Rotherham United verdict: QPR 4 Millers 2 as Steve Evans criticises penalty decision

Jonson Clarke-Harris heads wide. Pictures: Jim Brailsford
Jonson Clarke-Harris heads wide. Pictures: Jim Brailsford

The North-South Divide, the haves versus the have-nots. Call it what you like, but money talked in this well-heeled part of West London.

Rotherham’s record signing, Jonson Clarke-Harris. justfied Steve Evans’ decision to hand him his first start of the season, scoring a quality goal and making the QPR centre-halves sweat in the baking sun perhaps more than they expected to.

Fair play to the lad, all £350,000 of him.

At the other end, Charlie Austin scored twice and set up the home side’s second with the pass of the day.

Champagne stuff from Charlie, thought to be earning around £50,000 a week and waiting for a Premier League club to pay £15 million for him before the transfer window shuts next week.

As Rotherham boss Evans ruefully pointed out afterwards: “If they have a player on £50,000 a week, it’s more than my entire starting 11 earns.”

Matt Derbyshire shoots

Matt Derbyshire shoots

Therein lies the size of the challenge facing the Millers who are a prudent model of fiscal efficiency off the pitch but have only one point on the board after four games and find themselves at the foot of the Championship.

“QPR have probably got ten, 15, 20 times the resources we have,” Evan said - and they won’t be the only club Rotherham face this season who he can say that about.

Evans’ side were brave to the point that an unlikely comeback from 3-0 down against a side who were in the top flight last season was ended only by a hotly-disputed penalty for Rangers late on. More on that to come.

With Clarke-Harris picked in place of Jordan Bowery, who dropped out of the squad completely, and Evans opting for two men up front, Rotherham were more than a match for QPR in the first half.

Danny Collins heads clear

Danny Collins heads clear

The youngster set up the best chance of the opening period, hassling right-back James Perch to distraction before firing in a low cross that Matt Derbyshire touched wide of the far post with the goal at his mercy.

But for the second away game in a week Evans’ side conceded close to half-time, winger Tjaronn Chery bending an emphatic finish round fellow Dutchman Kelle Roos in the 42nd minute to completely change the complexion of the game.

While Austin would go on to be hero of the day, it was Rotherham’s misfortune they should run into Rangers on a day when the Londoners celebrated a talent of a lifetime.

Saturday had been declared Stan Bowles Day in honour of the forward voted QPR’s best ever player and now fighting a battle against Alzheimer’s disease.

Emmanuel Ledesma is fouled

Emmanuel Ledesma is fouled

Stan the man, 66 and looking as trim as he ever did in his 1970s heyday, bounded on to the pitch to be introduced to his adoring public, and his presence and the poignancy of the proceedings lifted and bonded home side and crowd in equal measure.

Legend has it he would often be seen in the bookies next to Loftus Road 15 minutes before running out to play, and the odds were always stacked in favour of his old club rising to the occasion.

Five minutes into the second half, Austin, with his back to goal, produced a sublime flick which sent former Millers target Massimo Luongo racing down the right. Luongo picked out the scorer of Rangers’ first goal and, as Tjaronn put his second Chery on the cake, Austin simply stood there, unmoving near the halfway line, basking in the magic of his moment.

Evans, while appreciating the quality on show, would probably have subbed him for not bothering to run. Must be those non-existent ligaments, eh?

Austin scored the third in the 63rd minute, meeting less-than-stiff resistance as he turned away from the otherwise decent Danny Collins and then no resistance at all from Roos when he shot hopefully from 20 yards.

One wonders whether Evans will use tomorrow’s Capital One Cup match against Norwich City to let No 2 Adam Collin press his case.

Game over. Except nobody told Clarke-Harris. The 21-year-old is more nightclub bouncer than slender Bowles in physique, but his deft 73rd-minute jink inside and curling shot from the edge of the area produced a goal the old maestro would have been proud of.

Let’s not mention the easy header he put wide from Joe Newell’s pinpoint left-flank cross when the score was still 2-0, the only blot on his impressive display.

Tom Thorpe prodded in a set-play from close range with two minutes of normal time remaining. Game on.

But before the Millers could even think of an equaliser referee Dean Whitestone had awarded a spot-kick, converted by Austin, claiming Lee Frecklington had tripped Sebastian Polter.

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A couple of things ... One, it looked soft. Two, even Stan wouldn’t have put a pound on it being given at the other end.

“The referee takes a knife to us with the penalty,” Evans said. “I’ve just spoken to (QPR boss) Chris Ramsey. He’s an honest man. We had to laugh at the decision.

“It was shocking. That kills the seven or eight minutes we’ve got left, with added time, to find an equaliser. They were very nervous at that stage. It wasn’t a 4-2 game but that’s what the stats show.

“We’ve got character. People may need to worry about our defending and our passing at times, but they don’t have to worry about the character in the dressing room. “

QPR didn’t switch off at 3-0. It was Rotherham, to their credit, who fought back.

When you’ll never be able to match £50,000 or £15m and need to maximise everything at your disposal, you can’t put a price on spirit like that.

QPR (4-5-1): Green 6; Perch 6, Onuoha 7, Hall 7, Konchesky 6; Phillips 6, Henry 6, Luongo 7 (Polter 82), Faurlin (Doughty 77) 6, Chery 7 (Kpekawa 90+1); Austin 8. Subs not used: Smithies, Hill, Hoilett, Emmanuel-Thomas.

Rotherham United (4-4-2): Roos 5; Buxton 7, Halford 6, Collins 6, Newell 6; G Ward 6 (Maguire 78), Frecklington 6, Smallwood 6 (Thorpe H-T, 6), Ledesma 5 (White 68, 5); Derbyshire 6, Clarke-Harris 8. Subs not used: Collin, D Ward, Green, Rawson.

Goals: Chery 42, 50, Austin 63, 89 pen (QPR); Clarke-Harris 73, Thorpe 88 (Rotherham).

Referee: Dean Whitestone (Northamptonshire).

Attendance: 15,009 (743).