Hard-working QPR earn share of the points at Sheffield Wednesday
QPR earned a share of the spoils at Sheffield Wednesday with a hard-fought display, taking the lead through Jamie Mackie before substitute Sam Winnall levelled for the hosts after the break.
In an entertaining game at Hillsborough, Mackie fired Rangers in front on 23 minutes, making no mistake after being put through by Luke Freeman.
The hosts fired the equaliser three minutes after the restart, when Winnall found space at the far post to slam the ball beyond Alex Smithies.
Rangers had a gilt-edged chance to grab all three points late on when Conor Washington squared the ball into the path of new arrival Kazenga LuaLua, but the man on loan from Brighton could only fire wide of the post from inside the box.
Ian Holloway kept faith with the 11 men who kicked off the Championship season in such style against Reading, while continuing with his preferred 3-5-2 formation.
Alex Smithies returned between the posts after being rested for the midweek Carabao Cup victory against Northampton Town, while Joel Lynch, Nedum Onuoha and James Perch made up the three-man defence.
Jake Bidwell operated as a left wingback, with Pawel Wszolek taking u a similar role on the right.
The trio of Luke Freeman, Josh Scowen and Massimo Luongo began in the centre of the park, while Jamie Mackie partnered Conor Washington in attack.
Recent signings Alex Baptiste and Kazenga LuaLua were named amongst the subs.
After suffering an ankle injury in training, Yeni Ngbakoto didn’t make the trip north, while Idrissa Sylla also missed out owing to a head injury sustained against the Cobblers.
Grant Hall (tendonitis) was also unavailable to the R’s boss, while Steven Caulker was rested after coming through 90 minutes on Tuesday night.
After back-to-back wins, the R’s went into this fixture in confident mood while the Owls will have been lifted by their 4-1 victory over Chesterfield in the Carabao Cup after losing their opening league game of the season 1-0 at Preston.
Like against the Royals, QPR made a strong start to the game and forced an early corner through Conor Washington, but Wednesday were able to deal with that threat, but the visitors continued to enjoy an early spell of possession.
On seven minutes, great play in the centre of the park from Luongo freed Mackie down the right, but his centre fell just behind Washington as the in-form striker waited to pounce in the six-yard box, and the hosts were able to clear the danger.
It led to a roar of encouragement from the travelling R’s fans, but they were nearly silenced in the 12th minute when Daniel Pudil found space at the far post from a corner, but he could only direct his header wide.
In the 19th minute, Jordan Rhodes had a great chance to give Wednesday the lead when he was picked out in space in the area but his header was comfortably gathered by Smithies.
In a game which was starting to open up, Rangers were next to go close when Wszolek was released down the right by Perch in acres of space. The Polish winger looked up and picked out Mackie, but his low drive from 16 yards was saved by Keiren Westwood.
But on 23 minutes, Mackie made no mistake. Freeman picked him out with a perfectly-weighted pass, and Mackie coolly slotted the ball beyond Westwood to give the R’s a deserved lead.
The R’s fans at the opposite end of the pitch sang their support for Mackie after what was another excellent opening to a game by Holloway’s men.
QPR grew and grew in confidence, with the midfield trio dominating the middle of the park with their movement and passing, while the constant running of Bidwell and Wszolek in wide areas caused the hosts problems throughout the opening half.
In the closing stages of the half, Wednesday grew more into the game, and Tom Lees was unlucky to see his far-post header drift just wide of Smithies’ post following Jones’ floated free-kick.
On 43 minutes Rhodes should have done better from the edge of the area following a good centre from Adam Reach, but the Owls striker pulled his shot well wide as the R’s maintained their lead through to the interval.
After the re-start, Wednesday were the first to threaten for a goal, as Sam Winnall fired goalwards following a quick Owls break, but Smithies was equal to it and palmed the ball to safety.
But moments later, the hosts were level and it was Winnall who scored it, as Barry Bannan’s low centre from the left found its way through to the back post, and the Wednesday man had time to control the ball before firing beyond Smithies.
With the hosts lifted by the goal right at the start of the second half, they pushed on for another and really should have taken the lead through Rhodes, but he somehow managed to head over from five yards with the goal at his mercy following Bannan’s delivery from the left.
Freeman created a chance out of nothing in the 62nd minute as he raced to the edge of the Wednesday area but his powerful drive was well gathered by Westwood.
As the half wore on it seemed neither team was happy to settle for a point, which made for a very open game of football.
On 77 minutes, Wszolek won passion on the halfway line and raced to the edge of the Wednesday box before seeing his low effort gathered by Westwood.
The R’s had set up to hit the hosts on the break, and it was certainly creating opportunities for the Hoops.
With ten minutes remaining, Holloway made two changes, replacing Jamie Mackie and Luke Freeman with Kazenga LuaLua and Ryan Manning respectively.
And on 85 minutes LuaLua had the perfect opportunity to mark his return to the club with a goal with his first touch when Washington broke clear down the right and squared the ball for the Brighton loannee, but his side-footed shot from ten yards went agonisingly wide of the post.
In the end, the teams shared the points and it was certainly a fully-deserved point on the road for Holloway’s hard-working side who received a standing ovation from the travelling QPR supporters.