BURNLEY took all three points at Loftus Road to round off a thoroughly enjoyable week for the Clarets.
The visitors who had conquered R`s West London neighbours Chelsea mid-week, secured the win in style in W12, courtesy of two pin point efforts.
In similar circumstances to last season they had to come from behind as Dexter Blackstock poked the ball home from close range to hand the R`s the lead.
The Clarets were level before half time as Robbie Blake spun and shot from inside the area to see the ball fly into the top left hand corner.
A classy Burnley side wrapped up the game in the second period as substitute Alan Mahon drove home from the left hand side of the area, to send the away end into raptures.
Rangers were left frustrated by referee Mr Woolmer, as he denied Rangers what seemed two cast-iron penalties in the second period, but in fairness to the visitors a draw would not have done justice to a gifted Burnley display.
With Akos Buzsaky suspended Emmanuel Ledesma was overlooked with Hogan Ephraim the favoured choice down the right flank, perhaps putting pay to the rumours that a certain Mr Briatore is picking the side.
Daniel Parejo dropped out the squad entirely, presumably with injury as the strike force of Samuel Di Carmine and Dexter Blackstock preferred to the influential Patrick Agyemang who remained on the bench.
Owen Coyle as expected had to shuffle his pack after an energy sapping game against Chelsea midweek. Suspended Steven Caldwell dropped out the squad with former Ranger Clarke Carlisle returning to a fairly tepid reception.
R`s foe Ade Akinbiyi remained on the bench with Stephen Thompson leapfrogging him into the side despite his goalscoring exploits in the week, with former Scunthorpe man Martin Paterson having to make do with a place on the bench.
Queens Park Rangers v Burnley
In a fairly tepid opening it was the Clarets who had all the play, with Rangers chasing shadows from the off. Chris Eagles was impressive down the left flank, and the former Manchester United man drew the foul from Peter Ramage who went into the book in the early stages.
Eagles was teasing Rangers defenders with a breathtaking display of skill and technique, with the R`s on the back foot having to do most of the defending.
The pressure was released slightly when Matthew Connolly`s swashbuckling run from the left full back position found him in good range outside the area; the former Arsenal man let fly right footed inches wide of the right hand upright. In truth however man mountain stopper Brian Jensen had the shot well covered.
Rangers were beginning to assert some impetus on proceedings, and to the delight of the home support, they took the lead somewhat against the run of play. Lee Cook got away from his man down the left after a succession of disappointing crosses, he laid the ball back for Dexter Blackstock, and the former Southampton man poked home through the legs of the defender to hand the R`s the lead.
The shot was perfectly placed in the corner, with the aid of a slight deflection beat Jensen all ends up flying into the bottom right hand corner. Blackstock`s sixth goal of the season was the first time Rangers had scored in the first half for a disappointing 12 games.
Queens Park Rangers 1-0 Burnley
Rangers started to look good for the lead as they began to test keeper Brian Jensen. Dexter Blackstock`s well guided header had to be tipped over the bar by Jensen in a succession of corners for the hosts.
The corners continued to fly in and culminated in a left footed drive by Martin Rowlands, which Jensen got down to well to his left. Despite this it was the Clarets who continued to play all the football, with Flavio Briatore looking on from the stands.
The away followers didn`t have to wait too long before they were back in the fixture, and for all their possession it was well-deserved. Rangers had taken their foot off the gas and were ultimately punished by experienced forward Robbie Blake.
Burnley were looking similar to Rangers earlier on this campaign, with plenty of excellent passing in an around the area, but no killer instinct, however Blake provided this in abundance. The defence was too slow in closing him down with his back to goal, and Robbie Blake spun and shot into the top left hand corner giving Radek Cerny no chance.
Queens Park Rangers 1-1 Burnley
The visitors had their just deserts for their dominance as Rangers looked shell-shocked and a shadow of the sight that fought for victory against Birmingham a few weeks ago.
Burnley were now flying out of the blocks with Rangers seemingly incapable of keeping the ball, and they were nearly punished again as the mercurial Chris Eagles sent a fierce, dipping drive over the bar as he was relishing coming inside and running at the Rangers rearguard.
Chris McCann, who scored an incredible goal against Rangers two years ago, sent a good low drive straight into the arms of a grateful Radek Cerny, as Rangers were being forced onto the back foot.
As against Manchester United midweek, playing attacking football was not for the want of trying, but Rangers simply didn`t have the ball to pass around, as the Clarets were coasting through the midfield with some scything passes and tricky wingwork.
Suffice to say the R`s were begging for the half time whistle, and whistle happy Mr Woolmer duly obliged. Rangers still level more by luck than by judgement.
Half Time: Queens Park Rangers 1-1 Burnley
Rangers made a half time change with Matthew Connolly making way for Damien Delaney, presumably for an injury, as a tactical change in that position didn`t seem warranted. Sure enough Connolly was being beaten for pace, but the slow dulcet running style of Delaney would scarcely improve that situation.
In stark contrast to Rangers wingwork, Burnley were attacking from the flanks with Eagles curling a right footed drive narrowly wide of the left hand upright, before Wade Elliott forced Cerny into a good stop with a stinging drive from the right.
It seemed that despite evidently being motivated at half time, Rangers lacked the ability to pass to one of their own. Lee Cook offered Rangers a life-line at times down the left flank but his runs were too few and far between as Rangers were visibly suffering.
Then came a major talking point in the fixture as Dexter Blackstock surged through on goal after a pin-point ball over the top; as he was about to pull the trigger he received what can only be described as a two handed shove by Clarke Carlisle, referee Woolmer and linesman had a good view of the incident and denied Rangers a spot kick. The question being, why would Dexter go down when all he had to do was roll it in the net?
Moments later Samuel Di Carmine forced Brian Jensen into a point blank save, after which he was chopped up in the air, the irony being had he swung and missed the ball – he probably would have earned Rangers a spot-kick.
In the build up to that incident Chris Eagles was floored on the left hand side of the area, visibly in pain. The stretcher came on for the former Manchester United man who was carried off evidently in a lot of distress.
It didn`t take long before the visitors had the lead and with it the game as Eagles` replacement Alan Mahon netted for the Clarets. More excellent running from Wade Elliott left the fleeting intentions of Lee Cook, before he found goal scorer Robbie Blake, who in turn fed Alan Mahon for a neat left footed finish into the bottom right hand corner on the hour mark.
Queens Park Rangers 1-2 Burnley
Desperation set in as Rangers could no longer sit on a point, prompting Gareth Ainsworth to throw on Patrick Agyemang in place of the ineffectual Hogan Ephraim. Now Rangers had a three pronged attack, in fact their total available strike force was on the field.
Time continued to tick on as Burnley retained the ball well, and only a minority of chances greeted Rangers, which they ultimately continued to spurn. Fitz Hall`s well timed cross from the right wing found Dexter Blackstock, whose header flew agonisingly wide.
Radek Cerny was once again keeping Rangers in the game as a spectacle as he made another excellent save from Joey Gudjonsen, continuing on from the Manchester United display which earned him man of the match.
Another Rangers chance came and went as Agyemang burst through into the box to produce an excellent save from the inspired Jensen. The Ghanaian substitute drove the ball with the inside of his right boot, to which the Burnley stopper was more then equal to.
As the game drew onwards Rangers attacks became more frenetic as Samuel Di Carmine capitalised on some poor defending to see Dexter Blackstock chopped down. As Loftus Road appealed as one once again, the referee was not as certain, instead looking for advice from his linesman despite being in a far better position, and ultimately he did nothing – he bottled it.
Burnley were defending to a man, as they brought on Rangers nemesis Ade Akinbiyi to freshen things up in the forward line. Fitz Hall was forced up front as Rangers had a five prong attack. Patrick Agyemang was the catalyst for everything that the R`s had produced, once breaking free from the corner flag despite the attentions of two Burnley defenders.
Ultimately however it was the Clarets who looked more like getting a third as Akinbiyi was attempting to evade a limp offside trap, but couldn`t keep his feet when through on goal. The Burnley fans were buoyant, and full praise must go out to the ones that decided to show up and call themselves real supporters, after what must have been an expensive trip down the road.
They gave out the loudest cheer in the ground as the final whistle went up as Rangers fans fairly shuffled out with mumblings of a need for a manager and a strike force – funny that these discussions seem to be occurring on a weekly basis.
Rangers well beaten, but had they got the right decisions in terms of penalties it may have turned the game in their favour, nevertheless Burnley were good value for the win to round off a memorable week for the play-off contending Clarets.
Final Whistle: Queens Park Rangers 1-2 Burnley
QPR: Radek Cerny, Peter Ramage, Fitz Hall, Damion Stewart, Matthew Connolly (Damien Delaney 46), Hogan Ephraim (Patrick Agyemang 62), Martin Rowlands, Damiano Tommasi (Gavin Mahon 52), Lee Cook, Samuel Di Carmine, Dexter Blackstock.
Burnley: Brian Jensen, Graham Alexander, Duff, Clarke Carlisle, Joey Gudjonsen, Wade Elliott, Chris McCann, Robbie Blake (Kevin McDonald 78), Stephen Jordan, Steven Thompson (Ade Akinbiyi 83), Chris Eagles (Alan Mahon 85).
Radek Cerny 7/10
Saved a couple of stinging drives really well, and there was nothing he could do about both Burnley goals. His presence is becoming a lot more defined as defenders grow to adapt without Lee Camp between the sticks. He had no real crosses to claim, but his shot stopping was never in doubt.
Peter Ramage – 6/10
His game was virtually ruined after a booking in the early stages, a poor tackle but hardly warranted a yellow card. He did well at the back heading balls away, and coped OK with the tricky Eagles – but needed more support from Ephraim, which was not forthcoming.
Damion Stewart – 7/10
Once again doing a good job in the heart of the defence, perhaps not one of his better performances this season, but it goes to show how high he has raised the bar. He nodded a lot away from Steven Thompson and kept tight to the likes of Robbie Blake.
Fitz Hall – 7/10
Akin to Damion Stewart, a fairly decent game. He got forward well and supported the midfield whenever possible, but sometimes was lacking in terms of getting tight to the attacker, which led to the equaliser. Fitz did OK and it is a partnership I wouldn`t want to move at this stage.
Matthew Connolly – 6/10
Was withdrawn at half time presumably due to injury. He looked fairly confident in his left back role, and was only beaten a couple of times by Wade Elliott. He did well to snuff out a couple of attacks and bring the ball forward, with a shot flying narrowly wide.
Hogan Ephraim – 4/10
A fairly mediocre display from Hogan who looked rusty throughout as he returns from injury. Rather puzzling why Ledesma didn`t start of come on to the field at any stage considering how lacking Hogan`s display was.
Damiano Tommasi – 6/10
Found the going tough today, but he was one of the few players to win the ball in the middle of the park. Unfortunately conspired to give the ball away too often, and was eventually taken off as he tired. There is no doubting his class, however today there was too little of it on display.
Martin Rowlands – 6/10
Martin didn`t get the game by the scruff of the neck today which has become his trademark in the centre of the park. The game seemed to pass him by in the middle at times as he grew frustrated which was visible in some of his challenges.
Lee Cook – 5/10
Not a performance the fans come to expect from Cookie. At times he looked like producing the goods but more often than not faltered, which was epitomised by a couple of poor crosses in the first period. Some running in the second half was positive, but there was too little of it to carve out any chances of note.
Samuel Di Carmine – 6/10
Did OK in his forwards role, but a bit more cutting edge in front of goal may have given Sammy a goal. He didn`t put a couple of good chances away, being blocked by defenders or saved by the keeper. He should start against Watford, and really kick on in the goal scoring stakes.
Dexter Blackstock – 7/10
The better of the front two as he won quite a lot of aerial challenges with the dominant Clarke Carlisle. He perhaps could have rolled in the opportunity that led to a penalty, among a couple of other chances, but he took his goal well in the end.
SUB: Damien Delaney – 5/10
Replaced Matthew Connolly
Damien didn`t look comfortable at all in his left back role, a role he made his own in the latter stages of last season. He made some very poor passes, and rarely got himself forward to support an isolated Lee Cook. Delaney will not displace Matt on this evidence certainly.
SUB: Gavin Mahon – 6/10
Replaced Damiano Tommasi
Gavin tried to get hold of the game upon his introduction, and won a few key headers in the middle of the park, as he and Rowlands proved combative. However Burnley continued to steam-roll the middle of the park, as Mahon`s influence began to wane.
Replaced Hogan Ephraim
Patrick was a delight to have on the field, and a rare ray of sunlight on an otherwise cloudy day – to match the performance. His introduction sparked Rangers into attacking as he performed miracles down the right to find space at times. Simply put must start against Watford in whatever capacity, but with Rangers short of strikers he may be reduced to the bench once more.
Gareth Ainsworth: 6/10 – Gareth`s side really let him down today. Normally you get a side full of effort that epitomises the manager himself, but they really did look second best in all departments. This performance and result may hasten the R`s selection for a permanent coach.
Owen Coyle: 8/10 – Got it absolutely spot on in his reshuffle as his side enjoyed a comfortable win over QPR. His brand of football was refreshing and marvellous to watch, stuff that former R`s boss Iain Dowie could only dream of. Must be said that his side were better in all departements, and they reaped the results with a positive result.
Mr K A Woolmer: 3/10 – Not much else to say really, he ruined the game as a spectacle, for both sides. He denied Rangers two cast iron penalties. He generally infuriated supporters with some baffling decisions, and got mostly everything wrong. So in essence, not a good display.
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