A WONDER goal from Charlie Austin ensured Harry Redknapp’s 30-year anniversary in management was celebrated with a win.
Austin scored from 30-yards just before half-time to set the marker for this campaigns Goal of the Season competition.
It was enough to secure all three points against London rivals Charlton Athletic as the R’s kept up the pressure on Leicester City and Burnley at the top of the Sky Bet Championship table.
Redknapp made one change to the side that drew 1-1 at Reading a fortnight ago. Croatian Niko Kranjcar replaced Junior Hoilett who failed to shrug off a hamstring problem in time for this afternoon.
And it was the R’s playmaker that went close inside the opening three minutes when he twisted and turned through a mass of red shirts to fire over the Charlton crossbar.
It was then Charlie Austin’s turn to test visiting keeper Ben Hamer when he struck a first time volley that was parried away only as far as Gary O’Neil but the Addicks stopper was equal once more to prevent QPR from taking the lead.
Rob Green was able to gather a shot from Simon Church at the other end after Charlton broke via a low kick from hand by keeper Hamer as the visitors looked to create an opening. Cameron Stewart was to the strikers left unmarked but Church opted to go alone and Green held from the edge of the box comfortably.
Winger Matty Phillips fashioned a chance out of nothing on 33 minutes when with his back to goal he turned and shot low to Hamer’s left but his outstretched hand pushed it away from the bottom corner to safety.
It was Green’s turn to pull a super stop out of the bag at the other end as he kept out Jordan Cousin’s 25-yard strike - pushing it away - before QPR opened their account with a goal of the season contender from Charlie Austin.
Rangers’ top scorer showed excellent close control to keep two Charlton markers at bay before picking out the top corner of Hamer’s goal from 30-yards to make it 1-0 going into half-time.
Redknapp made a change at the break with Jermaine Jenas – who had been struggling with a hamstring problem prior to the match – being replaced by Karl Henry in the centre of midfield.
QPR nearly got caught out sleeping at the back early on in the second period but had Assou-Ekotto to thank for a timely interception inside the six-yard box preventing Charlton’s Cousins from pulling them level.
The opening 20 minutes after the restart was devoid of real chances but after Barton was fouled on the edge of Charlton’s box he did manage to force a save from Hamer with a right footed free-kick.
With just under 15 minutes remaining Redknapp introduced Andrew Johnson for Matty Phillips and his contribution was immediate as he chested down for Barton who won a corner after his shot was blocked. The resulting flag kick was cleared but only as far as Shaun Wright-Phillips who drilled a shot in on goal from outside the penalty area but was unable to beat Hamer.
Five minutes from time Austin had a chance to double the R’s advantage after Johnson played him in but he miscued his shot just inside the area and fired over the bar.
As the fourth official signalled four minutes of added time O’Neil was handed a golden opportunity to wrap proceedings up when strong running from Johnson kept the ball in play and with Hamer jockeying him he picked out the former Portsmouth midfielder on the edge of the box but his side footed shot flew inches over the bar.
However, Wright-Phillips was gifted an opportunity even better to seal victory after skipping past the Addicks defence he curled a right footed shot against the crossbar with custodian Hamer well beaten as it finished 1-0.