Polter leveller not enough to seal win
QPR came from behind to draw 1-1 at Burton Albion, with substitute Sebastian Polter cancelling out Jamie Ward’s opener.
The hosts took the lead in the 58th minute with a diving header from Ward after the R’s were caught on the counter-attack.
But the lead only last 12 minutes as Polter came off the bench to prod home the leveller after a great centre from the hugely impressive Massimo Luongo.
It was certainly an entertaining affair as both sides were determined to take maximum points from the game.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink made three changes from the side that drew 1-1 at Birmingham City at the weekend.
Jordan Cousins, Idrissa Sylla and Olamide Shodipo made way for Karl Henry, Pawel Wszolek and Conor Washington.
Cousins, who came off during the first half against the Blues, and Sylla were not on the bench, suggesting Hasselbaink may have been forced into the changes.
But that didn’t stop the QPR boss from adopting an attacking line-up, going with a 4-3-3 set-up.
It meant the R’s lined up with Alex Smithies between the sticks behind a back four of, from left to right, Jake Bidwell, Grant Hall, Steven Caulker and Nedum Onuoha.
Henry joined Ariel Borysiuk in the centre of the park with Massimo Luongo.
Tjaronn Chery played on the right of a three-pronged attack, with Washington in the middle and Wszolek on the left.
On his return to the Pirelli Stadium, where he enjoyed an incredible 12-month stint, Hasselbaink was looking for a performance which built on our impressive second-half showing against Birmingham City three days ago.
The hosts came into this game on the back of four games without a win, while the R’s were winless from their last five in all competitions, so perhaps there was a feeling of opportunity from both camps as they took to the field.
In the opening five minutes Luongo put in a strong, but fair, challenge in the middle of the park in a bid to set the early tone, from which Chery won a free-kick, but the set-piece cannoned off the wall.
In the ninth minute, Luongo again did well to win possession before feeding Chery, who played Wszolek in down the left. The Pole’s low delivery caused panic in the Burton six-yard box but the Brewers managed to clear the danger despite the attentions of Washington, Luongo and Chery who had raced into the box.
On 22 minutes the R’s produced a lovely, flowing move which so nearly resulted in the opening goal of the evening.
Chery released Washington down the left flank and his far post centre was met by Luongo who headed across the face of goal, but just as Wszolek looked to apply the final touch from close range, Burton keeper Jon McLaughlin did brilliantly to smother the danger.
In the 27th minute Jamie Ward saw his low free-kick from 25 yards take a deflection and flash just wide of Smithies’ goal.
Chery almost netted on 39 minutes with a trademark free-kick, but his stunning effort from 20 yards was only matched by an equally-impressive save from McLaughlin, who dived full stretch to save after the ball had seemingly gone past him.
It was a hugely entertaining first half, and the only thing that will have disappointed Hasselbaink from the opening 45 minutes was that the R’s didn’t have anything to show for their endeavours.
After the break, Burton came out strongly and took the lead on 58 minutes when they broke quickly from a QPR free-kick at the other end of the pitch.
Lloyd Dyer was freed down the left flank and his shot across the face of goal was met by Jamie Ward who headed home from close range, giving Smithies no chance.
It was harsh on Rangers who had certainly looked the more likely to score in the first half. The goal saw Hasselbaink make a swift change to his side, bringing Seb Polter on for the hard-working and committed Borysiuk.
It was a clear attack-minded move with just under 30 minutes remaining, and saw Wszolek switch to the right with Washington on the left, and Chery just off Polter in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
And it brought an almost immediate response as the R’s drew level in the 69th minute through the German.
Luongo played a brilliant ball into the middle with the outside of his right foot, and Polter was there to toe-poke home from eight yards beyond McLaughlin.
The R’s fans behind the goal QPR were attacking were in full voice, urging the players on to grab a second.
At the other end, Caulker had to be alert to thwart the danger of Dyer, while Marcus Harness saw his shot gathered by Smithies.
With 15 minutes remaining, Hasselbaink was forced into a change when Bidwell landed heavily and had to leave the pitch on a stretcher.
The full-back had several minutes of treatment prior to being carried off. He was replaced by Joel Lynch.
The R’s looked to maintain their push for a second goal, and Wszolek didn well down the left before squaring for Polter, whose audacious flick was saved by McLaughlin.
It was clear neither side were interested in settling for a point from this fixture, leading to an open closing finale.
Lynch pushed forward and saw his shot from distance deflect wide for a corner in the 84th minute, from which Burton cleared their lines.
The R’s had a late shout for a penalty denied following Ben Turner’s challenge on Polter, much to the frustration of Hasselbaink.
Both sides searched for a winner in the closing stages, but it wasn’t to come as they were forced to settle for a share of the spoils.