Gritty draw lifts Harry’s QPR hopes


QUEENS Park Rangers manager Harry Redknapp insists the toughest challenge of his career looks a fraction less trying after inspiring the Premier League’s basement club to a battling draw in his first match in charge last night.

Goalkeeper Rob Green’s outstanding reaction save to thwart a Steven Fletcher header helped earn their first away clean sheet in 24 games, while Shaun Wright-Phillips might even have snatched all three points.

A Sunderland side with only two wins in eight months did not represent the sternest test, and QPR remain without a league win all season and eight points away from safety.

But Redknapp’s grizzled midfield trio of Samba Diakite, Stephane Mbia and Esteban Granero made them a far more solid proposition, fuelling the former Tottenham manager’s belief that they can avoid relegation.

“I’m more optimistic than I was on Saturday, that’s for sure. We well deserved a draw and I was pleased with the performance. I liked the look of us,” said Redknapp, who effectively took charge this week.

“I went for power in midfield with the two African boys [Diakite and Mbia]. You wouldn’t want to play against those two. Diakite looks like he could be a really good player for us. Mbia did well too and Granero can play, so there were positives. The position we’re in is very difficult, but I can see there are decent players here.”

A perfect start for Redknapp beckoned when Adel Taarabt looped a cross to the back post early, but Djibril Cisse miscued his header. Before half-time Taarabt found Jamie Mackie, but Simon Mignolet was out quickly to smother and the Moroccan’s follow-up was blocked.

Green expertly clawed away Fletcher’s point-blank header from a Sebastian Larsson corner, yet QPR could still have plundered victory, Granero launching a counter-attack that eventually flowed to Wright Phillips, but his tame shot was easily stopped by Mignolet.