This game at Loftus Road ended frustratingly goalless as neither side could fashion the quality to force a winner.
New signings Christopher Samba and Andros Townsend went straight into the starting eleven whilst fellow new boy Jermaine Jenas was handed a place on the bench. Frenchman Loic Remy missed out with a groin strain. Redknapp opted for a 4-4-1-1 formation. Jamie Mackie started as the out-and-out striker with Adel Taarabt in the gap behind. Stephane Mbia and Shaun Derry filled the central midfield berths, with Derry providing protection to the defensive pairing of Samba and Clint Hill. Townsend and Shaun Wright-Phillips filled the wide spots in midfield.
(Christopher Samba discusses tactics with Kevin Bond during the warm-up)
The first-half was largely devoid of quality and lacking real chances. Norwich made the early running with Robert Snodgrass easily beating Armand Traore on four minutes and putting in a cross which an offside Wes Hoolahan knocked over the bar. Taarabt was also proving though that he could create problems for the Norwich defenders when on ten minutes he evaded several challenges to put low drilled shot wide of the opponents’ goal.
The Norwich attack centred upon Rangers’ left flank with the majority of their play going towards striker Grant Holt via Snodgrass, Hoolahan and Alexander Tettey. Meanwhile, Andros Townsend was demonstrating what an important asset he could prove to be. Very comfortable with the ball at his feet, the Spurs loanee showed his pace in several driving runs. Whilst he looked a little lightweight at times, and was on several occasions thrown off the ball by combative Norwich challenges, Townsend usually seemed to win a free kick for his troubles.
Rangers largely coped well with Norwich’s attacks. Samba, understood not to be 100% fit, outlined that he was still a force to be reckoned with, making several important interventions. Cesar continued his fine form from the Manchester City game and whilst not severely tested in the first-half, dealt with shots from Hoolahan and Holt with aplomb.
The R’s faithful had largely forgotten the events of a dour first 45 when the second period soon warmed things up. A couple of minutes in, Javier Garrido flattened Wright-Phillips in an advanced position. Taarabt flashed the free kick in from the right across the goal which tantalisingly invited an oncoming R’s head which never arrived.
On 53 minutes the Snodgrass/Hoolahan connection again nearly provided. Cesar made a stunning reaction save from Hoolahan’s prod forward from Snodgrass’s breaking run and cross.
Bobby Zamora came on for Wright-Phillips as Mackie dropped back to accommodate. However the Scottish international was to force the issue moments later. Mackie latched onto an ill-timed back-pass from Garrido and was brought down by Norwich keeper Mark Bunn. Referee Jonathan Moss pointed to the spot and issued Bunn with a yellow card. On balance this was the correct decision, rather than red given that Mackie was running away from goal at the time.
Taarabt stepped up to take the spot kick in front of the Loft. He placed it low to Bunn’s left, but did not get much of an angle on it. Bunn guessed the right way as the audible groans and cries of exasperation emanated from the home fans.
(Mark Bunn palms away Taarabt’s penalty effort)
Ten minutes later Fabio da Silva, who was having a good game both defensively and coming forward, was felled deep into Norwich territory. The referee chose to wave away this latest episode of Norwich’s strong-arm tactics. Moments later, Traore was upended by Tettey and this time the official brandished a yellow card. Taarabt crossed the ball in, Samba threatened the goal with the resulting header, but it was cleared by Holt.
(Fabio supine after challenge from Sebastien Bassong)
Fabio was subsequently replaced by Tal Ben Haim. Mbia had huffed and puffed around all afternoon in midfield, but failed to impose himself on Tettey and Bradley Johnson, and was replaced with debutant Jermaine Jenas. The former Spurs midfielder was a revelation in the midfield role, looking for possession and linking up with his team mates seamlessly.
Norwich were not done yet. On 78 minutes Snodgrass surged forward and took a venomous shot from the opponents’ right flank. Cesar made an astonishing fingertip save, turning the shot round the post.
Rangers continued to make their dominance of the second-half felt. A further chance fell to the impressive Townsend who shot from 25 yards after an impressive run. The effort made Bunn work but was always likely to be saved in truth.
Over the 90 minutes this wasn’t a bad performance from QPR. They stood up to the more combative side of Norwich’s play and took the fight to the away side after the break. But fans were reminded that Rangers remain a striker short following the closure of the window. Remy’s injury meant that we couldn’t provide enough of a consistent goal threat against a side we really needed to beat. Reading’s win against Sunderland means that we travel to Swansea on Saturday, six points from safety.
Team: Cesar 7, Traore 6, Samba 7, Hill 7, Fabio 7 (Ben Haim 6), Derry 7, Taarabt 7, Wright-Phillips 6 (Zamora 6), Townsend 7, Mbia 6 (Jenas 7), Mackie 6
Subs Not Used: Green, Park, Granero, Bothroyd
QPR MOM – Cesar. For the second match running, Cesar’s string of fine saves kept Rangers in the game and helped secure a point.
Norwich MOM – Hoolahan. The touch of class in an otherwise travailing Canaries side.
Attendance: 17, 543
(Photos provided by Sandra Sayce and used with permission)