Austin’s winner takes Rangers to Wembley

QPR 2 Wigan 1 (After extra time: QPR win 2-1 on aggregate)

Charlie Austin’s extra-time winner took QPR through to the Championship play-off final and ended the club’s 28-year wait for a trip to Wembley.

On a dramatic night in pouring rain at Loftus Road, the striker belted in a 72nd-minute penalty to haul an increasingly desperate Rangers level after James Perch had given Wigan a first-half lead.

And Austin struck again after being set up by substitute Bobby Zamora, meaning the R’s will face Derby on 24 May for a place in the Premier League.

Level at 0-0 from the first leg and with the home crowd hoping for a repeat of the famous play-off triumph against Oldham 11 years ago, the scene was set for an early barrage from Harry Redknapp’s side.

Instead they found themselves behind after only nine minutes after a defensive lapse involving two of their most consistent performers.

Rangers' victory prompted scenes of wild celebrations at Loftus Road
Rangers’ victory prompted scenes of wild celebrations at Loftus Road

Nedum Onuoha was slow to close down James McClean and the Irishman’s left-wing cross was snapped up by Perch, who sneaked in front of Clint Hill to score from close range.

Rangers continued to look shaky at the back but began to create openings at the other end, with Niko Kranjcar forcing a save from keeper Scott Carson and Gary O’Neil shooting wide before a Joey Barton corner almost led to an equaliser.

Austin’s header from Barton’s delivery was cleared off the line by McClean, with the ball then striking Onuoha and bouncing wide.

As Rangers pushed forward in the second half they were almost hit with a sucker punch when McClean burst through and was denied by keeper Rob Green before nudging the loose ball on to the post from a tight angle.

With the R’s facing defeat, Ravel Morrison, left out of the starting line-up, was introduced on 69 minutes.

But it was Zamora, brought on five minutes earlier, who played a key role in the all-important equaliser, laying the ball off to Junior Hoilett, who was brought down by Gary Caldwell.

Once Austin fired in the resulting spot-kick it was virtually one-way traffic until extra time, with Zamora lobbing over after chasing Richard Dunne’s long ball before Carson dived to push away Barton’s 25-yarder.

Carson was unable to save his team five minutes into extra time, however.

Again the much-maligned Zamora was the provider, lifting the ball into the box, where Austin got in front of Leon Barnett and netted his 20th goal of the season.

QPR (4-4-1-1): Green; Simpson, Onuoha, Dunne, Hill (Yun 50); Doyle (Zamora 64); Barton, O’Neil (Morrison 69), Hoilett; Kranjcar; Austin.
Subs not used: Murphy, Henry, Benayoun, Hughes.

Follow West London Sport on Twitter
Find us on Facebook