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Norwich City were grateful to goalkeeper Mark Bunn as his penalty save prevented Queens Park Rangers from gaining a much-needed three points at Loftus Road.
QPR’s deadline-day signings defender Christopher Samba, brought in from Anzhi Makhachkala, and midfielder Andros Townsend, on loan from Tottenham, both started, but it was Adel Taarabt who provided the main threat for the hosts.
However, when his big moment came from the penalty spot just before the hour, the Moroccan saw Bunn produce a superb save to help earn Norwich what could prove a useful point in their own quest to avoid the drop.
Norwich created an early opening when Robert Snodgrass got down the right and cut the ball back into the six-yard box where Wes Hoolahan hooked it over the bar, but the flag was up for a narrow offside call.
With striker Loic Remy out through injury, straining a groin in training, Taarabt proved QPR’s most creative player and he drilled a low shot across goal and wide from the edge of the area on 10 minutes.
The Moroccan was again the instigator when his jinking run into the Norwich area put Jamie Mackie in on the angle, but his tight shot on the turn dragged the ball wide.
Norwich, meanwhile, were content to hit Grant Holt on the break, but the captain was often isolated and lacked support from midfield.
The visitors were forced into a change on 24 minutes when winger Anthony Pilkington hobbled off down the tunnel and was replaced by Elliott Bennett. On 28 minutes Norwich got a fortunate break down the right as the ball ricocheted out to Hoolahan. The Irishman floated the ball over to Snodgrass, but his cushioned header was straight at Julio Cesar.
At the other end, Shaun Wright-Phillips turned marker Javier Garrido on the 18-yard box, but then skewed his shot wide. Taarabt’s inswinging corner dropped onto the top of the bar as QPR pressed at the end of the first half.
QPR again went close just after the restart when Taarabt’s free-kick from the right flew across the face of goal when any sort of contact would have put the ball into the net.
Then Norwich almost snatched the lead on 53 minutes. A long clearance was knocked on by Holt out to the right for Snodgrass and his curling cross was flicked goalwards by Hoolahan, but Cesar made a brilliant reaction save at point-blank range. Samba then did enough to make Michael Turner sky the ball over the bar from the corner.
QPR made a change on 55 minutes when Bobby Zamora replaced Wright-Phillips. The hosts were awarded a penalty when Mackie latched onto a poor backpass from Garrido and was tripped by Bunn, who was shown a yellow card. Taarabt went to place the ball in the bottom-left corner, but the goalkeeper guessed correctly and pulled off a fine save at full stretch.
Bunn then beat away a dipping 20-yard effort from Taarabt as QPR remained on the offensive. Julio Cesar, though, was also in good form as he palmed out a 25-yard strike from Bradley Johnson as the match finally opened up. Samba’s glancing header, which looked to be going wide, was hacked off the line by Holt.
With 23 minutes left, Jermaine Jenas, signed from Tottenham on deadline day, replaced Mbia before a final change shortly afterwards as Tal Ben Haim came on for Fabio Da Silva. Julio Cesar pushed a long-range effort from Snodgrass behind before Bunn again impressed with a full-stretch save from Townsend.
Norwich sent on new man Luciano Becchio for the closing stages. The former Leeds United striker fell under pressure Clint Hill in the six-yard box at a corner in stoppage time but referee Jon Moss saw no foul.
After the break Norwich came closest to breaking the deadlock when Wes Hoolahan’s close-range shot was well saved by Julio Cesar.
QPR’s first shot on target was the penalty which Bunn conceded on 56 minutes, bringing down Jamie Mackie after an errant back-pass. The Norwich goalkeeper recovered to guess correctly and palm away the QPR midfielder’s kick to his left.
At the other end Julio Cesar was forced into action on 62 minutes, stretching to save Bradley Johnson’s long-range shot. Samba was close to scoring on his debut but his goalbound header was cleared off the line by Grant Holt while Bobby Zamora back from injury and on as a substitute almost headed in at the far post.
Townsend was the debutant who also almost scored but his fierce shot was palmed away by Bunn as QPR cranked up the pressure. But they failed to get the breakthrough and the point meant that they remain three points behind Aston Villa after their fourth draw in a row.
QPR manager Harry Redknapp: "I felt if we had scored the penalty, we would have gone on and won the game. Of course we need wins, but we could not have tried any harder - we gave everything we had.
"I felt when Bobby Zamora came on, he made a difference for us, but he cannot play for 90 minutes because of an operation on his hip. Once he stops, it just clamps up on him. Getting him through half a game is a miracle. If I had him fit, it would be a different team. We just have to keep going."
Norwich manager Chris Hughton: "Every point away from home in this division is a good point, especially against a team in form. We knew it was going to be a tough game, but I thought a draw was a fair result.
"We are a hard-working team who were always going to have a tough season, so it is all about assessing the games and coming good again. At the moment, although we are not picking up three points, we have played out two good draws and the gap between us and the bottom three is very important.
"Pilkington has a hamstring injury. We will assess how bad it is, but at the moment certainly we will be pulling him out of the Irish squad."
|09 Feb 2013||v Swansea (A)|
|23 Feb 2013||v Man Utd (H)|
|02 Mar 2013||v Southampton (A)|
|09 Mar 2013||v Sunderland (H)|
|16 Mar 2013||v Aston Villa (A)|
|01 Apr 2013||v Fulham (A)|