CHARLIE Austin’s second-half penalty preserved QPR's place at the top of the table with victory at Yeovil Town on Saturday.
Harry Redknapp’s side found clear-cut chances hard to come by at Huish Park as Austin’s 75th-minute spot-kick proved all-important.
Rangers had Robert Green to thank at the other end for a string of fine saves as a sixth successive clean sheet secured maximum points, stretching the R’s unbeaten start to eight games in the process.
Rangers made four changes for the trip to Somerset as Armand Traore, Tom Carroll and Jermaine Jenas were preferred to midfield trio Shaun Wright-Phillips, Joey Barton and Karl Henry. Meanwhile, Benoit Assou-Ekotto made his full R’s debut at the expense of defender Nedum Onouha, missing courtesy of the hamstring injury sustained in Wednesday night’s stalemate with Brighton & Hove Albion.
After a nervous opening by both sides, Rangers fashioned their first attack following Traore’s crossfield ball for Danny Simpson overlapping on the right flank. The full-back’s cross was eventually scrambled behind as the visitors began to get a foothold in the game.
Despite clearing the resulting corner, the danger soon returned as Matty Phillips spurned a gilt-edged chance to fire the R’s ahead on nine minutes. Carroll’s through ball fell perfectly into the winger’s path, who skewed his effort wide after bursting through the Glovers’ backline.
The hosts’ response was quick as Yeovil twice threatened a breakthrough from distance in quick succession, stemming from Joseph Halls left-footed shot which flashed harmlessly over the angle of the R’s crossbar. Moments later Joel Grant’s curling effort forced Rob Green to save low down to his left, who smothered the ball at the second attempt.
Town threatened again on 16 minutes as Andrew Williams and Joseph Edwards combined down the R’s left, before the latter slashed Edwards’ pull-back over under pressure from Richard Dunne.
It was Rangers who carved out the next clear sight of goal, counter-attacking at pace through Traore shortly after the half-hour mark. Traore released Charlie Austin, whose blistering effort looked goal-bound but nestled the wrong side of the netting, firing inches wide of Wayne Hennessey’s near post.
At the other end, Redknapp’s men survived something of a lucky escape three minutes before the break. After failing to clear their lines, the R’s defence had Green to thank for making amends as the R’s goalkeeper was at full-stretch to tip Liam Davis’ close-range shot around the post.
Green came to Rangers’ rescue again four minutes after the interval, twice on hand to deny the Glovers the breakthrough. The R’s goalkeeper clawed behind Ralls’ glancing drive before beating away Davis’ thunderous effort as the hosts made a bright start to the second period.
Green and co weathered the storm, at least momentarily, as Austin came within a whisker of firing the R’s ahead on 54 minutes. The striker latched onto a loose ball 25 yards before seeing his low drive fly agonisingly wide of the far post.
Green took centre stage again five minutes after the hour mark, palming away Williams from 12 yards as Yeovil regained the momentum.
The momentum soon swung back decisively in the R’s favour, though, with 15 minutes remaining. After determined work from Austin on the edge of the area, the striker was unfairly tugged to the ground as the referee pointed to the penalty spot.
Austin dusted himself down before calmly slotting away the spot-kick into the bottom right-hand corner to the delight of the travelling R’s faithful behind the goal.
Rangers – who handed Niko Kranjcar his debut in the second half – came under pressure as Yeovil fought for a late leveller, spurred on by five minutes injury time.
Substitute Michael Ngoo wasted their best opportunity, skewing a 20-yard shot harmlessly wide as the visitors clung on for all three points.