NASSER El-Khayati curled home a last gasp winner as Queens Park Rangers edged out Charlton Athletic in tepid affair at Loftus Road.
The Dutchman`s goal was entirely out of place against the back-drop of a clash littered with errors and bereft of quality – a real kick in the teeth for a Charlton Athletic side now looking destined for League One.
Rangers took the lead on the stroke of half time when Matt Phillips` centre went through everyone to nestle past Pope and into the bottom left-hand corner. A hint of offside perhaps with Junior Hoilett interfering but referee Madley remained unmoved.
Charlton levelled in the second half when Jordan Cousins tucked home from the edge of the area and with the fixture petering out to a draw El-Khayati rose from the bench to curl a delightful right-footed drive home
Addicks players visibly distraught at letting a close encounter slip, but it was Rangers` fans first glimpse of the quality the Dutchman can produce.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink made four changes from the side that picked up a point at Leeds United during the week. Gabriele Angella, Ale Faurlin, Jamie Mackie and Conor Washington dropping out with Jack Robinson coming in for his debut as well as Karl Henry, Tjaronn Chery and Sebastian Polter.
Alex Smithies started behind a back four of James Perch, Nedum Onuoha, Grant Hall and Robinson. Henry joined Massimo Luongo in the middle while Matt Phillips, Chery and Junior Hoilett played in behind Polter.
Charlton made one change themselves – Johan Berg Gudmundsson dropped out with injury with Igor Vetokele filling the void.
Nick Pope started behind a defence of Chris Solly, Rod Fanni, Jorge Teixeira and Morgan Fox. The midfield quartet consisted of Callum Harriott, Alou Diarra, Jordan Cousins and Ademola Lookman with Vetokele partnering Yaya Sanogo in attack.
PERCH – ONUOHA – HALL – ROBINSON
LUONGO – HENRY
PHILLIPS – CHERY – HOILETT
SOLLY – FANNI – TEIXEIRA – FOX
HARRIOTT – DIARRA – COUSINS – LOOKMAN
VETOKELE – SANOGO
Under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink Rangers have improved their performance levels in recent weeks, and but for a couple of instances during his tenure, Rangers have looked competitive, more dangerous in front of goal, and by and large more secure at the back, particularly in the first half of games.
With the season now petering to its mid-table conclusion Hasselbaink`s four changes highlighted the fact that he was now looking at players for next season – indeed the omission of Gabriele Angella further underlined the point.
Played in changeable conditions, the game did not get off to the best of starts in terms of its overall quality. Massimo Luongo rounded off one of the first half`s better passing moves by firing just over and wide of the right-hand upright.
The Addicks were looking a lively side on the break – the useful passing of Jordan Cousins combined with pace and trickery on the flanks courtesy of Ademola Lookman and Callum Harriott – gave Rangers food for thought in the opening exchange.
Lookman combined with the aforementioned Harriott whose left-footed drive was well-fielded by Smithies high to his right on the 20-minute mark. Rangers could have then taken the lead when Perch and Phillips combined down the right, only for the full-back`s centre to be tapped harmlessly wide by Polter.
The two sides then traded blows from distance as the game seemed starved of any genuine quality – Luongo for Rangers; Sanogo and Harriott for the visitors, but nothing truly troubled Smithies or Pope respectively between the sticks.
Sanogo was forced off with an injury with ten minutes to go before the break – he walked off rather gingerly and was replaced by man-mountain Simon Makienok. The giant striker drew ironic cheers from the visiting supporters when winning his first header.
Fanni could have done better following a Callum Harriott set piece – heading wide from the edge of the six-yard box. It was Rangers however that took the lead in first half stoppage time – despite the groans that greeted the announcement of two extra minutes.
Hoilett`s lively run saw him knock the ball wide right to MATT PHILLIPS – the wide-man had disappointed throughout this opening half, but eventually managed to engineer the ball onto his left-foot – the curling cross evaded everyone and nestled into the bottom left-hand corner.
Charlton protested to referee Madley as they felt that Junior Hoilett was offside and interfering with play – nevertheless the home side were given the goal and went into the break with the advantage.
The second half started a little brighter and Tjaronn Chery came close to adding to his recent fine tally, but rather hacked at an effort on the left-hand side of the area, skewing it wide of Pope`s left-hand upright.
Charlton could have levelled when Cousins and Harriott combined, and the danger-man steered cut inside from the right, bewildering Jack Robinson before curling a right footed effort that dipped wickedly and clipped back off the cross-bar. A let off for the home side.
Pope then produced a stunning save to deny QPR. Chery received the ball on the right hand side of the area and his first-time curling drive looked to be going in all the way before Pope threw out an arm to thwart the Dutch playmaker.
James Perch was forced off with an injury ten minutes into the second half – with defensive options limited, Hasselbaink moved Onuoha to right-back and introduced Cole Kpekawa to play in alongside Grant Hall at the heart of defence.
Rangers could and should have closed the game out when Polter played an excellent slide-rule pass for Phillips. With all the time in the world at his disposal the wide-man disappointed once more to place his effort straight at Pope, much to the frustration of the home crowd with the winger seemingly not flavour of the month.
It proved to be a turning point as the Addicks levelled. Makienok won the ball back and when Chris Solly fed JORDAN COUSINS and the enterprising midfielder curled home from the edge of the area to further compound Phillips` harrowing miss.
Phillips attempted to atone with an effort from distance but Pope was more than equal to the effort. Back up the other end and Harriott came close once more coming off the right flank with Smithies once again having to be alert to deny the young wide-man.
It was Phillips’ last action of the game as a rare appearance for Ben Gladwin beckoned – loan spells at Swindon Town and Bristol City this season for the midfielder, with the latter cut short by injury. He took up a position on the right as the game looked to be petering to its conclusion.
Polter could have done better when Chery once again linked up well with the German forward – but skewed a shot wide when well placed. Rangers then used their final substitute, throwing on Nasser El-Khayati for Hoilett.
Charlton probably should have taken all three points when Vetokele tore away from a static Rangers back-line – with just Smithies to beat he found the QPR stopper once again in fine form – saving low to his right from a tame Vetokele effort.
His trickery helped to carve out a chance effective immediate, coming in from the left, turning the defender inside out before a left-footed centre was hacked away. Minutes later he tried again to great effect.
NASSER EL-KHAYATI once again received the ball wide left and took on Chris Solly – this time he elected not to take it a step further and instead curled a stunning right-footed effort into the top right-hand corner.
Despair for Pope, Solly and Charlton – Teixeira visibly angry but elation for Rangers last young signing who got off the mark in style in W12. A goal that probably had no business being in this rather turgid affair, but nevertheless welcomed as the home side took all three points.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS: Smithies, Perch (Kpekawa 55), Onuoha, Hall, Robinson, Henry, Luongo, Phillips (Gladwin 72), Chery, Hoilett (El-Khayati 85), Polter.
Subs not used: Ingram, Washington, Faurlin, Petrasso.
CHARLTON ATHLETIC: Pope, Solly, Fanni, Teixeira, Fox (Lennon 83), Harriott, Diarra, Cousins, Lookman (Jackson 89), Vetokele, Sanogo (Makienok 34)
Subs not used: Henderson, Bergdich, Ba, Motta.
Referee: Mr A Madley