A LAST gasp leveller from Kieron Dyer ensured that Queens Park Rangers earned a replay against a workman-like West Bromwich Albion side.
Dyer’s first goal since 2007 secured a second chance for QPR in the FA Cup as he latched onto debutante Tal Ben-Haim’s ball to slam home the leveller.
Albion did have the lead with ten minutes remaining when George Thorne bundled through the home rearguard to present the opportunity that Shane Long duly dispatched.
It was hardly a vintage spectacle in W12 with both teams fielding weakened sides, but both will have another opportunity to put themselves into the Fourth Round.
Harry Redknapp made four changes from the side that beat Chelsea with Kieron Dyer, Tal Ben-Haim, Park Ji Sung and DJ Campbell coming in for Fabio da Silva, Nedum Onuoha, Junior Hoilett and Shaun Derry – Onuoha and Derry dropping to the bench.
Julio Cesar started behind a defence of Dyer, Clint Hill, Ryan Nelsen and Ben-Haim. The midfield trio comprised of Stephane Mbia, Esteban Granero and Park with Adel Taarabt and Jamie Mackie playing off the returning Campbell.
West Bromwich Albion named three changes from the team defeated by Fulham. Ben Foster, Youssouf Mulumbu and Marc Antoine-Fortune dropping out at the expense of Boaz Myhill, George Thorne and Shane Long.
Albion started with Myhill behind a defence of Billy Jones, Gareth McAuley, Gabriel Tamas and Liam Ridgewell. The four in midfield consisted of Zoltan Gera, Chris Brunt, Thorne and James Morrison – Long partnered Romelu Lukaku in attack.
KICK OFF: QUEENS PARK RANGERS v WEST BROM
Light relief almost for QPR after what was a frantic and frenetic midweek victory over the neighbours Chelsea. The atmosphere greeting the players was tepid by comparison as sadly the FA Cup must hit the back burner given Rangers’ current plight.
The manner of the changes rather diluted the buoyancy of midweek with DJ Campbell given a chance to earn a place in the 25 after a positive spell at Ipswich Town, while Jay Bothroyd would wait for his opportunity on the bench.
Rangers started in a positive manner however putting their counterparts under pressure and probing a resolute and organised side for gaps. QPR will know Albion’s counter-attacking stance given the fact this is their third meeting of the campaign.
Despite having a lot of the early possession, Rangers rarely threatened the visitors – Adel Taarabt’s solo run and wayward was rather the sum of efforts for the hosts in the early offing. Albion meanwhile were offering more cut and thrust on the break.
Gabriel Tamas was given time and space to fire an errant drive high, wide and handsome, while young midfielder George Thorne went a great deal closer as he pulled his right-footed effort wide of the left-hand upright.
The Baggies were then forced into a change when Zoltan Gera appeared to fall heavily after a clash with Park Ji Sung. 20 minutes into the fixture the Hungarian was forced to withdraw at the expense of Marc-Antoine Fortuné.
Ben-Haim was looking solid on his debut with very little passing the giant Israeli. His switch inside saw Park in some space and despite a great hesitancy to engineer an effort he lifted the ball harmlessly away from Myhill’s target.
Rangers were almost made to pay for such profligacy when James Morrison – goalscorer in the league fixture at the Hawthornes – could only shoot straight at Julio Cesar after another fine Albion breakaway.
Much in the same way as the first fixture, Albion’s play was not awe inspiring. Effectiveness was once again the order of the day for Steve Clarke’s men who had little intent in providing concerted periods of attacking play, but rather flurries of counter-attacking football.
It didn’t make for a fine spectacle at times with Rangers unable to unpick what was an organised Baggies side, and West Brom being reduced to speculative drives from distance against a QPR defence growing in confidence.
Albion did out together a period of pressure as the first half progressed, Shane Long thwarted from distance by a strike from Shane Long before the Brazilan denied Romelu Lukaku with a rebound. The chances didn’t end there for the visiting side however.
A long ball into the heart of the penalty area saw Lukaku lose his marker but couldn’t engineer enough power in his six-yard box header – Cesar was able to parry the game effort as the home defence hacked to safety.
Lukaku was proving a threat and he skipped beyond a wrong-footed Clint Hill and to his credit remained on his feet with the defender notably throwing his legs out naively. His centre was met first time by Brunt, who could only steer an effort wide of the left-hand post.
Brunt couldn’t repeat his Boxing Day scoring heroics, while Lukaku’s run highlighted the requirement not to leave the likes of Hill exposed to direct pace. At times however it was a knife through butter with Granero and Park failing to hold the fort in the centre.
Taarabt tried his luck with a sharp burst from midfield only to curl an effort with the outside of his boot, directly at Myhill who only had to see the ball into his midriff. Fortuné then had to be replaced with an injury, with former QPR loanee Jerome Thomas becoming the second substitute.
Mbia was urged to shoot by supporters when he drove forward with his usual vigour and purpose – his resultant shot was venomous but misguided and a powerful drive flew over the bar for the final action of a stop-start half.
HALF TIME: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 0-0 WEST BROM
Redknapp opted to throw on Jay Bothroyd up front and go 4-4-2 to match Albion. Granero was the unluckily party to be withdrawn with Park once again flattering to deceive in his more comfortable midfield berth.
Albion and Lukaku set a brighter intention right at the opening with the Chelsea loanee surging past his marker on the left flank before unleashing a powerful shot that flew well wide of Cesar’s left-hand post – rasping but ultimately not threatening.
Rangers were gifted a glorious opportunity of their own in the early stages of the second half. Dyer’s excellently-guided centre saw Campbell narrowly evade the offside trap but dolly a poorly-timed header over the bar with Myhill not troubled.
Morrison once again looked to test Cesar from distance with a powerful volley that took a deflection along the way, but the Brazilian watched the ball into his arms. It was proving a frustrating encounter to watch with little in the way of inspiration or opportunities.
Myhill was given a free-kick for being looked at the wrong way, rather serving to highlight the vast inconsistency of officiating week on week with Rob Green being forced over the line against the same opposition without the help of an eager official.
In truth Mr Clattenberg was inconsistent in himself – earlier this season booking a glut of players for seemingly very little against West Ham United, while today affording Chris Brunt two bad challenges and lamping the ball into the stand uncautioned.
Albion were starting to dictate the flow of the fixture into a languid, deliberate style – looking to draw out the home side before picking out the gaps to exploit. The home side were struggling to hold onto the ball by comparison.
Taarabt and Mbia were looking for the Hollywood pass, while Campbell’s influence was waning and Bothroyd’s contribution was diminishing by the second. The latter was winning the ball in the air but there was no general thought as to where it was being directed.
Billy Jones tried his luck for Albion coming in from the right flank before curling an effort harmlessly into the 1500 or so that populated the top tier of the School End. Nelsen was withdrawn with Nedum Onuoha slotting into his place at the centre of defence.
Former QPR loanee Thomas tested Cesar with a fine effort – fending off two challenges before engineering a shot on goal. Being able to recall this calibre of player from a loan at Leeds United rather served to highlight the difference between the two teams.
Barely five minutes later the Baggies took the lead – Thorne bundled his way through some fairly tepid challenges to see his shot blocked, but lay wide left to SHANE LONG. Hs deflected right footed drive was sent beyond Cesar and handed the Baggies the lead.
It was a blow from which Rangers appeared unable to recover from. The game was taken down to a tempo that it would be difficult to step up from. A foul on Mbia did present an appealing free kick only for Taarabt to curl lazily wide of the upright.
It was rather the epitome of the Moroccan’s game in the second half. Lacking inspiration and motivation and in truth looking rather disinterested with the whole affair as the Baggies appeared to be cantering to a third successive victory over Rangers this season.
Clarke rather made a rod for his own back by withdrawing a striker in Lukaku for a defender in Craig Dawson and Ben-Haim’s smart through ball evaded all but his fellow full-back KIERON DYER who had played an attacking game throughout.
He moved beyond the defence to power a well-guided effort beyond Myhill and out of relatively little Rangers had secured their replay in the most uninspiring of fixtures. If nothing else it displays a resolute nature from the team not to be beaten and indeed they now face a second trip to the Hawthornes this season.
Mr Clattenberg blew the final whistle to the relief of many as a spectacle that will hardly be etched on the memory will be played out again in the Midlands on Wednesday January 16.
FULL TIME: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 1-1 WEST BROM