QPR LADIES came from behind twice to keep their survival hopes alive with a dramatic 2-2 draw against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
Sarah Staples' late equaliser - her second of the afternoon - rescued a precious point for Rangers, who dominated for long periods against their relegation rivals in difficult playing conditions at Uxbridge.
Spurs had twice led against the run of play and looked destined for victory until Staples’ last-gasp intervention ensured a share of the spoils.
With manager Martino Chevannes away, assistant coach Tony Smith took charge of first-team affairs and made one change from the side which triumphed at Gillingham seven days earlier.
Katie O’Leary was withdrawn for Kirsten Walker, who slotted in alongside Jade Dempster, Eartha Pond and Lorna Gover across the back four.
Sarah Staples, Sophie Fogarty and Elly Maggs made up the midfield while further afield Kirsten Thomson, Kim Meadows and Kasha Petit formed a three-pronged attack.
The R’s began brightly, forcing a succession of early corners as Spurs goalkeeper Joanne Ayre had to react smartly to tip over Pond’s inswinging centre on five minutes.
But it was the visitors who took the lead as Spurs edged ahead after ten minutes. A deep cross caused hesitation amongst the R’s defence, allowing full-back Dee Smith to slide home at the back post unchallenged.
Smith’s afternoon came to an abrupt end shortly after, though, replaced with a suspected broken nose following a collision with Walker.
Smith’s opener stunned Rangers, who struggled to deal with the conditions as heavy rain continued to play havoc with the playing surface. Instead it was Spurs who almost doubled their lead, as Cheadle was called upon to smother Bianca Baptiste’s long-range drive low to her left.
Rangers were fortunate not to concede moments later as Sam Pittuck headed over Robyn McEvoy’s corner.
The R’s weathered the pressure and began to threaten a leveller on the half-hour mark as Meadows found room 25 yards out. The R’s striker’s shot was goalbound but straight at Ayre, who saved comfortably.
Staples was next to try her luck a minute later, dragging her shot from similar range narrowly wide of the near post.
Chances proved harder to come by as the half wore on, while tempers momentarily frayed during an altercation between Petit and Spurs defender Derrie O’Halloran, who were both booked for their troubles.
Petit was withdrawn at the break for O’Leary, shortly before Rangers made the perfect start to the second half with an equaliser two minutes after the restart. Staples burst free from midfield, evading a couple of sliding challenges before firing decisively into the bottom corner.
Staples was proving the R's main threat going forward and was inches away from repeating the feat three minutes later. The midfielder’s looping free-kick caught out the Spurs backline but flew just over the crossbar.
Rangers continued to press for a second as Maggs tested Ayre from 12 yards, stinging the palms of the visiting goalkeeper with a fierce drive.
Spurs were quick to counter, though, and restored their advantage against the run of play on 55 minutes. McEvoy’s inch-perfect cross from the left fell kindly for Wendy Martin, who stooped to side-foot past Cheadle’s despairing dive at the near post.
Rangers responded by forcing an opening at the other end as Fogarty’s speculative shot on the hour mark dipped just over Ayre’s goal, who was called upon six minutes later to smother Meadows’ effort from 10 yards.
Time fast began to run out on Rangers, who felt aggrieved not to be awarded a penalty with three minutes remaining. Maggs’ run into the box appeared to be upended by an outstretched leg but appeals from the home crowd were waved away by the referee.
Frustration turned to ecstasy moments later as Rangers were finally rewarded for their efforts in stoppage time. A loose ball was pounced upon by Staples, who burst through on goal before nonchalantly guiding her shot past Ayre to level the scores once again.
Rangers pressed for a winner from the restart only for the final whistle to halt the hosts in their tracks.
A point apeice stretches the R's unbeaten run to three games with a draw against their London rivals, who remain a point above Rangers at the foot of the table as the fight for survival continues.
QPR LFC: Cheadle, Gover, Walker, Staples, Pond, Dempster, Thomson (Bytyqi 63), Maggs, Meadows, S.Fogarty, Petit (O’Leary 46).