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QPR and Burnley bore their way to unwanted replay - full match report
QPR and Burnley bore their way to unwanted replay - full match report
Sunday, 4th Jan 2009 19:08

QPR must travel to Burnley a week on Tuesday for a replay nobody wanted after a third round game everybody wishes they had given a miss.

The commentator on the highlights programme pointed out that the last time QPR won an FA Cup tie, against Luton, Bill Clinton was still the President of the United States. Chelsea, Blackburn, Nottingham Forest, Swansea, Luton, Grimsby and of course Vauxhall Motors have all been and gone since our 2001 success against the Hatters and it seems that Burnley are about to add their own notch to the bed post.

Hopefully you will forgive the shorter than usual match report this week. As the old saying goes ‘you cannot polish a turd’ and even my ability to waffle on about football has been severely tested by abysmal the fair served up at Loftus Road on Saturday afternoon.

This was almost a carbon copy of the bore draw with Watford in the previous home game although on that occasion the final whistle brought blessed relief, on Saturday it just confirmed that Rangers have a nightmare replay in the north a week on Tuesday. QPR did also at least create a couple of chances to miss against the Hornets, against Burnley they failed to muster a serious shot on target in the entire match and showed absolutely no ambition or ability to go on and win the game.

The midfield, despite one change before the match and two further alterations in the second half, created nothing. The crossing from the full backs was as dire as ever and with Blackstock in pathetic form and Di Carmine looking more and more like a white Sammy Koejoe with each passing game I would have been less surprised to see the pedestrian pace of the game interrupted by a pitch invasion from Lord Lucan than a QPR goal.

That meant only Burnley could prevent the replay that nobody wanted from taking place but although they rattled the QPR bar when on top in the first half they understandably looked like a team with other things on its mind, certainly a shadow of the slick outfit Rangers lost to here in November, and they showed little ambition to win the game themselves in the second period. Consequently a pitifully low crowd was treated to the sight of two teams slogging it out at a walking pace with rarely any suggestion that a goal might be scored, or even almost scored. This was, I am afraid, about as bad as football gets.

One of the reasons QPR have gone from a team that outplayed Wolves and Preston in entertaining style to a side that has drawn its last three games and hasn’t scored in its last two is the constant chopping and changing of the team. Of course Sousa needs to experiment and have a good look at what he has got but after picking up good results on the back of a high paced, physical style of play that featured Agyemang and Heglsuon up front with Cook, Ephraim and Rowlands picking bits up behind them it seems strange that we have now gone so far away from that – particularly in a knockout game like this. Sousa has spoken of his eagerness to spend most of January, when Rangers were meant to have just one midweek match, on the training ground but now, mainly because of his team selection, he must travel north in the middle of next week.

The Portuguese played Mahon and Leigertwood together in midfield, presumably to counter Wade Elliott and Chris Eagles in the Burnley midfield who had played so well in the league meeting between these sides. Sensible enough if it was not for the complete inability of Mahon and Leigertwood to play together in midfield. Whenever the two are selected together QPR are dire, laboured in possession and pedestrian in pace – that was the case once again here. One of the problems created by Flavio’s taste for sacking managers is the fact we then have to sit and watch while the new man spends weeks and weeks working out what we already know; Leigertwood + Mahon = day better spent in the pub.

Up front Samuel Di Carmine, despite an abject performance at Charlton, returned alongside top scorer Dexter Blacstock. Helguson was nowhere to be seen with reasons varying from the flu through injury to an idea that he was not signed permanently in time. No start either for another of Friday’s signings Wayne Routledge who appeared in dirty jeans and Smurf like hat on the pitch before the match with his new number seven shirt. Let’s hope he has more luck with it than Daniel Parejo.

Anyway I’m babbling here because I know as soon as I start talking about the match I will have nothing to write about. Leigertwood and Mahon were joined in midfield by Cook at the top of the diamond and Rowlands down the side. Fitz Hall had a minor op on a broken nose during the week, something else our club neglected to tell us about in the build up, so Gorkss and Stewart partnered each other between Delaney and Ramage and in front of Cerny.

Burnley came into the game with all sorts of problems of their own. Steven Caldwell and Stephen Jordan were both suspended from the back four so there was a recall for Kalvenes at full back after seven weeks out with an injury. Going forward in form Martin Paterson, Robbie Blake who scored here in the league and former Cardiff target man Steve Thompson all started in an attacking line up. With injuries and suspensions biting into a small squad at a busy time of the season, Burnley were unable to name a full bench of seven subs.

The game started as it meant to go on with neither team on song and possession difficult to come by. Damion Stewart was lucky to avoid a booking when he upended Chris Eagles in full flight but he did pull his leg away and referee Tony Bates gave him the benefit of the doubt.

It took fully 20 minutes for a serious attempt on the goal but then suddenly we had two in quick success. First a great cross field ball from Damion Stewart found Di Carmine on the left corner of the box, he cut in and shot but Jensen was equal to it. Then down at the Loft End after a partially cleared corner Wade Elliott let rip with a 25 yard dipping volley that Cerny seemed to leave to go over but actually hit the cross bar and dropped down into the six yard box – luckily for the home team Paterson and Thompson who were both waiting to pounce on the rebound were flagged offside.

Di Carmine tried his luck from distance on three or four occasions, more often than not seeing his shots blocked away by defenders. He has a fine shot on him, we have seen that in the Birmingham match, but I remain unimpressed with him. He is too slow to really trouble defenders and does not bring any serious aerial threat to counter that. At least on Saturday though he tried one or two things, you could not say the same of his partner Dexter Blackstock who had his worst game for some time. If the rumours about his departure for big money are true he must hope there were no scouts there watching him on Saturday because he barely looked League Two standard.

Rangers should have taken the lead when Mikele Leigertwood strode onto a Lee Cook cross at the back post after half an hour or so but his first time volley embarrassing flew out for a throw in on the Ellerslie Road side of the ground – another player linked with a move this January who will hope the scouts decided to give this match a miss.

Ten minutes before half time Chris Eagles sent a dazy cutter in on goal that was easily saved by Cerny and that really was it for the first half – four incidents of note and all in all a thoroughly boring encounter. Sousa reacted by replacing Cook at half time for the second game running – last week Dexter Blackstock came on to replace him, this week it was Emmanuel Ledesma and although he started brightly in the first ten minutes of the second half with a couple of shots dragged wide and some ambitious through balls that got picked off by the last defender he quickly faded from the game. The word is Cook was injured hence the change but he has now been taken off very early in the last thee matches and that does not bode well for his long term prospects under Sousa – the last player that happened to was Parejo.

The closest QPR came to breaking the deadlock was about seven minutes after the break when Kaspars Gorkss got a hooked volley on a bouncing ball in the area after going forward for a free kick but the ball landed on the roof of the net rather than in the back of it. At the other end Thompson turned in the penalty area and skied a shot into the Burnley fans. It was turgid stuff.

Sousa threw caution to the wind somewhat by removing Mahon and replacing him with Ephraim. That did at least give Rangers a new line of attack down the right hand side and the best passages of play in the second half came when Ephraim and Ramage combined. The problem there was although he had a pretty decent game Ramage consistently failed to produce a final ball of any quality whatsoever despite getting countless attempts to do so. Some he curled straight out, some he kicked straight to Jensen in the Burnley goal, some were headed clear, but on only one occasion did he a cross a ball of any quality at all – that was in the first half and nobody was there to head it goalwards.

This diamond formation that Sousa plays means you have to have quality at full back. There is no winger to double up and help them in defence or attack in front of them so the majority of the crosses from wide have to come from the two and three positions. Only QPR could set up like this and not have a decent full back at the club. On the other side Delaney, like Ramage, played reasonably well until it came to putting a ball into the penalty area. A ball touched back to him in the second half gave him a great chance to cross under no pressure but he kicked it straight to Jensen. Last week in an identical situation he kicked the ball into the Loft. I wonder if he has done any crossing practice after training in the meantime?

Agyemang replaced Di Carmine with twenty minutes left to play, Blackstock can count himself lucky, but flattered to deceive after being introduced and QPR failed to threaten the goal again save for one cross into the six yard box from Agyemang that was cleared by the excellent Clarke Carlisle before it got to the QPR man at the back post. Referee Tony Bates, impressive throughout, rightly waved away a half hearted penalty appeal after a coming together between Duff and Agyemang on the left side of the penalty box.

At the other end Burnley introduced Alan Mahon, who had scored the winner in the league meeting, for Robbie Blake and he drilled a shot wide while Chris Eagles looked to have a good chance to win the game after a surging run through the middle of the QPR defence but he took a poor chance and ran the ball out of play before he could get a shot away.

The QPR fans passed the time by sledging Burnley keeper Brian Jensen. He took the jibes about his weight in good spirit, laughing and waving along at it all, but to be honest such was his work rate on the day he could have gone and sat with the instigators in the Q and R blocks and joined in for a bit without damaging his team’s chances of winning too much.

The final whistle was greeted with boos by the tiny Loftus Road crowd. After 24 years of supporting QPR I finally came to a game that I would not have minded us losing as long as we did not end up with a replay and the inconsiderate bastards never looked like doing anything other than draw. QPR fans can again point to the team selection as a reason for this with some justification but as the flow of information from our club has now slowed to a trickle nobody has any idea whether Routledge and Helguson were injured or not signed in time, whether Hall was injured or dropped and so on. If Sousa had no choice then fair enough, if he did then I am afraid it was a negative starting eleven never likely to score that got what it deserved.

Only the centre halves, on both sides, impressed in this game and even that was only because QPR had nobody with any pace or guile to trouble Carlisle who was outstanding against the lifeless Blackstock and Di Carmine partnership.

QPR must now travel to Burnley a week on Tuesday to a ground they do not tend to do well on in a competition they have an abysmal recent record in. It will be a cold and probably fruitless trip, interrupting one of Sousa’s treasured full weeks on the training ground. The Clarets for their part have to find eleven players fit enough to face the R’s with their small squad sure to be stretched to the limit by a League Cup semi final and league match both taking place beforehand and another of both to take place immediately afterwards.

I dare say that, given the choice, both managers would happily have walked out to the centre circle at full time and tossed a coin for it rather than replay the game. That probably would have been more entertaining than anything that happened in the preceding two hours.

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QPR: Cerny 6, Ramage 6, Gorkss 7, Stewart 7, Delaney 6, Rowlands 7, Leigertwood 5, Cook 5 (Ledesma 46, 5), Mahon 4 (Ephraim 61, 6), Di Carmine 5 (Agyemang 72, 5), Blackstock 4

Subs Not Used: Cole, Connolly, Alberti, Oastler

Burnley: Jensen 6, Alexander 6, Duff 7, Carlisle 8, Kalvenes 6, Eagles 6, Gudjonsson 6, Elliott 7, Blake 5 (Mahon 72, 5), Paterson 7, Thompson 6 (Rodriguez 86, -)

Subs Not Used: Penny, Akinbiyi, Kay, MacDonald

QPR Star Man – Damion Stewart 7 Stewart, Gorkss and to some extent Rowlands were the only ones that did their jobs with any degree of competence. Stewart combined the usual dominant defensive display with some good long range passing, including a classy cross field ball to Di Carmine in the first half that resulted in our only shot on target. Such rare moments of quality shine out like a beacon through the gloom of mediocrity in a game like this.

Referee: Tony Bates (Staffordshire) 8 Should have booked Stewart for fouling Eagles in the first half but other than that it was hard to fault him and he was hardly noticeable save for one or two mistakes over throw ins and a corner. Not a lot to referee admittedly but excellent all the same.

Attendance: 8,896 (500 Burnley approx) The worst Saturday crowd at Loftus Road for many a long year and the reason is very simple – the football is shit and the tickets are too expensive. Not bloody rocket science. Football clubs need to wake up and have a look around the financial situation everybody in this country is in at the moment, ours especially. Presumably those in charge are sitting down at the moment to have a think about season ticket prices for next year – this should send a clear message to them.

Photo: Action Images

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