JAMIE Mackie was full of praise for strike-partner Conor Washington following last night’s 2-2 draw against Newcastle United at St. James’ Park.
Washington notched his second goal in as many games – and his fifth of the season – as the Hoops came from behind twice to gain a deserved share of the spoils in the North East.
Trailing to Jonjo Shelvey’s goal inside the opening minute, the Northern Ireland international put Rangers on level terms on the stroke of half-time with a well-taken close-range finish.
Matt Ritchie restored the hosts’ advantage, but it was the Hoops who had the final say, when Ciaran Clark’s 90th minute own goal handed the visitors a point their performance fully warranted.
Speaking exclusively to www.qpr.co.uk, Mackie heaped praise on Washington at the full-time whistle, commenting: “Conor did great to sniff out the goal and that gave us a massive lift in terms of belief.
“I’m delighted for him, I really am.
“He’s playing in his natural position now and his all round game is flourishing because of that.
“I feel you can only judge players when they’re played in their natural positions - so for me, his QPR career really starts now.
“If I was playing centre-half and people were saying I was rubbish, they’d probably be right, because that’s not my position.
“But in all seriousness, he’s kept his head brilliantly when some people have maybe been beginning to write him off - and now he’s being rewarded by playing for a manager who plays him up top where he should be playing.
“He’s going to be a threat there - and I’ve said that all along.
“I’m not surprised in the slightest that he’s scored two in two - and I can only see him scoring more goals as his confidence goes from strength-to-strength.”
Belief is key in Mackie’s view – and he is adamant that a point was the very least the R’s deserved on Tyneside.
“With a little bit more belief, maybe just five per-cent, we could - and probably should - have come away with all three points,” he said.
“And that’s something to really strive for, because we showed what we are capable of for long spells at Newcastle, which can only bode well for the future.
“There’s every chance Newcastle will get promoted and yet we were the better side for prolonged periods in the game.
“To come from behind twice and get a point showed great character.
“We were disappointed we didn’t get the win in the end, but let’s not get greedy - we’re a work in progress under the new manager albeit the signs were really positive at St. James’ Park.”
He added: “We really need to build on this now.
“To get done with an early goal was a big blow, but we stuck to the task, executed the game plan and came away with a point that I felt was the very least we deserved.
“We got our just rewards in the end - we were rewarded for a really disciplined performance.”
Up in the gods at St. James’ Park, 600-plus QPR fans sang their hearts out for the entire 90 minutes and Mackie was keen to pay tribute to each and every one of them, adding: “The fans were remarkable.
“Come on, I can’t speak highly enough of them. They put in some mental miles to get to the game on a Wednesday night and that’s all you need to know about the Rangers supporters.
“They’ll be proud of our display I’m sure, coming from behind twice to take a point against Newcastle - but we’re proud of them too, for backing us throughout the 90-plus minutes.
“Massive credit to all of them who travelled up here - I’m delighted we gave them something to take home.”
Next up for Rangers is a trip to Ewood Park – the home of Blackburn Rovers – on Saturday.
And Mackie is well-aware of the need to follow up Wednesday’s point with all three against Owen Coyle’s relegation-threatened Rovers.
“Blackburn is another important game,” he said.
“Last night’s performance will give us even more confidence heading to Ewood Park.
“We’re looking forward and looking up now.
“There’s new faces in the squad that will improve the quality of the group, but it also gives those lads who currently have the shirts a new appetite to keep it and do even better.
“That’s what we need - competition for places.
“But let’s be honest, we need to get a result on Saturday to give us an improved cushion and an emphasis to be realistic about looking higher in the table.”