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16:53 3th December 2011

SHANE Long's late strike earned Albion a battling point from this tight contest in the capital.

The Ireland international stabbed home his fifth of a fine first season at the club from sub Peter Odemwingie's cross nine minutes from time.

In a game of few clear-cut chances but plenty of endeavour, the Championship champions took the lead through in-form striker Heidar Helguson's 20th-minute header.

Albion struggled to get behind the Hoops' defence for long spells, with their final ball often letting them down.

But they kept plugging away and eventually got their reward through Long's poacher's effort.

Eleventh entertained 14th at Loftus Road, with the two teams separated by just one point before kick off.

Roy Hodgson rang one enforced change from Albion's harsh defeat by Tottenham seven days ago, with Graham Dorrans coming in for Zoltan Gera, who is out for the season with a knee injury.

Neil Warnock made two alterations, with Jay Bothroyd and Joey Barton replacing Shaun Derry and Clint Hill, who both dropped to the bench.

Before the game, an emotional minute's applause was held in memory of Wales boss Gary Speed, who passed away last Sunday. Both teams also wore black armbands as a mark of respect.

The two teams took a while to settle but Albion slowly found their passing stride and James Morrison was the first player to threaten, dragging a 20-yard effort just wide after good build-up play.

Albion fan Goran Ivanisevic arrived just in time to see Morrison's effort, dashing from his AEGON Masters Tennis tournament defeat by Mark Philippoussis, which began at the Royal Albert Hall at 1pm, to watch the Baggies in the flesh for the first time.

QPR enjoyed a mini purple patch and Shaun Wright-Phillips shot wide of the left-hand post from just outside the box from Jamie Mackie's pull-back.

Moments later, Hoops skipper Barton saw a tame 25-yarder take a slight deflection and sail straight into Ben Foster's arms.

Albion were soon back on the attack and after Chris Brunt blasted a free-kick into the home defensive wall, the Baggies skipper lofted the rebound back into the box and Gareth McAuley directed a downward header straight at Radek Cerny.

And it was the visitors who created the first clear-cut chance of the game on 16.

Long did brilliantly to outmuscle Anton Ferdinand and play Nicky Shorey's punt into Dorrans' path. The Scotland international's first-time pass found Jerome Thomas in acres of space, but he could only side-foot straight at Cerny from15 yards.

It was QPR who drew first blood on 20. Mackie was first to pounce on the loose ball after seeing his cross blocked by Morrison and he teed up Barton, whose far-post centre was expertly headed home by Helguson - his sixth goal in seven Premier League appearances.

Rangers had the ball in the net again three minutes later but Wright-Phillips' spectacular effort was ruled out for offside. TV replays suggested the decision was tight!

QPR threatened again moments later when Jonas Olsson's headed clearance fell straight to Helguson. The former Watford striker advanced before firing over from 25 yards.

Albion were back on the attack in the 27th minute and Cerny raced off his line to gather the ball in the nick of time at the feet of Dorrans after more impressive play by Long.

The Baggies were slowly getting on top and Morrison created a decent chance for himself when he held off Barton and jinked inside Ferdinand, only to shoot straight at Cerny from just inside the box.

But it had largely been a poor half and it ended with one final scare for Albion.

After Olsson deflected Helguson's cross high into the Baggies box, Foster decided to come for the loose ball but ended up in no man's land and he was relieved to see Wright-Phillips head wide of his left-hand post.

The away end was up in arms just two minutes after the break when Morrison stormed into the box and went down after tangling with Danny Gabbidon and Armand Traore. However, Martin Atkinson was unmoved and TV replays suggested the referee got it right.

In the 49th minute, Albion had a huge let off when Helguson made the most of a fortunate ricochet to put Barton clean through. With Foster rushing out of his goal, the ex-Newcastle ace shot first time - and saw the ball creep inches wide of the right-hand post.

Four minutes later, the impressive Helguson tried his luck from 25 yards but shot harmlessly wide.

Back came Albion and after Thomas had flicked on Dorrans' angled free-kick, McAuley headed wide from eight yards.

Dorrans sent a presentable free-kick opportunity disappointingly into the QPR wall - moments before Albion found themselves living right on the edge.

Rangers worked the ball to Traore whose low cross was blocked by Olsson's outstretched boot. In the ensuing goalmouth melee, Morrison, Youssouf Mulumbu and Shorey all played their part in somehow scrambling the ball to safety.

Hodgson made his first change on 65, replacing Thomas with Peter Odemwingie.

But Albion almost shot themselves in the foot again on 70. Foster misjudged Jay Bothroyd's ball over the top as he raced to the side of his penalty area, allowing Traore to sneak past him. The Hoops left-back pulled an awkward ball back for Wright-Phillips, who volleyed wide of the empty net.

Albion surged straight upfield and Brunt fired a ferocious 25-yard drive just wide of the right-hand upright.

But the Baggies weren't to be denied and levelled nine minutes from time.

Man-of-the-match Morrison shrugged off Alejandro Faurlin before charging purposefully forward and slipping in Odemwingie down the left. The Nigeria striker's low centre took a slight deflection off ex-Baggie Gabbidon and was stabbed home by Long at the far post.

Albion finished strongly and Rangers' only other moment of note saw Wright-Phillips set up a late chance for sub Akos Buzsaky, but he shot harmlessly wide from the edge of the box.

In the first minute of stoppage time, Long shot harmlessly at Cerny from 30 yards. A minute later, Cerny had to pull off a fine save low to his right to keep out Brunt's inswinging free-kick, which had been inadvertently flicked on by Faurlin.

QPR (4-4-2): Cerny; Young, Ferdinand, Gabbidon, Traore; Wright-Phillips, Faurlin, Barton (c), Mackie; Bothroyd (Buzsaky 74), Helguson. Subs not used: Putnins (gk), Orr, Hill, Derry, Taarabt, Smith.

ALBION (4-4-1-1): Foster; Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Shorey; Brunt (c), Mulumbu (Scharner 83), Morrison, Thomas (Odemwingie 65); Dorrans (Tchoyi 78); Long. Subs not used: Fulop (gk), Jones, Cox, Dawson.

GOALS: QPR - Helguson (20). ALBION - Long (81).

BOOKINGS: ALBION - Long (foul 31), Thomas (foul 44), Reid (foul 54).

REFEREE: M Atkinson (Yorkshire).

ATTENDANCE: 17,290 (1,547 away fans).

ALBION STARMAN: James Morrison.

    Data provided by Press Association


    For the first 50 years of their existence, England played their home matches all around the country.