Late goal gives glimpse of Rs momentum
For all that the allure of the FA Cup third round has been eroded over the last decade, one of its eternal attractions is the idea that anything can happen. And, while this match at Loftus Road couldn't offer the prospect of a true upset, it did feature something even rarer: a first Kieron Dyer goal in five and a half years.
Even more notably, it was a stoppage-time equaliser that keeps QPR in the competition - at least until the replay at West Brom in 10 days' time.
Less impressively, there weren't too many here to see it. With less than 9,000 in the ground, this was Loftus Road's second lowest attendance of the season, after the League Cup tie with Walsall.
"Maybe the sales were more exciting for them today," Harry Redknapp quipped. They certainly are to the QPR manager. After this game, the manager was seen talking into his phone in a state that was more animated than anything during the game.
He also confirmed he's attempting to make a few moves happen, saying: "We have to have a little go in the transfer market. If we can find one or two, that'll be the difference for us I think. We've got to keep pushing forward and keep improving."
Because, as sad as it is for the FA Cup, that was the real significance of Saturday for a lot of teams: what it means for the league campaign, and the knock-on effects.
And, at the very least, QPR have avoided defeat for the second successive game, while also illustrating the resolve that was so evident at Chelsea in midweek. Given their predicament, it is really the main card Redknapp has other than spending money: momentum.
"The draw today, following the win at Chelsea, it's OK. West Brom are not a bad side, bit of flair in there with [James] Morrison and [Chris] Burnt. Decent team. You can see why they're a top-half side. I didn't want to get beat. It's important you don't get beat. If you've got to have a replay, you've got to have a replay."
The only problem for Redknapp was that, if they didn't end up getting beaten, QPR never actually looked like defeating West Brom themselves. Without the pressure of the relegation battle, they did put together some pleasing passing moves and generally dominated the game. But other than one fine move in the first half initiated by a Dyer cross-field ball - as well as the player's eventual equaliser - there was no real penetration, no punch.
An illustrative moment came in the second half when Taarabt attempted a number of step-overs and did beat two only to eventually fall over.
"We were a little bit short really," Redknapp admitted. "It was difficult. I played Tal Ben Haim, a right-sided player, at left-back, completely on the wrong side. So that was a problem. With the other two left-backs out, it left us no balance. Adel [Taarabt] drifts in so that left [Ben Haim] Ben-Haim on that left-hand side on his own."
These weren't completely second-string teams, though. Far from it, in fact. All of Adel Taarabt, Esteban Granero, Ryan Nelsen and Stephane Mbia started for QPR, Shane Long, Chris Brunt, Romeu Lukaku and Gareth McAuley for West Brom.
Still, they only produced patches of Premier League-level quality. And, after Long rolled in the eventual opener after 79 minutes via a deflection and a rare enough moment of urgency, Redknapp admitted he couldn't see how an equaliser would arrive.
Fewer still could have seen it coming from Dyer. But, admirably, the improvised full-back produced. The fans still there roared, Redknapp allowed himself a clap, while Steve Clarke remained unmoved. The West Brom manager's attitude to the goal - and perhaps to the competition as a whole - was reflected when he sent his assistant manager, Kevin Keen, in to do the post-match press conference.
When Redknapp sat down for the same chore, he spotted a cup of tea and lifted it up. "Best thing I've seen all day," came another quip from the QPR boss.
It summed up the afternoon.
The FA Cup, of course, should hold particular significance for both these teams since it was the last trophy that West Brom won, in 1968, and is still the only real silverware Redknapp has lifted in his managerial career, with Portsmouth in 2008.
It didn't feel that way on Saturday. Rousing incidents were as rare as a Dyer goal. At the least, he produced to provide both.