Hasselbaink makes his point on opening night - report
Monday, 14th Dec 2015 21:33 by Clive Whittingham
QPR and Burnley fought out a competitive goalless draw at Loftus Road on Saturday as the Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink era began in Shepherd's Bush.
At Queens Park Rangers, football's famed 'new manager bounce' can often be more of a dull thud.
Chris Ramsey lost five of his first six matches, Harry Redknapp only won one of his first seven, Mark Hughes won one of his first eight in the league. Less breath of fresh air, more dawning realisation.
When managers have, quote, 'lost the dressing room', when players have taken against their boss and started playing well within themselves, when a boss is crassly incompetent… then a change can give a place a huge lift. Neil Warnock arrived midway through a season when Jim Magilton, Mick Harford and - most laughably of all - Paul Hart had all had a crack already. He lost only three of his first 13 matches, winning the first two including a home game against league-leading West Brom.
But when the problems are far more deep rooted than who picks the team on a Saturday and takes them for training four days a week, immediate impacts are hard to inflict.
That's not to say Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink started life at Loftus Road badly on Saturday – far from it, quite the opposite in fact. Burnley are about as tough as opposition come at this level, particularly when welcoming them as the home team. The Clarets pride themselves on being the fittest team in the competition and have only lost once on the road in the league all season. An unbeaten run stretching to seven away games includes positive results at Derby, Cardiff, Wolves, Blackburn and Forest. A draw, and a clean sheet, for a team lying below halfway in the table is a good result.
Nor is it to pretend that there weren't obvious changes and improvements to the side and style after a week under the tutelage of the former Dutch international and his assistant David Oldfield. QPR, once again, started without a recognised striker on the field, and replaced young Michael Petrasso with the altogether more defensive Karl Henry wide right. But they were much more positive than they have been during a recent run which has seen them fail to score in four of the last six matches, fail to score a goal in open play at all in that time, and register just two from set pieces one of which would have been kept out by a reasonably large pile of dog shit.
Hasselbaink preaches hard work, high press, maximum effort and collective responsibility. The tempo was higher, the outlook more optimistic. Green shoots of recovery were in obvious evidence in the first half at least.
Matt Phillips shot over the bar from long range after four minutes, then headed down for James Perch to try his luck with a goalbound shot that deflected wide. Leroy Fer planted a muscular header straight at visiting keeper Tom Heaton from a thirteenth minute corner and then later received a brilliant ball out from the back from the ever-impressive Grant Hall before freeing Phillips on the counter attack – Heaton was equal to the left-footed shot.
Burnley looked rather surprised by this. Andre Gray, finding QPR's back four stationed ten yards higher up the field than it will have been in any of the pre-match analysis tapes Sean Dyche will have shown him, was repeatedly flagged offside. Nedum Onuha's well executed sliding tackle on the former Brentford man before half time at the expense of a corner which Robert Green fisted away was as much of a threat as Burnley could muster before the break. That said, earlier Green had made rather a hash of a typical Joey Barton free kick – typical in that the shot was tame and taken on when there were several better options from a distance only a player of supreme ego would consider it worth a dig – but was able to gather at the second attempt.
Maybe there was to be a bounce after all.
After half time the problems started. Problems, that is, other than spending a quarter of a billion pounds in five years and still having only one striker worthy of selection. It's hard to believe Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Seb Polter and Reece Grego Cox can apparently offer nothing positive at all to this situation, given how totally out of his depth Phillips has looked as a striker so far, but Hasselbaink looks like being the second experienced manager this season to reach that conclusion so we'll have to trust in that I suppose.
The main issue here was that having played Burnley at their own energetic game for 45 minutes, QPR were absolutely knackered. Embarrassingly so in fact. Ale Faurlin and Sandro you can perhaps (perhaps) forgive given the respective state of their knees, and there's no denying Phillips, Fer, Hoilett and others put in a very good shift in the first half and the overall performance was much better.
But for them to be hanging out of their arses to quite this extent, quite so early in a Championship match, was alarming. Charlie Austin is fit enough for 30 minutes of football, and was duly introduced on the hour for Hoilett, but by then the players behind him were little more than baggage and there were people in the crowd who saw more of the ball than the talismanic front man – mostly as a result of wayward skews from Barton's vintage Glenn Hoddle routine which we've seen before and continues to yield the same results it always did.
Rangers were fortunate to find Burnley flat footed in the fifty-third minute when Onuoha, correctly, allowed a ball to bounce in behind him expecting his goalkeeper to come and claim only to find Green, not for the first time this season, glued to his line, motionless, apparently thinking about other things. Thankfully he'd returned to us two minutes later and was sharply out to save at Gray's feet on the edge of the box. Still, another concerning performance, peppered with wild kicking for which the strong wind would have been an excuse had Tom Heaton at the other end not been so completely untroubled by the conditions.
Later Gray's excellent hold up play and turn in the danger area produced a shot that deflected wide. When Barton did finally, briefly, find his range for a pass of more than ten yards he produced a fine cross which Sam Vokes should have steered on target rather than a foot over the bar and onto the roof of the net with Green beaten. Faurlin owes Paul Konchesky a pint for his timely interception when the Argentinean, down to a walking pace by this point, fell over the ball sparking another Burnley attack. The introduction of Emmanuel-Thomas didn't improve matters, and in fact his lousy pass created another late chance which Vokes again directed off target.
I was surprised Burnley weren't more ambitious. They didn't make a single substation and so obviously had so much more in the tank than QPR it felt rather like they were playing within themselves in the final 20 minutes. There was a win here for the taking for them, but with a fairly one dimensional midfield four and Vokes nowhere near as good as Gray in attack they seemed happy with a draw.
The danger with that is you can end up losing a game. QPR may have looked like the monthly meeting of the Middlesbrough and Redcar Asthmatics Society for the final half an hour but they still created the two best chances. First a flowing move sparked by Phillips, briefly effective for the first time in the game, freed first Austin and then the much-maligned Henry who could have taken it on his right, but decided to check back into the traffic and take the shot on his weaker left with predictable results.
Grant Hall was a deal unluckier. His performance deserved a goal, and had his firm injury time header from a Phillips corner been a foot further right or left that's exactly what he would have got. A solid connection sent it straight at the excellent Ben Mee on the line and, subsequently, away to safety.
Hasselbaink’s philosophy and style looks tailor made for a club where hard work, honesty and commitment is highly valued and sadly lacking in recent years. But this QPR team is nowhere near fit enough to put it into full practice as it stands. One suspects Christmas may be tough going at Harlington this year.
QPR: Green 6; Perch 6, Onuoha 7, Hall 8, Konchesky 7; Henry 6 (Emmanuel-Thomas 74, 5), Faurlin 6, Sandro 7, Hoilett 6 (Austin 60, 6), Phillips 5
Subs not used: Chery, Luongo, Smithies, Angella, Tozser
Burnley: Heaton 6; Darikwa 7, Duff 6, Keane 6, Mee 8; Boyd 6, Jones 6, Barton 6, Arfield 6; Vokes 5, Gray 7
Subs not used: Lowton, Marney, Taylor, Kightly, Ward, Gilks, Hennings
QPR Star Man – Grant Hall 8 What a steal this guy is looking. Exactly the kind of low-risk-high-reward punt QPR should be taking, rather than chasing names. Consistently excellent, very unlucky to score but with an aerial ability defying his (relatively) small stature for a centre half a goal won't be long in the offing. Excellent signing so far.
Referee – Stuart Attwell (Warwick) 7 Having the Problem Child in town is always a conern given his past form, but he was alright here. No bookings, no disasters, no goals given even though the ball was nearer the corner flag than the net, no players randomly sent off for no reason… that’s all you can ask from this guy. His timekeeping was interesting – one minute at the end of each half, fair enough in the second but Barton was down for longer than that nursing his precious, valuable face after being hit with the football in the first.
Attendance – 16, 576 (1,500 Burnley approx) Decent crowd, decent atmosphere, standard all round.
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