HEIDAR Helguson came off the bench to paper over the cracks of another in a succession of poor FA Cup performances.
Dean Bowditch put Milton Keynes Dons in front before the misery was compounded with skipper Alejandro Faurlín being stretchered off to leave the visitors with ten men.
With little hope of recovery Helguson popped up behind a beleaguered back-line to baffle David Martin and roll home in effortless fashion for the equaliser.
In truth Rangers lacked the cutting edge and guile to edge beyond their League One counterparts, with the only positive is that Joey Barton is now available for Wigan.
Neil Warnock made more changes to his side after a defeat against Norwich City, with Radek Cerny, Fitz Hall, Tommy Smith, DJ Campbell and Federico Macheda all starting – the latter making his full debut for the club.
Cerny started behind a back four of Luke Young, Hall, Danny Gabbidon and Clint Hill. The midfield four comprised of Smith, Alejandro Faurlín, Shaun Derry and Jamie Mackie with Macheda and Campbell the strike duo.
Milton Keynes started with David Martin in goal with Adam Smith, Gary MacKenzie, Shaun Williams and Dean Lewington starting across the back four. Daniel Powell, Stephen Gleeson, Darren Potter and Luke Chadwick started across the midfield with Jabo Ibhere and Dean Bowditch starting up top.
KICK OFF: MK DONS v QUEENS PARK RANGERS
It would be fair to say that Queens Park Rangers and the FA Cup are not on the best of terms. 15 games without a win stretching over 11 years – dating back to Peter Crouch’s winner in a replay against Luton Town back in 2001.
The competition has always taken a back seat for Rangers but all the pre-match hype surrounded a desire by Neil Warnock to progress – searching for solace after a run of only one win in 11 in the Premier League.
Set that against the back drop of Milton Keynes Dons – one defeat in 11 and riding high at the top of League One. The first official meeting of the two clubs would be an interesting fixture for the neutral.
Had matters worked out differently it could have been QPR that lost their name and moved away but thankfully their club remained where Wimbledon perished, as Pete Winkleman’s dream culminated in the biggest crowd at stadium:mk since its inception.
Neat work from Tommy Smith helped Rangers carve out the opening opportunity of the encounter – a clever through ball for Jamie Mackie saw the former Dons man fire high, wide and handsome with his weaker left foot.
While the visitors were looking to keep the ball and play in the midfield the defence was looking over exposed at times, this was epitomised in a couple of worrying counter-attacking moves by the hosts.
Jabo Ibhere ran direct through the middle looking to latch onto an over the top through ball – Fitz Hall was left wrong-footed by the front-man only to get the deftest of touches to deny the former Leyton Orient man.
Moments later the Dons went a step closer, Luke Chadwick scythed a sizeable gap through the Rangers rearguard to square expertly for Ibhere. The forward prodded home only to be denied by an offside flag – albeit correctly.
Dean Bowditch was the next to try his luck for the hosts, when he made easy work of the Rangers defence to send a right-footed effort wide of the right-hand upright. Another let off for a defensive unit that looked shaken.
Rangers by comparison were struggling with the simplicities of the game – an inability to retain possession and unable to snuff out the counter-attacking threat of the Dons. More was to come from the hosts.
Chadwick struck straight at Cerny cutting inside before Alejandro Faurlín struck a left-footed free-kick that caused Martin a couple of issues to his left. Once again though it was Milton Keynes that asked the questions.
Adam Smith was allowed to come inside down the right before striking left-footed at a grateful Cerny, further epitomising the the home players’ confidence and the brittle nature of a makeshift rearguard.
Excellent cut and thrust from the hosts saw Ibhere inches away from connecting with a Smith through ball. While the visiting side had the better playing talent, there could be little question that the League One side had the better of the running.
All Rangers could muster in riposte was a wayward cross by Macheda that was plucked from the head of Campbell by the underworked Martin. It brought the curtain down on an utterly forgettable first half from a visiting perspective.
HALF TIME: MK DONS v QUEENS PARK RANGERS
The second half began with Rangers displaying a little more endeavour and guile, but Milton Keynes carved it the opening opportunity on the counter-attack – Adam Smith rounded off a flowing move by slamming a right footed effort wide to Cerny’s right.
A direct run from Tommy Smith displayed a bit more of the incisiveness Rangers lacked in the opening period – his shot was distinctly lacking however, as the effort drifted tamely wide of the right hand upright.
Federico Macheda came out of his shell a little more after an indifferent opening period and a couple of excellent crosses for DJ Campbell narrowly evaded the former Blackpool front-man who bore down on goal.
The latter opportunity was as guilt-edge as the occasion saw to date – Macheda’s tantalising skill on the left saw his deep cross find Campbell, he in turned stretched before nodding a game effort wide of the left hand upright.
Rangers were now dominating in terms of territory – with Milton Keynes on the back foot for a significant period. Campbell was replaced by Heidar Helguson with a view to having a little more power and strength in the air.
Then however, disaster struck as the newly introduced player made the crucial mistake to hand the hosts the lead. Shaun Williams fired a cross over that evaded Dean Bowditch and fell for Helguson.
The forward struggled to clear his lines and allowed the forward to nip in and fire into the bottom right hand corner – a goal to rile the away support but galvanise a record home crowd as the League One side had the lead.
GOAL: MK DONS 1-0 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Things were looking a little more desperate for the visiting side as Luke Young’s cross picked out Smith, who could only glance wide when well-placed in the area – another disappointing conclusion to a rather toothless attack.
Jay Bothroyd and Akos Buzsaky were thrown on in search of a goal at the expense of Federico Macheda and Shaun Derry, but more wayward passing and disappointing possession play continued to put QPR on the back foot.
Rangers continued to come forward but were dealt a hammer blow with a little under ten minutes remaining. Alejandro Faurlín over-stretched for a pass and was left in a heap in the middle of the pitch.
The influential Argentinean was stretchered off leaving the Rangers set-up down to ten men – and the writing was fairly much on the wall for a beleaguered and disappointing Rangers set-up – that was before something remarkable occurred.
A hopeful long punt went through for Heidar Helguson, who evaded the linesman’s offside flag to beat Martin to the ball. Martin man-handled the forward who managed to stay on his feet, round the ‘keeper and coolly slot home with effortless precision.
GOAL: MK DONS 1-1 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Quite undeserved and surprising considering the flow of play throughout the game despite brief flurries of passing play from the visiting side. Five minutes of injury time ensued owing to the length of time that Faurlín was floored.
Nevertheless the final whistle was blown and Rangers snatched a draw and a replay from nothing. Milton Keynes will feel hard done by but Rangers can now take solace in the fact that Joey Barton is available for a crucial Wigan Athletic clash.
FULL TIME: MK DONS 1-1 QUEENS PARK RANGERS