QUEENS Park Rangers are now eight points adrift of safety despite a spirited draw against Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium.
Rangers had to come from behind as James McCarthy thundered home a half volley from a half cleared corner – Ryan Nelsen levelled the scores with a towering header from a corner.
Wigan dominated possession and chances in a nervy second half only for substitute Djibril Cissé to caress home from a fine Shaun Wright-Phillips cut-back.
After withstanding heavy pressure throughout the second period, Rangers finally relented when McCarthy tapped home his second of the game while both team continued to press.
Both sides had to settle for the point with QPR now earning the unwanted record of the first team in the Premier League to not win in their opening 16 games.
With that in mind, Harry Redknapp remains undefeated in three games and must now prepare his players for a game against neighbours Fulham at Loftus Road.
Harry Redknapp made one change from the side that drew at home to Aston Villa, Esteban Granero sacrificed with Shaun Derry coming into the side to add a bit of extra experience to a QPR side that still searched for their first victory of the campaign.
Rob Green started behind a back four of Jose Bosingwa, Ryan Nelsen, Clint Hill and Armand Traoré. The centre of midfield comprised of Samba Diakité, Stephane Mbia and the aforementioned Derry with Shaun Wright-Phillips and Adel Taarabt playing off Jamie Mackie.
Roberto Martinez made two changes from the side that were defeated at Newcastle United, Maynor Figueroa and Gary Caldwell suspended with James McArthur and Adrian Lopez starting in their stead.
Ali Al-Habsi started behind a defence of Ronnie Stam, Emmerson Boyce, Lopez and Jean Beausejour. McArthur joined James McCarthy and David Jones in the middle of the park with Jordi Gomez, Franco di Santo and Arouna Koné forming the front three.
KICK OFF: WIGAN ATHLETIC v QUEENS PARK RANGERS
The phrase six-pointer is a phrase I can frankly do without after hearing the expression for the best part of a month. Today was yet another chance to sample the media hyperbole as the two teams took to the field at a wet and windy DW Stadium.
The Latics were coming hot off the heels of a heavy loss at Newcastle United, compounded by controversial decisions and the decimation of a defensive unit lacking the presence of Maynor Figueroa and Gary Caldwell, Rangers attack in comparison remained depleted.
Jamie Mackie the lone front-man in a toothless attack, borne out by the breathtaking profligacy and lack of creative instinct that continue to put pressure on a rickety rearguard and provide headaches for Harry Redknapp.
Matters on the field saw QPR press admirably early on, looking to take the game to their relegation-threatened opponents. Shaun Wright-Phillips tried his luck from distance to test the normally assured palms of Ali Al-Habsi.
Adel Taarabt got his early sighter in as he also took on a speculative drive, saved low to his right by the Oman stopper, who in truth was only being tested from distance as Rangers lacked that cutting edge to scythe open a patched up back-line.
Rangers continued to press albeit with little substance with the ball continually breaking down owing much to the good defensive pressing from the Latics, but also the lack of cohesion and ideas in the QPR front-line.
In particular the right flank was an area of concern in both attack and defence, little quality from both Wright-Phillips and Jose Bosingwa both in terms of the cross and the tackle. The pair found their attacks unpicked while they were decidedly worrying defensively.
Wigan then found their feet in the encounter, firstly when Bosingwa senselessly bundled over Jean Beausejour on the edge of the area. This came just seconds after Samba Diakité was reduced to rubble by a tackle from behind in the attacking third only for referee Phil Dowd – who was quick to produce a red for Diakité for two tackles earlier this season – opted to ignore the incident.
Nevertheless a dangerous set-piece to defend and Gomez touched sideways for David Jones to inexplicably set him self up and volley above the head of Green that the Rs ‘keeper elected to push over. An excellent position for a free-kick that rather over-complicated a chance to hit the target.
A free-kick from the left saw a tame clearance fall to JAMES MCCARTHY and the midfielder took on the half volley with aplomb – left alone to rifle a deflected effort beyond Green and hand the lead to the Latics.
The second week in succession Rangers have fallen behind, but a history of deflected conceded goals at the DW goes on after Franco di Santo’s fortunate brace last season. Rangers now had to come out of their shell.
QPR did respond with great gusto, Derry’s weighted pass finding the onrushing Traoré down the left flank only for his cross to be blocked by the hard-working Ronnie Stam and force a corner for the visiting side.
Taarabt’s corner not only beat the first man but produced a moment of magic from RYAN NELSEN who rose highest in the area to power the ball beyond Al-Habsi and level the scores for the delighted travelling support.
Wigan almost responded immediately when Stam’s centre evaded the QPR defence as di Santo ghosted in only to clip a tame effort wide of the left hand upright. A real let off for a static visiting defence as di Santo still struggles to find his feet in the top flight.
Taarabt was cautioned for his first foul in the fixture by a desperate Dowd, while Koné slashed at an effort wildly beyond the right-hand upright. Rangers meanwhile could only look to Wright-Phillips who seemed bereft of ideas and confidence as he skewed an effort harmlessly wide.
That brought down the curtain on a first half littered with errors and stoppages, but promised much in terms of second half attacking enterprise. Both defences shaky, and both sides with little to lose – a big second half in the offing.
HALF TIME: WIGAN ATHLETIC 1-1 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Rangers would have been happier for drawing level and hopefully some confidence would be allowed to grow among the players in what would be an important second period. Rangers started positively with a counter-attack of their own.
Useful work from Wright-Phillips, driving into the heart of the Wigan defence saw the diminutive wide-man draw challenges and allow space for Taarabt down the left – he found the Moroccan with the pass only for the midfielder to curl over the far post by some distance.
He cast his eyes to the skies and lamented his wastefulness, but the fact remained that knife edge between the two sides remained, and the Latics nearly tipped the scales after more indecision in defence from Rangers.
A sloppy piece of interplay between Mbia and Derry afforded McCarthy a chance in behind, but Green was quick off his line to deny the previous goalscorer with his feet and keep the scoreline at parity.
The Latics started to turn the screw on their rock-bottom opponents and attempted to scythe open a gap in the defence. Neat and intricate passing play is a staple of Roberto Martinez’s sides and it was at times like watching Swansea of old with some excellent incisive play.
Gomez bought himself some space drifting in from the right to unleash a powerful left-footed drive that was pushed over once more by Green, who drew the applause from the travelling supporters in his second successive start under Redknapp.
Green was called into action once more to deny Jones from distance, palming away from the target as they struggled to mount any calibre of attacking threat. Djibril Cissé – on for Taarabt gesticulated wildly but never in truth moved from his starting position as the side started to crumble.
Gomez was afforded yet more space on the right as he clipped an effort goal-bound that had Green concerned and came back off the bar. Di Santo meanwhile managed to put an effort behind him from point-blank range – rather making a mockery of the laws of physics.
The old adage remains that very little can substitute hard work – which is probably why Wright-Phillips was spared the cull and Mackie continued to threaten. The latter created something from nothing his typical brand of relentless effort – he squared for Mbia who forced a save from Al-Habsi.
On 70 minutes Rangers gained the advantage from relatively little. Mbia and Wright-Phillips combined down the left for the latter to square neatly for DJIBRIL CISSÉ, rather unmoved since entering the field, but no criticism could be found for the neat finish, tucking the ball beyond Al-Habsi and into the bottom right hand corner.
Supporters celebrated wildly, an unlikely lead against the run of play and they cheered on in hope of the hope of a first maximum of the campaign. It also rather vindicated the decision to allow Wright-Phillips an extended stay on the field at the expense of Taarabt.
It lasted all of three minutes as Wigan pressed and broke a defence that previously held firm. JAMES MCCARTHY started off a move and squirmed his way beyond a glut of defenders to capitalise on some indecisive defending and prod beyond Green.
The cheers came from the home crowd, but in truth it was the visiting fans that continued to grow in noise, urging their team on despite their rather evident shortcomings – both in attack and defence.
Cissé cut both a frustrated and frustrating figure in the front-line – a bitterness and anger combined with a demand for the ball in a certain place as he appears a shadow of the player that worked tirelessly to help ensure Rangers safety last season.
Both sides made double changes with Mauro Boselli and Shaun Moloney coming on for the Latics at the expense of Jones and di Santo; meanwhile Rangers replaced Diakité and Bosingwa with Esteban Granero and Fabio da Silva.
Boselli made an immediate impact, linking up after good work from Koné to fire with great venom towards target only to be denied by the inspired Green. It was not vintage defending by any respect but QPR continued in their efforts to hold firm.
The game indeed finished level with the visitors perhaps more happy with a point – but in the wider context of proceedings thus far this season – to not hold onto the advantage, despite how it came about will be of great disappointment to Redknapp.
Rangers must now face neighbours Fulham at Loftus Road – a game that in truth only become a bitter affair because of the Cottagers’ disdain for Hughes – that is pale in comparison to Rangers’ feeling towards the Welshman’ particularly if they pay the ultimate price.
FULL TIME: WIGAN ATHLETIC 2-2 QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Ali Al-Habsi, Ronnie Stam, Emmerson Boyce, Adrian Lopez, Jean Beausejour, David Jones, (Shaun Moloney 76) James McCarthy, James McArthur, Jordi Gomez, Franco di Santo, (Mauro Boselli 85), Arouna Koné.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Rob Green, Jose Bosingwa, (Fabio da Silva 84), Clint Hill, Ryan Nelsen, Armand Traoré, Samba Diakité (Esteban Granero 77),Stephane Mbia, Shaun Derry, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Adel Taarabt, (Djibril Cisse 58), Jamie Mackie.