QUEENS Park Rangers failed to impress once again on home turf as they were held to stalemate by an unadventurous Burnley side.
Both sides created very little in 90 minutes of football which was played out in front of a modest crowd in W12. The R`s could only point to a handful of openings with Di Carmine forcing Brian Jensen into a good near post save, while Kaspars Gorkss` looping volley nestled onto the roof of the net in a thoroughly frustrating game.
Burnley seemed content to play out proceedings from the word go, but they carved out a couple of key chances with Wade Elliott`s cannoning back off the bar, and after the break Chris Eagles could only find the side netting after rounding Radek Cerny.
The first game of 2009 provided little endeavour and passion with neither side really taking the game by the scruff of the neck – really flying in the face of the tradition of the cup and what it stands for. Now they must do it all again back at Turf Moor, with supporters of both sides seeking a more entertaining affair next time out.
All three of Rangers new signings were ineligible for the FA Cup clash owing to a nonsense set of registration rules. So R`s boss Paulo Sousa opted for a 4-5-1 formation from the off with Lee Cook and Samuel Di Carmine flanking lone striker Dexter Blackstock.
The midfield comprised of skipper Martin Rowlands, Mikele Leigertwood and Gavin Mahon, with Kaspars Gorkss coming back into the side alongside Damion Stewart at the expense of Fitz Hall. On the bench the R`s had an extra two subs to play with and had the likes of Ledesma, Agyemang and Ephraim to select from.
Burnley`s small squad has come back to haunt them on the day with the Clarets only able to name six substitutes out of seven. Danger man Martin Paterson linked up with Steven Thompson up front, with Chris Eagles and Robbie Blake flanking them.
The Clarets employed Wade Elliott as a central midfielder alongside Joey Gudjonsen, and former R`s defender Clark Carlisle sitting alongside Michael Duff in a defensive shake-up for the Lancashire outfit.
Kick Off: Queens Park Rangers v Burnley
Neither side really provided any opening threat with passes going astray from both ends. The frustrating start to the fixture saw Rangers persistently wasteful with the ball at their feet, with the central midfield trio particularly guilty on several occasions.
Burnley`s main creative threat was predictably enough Chris Eagles, with the former Manchester United man displaying his trickery to give Damien Delaney a torrid time down the right flank. However one thing became apparent, a little bit of physicality and he quickly went missing.
The Clarets attempted to play football in the correct fashion, looking for their wingers and seeking to cut Rangers open down the by-line. Crosses from Kalvenes and Blake were providing ample food for thought for the Rangers rearguard, but rarely did they scythe the R`s open to the extent they did back in November.
It took the R`s until halfway through the first half to create a chance of note, with returning forward Samuel Di Carmine nearly capitalising on some sloppy defending. The young Italian on loan from Fiorentina managed to find some space on the left flank before cutting inside his man and firing an effort towards the near post. The rasping drive was beaten away by the sizeable frame of former West Bromwich Albion stopper Brian Jensen as at last the R`s fans had something to smile about.
Mikele Leigertwood embarrassed himself thoroughly when he sent an effort woefully wayward when well placed on the edge of the area. For my money any professional football should be able to watch the ball and strike it properly when you consider their earnings, but Mikele lazily flung a leg out at the chance and the ball flew out for a throw in on the opposite side. A miss which epitomised a lacklustre opening to the game.
For all of Burnley`s flair and attacking guile they produced very little in terms of clear cut opportunity, but they nearly caught the R`s cold from a corner kick instigated once more by Eagles. His corner found a flick on in the heart of the box and former Bournemouth man Wade Elliott sent a stinging volley goalbound. The effort caught out Rangers keeper Radek Cerny who could barely fling an arm out as the effort smashed back off the bar.
Burnley tried again with the persistent Joey Gudjonsson trying his luck from distance time and time again, but none of the efforts forced Cerny into a meaningful save. The Rangers defence confined the Clarets to shooting from outside the area, Gudjonsson and Robbie Blake the visitors` only efforts going into the break.
Rangers were beginning to look a little livelier whenever Lee Cook had the ball at his feel, running at his opposition full backs. The former Watford man enjoyed his roaming role on the left hand side as he came inside probing for openings in a stubborn Clarets defence. The major concern from Rangers` perspective however was the sheer resilience of the visitors and the fact that no passes were slipping through.
Gavin Mahon had the last of the R`s chances in the first period, as his well directed effort seemed destined for the bottom left hand corner, but once again the Burnley defence was at its best to block the effort as it flew goalbound.
With that the first half was brought to an end, a somewhat disappointing half for home and travelling supporters alike with the lack of clear cut chances or attacking endeavour leaving supporters thoroughly frustrated, making a mockery of the weighty price-tag.
Half Time: Queens Park Rangers 0-0 Burnley
Paulo Sousa withdrew Lee Cook at half time for the second game in succession, with Emmanuel Ledesma called into action to his surprise as the young Argentinean`s warm up was cut short by the irate Portuguese boss.
An amusing incident then occurred when John Harbin and Gareth Ainsworth were discussing tactics with the substitute while he was doing some last minute warming up, and Sousa came out and glared at the trio, to which Harbin held his hands up in apology and let Ledesma continue his preparation.
Rangers always look more confidence kicking towards the Loftus Road end and nearly had the advantage early in the second period courtesy of an unlikely source, defender Kaspars Gorkss. The Latvian international latched onto a flick on from Peter Ramage`s free kick, he managed to twist and get a right footed volley away. The effort looped ominously towards the top left hand corner but drifted narrowly over the bar nestling on the roof of the net.
The R`s were beginning to get up a head of steam, seeing a lot of the ball if not in the crucial areas of the pitch. Rangers saw the majority of the ball at the back and again through the midfield, but misplaced passes and individual error cost them dear in the final third.
Emmanuel Ledesma was the next to try his luck from distance, as Rangers were becoming increasingly desperate in front of goal. The young Argentinean who seemed intent on hitting everything that came his way, wrapped his left foot round a loose ball, only to see the chance drift well wide of Jensen`s left hand upright.
Former Manchester United winger Chris Eagles brought Loftus Road to a hush as he raced on to a long through ball. With only Damien Delaney for company Eagles raced clear to bring him one on one with Cerny. A heavy touch saw him have to round the Czech stopper before placing his desperate effort into the side netting. But for an uncharacteristic lapse in technique, the R`s would have been behind.
Another of many tactical shifts saw Hogan Ephraim replace Gavin Mahon. It was anyone`s guess where he would play, as he began by hugging the right touchline. This seemed out of sync with what was happening on the left flank, with a gaping hole appearing where Lee Cook would be situated.
Hogan was receiving a lot of support from full back Peter Ramage, who raced to the aid of the former West Ham United man on the overlap. Ramage`s crossing was somewhat sporadic on occasions, but the support he supplied gave Rangers more bodies as possibilities going forward. If only others had shared his endeavour there may have been goals on the cards.
On the other flank Delaney was left isolated and alone, as he struggled to get forward from his full back berth to provide opportunities. The midfielders that were intended to support him went missing whenever the full back had the ball, which more often than not culminated in a mis-placed cross or having to stop and feed the ball backwards.
As the game was beginning to wind down, Burnley rather unbelievably began to time-waste. This was epitomised by Brian Jensen`s persistence in waiting for the attacker before picking the ball up – not against the rules of course, but in the Clarets current situation in terms of fixture pile-up and lack of players, it was hardly smart to want a replay on their hands.
The Clarets were looking still to play on the break, without ever really asserting their own attacking impetus on proceedings. Former Cardiff City man Steven Thompson shanked the ball over the bar from close range after more good work from Chris Eagles.
Sousa threw on Patrick Agyemang in a desperate bid to progress in the competition, he replaced a tired Samuel Di Carmine, and R`s fans hoped he would be the catalyst for positive play and ultimately the win.
The ball pinged around the Burnley box on one occasion, but Patrick`s threat could not be sustained as the Rangers faithful had to watch the visitors create the final chance of the fixture.
Substitute Alan Mahon who won the fixture last time out at Loftus Road, nearly repeated the feat as he sent his 25 yard drive inches wide of the left hand upright. The effort was always swerving away from the target but nevertheless hearts were in mouths in W12.
With that Mr Bates blew the final whistle, which was met with boos from a section of the modest crowd. Boos of disappointment rather than anger as Rangers know they must do it all again up in Lancashire.
Full Time: Queens Park Rangers 0-0 Burnley
Queens Park Rangers: Radek Cerny, Damien Delaney, Damion Stewart, Gavin Mahon (Hogan Ephraim 61), Mikele Leigertwood, Dexter Blackstock, Kaspars Gorkss, Martin Rowlands, Peter Ramage, Lee Cook (Emmanuel Ledesma 46), Samuel Di Carmine (Patrick Agyemang 72).
Burnley: Brian Jensen, Graham Alexander, Christian Kalvenes, Michael Duff, Clarke Carlisle, Joey Gudjonsson, Martin Paterson, Wade Elliott, Robbie Blake (Alan Mahon 71), Steven Thompson (Jay Rodriguez 86), Chris Eagles.
Radek Cerny – 5/10
Didn`t do a great deal wrong and in fairness didn`t have a lot to do. He claimed a couple of crosses well to relieve the pressure, but in fairness Burnley never looked like producing any sort of meaningful, clear cut chances to test him.
Speculative strikes from distance were all that the Clarets could muster, with Radek able to watch the balls fly wide with relative comfort and ease. With Lee Camp back and not in the squad it seems Radek`s place is safe until the end of the season.
Peter Ramage – 5/10
Some fans have to learn when it comes to Ramage, if you keep berating someone and telling them how rubbish they are then it`s going to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Peter is never left wanting for effort which was a rarity looking at today`s performance.
Ramage had a good five-minute spell as he helped Hogan Ephraim down the right hand side, but during that spell no one uttered and applause or words of encouragement – however dare he lose the ball and he was plastered with abuse.
Ramage is not an attacking full back, and some sections of Rangers support have been spoilt with a number of excellent ones in recent years, Clement, Wilson, Bardsley to name a few. Ramage will not go down in the annuls of history as one of the best certainly, but he needs the support of the crowd as he continues to give 100% for the club.
Kaspars Gorkss – 6/10
Kaspars once again looked good at the heart of the defence alongside Damion Stewart, in what I believe is the first choice partnership. Gorkss` passing was competent always keeping his head up and looking for the correct pass, which was rare for Rangers today.
Gorkss` long passing was accurate and precise, not looking merely to thump it as others were doing, but placing it towards the head of Dexter Blackstock. He was given a tough time in the air by Steve Thompson, but nevertheless gave as good as he got in a battling display.
Damion Stewart – 7/10
You cannot argue with a clean sheet and Stewart`s performance was integral to proceedings today. The Jamaican cannot be dropped again regardless of rotation as he seems to instil some solidity alongside Gorkss, and provide a formidable partnership.
Damion`s dominant display at the heart of the rearguard showed that he is at the peak of his powers in the Championship. In one area where Rangers aren`t lacking Damion, Kaspars, and Fitz are providing excellent competition for places at the heart of the defence.
Damien Delaney – 5/10
In the first half Damien produced a wholly inept display at left back. He couldn`t pass to a Rangers player and his confidence seemed absolutely shot. In fact I was surprised that Sousa persisted with the former Hull City man with Matthew Connolly on the bench.
In the second half we had glimpses of the Delaney of old, without getting too carried away! He at last brought the ball over the halfway line and looked to get his cross away. His passing improved considerably, which may have something to do with Sousa in his ear for the duration of the second period. A slight improvement, but he`s running out of time.
Gavin Mahon – 5/10
Gavin did not have a great game today and it culminated in his withdrawal in the second half. He attempted to do the correct things in midfield, getting hold of the ball and moving it on – but whether it`s patience or negativity he seems intent on passing the ball back to the defenders.
Rangers were getting stung through the middle at times by Elliott, which seems confusing with the sheer lack of numbers we have in that position. Gavin was a bit off the pace at times as a youthful Burnley engine room stopped him in his tracks and forced him to play backwards.
Martin Rowlands – 5/10
Rowlands was the only player that seemed willing to drive at the Burnley players which was admirable, but his lack of end product was a really worry as Rangers drew another blank. He was tackled an awful lot today before he could move the ball on and visibly ran out of ideas on occasions.
Paulo Sousa lambasted the R`s captain and the rest of his side from the touchline as the boss grew more animated. The captain didn`t lead by example on the day and his side`s lack of chances and creative threat can point back to the captain and his fellow midfielders.
Mikele Leigertwood – 3/10
His lack of effort was visible from the offset and frankly I`m flabbergasted that he lasted the ninety minutes with Sousa staring straight at the problem at the heart of midfield. He looked as if he was doing us a favour by turning up and placing a good chance dismally wide.
Such a disappointing display from a player who we all know is capable of far better than his display today. No passion and his commitment to tackles was poor.
Lee Cook – 6/10
To be utterly frank once again I don`t see what Cookie did wrong to be taken off as once again Sousa threw his toys out the pram at half time. Lee was certainly Rangers most creative threat as he was the only driving force from the left flank.
The second half cried out for Cookie down that left flank, but because Sousa had been short-sighted and withdrawn him – there was no-one left to produce that telling cross. Cook must be disappointed with being taken off at half time for the second game in succession.
Samuel Di Carmine – 5/10
It really wasn`t for the lack of effort as Sammy was outmuscled and outthought by an experienced Burnley defence. His movement was sporadic as at times he would be completely static and the next he would be tearing across the pitch in search of an out ball.
There is no doubt that he has a decent shot on him, as is proved by the save he produced from Jensen in the first half, but in this league you generally don`t get the time to produce these efforts consistently. Sammy will remain a squad player until he learns to deal with the physical side of the game and how to play with limited space in front of him.
Dexter Blackstock – 5/10
Dexter didn`t have a good game today, and something that became very noticeable during the game was the lack of options he gave to midfielders as for the majority of game he stood upfront completely static.
Strikers who are without the ball sometimes become frustrated and get back in search of the ball, but Dexter became increasingly isolated up-front and was out of the fixture for large spells. Every ball he flicked on went nowhere, and struggled to trap the ball at times. It seemed that he was crying out for a partner to play off and a decoy runner to free him up.
SUB: Emmanuel Ledesma – 5/10
Replaced Lee Cook: 45
Ledesma came on and produced very little as he sat at the point of a diamond. I`m unsure as to what Sousa was expecting bringing on the Argentinean, as his intricate flicks and touches were not well placed in a tough fixture against a tough side.
None of his flicks found their man and he looked a bit out of place with the rest of the side, going missing for vast proportions of the second half only looking interested when Rangers were in the final attacking third.
SUB: Hogan Ephraim – 5/10
Replaced Gavin Mahon
The formation once again changed as Ephraim replaced Mahon, but I`m not entirely sure that all players knew exactly where they were meant to be playing. Ephraim`s introduction did give Rangers a brief spark, but considering no-one would pass to him it seemed fruitless.
Hogan gave it a real go whenever he got the ball and ran at players, which was again out of character for the game. Perhaps if he`d played from the start the outcome may have been slightly different.
Replaced Samuel Di Carmine
Patrick`s introduction came far too late, as it seemed he was more a last throw of the dice rather than someone who Sousa believed could change something. If only he had started or been thrown on earlier then something may have changed.
His direct running and more importantly effort and enthusiasm was a breath of fresh air. If he isn`t in the starting line-up against Coventry City alongside Helguson, there is something seriously wrong at this club.
Paulo Sousa: 4/10 – The players don`t seem to know what they`re supposed to be doing out there and it proved that way today. He is very passionate on the touchline, of that there is no doubt, however his players are struggling on the pitch and this is where the good managers return to basics in order to get things right.
The players were genuinely confused as he continued to berate them on the touchline, but the side he picked today I believe showed contempt for the competition. The defence was excellent by and large, and cannot be criticised, but Rangers creative outlets were poor at best and that has be put back squarely at the manager`s door.
I think that Rangers need to get back to basics and stick to a solitary formation, not overcomplicating matters and effort and endeavour at the fore of our performances. He will be certainly hoping for better against Coventry.
Owen Coyle: 4/10 – I was surprised beyond belief that Coyle didn`t go for it today when you take into account the key factors of what a replay would bring. The Clarets have limited players and a fixture pile-up, and his side`s lack of willingness to attack really showed, like Sousa, contempt for the fans and for the competition.
The hard-working fans in the away end, who had paid their money to come to an overpriced city and stadium were served up a workmanlike display that never really displayed any signs of ambition. Thoroughly disappointed with Burnley as well as QPR today.
Mr A Bates: 6/10 – The official was refereeing by the old school rules today as warnings rather than cards were the order of the day. It was admirable to see an official keep his cards in his pocket and referee in a sensible manner.
It wasn`t really a tough game to referee in fairness to him, and maybe he could have cut down on Burnley`s timewasting tactics.