Queens Park Rangers limped to an undistinguished FA Cup third-round replay against MK Dons yesterday and created an unwanted slice of history. It was their 16th consecutive match in the competition without a win, equalling the dire sequence of Leeds United set between 1952 and 1963.
Not since 2001 have QPR claimed a sliver of success in English football's most prestigious knockout competition. And if they don't buck up their ideas substantially on 17 January, when the teams meet again at Loftus Road, they will erase the name of Leeds from the annals and hold the dismal record all on their own.
QPR were poor throughout against opponents 32 places below them on the League pyramid. It was only a villain-turned-hero display from Heidar Helguson, a substitute, that spared them the ignominy of an early exit. At fault with MK's opener, he struck in the 89th minute to force the rematch.
At first it looked as though Helguson had taken the ball too far as he bore down on goalkeeper David Martin and then slipped over. But he regained his feet and guided the ball into the empty net.
By that time, QPR had been reduced to 10 men – Neil Warnock, the manager, had used his three replacements before Alejandro Faurlin sustained a knee injury and was taken off on a stretcher. "I thought we deserved a draw," Warnock said. "Even with only 10 men, we kept going. I'm delighted to be in the fourth-round draw."
Delighted, too, that the replay means that Joey Barton, the QPR captain, will now miss only one Premier League game due to his three-match suspension. He was absent yesterday but will be able return against Wigan Athletic on 21 January. "That's why I'm even more delighted," Warnock said.
QPR could have ended up in Buckinghamshire in 2001 when, struggling and strapped for cash in the third tier, Pete Winkelman sounded them out about his Milton Keynes project. But the proposed American franchise-style move swiftly foundered, Winkleman – now the MK chairman – homed in on Wimbledon instead and, three years later, a new club were controversially born.
It was in the same year that QPR last won an FA Cup tie. With no recent form in the competition and without a victory in eight matches in the Premier League either, it was little surprise that they ceded control to MK in a drab first half. The fifth-placed team in League One, just three points off an automatic promotion place, were rather more up for the Cup than their west London opponents.
Not that MK enjoyed much good fortune to reward their industrious endeavours, with Jabo Ibehre having an effort ruled out for offside and Daniel Powell unlucky not be awarded a penalty when his attempted cross appeared to have been handled by Clint Hill. QPR had a "goal" chalked off, too, after DJ Campbell had strayed offside on one of his side's rare ventures forward, such was their lethargy.
Even Federico Macheda, making his full debut on loan from Manchester United, failed to sparkle and was replaced by Jay Bothroyd in the second half. So much for him reigniting his career away from Old Trafford, but at least he provided a couple of half-decent crosses before departing after the interval, one of which skimmed the home crossbar and the other setting up Campbell to nod wide fromclose range.
MK simply regrouped, though, and deservedly nudged ahead when Helguson tried to be too cute in controlling the ball from a Shaun Williams cross and allowed Dean Bowditch to steal in to score. Despite Helguson atoning for his error, MK remain confident for the replay. "I can't wait," Karl Robinson, their manager, said. "It'll be great to pit our wits against a good QPR team again. People might not agree at how our club came about but we have a good philosophy and we are moving forward together."
MK Dons (4-1-4-1): Martin; Smith, MacKenzie (Kouo-Doumbe, h-t), Williams, Lewington; Potter;Powell, Gleeson, Chadwick, Bowditch; Ibehre.
QPR (4-4-2): Cerny; Young, Hall, Gabbidon, Hill; Smith, Derry (Buzsaky, 77), Faurlin, Mackie; Campbell(Helguson, 61), Macheda (Bothroyd, 71).
Referee Michael Oliver.
Man of the match Chadwick (MK Dons).
Match rating 5/10.Reuse content