HARRY REDKNAPP’S first home game in charge ended in frustration as QPR drew 1-1 with Aston Villa.
Brett Holman’s rasping half-volley fired the visitors ahead in the early stages but parity was restored within ten minutes as Jamie Mackie’s adept header brought the R’s level.
The Hoops came close to completing the comeback in the second period but a combination of Brad Guzan and the woodwork ensured Villa left Loftus Road with a point.
Redknapp, who received a rousing welcome on being presented to the R’s faithful prior to kick-off, made two changes from the starting line-up which drew at Sunderland in midweek.
Rob Green was handed the gloves in place of Julio Cesar, who failed to recover from a groin injury which forced the Brazilian off at half-time on Tuesday night.
In the only other switch from the Stadium of Light, Shaun Wright-Phillips was given his first start since October at the expense of Djibril Cisse, with the Frenchman dropping to the bench.
The R’s came out of the blocks the quickest and put the Villa defence on the backfoot from the first whistle. Unfortunately for the hosts, nobody in blue and white could reach dangerous crosses from Jose Bosingwa and Adel Taarabt respectively in the opening three minutes.
Paul Lambert’s side weren’t on the backfoot for long, though, as Christian Benteke powered his way into the area at the other end. The Belgian looked destined to find the target but Clint Hill threw his body in the way to block Benteke’s drive.
But it was a case of déjà vu for the R’s defence on eight minutes as Rangers conceded first for the third successive outing on home soil.
Holman collected Ashley Westwood’s pass before unleashing a fierce half-volley past the despairing dive of Green in goal. The England international got a hand to the effort from the edge of the area but could only touch the ball onto the post and into the net.
Holman’s opener was harsh on Redknapp’s men, who had begun well and strived to make amends six minutes later from Taarabt’s floated corner. Stephane Mbia was allowed space only to see his header flash wide of Brad Guzan’s far post.
The Villa custodian was left clutching thin air again on 18 minutes, this time as Mackie rose highest to deservedly bring Rangers level. With his back to goal, the Scot out-jumped his marker to expertly glance Samba Diakite’s centre into the far corner.
In response the visitors looked to Benteke for an immediate reply, who continued to pose a threat to Green’s goal. Villa’s dangerman shrugged off the attentions of Ryan Nelsen but another saving challenge from Hill eased the pressure.
Trouble evaded, it was Rangers who came closest to edging in front with two clear-cut openings within the space of three minutes either side of the half-hour mark.
First Esteban Granero’s pinpoint chip gave Shaun Wright-Phillips a clear sight of goal, but Guzan came out on top, standing firm to thwart the winger.
Only the woodwork denied Wright-Phillips with the very next attack as another ball over the top caught the visitors’ defence napping. Skilful play in the middle from Stephane Mbia released Wright-Phillips down the right again, whose first-time drive cannoned back off the near post.
Rangers were dealt a blow ten minutes before the break as an innocuous looking challenge off-the-ball brought Mbia’s afternoon to an abrupt end.
Shaun Derry replaced the stricken Senegalese midfielder, who departed on a stretcher following several minutes of treatment.
Redknapp’s men had no time to rest on their laurels, though, and Green had to save smartly to palm away Gabriel Agbonlahor’s curling effort on 41 minutes.
The striker’s clever knock-down four minutes later sat up nicely for Holman but his team-mate, on this occasion, skied his volley into the stands.
Both sides poured forward in search of a second amid seven minutes of injury time but trudged down the tunnel at one apiece.
The second half saw Redknapp make an immediate change, as Granero made way for Ji-Sung Park.
Again it was Rangers who made the early running, upping the tempo with a host of near misses ten minutes after the interval.
A deft touch from Wright-Phillips allowed him to let fly before seeing his effort deflect for a corner.
The resulting corner reaped havoc amongst the Villa defence as Guzan twice came to the visitors’ rescue, first clawing away Ryan Nelsen’s hooked ball before collecting Diakite’s low drive.
The R’s were proving the dominant force and only the reflexes of Guzan kept the hosts at bay on 58 minutes. Taarabt’s through ball found the onrushing Park, but the American flung himself to his left to frustrate the hosts once again.
Injury forced Redknapp into his third and final change as Diakite limped off to be replaced by Junior Hoilett after 69 minutes.
The home side remained the likeliest side to find a winner and came within a whisker of netting ten minutes left on the clock. Taarabt’s corner was headed back with interest by Hill only for the angle of post and crossbar to keep the scores level.
Villa almost stole maximum points on 88 minutes but substitute Karim El Ahmadi’s controlled volley drifted harmlessly wide to the relief of Green and co.
Four minutes stoppage ensued as both sides rallied but neither could produce an elusive winner.