Jamie Mackie netted his first goal at Loftus Road as Queens Park Rangers and Plymouth Argyle played out an uninspiring draw in W12.
In what has proven to be Rangers toughest test to date, they were charged with coming from behind as League One new boys Plymouth were handed the advantage.
Matt Connolly’s mistimed challenge on Steven MacLean saw Luke Summerfield dispatch from the spot in a truly forgettable first half with few chances of note.
The second half proved a tad more enterprising with new signings Bradley Orr and Jamie Mackie linking up for the former Argyle striker bundling home from close range.
Glimpses of positive play were all too fleeting as wholesale changes were made by the hosts, but they will have to up their game to get the maximum against Barnsley in a week’s time.
Rangers lined up with Warnock’s favoured 4-5-1 formation – Paddy Kenny lining up between the sticks as he proves to be the QPR boss’ first choice.
Bradley Orr, Fitz Hall, Matt Connolly and Clint Hill made up the back four with Ákos Buzsáky, Alejandro Faurlín and Mikele Leigertwood playing through the middle.
Jamie Mackie and Hogan Ephraim supported striker Patrick Agyemang – with the likes of Shaun Derry, Heidar Helguson and a trialist warming the bench for the hosts.
Orr – Hall (c) – Connolly – Hill
Ephraim – Leigertwood – Faurlín – Buzsáky – Mackie
Kick Off: Queens Park Rangers v Plymouth Argyle
The two sides took to the field on a pleasant summer’s evening at Loftus Road, with the crowd starting to put names to faces for the first time. One name that eluded them however was the mystery trialist who lined up on the bench for the hosts.
Both sides started the game in a somewhat sluggish fashion, with both sides gifting possession – Argyle were proving the more dangerous of the two teams however with Rory Fallon and Onismor Bhasera the two main threats.
Bhasera – who trained with QPR while under the guidance of Paul Hart – unleashed a thunderbolt free-kick, only for Paddy Kenny to claim comfortably at the first time of asking. There were further warnings to come for the R’s just moments later.
Matt Connolly was caught out in successive moves by the lively Fallon, as a couple of cross-field passes saw the New Zealand international nod straight at Kenny from inside the six-yard box. A succession of warnings for the Rangers rearguard to ponder.
Krisztian Timar went close shortly after with a towering header from a Bhasera corner – the ball that whistled past the post should have been the final warning in a sluggish opening for QPR. It wasn’t a heeded as Argyle took the advantage.
A hopeful cross-field pass had Connolly wrong-footed once again, and Steven MacLean ghosted in behind the former Arsenal man. The defender’s pitiful attempts were punished with a cast-iron penalty decision.
Luke Summerfield stepped forward for the Pilgrims and made no mistake slamming the ball into the bottom left hand corner with the League One side holding the deserved advantage over the perennial Championship underachievers.
Alejandro Faurlín was starting to play his way into the game and the inconsistent Mikele Leigertwood was showing glimpses of skill, albeit tinged with the disappointing aspects of his game as wayward passing prevented the R’s building a consistent attack.
Buzsáky was also proving a frustration for support in the centre of the park, as despite his immense talent and skill, he crafted very little for an underfed strike force in Mackie, Ephraim and Agyemang.
The Hungarian’s free-kick was a little more positive on this occasion as Orr nodded back across the target only for Mackie to see his snap-shot deflected away for a corner, from the resultant set-piece Faurlín had his eyes set on goal.
His effort eventually fell to the feet of Agyemang, but the forward conspired to miss from just outside the six-yard box, scuffing wide of the right hand upright. An advert if Warnock needed one that a centre forward should remain at the top of his wish list.
Faurlín was certainly in the mood to break his duck a little earlier this season as his left-footed thunderbolt flew inches wide of Romain Larrieu’s left hand upright – it drew adulation from a deflected crowd as the two sides went into the break.
Half Time: Queens Park Rangers 0-1 Plymouth Argyle
Changes were evidently required from an underperforming QPR, and Warnock didn’t disappoint with Connolly, Buzsáky, Leigertwood and Agyemang being replaced by Kaspars Gorkss, Shaun Derry, Josh Parker and Heidar Helguson taking to the pitch.
They got the desired results with Parker in particular having a useful impact down the left, while Derry started to control proceedings in the centre of the park. A multitude of diagonal balls were played into Helguson as he linked up with Mackie effectively.
The original odd-couple, the strike duo were looking lively with the Icelandic international winning the majority of aerial challenges against a combative Timar, while Mackie foraged for scraps in behind against his former club.
Such was Peter Reid’s Pigrims’ style of play, Rangers accrued a large quantity of free-kicks in and around the edge of the area, and the latest of these courtesy of Faurlín stung the palms of substitute ‘keeper Colin Doyle.
Despite an improvement, frailties continue to come to the fore and the cracks started to show as a hopeful long ball caused confusion in the Rangers defence. Gorkss and Kenny had their wires crossed and Bhasera crept in to clip his effort inches wide of the post.
The hosts now had a grip of the territorial advantage but without ever truly threatening Argyle who were supremely organised in a fashion one comes to expect from the former Sunderland boss. A couple of misguided headers from Hill and Gorkss were all the R’s had to show.
Warnock’s side kept knocking on the door and nearly had their rewards when Parker beat his marker down the right before pulling the ball back from the by-line. A last ditch tackle prevented Helguson from getting proper contact on the ball.
Fitz Hall was forced to be withdrawn with an injury, something that has sadly become synonymous with his time at QPR. The defender had shown relatively well before being withdrawn and Peter Ramage took his place and his armband.
In truth for all Rangers pressing it should have been game, set and match to the Greens when the lively Bhasera squared for Fallon and somehow the giant centre-forward nodded wide of the right-hand upright.
Helguson was withdrawn for Antonio German, as well as the trialist replacing Ephraim and Gary Borrowdale taking the place of Clint Hill. The Icelandic international’s fitness must surely come into question unless Warnock plans him to play a part in the reserves’ clash tomorrow.
Before Hogan left the field he had a glorious opportunity to strike with Parker once again the architect. His cross came to the free-scoring winger on the far post, but his effort was clipped woefully over the bar and away to safety.
The single and distinctive positive came just moments from time as Orr played an incisive ball over the top for Jamie Mackie. The former Plymouth man took the ball in his stride before fending off his opposing defender and bundling the ball home from inside the six-yard box.
A crowd of just under 3,000 witnessed Rangers and Plymouth play out the fixture and share the spoils in a keenly-fought, but ultimately pedestrian encounter that ended with the two sides taking home a share of the spoils.
Full Time: Queens Park Rangers 1-1 Plymouth Argyle
QPR: Kenny, Orr, Hall (Ramage 72), Connolly (Gorkss 46), Hill (Borrowdale), Leigertwood (Derry 46), Buzsáky (Parker 46), Faurlín, Ephraim (Trialist), Mackie, Agyemang (Helguson 46) (German 84)
Plymouth Argyle Larrieu (Doyle 46), Johnson (Clark 46), Árnason (N’Gala 46), Fallon, Bhasera (Noone 63), Summerfield, Peterlin, Timar (Manuel 78), Molyneux, Zuber (Duguid 46), MacLean (Bolasie 63)
Man of the Match: Jamie Mackie
The Rangers forward was everywhere and his supreme fitness levels showed on the evening as he ghosted past players to take his goal magnificently.
He looks to be willing to run through brick walls for the R’s, a la Gareth Ainsworth – and if he can make his chances count he will certainly be remembered in that regard.
The ex-Plymouth striker seems to be able to play as a wide-man or through the middle, looking more dangerous in the latter, causing problems by dropping into gaps in the right areas.