HARRY Redknapp knows only too well how injuries can disfigure a season.
As boss at Dean Court in 1989-90, Redknapp was left to count the cost of losing key players as Cherries surrendered their second-flight status following a disastrous run-in.
The likes of Shaun Teale, John Williams and Paul Morrell were all casualties as Cherries’ three-year stay ended, with just one win from their final 16 games having seen them slip from 12th to 22nd.
Bidding to mastermind an immediate return to the Premier League with QPR this season, Redknapp presided over a flying start which saw the Londoners win 12 and draw six of their opening 20 games, the run including a 3-0 victory against Cherries at Loftus Road in December.
And although a first home defeat by Leicester was followed by a 2-0 loss at Nottingham Forest on Boxing Day, four wins on the trot saw Rangers close January three points clear of Burnley in second place.
However, the loss to injury of leading goalscorer Charlie Austin has coincided with an indifferent run which has probably left Redknapp’s men facing the lottery of the play-offs rather than the luxury of automatic promotion.
The former Poole Town striker, who has hit 15 goals for Rangers, required surgery after damaging his shoulder and has an outside chance of being involved against Cherries after returning to training at the start of this week.
In Austin’s absence, QPR have lost five of their past 12 games and have slipped nine points behind Burnley. Currently third, they need 11 points from their final seven games to be mathematically certain of a place in the play-offs.
To compound their problems, Rangers also saw Wolves striker Kevin Doyle end prematurely a loan spell at Loftus Road after he sustained a knee injury having netted twice in six appearances.
QPR’s automatic promotion hopes suffered another dent when they were held to a 1-1 draw by lowly Blackpool six days ago with Junior Hoilett’s late equaliser saving the day.
Hoilett said: “We still have a fighting chance. We are nine points off but it is still possible. It is difficult when we have the players we have because people expect us to win every game.”
Rangers, beaten by Cardiff in the 2004 play-off final, bolstered their resources in February by drafting in highly-rated West Ham youngster Ravel Morrison, the England under-21 international set to remain on loan at Loftus Road for the rest of the season.
Described by Birmingham boss Lee Clark as “the best footballer since Paul Gascoigne”, the 21-year-old, who spent time on loan at St Andrew’s last season, has netted five goals in his past seven appearances, adding to the three goals he scored for West Ham in the Premier League.
Rangers are under pressure to regain their top-flight status for financial reasons having recently announced losses of more than £65million from the year to May 2013, which means they should face sanctions under the Financial Fair Play rules.
Ex-Cherries and QPR winger Wayne Fereday, who made more than 200 appearances for the west London club, will be in the press box tomorrow compiling match stats for the Press Association on behalf of the PFA.