SECOND-half strikes from Leroy Fer and Charlie Austin fired ten-man QPR above opponents Burnley and out of the Premier League drop zone on Saturday.
Fer’s second goal at Loftus Road in as many games broke the deadlock before Austin – netting his eighth of the campaign – gave Rangers breathing space by scoring against his former club.
Austin’s afternoon ended soon after for two bookable offences, but his late dismissal did little to dampen celebrations as Rob Green, who had earlier tipped a George Boyd effort onto the woodwork, preserved a clean sheet and with it, all three points.
Harry Redknapp made two changes from Tuesday night’s trip to Swansea City. Mauricio Isla returned in place of Nedum Onuoha on the right-hand side of defence, while Bobby Zamora was handed his first start in three games as Niko Kranjcar joined Onuoha by dropping to the bench.
On a crisp winter’s afternoon in W12, Rangers enjoyed the better of a cagey opening quarter but had Green to thank for preserving parity early on.
Fresh from his heroic display at the Liberty Stadium, the R’s number one proved his worth once again – picking himself off the deck after palming away Dean Marney’s looping cross to thwart Scott Arfield’s follow-up from point-blank range.
Green came to the R’s rescue once more when George Boyd took aim from the edge of the area. The winger’s left-footed strike was destined for the top right-hand corner before Green’s fingertips took the ball onto the post and away to safety.
At the other end, Eduardo Vargas finally fashioned the R’s first sight on goal on the half-hour mark. Vargas beat Ben Mee but saw his low drive parried by Tom Heaton before the Burnley backline eventually smuggled the danger clear.
Danny Ings – on the scoresheet when the sides last met in February – was next to threaten, making a bee-line for goal only to have his run thwarted by Richard Dunne who showed all his experience to shepherd the striker wide.
After a tepid first half, the second burst into life with the R’s opening goal within six minutes of the re-start. Zamora and Austin combined to find Fer six yards out, who took a touch before diving in low to loop the ball over Heaton with the aid of a deflection.
The goal also seemingly sparked the visitors into life, who went close to an immediate response. Boyd again took aim, flashing a teasing cross across goal which was helped wide by Richard Dunne. Meanwhile, Ings couldn’t direct his header on target from Marney’s deep cross moments later before Boyd scooped his latest shot over just after the hour-mark.
Zamora’s involvement ended soon after, replaced by Kranjcar with 25 minutes left on the clock.
Joey Barton carved out the next shooting opportunity, bringing a smart save out of Heaton from 25 yards as Rangers sought the cushion of a second goal.
They didn’t have to wait long – doubling their lead 16 minutes from time. This time Isla was the provider, combining with Chilean compatriot Vargas before pulling the ball back for Austin to side-foot home from eight yards.
Austin’s celebrations were cut short, though, after a second booking in quick succession following an aerial challenge with Michael Keane resulted in a red card from referee Jonathon Moss.
Redknapp responded with his second change, bolstering the R’s midfield with Jordon Mutch while Vargas departed.
The dismissal might have renewed the visitors’ hopes of a comeback, but instead it was Yun Suk-Young who came closest to adding a third goal of the game. The left-back latched onto Fer’s through ball but saw his goal-bound effort repelled by Heaton.
Fer left to a standing ovation when he was replaced by Matty Phillips in stoppage time, whilst the R’s faithful were on their feet again at the final whistle to applaud another valuable home success.