...CHERRIES RIPE FOR CHALLENGE
QPR boss Harry Redknapp says his side blew their chances of automatic promotion after losing to ten-man Bournemouth.
Redknapp returned to Dean Court for the first time since 1992 and despite his side enjoying the opening stages it was to be an unhappy return to his old stomping ground.
Goals from Tommy Elphick and top-scorer Lewis Grabban sealed victory for Bournemouth who had midfielder Harry Arter sent off for a whole-hearted challenge on Junior Hoilett.
The Hoops began well as West Ham loanee Ravel Morrison found Jermaine Jenas with the former England midfielder forcing Lee Camp into a smart save.
But the hosts soon gathered momentum after a jittery start and Grabban’s 20th goal of the season secured Eddie Howe’s men a fourth win on the bounce.
Howe’s side outclassed the star-studded visitors and QPR boss Redknapp admitted his side’s dreams of landing an automatic promotion slot are now a mere memory, with the R’s ten points behind second-placed Burnley with six games left.
He said:“It is almost impossible now to be fair. Nobody is going to catch Burnley now are they?
“I thought we started great and played some really good football and then we began to give it away.
“I thought we would go on to win after scoring early in the second-half but we lacked the imagination.
“We kept slapping the ball out wide after they went down to ten men and I felt we should have been a little bit cleverer.
“We lacked that bit of flair to open them up, you are looking a bit more from Junior Hoilett and Ravel Morrison, your flair players to open them up and they didn’t really do it.”
Redknapp could only watch as Bournemouth’s very own goal-machine Grabban netted on the hour, reacting quickest to a rebound.
The Hoops boss threw on former Bournemouth transfer target Charlie Austin – who has been side-lined since January – but neither he nor fellow substitute Bobby Zamora could conjure up another equaliser.
Redknapp said of Austin:“He is the one guy who looks like he will score a goal. We are short of goals – that is our problem.”
It was Bournemouth’s seventh win in nine matches and Eddie Howe’s side face sixth-placed Reading on Tuesday.
And the Cherries boss admitted his troops could still clinch a play-off spot.
Howe said:“I cannot deny that there is still a chance for us and Tuesday is obviously going to be a very special game for us.
“Lewis has had an excellent season for us and hopefully there is more to come.
“It is a terrific achievement at this level when you look at the names he is up there with and there is more to come from him.”
Howe also admitted they had practiced going down to ten men in training, in preparation of his side’s fixture against the Hoops.
“We work on it quite a lot and it was a relatively easy substitution to make because we had worked on it,” he added.
“It is not rocket science to work on different game scenarios.
“But I was delighted with how they adapted to the challenge.”
ON A ROLL: Tommy Elphick heads in Bournemouth’s first goal to shock QPR and boost his club’s hopes of a play-off place
FLYING: Tommy Elphick climbs highest to score the opening goal for Bournemouth
SAVED: Pitman heads
of the line