GOALS from Loic Remy and Jay Bothroyd helped Queens Park Rangers to their third victory of the campaign, a victory that augurs well for the coming weeks.
The strike duo were exemplary throughout and picked up goals at vital times to secure a priceless win against their relegation rivals Southampton at St Mary’s.
The Frenchman started only his third game since joining Rangers and capped off the fixture with a strike of great composure, slamming home beyond Artur Boruc.
Saints levelled on the stroke of half time when Julio Cesar’s rare fumble saw Gaston Ramirez clip with class and composure beyond the forlorn Brazilian.
Despite being under great pressure, Rangers had few chances to field and struck when the persistence of Park Ji Sung saw him tee up Jay Bothroyd to send the travelling support into delirium.
Rob Green pulled off a save of pure class to deny Maya Yoshida from a corner, as Harry Redknapp dragged his former employers right back into the mire.
Harry Redknapp raised more than a few eyebrows with the four changes he made from the defeat against Manchester United. Adel Taarabt, Jamie Mackie, Andros Townsend and Bobby Zamora dropped out with Ji Sung Park, Junior Hoilett, Jay Bothroyd and Loic Remy coming in.
Julio Cesar started behind an unchanged defence of Jose Bosingwa, Clint Hill, Christopher Samba and Armand Traoré. Esteban Granero, Stephane Mbia and Park started through the middle with Remy and Hoilett playing off lone forward Bothroyd.
Mauricio Potchettino made four changes himself from the defeat at Newcastle United with Luke Shaw, Jos Hooiveld, Steven Davies and Jay Rodriguez dropping out with Jose Fonte, Danny Fox, Gaston Ramirez and Jason Puncheon.
Artur Boruc started behind a back four of Nathaniel Clyne, Maya Yoshida, Fonte and Fox. Morgan Schneiderlin, Ramirez and Jack Cork started through the middle, with Puncheon and Adam Lallana playing off Rickie Lambert.
KICK OFF: SOUTHAMPTON v QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Dubbed as ‘El Sackico’ earlier in the season, both teams were under different guidance and appearing going in different directions as they clashed at St Mary’s in a genuine relegation six-pointer on the South Coast.
The game was set against the back-drop of what Harry Redknapp claims is a fabricated article regarding the players’ conduct and behaviour during a trip to Dubai. It didn’t bode well as Rangers headed to a ground that could have seen their fate if not confirmed, then indicated.
Saints started the encounter on the front foot with some brisk passing play looking to scythe open an unchanged QPR back line. There was relatively little substance to their probing, Jason Puncheon unable to pick a cross and Ricky Lambert being ably handled by Christopher Samba.
Jack Cork’s speculative drive from outside the area was seen wide by Julio Cesar in what was the first genuine opportunity. Moments later Saints pressed again and had ambitious penalty appeals waved away by Howard Webb for challenges on Puncheon and Adam Lallana.
There was very little substance and flow to the fixture as the two sides vied for possession and tussled for the lion’s share of the ball. Rangers shattered the monotony with a 13th minute goal that was made by two changes implemented by Harry Redknapp.
Junior Hoilett picked up the ball on the left flank before spotting the run of LOÏC REMY. His expertly-weighted diagonal ball was taken in style by the Frenchman in behind Maya Yoshida. He remained composed and picked his moment to slam beyond Boruc.
Jay Bothroyd’s wild challenge shortly afterwards saw him in Howard Webb’s book, the home supporters called for more, but in truth the challenge was merely late and could not be construed as reckless.
Remy was at it again shortly afterwards when the ball skipped up for him on the edge of the area, and his resultant drive was fumbled away unconvincingly by Boruc for a corner. Remy proving is worth in abundance on the evidence of this opening period.
Several deep crosses from Clyne was well fielded by Samba at the heart of defence, but on occasions Lambert would pull away to the far post with a view to knocking the ball back for the on rushing central midfielders – despite doing his job well, the support was not forthcoming.
Mbia then received a caution for cutting down a Saints counter-attack in its infancy before Adam Lallana had to be withdrawn for a knock on his neck. He was replaced by Jay Rodriguez in a tactical shift that saw Lambert partnered by the incoming forward.
Gaston Ramirez felt a hand on his back and tumbled at the feet of Traoré for a Saints free-kick and Webb was on a roll to book another Rangers player. The resultant free kick sparked the incident that saw Saints level, courtesy of a rare Cesar error.
Rodriguez picked up the ball on the edge of the area and remain unchallenged as he let fly. His effort swerved and troubled Cesar who parried straight out to GASTON RAMIREZ. His delicate chip over the forlorn Brazilian oozed class as he levelled the scoreline.
On the cusp of the break Granero’s free-kick caused mayhem and Mbia was reduced to rubble in the area before Bothroyd snatched at an effort that flew wide of the left hand upright. Mr Webb called time on an opening period, full of excitement but bereft of class.
HALF TIME: SOUTHAMPTON 1-1 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
The two sides traded early blows as the second half got underway. Firstly Danny Fox lashing wide of the near post, crashing the ball into the side netting. Much to the amusement of the travelling fans, sections of the home support celebrations were sharply muted.
Jose Bosingwa’s frankly hilarious effort moment later saw him attempt an off balance scissor kick, not quite in keeping with his reserved demeanour over recent weeks. The effort flew into the stands much to the amusement of the travelling fans.
Rodriguez was trying to create something for himself, cutting in from the left to bury an effort onto the roof of the net. While many found Bosingwa’s effort amusing, Rodriguez’s follow-up was certainly no laughing matter.
Esteban Granero was withdrawn after an abject performance, littered with errors in passing and being caught in possession. He was replaced by Jermaine Jenas who is a more workman-like option in the middle of the park.
Danny Fox was withdrawn with an injury and Luke Shaw was given a rapturous reception upon his introduction. Hoilett couldn’t engineer a shot when some neat interplay from Jenas and Remy afforded him some space down the left.
With just under 20 minutes remaining Cesar was clattered by Lambert in the heart of the area, who left the situation unscathed and forced Redknapp into his second change of the afternoon with Rob Green coming from the bench.
Saints meanwhile replaced Ramirez with James Ward-Prowse with the Saints looking to squeeze the visitors for that decisive goal. A flurry of crosses from Clyne was well dealt with by Green and latterly Hill as the rearguard appeared more stout than ever.
From relatively little, Rangers re-took the advantage, built by the hard work of Park Ji Sung down the left. For the first time this season we saw a shift from the South Korean who stole the ball back from Shaw to square from the by-line for JAY BOTHROYD.
The forward was one of two waiting inside the six-yard box and slotted home what could have proven to be a crucial goal come the end of the campaign. Recalled to the line-up after being shipped back by Sheffield Wednesday.
It was backs against the wall for the visiting side as Southampton were urged on by their diminishing home crowd. It culminated in a fine opportunity from a Saints corner. Ward-Prowse sent it in from the right for Yoshida who drew a world class save from Rob Green.
Green enjoyed the adulation of the visiting supporters with an unbelievable save to claw the ball back from the line after a stern header from the Japanese defender. Goalscorer Bothroyd was then withdrawn to a standing ovation from the visiting fans, replaced by Fabio da Silva.
A change that was designed to close the game out and more brave goalkeeping from Green thwarted the now toothless Saints, with some home supporters vocalising their frustrations and the visiting fans cheering their team onto only their third win of the season.
FULL TIME: SOUTHAMPTON 1-2 QUEENS PARK RANGERS