A CHARLIE Austin brace sent QPR back into the automatic promotion slots against Huddersfield Town this afternoon.
Austin scored either side of Nahki Wells equaliser to secure a 2-1 victory against the Terriers as Rangers recorded a third straight league win.
With Burnley drawing 1-1 at home to Sheffield Wednesday victory sent Redknapp’s side a point clear of third place.
Injuries to Joey Barton and Yossi Benayoun forced boss Harry Redknapp into two changes from the side that started in last weekend’s 3-1 win at Ipswich Town. Karl Henry – a second half substituted at Portman Road – and Andrew Johnson replaced the pair as Redknapp partnered the former Everton forward in attack with top scorer Charlie Austin.
Huddersfield drew first blood though through Daniel Ward twice inside the opening five minutes. His first effort from the edge of the box dipped over Robert Green’s bar before moments later he dragged a shot wide of the right hand post after evading the offside trap.
Johnson registered Rangers first chance of an opener just after ten minutes when he got the slightest of touches to Kranjcar’s corner but Adam Hammill was on hand to clear off the line for the visitors.
Green got just enough on Hammill’s free-kick soon after to turn it behind for a corner as the Terriers responded immediately at the other end before Nahki Wells slipped in Jonathan Hogg who took too long before warming Green’s hands.
Johnson showed a touch of class to control a mishit through ball from Kranjcar on his chest before trying to beat visiting stopper Alex Smithies at his near post as the R’s looked to break the deadlock. However, it was Huddersfield that should have taken the lead when Clayton’s dangerous ball into the six yard box caused panic amongst the R’s defence but Ward couldn’t direct it past Green.
The woodwork came to Huddersfield’s rescue twice in quick succession as QPR were cruelly denied an 33rd minute opener. Austin was first up to header against the post from Kranjcar’s corner before the follow-up from Clint Hill was superbly hooked away by the hand of Smithies. That only went as far as Karl Henry, who also directed his header against the crossbar in a frantic goalmouth scramble.
QPR were struggling for width in the first half and Redknapp opted to address that problem by replacing O’Neil with Matty Phillips at half-time.
It took just ten minutes into the second half for QPR to finally find a way past the Town defence through top scorer Charlie Austin. Kranjcar’s header was flicked on with the deftest of touches by Johnson into the path of Austin who made no mistake as he riffled it past Smithies from 12-yards to score his 13th goal of the season.
That lead was very nearly short lived as Rangers had the quick reactions of Rob Green to thank for keeping their lead intact. The R’s keeper was on hand to tip a header over bar from Murray Wallace from a Huddersfield corner.
Rangers lead lasted just 13 minutes before Huddersfield pulled themselves level through Nahki Wells’. Hammill did well to get to the dead ball line and hold up a cross that allowed Wells to get in front of R’s skipper Hill and guide the ball beyond Green into the far corner.
Desperate to get a winner QPR surged forward as a dangerous ball into the six-yard box evaded Austin before Matty Phillips forced a two handed save from Smithies with a pile driver from outside the 18-yard box. From the resulting corner the R’s did find that elusive second goal, again through Austin.
Benoit Assou-Ekotto had already delivered a number of deadly balls into the area from open play so when the opportunity presented itself from a corner he made no mistake in picking out Austin inside the six-yard box who headed into the back of the net 11 minutes from time.
That proved enough as Rangers recorded a third straight league victory to maintain their 100 per cent start to 2014 in the Sky Bet Championship.