QPR secure play-off spot as Charlie Austin sinks Watford
- Credit: Archant
Championship: QPR 2 Watford 1
Charlie Austin hit the winner as QPR secured their place in the Championship play-offs by coming from behind to defeat Watford.
Austin, who missed more than two months of the season with a shoulder injury, curled home his 16th goal of the campaign in the 90th minute.
Watford had threatened to take the points at Loftus Road, as Mathias Ranegie fired Giuseppe Sannino’s side ahead early in the second half.
However, Joey Barton curled a shot past Almunia with 12 minutes remaining, and Austin won it for Harry Redknapps’s side with a fine strike from the edge of the area.
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QPR were without Benoit Assou-Ekotto, who was serving a one-match suspension for his red card against Leicester City on Saturday. Barton, Kevin Doyle and Clint Hill all returned.
Watford, on a run of six matches unbeaten, made the brighter start. Lewis McGugan and Troy Deeney both fired over the bar from outside the penalty area, before Deeney pounced on a mistake by Nedum Onuoha to force Rob Green into a fine save low to his right.
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Danny Simpson forced Watford keeper Manuel Almunia into a rare save on the half-hour mark, before Watford wasted another opportunity on the counter-attack.
Joel Ekstrand played Daniel Pudil through on goal, but his touch was poor allowing Armand Traore to deny him a shooting opportunity with a fine challenge.
QPR were struggling to pose any real threat. A foul on Charlie Austin on the edge of the area just before half-time gave Ravel Morrison the chance to test Almunia, but the on-loan West Ham United midfielder curled his effort over the bar.
Shortly afterwards, Morrison won another free-kick in a similar position. Tom Carroll tried his luck with a curling left-footed shot, but the ball was at a comfortable height for Almunia, who punched clear.
Watford opened the scoring five minutes into the second half. Deeney nodded the ball down inside the area for Mathias Ranegie to spin Richard Dunne and thump a shot past Green.
QPR initially struggled to mount a response, seeing plenty of the ball without creating clear-cut chances. Barton’s shot from distance failed to trouble Almunia. Morrison tricked his way to the edge of the area, but could only curl his shot straight at the Watford keeper.
Charlie Austin, who had been largely kept quiet by the Watford defence, then came close twice in a matter of minutes, having a firm header at the near post cleared off the line and then turning inside the area to rifle in a shot which Almunia kept out.
Perhaps predictably, QPR’s equaliser came courtesy of a set-piece. Morrison was fouled on the edge of the area, and Barton curled a shot past the motionless Almunia to level the scores.
Watford almost went ahead again straight away, but Nedum Onuoha headed Alman Abdi’s close-range shot off the line.
But it was QPR who struck as the game edged towards injury time. Junior Hoilett led a breakaway, and when the ball fell to Austin he curled a shot past Almunia.
QPR: Green; Simpson, Dunne, Hill, Traore, Onuoha, Carroll, Barton, Morrison, Doyle, Austin. Subs: Murphy, Keane, Yun, Hughes, Henry, Hoilett, Zamora.