Purposeful Burnley brush QPR aside – report
Sunday, 27th Oct 2013 23:13 by Clive Whittingham
QPR slipped to a first defeat of the Championship season at promotion rivals Burnley on Saturday, with two goals from in-form striker Danny Ings doing the damage.
With the Championship table starting to morph into some kind of shape, and a soggy autumn in full swing, Saturday’s meeting between first placed Burnley and second from top Queens Park Rangers was a chance to get a clear indication if either, both or neither of these sides are the real deal.
Ultimately the game went decisively in favour of the Clarets and looking around Turf Moor as the time ticked away on a 2-0 home win things seemed pretty unequivocal. Sean Dyche’s side was superior to Harry Redknapp’s in almost every department for, give or take, the entire duration of the match.
Danny Ings scored twice to take his tally for the season to 13 already. The first was an emphatic finish past Robert Green having burst through a Danny Simpson challenge into the penalty box at the end of an incisive move with more cut and thrust in ten seconds than QPR could muster all afternoon. That came immediately after Green had appeared fortunate to be let off by replacement match referee Andy Haines for collecting a back pass from Benoit Assou-Ekotto in his gloves, and as a direct result of possession concession in midfield by Karl Henry, and there was more defensive confusion two minutes from time when another swift attack from the home team culminated in Joey Barton felling Ings in the box allowing the former Bournemouth man a chance to whack home a second, killer goal from the penalty spot.
It’s difficult to be too upset about losing a game 2-0 that you deserve to lose 2-0. There was no controversy about the result and little by way of ‘what might have been’ at the other end. Quite the opposite in fact.
Rangers could have mastered their own downfall a lot earlier than they did. With the time barely into double figures Green played a typically risky short goal kick to Karl Henry, holding the base of the midfield with Barton in Little Tom Carroll’s continued absence, and his lousy blind pass gave Ings a chance to run clear but Green redeemed himself with a save at the striker’s feet. Within three minutes a foul by Barton on Ings gave right full back Keiren Trippier a chance to dip a free kick over the QPR wall and Green had a nervous flap at the ball that required centre half Clint Hill to swoop in and head fractionally over his own bar under heavy pressure to keep the game deadlocked.
Hill later executed a fine last-ditch challenge on Ings’ partner Sam Vokes to prevent him getting a shot away and in a pulsating start to the second half the home team saw numerous shots blocked away with a good deal more luck than judgement and forward planning as they sensed the visiting team weren’t quite all they’re cracked up to be. Dean Marney looked like he was going to ghost in in the fifty third minute before a crowd scene blocked his path to goal after a sound knock down by Vokes.
In the stands the home crowd – of remarkable size given Burnley’s small population and remote location – were in boisterous mood. Referee Haines dismissed a bumble bee mascot from the touchline early on – never a good sign that a referee cannot tell the difference between a footballer and a man in an eight-foot tall bee costume – and later Joey Barton was struck on the head by a bottle of Coke thrown from the side stand as Burnley fans wasted the remaining seconds of the game by holding onto the ball. Chants of “we are top of the league” were sung with late-April gusto a week from the end of October and a large inflatable penis was tossed back and forth for shits and giggles.
But despite a fine performance here and a seventh straight win, questions over the potential longevity of Burnley’s quest to return to the Premier League after a four season absence will persist into the winter. The back of the matchday programme highlighted the issue, with the home squad list stopping two thirds of the way down the page while Rangers’ ever growing list of well-paid, mostly ex-Premier League players continued down almost to the point where a separate pull out section was required. Burnley were fit, fast, organised, well drilled, disciplined, and creative – but is there enough of them to sustain the challenge?
Of more pressing concern to those of a QPR persuasion is whether or not this Rangers team is actually any good or not. A first defeat of the season coming in mid-October, the last unbeaten record in the Football League to fall 11 games into the new season, isn’t exactly a time to man the panic stations and write the Hoops off as a bad job. Those of a miserly persuasion will tell you this result has “been coming” with QPR reasonably lacklustre for most of the campaign to date, despite the positive results, but there’s little cause for alarm currently.
After all, things could easily have been different in this game, despite Rangers being an obvious second best. They sprang from their own half in the fifth minute, starting with a remarkable escape from tight to his own byline by Richard Dunne, to win the first corner of the game which was worked short and eventually to Karl Henry who strode onto a cross from Joey Barton and volleyed a first time shot straight at former QPR loanee Tom Heaton in the home goal – yards either side of the stopper and he’d have stood little chance with it.
Before half time Barton fired an inch or two wide from long range with Heaton struggling to cover the effort and after the break a sumptuous chipped through ball from Kranjcar almost had Austin in one on one with the goalkeeper but the pass had fractionally too much on it and the chance passed.
Games like these are often ones of fine margins and while the visitors could count themselves unlucky on that occasion, they had only themselves to blame for not equalising soon after Ings had opened the scoring when a perfectly placed deep free kick from Barton was headed back across the face of goal by Hill and only Dunne will know how he scooped a sitter over the cross bar from no range at all.
In the end it was a frustrating day, not helped greatly by referee Haines – in for the poorly Simon Hooper – who went on a card spree in the first half that eventually declared at six in a game of perhaps two serious fouls. Richard Dunne can have few complaints about his yellow for a tackle on David Jones so late I’m not sure it’s actually arrived now and Jones himself was long overdue his booking when it finally arrived but Burnley’s Keith Treacy and his opposite number Junior Hoilett can count themselves unlucky.
Not, though, as unlucky as Joey Barton who was booked very early on for nothing more than Burnley had been let off with to that point – the suggestion that his reputation precedes him with referees at this level is a hard one to shake at the moment.
That match during the week, and subsequent tests against Derby and Reading, will be interesting because there is certainly cause for Harry Redknapp’s concern despite a fine start to the season. The nagging doubt that the R’s have only faced teams from the bottom half of the table, leaving them with a tough run of actual tests to come into the Christmas period, remains.
Despite his early volley, Henry was poor at the base of the midfield and persistently gave possession away. Assou-Ekotto likewise at left back; far too casual in both defensive and offensive duties. Junior Hoilett, booed throughout by the home fans for his Blackburn connections, started in flying form but quickly tied himself into a messy web of misplaced shots and poor decisions in the final third. Hoilett had Burnley’s attacking full back Keiran Trippier on the rack in the early stages – but as the Canadian’s performance declined so Trippier’s improved to the point where the sponsor’s named him their man of the match.
Lone striker Charlie Austin was given a rousing reception on his first return to his former club prior to kick off, but was taunted thereafter with chants of “you’re not Danny Ings”. Certainly he wasn’t – Ings was well serviced and expertly supported by Vokes while Austin cut a forlorn figure at times, starved of possession and isolated among his former team mates. QPR have to find a way of getting more bodies around their talismanic frontman, particularly away from home, because at the moment they’re far too reliant on his prodigious work rate and physical presence to hold hopeful balls up and bring very deep lying midfielders into play.
And for the second week in a row, Harry Redknapp’s choice of substitutions left heads being scratched as the team got progressively weaker rather than stronger. Removing Gary O’Neil reduced the side’s work rate and subbing Kranjcar early saw what little creativity was in the team previously vanish altogether. Matt Phillips came on but continues to struggle for form and fitness and although Javier Chevanton joining Austin in attack solved the problem of a lack of supporting bodies, the lack of service remained an issue and ultimately QPR just ended up with two isolated strikers feeding on scraps rather than one. Adding Jermaine ‘The Friendly Ghost’ Jenas, instead of Henry, and switching to a midfield four, effectively reduced Rangers to ten men and never once in the closing quarter of an hour did they threaten to equalise.
There were plenty of differences and contrasts between the two sides on Saturday, but perhaps the most noticeable and most important was the comparative thrust and incisiveness. Burnley passed with purpose, usually forwards, with a crispness and accuracy. QPR continue to pass for the sake of it at times – left and right, usually chipped several feet off the ground, and with no real direction and aim other than to simply complete another pass.
It’s all a bit wishy-washy from them at times and it leaves them reliant on individual moments from Hoilett, Kranjcar, Austin or somebody else to break through. Against the poorer teams in the league, who have been happy to let Rangers get on with the long passing moves largely without intervention the quality of the QPR players will see them through, but against the better drilled, more talented sides like Burnley it needs a bit more of a collective aim and purpose than that.
Stop waving it around and start fucking, to borrow a crude phrase from the LoftforWords archives.
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Burnley: Heaton 6; Trippier 7, Mee 6, Duff 6, Shackell 6; Treacy 6 (Stock 90, -), Marney 6 (Edgar 83, -), Jones 7, Kightly 6; Ings 8, Vokes 7
Subs not used: Lafferty, Stanislas, Cisak, Long, Noble
Goals: Ings 65 (assisted), 88 (penalty, won Ings)
Bookings: Jones 35 (repetitive fouling), Treacy 42 (foul)
QPR: Green 5; Simpson 6, Dunne 6, Hill 7, Assou-Ekotto 5; Henry 5 (Jenas 68, 5), Barton 6, O’Neil 6 (Chevanton 73, 5), Kranjcar 6 (Phillips 73, 5), Hoilett 5; Austin 5
Subs not used: Traore, Onyewu, Murphy, Faurlin
Bookings: Barton 25 (foul), Hoilett 36 (foul), Dunne 38 (foul), Simpson 76 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Clint Hill 7 A strong and commanding centre back performance - much needed with the rest of the defence and goalkeeper Rob Green below par - without which QPR would have struggled even more than they did.
Referee – Andy Haines (Tyne and Wear) 6 A late replacement for Simon Hooper, and rather too quick with the cards for my liking. I felt he booked Joey Barton too early and for much less than he’d let others away with, and as a result then embarked on a quick-fire round of yellow cards aimed at appeasing both sets of fans and players in an evening up exercise. That said, the big decision of the game (the penalty) was correct and there were no major foul ups.
Attendance 16,074 (1,800 QPR approx) A great atmosphere in one of English football’s famous old stadiums, spoilt slightly by the Barton incident from which the QPR midfielder emerges with great credit.
Pictures – Action Images
Photo: Action Images
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