QUEENS Park Rangers surrendered a first half advantage as Shane Long helped stage a smash and grab draw for West Bromwich Albion at Loftus Road.
Rangers got off to a flying start when Heidar Helguson netted his sixth goal in seven games with a well taken looping header.
In a fixture that was blighted with mediocrity both sides persistently surrendered possession and squandered opportunities as the fixtures remained open and on a knife-edge.
Two guilt-edge misses from the hosts were soon punished as Shane Long latched on to Peter Odemwingie’s deflected cross to take a point back to the Black Country.
Neil Warnock made two changes from the side defeated at Norwich City, with Jay Bothroyd and Joey Barton returning to the line-up at the expense of Shaun Derry and Clint Hill.
Reverting to 4-4-2 Warnock started with Radek Cerny behind a back four of Luke Young, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon and Armand Traoré.
The midfield four comprised of Jamie Mackie, Alejandro Faurlín, Barton and Shaun Wright-Phillips with Bothroyd patterning the in-form forward Heidar Helguson.
West Bromwich Albion started with Ben Foster behind a back four of Steven Reid, Jonas Olsson, Gareth McAuley and Nicky Shorey.
The Baggies had Graham Dorrans, Youssouf Mulumbu, Chris Brunt, James Morrison and Jerome Thomas started across the midfield with Shane Long leading the line.
KICK OFF: QUEENS PARK RANGERS v WEST BROM
As the two sides took to the field Loftus Road was hopeful of a positive result in what could be construed as one of the more winnable fixtures that they will encounter this season. Warnock’s men were looking to get their form back on track following defeat at Carrow Road.
It was the visiting side who started the brighter, with their brand of mix and match football – going direct when required to do so, but predominantly looking to purport a style of passing play that they have become synonymous with in recent years.
Central to this was the midfield quintet, one of which went close inside the opening ten minutes. Scottish international James Morrison drove forward from midfield and carved a perfect gap to strike through, it flew wide of Radek Cerny’s right-hand post.
His international colleague Jamie Mackie was not to be outdone and after working an excellent space down the right flank before delivering to the edge of the area – the ball dropped to the feet of Alejandro Faurlín, but both he and Shaun Wright-Phillips fluffed their lines to see a resultant effort roll harmlessly wide.
Rangers were working their way into the encounter and moments later Joey Barton created an opportunity just outside the area, his placed right-footed effort was easy pickings however for England international Ben Foster.
The visitors came back into the fixture with a vengeance – with QPR handing the Baggies a needless succession of free-kicks, particularly dangerous considering the potency of Chris Brunt in recent times at Loftus Road.
Then came the best chance to date for both sides and it was the visitors who earned the opportunity. Shane Long made light of Anton Ferdinand’s defensive intentions before playing a slide rule pass to Jerome Thomas.
The former QPR loanee took a touch inside before firing straight into the grateful arms of ‘keeper Cerny. A genuine let off for the hosts who were nearly punished for some disappointing defensive play.
With that in mind, Queens Park Rangers then displayed a resilient streak and immediately responded to that opportunity with the opening goal of the encounter – owing much to the reliable endeavour of Mackie.
His persistence down the right saw the ball fall nicely for Barton. His pin-point far post cross found Heidar Helguson with the Icelandic international towering above his defensive counterpart to nod beyond a helpless Scott Carson.
GOAL: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 1-0 WEST BROM
Loftus Road erupted from a slumber in an atmosphere to match the weather on the occasion. One nearly became two when Alejandro Faurlín contributed once more to another vintage midfield display.
His left-footed clipped through ball found Wright-Phillips who acrobatically smashed the ball into the top corner. His celebrations were cut short by a linesman’s flag as the lively wide-man would have to wait a little longer for his first QPR goal.
After the 25-minute mark Mackie himself tried his luck from distance following Helguson’s knock-down to a sublime cross field pass by Bothroyd. The industrious wide-man came inside but flashed an effort with his weaker left foot well over the right hand upright.
Attention soon turned to the other end once more in an encounter that had rapidly kicked up a notch. Morrison once again proved the enterprising menace in the heart of the Baggies’ midfield, jinking his way around the Rangers rearguard before placing straight at Cerny.
In a game that was hardly vintage in terms of genuine class, the fixture ebbed and flowed and conjured up its latest spurned opportunity when Helguson’s centre caused all manner of confusion in the Baggies back-line.
It caused Foster to race from his line in an attempt to retrieve the situation only for Wright-Phillips to pop up from nowhere to glance a well-won header – you heard me – inches wide of the right hand upright.
An opening period was then drawn to a close by Mr Atkinson, a game that showed its share of positive moments and a plethora of opportunities, but lacked that extra degree of class to make it a vintage encounter.
HALF TIME: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 1-0 WEST BROM
The second half was greeted with a guilt-edge opportunity for QPR, and it fell to the skipper Barton. Created by the midfielder after chasing a ponderous defensive unit down, the ball deflected into the path of Helguson.
The forward laid the ball back to the onrushing Barton who clipped the ball beyond Foster. Sadly for the home fans’ the ball drifted beyond Foster and wide of the left-hand upright as another chance went awry.
Former QPR loan man Steven Reid picked up a yellow card for his stern challenge on Armand Traoré and Gareth McAuley went very close with his header drifting over the left hand post.
The game entered somewhat of a lull with both sides trying their luck from distance – Dorrans and Helguson respectively seeing their strikes blocked before carnage ensued in the heart of the Baggies’ penalty area as they casually passed their way from the goal line.
A second golden opportunity presented itself after the hour mark when Traore’s persistence saw him beyond Ben Foster on the by-line. His cut back bobbled awkwardly to Wright-Phillips who was forced to angle himself and unfortunately fired wide of the left hand post.
Rangers were then fired a warning shot when possession was gifted away only for Chris Brunt to dispense with the pretty aspect and rifle an effort inches wide of the upright but at such a rate of knots that it had Cerny beaten before he moved.
Helguson could then only loop an Traoré cross over the upright from the edge of the area, before the surprise decision to introduce Akos Buzsaky at the expense of Jay Bothroyd – more in terms of the introduction than the expected withdrawal.
It became apparent from the off that the Hungarian lacked the ability to get the pace of the encounter. Giving the ball away on the edge of the area, the substitute sadly contributed to the equalising goal.
The ball worked it’s way out of the area by the tricky Morrison before feeding substitute Peter Odemwingie down the left flank. His deflected cross fell perfectly to the feet of Shane Long who was able to tap home with consummate ease.
GOAL: QUEENS PARK RANGERS 1-1 WEST BROM
It was heartbreaking stuff for the hosts that had spurned enough opportunities to win several games. Paul Scharner was then thrown on by the Baggies in an attempt to take all three points in a second half that had in truth had seen the better chances fall to QPR.
It was a late Baggies’ bombardment with the chattering of fingernails becoming most evident in areas of the home stand – from a relatively positive position Rangers were now perilously close to throwing the points away.
Shane Long and Chris Brunt peppered the target while the best Rangers could muster was a Buzsaky prod towards target when well-placed on the edge of the area, more credence to the theory that the Hungarian is still far from ready to return to the first team set-up.
Thankfully the hosts managed to hold on for a point, but that was scant consolation to an evidently furious Warnock and a set of disappointed home fans – nevertheless the supporters must now rouse themselves once more for a trip to Liverpool.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS
Cerny, Gabbidon, Bothroyd (Buzsaky 74), Faurlin, Mackie, Traore, Barton, Young, Helguson, Wright-Phillips, Ferdinand
WEST BROMWICH ALBION
Foster, Reid, Shorey, McAuley, Olsson, Brunt, Mulumbu (Scharner 83), Morrison, Thomas (Odemwingie 65), Dorrans (Tchoyi 79), Long