QPR were once again left cursing a late goal as they were forced to accept a share of the points against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park on Tuesday night.
Leroy Fer gave Rangers the lead midway through the first half following a great break involving the impressive Sebastian Polter and Junior Hoilett, and had chances to double their lead before the interval.
In the second half, Blackburn forced Rangers back and they managed to level matters with just six minutes remaining, Hope Akpan heading past Joe Lumley, who did an excellent job between the posts in what was his league debut.
Hasselbaink made eight changes from the side that played Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup three days ago, with Joe Lumley, Nedum Onuoha and Grant Hall the only survivors from the City Ground fixture.
It meant Lumley made his league debut for the R’s, with Onuoha and Grant Hall renewing their central defensive partnership, while Paul Konchesky returned at left back and James Perch lined up on the right side.
Leroy Fer began the game on the left wing, with Matt Phillips on the right, and Ale Faurlin joining Karl Henry in the centre of the park.
Sebastian Polter led the attack, in front of Junior Hoilett.
Rovers boss Paul Lambert made three changes from the side that lost at Cardiff ten days ago, handing a debut to loan arrival Elliott Bennett, while Tommy Spurr and Corry Evans were back in the starting line-up.
With Rangers looking for their first win in eight, and Rovers without a win in four, tonight’s game was identified as an important one by QPR manager Hasselbaink and in the opening minute Hoilett – returning to his former club – tested home keeper Jason Steele with a low effort after being found by Fer, but it was comfortably gathered.
The hosts went close to opening the scoring on eight minutes, Shane Duffy seeing his header from a Spurr corner flash just wide from eight yards.
A minute later, it was again Hoilett who went close to finding the back of the net on his old stomping ground, this time following a great flick by Polter to put the Canadian in behind the home defence, but as Hoilett shaped to shoot, Ben Marshall managed to get a last-ditch tackle in.
In an open first quarter of an hour, Blackburn almost found a way through in the 15th minute, when Evans’ shot from the edge of the box was palmed into the path of Jordan Rhodes by Lumley, but the R’s managed to clear the danger through Hall.
And on 24 minutes QPR found the breakthrough courtesy of a Fer strike from just inside the area after a sweeping move. Hoilett broke clear down the right after a great ball by Polter and although his centre evaded Phillips, who challenged for the ball under pressure from the out-rushing Steele, Fer was on hand to coolly find the back of the net.
Polter then saw his shot from distance blocked as Rangers quickly looked to add a second, while in the 34th minutes – seconds after Fer felt he had a strong claim for a penalty turned away by referee Eddie Ilderton – Polter saw his close-range effort hacked to safety.
It was an opening half-an-hour which drew strong praise from the travelling R’s fans, who seemed impressed with the way in which their side were breaking at pace and causing the home defence problems.
But the R’s needed to be alert at the other end, and after a fantastic take by Lumley from a left-wing cross to relieve the pressure, the R’s fans chanted the young goalkeeper’s name, encouraging him every step of the way.
As the first half came to an end, QPR were relieved to hear the whistle after Phillips hacked the ball off the line following a goalmouth scramble as Rovers tried in vain to find an equaliser before the break.
Three minutes into the second half, Polter – who was having his best game in a QPR shirt – refused to give up on a lost cause, winning the ball from Hanley on the byline, and passing to Phillips whose low cross just evaded Fer, who was poised to tap home his second of the night from six yards.
But Lumley was certainly being tested at the other end of the pitch, with plenty of high balls into the box, but he continued to deal with the challenge brilliantly, showing great hands and punching when needed.
Faurlin went close with a free-kick from 25 yards, but saw his effort drift just wide of the near post after Polter had been fouled.
Meanwhile, Lumley once again showed good hands, saving Spurr’s header at the far post on 79 minutes.
As Blackburn continued to push for a leveller, Konchesky hacked the ball off Rhodes as he looked to shoot but in the 84th minute they found a way through, as the ball bounced across the six-yard box and Hope Akpan headed home at the far post.
Hasselbaink immediately reacted, making his first change of the night by replacing Phillips with Michael Petrasso, and Tjaronn Chery came on for the hard-working Hoilett shortly after.
Polter almost had a chance to win it in injury time following a poor clearance by Steele, but the ball didn’t fall in favour of the German striker, while Rhodes also went close late on.
In the end, it finished all square at Ewood Park.