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QPR beaten at home by classy Clarets – full match report
QPR beaten at home by classy Clarets – full match report
Sunday, 16th Nov 2008 23:11

QPR missed their chance to move into the top six when they lost 2-1 at home to Burnley at Loftus Road on Saturday.

I have always said I will hold my hands up whenever QPR are beaten by a better side and today they are firmly in the air.

Burnley were everything I want my QPR team to be. They passed the ball well – quickly and accurately – and while they were certainly no Arsenal the aimless long ball down the field count was heavily weighted in QPR’s favour. Burnley came to Loftus Road with good strikers, and Robbie Blake showed the value of that with a crisp finish for the equaliser. Burnley have two excellent wide players, Chris Eagles was particularly impressive, to supply those strikers and were also strong and uncompromising at the back. Most of all they were good to watch and they were winners.

I would hope that none of that escaped the attention of Flavio Briatore in the directors’ box. Burnley are not afraid to spend money when the right player comes along and have given trust and total control to a very good young manager. QPR work their way through managers at a depressing rate and whenever one is appointed he has to deal with interference from above and include various loan players who just are not up to the job in his team. The results are there for all to see on both sides. I’d be tempted to say let’s try and get Owen Coyle down here as our new manager – but he’s clearly doing very nicely for himself at Turf Moor and doesn’t need to immerse himself in the nonsensical situation at Loftus Road.

It could all have been so different having said that. QPR dominated the first 25 minutes, could have scored more than the one goal they got during that period and even in the second half when they were distinctly second best they had two very decent shouts for a penalty at the Loft End turned down. That Burnley’s winning goal came from a soft free kick award only exacerbated QPR’s irritation with the officials.

As usual there were changes to the QPR team - Rangers are yet to keep the same starting line up for consecutive matches this season. Gavin Mahon picked up a knock at Old Trafford and dropped to the bench to allow Damiano Tommasi to return in midfield and Hogan Ephraim got a rare start wide right following the terrible news about Akos Buzsaky. I thought it was strange that neither Patrick Agyemang nor Emmanuel Ledesma, who were two of our better players off the bench on Tuesday, got a start here.

Burnley came into the game on the back of a memorable League Cup win at Chelsea – that game took place 24 hours later than our game in Manchester and went on for half an hour longer so it was reasonable to assume they may suffer from fatigue despite spending the week in London rather than travelling up and down the M6 all week. Former QPR man Clarke Carlisle returned to the defence after missing the Chelsea game with a ban – he replaced Stephen Caldwell who was sent off during extra time period at Stamford Bridge. Steve Thompson returned to the attack at the expense of Martin Paterson who had scored against Rangers for Scunthorpe last season.

Burnley went on the attack straight from the kick off and QPR were lucky not to be reduced to ten men in the first thirty seconds. Chris Eagles pushed the ball past Peter Ramage wide on the Burnley left and the QPR man lunged in with a horribly mistimed tackle that cut the former Man Utd midfielder down above the ankle and could have caused a very serious injury. It was a shocking tackle really and I think only the time it took place and the fact that Eagles made it pretty obvious that he was alright saved Ramage from a red card. There could have been few complaints if he had been sent off, in the end referee Andy Woolmer let him off with a yellow card.

After that QPR started the game the brighter of the two teams but the only real action of note in the first ten minutes saw Clarke Carlisle reopen an old wound on his nose after a tangle in the air with Dexter Blackstock. The former QPR man, who received a muted reception at Loftus Road despite the now infamous ‘moving north to be near my family’ debacle, was soon back on with a changed shirt.

The first real attempt on goal came after ten minutes when Matt Connolly brought the ball out of defence and hit a shot about a foot over the bar from 25 yards out. Four minutes later QPR went into the lead.

The goal when it came saw a return to the old Cook and Blackstock combination down the left flank that brought QPR such joy two seasons ago but has so far failed to click this year. Cook needed a bit of luck and the bounce of the ball to get past veteran full back Graham Alexander but having done that and reached the corner of the penalty area he fed a great ball inside to Blackstock who took the shot on early, through the legs of Michael Duff and into the bottom corner of Brian Jensen’s net. The earliness of the shot and slight nick off the defender deceived the giant goalkeeper and QPR were into the lead.

Carlisle twice headed behind for corners and Jensen had to be on his guard twice in a minute shortly after the goal. First Blackstock headed Ephraim’s corner over the goalkeeper and towards the net but he was able to scramble back and fling up an arm to divert it over. Then the former West Brom man was on hand with a routine save to deny Martin Rowlands from distance. Still, QPR had started well and were much the better team at this stage.

That was not to last. Chris McCann served warning of Burnley’s intent when he instigated a flowing move down the middle of the pitch on the half hour – playing a one two with Blake before seeing the ball taken off his toe by a terrific tackle on the edge of the area by Connolly.

Burnley equalised just after the half hour with their first real threat on the QPR goal but after that they didn’t look back. The QPR defence, so solid on Tuesday night, melted away in front of Gudjonsson as he worked the ball to the edge of the area and with Fitz Hall pushed too far forward and Ramage nowhere to be seen Robbie Blake had time to turn inside the box and fire an unstoppable shot past Cerny and into the roof of the net. A fine example of the importance of having good strikers in your team – QPR had huffed, puffed and outplayed Burnley for the best part of half an hour and scored once, the Clarets equalised with a minimum of effort with their first attack. From that point on there was only one team in the match and it wasn’t wearing blue and white hoops.

McCann and Eagles both hit long distance shots off target and Joey Gudjonsson tried an outrageous 45 yard attempt on goal from a free kick that troubled only the people on the front row of the Upper Loft. Cerny saved from McCann and the QPR back four was forced to deal with a number of dangerous crosses from the impressive Elliott on the Burnley right and Eagles who was involved in everything down the opposite flank. It was from a left wing cross by Eagles that QPR lost Matt Connolly to injury – he got up well at the back post to flick a header out of the danger zone but he obviously over extended himself to do it and he immediately held the base of his spine after landing. The former Arsenal junior did not reappear for the second half, Damien Delaney came on at left back to replace him.

The two Burnley wingers continued to torment QPR straight after half time. First Eagles found McCann in the area but Stewart got in a good block, then Elliott hit a shot straight at Cerny after a jinking run and finally Eagles fired no more than two inches wide from the edge of the penalty area. Burnley simply looked better in every department – they passed the ball very well, looked quicker and more incisive, and had a superb midfield four that totally annihilated its opposite numbers.

QPR did have a couple of chances though. Just before the hour mark a ball in behind Burnley finally caught out Clarke Carlisle who had been excellent to this point. Blackstock moved it out of his feet and set off for the penalty area. When he arrived the striker was involved in a tussle with Carlisle inside the area and crashed to earth just as he was about to pull the trigger. The Lower Loft reacted with fury as Woolmer waved away the penalty appeals and Blackstock could scarcely believe it himself. The general consensus in F Block was that it was a spot kick. Blackstock was sent tumbling in different circumstances a quarter of an hour later when he reached a loose ball on the edge of the box first, poked it past the last man and was then sent tumbling by a late trip from Duff – that looked a nailed on spot kick to me and again Woolmer waved the appeals away.

In between those two incidents Sam Di Carmine went close to scoring, and Burnley went one better at the other end. The Italian striker, like Blackstock, managed to get in behind the Burnley defence and race into the penalty area but Brian Jensen produced a fine save at close range to deny him at the near post.

At the other end QPR were probably glad to see the back of Chris Eagles when he pulled up with what looked like a hamstring injury chasing back down the line. Eagles had been the outstanding player on the pitch up to that point but his replacement Alan Mahon is no mug himself and he was only on the pitch for four minutes before giving Burnley the lead.

A very soft decision by the referee started it – Stewart harshly punished for an almost non-existent touch on Blake. Woolmer waved away two penalty appeals presumably because he didn’t think there was enough contact or a foul, but everywhere else on the pitch he blew his whistle and gave decisions for the most meagre of touches and trips. Surely a foul is a foul wherever it occurs on the pitch? If either of the Blackstock penalty appeals had been outside the area he would have given free kicks without giving it a second thought.

The ball didn’t go in straight away from the free kick but when Elliott did finally deliver it was a cross of good quality that had the QPR defence strung out like washing across their own penalty area. Fitz Hall tried to head the ball away at full stretch at the back post but succeeded only in flicking it in the direction of Mahon and he struck a crisp volley back across Cerny and into the far corner of the net. A nicely taken, though totally preventable, goal and no more than the visitors deserved.

Ainsworth immediately responded by adding Patrick Agyemang as a third striker at the expense of Hogan Ephraim and, as he did on Tuesday, Agyemang did at least pose a threat with his pace and determination that we just had not done without him. His first action saw him come out of an seemingly impossible situation down by the Loft End corner flag with two Burnley players around him and produce a cross but sadly that came to nothing.

Ainsworth also sent on Gavin Mahon for Tommasi who had played pretty poorly to be fair but Burnley kept enjoying the best of the play and Radek Cerny had to be at his best to deny first Blake from close range and then Gudjonsson from long distance.

QPR for their part thought they’d equalised when Blackstock went within an inch of doubling his tally for the afternoon with a flicked header from 12 yards that bounced once and almost skimmed the outside of the post with Jensen well beaten.

Jensen started to make one or two enemies among the home support after this with various cynical attempts to waste time and a massive overreaction to minimal contact from Blackstock as the pair chased a through ball – he spent a minute or so pretending to writhe in agony clutching his face but was miraculously then able to get up and play on unaffected thereafter. Jensen avoided punishment from the match officials, Joey Gudjonsson did not and he was harshly booked for a foul on Patrick Agyemang.

Burnley introduced McDonald for Blake and our old foe Ade Akinbiyi for Steve Thompson but all the former new comer had to show for his efforts in the closing stages was a yellow card for a cynical shirt puling offence against Di Carmine as he raced towards goal down the middle of the pitch. Stephen Jordan also went into the book, seemingly for speaking out of turn to the match officials.

The various substitutions and treatment for Jensen and Eagles meant five minutes of stoppage time and although Ainsworth had by now added Fitz Hall to his attack and QPR did force three corners the closest they came was a header from Patrick Agyemang which he should really have scored with from eight yards out but in the end he could only divert it wide for a goalkick. Agyemang also went close with a venomous strike on the turn from 18 yards out but Jensen flung up an arm to divert it over the bar.

However Burnley posed just as much, if not more, of a threat despite not needing to score again. On three occasions they broke up a QPR attack and attacked in big numbers – only more solid defending from the QPR player of the season so far Damion Stewart prevented them from adding a third but it was impossible not to admire the ethos of a team that continued to commit players to attack despite leading 2-1 away from home in stoppage time.

In the end the scoreline just about reflected the game and I left Loftus Road feeling pretty jealous of the opposition. In Eagles, Elliott and Blake they have three players that we are crying out for – good quality wide players capable of delivering service into the box and a striker to get on the end of things. They played what I would call good Championship football – short, accurate passes with plenty of pace and power in the side. The best team that has come to Loftus Road this season by some distance for my money.

QPR just were not quite as good as Burnley. Ramage, Connolly and Delaney all struggled to cope with the wide players and Fitz Hall was not nearly as good as he had been at Old Trafford. In midfield Martin Rowlands worked very hard but Tommasi was pretty poor, Lee Cook supplied the cross for the goal but was well marshalled by Alexander other than that and bottled a number of headers and tackles in the second half while Ephraim got very little joy wide right. Up front Blackstock, despite scoring, and Di Carmine were not particularly effective and it was only when Agyemang came on in the second half that we had a real threat to trouble Burnley with.

At the end of the day Burnley are a settled club with a good manager who is allowed a budget to spend in the transfer market and is able to get on with his job without boardroom interference. None of that is the case at QPR and the difference was there for all to see.

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QPR: Cerny 6, Ramage 5, Stewart 7, Hall 6, Connolly 5 (Delaney 46, 5), Ephraim 5 (Agyemang 63, 7), Rowlands 6, Tommasi 5 (Mahon 53, 6) Cook 5, Blackstock 6, Di Carmine 5
Subs Not Used: Cole, Ledesma
Booked: Ramage (foul)
Goals: Blackstock 14 (assisted Cook)

Burnley: Jensen 7, Alexander 7, Duff 7, Carlisle 8, Jordan 7, Elliott 8, McCann 7, Gudjonsson 7, Eagles 8 (Mahon 56, 8), Blake 8 (McDonald 79, 7) Thompson 6 (Akinbiyi 84, -)
Subs Not Used: Penny, Paterson
Booked: Gudjonsson (foul), Jordan (foul), McDonald (foul)
Goals: Blake 34, Mahon 60

QPR Star Man – Damion Stewart 7 Just about the best of a poor bunch although I was tempted to give it to Patrick Agyemang simply for posing a threat and getting stuck in during the last half hour. Stewart played pretty well, although not as well as in recent weeks, getting the better of his battle with Thompson and providing a pacy and physical barrier to the waves of Burnley attacks that took hold after the half hour mark.

Referee: Andy Woolmer 4 Should probably have sent Ramage off in the first minute and harshly booked Gudjonsson in the second half but the main talking points were the two penalty decisions. The first one I thought was but can see why he didn’t give it as it was a shoulder to shoulder tangle, the second I thought was nailed on. Having not given those he then proceeded to whistle up for every meagre bit of contact anywhere else on the pitch including in the build up to the second Burnley goal which was a very inconsistent attitude to take. Failed to clamp down on Jensen’s time wasting but did ad on five minutes for it at the end.

Attendance: 13,226 (1000 Burnley approx) Pretty subdued atmosphere around Loftus Road even when QPR started well – the empty seats are increasing in number by the week and it’s not hard to see why. Not a bad following from Burnley although they didn’t make a great deal of noise.

Photo: Action Images

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