withdrew Jermaine Jenas through injury – in truth his involvement in the fixture had been minimal and his anonymity did not help the cause a jot in a first half that was separated only by a fine Austin strike.
The hosts threw on Karl Henry in his stead, but the opening stages belonged to the visiting side. Dorian Dervite nodded a Dale Stephens set-piece wide of the mark before Cameron Stewart swept and effort wide of the mark.
Rangers were wobbling – defensively stout, but the attacking line were seemingly unable to retain the ball, bringing about pressure on an over-worked defensive unit. Austin saw a close range shot blocked before O’Neil curved a wayward effort over the bar.
Kranjcar was clearly struggling, Assou Ekotto’s more defensive tendencies did not afford him to cross the halfway line with any vigour and Phillips was creating little to nothing for Austin to feed off in the heart of the area.
Bradley Pritchard then had a guilt edge chance to hand the Addicks parity. The ball dropped to the young wide-man in the six yard box, but he seemed to take an eternity to make up his mind – allowing for Assou Ekotto to atone for his error and sweep in to take the ball.
Chris Powell hauled off Pritchard and the ineffective Simon Church for Callum Harriott and Yanm Kermorgant – who received a hero’s reception from the visiting support. The substitution nearly had the immediate effect with Kermorgant involved.
A fine deep cross from Williams saw Kermorgant unmarked he knocked down for Dale Stephens who could only volley over the bar. Phillips chanced his arm at the other end but saw his effort manfully blocked.
Barton tried his luck from a free-kick – it was a carbon copy of the Reading goal but found Hamer in fine form once again. Niko Kranjcar was withdrawn quite visibly out on his feet, and was replaced by Shaun Wright Phillips in a rare appearance for the wide-man.
Andrew Johnson was thrown on for Matt Phillips but it was Wright Phillips that had the next notable effort. When a corner broke down the wide-man stole some space in behind his marker before firing down the throat of Hamer.
The game was end to end at this point with Rangers unable to close out the fixture as a contest. Kermorgant was dragged down by Barton who earned himself a yellow card in the process but the resultant free kick was put into the stand by Jackson – a let off for the hosts.
Jordan Cousins effort sent nerves jangling but while that didn’t culminate in a goal, O’Neil’s effort probably should have done. Johnson chased in behind and found himself in a foot race with the Charlton ‘keeper. He beat Hamer to the ball wide on the left and passed back to O’Neil on the edge of the area – he hit the ball first time but placed the ball well-over the bar.
Wright-Phillips had a moment of his own in attempting to double the score. He cut in from the left and clipped a lofted effort that came back off the bar, agonisingly so for a player so visibly short on confidence.
With that the final whistle was blown. The relief was evident as Rangers stuttered and stumbled to a victory by a solitary goal. It wasn’t a victory that augured well for the future, but nevertheless three points that sees QPR joint top of the SkyBet Championship.
FINAL WHISTLE: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 1-0 CHARLTON ATHLETIC