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New boys shine in pulsating six goal thriller – report
Sunday, 2nd Feb 2014 18:52 by Clive Whittingham

Kevin Doyle and Mobido Maiga both scored debut goals as QPR and Burnley fought out a splendid three all draw at Loftus Road on Saturday.

Considering their respective league positions and records this season, QPR and Burnley have probably copped more than their fair share of grief during the 2013/14 campaign to this point.

The Clarets sat third at the start of play on Saturday, operating on easily the lowest budget of any of the top six sides, but much of the coverage of their ascent through the Championship this season has centred on when an apparently inevitable collapse will occur. Even with the January addition of Ashley Barnes from Brighton alleviating the concern over the lack of cover for star striking duo Sam Vokes and Danny Ings it seems to be the received wisdom that Sean Dyche’s side will fall away during the run in. Squad’s too small, injuries will hit them harder than most, etc etc.

QPR were second as the sun rose on a blustery day in W12 on Saturday, fresh from a run of four consecutive league wins. But entertainment has been in short supply at Loftus Road this season, with the success so far built on a strong defence rather than eye catching attack, and Tuesday night’s grind against a dreadful Bolton Wanderers side did little to raise spirits among a group of supporters who don’t want to seem ungrateful, but would like a little more bang for their buck. A season ending shoulder injury for 15 goal top scorer, and former Burnley man, Charlie Austin on Tuesday, closely followed by a nasty looking knock sustained by right winger Matt Phillips after just six minutes of this encounter, heightened the pessimism.

Both sides looked like they had points to prove in this live Sky fixture. Harry Redknapp flung the shackles off his team and started with two strikers – including debutant Kevin Doyle, swiftly signed to cover the Austin absence – and a midfield that, on paper, looked wide open with Phillips and Armand Traore right and left and Joey Barton and Niko Kranjcar in the middle. Enough of the safety first approach, let’s step up to the plate and have a few big swings. No concession from Burnley either, who stuck to their tried and trusted formation with Vokes and Ings up top together and came with a willingness to attack scarcely seen from visiting teams on this ground this season.

The result was a magnificent spectacle. Like two boxers at the peak of their careers standing toe to toe and trading blows, QPR and Burnley slugged at each other for an hour and a half of wonderful Championship action that left the crowd in throaty voice and warm of heart. Pacy wing play, combative midfield action, mesmeric moments of brilliance from Niko Kranjcar, crisp, clinical striking play - football, it turns out, still can be really bloody exciting.

It was very second tier at times: a strong wind influenced play and there was a good deal more long ball played than in other Rangers matches this season; the goals came mainly from set pieces and individual mistakes; but it was a brilliant, thoroughly entertaining game all the same.

QPR started much the brighter, turning in their best first half performance of the season that suggested Harry Redknapp had demanded a strong start and revenge for a meek surrender in the corresponding game between these two at Turf Moor back in October. Doyle almost had his partner Andy Johnson racing in on goal after three minutes but visiting keeper, and former QPR loanee, Tom Heaton raced from his line to claim. Then Johnson flicked a Kranjcar corner goalwards at the near post and drew another save from Heaton and although the R’s had lost Phillips, and replaced him with Junior Hoilett, by this stage it didn’t upset their momentum and they took the lead while the former Blackpool winger was still having his body bag zipped up.

The R’s have been so poor with their corners for so long it really beggars belief that Niko Kranjcar hasn’t been taking them more often before this. The Croatian had already picked out Johnson perfectly when he whipped a sixth minute ball into the six yard box and Kevin Doyle, whose deceptive aerial strength will be a key feature of the next few months of QPR’s play, rose highest to plant a firm header into the School End net.

The Irish international striker had scored just three times in 29 appearances for Wolves in the division below prior to moving to Loftus Road, but a change is as good as a rest sometimes and after scoring early he seemed imbued with self belief and confidence. A sharp interception gave him a chance to shoot wide after 11 minutes and later he chased back 80 yards to execute a fine tackle in his own half. His enthusiasm got the better of him with a bad tackle and yellow card for a foul on Jason Shackell late in the half but overall this was a hugely encouraging debut.

Hoilett struck a long range effort wide, Richard Dunne required a bandage around a nasty head wound, and Michael Kightly was yellow carded for pulling back Hoilett after the Canadian had skipped past him. Everywhere you looked there were incidents taking place and referee Roger East incurred the wrath of a sizeable travelling support by subsequently failing to yellow card Joey Barton for two quickfire fouls on Kightly and Jones – the latter was probably at least a booking on its own but having escaped punishment the uneven tempered QPR midfielder went on to have his best match of the season at the heart of a fine performance.

But Burnley recovered well from the Londoner’s strong start. A great tackle from Clint Hill prevented a thirteenth minute corner causing problems and Sam Vokes shot wide after surviving a hand ball appeal. Rangers couldn’t afford to switch off and infuriatingly for Harry Redknapp that’s exactly what they did – leaving two attackers with only And Johnson for company at a Burnley throw in allowed the impressive Kieren Trippier to whip in a low cross and Danny Ings needed no second invitation to slam in the equaliser. A fifth goal in six games for the former Bournemouth man takes him to 22 in 32 appearances this season, two of them have come against Rangers.

Back came the home team – retaking the lead within nine minutes of losing it when another Kranjcar corner from the left caused havoc and Richard Dunne hooked a spectacular, powerful volley over his shoulder and into the roof of the net. His first goal in more than two years – get that into you.

And who knows, had Michael Kightly shot rather than taking a needless extra touch when space suddenly opened up for him in the penalty area during three minutes of added time at the end of the half the visitors could have gone in at the break level at 2-2. That would have been incredibly harsh on the hosts, but Nedum Onuoha looked uncomfortable at right back and Benoit Assou-Ekotto far too casual on the opposite side which, allied with a more attacking midfield set up, left QPR looking more vulnerable than they have in any other match this season. Still, breathless stuff, and half time was a much needed chance for a breather.

What would the second half bring? More caution? A more conservative approach? Not a bit of it. Ding, ding, seconds out, round two, fists flying all over the place once again.
Dunne was carded within seconds of the restart for deliberately chopping down Ings after he’d flat footed the giant Irish centre back with a neat cut inside. Trippier showed his quality once more with the delivery, hanging it up to the back post on the stiff breeze that was at QPR backs in the second half, and only Michael Duff will know how he didn’t get a header on target at the very least after sneaking in behind Clint Hill.

Notice served, action followed seven minutes later. Armand Traore lost possession at the end of a mazy run into Burnley territory and from there Rangers were simply too slow and casual with their tracking back. The visitors worked the ball wide left to Kightly who neither Hoilett nor Onuoha did nearly enough to oppose and he crossed to the near post where Vokes was on hand to slam in a second equaliser of the day.

The London side had responded well to the first Burnley goal, but the second one caused an alarming haemorrhage. Benoit Assou Ekotto began his pitch for the Burnley man of the match award by allowing Scott Arfield to escape down the right and cross low for Ings to volley over when he should have hit the target. Lesson unheeded, the Cameroon full back was then far too casual with Ings himself just after the hour, allowing himself to be robbed while trying to shield a ball out for a goal kick and then feigning a knee injury as the possession was squared for Vokes to stick home number three. Marney subsequently lashed over as Onuoha’s struggles on the opposite side continued. Now the momentum had swung alarmingly in the opposite direction.

When Ings – tireless, fearless, a constant menace – crafted a chance all for himself with a purposeful dribble to the heart of the QPR penalty box 20 minutes from time the only surprise was that he subsequently curled the ball wide when it seemed easier to score. Burnley, robbed of Charlie Austin by Rangers’ greater spending power during the summer, will surely field offers for their latest outstanding young forward this summer.

Redknapp had seen enough, and sent on Mobido Maiga for Andy Johnson who’d struggled to make an impact. The Malian seemed a gratuitous signing on deadline day – loaned in from West Ham seemingly because there was still half an hour of the window left and Rangers like signing players his addition means that QPR now have seven players on temporary deals when only five can be selected in a matchday squad. Manchester United’s Will Keane, signed on loan just an hour before Maiga, will no doubt have one or two doubts in his mind about the move this evening given that he was the one chosen to drop out of the squad altogether for this game. Given Maiga’s appalling performances for West Ham it seemed a difficult move to justify, and a running style akin to an inebriated tyrannosaurus and two early crosses straight into touch here did little to allay fears.

But sure as eggs is eggs, the sky is blue, Ashley Young is a cheat and John Terry is a horrible, racist scumbag, whenever LFW ventures an opinion the opposite tends to immediately come true. Maiga curled a shot wide from the edge of the area on 73 and then, ten minutes from the end, inevitably popped up in the right place at the right time to slot home from close range after Junior Hoilett had finally, finally managed to bundle his way past Burnley’s other impressive full back Ben Mee for the first time. I’m claiming half an assist myself.

Loftus Road was rocking now, noise not heard in these parts for many a long month, and roared on by a vociferous home crowd Rangers pressed for a winner. It looked like they had it when Hill met another well delivered corner seven minutes from the end but the ball flew wide when the net seemed certain to bulge. Given that an equivalent set piece at the other end provoked a nervy goal mouth scramble, and Dyche sent on another striker – Junior Stanislas – for midfielder Michael Kightly 3-3 seemed an unlikely final score despite the small amount of time remaining.

Redknapp’s only concession to a more defensive approach all day was introducing Karl Henry for Armand Traore but having played so well here on Tuesday the former Wolves man was back to his slapstick poorest here and was the last person you wanted a last minute chance to break to in the area – he fell over the ball and face planted into the turf.

Four minutes of added time brought one, final, heart stopping moment as Assou Ekotto was once a-bloody-gain far too relaxed and casual in dealing with a dangerous situation in the Burnley right channel. Suddenly, with Green a long way from his line, the full back conceded possession to new boy Stanislas and could then only watch as an instinctive first time lobbed effort sailed over his head, down out of the sky and, mercifully, agonisingly, just wide of the far post. That proved to be the last kick of a pulsating encounter that brought thunderous applause from a richly entertained crowd. Championship football at its absolute rip-roaring best.

Ultimately the only shame in it all is a 3-3 draw probably does more for rampant Leicester’s promotion push than it does for either QPR or Burnley.

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QPR: Green 6; Onuoha 5, Dunne 7, Hill 6, Assou-Ekotto 4; Phillips – (Hoilett 6, 6), Barton 8, Kranjcar 7, Traore 6 (Henry 83,-); Johnson 6 (Maiga 68, 6), Doyle 8

Subs not used: Carroll, Hughes, Zamora, Murphy

Goals: Doyle 7 (assisted Kranjcar), Dunne 34 (assisted Kranjcar), Maiga 79 (assisted Hoilett)

Bookings: Doyle 40 (foul), Dunne 46 (foul)

Burnley: Heaton 6; Tripper 7, Duff 6, Shackell 6, Mee 7; Kightly 7 (Stanislas 85, -), Arfield 7, Jones 6, Marney 7; Ings 8, Vokes 8

Subs not used: Lafferty, Wallace, Cisak, Edgar, Long, Barnes

Goals: Ings 25 (assisted Trippier), Vokes 54 (assisted Kightly), 62 (assisted Ings)

Bookings: Kightly 14 (foul)

QPR Star Man – Kevin Doyle 8 When you lose a player of Charlie Austin’s quality to a long term injury just days before the transfer deadline, options for an adequate replacement are limited. QPR have done well to pick up a player of Doyle’s quality and age at such short notice and he showed his quality here with an early goal, excellent hold up and lay game and admirable work rate. The goal nudges him slightly ahead of Joey Barton in the star man stakes.

Referee – Roger East (Wiltshire) 8 Upset the Burnley fans in the first half by booking Michael Kightly immediately, then allowing Joey Barton plenty of leniency after several quick fire fouls, but overall he refereed well, got the key decisions right and aided the flow of the game.

Attendance – 16,393 (1,700 Burnley approx) Disappointing to see a few empty seats around for such a big game at the top of the table, but then a 12.15 kick off will always have that affect. Good following from Burnley and a great noise made by both set of fans – the best atmosphere at Loftus Road for some time, in keeping with the action on the field.

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bloberts added 19:02 - Feb 2
Good report again.
Bit generous for Trippier, looked decent going forward but was really poor defensively as Traore had him on toast.
People blaming Hoillet for the second goal need to watch a replay, it was without doubt Onouha's fault.
Nice to see us scoring from set-pieces again

MrSheen added 19:28 - Feb 2
Yes it was exciting and a great atmosphere, but I thought we were poor and thoughtless in the second half and very lucky to emerge with a point. Left-wing corners inswinging corners from Krancjar were our prime attacking tactic in the first half, but did we have even one in the second half? Rather than playing Traore in we were knocking the ball long, and Burnley were happy to see Hoilett get lots of possession on the other side.

Still, we're three points ahead of a good Burnley side, Barton was excellent, Doyle is an instant hit, and BAE gave a superb impression of Zesh Rehman to entertain us all.

Northernr added 19:39 - Feb 2
Christ, and I get accused of being harsh!

cranieboy added 20:22 - Feb 2
It was a good game and great to see more action, my nerves were shredded. Thought their first two goals may have been less likely if first Traore had closed down/been closer to the thrower and then Onouha for the second, though Hoilett didn't bust a gut to get there either, and no need to mention BAE for the third.
Doyle looked good and will do a good job if this match was a true reflection of his attitude. Ben Mee had a very good game against Hoilett.

HamptonR added 20:22 - Feb 2
I enjoyed the game, wanted three points but was pleased with one.

Trippier was slaughtered by Traore for most of the first half and his only contribution was the cross for Burnleys first.
Onuoha looked good in the first half and to be fair to him, his job is to support the two central defenders while Hoilett attacks wide and should defend wide - for Burnleys second Hoilett jogged back.
Perhaps BAE has so much ability (control wise) that he tends to switch off - At the worst moments.
Vokes and Ings were very impressive, apart form Ings screaming for Barton to be booked.
Burnley are a good team but they did spend a lot of time whinging and whining to the ref.

BklynRanger added 20:40 - Feb 2
'inebbriated tyranosaurus', love it. I still think he could be a decent addition for us.

One point of pedantic order: Will Keane (what a name!) said in his signing interview that he wasn't available because he has a dead leg.

tsbains64 added 20:56 - Feb 2
Great report. A cracking game Some good perfromances and great debuts-Harry alsways buys well
Must admit the referee did a good job-porbably one of the best

toemasher added 20:57 - Feb 2

i was working nights to 6am sat and woke up to the soundtrack coming from loftus, very jealous .
I could not relate to some of the comments posted on the forum, were they miserable Man U fans posing as hoops ? so negative. Even hoillet deserves massive praise for his skill creating the final goal
Well played Rs

Marshy added 21:10 - Feb 2
Fabulously exciting and entertaining end to end game. Didn't think I'd ever see that at Loftus Road this season. Also, the atmosphere was back to what it should be, and the great support from both teams supporters spurred on the players.

I was absolutely gutted about Charlie Austin's injury, and now we have the worrying concern that Matty Phillips could also be sidelined, but it was great to see the two new debutants get on the score sheet. I'm sure Harry feels that all our loan signings are in his words triffic top top players and lovely lads. This of course remains to be seen, but without doubt a very promising start. Shame that we gifted Burnley two of their goals. I have mostly admired Assou-Ekotto this season, but would agree that he can be quite casual and over confident at times. If not for this, Burnley would not have scored their 3rd goal. You have to be envious of Burnley having such a dynamic strike paring of Ings and Vokes.

Overall it was a match that will long live in the memory, and all things considered the draw was a fair result.

westsurreyR added 22:50 - Feb 2
A thoroughly absorbing game from my vantage point on my sofa, which gave me a lot of hope. Couple of things struck me that haven't been mentioned yet:

1. Assuming we'll be seeing 4-4-2 pretty regularly for the rest of the season (and presumably Harry didn't sign 4 strikers with the intention of only playing one a time), then for me Kranjcar has to play centrally alongside Barton. Wide on the left (as against Bolton) didn't really work as he was forever coming infield, congesting central midfield. But against Burnley he was excellent.
2. Bit controversial this one but here we go. Good as Charlie Austin has been I saw an immediate understanding between Johnson and Doyle which created far more chances than in any previous game I've seen. So in 10 games time his shoulder injury might seem not have been such a disaster after all.

Kiwi76 added 23:07 - Feb 2
Really enjoyable game to watch even with BAE horror show. Great to get Doyle and Maiga off the mark straight away and credit to the team coping with yet another injury to Phillips.
Hopefully Hughes can come in and steady things at RB and Onuoha back to CB.
Going to be tight run in behind Leicester but we look to have the spirit to compete.

Imelda added 23:28 - Feb 2
Thoroughly enjoyed the match from my sofa, husband wisely out getting a puncture fixed but the guys fixing our alarm system were treated to a wide range of shouts, screams and language unbecoming to a lady.
Hopefully we can have a bit of stability from now on with our dreadful run of injuries over and the new boys settling in quickly
One point I would like to make - Clint Hill running like a teenager to stop a Burnley striker with a brilliant tackle right at the end. Shame he didn't score either - he deserves a few more!
And Clive, write that book....

Myke added 23:34 - Feb 2
Thanks Clive A very entertaining game to watch in the first half, although I wouldn't share your view that this was our best first half performance this season. We certainly started brightly and bossed the opening 17 minutes, but from then on Burnley got more and more into what was a very open half. For me,in terms of dominance, our first half at Reading is our best showing to date. The second half was poorer as the conditions deteriorated. For the second goal while both Onuoha and Hoilett were at fault for failing to get close to Kightly I was actually more dissapointed with Hill and Dunne. They had plenty of time to set themselves up once they realised Kightly was going to cross unchallenged and he dd so early, which meant the ball had to travel some considerable distance to Vokes, yet neither put him under sufficient pressure, which I thought was poor from such experienced defenders. Still, overall no complaints, we've being crying out all season for entertainment and we got it in spades while maintaining our 3 point over our nearest rivals. It looks like Leicester are dissapearing over the hill and out of sight. They have aquired that happy knack of grinding out 1nillers just as we did earlier in the season, so it's vital we keep our noses in front of Burnley ... and the chasing pack!

RonisRs added 08:40 - Feb 3
Good result under the circumstances. Not the best time to play the Burnley with a solid strike force. While it would have been good to win, the draw was fair given the changes that were forced on us and the unfamiliarity of the new team members. if we can build from here, it will be good.
as for BAE, wtf & then nearly lost it for us in the dying minutes ..........

HastingsRanger added 09:13 - Feb 3
Clive - thanks for the report which I think fairly reflects this thriller unlike the 'impartial' partial BBC (presumably written by a Chelsea supporter or Burnley fan).

The balance looked right for a change. The team looked like they had practised in the week, rather than turning up on the day (which ironically the new boys probably had done on this occasion). Traore's input was pleasing for me, he looks a very lively option in the midfield. And I am warming to watching Barton-the-footballer.

Whilst the obvious mistakes were punished, they did miss a couple of sitters. I agree, Onuoha seemed strangely rooted when his player was miles away deciding at what moment he might cross, and for weeks we have all feared the BAE casual moments, so it was going to happen. So a draw was a fair reflection in the end.

But if only we could play like that every week!!

smegma added 09:31 - Feb 3
I didn't think Niko had a 7 game. He had a period second half when he did everything wrong for about 15 mins culminating in the worse pass all game that went sailing out for a throw in on the ellerslie side. Had Henry done it, 14,000 fans would have jeered him. Was also disappointed with Dunnes marking for the first 2 goals yet he scores higher than hill who had a really good game. On the plus side, we've discovered how to take set pieces and second half we showed a will to win not seen for a long time(or will to not lose!). Without a shadow, the best game we've seen all season and I doubt it will be bettered.

probbo added 11:12 - Feb 3
It was a really enjoyable game and a draw was a fair result, given our slightly lacklustre showing in the second half and a couple of howlers from BAE, one that could have cost us the game at 3-3. The lack of marking which led to their second goal was a bit of a conern too.

I know he polarises views a bit but Traore fills that left midfield position very well imo. He let himself down with a couple of bad first touches in the first half but he is a superb crosser of the ball from the left side.

QPunkR added 11:36 - Feb 3
I enjoyed that game on Sat more than I've enjoyed anything we've served up for a verrrry long time. Absolutely cracking game and didn't mind dropping 2 points - I got all my money's worth and more from entertainment alone!
A mate who watched it on Sky said he thought it was a really poor game - I told him he must've lost his verve for life, that was a class game and I just wish A) all of them could be like that and B) Toilett could cross the ball without it smacking into his opponent's leg every. single. time!

dixiedean added 12:01 - Feb 3
Both Ned & Hoilett were culpable for 2nd goal - NO should have got closer and JH did the best impersonation of Bosingwa tracking back that we've seen. Maybe slightly harsh to say, but Dunne was the marker for the first 2 goals - and the 3rd ,but only one person can carry the can for that one ! With that 4-4-2 system there is a big onus on people getting back very quickly when we lose possession ,and that was a risky strategy against such good opposition, but probably contributed to the spectacle .Maybe Little Tommy will be back at Derby for AJ ? For all his hard work AJ doesn't currently carry a goal threat .One strange thing is I don't remember either keeper making a save in the whole game. On a general point, it seems churlish to criticise Clive and his occasional deputies re player marks. We all see things differently and have players we like /dislike and are biased towards/against, so I think it's fair to disagree but not to imply Clive is wrong for giving a different mark. I hope Burnley go up as there is a lot to like about them and their manager,but I think they'd struggle if they'd lost their best 3 players in quick succession as we have ( Simpson,Austin,Phillips)

woodies92 added 14:49 - Feb 3
As a Burnley fan I wanted to congratulate you Clive on producing such a well written, entertaining and unbiased report on Saturdays thrilling encounter. It has been well received on Clarets Mad (See link below) which is our main forum site and I felt you deserved some credit. The same goes for your fellow fans who to a man/woman seem to have sensible football brains . Not what I have come to expect from members of The Cocker Knee Tribe ;-) Though Dixie yes we would be decimated by three similar injuries but our squads are worlds apart as alluded to be Clive in terms of depth quality and value.
Cant really say good luck for the rest of the season but always had a soft spot for you guys so more than happy for both our teams to get in the Premier League. Thanks again and well done.

Harbour added 15:13 - Feb 3
great match burnley are a excellent side and will go up with us and Leciester...other than their third goal which we could have avoided the other 2 burnley goals were excellent a draw was fair result credit the new signings played well... also hoillet saved us with assist for third.. good atmosphere best game of the season so far apart from the result

dixiedean added 15:17 - Feb 3
woodies92 - nice to hear from an opposing fan . I take your point re squad budget. Fair shout, and all the more credit to Dyche. Although please get rid of the Ginger Mourinho chant- that's a terrible insult he doesn't deserve! We're lucky that we don't have to mend something if it breaks, we just replace it ! Glad you appreciate Clive's work. I'm rather proud that we have a fans' site which displays a high-level of common-sense & objectivity, as opposed to most which are at Sun-reader/ Talksport level. Would be nice if we both went up, but if you don't mind , we'll let you have the glory of going to Wembley - I couldn't take the stress :)

extratimeR added 16:05 - Feb 3
Cannot agree about Trippier, I think Traore must have won every ball in the air against him in the first half, ( and skinned him several times), and knew Burnley would have to bring someone extra across in the second half to support him, (No 37, whoever he was).

No complaints about result which was fair, we lost it in mid-field second half, Nico is great player, but final ball sometimes poor. No way was this Joeys best game, ( agree he has been great all season),as expected after being out for three/four? games he tired in second half, but kept going very well.

Very good game and point gained not two lost.

Thanks Clive, very good report as usual.

woodies92 added 16:39 - Feb 3
I know what you mean Dixie. Living in Devon I really value Clarets Mad and there are some brilliant contributors and in the main good guys but we have more than our fair share of absolute morons. I so dont want the Play Offs. I have twice started smoking again during play off campaigns!! Either way the stakes are huge for us. Fail to get promotion and we will lose Ings, Trippier and Ging... opps sorry SD just as our Parachute Payments end.Not really sure where we would go from there.

francisbowles added 18:52 - Feb 3
Although Leicester look uncatchable, you never know. Similar leads have been lost before.
I also hope Burnley make it up with us, as what SD has achieved is quite remarkable.

As for Traore, I have always felt we gain a little in the air when he is available. In fact, it might be better if one of Hill and Dunne stayed back and either Traore or Onuoha went forward at set plays as the later two would be quicker getting back!

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