FanZoner Chris King insists recent displays have shown fans signs that progress is being made, despite QPR’s position in the bottom three.
Queens Park Rangers head in to October with just one win from six matches after a 2-1 defeat by Southampton – but fingers should not be hovering nervously above the panic button just yet.
Despite a wonder-strike by Charlie Austin, who controlled a cross from Junior Hoilett on his right foot before swivelling on to his left and smashing the ball past Saints goalkeeper Fraser Forster.
R’s manager Harry Redknapp said after the game that his side had lost to a “world-class goal”, in reference to Southampton forward Graziano Pelle’s equally stunning piece of skill.
However, in reality the visitors were outplayed and deserved to come away with nothing, ahead of a trip to West Ham United that gives Rangers an opportunity to climb out of the bottom three.
There is of course no point in looking at league tables at this stage, for the points difference between Manchester United in seventh and rock-bottom Burnley is a mere five points.
With Joey Barton and Jordon Mutch absent for the trip to St. Mary’s, it was always going to be difficult to stop the Saints, who lie second in the Premier League table with 13 points.
It is also worth remembering that the visitors were the crossbar away from gaining a point, through Niko Kranjcar, no matter how undeserved it would have been.
There is also reason to believe that Napoli loanee Eduardo Vargas, who showed a few good flashes during his home debut against Stoke City, will forge a useful partnership with Austin up front.
Moving on to Austin himself, there was no better sight for R’s fans than the former Burnley hitman netting his second goal of the season, and running deliriously towards the blue and white masses.
To a significant extent, Rangers’ survival in the top flight depends on Austin maturing into a genuine Premier League striker, a target that comes closer every time he hits the back of the net.
No matter what the table, which has Rangers third from bottom with four points and the worst goal difference, says, this is not a repeat of the Mark Hughes disaster that almost destroyed the club.
QPR are paying the price for a defence that is not strong enough, and not taking their chances on the opening day against Hull City.
Few can reasonably argue that losing away to Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Southampton indicates a crisis of the sort currently engulfing second-bottom Newcastle United.
While the manner of these defeats, particularly at White Hart Lane, must have decimated the players’ confidence, Rangers had enough about them to see off a relegation rival in Sunderland.
It is on games such as this, and those against Burnley, Leicester City, West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace, among others, that Redknapp and his team must be judged.
Owner Tony Fernandes stuck with Hughes far too long last time – until it was too late. He will not make the same mistake a second time, because he now knows what relegation truly costs.
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Originally published on TEAMtalk on Tuesday September 30 2014.