Samba strike fails to lift Rovers' sinking feeling

Queens Park Rangers 1 Blackburn Rovers 1: Kean's men draw little comfort after dropping to bottom of the table
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The Independent Online

A preview to this Premier League encounter – an utterly forgettable contest, as it turned out – delicately played on a nautical theme. Apparently the proceeds from the first meeting between Queens Park Rangers and Blackburn Rovers,in the 1912 Charity Shield, went towards the Titanic relief fund.

Perhaps Blackburn would experience a sinking feeling, the author then put it not so delicately, should they fail at Loftus Road and the pressure be heaped further on Steve Kean, their manager. As it turned out they did, sliding to the bottom of the table on goal difference.

Not yet sunk without a trace, though, and Kean maintains admir-able stoicism in the face of non-stop criticism. "Any away point is good," he said. "I felt that their goal was against the run of play but we never felt sorry for ourselves and showed a good reaction. Any momentum gathered is good and we'll get ourselves slowly moving again."

Not that Rangers are riding a wave of optimism either. They might lie in 10th but have yet to win on home turf in four attempts in the League and are only four points ahead of Blackburn. They may also have to survive stormy seas before the campaign is done. "We tried hard," Neil Warnock, the Rangers manager,said. "I couldn't fault the lads."

Neither manager had enjoyed an exactly restful time during the international break. Warnock was left mulling over the 6-0 mauling against Fulham and the apparent walk-out of Adel Taarabt from Craven Cottage after he had been replaced at half-time. Taarabt, while away on duty with Morocco, subsequently made it known that he wants to leave Loftus Road during the January transfer window.

Kean had to endure another of his regular trips to India, courtesy of Venky's, the poultry and pharmaceuticals firm who own Blackburn, and this time he took his players with him. As Kean received the umpteenth vote of confidence his team kept in trim by beating Pune FC 3-0 in a friendly. Still, even far away, a group of spectators had their "Kean Out" banner confiscated.

Rangers opened brightly, mostly through the pace of Shaun Wright-Phillips on the right flank but with Joey Barton also to the fore. Taarabt sat on the bench, probably sulking and perhaps contemplating anotherinterval departure. Even for the always hands-on Warnock, the Moroccan is so high-maintenance.

Rangers gained their reward when Heidar Helguson nodded powerfully goalwards, only for the effort to be inadvertently blocked by Jamie Mackie, his team-mate. But the ball bounced back fortuitously, allowing Helguson a second go. He took it, and whether he meant it to be a far-post chip or not, that's how it turned out, gently drifting over Paul Robinson's head and into the net.

More "Kean Out" protests might have been in order but the 971 travelling fans kept their own counsel for the moment, and maybe reaped the benefits. Encouraged instead of lambasted, Blackburn began to make significant headway and deservedlydrew level when Chris Samba was allowed the freedom of the home area to nod in Ryan Lowe's corner. "If you can't mark a free man, something is wrong," Warnock moaned.

Sadly, Blackburn appeared satisfied with their lot, even at such an early juncture. Sadly, too, Rangers, apart from a 25-yard fizzer from Wright-Phillips that flew narrowly wide, did not have the expressive nous to recover. Taarabt did come on and, naturally, demanded to be the centre of attention.

But adventure and invention was required, not selfish showboating. Taarabt breezed through but attempted the spectacular and scuffed a left-footed shot wide.

"Taarabt, look interested," a Rangers fan wailed. Another, on his way out, exclaimed gravely to a friend: "I'm just going home to watch some paint dry." Like many a Blackburn fan, they too already have that sinking feeling.

QPR (4-1-3-2): Kenny; Young, Hall, Ferdinand, Traoré; Derry; Wright-Phillips (Smith, 83), Barton, Faurlin; Helguson,Mackie (Taarabt, 64).

Blackburn (4-1-4-1): Robinson; Salgado, Samba, Dann, Givet; Lowe; Hoilett, Nzonzi, Petrovic, Olsson; Roberts (Goodwillie, 67).

Referee: Mark Clattenburg.

Man of the match: Lowe (Blackburn)

Match rating: 4/10

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