QUEENS Park Rangers were held by a battling Blackburn Rovers side, whose performance indicated that they were fighting for their under-fire boss.
Steve Kean has been subject to a great deal of pressure from his own supporters, but this spirited display – if lacking in a little inspiration – was an indication of his side’s intentions.
Rangers meanwhile had the backing of the capacity crowd, notably when Heidar Helguson’s freak goal handed the hosts a 17th minute lead – looping over Paul Robinson and into an unguarded net.
The Blackburn style of play was akin to Stoke City’s brand of direct passing but in truth Rangers had little answer in defence with Christopher Samba tormenting the Rangers rearguard before levelling matters on 24 minutes.
The home side were clearly struggling with the Rovers attacking pin-pointing the heart of defence to yield that desired winning goal, but as it played out the substitute Adel Taarabt had a penalty appeal turned down before fluffing his lines late on.
An encouraging performance for Rovers and Kean who will take little consolation from the spirited display in the fact they now sit rock-bottom of the Premier League. QPR can now contemplate the formality of Chelsea next week.
Three changes were made by QPR boss Neil Warnock with Bradley Orr, Adel Taarabt and Jay Bothroyd dropping out and Jamie Mackie made a long-awaited return against the side at which he fractured his leg in January.
Paddy Kenny started behind his back four of Luke Young, Fitz Hall, Anton Ferdinand and returning from suspension was the former Arsenal full-back Armand Traoré.
Alejandro Faurlín and Shaun Derry featured in the middle with Jamie Mackie, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Joey Barton playing just behind lone forward Heidar Helguson – who worked with Steve Kean at Fulham.
Blackburn Rovers began with England international Paul Robinson in goal with Michel Salgado, Christopher Samba, Scott Dann and Gael Givet across the Blackburn back-line.
The midfield five consisted of Radosav Petrovic, Junior Hoillet, Steven N’Zonzi, Jason Lowe and Martin Olsson. Local lad Jason Roberts spearheaded the Rovers attack at the expense of Yakubu.
KICK OFF: QPR v BLACKBURN ROVERS
Glorious sunshine greeted the players as they took to the field at Loftus Road, with a capacity crowd looking to heap the pressure on Blackburn boss Steve Kean – a man under fire following some poor recent performances and results.
A good atmosphere in the early offing helped spur QPR on to a positive opening, with the majority of the ball being kept firmly in the Blackburn half. Despite the territorial dominance the creation of a genuine opportunity was proving somewhat taxing.
It was heart-attack stuff in the back-line as Martin Olsson’s cross saw Anton Ferdinand lash wildly at his clearance as the ball dipped and clipped the woodwork on its way out of action. Relief indeed for both he and the Rangers supporters.
Christopher Samba was proving a menace in the back-line and ended a barrage of set-pieces by directing a header down the throat of Paddy Kenny. More relief for a defence struggling on confidence.
This useful period of pressure for the visiting side was soon ridiculed by a somewhat fortunate strike for Rangers. Ironically it came from a set-piece as an Alejandro Faurlín corner broke down Heidar Helguson latched onto the loose ball.
He was given an age of time to pick out a far post cross that simply looped beyond the Rovers rearguard, over the head of Paul Robinson and nestled perfectly into the bottom left hand corner.
GOAL: QPR 1-0 BLACKBURN ROVERS
Rangers were looking to go for the throat and make matters more uncomfortable for Kean as Faurlín’s half-cleared corner fell to the feet of Jamie Mackie, his drive fairly fizzed across the target and away to safety.
Mackie was looking lively in his first start since January and didn’t look out of place in terms of his team-work, work-rate and decision-making capabilities. Positive signs indeed for the fans’ favourite wide-man.
It was proving an end to end affair with Rovers far from merely spectators, Junior Hoilett in particular was looking dangerous down through the middle and drifting out wide. He tormented Luke Young who in turn was thankful to see the ball go out for a corner.
If the warning signs were not alarming enough previously, here was a bitter reminder of Rangers’ defensive shortcomings. Jason Lowe’s far post corner found Christopher Samba who rose above Hall to loop a header home with consummate ease.
GOAL: QPR 1-1 BLACKBURN ROVERS
It was a timely blow for Rangers who were starting to get a genuine foot-hold on the encounter and were left shell-shocked by this Samba strike. A near carbon-copy ensued moments later as Samba leapt above Hall once more.
Supporters started to grow a little frustrated with the ease that Blackburn were able to pick apart the Rangers back-line with great simplicity. The direct route is evidently not the most entertaining but on the day it was proving highly effective.
Shaun Wright-Phillips nearly created an opportunity for himself moments later when a ball over the top found him in space behind Radosav Petrovic. He worked the gap perfectly before firing a low drive just behind Robinson’s left-hand upright.
Blackburn began to turn the screw however and were unlucky not to be in front for the first tie in the encounter. Hoilett coasted beyond Joey Barton and Shaun Derry before a placed shot was cleared from the line by Ferdinand.
It brought the half to a close with the visiting supporters most definitely the happier of the two. Some will have underestimated Blackburn before the start of the fixture, but on this evidence the players were fervently battling for their boss.
HALF TIME: QPR 1-1 BLACKBURN ROVERS
Both manager resisted the temptation to tinker at half time with real effort and endeavour being displayed from the off. The ambition was certainly there to test two shaky defensive units.
It was genuine blood and thunder stuff and it was simple things that Rangers lacked. Misplaced passing, failing to read what was a relatively limited tactical repertoire from the visiting side and overall just unable to create opportunities.
Rovers were looking predominantly to set-pieces to carve out their opportunities and the enterprising Hoilett was continuing to work positive positions wide before burying the ball into the box.
Jamie Mackie was withdrawn to a standing ovation from the QPR supporters and replaced by Adel Taarabt, who himself scored an excellent free kick for Morocco during the week. Jason Roberts was withdrawn with another goalscorer in midweek David Goodwillie coming on in his stead.
Taarabt was looking lively in the early stages of his introduction but once again was blighted by some simple inefficiencies in his game. Simple misplaced passes were proving frustrating, but the frustration was magnified moments later.
It came from an unlikely source as Hall`s speculative long pass was flicked on by the diminutive Wright-Phillips. Taarabt strode beyond his marker before scuffing a poorly placed drive well wide of the right hand upright.
It was that level of composure that was truly lacking on the day – snatching at a fleeting opportunity that in truth was Rangers` best of the game beyond the goal.
The excitement started to ramp up a tad as both sides continued to show the ambition required to pick up the maximum. Hall nearly made himself a hero, nodding a header wide of the left-hand post.
Then there was an excellent appeal for a QPR penalty – Taarabt dazzled Salgado in the area before seeing the defender put in a crunching challenge on the Moroccan.
While it may have impeded the creative midfielder a touch Mr Clattenberg was unmoved and indifferent to Rangers` appeals. Without question there was genuine contact preventing Taarabt from progressing, and by the letter of the law, this was a penalty kick.
With that said, it was nearly Rovers that took all three points in the latter stages of the fixture. A break-away saw Hoilett feed Olsonn down the left flank. The Swede fired a low left-footed drive that was expertly tipped wide by Kenny.
It finised all level in this encounter that will have hardly been an advert for Premier League football. Both defences appeared disorganised and disjointed while the lack of genuine opportunities and the respective brands of play left a lot to be desired in a somewhat mediocre encounter.
Rangers remained in the top half, while Blackburn slumped to bottom in light of results elsewhere. Chelsea will certainly provide a stern test of their Premier League credentials as they visit Loftus Road for the first time since Rangers` relegation.
FULL TIME: QPR 1-1 BLACKBURN ROVERS
QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Paddy Kenny, Luke Young, Fitz Hall, Anton Ferdinand, Armand Traoré, Alejandro Faurlín, Shaun Derry, Joey Barton, Shaun Wright-Phillips (Tommy Smith 83), Jamie Mackie (Adel Taarabt 64), Heidar Helguson.
Paul Robinson, Michel Salgado, Christopher Samba, Scott Dann, Gael Givet, Radosav Petrovic, Steven N`Zonzi, Junior Hoilett, Jason Lowe, Martin Olsson, Jason Roberts (David Goodwillie 68).