QPR’s search for their first home win of the season continued as they played out a dour 1-1 draw with struggling Blackburn Rovers. Rangers did manage to take the lead for the first time at home since they hosted Leeds last May with Heidar Helguson becoming the first QPR player to score at Loftus Road in the Premier League since Kevin Gallen in April ’96. But Rangers had to settle for their third consecutive home draw. Both sides came into the game on the back of thumping defeats before the international break so were probably both grateful for sharing the points in the end, but Blackburn could’ve returned to Lancashire with all 3 points in the dying seconds if Paddy Kenny hadn’t denied Olsson.
Neil Warnock rang in the changes following the Craven Cottage capitulation with Orr, Bothroyd and Taarabt dropping to the bench to be replaced by Traore, Helguson and Jamie Mackie who was making his first start since breaking his leg in January against Blackburn of all teams. So with Traore returning at left-back following his one game suspension, Luke Young went back to his proper position of right-back with Ferdinand and Hall at centre back. In midfield Derry and Faurlin were protecting the back-four with the captain, Barton, Wright-Phillips and Mackie playing behind Helguson who was alone upfront.
Both sides started nervously and the game was very scrappy in the early stages. On 6 minutes we had our first shot when Faurlin found himself in space just outside the box, but his left-foot shot caused more danger to the fans in the upper tier of the School End than it did Paul Robinson. On 14 minutes, Martin Olsson cut in from the right wing and sent a very dangerous ball onto our 6-yard box that was met by Ferdinand’s outstretched leg as he attempted a clearance, but the ball span off his left boot, and span awkwardly towards goal, but thankfully it clipped the top of the bar and out for a corner.
A minute later and we were up the other end and won a corner ourselves. Faurlin took it and found Helguson on the near post with a perfect delivery. Helguson’s close range header was blocked on the line by either the keeper/a defender/Jamie Mackie (who knows ?) and the ball rebounded back to Helguson. All the defenders seemed to stop as did our players as he looked up with so much time and plonked the ball back into the danger area from an acute angle and the ball seemed to hang in the air in slow motion before landing in the corner of the net at the far post. Whether he meant it or not is irrelevant, but I seem to recall Robinson conceding a similar goal playing for England in a crucial game against Rumania in Euro 2000, maybe Helguson knew a thing or two ? Who knows/cares ? It was his 100th goal in English football.
Five minutes later and we almost doubled the lead when Barton was found at the far post from a Faurlin cross, but his snapshot was deflected just wide for a corner by the boot of Samba. We were looking good up to this point with some good touches and the ball being kept on the floor as Blackburn had at least five 6ft plus players on the pitch.
On 22 minutes, Olsson got the better of Hall, but the defender managed to execute a perfect sliding tackle from behind and cleared the ball it seemed. The referee saw it differently by not only giving a free kick, but booking Hall for the first yellow of the game. Now the letter of the law says that a tackle from behind is not allowed, but he won the ball so cleanly it shouldn’t have been a yellow. It wouldn’t be the only time that Hall would feel aggrieved by the referee’s decision. Olsson took the resulting free kick himself, but Ferdinand put a block in and the ball went out for a corner. Blackburn then drew level when Chris Samba was first allowed to win a free header from a corner by jumping for the ball while his marker Hall stood still. Then to compound the misery we had no one on the line at the post defending the corner. It was like watching a pub team !
We were struggling to win any ball in the air by now and were giving the ball away too easily, but we almost conjured up another goal on 30 minutes. A Kenny goal kick found Helguson who held the ball up and laid it off to Wright-Phillips who, once he controlled the ball, hit a 25-yard shot which screamed about a foot wide. Shortly after, we had claims for penalty when Hall stooped to head the ball on the edge of the Blackburn box, ironically the only header he seemed to win in the first half, and then received a hefty size 9 in the face for his trouble. The referee waved play on. The letter of the law only counts in certain situations it seems. Then just before half-time, Blackburn’s Hoilett ran at both Barton and Derry, turning them inside out in fact and beat Kenny with an angled shot, but Ferdinand cleared the ball off the line. The game had lost its way after 25 minutes and became a bore fest with either side not looking like scoring or even wanting to score. Half-time: 1-1
The second half was even worse than the first with the only thing worth mentioning was the increasing number of yellow cards being dished out as exciting football seemed to take a back seat for the first 20 minutes. On 63 minutes, Taarabt replaced Mackie who had run himself into the ground on his first start in 10 months.¬† Two minutes later, Wright-Phillips attacked the left-back and put in a superb low cross into the 6-yard box that was crying out for a forward to gamble and fling himself at the ball. The fact that the only player in the 6-yard box was Derry and he was at the far post seemed to sum us up. We were okay up to the last third of the pitch, but were failing to create any decent chances or even make Robinson work for his money.
On 72 minutes, more good work from Wright-Phillips saw the ball put into the middle of the park and Taarabt nipped in front of Salgado and ran clean through on goal. As he entered the box, the ball wasn’t under his control properly and he hit the ball early with his weaker left foot and the ball went horrible wide with again Robinson unworried. Then a couple of minutes later, Adel tried his luck from 25 yards when an easier option was to pass and Robinson only had to bend down to pick up the weak shot. On 78 minutes we did actually threaten the goal when Faurlin got down the left and was fouled by N’Zonzi. Barton floated the ball to the back post and Hall won a header at last and actually directed it towards goal, but the ball missed the angle of the bar/post by about 6 inches with Robinson rooted to the spot.
Then straight up the other end and Olsson weaved inside and out before hitting a left-foot shot, but Paddy Kenny was equal to it. Tommy Smith replaced Shaun Wright-Phillips on 82 minutes and almost immediately he found Taarabt in the box with a cross to the far post. Taarabt trapped the ball then tried to outfox Salgado who clearly swiped his feet from beneath him for a stonewall penalty. Again the referee said no, but this was no surprise considering his schizophrenic performance all afternoon. I do believe that Adel didn’t help by throwing himself to the ground quicker than the force of gravity could do, but it was a penalty all the same.
With the 3 minutes added on, we never threatened the Blackburn goal and were thankful to Paddy Kenny for a point. Olsson was found in acres of space out left and as he bore down on goal it seemed that we were about to be punished, but Kenny pulled off a wonder save from the fierce left-foot shot. Why the referee only added on 3 minutes was beyond me as on 61 minutes, a Rovers player received treatment for an alleged injury that took over 2 minutes. Plus Blackburn were wasting time as early as the 30th minute, but Mr Clattenburg must’ve got a watch for Christmas from Manchester United ! Full-time: 1-1.
After the euphoria of the recent performances against Newcastle, Wolves and Villa, this performance was not good enough. The honeymoon is well and truly over now for our new players. Last season we had great team spirit, this season it seems to have evaporated, in particular in the last two games. Our captain is not showing any leadership qualities whatsoever. Maybe he’s too busy on twitter putting the world and QPR to right. But something is definitely amiss in the squad. Blackburn are bottom for a reason. We haven’t won at home since beating Warnock’s boyhood team back in April, a winless run that has stretched to nine games. Looking at the fixture list, I don’t see it ending anytime soon. In fact, I see us joining Rovers at the bottom in the coming weeks if this performance is repeated too often !
Team: Kenny 6, Young 7, Hall 5, Ferdinand 6, Traore 6, Mackie 6 (Taarabt 6), Derry 6, Faurlin 6, Barton 5, Wright-Phillips 6 (Smith 6), Helguson 7
MOTM: Young. He almost ruined his performance when he was robbed in possession 10 minutes from the end, but that apart, he was the best player in hoops.
Referee: Mark ‘Clangerburg’ 5
Attendance: 16,487 (including 971 Rovers fans)
(The above pics were taken by Martin Percival and used with his permission)