QUEENS Park Rangers stumbled to a draw against Blackpool to keep them firmly rooted among the playoff pack.
Harry Redknapp’s tactical gamble backfired dramatically as a formation and selection that was bereft of ideas and quality nearly cost them dear in this uninspiring encounter.
Redknapp’s 3-5-2 formation accommodated the returning Benoit Assou Ekotto, but showed little sign of working as David Goodwillie bundled home a first half opener.
Rangers waited until the second half to change things and after peppering Matt Gilkes’ goal with speculative efforts, Junior Hoilett got his radar right to level with a low drive.
The visiting defence were resolute but ultimately untested as wayward crossing and aimless shooting set the tone for a disappointing afternoon in W12.
Harry Redknapp made three changes from the side that defeated Wigan on Tuesday night. Will Keane, Benoit Assou Ekotto and Karl Henry came in for Niko Kranjcar, Joey Barton and Yossi Benayoun – this prompted an untested switch to a 3-5-2 formation.
Rob Green started behind a trio of Clint Hill, Nedum Onuoha and Richard Dunne with Aaron Hughes and Assou Ekotto playing as wing backs. Tom Carroll, Henry and Ravel Morrison played Keane and Bobby Zamora.
Blackpool started with Matt Gilkes behind a defence of Tony McMahon, Craig Cathcart, Gary MacKenzie and Jack Robinson. Kevin Foley, David Perkins, Chris Basham and Andy Halliday played across the middle with David Goodwillie partnering Apostolos Vellios.
KICK OFF: QUEENS PARK RANGERS v BLACKPOOL
All the pre-match talk surrounded the questionable selection and how it would be organised. Selecting five defenders either suggested a back five or players being played out of position in an attempt to accommodate certain players.
It came to pass that Rangers featured Benoit Assou Ekotto and Aaron Hughes out of position in wing back berths, and it was certainly proving uncomfortable viewing in the early stages with the team not looking certain on how to approach the fixture.
The home side couldn’t seem to break through a resolute Tangerines defence and moves inevitably stalled on the edge of the area. Ravel Morrison was the only real creative outlet willing to chance his arm with others shifting responsibility to the West Ham loanee.
The visitors had the reward for their discipline just after the ten minute mark, when Chris Basham flicked on a near post corner for DAVID GOODWILLIE to bundle home at the far post and the hard-working visitors the advantage.
Andy Halliday then attempted to press home an advantage for the visitors when his bore down on goal, but his shot was wayward. Despite the system rather evidently not working, and with the defence at risk of crumbling, Rangers persisted.
Ravel Morrison over-cooked his effort when teed up in the area, he jinked a couple of times before seeing his resultant shot blocked to safety by a stubborn rearguard. Hughes and Assou Ekotto refused to cross the halfway line rather leaving the attacking third isolated.
Goodwillie then had a golden opportunity to double the lead when Basham once again laid him in down the left. The former Blackburn Rovers man elicited a weak shot that drifted high, wide and handsome – a warning nevertheless for the beleaguered hosts.
Aaron Hughes was hauled off with a little more than five minutes remaining, but the biggest surprise was that it was a like for like change, with no formation change. Danny Simpson returning from injury to take up the right wing back berth.
Karl Henry struck a wayward effort wide of the mark before an Assou Ekotto corner saw Simpson nearly marked his return effective immediate, but his stooped header found Gilkes in fine form to save low to his left.
It brought a close to an utterly forgettable first half which Redknapp’s tactical gamble had utterly fallen on its face. A bizarre decision that needed addressing if Rangers we’re to mount any kind of serious pressure in the second period.
HALF TIME: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 0-1 BLACKPOOL
Redknapp displayed some humility, albeit 45 minutes too late, in changing his system. Nedum Onuoha was the unfortunate fall guy as Junior Hoilett entered the fray. It had an immediate impact with the live-wire wide-man making inroads at the first opportunity.
Hoilett ran directly at the heart of the Blackpool defence and powered a shot wide. It got more applause than the move necessarily deserved purely because of how starved the home fans were for any kind of attacking intent and a willingness to take responsibility.
He tried again minutes later with the same outcome past the same post. Morrison tried likewise to unlock the door single-handedly but fired a shot straight at Gilkes from distance. Blackpool attempted to break up the game by throwing on Neal Bishop for Basham.
Simpson’s crossing was well-meaning but wayward, crossing behind the forward more often than not with Zamora struggling to time his runs accordingly. Will Keane meanwhile appeared a little boy lost, and frankly didn’t appear to resemble a footballer by and large.
Morrison once again kept up his one man crusade but once again found Gilkes’ midriff with his resultant effort. Hoilett picked his favoured post once more and once again fired wide of the upright after a good solo run.
Redknapp made his final change with 25 minutes remaining. Modibo Maiga replaced the flagging Bobby Zamora as Hoilett and Morrison continued their threat on the Blackpool goal. Maiga sent a rasping drive over the bar before Rangers finally levelled.
JUNIOR HOILETT took the game by the scruff of the neck, running directly to cut inside from the right and fire beyond Gilkes into the bottom left hand corner. One of many efforts on goal made its way through and Rangers were level.
In truth Rangers should have kicked on, but the sheer lack of responsibility taken by certain players meant that it was solely Morrison, Hoilett and to a degree Maiga being in the slightest bit assertive with Blackpool most certainly playing for a point at his stage.
The chances became few and far between with Morrison once again chancing his arm from distance to little effect. Blackpool should have won it at the very end when substitute Tom Barkhuizen cut inside from the left and with the goal at his mercy and Bishop in support he picked out a shot that flew out for a throw in.
Maiga rounded off proceedings with a shot at one of the most fortunate ‘keepers to visit Loftus Road this season. Everything stuck to Gilkes barring Hoilett’s useful effort as the supporters strolled away, not angry, but entirely apathetic to a completely indifferent display, lacking guts and responsibility.
FINAL WHISTLE: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 1-1 BLACKPOOL