Rangers were swept aside as Andy Cole rolled back the years to score a commendable hatrick at Loftus Road. The veteran striker helped bring to an end a run of four straight home league wins for Rangers and dent the outside playoff credentials of the super hoops.
It all seemed an age away when Rangers had cantered to a 2-0 advantage courtesy of Gavin Mahon`s first goal for Rangers, and yet another goal for Patrick Agyemang. But Burnley hit back, and how. Cole`s hatrick was supplemented by a goal from Rangers nemesis Ade Akinbiyi, to give the game a somewhat uneven scoreline to a very evenly poised game.
Rangers made two changes from the away victory over Southampton at the weekend. International duo Damion Stewart and Akos Buzsaky were recalled in favour of Michael Mancienne and Kieran Lee.
Rangers continued with a 4-4-2 formation with Zesh Rehman and Damion Stewart the preferred partnership at centre back, with Rowan Vine and Patrick Agyemang continuing their good partnership upfront, supported by wingers Buzsaky and Hogan Ephraim.
Burnley made one change from their Saturday draw at home to relegation threatened Colchester United. David Unsworth made way for captain Gary Caldwell in a straight change, as Burnley started with a relatively attacking line-up including Robbie Blake, the effervescent Andrew Cole, and the highly sought after Kyle Lafferty.
In the early going chances were few and far between as both sides were looking to feel each other out in a tight encounter at Loftus Road. Rangers were passing the ball about very competently, and Burnley doing likewise, supplementing their play with neat passes out to the left flank to a dangerman Kyle Lafferty, whose giant figure hugged the left-hand touchline.
Rangers came closest to breaking the deadlock when an Akos Buzsaky free-kick deflected off the wall, which had the Burnley fans holding their breath behind the goal, with harrowing memories of Colchester`s goal at the weekend lurking at the back of their mind. This time however, no more than a corner for the R`s.
Hogan Ephraim`s 25-yard effort missed the target by inches as he latched onto an intelligent pass from Buzsaky, who was asserting himself as the hub of the Rangers attack in the early stages.
Eventually the goal came for Rangers, after some early pressure and momentum it was Gavin Mahon who rounded off a slick move for his first goal for the Super Hoops.
It was Akos Buzsaky who found Patrick Agyemang on the right hand side of the area from a header, with seemingly nowhere to go, Agyemang pulled out a deft backheel to take John Harley out of proceedings, the ball found its way to the aforementioned Buzsaky, who picked out a beautifully crafted far post cross for Gavin Mahon. The midfielder powered the ball home to give Rangers a well-deserved lead after 15 minutes.
QPR 1-0 BURNLEY
Rangers had their opposition reeling, and Agyemang nearly doubled the advantage when his curling shot narrowly missed the right hand upright.
Eventually though the pressure told and Rangers got their second of the evening, through the man who seems to be scoring for fun of late, Patrick Agyemang. The move all came in a sweeping counter attacking move which started in Rangers` half. The Clarets midfielder James O`Connor gave the ball away on the edge of the Rangers area, and full back Damien Delaney ran the length of the pitch before slipping a pass Rangers fans would associate with Buzsaky, it was perfect for the feet of Agyemang. The ex-Preston striker had the confidence to round the keeper before slotting into an empty net. Confidence personified as he claimed his 8th goal in 6 games, a truly remarkable record.
A goal that had Rangers fans singing and dreaming of an unassailable lead, and had Clarets manager Owen Coyle on the pitch berating his players, with arms flailing and fists pumping.
QPR 2-0 BURNLEY
Rangers hadn`t finished there, as they pushed forward once more, as Akos Buzsaky found himself in space on the right hand side of the area running towards goal, he drilled a well timed effort inches wide of the left hand upright. A chance that would have surely finished the Clarets off.
Zesh Rehman, that`s right you heard me, Zesh Rehman then lead a counter attack down the right wing as he was laid through by Akos Buzsaky, the Pakistani defender had the vision to cut inside after his marauding run down the right flank, to beat his defender before letting fly with his left foot. The shot however didn`t live up to the previous passage of play and Jensen was able to grab the shot comfortably at the second attempt.
Martin Rowlands who had been the engine room of the operation alongside Gavin Mahon was forced to withdraw on 39 minutes, he was replaced by Mikele Leigertwood, as the captains armband was handed to goalscorer Gavin Mahon.
Within minutes Burnley had themselves back in the game with a typical goal by Andrew Cole. A free kick was given in somewhat mystifying circumstances with players and fans alike unsure as to what the referee had actually given. A hush fell around Loftus Road as Joey Gudjohnsen paced up to the free kick, he drilled a right footed effort into a body of players, and Andrew Cole stuck out an instinctive leg to send the ball flying past Lee Camp. A goal out of nothing for Burnley, which gave the Clarets some encouragement going into the break.
QPR 2-1 BURNLEY
Half Time QPR 2-1 Burnley
There was one half time change for the Clarets, Robbie Blake made way for the power of Ade Akinbiyi to the delight of the away following.
Burnley pushed ahead early in the half, and certainly looked as if they had more fight about them, matched with footballing ability with some neat passes out, using the width of the Loftus Road pitch. But it was Rangers who were creating the most clear cut chances with Hogan Ephraim twice going close, but firing carbon copy efforts straight at Brian Jensen cutting in from the left flank.
For all of Rangers attacking guile and flair it was Burnley who equalised through that man again, Andrew Cole. The half time substitute Ade Akinbiyi, floated an inviting ball from the left towards the far post after some neat build up play, and Cole finished the ball off with aplomb infront of the travelling faithful down from Lancashire. A goal to rip the heart out of Rangers as the home side were looking drained of confidence.
QPR 2-2 BURNLEY
Rangers though continued to plug away, and Matthew Connolly found himself in an attacking position outside the area in a central position. The ball sat up kindly for the former Arsenal youngster, and his volleyed effort flew towards the target with dip and venom. However it was well handled by Jensen with Agyemang in attendance.
Lee Camp was then forced into another world class save, another he can add to his repertoire in a Rangers jersey. Wade Elliot`s rasping drive dipped and swerved towards the top right hand corner, but an outstretched hand from Camp tipped the ball onto the post and denied Elliot a wonder goal, and kept the score level. It was all too much for the referee who opted to give a goal kick.
Rangers continued to get in behind their opposition with some intelligent running from Agyemang and Vine. The former got in behind the Burnley rearguard on a number of occasions, with nobody gambling in the middle for the pullback, and the Ghanaian was left berating lack of support from numerous sources.
Rowan Vine then went close with an effort of his own after another clever ball through from Patrick Agyemang, the striker found himself on the right hand side of the area, he got a yard on his defender, but dragged his shot wide of the left hand post, much to the frustration of the Rangers crowd, who had seen their team dominate without that killer instinct in the second period. This effort was followed up by Mikele Leigertwood, whose shot was comfortably saved by the busy Jensen.
Burnley though, were not finished they took all three points soon after through Ade Akinbiyi. Rangers defenders were at odds to clear a previous chance, when John Harley pumped a ball back into the box and Akinbiyi was on hand to finish off Rangers with a headed effort, much to the delight of the Clarets faithful and the dismay of a strong crowd at Loftus Road.
QPR 2-3 BURNLEY
An exasperating game of end to end football was drawing to a close and chances were few and far between. With Rangers desperate for the equaliser they threw men forward. It was a free-kick though that was to eventually be their undoing, and send Burnley back up north with a certain 3 points.
Andrew Cole then claimed his hatrick after beating Zesh Rehman to the ball on the near post to flick the ball home. Cue mass exodus from the stands. A goal that was fitting for Cole on a night where Rangers left themselves ruing missed chances and wasteful losses in possession.
QPR 2-4 BURNLEY
Cole was then withdrawn to a standing ovation from sections of the Loftus Road crowd, who appreciated class when they saw it in their presence. Sections who had taunted Cole earlier with a chorus of, “You`re Not Famous Anymore” – well here is one man who will be making some headlines if he continues to repeat this style of performance that he put in at Loftus Road, putting Rangers to the sword with classic Andrew Cole goals.
Rangers threw men forward late on in search of consolation but to no avail, it was truly Burnley and especially Cole`s night at Loftus Road.
Full Time QPR 2-4 Burnley
Lee Camp – 6
Didn’t in fact have that much to do. All four efforts were unstoppable for the Rangers keeper. He can take some consolation in a world class save to deny Wade Elliot a cracking goal.
Matthew Connolly – 6
By and large looked solid throughout the 90. Kept Blake at bay for the first half, but faced a stern test in Lafferty with the forward getting the better of the fullback a couple of times.
Damion Stewart – 5
Not the best game for Damion, won quite a bit in the air but struggled to cope when the going got tough in the second period with the physicality of Akinbiyi shining through, and Cole dragging other defenders out of position.
Zesh Rehman – 6
Actually coped admirably in many instances, including a rare venture forward for Zesh. Did what he had to do correctly on a number of occassion. Winning header, and simply clearing the ball in touch to snuff out danger. However, leaving Mancienne on the bench was never and option when deciding between the two.
Damien Delaney – 6
Some excellent runs forward, and did his best with a trick customer in Wade Elliot. However some of the most productive areas for the Clarets were in his area of the pitch, using the pace and power of Akinbiyi to get in behind.
Akos Buzsaky – 7
A constant menace to the Clarets rearguard, dragging players out of position and making incisive runs and passes. Deserved a goal for his effort and skill down the right flank. Still think we would be better served playing him through the middle.
Gavin Mahon – 8
Excellent range of passing, and he scored a goal on a difficult evening. Won alot of the midfield battle in the air and on the ground, picking up alot of second balls and using his strength to keep possession.
Martin Rowlands – 6
Forced off through injury in the first half. We were beginning to see something productive from the two in midfield before it was halted in its infancy. A big loss for the R’s who never recovered following his withdrawal.
Hogan Ephraim – 6
Overall Hogan did ok, needed to get into more goalscoring positions on occasions to help out Agyemang with the pullbacks. He cut inside an awful lot produce some good crosses, alot of variety in his running, just needs to add that killer instinct to his repertoire.
Rowan Vine – 6
Great first half, bit of a headless chicken second half. Some deft flicks and touches through to Agyemang as they looked to build up an understanding upfront. In the second half he bemoaned the lack of ball to feet, and didn’t get into the game as much as he’d have liked.
Patrick Agyemang – 8
The usual high level of performance you would come to expect from the Ghanaian. Some intelligent running, mixed with some excellent touches and a dealdly eye for goal makes Pat hot stuff in the Championship at the moment.
Mikele Leigertwood – 5
Didn’t really contribute as much as you’d have liked in the ball winning and ball retention department, and will need to improve on his performance if he is to get a start, pending how serious Rowlands’ injury is.
Dexter Blackstock – 4
Brought on to change the game, and contributed next to nothing in the 20 minutes he had on the pitch. You may blame the service, but Pat was getting very much the same service and coping very well.
Only had a minute on the field, so is exempt from comment.
Luigi De Canio – 5 – Poor team selection in my opinion in deciding to pick Zesh over Mancienne, he opted to stay loyal to a poor player due to his effort and application which is the same trap Gregory fell into. You cannot blame him for collective defensive errors however. People will always tend to point the finger when a 2 goal lead turns into a two goal deficit. Also the selection of Blackstock on the bench was perhaps suspect as his contribution in recent games has been non-existent, perhaps a youngster on the bench next time out?
Owen Coyle – 7 – Must have been fearing the worst when Rangers took the lead by 2 clear goals, but his half time team talk and substitution worked a treat, fair play. Has got a Burnley team which was playing the Wimbledon way under Cotterill to get the ball down and play football, now that was commendable.
My prediction of 2-0 was correct for all of 35 minutes. I honestly thought we could keep a clean sheet if we snuffed out the clear goal threats and in my opinion the only goal threats in Akinbiyi and Cole. We didn’t and we were punnished.
If anyone has any more information on the protest on the pitch in the second half when two fans from the paddock ran on the pitch with a banner aimed at Burnley fans stating, ‘Campbell Causes Leukemia’, I would be intregued to know what that was all about. Evidently directed at Alistair Campbell, but why? Also the stewarding was beyond pathetic, letting these people run on the pitch, and stay there over about a minute before some overweight slobs in orange jackets ran on the pitch once they realised the peaceful protest was over. Heaven forbid if we have a knife wealding maniac on the pitch.