Queens Park Rangers were held a frustrating draw against Blackburn Rovers, yielding an early lead and failing to capitalize on several opportunities to take control of the match.
Heidar Helguson put the R's ahead on a curving fade over the head of Rover's keeper, but Chris Samba's towering header put the visitors level minutes later. Both teams battled for position and consistency for the rest of the game but were unable to break the deadlock.
QPR's failure to secure a victory is not a disaster, but rather another disappointing instance where the evolving club missed a chance to take three points from a beatable opponent.
The line-up featured two changes up front, as Helguson returned to the striker role over Jay Bothroyd and Jamie Mackie made his first start of the season in central attack, in place of Adel Taarabt. QPR returned to a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Armand Traore at left full back and Fitz Hall continuing to fill in for the injured Danny Gabbidon at centre-back. Following the drubbing by Fulham, Neil Warnock returned to the defensive setup to support the back line, and Shaun Derry and Alejandro Faurlin looked comfortable dropping back to break up the few Blackburn attacks that came their way. However, where this formation has provided steady build up play in the past, against a similar set up from the visiting team it lead to a stagnant game of give and take with fast transitions but few sustained attacks as the match wore on.
QPR put the visitors on the back foot from the whistle, dominating possession for the first twenty minutes and doing their most interesting work early on. Helguson's goal came from a follow-up attempt after a fine header was knocked down, he received the ball again and chipped a beauty that sailed over defender and keeper alike to slip into the net. Another opportunity came moments later off a cross from Joey Barton but he could not convert. Shaun Wright-Philips added a fine effort from the right side later on, driving a low shot that had the keeper beat but skipped just wide.
After the fast start, QPR worked hard, but ineffectively. SWP had several long runs up the flank, but his attempts came to little. Joey Barton and Ale Faurlin were often on the ball, but created few opportunities on goal. Much of the match was in QPR's hands, yet few successful efforts on goal came of it. The squad played better - but not great - losing the solid build up in favor of more aggressive but unsupported runs and deep passes that were easily broken up. There were moments that QPR could have controlled better to put the game away, but the draw was a fair result for the quality of play shown.
For their part, Blackburn fit moments of danger into a mess of long balls and corner attempts, occasionally threatening the net but more often trading bad passes with their counterparts. The flow of the game was stop and start, back and forth, but mostly a snore as neither squad found any consistent approach. Their central strategy seemed to be kicking the ball toward their gargantuan captain Samba and hoping he could nail a header in, as he did on the 24th minute cross to put his side level. Having seen it work once, Rovers repeated deep-cross-to-Samba again and again, thankfully to little effect. Other than that approach, Junior Hoilett was the main standout player for the visiting team. He made some noise with excellent ball skills in the first half and looked like he might threaten Paddy Kenny's net a few times, but disappeared in the second half. The silver lining of this fixture is knowing that for as much work as the R's have to do to avoid relegation, Blackburn have more.
A few QPR players stood out in the draw. Heidar Helguson never stopped hustling to gain an advantage and press the attack, though once again the striker in this setup found himself with little to work with. Some of the offensive struggles can be attributed to the support play and as a unit the team needs to be more effective in getting the strikers the ball. Of course, the strikers have been inconsistent too, so it is a work in progress. Helguson looked controlled and ambitious though and with DJ Campbell now injured for up to two months, R's fans should expect to see more of him in the coming weeks. Jamie Mackie was energetic, doing his best to get open and create chances, including a great run on goal that was broken up at the last moment by defender Salgado. Mackie looked good in the forward role and creates an interesting problem for Warnock, who will need to fit him into his future plans. Luke Young was very active and made some great stops to neutralize what little offense Blackburn tried to muster.
Fitz Hall had another memorable day, drawing an early yellow card on a bad foul against Olsson just beyond the penalty area. He made up for ceding the dangerous free kick by taking it on the chin as part of the wall. Chris Samba scored his header over Hall, though few players would have fared much better guarding the giant defender and he was doing his best to foul him in the air. Hall nearly scored later in the game at the other end, diving for a header but only receiving a boot to the face for his trouble. Of the performances he's had this year, this was probably his best - he didn't get worked over by attackers with the same ease he usually does. Late in the game he even had a chance to put the club ahead, as a cross cut through the crowd to find him completely unmarked. He seemed as surprised as everyone else though and popped the ball over the bar.
Adel Taarabt had a disappointing appearance in relief. The crowd lit up when his number was called and his mates got the ball to him as soon as he came on. He completed some good short work on the left side to get into position to threaten the defenders and looked electric, like the star he should be coming on to save the day. Once in their territory however, he had several questionable moments where he tried to drive long range shots or fit impossible passes into his teammates. His dribbling skills were there, but the decision-making was sloppy and he gave possession away too easily in the closing moments when QPR were making a final push to go ahead. QPR are still waiting for him to catch up with his potential and take his game to the next level.
Taking one point from this match was fair, but a let down from a fixture that the R's could have done more with. With Chelsea coming to visit next week, better form and a dominant win would have been a bigger boost, but it was not to be. For now the club must focus on developing their offensive tactics and preparing the defensive approach to withstand one of the game's best clubs.
Until next time, Come on you R'sss!