Austin guides QPR to victory over Birmingham

Tom Carroll (centre) made his QPR debut against Birmingham City on Saturday afternoon

Tom Carroll (centre) made his QPR debut against Birmingham City on Saturday afternoon - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Championship: QPR 1 Birmingham City 0

Charlie Austin’s first league goal for QPR helped Rangers maintain their unbeaten start to the Championship season with a narrow win over Birmingham City on Saturday.

Austin scored from close range four minutes into the second half after Birmingham’s Tom Adeyemi had headed onto his own crossbar, as Rangers made it 16 points from six matches.

Harry Redknapp handed a first start to new signing Tom Carroll, while former Blackpool man Matt Phillips also made his debut, replacing the injured Junior Hoilett in the first half.

But there was no room in the squad for the unsettled Julio Cesar, the Brazil keeper missing out on a place on the bench to Brian Murphy.

Birmingham departed west London perhaps feeling they merited a point, having hit the post before half-time and had a late penalty appeal waved away by the referee.

In keeping with QPR’s recent matches at Loftus Road, much of the first half was a low-key affair, although Austin might have given the hosts a perfect start with a half-volley inside the first minute which flew into the stand behind the goal.

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The opening half hour demonstrated the strengths and potential limitations of Carroll. Playing alongside Joey Barton in central midfield, the 21-year-old, was seeing plenty of possession, but on several occasions his relatively lightweight frame saw him eased off the ball.

Hoilett was alert to seize on a mis-placed pass and charge in on the City goal, but sloppy with his final delivery as his attempted cross was blocked and cleared.

Birmingham then should have taken the lead with their first serious effort on goal. Andrew Shinnie curled in a free-kick from wide on the left, and Lee Novak’s header beat the diving Robert Green but hit the inside of the post, allowing QPR to clear the danger.

They wasted an equally glaring opportunity eight minutes before half-time, as Novak led a lightning-quick move and set up Shinnie, who blazed his shot over the crossbar.

Hoilett then departed, having picked up a knock, as Phillips made his QPR debut.

The second half began with a substitution and formation change for QPR, as Redknapp replaced the ineffective Bobby Zamora with Shaun Wright-Phillips. The winger took his place on the right of Rangers’ attack, with Phillips on the opposite flank. O’Neil switched to a central midfield role, alongside Carroll and Joey Barton.

The half began explosively, as City had a goal ruled out for offside, and QPR quickly went to the other end and broke the deadlock. Barton’s free-kick was hooked back across goal by Nedum Onuoha, and headed onto the bar by Birmingham defender Adeyemi. As the ball bounced down, Austin was on hand three yards out to head into the empty net.

It was Austin’s first league goal since he arrived from Burnley during the summer, his only other strike having come on his full debut against Exeter in the League Cup.

Birmingham looked for a swift reply, but Kyle Bartley’s header from a corner flew over Green’s crossbar, while Chris Burke’s cross-cum-shot was blocked by Richard Dunne.

A marauding Austin forced a mistake from Bartley and set up Carroll for a shot, but the youngster couldn’t keep his effort down and the ball curled wide of Darren Randolph’s goal.

As City fought for an equaliser, Jonathan Spector drove into the penalty area and tumbled under Dunne’s challenge, but with almost everyone inside the ground expecting a penalty the referee booked the Birmingham man for simulation.

Barton tried his luck with an injury-time free kick which smacked off the post, as QPR held on for their third successive 1-0 victory.

QPR: Green, Simpson, Dunne, Hill, Onuoha, Carroll, Barton, O’Neil, Hoilett, Zamora, Austin. Subs: Murphy, Phillips, Wright-Phillips, Jenas, Henry, Faurlin, Assou-Ekotto.