Burnley crack QPR's untypical resistance to seal promotion - Report
Tuesday, 3rd May 2016 00:00 by Clive Whittingham
Burnley beat QPR 1-0 at Turf Moor on Saturday to win promotion back to the Premier League. But they didn't have it all their own way.
The people of Burnley came for a party, and a party is what they deservedly got. Eventually.
Queens Park Rangers are usually fabulous guests at these things. They’re that couple who bring an expensive Chateauneuf-du-Pape from a good year, then sit in the corner quietly drinking tap water and allow the festivities to escalate around them. Crewe, Newcastle, Wolves, Preston, Cardiff, West Brom and Reading have all celebrated a promotion, or a play-off qualification, with a positive result against QPR at the very end of campaigns since 2003.
But there was, initially, no hint of a repeat of that in front of an expectant Bank Holiday crowd at Turf Moor. In fact, home goalkeeper Tom Heaton was forced to make three saves of varying difficulty before half time while his opposite number Matt Ingram stood untroubled by shots on or off target at the other end.
First Heaton dived left to divert a well struck volley from Matt Phillips after Seb Polter’s clever knock down away to safety. Then, after Clint Hill had headed a deep free kick into his path, Junior Hoilett struck a pure right-footed drive straight at the keeper from 20 yards. Given that Heaton looked nervous dealing with the shot, fumbling it under his body briefly, it’s fair to assume that an attempt a yard or two either side of him might have yielded an opening goal. Later he was quick off his line to smother at the feet of young Michael Petrasso after he’d been played clean through on goal by a raking pass from fellow youth team graduate Cole Kpekawa, but sadly allowed the ball to drift across his body giving Heaton a chance to pounce.
Suddenly, unusually, QPR were that couple that turn up with a bottle of Echo Falls from the Spar shop over the road, get drunk on all your expensive stuff, then start disturbing the other guests with rum behaviour.
Seb Polter, in particular, probably won’t be getting invited back to any future functions in this part of the world any time soon. It took him just three minutes to run up behind the people’s champion Joey Barton and execute a two-footed lunge so late, high and unnecessary even I almost thought it was slightly excessive. Almost. Referee Jon Moss, generously, dished out only a yellow card under the It’s A Bit Early Yet Act of 1994 as Barton rolled around on the ground clutching his shin. I’d make Polter the King of England for this personally – German ancestry has never been a barrier before.
The maverick German followed this up with three further fouls and a deliberate handball, suggesting he perhaps had a holiday booked clashing with next Saturday’s final match of the season at home to Bristol City. It looked like he’d struggle to make half time at one point but he modified his game accordingly, and continued to work hard hustling Burnley’s centre backs meaning they struggled to play the ball out from the back and often had to rush into going long. Andre Gray, who’d had a hand in 32 Burnley goals through scoring and assisting before this game, cut an isolated, frustrated figure in attack as a result with the recalled Clint Hill mopping up everything that was punted his way.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s team selections can often appear quite random, and that was certainly the case here, but a 4-1-4-1 with Karl Henry sitting deep and Ale Faurlin pushed much further forward than he has been for a while worked really well. Of the risks he took, the selection of Kpekawa at left back, against George Boyd, who personifies everything that’s good about Sean Dyche’s Burnley more than anybody else, paid off the most. Petrasso seems to have impressed plenty too, but for me – with all the usual mitigation about difficult assignment, nerves, tough circumstances, lack of experience etc – I was disappointed he was so reluctant to push the ball on the outside and ask questions of his full back’s pace. Nice touches in tight spaces, but the Canadian is quick and could have pushed to the byline more. That’s me being super harsh I suspect.
The home team’s situation wasn’t being helped by Barton, who’s won hearts and minds in Lancashire and a place in the division’s team of the year this season by abandoning the frequent social media and political television controversies, and his ego-driven quarter-back approach to central midfield play, and the temper that made him such a liability during three seasons at QPR. Given a fetching and carrying role designed to utilise his engine and hide his wild passing game, Barton has excelled – as he did at Loftus Road on the rare occasions he stuck to the basics. Here, though, with the television cameras in town, and his former club in opposition, and a title to be won, the Budget Beckham routine started to re-appear. He passed to players wearing QPR shirts more in this match than any other in his career and a free kick late in the first half from the thick end of 35 yards hit the wall so low down it’s hard to know whether it would even have reached the goal had there been nobody there at all.
At QPR, of course, such free kicks were common place during his stint at the club, and we just continued letting him take all of them. And all the corners. He scored once, to be fair, at Reading. Burnley, however, don’t tolerate such nonsense, and more’s the pity because when the more accomplished David Jones stepped up and wrapped his left boot around a free kick on the hour all the excellent Sam Vokes needed to do was get a flicked contact at the near post to divert the ball into the far corner for the opening goal.
Rangers had good cause to feel aggrieved, not only because they’d been marginally the better side to that point, but also because the decision to penalise Clint Hill for the free kick in the first place, when Andre Gray seemed to be pulling him back every bit as much, seemed very harsh indeed. The logic that Jon Moss had such a personal catastrophe at Leicester v West Ham - where awarded two soft penalties and turned down several other more blatant ones - that he could not be trusted with a Premier League game this weekend, but was nevertheless capable of taking charge of a game in the division below with a promotion riding on it is, I’m afraid, lost on me.
But QPR can’t complain too loudly about that. Firstly, because his apparent one man refereeing mission to eradicate the holding that has sadly become endemic in the defensive parts of our sport by awarding a series of bizarre decisions completely at random soon benefitted the Londoners. Vokes was harshly penalised for a non-existent shove on Matt Ingram from a Burnley corner with the ball nestling in the back of the net for a second time. One goal allowed that shouldn’t have been, another ruled out when it should have counted, I’m not sure what else we should really have expected having watched Moss run riot at the King Power Stadium a fortnight ago.
And secondly because Burnley are a much better team overall, were better in the second half here, and had been knocking on the door before they scored. Scott Arfield, the outstanding player in the home team in this game, had already almost caught Ingram out with a well-crafted lob straight after half time and later drew the save of the game from the former Wycombe keeper with a firm shot through a crowded goalmouth that he somehow diverted away with his legs. Gray should also have done better with his own chipped attempt after sneaking in behind Grant Hall as the centre back’s worrying recent trait of misjudging a bouncing ball continues.
Burnley just keep going, keep doing what they’re doing, keep persisting, keep working hard, keep in shape and keep the tempo up. They were miles from their best here, but got the job done. That sort of consistency is a pipe dream for QPR at the moment and predictably they faded in the second half, rarely testing Heaton, and not getting a lot better for the introduction of Ben Gladwin, Conor Washington or Nasser El Khayati.
Ale Faurlin’s perfectly struck left footed 20-yarder soon after the Vokes goal had the keeper beaten all ends up, and cracked against the top of the post. That would have been a fitting reward for the Argentinean who is, touch all the wood, on the cusp of completing a first full season since 2010/11 despite suffering three separate ACL ruptures since then. He played well in his more advanced role here and deserved a goal.
But Burnley would just have won it next week at Charlton instead. In a division as relentless and gruelling as this, to have remained unbeaten for the last 22 games of the season – a run stretching all the way back to Boxing Day – while making minimal changes to the team and without picking up a single suspension for a sending off or yellow card accumulation is a remarkable achievement from a team that will surely now go on to be worthy champions.
They are the benchmark, on and off the field.
Burnley: Heaton 7; Lowton 6, Keane 6, Mee 7, Ward 6; Boyd 6, Barton 5, Jones 6, Arfield 7; Vokes 7, Gray 5 (Barnes 76, 6)
Subs not used: Taylor, Dyer, Robinson, Hennings, Tarkowski, Darikwa
Goals: Vokes 61 (assisted Jones)
QPR: Ingram 6; Onuoha 6, Hall 6, Hill 6, Kpekawa 7; Henry 6; Petrasso 6 (El Khayati 70, 5), Phillips 5, Faurlin 7, Hoilett 5 (Washington 63, 5); Polter 6 (Gladwin 71, 5)
Subs not used: Lumley, Perch, Prohouly, Grego-Cox
Bookings: Polter 3 (living the dream), Kpekawa 45 (foul)
QPR Star Man – Cole Kpekawa 7 Possibly a sentimental choice, as we’re so desperate for a youth teamer to come through and play for the first team. That said, away from home against a title chasing team was a tough assignment for the senior players, and whoever was selected at left back against Burnley’s notorious work-horse George Boyd, who sets so much of their tempo and pattern of play out on the field, was going to have it tougher than most. Needed to offer more going forwards but defensively, against Boyd, he didn’t miss a beat, reducing one of Burnley’s key men to a peripheral figure in the game. Should take a lot of belief from this.
Referee – Jon Moss (West Yorkshire) 5 The logic/fairness of a referee who makes a pig’s ear of a Premier League game being ‘dropped’ to the Championship, so we have to suffer them instead, is worthy of a wider discussion than we have space for here. In brief, Moss is a poor referee, who crashed and burned in dramatic style at Leicester West Ham, and was subsequently handed this game where one goal was scored from a free kick that shouldn’t have been given, and another was disallowed for absolutely nothing at all. The physical contact and grappling that has, sadly, become part of the modern game in defensive situations is seemingly too much for Moss to cope with and the result is he spends lots of time talking to players and ends up randomly guessing at decisions. He got two wrong here, again, and the only saving grace for him is the scoreline ended up 1-0, as it should have done, despite him. He just allowed and disallowed the goals the wrong way round.
Attendance – 19,362 (250 QPR approx) This capacity (except for the away end) crowd was only slightly above what can fit into Loftus Road, and Burnley have achieved their two promotions in three seasons, and £30m profit, and new training ground, and everything else besides., on an average gate of little over 16,000 with smaller ticket prices than us and none of the extra sponsorship and different income that comes with being a higher profile, London-based club. QPR can achieve and compete while still at Loftus Road, if they do it right.
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