QUEENS Park Rangers relinquished top spot as they were held by a dogged Burnley line-up at Loftus Road this afternoon.
The hosts had the advantage when Adel Taarabt exhumed class as he sent a stunning strike beyond Lee Grant, shattering the malaise in a mediocre opening half.
Burnley were denied two penalties previously with the well-documented antics of Chris Eagles noted by the official with a yellow card – but it was a case of third time lucky for the Clarets.
Fresh off missing his first career penalty, Graham Alexander made amends with a well-taken spot kick – the first goal that Rangers have conceded at home in the Championship.
The second half seemed to typify the clash as a whole – a glut of talented players from Burnley held firmly on a leash by their boss Brian Laws, while Rangers struggled to find that creative spark.
Chances for Gorkss, Derry, Mackie and Agyemang came and went, while Rodriguez’s poked effort rolled inches wide of the left-hand upright.
Nevertheless Cardiff City deservedly take top spot in the npower Championship as Rangers were left to contemplate their lack of conviction in front of goal.
Neil Warnock made a solitary change from the side that drew at Bristol City with Rob Hulse making his debut for the hosts as Heidar Helguson dropped out with a shoulder injury.
Paddy Kenny lined up behind Kyle Walker, Kaspars Gorkss, Matt Connolly and Clint Hill, with Alejandro Faurlín once again lining up alongside Shaun Derry.
The attacking quartet consisted of Jamie Mackie, Adel Taarabt, Hogan Ephraim and Hulse, with the ex-Derby front-man getting a good hand from the Loftus Road crowd.
Burnley made three changes from the team that took Aston Villa all the way during the week – Ross Wallace, Jack Cork and Martin Paterson dropping to the bench.
Lee Grant was behind a back four of Tyrone Mears, Mike Duff, ex-R Clarke Carlisle and Danny Fox – Dean Marney, Graham Alexander and a former QPR loanee Dean Marney started in midfield.
Chris Eagles and Jay Rodriguez played in support of man-mountain forward Chris Iwelumo, the latter who undoubtedly would give the R’s defence a stern test.
Kick Off: Queens Park Rangers v Burnley
A deluge of rain welcomed the players as they took to the field as the R’s knew that a result today would help to keep the chasing pack at bay for the time being. A succession of difficult games appeared to have taken its toll, but now they would press for that elusive win.
Burnley were coming in hot off the heels of a manful display against Aston Villa during the week, drama in the last ten minutes was settled when Stewart Downing notched the winner – no doubt a couple of player would still be feeling the after effects of that clash.
Rangers burst out the block with a real feeling of vigour and revitalisation about his play, Adel Taarabt in particular was looking lively and ably supported by his sparring partner Jamie Mackie who looked to pounce on any potential defensive errors.
The Clarets sought respite in the guise of Iwelumo who effectively dispatched of Connolly and Gorkss on many occasions in a positive opening for the Scotsman. Despite the defenders being touch tight, he seemed to have an age to take the ball down and bring others into the game.
It was Rangers that fashioned the first opportunity of note as Taarabt’s early corner found Kaspars Gorkss only for the Latvian defender to glance wide of the mark. A genuine chance for the defender as
Rangers continued to press.
The visitors were looking to buy the seconds and create on the counter-attack as Eagles looked fleet-footed behind Iwelumo, sadly for the former Manchester United man, his search for goal was proving rather fruitless.
Indeed Iwelumo was the main attacking threat, supplemented by a strike from distance from ex-Rangers loanee Dean Marney. The midfielder promoted with Hull City scythed wide from outside the area in what was probably the Clarets’ best opportunity.
The defenders were having to fight hard for both sides with Shaun Derry’s effort deflecting to Jamie Mackie, but the R’s top scorer, going through somewhat of a baron run, was blocked out by Mike Duff – stout defending from the centre back.
An article earlier in the day highlighted the importance of Paddy Kenny and the ‘keeper displayed why he is held in high regard moments later. Wade Elliot was given the freedom of Loftus Road to come inside from the left and strike right-footed.
Kenny tipped the effort away for a corner before an even-more outstanding feat was achieved moments later. Eagles slammed an effort which Kenny parried out to Rodriguez, but the ‘keeper recovered to snaffle his effort away to the right – earning the adulation of his fellow players and supporters.
The fixture hit somewhat of a lull as Burnley seemed contented to soak up the pressure, but this was soon blown out of the water as Rangers’ most valuable talent stepped forward and shattered the malaise at Loftus Road.
Adel Taarabt surged forward on the counter-attack before shaking off his marker with some excellent skill and slamming right-footed beyond a forlorn Lee Grant. A truly classy effort which transcended the quality of the clash overall.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Burnley
Eagles picked up a booking for a frankly embarrassing tumble in the area, but once again the official took some prompting before making the decision. Ponderous were the officiating team at times at they stared at each other for leadership.
The red mist seemed to descent on Eagles who was involved in the action and went unpunished after three rather silly fouls, referee Mr Williamson gave the free-kicks and merely waved the midfielder away, and he could be considered somewhat fortunate not to get his marching orders.
Taarabt was looking back to his confident best as he tricked his way down the left flank and subsequently crossed for Hulse. The striker’s effort was blocked away and the Burnley rearguard lived to fight another day.
It therefore came as a surprise that Burnley would be given the opportunity to level as an innocuous 50/50 challenge between Marney and Connolly went the visitors’ way. Graham Alexander stepped forward and slammed beyond Paddy Kenny.
He took the kick with such composure and effortlessness given that he had missed his first penalty just the other week and Paddy Kenny hadn’t been beaten in the previous two. Nevertheless the Clarets were level and Rangers had it all to do again.
GOAL: Queens Park Rangers 1-1 Burnley
The half was mediocre at best with a moment of class initially separating the sides. Nevertheless Burnley’s leveller meant that the two sides would have another tight second half to look forward to, despite QPR probably edging the encounter thus far.
Half Time: Queens Park Rangers 1-1 Burnley
Brian Laws’ noted that Eagles temperament had departed and withdrew him at half time – Ross Wallace, summer signing from rivals Preston North End, took his place as Burnley this time came out and started playing.
Sensing they’d have to get the job done sooner rather than later the Clarets put together a good spell of possession and pressure. The R’s defence was stout however and no real mentionable chances could be put together, other than the occasional speculative drive.
One of these came from the boots of Jay Rodriguez. The striker who dumped Rangers out the FA Cup in 2009 struck from outside the area, only to see the ball whistle passed Paddy Kenny’s right hand upright.
Hogan Ephraim was taken off after the hour mark in what was certainly not his finest hour – he was replaced by Patrick Agyemang and immediately the fortunes started to turn for the hosts. He was joined by Leon Clarke moments later as a weary Hulse left the field of play.
Suddenly things started to click into place with an excellent pass from Shaun Derry finding Jamie Mackie. Opting not to square first time the former Plymouth man flashed a ball across the box, narrowly avoiding the head of Agyemang.
It was nearly Burnley’s for the taking as Iwelumo bought himself more space and time off the Rangers defenders and fired inches over the bar from just inside the area. It was an effort engineered by work rate and persistence, with Rangers relieved as he was replaced by Stephen Thompson.
It became agonising as both Gorkss and Clarke sent in some tremendous knock-backs only to be denied on every occasion. Agyemang sent a glancing header inches wide of the right-hand upright and you could sense the occasions slipping away.
Further chances came as Gorkss slammed over the bar from the edge of the six-yard box, before late second half domination nearly paid off as Derry strode up to a loose ball – unfortunately for him and Rangers his effort flew over the bar, much to his dismay.
Following their earlier foray Burnley were running on empty and the tactics to buy a few second were becoming a tad more apparent, indeed Lee Grant was warned on no less than SEVEN occasions by what was a rather poor official in Mr Williamson.
Credit is due to Burnley for their fighting spirit as the R’s grew stronger in the second period, but Rangers can look to second place and a lack of cutting edge as Warnock’s men nevertheless remain unbeaten in the npower Championship.
Full Time: Queens Park Rangers Burnley
Queens Park Rangers
Paddy Kenny, Kyle Walker, Kaspars Gorkss, Matt Connolly, Clint Hill, Alejandro Faurlín, Shaun Derry, Jamie Mackie, Adel Taarabt, Hogan Ephraim, Rob Hulse.
Lee Grant, Tyrone Mears, Mike Duff, Clarke Carlisle, Danny Fox, Graham Alexander, Dean Marney, Wade Elliott, Jay Rodriguez, Chris Eagles, Chris Iwelumo.