QUEENS Park Rangers kept their unbeaten run alive after dramatically coming back from 2-0 down to level things up in W12.
After going in at the break trailing, courtesy of Dominik Freiser and Cauley Woodrow’s efforts, Ilias Chair’s 76th-minute strike got the ball rolling before frontman Charlie Austin snatched a point off the Tykes with an injury-time effort.
This point moved Rangers to the summit of the Sky Bet Championship table, albeit only for a matter of hours, following the conclusion of the 3pm kick-offs.
Heading into the 12.30pm clash, R’s boss Mark Warburton made four changes to the team that had previously won away at Middlesbrough on Wednesday evening, with George Thomas replacing the suspended Moses Odubajo, Osman Kakay coming in for Lee Wallace, Andre Dozzell for Dom Ball and lastly Austin slotting in for Lyndon Dykes.
This meant that the R’s lined up in a 5-2-2-1 formation with Seny Dieng between the sticks. Kakay and Thomas provided width in the wing-back positions, while Rob Dickie, Jordy de Wijs and Yoann Barbet occupied the three centre-back roles.
Andre Dozzell and captain Stefan Johansen took up the two holding midfield positions, with Chris Willock and Ilias Chair supporting Austin in attack.
Heading into the clash, Barnsley went into the game on the back of a 1-0 home defeat to Luton Town on Tuesday, while Rangers came into it following the great away win at the Riverside on Wednesday night.
After a tough start, the Super Hoops’ first opportunity of the game arrived through the influential Chair, who broke down the left-hand side and chipped a cross to the back post which was nodded back across by Austin to Thomas, who inventively flicked the ball towards goal. However, it comfortably rolled into the gloves of Bradley Collins in the Barnsley goal and it remained all-square.
However, with 14 minutes on the clock, the visitors took the lead.
Liam Kitching played a hopeful through ball over the top of the R’s defence which was eventually chased down by Frieser, who many of the Rangers supporters felt was in an offside position. But, as he managed to fire a low driven shot past Dieng at the near post, the official's flagged stayed down and the visitors had taken the lead.
Barnsley continued their early dominance with Woodrow next to go close. After picking up the ball on the edge of the box, his shot went narrowly wide.
After a period of limited chances, as we reached the half an hour mark, the visitors doubled their lead.
Senegal international Dieng punched away Barnsley’s corner, but it went only as far as Callum Styles who played a neat one-two with Josh Benson.
Styles then managed to drill the ball across goal and it was put away from close range by Woodrow for his 50th goal for the Tykes.
With Rangers trailing, R’s boss Warburton knew something had to change and a double substitution 10 minutes before half-time saw the arrival of Dominic Ball and Albert Adomah for Thomas and Dozzell, which instantly started to make a difference, with the hosts able to carve out their first real opportunities of the game in the dying minutes of the opening half.
But, despite this Rangers continued to trail at the break.
Before the second half could kick-off, the R’s quickly made their third and final change with Jimmy Dunne replacing Dutch defender de Wijs.
This change almost instantly paid dividends with the first chance of the half falling to centre-half Dunne, who was able to rise highest to meet Johansen’s inswinging corner but his header went inches wide.
Rangers continued their good spell and as the ball broke through to Austin, the R’s frontman looked certain to find the target, if not score, but he fired over the bar and the Super Hoops’ frustration grew.
As the game developed substitute Adomah continued to trouble the Barnsley full-backs, with some more great work by the winger eventually earning him a free-kick in a wide position. This was consequently whipped in by Johansen and headed goalwards at the front post by Austin, forcing a good save from Collins.
With 14 minutes left to play, Rangers finally halved the deficit with Chair finding the back of the net. The Moroccan international picked the ball up off Willock and drove down the left-hand channel, cutting inside and then outside to confuse the visiting defenders before smashing the ball past Collins from an acute angle.
As the clocked ticked down, Woodrow was gifted a golden opportunity to put the game to bed, after Collins’ goal-kick went all the way through to the Barnsley number nine, but as the former Fulham man went around Dieng he could only fire over the bar.
With the game seemingly starting to peter out, Rangers piled on the pressure and won a corner following a shot from Willock which was blocked behind. It was taken quickly and eventually came out to Kakay, whose curling shot was saved by the ‘keeper.
However, all the drama was to come in injury time. Adomah again spread the ball to Chair, who took it down beautifully and played it wide to the overlapping Barbet who subsequently fired a low and hard cross to Austin. The latter duly slotted the ball home for his first league goal of the 2021/22 campaign.
Rangers had clinched a point, but the jubilant Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium certainly made it feel much more like a victory and as the R’s moved to the summit of the Sky Bet Championship table, albeit for a couple of hours. It was a much more enjoyable end to the clash than it certainly could have been.
Written by Len Harvey