QUEENS Park Rangers remain six points clear at the top of the npower Championship despite being held to a draw by a determined Millwall side.
Managed by ex-R’s duo Kenny Jackett and Joe Gallen, the Lions held firm despite a barrage of attacks from a home side that displayed their dominance throughout.
Rangers saw much of the ball and chances for Ákos Busáky, Jamie Mackie and latterly Clint Hill should have seen the hosts through, but that new-found ruthlessness eluded them on this occasion.
Neil Warnock was incensed by a thoroughly disappointing display from a select list official Lee Probert who turned down a cast-iron penalty for Rangers in the first period.
Nevertheless he was quick to praise a stout rearguard that kept an enterprising QPR side at bay, becoming the first team to nullify the R’s threat this campaign.
Rangers can chalk off another fixture with their buffer intact as they look to another derby against Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Rangers named an unchanged side for the third game in succession with R’s boss Neil Warnock contented with successive victories.
Paddy Kenny started behind a back four of Kyle Walker, Kaspars Gorkss, Matt Connolly and Clint Hill with Ákos Buzsáky and Shaun Derry featuring at the heart of midfield.
Jamie Mackie, Adel Taarabt and Hogan Ephraim played in behind lone striker Heidar Helguson, with Martin Rowlands once again taking his place on the bench.
Millwall lined up with David Forde behind a defence of Alan Dunne, skipper Paul Robinson, Darren Ward and Tony Craig.
Tamika Mkandawire and Nadjim Abdou teamed up in the middle with Scott Barron and Chris Hackett supporting forwards Steve Morison and Danny Schofield.
Kick Off: Queens Park Rangers v Millwall
The two sides took to the field on a calm evening in W12, but if an atmosphere could ever defy the conditions then this was the occasion. A cauldron of noise ensued as 2500 Millwall fans contributed to a deafening din at Loftus Road.
It was the hosts that started the brighter as they looked to continue their fine early season form, with Kyle Walker looking to impress the visiting Joe Jordan from Tottenham Hotspur. The wide-man was the first to create a meaningful opportunity in a blustery opening.
Walker’s run culminated in the ball sitting up nicely and his volleyed cross was inch-perfect for Heidar Helguson. The speed of the pass however caught the Icelandic international off guard as he glanced wide of the left-hand upright.
Millwall were attempting to use the aerial threat of talisman Steve Morison, but he was well marshalled by the hero of the weekend Kaspars Gorkss. Before long Ákos Buzsáky was quick to display his credentials following a surging run from midfield.
The Hungarian, who has filled in adequately for the injured Alejandro Faurlín, unleashed a fearsome left-footed drive which dipped and swerved towards the target. ‘Keeper David Forde was nearly flummoxed by the effort which he admirably tipped away to his left.
In riposte Millwall offered comparatively little as it quickly became apparent they had come to claim a point and attempt to snaffle a goal on the break. Indeed Scott Barron’s glanced header was as close as they came to breaking the deadlock in the opening period.
Then came a moment of controversy as Rangers were incensed not to have a penalty. An excellent take-down from Mackie saw him with the ball at his feet before a rash challenge above the knee sent the R’s top scorer sprawling.
The penalty seemed clear cut to everybody apart from Mr Probert – a select list official – who in rather baffling fashion turned a blind eye to what was a poorly timed tackle. Evidently Neil Warnock cut a distraught character on the touch-line at what seemed a sure-fire spot-kick.
Undeterred the hosts continued to press with the Lions contented to soak up the R’s pressure. Walker embarked on another dazzling run down the right, skipping past three defenders before pulling back to Mackie.
The summer signing was on the edge of the six-yard box but rather snatched at the opportunity with Forde instinctively sticking out a leg and denying the Championship’s top marksman. A good chance for Rangers who by now were looking every bit the front-runners.
A chance before the break also fell to the hosts with Helguson at last earning a free-kick after being virtually mobbed by some heavy-handed defending. Buzsáky’s attempt to deceive Forde ended in disappointment however with the ‘keeper guessing the right way to his right.
Despite the score-line remaining goal-less Rangers were now displaying their attacking credentials with great gusto. The R’s fans applauded their side off for what was an entertaining opening period that promised much for the second half.
Half Time: Queens Park Rangers 0-0 Millwall
Warnock’s charges wasted little time in asserting their customary dominance after the break. Such has been Rangers’ form this season, the hosts looked to catch their opponents cold with a flurry of attacks after the break.
The hosts forced a succession of corners but to their credit the Lions didn’t give the R’s attackers they yards they craved. Indeed Gorkss failed to add to his two goals from the weekend when looping a header over the bar.
More set pieces came and went before Clint Hill was given a golden opportunity for Rangers. A Taarabt corner found the former Crystal Palace man, he opted for power over placement as he ballooned his effort over the bar.
It was a rare moment of space for Rangers who had been closely matched by a dogged Millwall rearguard. This was epitomised when Helguson smashed another corner goal-bound only to be denied by a last ditch tackle.
Then came one of the games’ flash-points as in Helguson’s attempts to shield the ball for a corner he was dumped over-zealously on the floor by Forde. A completely unnecessary move by the Lions’ stopper who dispatched of the forward with great ferocity.
The fans were baying for blood as the referee called Forde over but quite incredibly gave the two players no more than a warning. While supporters don’t want a referee to be card-happy, Forde would have been lucky to leave this incident with merely a yellow, let alone a ticking off.
Both Mackie and Taarabt found space down their respective flanks but in their endeavours to engineer an opportunity fire straight across the target and away to safety. It was an exasperating half for Rangers who could do no more than continue their relentless pressure.
Jackett didn’t throw in the towel however as he introduced club record goalscorer Neil Harris for winger Barron, in the hope of turning the tide. You would be forgiven for thinking that the hosts would have been cursing their luck, but they continued their wave of pressure.
It was becoming an end to end affair in the latter stages of the game with Morison kept at bay by some excellent defensive play from not only the back-line but the likes of Ephraim and Mackie who stormed back to aid the defensive effort.
Paddy Kenny was called into action for the first time in the fixture as he tipped wide a glancing header by Morison after strike partner Schofield managed to pick him out with a far post cross. Concentration and anticipation preserved Rangers home clean sheet record.
Another disastrous moment for official Mr Probert as the game was drawing to its conclusion with Hackett slipping over on a slick surface, not a player within five yards, and the referee opts to give a free-kick, not to mention booking Helguson for standing three-yards onside.
With both sides attempting to win the clash, Rangers the more open of the two teams, it made for an entertaining finish, but ultimately it came to little as the teams shares the spoils and the referee can contemplate what should make an interesting read from his assessor.
Final Whistle: Queens Park Rangers 0-0 Millwall
Queens Park Rangers
Paddy Kenny, Kyle Walker, Kaspars Gorkss, Matt Connolly, Clint Hill, Shaun Derry, Ákos Buzsáky (Mikele Leigertwood 85), Jamie Mackie, Adel Taarabt, Hogan Ephraim (Patrick Agyemang 90), Heidar Helguson.
David Forde, Alan Dunne, Paul Robinson, Darren Ward, Tony Craig, Chris Hackett, Tamika Mkandawire, Nadjim Abdou, Scott Barron (Neil Harris 64), Danny Schofield, Steve Morison