A SECOND half strike from Seb Polter ensured Queens Park Rangers took a share of the spoils in a less than thrilling return to the Pirelli Stadium for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.
While the home supporters chanted the name of their former manager – who guided them into League One and helped pave the way for their current Championship status – the visiting supporters were left exasperated by another fairly tepid display.
It could have been worse for the visiting side as they fell behind to a poacher’s effort from Jamie Ward, albeit via the aid of a deflection. Jake Bidwell was stretchered off with a dislocated shoulder, nevertheless Rangers continued a late press on the home goal.
Conor Washington had little in the way of company in attack but once he was joined by Polter, Rangers started to get some joy out of the Burton backline. Massimo Luongo’s well-timed cross was met with an outstretched foot by the German to level matters up.
It was once again a case of too little; too late for Rangers, who were unable to consistently trouble the home rearguard. Both sides with much to contemplate after a stalemate at the Pirelli.
Nigel Clough made three changes from the side that was defeated at Norwich City – Kyle McFadzean and Ben Turner joined the defensive unit with Lee Williamson also coming back in – John Brayford, Hazma Choudhury and Stuart Beavon all dropping out.
They lined-up in a 3-5-2 formation with John McLaughlin behind a defence of John Mousinho, Turner and McFadzean. The midfield five comprised of Williamson, Tom Naylor, Matt Palmer, record signing Jackson Irvine and former QPR loanee Lloyd Dyer. Lucas Akins moved forward to partner Jamie Ward.
Three changes also for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink from the side that drew with Birmingham City. Karl Henry, Pawel Wszolek and Conor Washington coming back into the line-up – the Polish midfielder for his full debut – dropping out went Jordan Cousins, Olamide Shodipo and Idrissa Sylla. Rangers lined-up in a 4-3-3 formation for the first time this season.
Alex Smithies started behind a back four of Nedum Onuoha, Grant Hall, Steven Caulker and Jake Bidwell. Henry, Massimo Luongo and Ariel Borysiuk were the preferred central midfield trio with Tjaronn Chery and Wszolek playing wide of Conor Washington.
MOUSINHO – MCFADZEAN – TURNER
WILLIAMSON – NAYLOR – PALMER – IRVINE – DYER
AKINS – WARD
ONUOHA – HALL – CAULKER – BIDWELL
LUONGO – HENRY – BORYSIUK
CHERY – WASHINGTON – WSZOLEK
A late show of force against Birmingham City was a glimmer of hope in an otherwise poor run from Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Queens Park Rangers as they look to regain some kind of form – starting with a trip to his former club.
The QPR boss has come in for all manner of criticism for a myriad of things – most relatively groundless, but one thing appeared to be certain; the confidence of the team had taken a hit after a relatively positive start to the campaign.
Both teams were struggling for form in the division and the opening was quite symptomatic of that potential knock in confidence. Indeed the only opening of note was another fine cross from the emerging loanee Pawel Wzsolek – it managed however to evade everyone in the close vicinity.
There was a distinct lack of goal-mouth action with Rangers struggling to mount a meaningful period of possession and consistent attacking threat. Burton were looking over the top to the pace and power of Ward and Akins but duo Steven Caulker and Grant Hall were able to keep them at bay.
Wszolek should have handed QPR the lead just after the 20-minute mark. A useful run by Washington down the left saw him cut inside and cross for Luongo. His header back across goal found the Polish wide-man, but with the ball rather stuck under his feet McLaughlin was able to scramble away.
Ward at the other end was a whisker away from handing the Brewers an advantage – his free-kick deflected with the ball dropping inches wide of Smithies’ left hand upright. Ward himself saw yellow after a foul on Chery while Washington’s tug on Turner earned him a place in Scott Duncan’s book.
Rangers were struggling with a pattern of play – the ball continually going long into the channel for either Wszolek to nod on or Washington to attempt to hold up. The latter approach was failing miserably but short of growing a foot or two, there was little Washington could do to rectify this.
It appeared that irrespective of the striker Rangers fielded at the point of attack, the ball would be the same. Rangers did look at their most dangerous with Washington coming in from the flank and having support from midfield to supply, but this was all too infrequent in a tepid first half display.
Chery nearly lit up this drab affair with a fine left-footed set-piece, reminiscent of his recent strike at Loftus Road. This effort was a little lower and well-fielded by McLaughlin to his left to bring down the curtain on another first half that asked as many questions as it answered.
Burton Albion made a half time change with Lee Williamson leaving the field. Marcus Harness entering the field for the hosts as an attacker, Lucas Akins dropping to a more familiar right-wing berth.
Rangers started the half very sluggishly and the Brewers were taking full advantage. The pace of Harness and Ward respectively was causing problems. Smithies had to be alert when the substitute was put in over the top while Matt Palmer earned a booking from Jake Bidwell when he beat the full-back with a neat turn.
It seemed a matter of time, as there as there was no respite or out ball for the visitors to relieve the pressure. It kept coming back and eventually the pressure told. Ward’s purposeful run drew noise from the crowd and Lloyd Dyer was given the freedom of the Pirelli Down the left flank.
The former QPR loanee had all the time in the world to pick an effort out – fortuitously a daisy cutter clipped up off Harness and onto the head of JAMIE WARD in front of goal – he just had to throw his head onto the ball and watch on as the net rippled – A real poacher’s effort.
It prompted a change that in truth could and should have been made earlier – the signs were certainly indicating that the goal was coming for the home team. Seb Polter came on to give the forward line a little more potency – Borysiuk was taken off. Those requesting a forward pairing would be disappointed as Washington dropped to the left flank – a now more orthodox 4-2-3-1 adopted for Hasselbaink.
It gave Rangers a little more fluency in attack with Wszolek looking more at home on the right flank and Washington playing off Polter with greater success. It yielded the desired results with 20 minutes remaining as the visiting side levelled.
Luongo’s burst from midfield saw him use Bidwell as a decoy before picking out a delightfully floated cross with the outside of his right foot. SEB POLTER finished it off well, prodding home past a forlorn McLaughlin.
Referee Duncan made no friends in the way end when Jake Bidwell went down in clear distress. The referee allowed play to continue for a good while before Lloyd Dyer powered a wayward effort over the bar. Bidwell was stretchered from the field after lengthy work on the pitch – a shoulder dislocation was the prognosis as the full-back now eyes a spell on the sidelines. He was replaced by Joel Lynch at full-back.
Wszolek was impressing down the right once more and his cut-back for Polter nearly earned his side all three points – the German looked to hold the ball up but instead an audacious flick nearly caught McLaughlin napping – the keeping diving on the ball at the second attempt.
Rangers had a decent shout for a penalty when the lively Polter pushed the ball beyond Turner and was brought down. The referee raised the ire of Hasselbaink by pointing for a corner. Lynch had an effort that deflected away as Rangers now looked the more likely to win the encounter – much as they did on Saturday.
It was too little; too late for the visitors however, who had to settle for a deserved share of the spoils.
BURTON ALBION: McLaughlin, Mousinho, McFadzean, Turner, Williamson (Harness 45), Naylor, Palmer, Irvine, Dyer, Akins, Ward.
Subs not used: Bywater, Beavon, Miller, Choudhury, Fox, Barker.
QUEENS PARK RANGERS: Smithies; Onuoha, Hall, Caulker, Bidwell (Lynch 81); Luongo, Borysiuk (Polter 64), Henry; Wszolek, Chery, Washington
Subs not used: Ingram, El-Khayati, Shodipo, Sandro, Kakay.
Referee: Mr S Duncan