CHARLIE Austin made a dream second debut on Tuesday night by scoring the opener in QPR’s well-deserved victory at Luton Town.
In true Charlie-Austin fashion he pounced from six yards with 39 minutes on the clock at Kenilworth Road to give Rangers the lead in Bedfordshire.
His night’s work was over just before the hour mark and his replacement, Macauley Bonne, made the result safe in stoppage time by converting Albert Adomah’s low cross.
The victory – which the R’s were well worthy of – secured their fifth victory of the campaign and lifts them five points above the Championship’s relegation zone.
In terms of team news, Mark Warburton made one change to the side that kept Premier League Fulham at bay for 100 minutes or so on Saturday.
It was headline news too as Austin came straight into the XI, replacing Bonne who dropped to the substitute’s bench.
The R’s were otherwise unchanged and the game started at a real end-to-end pace, with a Bright Osayi-Samuel cross testing home goalkeeper Simon Sluga before Seny Dieng did well to cut out a deflected Harry Cornick cross on seven minutes.
Austin got his first sight of goal on 10 minutes, having been teed up by strike partner Lyndon Dykes, but his effort deflected into the arms of Sluga.
A pair of Austin headers kept Sluga on his toes, though on both occasions the offside flag was belatedly raised, and the R’s then began to dominate proceedings.
They almost made that dominance count on the half-hour mark. Dykes burst through one-on-one but his low strike was well saved by the legs of Sluga.
Nine minutes later, Rangers would get their deserved breakthrough, though. Ilias Chair floated in a corner from the left, Geoff Cameron flicked it on and who else but Austin was waiting in the perfect position to steer home the loose ball.
It had taken the forward all-of 39 minutes to open his R’s account for a second time and his roar of delight was loud and clear for everyone inside Kenilworth Road to hear. The strike moved him onto 49 QPR goals.
Rangers held their lead going into half time. No-one could dispute that they deserved it but they were fortunate to still have it two minutes into the second half.
A lucky ricochet saw Hatters forward James Collins burst clear but he slashed his left-footed finish well wide of the target.
The R’s certainly had a bit of luck on that occasion and they then settled back into their first-half rhythm. Just before the hour mark, Mark Warburton made his first change, replacing goalscorer Austin – who was making his first league started of the season – with Bonne.
A chance to double the lead came Rangers’ way on 69 minutes. A clever, first-time ball from Tom Carroll sent Chair away and, from a tight angle, he stung the palms of Sluga with a low drive.
At the other end, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu curled an effort at goal from the edge of the box that just kissed the corner of post and crossbar before going behind for a goal-kick.
Defender Rob Dickie then powered a header just over the bar from a Chair corner for the R’s and moments later Warburton rolled the dice for a second time by replacing Chair with Albert Adomah.
With the clock ticking down the two substitutes – Bonne and Adomah – combined to make the result safe. The latter broke down the right flank and squared the ball to the unmarked Bonne, who slotted home confidently from 12 yards.
That all-but secured the points for the Super Hoops, who then comfortably saw out five minutes of stoppage time to claim their win and sixth clean sheet of the campaign.