QUEENS Park Rangers secured fourth place but wilted in injury time to hand Millwall a priceless point in their bid for survival.
Rangers had looked to have secured all three points in an energy-sapping affair when Charlie Austin dispatched a spot kick, following a Simeon Jackson handball.
Millwall – who started and finished strongly – had different ideas, when a scuffed Scott Malone volley saw Rob Green parry into his own net and hand the Lions a point.
Wigan’s slip up at home to Blackpool ensured Rangers fourth place, but a significant improvement will be required Redknapp’s men are to progress over two legs.
Redknapp made two changes from the side that edged past Watford, with Armand Traoré and Kevin Doyle dropping out and Yossi Benayoun and Niko Kranjcar coming in. Redknapp thus deployed a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Rob Green started behind a defence of Danny Simpson, Nedum Onuoha, Richard Dunne and Clint Hill. Tom Carroll and Joey Barton sat in the middle with Kranjcar, Benayoun and Ravel Morrison playing in behind Charlie Austin.
Millwall started with David Forde behind a back four of Carlos Edwards, Alan Dunne, Mark Beevers and Scott Malone. Nicky Bailey and Shaun Williams started through the middle with Lee Martin, Owen Garvan and Martyn Woolford playing in behind Stefan Maierhofer.
KICK OFF: QUEENS PARK RANGERS v MILLWALL
Millwall started the stronger side and should have had the lead inside a couple of minutes. A man what Ian Holloway discarded at Crystal Palace – Owen Garvan – engineered a fine cross from the left for Stefan Maierhofer and the former Wolves front man could only nod wide.
Rangers were second to every ball and getting overrun in midfield. The powderpuff Tom Carroll struggling to cope with the combative Nicky Bailey and Shaun Williams. The visitors were evidently the more motivated team as they pressed on.
Williams chanced his arm from distance only to see an effort fly over the bar with Garvan seeing an effort of his own blocked barely moments later. Lee Martin started to take centre stage for the Lions with a string of positive moves.
His cross saw Scott Malone nod just wide of the left hand upright, before trying his own luck and placing just wide of the post. It was a Millwall onslaught with Maierhofer nodding wide from a Malone centre to culminate a dominant period of attacking play.
Martin then flew into a challenge with Tom Carroll only to come off worse and pick up an injury. He was forced to withdraw with winger with forward Steve Morison, with the target man bizarrely taking up a place out wide.
Maierhofer then spurned another couple of chances with the Rangers bench virtually immobile and accepting of the period of dominance by the relegation-threatened Lions. The injury rather stifled the visitors however and Rangers showed up after around 30 minutes.
Ravel Morrison shot with Austin potentially better placed before the latter came into the game. First a Morrison lay off saw the forward see his shot deflected wide before the portly Kranjcar’s ambitious run wasn’t met with a shot of note, placing an effort straight at Forde with the ‘keeper also denying Austin on the rebound.
Maierhofer spotted Green off his line and fired a shot from just inside the QPR half. It was wayward however and didn’t trouble the Rangers stopper. The hosts then could have had the lead just before the break.
Benayoun was looking lively down the right and his cross found Morrison who found Forde once again in fine form. Morrison perhaps could have done better with the effort but take nothing away from the fine save from the Irish international.
Millwall should then have been in front at the break. A routine ball over the top saw Dunne at odds to stop Martyn Woolford from ghosting in behind the cumbersome defender. The wide-man flicked goal-bound only for the ball to roll agonisingly wide of the left hand upright.
A let off for Rangers who went into half time having been dominated by relegation-threatened opponents, buoyed by a sizeable travelling support in the School End. Redknapp’s men seemed on the beach at times and looked to Morrison and Austin to pick up the slack.
HALF TIME: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 0-0 MILLWALL
After such a disappointing opening period, an improvement was demanded and it started in positive fashion. Good work from Austin and Morrison saw Barton with a sight on goal, but his shot was wayward and wide of the upright – a positive opening.
With less than ten minutes on the clock Ian Holloway withdrew Stefan Maierhofer with the big Austrian bewildered and unimpressed with the decision to withdraw him. Simeon Jackson came on with home supporters somewhat nervy at the prospect of the pacy forward up against Richard Dunne.
Scott Malone strode forward from full back but couldn’t register a genuine chance of note before Carroll and Morrison respectively chanced their arm from distance only to miss the target for the home side.
Certainly more positive from QPR who withdrew Benayoun for Junior Hoilett, who started to see a lot of the ball down the right flank. Kranjcar in particular had woken up by this stage and found Hoilett with a succession of searching passes.
Jackson meanwhile broke away with pace through the middle. He veered away to the right before firing a powerful shot into the stands in a rather disappointing fashion. Scott McDonald then replaced Owen Garvan for the visitors in another surprising Holloway change.
Charlie Austin went close with a header after a well-guided Simpson cross. It was well saved by Forde who was doing his level best to keep Rangers at bay and Millwall in a firm position level in the fixture.
Bobby Zamora replaced Niko Kranjcar and effective immediate Rangers were presented with an opportunity. Hoilett executed a useful cross from the right only for Jackson to challenge and ultimately handle inside the area – referee Friend did not hesitate in pointing to the spot.
CHARLIE AUSTIN stepped up and sent Forde the wrong way for his 16th goal of the season to the adulation of the crowd. Millwall inevitably pressed and Rangers inevitably countered from here on in.
The hosts withdrew Austin, who was visibly flagging, with Kevin Doyle. Rangers were struggling to threaten while Millwall were inches from levelling. First Shaun Williams saw a curling free-kick canon back off the bar before a carbon copy was ably fielded by Green.
The game was proving very open with the visitors knocking on the door but never truly threatening. Hopeful play in and around the area saw the ball finally drop to SCOTT MALONE who skewed a shot that flummoxed Green, who ended up parrying the effort into the back of the net.
Disaster for QPR who had never really stepped out of first gear throughout the encounter. Millwall – including Holloway and Marc Bircham – celebrated wildly as the Lions had a point from nothing in this tepid affair in W12.
FINAL WHISTLE: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 1-1 MILLWALL