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Loftus Road Stadium (ATT 16,951) 21st April 2014 - Kick off 15:00

QPR Queens Park Rangers vs Watford Watford

QPR 2

J Barton (76)
C Austin (90)

ft

Watford 1

M Ranegie (51)

Championship: Charlie Austin scores winner in QPR's 2-1 victory over Watford

Last Updated: 21/04/14 6:35pm

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Joey Barton (c): Celebrates his opening goal

Joey Barton (c): Celebrates his opening goal

Charlie Austin netted a late winner as QPR guaranteed a play-off spot after a 2-1 victory over Watford at Loftus Road.

Trailing to Mathias Ranegie's goal six minutes into the second half, Rangers laboured before Joey Barton's 76th-minute free-kick hauled them level.

And top scorer Austin, badly missed during a recent two-month spell out with a shoulder injury, gloriously curled home his 16th goal of the season in the closing stages to clinch a 2-1 victory.

It left Watford's hopes of a top-six finish in the Sky Bet Championship looking remote, although they have a game in hand on most of their rivals.

Rangers boss Harry Redknapp made several changes in the wake of Saturday's loss at Leicester, pairing fit-again duo Austin and Kevin Doyle up front with Ravel Morrison behind them.

But Watford were the better team for large spells of the match and were gifted three chances before the interval - two of them coming after errors by QPR's veteran defender Richard Dunne.

Troy Deeney went through after Dunne mistimed a header, but the striker's low shot was pushed away by Rob Green.

And the dangerous Lewis McGugan fired over after pouncing on the loose ball when Dunne misplaced a pass to Morrison.

Rangers continued to look vulnerable and another mistake - this time by Tom Carroll - set up McGugan, whose strike from near the edge of the penalty area was tipped over by Green.

Watford were able to open up the home defence almost at will and Nedum Onuoha needed to produce a fine last-ditch tackle to block Deeney before Rangers wide-man Armand Traore was similarly alert to deny Daniel Pudil.

At the other end, goalkeeper Manuel Almunia needed only to hold tame efforts from Austin and Morrison before diving to his right to stop Carroll's free-kick in first-half stoppage time.

It was a similar story after the break as Green remained the busier keeper, pushing over Deeney's close-range volley.

But he was unable to rescue Rangers when Deeney headed down Joel Eskstrand's ball into the box and Ranegie finished coolly after turning away from the hapless Dunne - the Swede's third goal of the campaign.

McGugan cleared Austin's goal-bound header from Barton's right-wing corner and Almunia parried a stinging drive from Austin as Rangers at last began to impose themselves.

They were buoyed by Barton's fine goal but looked to have spurned a late chance when Austin was slow to release the ball as his team broke forward.

However, when the ball was then returned to Austin by substitute Bobby Zamora, he steered his shot beyond Almunia and into the far corner.

It summed up his importance to QPR, so they perhaps have reason to be concerned by the fact that Austin was then immediately taken off after appearing to hurt his hamstring.

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Table

Sky Bet Championship

Sky Bet Championship
Pos Team P Pts
1 Derby County 13 26
2 Watford 13 25
3 Middlesbrough 13 23
4 Wolverhampton Wanderers 13 23
5 Norwich City 13 22
6 Nottingham Forest 13 22
7 Charlton Athletic 14 22
8 Bournemouth 13 21
9 Ipswich Town 13 20
10 Cardiff City 13 19
11 Blackburn Rovers 13 19
12 Brentford 13 19
13 Sheffield Wednesday 13 18
14 Rotherham United 13 16
15 Leeds United 13 16
16 Huddersfield Town 13 16
17 Reading 13 15
18 Millwall 13 14
19 Fulham 14 14
20 Wigan Athletic 13 12
21 Brighton and Hove Albion 13 12
22 Birmingham City 13 11
23 Bolton Wanderers 13 8
24 Blackpool 13 6