FIRST-HALF strikes from Nahki Wells and a Jonny Howson own goal were cancelled out by Britt Assombalonga’s double for the visitors at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium.
After trailing to Assombalonga’s 23rd-minute effort for Middlesbrough, Rangers responded through Wells (25 minutes) and that Howson own goal – following Grant Hall’s header from an Ebere Eze corner – a minute before half-time.
The R’s couldn’t hold on for a win that would have moved them level on points with the Sky Bet Championship play-offs, though, as Assombalonga capitalised on a wayward home pass to earn Boro a 2-2 draw in the 69th minute.
Following last weekend’s 2-0 defeat at Leeds United, QPR boss Mark Warburton made four changes to his starting XI for the visit of Middlesbrough.
Injury ruled out both goalkeeper Liam Kelly and defender Toni Leistner, while Jordan Hugill dropped down to the bench and Angel Rangel missed out altogether.
So into the team came Joe Lumley, Geoff Cameron, Todd Kane and Luke Amos.
Rangers, in a 3-5-1-1 formation, lined up as: Lumley; Hall (captain), Cameron, Lee Wallace; Kane, Amos, Dom Ball, Eze, Ryan Manning; Ilias Chair; Wells.
Visitors Boro, who were looking to pick up just their third league win of the campaign, started strongly as they attempted to do just that.
In only the second minute, defender Daniel Ayala had a goal chalked off for offside, following a free-kick from deep.
Then, two minutes later, Wallace produced a crucial challenge to deny Assombalonga, just as the hotshot looked set to pull the trigger from inside Rangers’ box.
The R’s took time to get going, but did spurn the best chance of the contest yet in the 19th minute.
Manning and Wells combined well down the left and, when the former’s pull-back was inch-perfect for Amos, his subsequent 14-yard attempt deflected just wide of the right-hand post.
However, it was the visitors who would strike first, in the 23rd minute.
Howson crossed from the right and, when Assombalonga edged in front of his marker, his downward header skipped off the turf before nestling into the bottom left-hand corner.
Advantage Boro – but not for long. Indeed, the visitors’ lead lasted only two minutes following a well-worked home move.
Manning played a low ball into Chair in the penalty area, who in turn slipped in Wells to tuck the ball through the legs of Boro custodian Darren Randolph to equalise in W12.
Rangers back level, then, and they so nearly added a second goal nine minutes before the interval. Eze’s floated free-kick was met by a powerful Manning header, but Randolph flung himself to his left to pull off a flying save at the School End.
But QPR would head into half-time with a 2-1 lead.
Eze’s corner from the left was met by an unmarked Hall, whose header was inadvertently turned into his own net by Howson on the goal-line.
Much like the first half, it took Rangers a little while to warm up in the second.
Boro threatened in the 55th minute, with Lewis Wing’s 20-yard free-kick flashing just past the upright.
QPR’s maiden attempt in the closing period arrived on the hour mark. Manning’s edge-of-the-box shot was fisted over by Randolph.
The R’s then made a double substitution. Hugill and Josh Scowen replaced Chair and Amos.
As the clock ticked down, the game began to open up.
In the 63rd minute, Middlesbrough’s Assombalonga controlled a long ball forward wonderfully well before cutting in past Hall from the left to shoot only inches wide of the foot of the far post.
Assombalonga would eventually add his and Boro’s second goal of the afternoon, though.
Wells’ loose pass put the Boro striker in the clear and, when Lumley raced off his line to challenge him, Assombalonga kept his cool to dink the ball over the QPR ‘keeper and in.
Rangers responded with two separate attempts in the 74th minute.
First, Manning’s left-wing centre for Hugill ended with the latter’s subsequent effort deflecting just a whisker past the post.
Then, from the resultant corner kick, Hall’s header was held well by Randolph.
Four minutes later, the R’s went close again when Wells’ 16-yard drive was tipped over by Randolph, before Eze was eventually denied by the Boro shot-stopper again as Rangers worked an opening from the corner.
At the other end, Lumley fashioned a fine save to deny Paddy McNair in the 84th minute, as his left-flank corner looked to be heading straight in.
Then it was Rangers’ turn to attack, in the 88th minute. Kane drove down the right before crossing from deep, and Manning arrived at the back post to head wide.
Four additional minutes were signalled at the death.
There was to be no further goalscoring action, though, with Rangers – despite their best efforts – unable to find a match-winning third in stoppage time.