QPR end Hatters' resistance with impressive victory
Queens Park Rangers 3 Luton Town 1
QPR ended their vigorous Championship campaign with a hard-fought win over Luton Town.
Goals from loanees Charlie Austin and Stefan Johansen plus a late third by substitute Albert Adomah were enough to keep all three points in west London, with Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall replying for Luton. Mark Warburton’s side were ultimately more clinical with their finishing when it really mattered, as the R’s finish the term in ninth place.
This was a surprisingly competitive affair despite nothing other than pride being at stake for both teams, and Luton will consider themselves unlucky not to have taken a draw. Their work rate and chances, particularly in the first half, showed just how well manager Nathan Jones had done with the Hatters this season.
Three points separated the R’s and the visitors in 12th spot before kick off.
While this particular encounter was pretty meaningless in the grand scheme of things, the hosts had won four out of their previous six games in a strong finish to their campaign, with the main drama in the Championship resting elsewhere with Derby, Sheffield Wednesday and Rotherham all desperately trying to avoid relegation. For QPR, this was all unfortunately too late, though, for their faint hopes of reaching a playoff place.
The opening spell was, nevertheless, played at a high tempo with the R’s showing intent. Chris Willock cut into the box and his right foot drive in 13 minutes from a sharp angle whizzed across the goal. But if the striker appeared briefly frustrated, it was still a decent signal of QPR’s attitude.
Luton eventually settled sufficiently to create their first chance of the afternoon. Finding himself unmarked at the far post, George Moncur side-footed nicely but his placed effort went a yard over the bar.
The Hatters paid for such profligacy when, in the 20th minute, QPR went in front in simple fashion. Lyndon Dykes found enough space ten yards out to head down a high pass into the path of Austin. And the loan forward kept his composure to slip the ball through the legs of Luton captain Sonny Bradley and past keeper Simon Sluga. A clever lesson in finishing from the man who also netted in January’s corresponding fixture, a 2-0 win at Kenilworth Road for the R’s.
With events ebbing and flowing, Luton enjoyed enough possession for large tracts of the first half and went close a couple of times in response - but they were nearly caught on the counter attack, only for James Bree to bravely deny Willock.
Five minutes from the interval and QPR survived a scare when keeper Seny Dieng instinctively and impressively turned a Moncur shot against the post and away from danger following Dewsbury-Hall’s dangerously swept free kick. In truth, the Hatters deserved to go level – and they managed to grab a goal in 43 minutes.
In-form Dewsbury-Hall, on loan from Leicester City, slid the ball home inside the penalty area after Moncur had his shot parried by Dieng. Luton’s response to Austin’s goal was admirable, forcing a litany of opportunities, so the midfielder’s third strike of the season was merited.
Sam Field replaced Dykes at the break after the Scotland international was on the receiving end of a robust tackle by Glen Rea earlier. As such, there was little point in Warburton taking any further risks with the QPR hit man.
The west Londoners, mindful of Luton’s territorial aggression and chances, became more assertive, although Ilias Chair, normally an ebullient presence, was very much a peripheral figure. At least he was - until the 59th minute when the Moroccan engineered a sprightly assist for Johansen to put the R’s in front.
Picking the ball up and running at the Luton defence, Chair slipped the ball diligently into the path of his midfield colleague. Drawing Sluga from his line, the Norwegian then clipped the ball past the Hatters’ keeper and into the net. It was a lovely goal - and so unfortunate that it wasn’t to be enjoyed by a stadium full of home fans.
Austin then lashed over the bar from around 20 yards before being replaced by Macauley Bonne. Sadly for QPR, the popular forward – on loan from West Brom - is unlikely to play again for the club where he grabbed 45 goals in 82 outings during a fruitful first spell between 2013-16. Already with an eye to next season, the issue of new firepower is for Warburton to address.
Dieng, meanwhile, made a smart save to deny Hatters’ substitute Luke Berry, but Luton’s energy levels had dipped compared to the opening 45 minutes. Kal Naismith then fired just over from long range in an attempt to equalise.
QPR captain Geoff Cameron, who will return to his native USA in the summer, was given a brief cameo in the last five minutes, the defender coming on for Johansen. George Thomas, a home substitute, shot over the bar from a great position in front of goal which would have wrapped things up.
Fellow replacement Adomah, however, was on hand to tap in after a neat interchange with Willock in the six yard area with seconds remaining.
While this proved to be a decent win for Warburton, it still leaves a number of roles for the manager to now fill in order to engineer a new, hopefully better, era in W12.
QPR: Dieng, Wallace, Dickie, De Wijs, Barbet, Dykes (Field 46), Chair (Thomas 76), Johansen (Cameron 85), Willock, Kakay (Adomah 76), Austin (Bonne 65)