|Ainsworth earns share of New Year spoils|
Monday, 2nd Jan 2006 00:47
QPR came from behind to earn a point from the final holiday fixture against Burnley.
After back to back victories against Cardiff and Crewe respectively, the R's were looking for their third win on the spin ahead of the FA Cup tie away at Blackburn Rovers next weekend.
Holloway made a few changes following the win at Crewe and drafted Milanese back into the starting line-up. Santos was the man to make way for him with Matthew Rose moving alongside Shittu at centre back. The midfield consisted of Ainsworth, Langley, Rowlands and Cook. The striking places were taken up by Marc Nygaard and Shabazz Baidoo.
Burnley had a wealth of experience in Frank Sinclair, John Harley and John McGreal in defence as well as Mica Hyde in midfield and Ade Akinbiyi in attack.
Early on Shabazz Baidoo was heavily involved and was proving a real threat with his pace to the ageing Burnley backline. Sinclair, as he did pretty much all game, was penalised for fouling and from one resulting free kick Ainsworth headed narrowly over.
We were taking the game to the Clarets and looked somewhat high on confidence following recent results. But Burnley hadn't just come to make up the numbers and sit back. They looked to attack and with their advantage in midfield tried to over-run the R's in the middle of the park.
Burnley lined up with a five man midfield which was causing us all sorts of problems. Then after 10 minutes they opened the scoring with a well taken goal. After pretty much waltzing through our non-existent midfield, McCann curled a beauty of a shot past the diving Royce. It was a well taken goal and even attracted applause from some QPR fans.
After an encouraging start we started to go back into our shell. We were being over-run in midfield and in Cook and Langley we had two players who might just as well have not been there. Unfortunately for Langley pretty much everything he touched went wrong today and Cook certainly didn't have one of his better games shall we say.
The injuries just keep on coming and after 12 minutes Marc Nygaard was forced from the field - and was replaced by Paul Furlong. It's a constant problem with Nygaard, one which is costing us big time and is so frustrating for all concerned.
Burnley continued to stand strong and had some attacking opportunities as well with one header going narrowly wide. They provided far more going forward than I imagined they would and were a constant danger to our backline.
Royce had to make some excellent saves and his stop from Akinbiyi was one of the best saves you'll see all season. After a decent ball into the box, Akinbiyi hit a perfect shot goal wards that had absolutely no right to be saved. But Royce was on hand and somehow managed to instinctively save to his right hand side and hold the ball for good measure. It was superb. In fact it was so good even Ade Akinbiyi, one of our pet hates at Rangers, managed to give him a pat on the back for his efforts.
Just minutes later, with many still thinking about Royce's wonder save, we somehow managed to scrabble an equaliser, one that we certainly didn't deserve. Shittu hit a long cross field ball onto the head of Ainsworth who was on-rushing in the Clarets penalty area. With the keeper already off his line, Ainsworth saw the opportunity and won the header which sailed over the stranded keeper.
We went in at the break even and quite frankly we were very lucky to do so. The crowd were still applauding the wonder save from Royce and he deservedly received a standing ovation as he left the field.
At the start of the second we had livened up a bit and began to attack Burnley with a bit more conviction. Admittedly this wasn't very difficult considering our poor showing in the first half. After only a few minutes Furlong had a header tipped over the bar and then he lashed at a shot and sent it flying into the Loft.
Alongside him Baidoo was working hard and considering he was up against an experienced pairing in McGreal and Sinclair he did very well. Indeed they were both handed yellow cards for fouls during the second half. His pace is a real threat and he made some excellent runs to create space for himself.
Royce continued his excellent game and made another decent stop from Graham Branch. Holloway soon decided it was time to change things around and hauled off Langley as nothing had really gone his way. His replacement was young Scott Donnelly and his first touch of the ball was a free kick which narrowly went over the bar. Just minutes later he was involved in a good break away but his ball through to Ainsworth was over hit just slightly.
Matthew Rose also went down injured, yet again, and was replaced by Big Georges Santos. There is no doubt that he's more effective at centre half than at full-back but with Rosey you feel as if your just waiting for the next injury! Holloway said he didn't really want to play him in all these games but had little choice because of the injuries.
In the past when I've seen Akinbiyi he's just been a big annoying lump who moans and whinges all day - but today he showed he can actually play a bit. He was a threat all afternoon and Rose and Shittu had a real test on their hands.
As the game went into the final stages it was slowing down in pace as the festive games had an effect on both squads. We had one last chance though when Martin Rowlands hit the bar with a looping header - but the game had a draw written all over it.
The most activity didn't actually come from the players during the final stages of the game. In fact, it did come on the pitch but it was two naked men who decided they fancied a run out on the hallowed turf! Just quite how they got onto the field so easily is anyone's guess but they both seemed to enjoy their jaunt round the Burnley penalty area. Just one complaint though, next time please do it when they are attacking not when we are lining up an attack. Oh, and if we get fined you can pay that as well please!
And so the game faded away after the naked pair where literally carried off the field!! Both teams looked exhausted and this was one game too many really over the festive period. Next up is Blackburn and Holloway will again be looking to get some of his troops back fit.
QPR: Royce 8*, Bignot 6, Shittu 7, Rose 6 (Santos 75, 7), Milanese 7, Ainsworth 7, Langley 4 (Donnelly 75, 7), Rowlands 7, Cook 5, Baidoo 7, Nygaard 6 (Furlong 13, 6).
Subs Not Used: Cole, Moore.
Goals: Ainsworth 45.
Burnley: Jensen, Duff, McGreal, Sinclair, Harley, Elliott (Thomas 81), Hyde, James O'Connor, G O'Connor (Branch 69), McCann, Akinbiyi.
Subs Not Used: Grant, Karbassiyoon, Spicer.
Booked: Sinclair, McGreal.
Goals: McCann 10.
QPR Man of the Match: Simon Royce - Totally deserved. After a slight dip in form he has started the year off superbly. His saves today were first class, especially the Akinbiyi one which anyone would have proud off. Well done that man - he kept Rangers in the game today.
Ref: K Stroud (Hampshire) 7 - A fairly decent game from the ref today, in fact it wasn't a dirty affair at all really. Have we turned over a new leaf this year? I doubt it! He took a bit too long to get to grips with Sinclair and McGreal but nobody's perfect - not a bad display really.
Photo: Action Images
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