Backed by a sell-out away following, Town couldn’t bring anything away from Loftus Road against promotion-chasing QPR – but they only had themselves to blame after more than matching their opponents.
Town should have been ahead in a goalless first-half after twice spurning golden one-on-one opportunities through Ward and Hogg – and then Charlie Austin netted early in the second-half.
The Terriers fought back, with Nahki Wells netting a deft header to restore parity in the scoreline on his full debut.
However, Austin netted a simple far post header from a corner late in the game and sealed all three points for Harry Redknapp’s side.
Town’s success under Mark Robins has come through control of possession, but today looked to be a tough test on that front with QPR’s team boasting several players of international calibre such as Croatian Niko Kranjcar. However, it was the men in black and red who were the side on top during the opening 45 minutes thanks to better passing of the ball.
Town were quick out of the blocks and had the first shot inside four minutes when Oliver Norwood’s clever clipped pass found the arcing run of Danny Ward. The ball sat up nicely on Danny’s left foot and ‘keeper Rob Green had to carefully watch the volley fly over the bar.
The same pair combined to create one of several golden chances for Town in the first-half, whose passing and movement made the league’s meanest defence look average at times. Norwood’s pass split centre halves Clint Hill and Richard Dunne and sent Ward clear, but the former Bolton man pulled his left footed effort comfortably wide of target with the goal at his mercy.
QPR looked a threat at set-pieces, with Dunne, Charlie Austin and Hill good targets to hit. However, it was the diminutive Andrew Johnson who made Town work in the 11th minute when he flicked a near post corner towards goal – Adam Hammill sticking to his task and heading the ball off the line.
Two minutes later the Terriers were back on the attack when Gary O’Neil brought down the advancing Paul Dixon 25 yards out. Up stepped Norwood, who had already knocked Johnson off his feet with an earlier free-kick; this time he hit the target, forcing Green to push the ball behind.
Record signing Nahki Wells forced Green into a routine save with a near post header from Hammill’s cross soon after before Town cut QPR to pieces again. Clever passing and moving sent a Town player clear again, but it wasn’t the ideal man – midfielder Jonathan Hogg hasn’t scored in his last 122 League games1 He entered the area, but his left footed effort was easy for Green to claim.
QPR came into the game more at this point, with left back Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s deflected effort causing Alex Smithies to scramble across his goal as the ball rolled inches wide of the right-hand post.
Soon after Johnson’s snapshot forced Smithies into work again, but Town fought back with Ward pushing Hammill’s low cross towards goal; Green claiming again.
The hosts’ best spell of the half came just after the half hour; first Assou-Ekotto made a mess of a back post volley after smart work from right back Danny Simpson and then Town survived a real panic from a corner.
Austin rose above Wallace to head Kranjcar’s delivery towards goal and hit the bar; Smithies then excelled to pull off a point blank reaction save before midfielder Karl Henry headed against the bar once again! Eventually Town hooked the ball clear courtesy of Adam Clayton.
Ward was always involved in Town’s attacks, but he was guilty of making a mess of the final ball after breaking down the right just before half-time with Norwood ideally positioned for the pull-back. He did better with the final chance of the half, laying the ball off to Norwood on the edge, but the Northern Ireland international didn’t wrap his foot around the ball and fired wide.
Town started in decent fashion after the interval, but Robins didn’t hesitate in bringing on fit-again top scorer James Vaughan as early as the 51st minute.
Unfortunately it was the Hoops who netted just four minutes later through their top scorer Austin. Kranjcar’s flicked header forward was intelligently knocked into the path of Austin by Johnson and the former Burnley man cleverly waited for Wallace’s sliding block before taking an extra touch and powering the ball home from around the penalty spot.
Town fought back, with Gerrard – whose head was bandaged after his injury last weekend – heading a deep corner from Hammill back across goal, forcing Green to tip over,
However, the goal had put a stop to Town’s fluent passing, with Norwood’s radar straying from its usual pinpoint accuracy.
That prompted Robins to bring on Sean Scannell – and Town immediately equalised. Good pressing from the winger forced a Town throw-in down the left side and from that, Hammill cleverly weaved his way into the box and lifted the ball into the area, where that man Wells neatly nodded an accurate header out of Green’s reach and inside the far post.
To their credit, Wells’ second goal in as many games prompted the hosts to really come at Town – with sub Matt Phillips making a mess of a header from ten yards out after good play from Simpson and Kranjcar.
Gerrard then pulled off a solid block to deny Johnson a shot at goal after his run was picked out by Phillips’ excellent driven cross-field ball. The QPR attack was relentless with 15 left though and it took a last ditch clearance from the unlikely figure of Scannell to clear Simpson’s ball across goal soon after.
Scannell almost picked out Wells with a breakaway a minute later, but QPR were back on the attack when Dixon’s clearance fell to Phillips – Smithies did well to push his fierce drive around the post.
The pressure told in the 79th minute when Austin headed in his second of the game to restore his side’s lead in very simple fashion. The big striker was the most determined man in the box and got his head to another QPR corner, thumping a header past a helpless Smithies from close range.
Rangers took off a striker – Johnson – and allowed Town to boss possession by dropping deeper after their second and balls came into the QPR box on several occasions, but no clear-cut chances fell to the men in black. The nearest Town came was a Vaughan header from Dixon’s right-footed cross, but the chance was a difficult one and Green claimed the ball.
Town’s team (3-5-2):
Alex Smithies (c); Murray Wallace, Anthony Gerrard, Tommy Smith; Paul Dixon, Jonathan Hogg, Adam Clayton, Oliver Norwood (Sean Scannell, 67), Adam Hammill (Oscar Gobern, 78); Danny Ward (James Vaughan, 51), Nahki Wells
Ian Bennett, Calum Woods, Joe Lolley, Duane Holmes
Andrew Johnson (44); Clint Hill (45); Tom Carroll (87)