Austin drives Reds to defeat

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Barnsley boss David Flitcroft admitted his side paid the penalty for allowing Charlie Austin to punish them.

On-song QPR hitman Austin pounced to bag a brace to make it five goals in as many games to sink the struggling Reds.

And while Austin’s goals helped the Hoops establish a new club record of eight consecutive league games without conceding a goal, the Reds crashed to a sixth successive away league defeat.

Another loss on the road keeps Flitcroft’s stuttering team rooted to the foot of the Championship after the club’s worst start to a season for nearly 50 years.

But the Reds boss remains upbeat their fortunes will soon swing in the right direction despite having picked up just one points from their last three matches before the second international break of the season.

“We’ve taken some body-blows, but we’ll be sticking to our task,” stressed Flitcroft.

“I’ve got great belief in this group of players and I’ve got no doubts things will change.

“We’re desperate to win football matches and over the next six weeks we’ve got teams who are beatable.

“I can guarantee we will be competitive over the next six weeks, that’s for sure.”

Flitcroft decided not to tinker with his team which battled bravely to pinch a point at home to high-fliers Reading on Tuesday night at Oakwell.

And for the first half of a what turned out to be a one-sided affair after the break the Reds more than matched the hosts without really threatening.

Flitcroft’s charges defended well against opponents who have not lost in the league this season.

But the pressure told after the break and Austin, who had earlier been denied by a fine save from Stoke City loan keeper Jack Butland, did find the back of the net with a smart finish.

The former Burnley striker didn’t waste the chance to double his tally from the penalty spot with three minutes remaining after Reds skipper Martin Cranie tripped him in the box.

Austin made no mistake for his fourth goal in three games as the Hoops stayed level-pegging with league leaders Burnley, but with a game in hand on their Lancashire rivals.

There was no doubt that this was always going to be a difficult ask for the Reds, especially given the fact they’d not won at Loftus Road for nearly 63 years.

Their last win in West London was in 1950, but long gone are the days when a 5-0 triumph can be achieved against a side of QPR’s class.

The Reds had also lost their last eight visits to Loftus Road and were thumped 4-0 in their last meeting at the ground back in August 2010.

Added Flitcroft: “We’ll re-group over the next two weeks and come back stronger. I thought for 60-70 minutes we’ve come to a tough place and done a job.

“We kept them quiet and their fans on the low side, but the [opening] goal gave them the edge and the nerve.

“We had good opportunities in their last third to be a bit more adventurous.”

The Reds had done their jobs to a large degree, having limited the home side to a handful of chances.

However, Junior Hoillett’s introduction from the substitutes bench ultimately changed the course of the contest.

Hoillett’s whipped-in cross found Austin in acres of space and the striker coolly slotted home for the opening goal.

From there the Reds had a real task on their hands and were forced to throw caution to the window in an attempt to score against a side with the best defensive record in the Championship.

Stretched at the back, Cranie could have done better but chose to challenge Austin as be bore down on Butland’s goal. The defender might have been better served trying to let his keeper try to avert the danger with the last throw of the dice.

It was a slow start from both sides as they both failed to create a clear-cut opportunity in the opening 15 minutes.

But the first chance of the game fell to the hosts in the 16th minute. Niko Kranjcar rifled a right-foot shot wide of the target.

And then the Reds were lucky not to go behind after a brilliant goalline clearance from midfielder David Perkins.

Defender Richard Dunne rose tallest from a corner and his head was in but for Perkins’ timely intervention.

Perkins tried his luck with an ambitious long-range effort, but his 22nd-minute strike was never going to threaten Hoops keeper Rob Green.

Four minutes later former Chelsea midfielder Jacob Mellis shot over with a powerful shot which was always rising.

The Reds were in debt to loan keeper Butland who kept them level-pegging with a fine double save.

The Stoke City loan shot-stopper saved with his legs to deny Austin and then the Reds scrambled the ball away after Faurlin had followed up from the rebound.

Not long after controversial midfielder Joey Barton fizzed a firecracker past the left upright from 35 yards out. It was another close shave for the visitors.

Less than two minutes into the second half Peter Ramage headed over before needing to be taken off with a thigh injury.

At the other end England international Butland did well to deny Benoit Assou-Ekoto with a smart save as the Hoops countered.

Paddy McCourt did brilliantly to clear off his own line after Kranjcar’s powerful strike looked like it was going to sneak into the bottom right corner.

The international break has come at the right time for the Reds as they look to get back on track.