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Austin slays old club, then sees red as QPR move out of bottom three - report
Sunday, 7th Dec 2014 22:15 by Clive Whittingham

QPR moved out of the relegation zone at the expense of Hull City on Saturday, thanks to a hard-fought 2-0 home win against fellow strugglers Burnley. Charlie Austin scored against his old club but was later sent off.

And so the pattern of QPR’s 2014/15 Premier League season continues: an away match that makes you think there’s no possible way they’ll be in the top flight next season is followed by a home game that makes you think there’s a half decent team to emerge from this squad of players yet.

A quirky fixture list that has handed QPR away trips to nine of the top ten sides before Christmas, partly explaining the dismal form displayed so far on their travels, set the R’s up with consecutive home matches against their fellow newly promoted sides this week. Rangers were a distant fourth behind Leicester and Burnley in last season’s Championship but have now beaten both at Loftus Road inside seven days to climb out of the bottom three for the first time in nearly three months.

All three former second tier sides starting the day in the bottom three has been cause for much analysis and comment. A piece in Saturday morning’s Independent said he struggles of the Foxes and Clarets could probably have been anticipated given their lack of summer outlay on new players, whereas QPR’s main problem is Harry Redknapp “hasn’t got his heart in it”. Ian Herbert clearly not one of ‘Arry’s favoured scribes.

Following Redknapp’s team around the country this season you’d struggle to argue with that assessment. Captain Joey Barton told the club’s matchday programme it had “pissed him off” that his team had essentially let Swansea do whatever they liked in the game before, and paid for that slackness with a 2-0 defeat.

But back at Loftus Road on Saturday, where the R’s have now won four and drawn two of seven home matches, Redknapp seems to be revelling in an “our cave” attitude tapped into so successfully by Ian Holloway a decade ago. Christ doesn’t time fly? “When I came here I felt like there was no connection between the fans and the players,” Redknapp said after this latest success. “The fans thought the players were mercenaries who didn’t care. Now they can see we’re working hard.”

More importantly, the 30-year management veteran had made a substitution an hour into this proverbial six-pointer with Burnley that turned the tide decisively in the Hoops favour.

QPR were in front at that point — Leroy Fer’s second goal in as many home games bundled over the line via a deflection from a despairing tackle by Ben Mee finishing off a sweet move that Fer had started on halfway and also involved a neat interchange between strike pairing Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora.

But that was about the first time the home team had strung three passes together. On a frosty pitch that suggests worrying problems with the undersoil heating in W12, Burnley were much the better side in the first half. Their full back Kieran Trippier is a well-known assassin — 14 assists and three goals from the right side of the Clarets’ defence last season — and his early searching cross drew Robert Green from his line into a situation he didn’t want to be in. The goalkeeper collided with Mauricio Isla, spilling the ball in the process, but recovered well to make a fine save as Scott Arfield seemed certain to slam in the rebound.

Later Green flung himself off to his left to spectacularly fingertip George Boyd’s top-corner-bound 25 yarder onto the top of the post. As good a save as you’ll ever see from one of the Premier League’s form goalkeepers. Given Simon Mignolet’s struggles at Liverpool, you’d forgive Green’s reserve Alex McCarthy the odd regret for choosing Loftus Road over Anfield in the summer during his quieter moments — Green has rarely played better in his whole career than he has in the last month.

QPR were losing the midfield battle comprehensively. Joey Barton was back in Hollywood mode, attempting passes and long range shots his ability simply cannot justify. Karl Henry seemed a yard off the pace after clashing heads with Boyd — all flowing hair and slender figure: you’ve pulled worse. David Jones and Dean Marney were workmanlike and effective, Boyd and Arfield wide of them impressive, QPR were struggling. Jones saw a free kick, awarded for a foul by Barton on Danny Ings, deflect over off the top of the wall. Later Trippier lashed wide after Isla committed a stupid foul on Ben Mee, when the left full back had his back to Green and was going nowhere, and the free kick was cleared out to him.

Even when the R’s did pose a thread — Zamora knocked down Isla’s deep cross for Austin to strike a volley that was blocked by a defender ten minutes before half time — it often resulted in a counter attack the other way. On that occasion Danny Ings looked to have the pace to round Richard Dunne after isolating the veteran Irish defender, but the route around the QPR centre half is so long you could probably justify building a bypass as part of the government’s £15bn road improvement network and after a trip that seemed to take hours Dunne simply used the striker’s flailing momentum to ease him off the pitch and into the side netting. “Take a seat over there Danny”. Dunne was magnificent here — easily his best performance since the Wembley play-off final in May.

Eduardo Vargas was also impressive on the right wing, and during a brief spell in the centre of midfield while Henry had his head strapped up, but needs to add goals to his game. He had a shot cleared off the line after cutting inside onto his left foot but, really, goalkeeper Tom Heaton made a botched job of the save. The former QPR loanee was also lucky to survive a hideous challenge on Charlie Austin where he simultaneously smashed him in the face with a forearm and planted a studs up boot firmly in his midriff — no penalty awarded.

The Fer goal should have been a nerve settler and was just rewards for a positive start to the second half. Burnley striker Ashley Barnes, largely ineffective leaving Ings to do the work of two men, hacked into Barton for an early yellow card and Vargas saw a shot deflected behind after Austin had teed him up.

But in actual fact it only stirred the visitors. QPR’s bizarre struggles with oppositing kick offs continued here — Burnley immediately won a corner from theirs and Steven Caulker saved the day with a towering header almost under his own cross bar. Caulker stayed down clutching his head, forcing referee Jon Moss to stop the play as Burnley continued to pour forward — if he was injured fair enough, I suspect it was a cynical ploy and, frankly, QPR need a bit more of that having been caught out, particularly against Liverpool, being far too nice and unwilling to engage in such dark arts.

Prolonged periods of pressure saw Dunne toe a low Ings cross a fraction wide when a typical own goal looked likely. In the next attack Dunne produced a fantastic goal-saving tackle on Barnes who’d been set up by Ings, and Burnley’s main goal threat then headed wide when found with a deep cross at the back post and he should have scored. Boyd lashed over from the edge of the area when he had time and space to think more carefully about what he was going to do. Barton was very harshly penalised by Moss on the edge of the area for a foul on Ings when he appeared to have been sinned against — Rangers stood firm again but it felt like only a matter of time before they cracked. The clock seemed stuck on 60. A long night lay ahead.

Redknapp’s decision to send on Niko Kranjcar for Bobby Zamora wasn’t an immediately obvious one. What the Croatian knows about defence can be written on the pack of a postage stamp in a thick pen. Surely this would leave the home side even more open to attack, while also removing a valuable outlet who could hold possession in the Burnley half. Idiot Redknapp, wishes he was still at Tottenham, heart not in it, should have retired when he didn’t get the England job, thinks tactics are little mints etc etc.

Actually it turned out to be a masterstroke. Rangers were suddenly able to not only hold possession higher up the field, but use it far more intelligently. Barton, released from the need to spray 50 yard passes left and right straight to the feet of Burnley players, was given a simple detail of racing around executing blocks and tackles which he did superbly — much more his bag. With Kranjcar pulling strings the influence of Fer and Vargas grew. The tie started to turn. QPR started to tick.

The best piece of football the Super Hoops produced all afternoon brought them a crucial second goal after 74 minutes. They kept the ball well, probing for an opening, switching it left and right, recycling it well — they almost looked like a Premier League side. Ultimately Kranjcar provided the key pass, a rapier like incisive ball to the right flank played with supreme accuracy onto the foot of Mauricio Isla. With Vargas ahead of him the two Chileans combined beautifully with a one-two that got Isla to the byline. From there he didn’t panic and hack a percentage ball into the six yard box, instead cutting a very accurate pass back into the danger area for Charlie Austin to sweep the ball home through a crowded goal mouth. High quality stuff. Wonderful to watch. Six goals in seven appearances now for QPR’s top scorer and eight in 14 overall in his first ever Premier League campaign. He stood, arms aloft, in amongst the heart of the QPR support by the Loft End corner flag on the Ellerslie Road side of the ground. A hero. Game won.

Or so we though. Rangers have never been crash hot at doing things the easy way and they would play out time with ten men. Charlie Austin had already been booked by Moss for an ugly lunge on Tripper which could have been a red card by itself — although rangers have good cause to ask why they weren’t awarded a free kick on the edge of the area a second before when Fer was clearly fouled. Immediately after scoring he caught Michael Keane with a flailing arm challenging for a high ball and was off. Only the fifth and sixth bookings of his 51-game QPR career and his first ever red card in senior football.

But despite the numerical advantage, Burnley now no longer looked like they carried the belief they could get anything from the game. They’ll point to an incident eight minutes from time when Barnes appeared to be wrestled to the ground deep inside the QPR penalty box by Steven Caulker only for Moss to award the free kick the other way. But then they could have conceded a third goal when Yun Suk-Young raced through on goal at the end of a flowing move, seizing a fine pass from Leroy Fer before drawing a save from Tom Heaton. “I’d have lost my shit if he’d scored,” said one — hard to argue. Yun’s popularity grows with each passing performance.

Redknapp sent on Jordon Mutch for Eduardo Vargas, who’s likely to have to carry the attacking can by himself in next Monday’s trip to Everton with Austin serving a one-match ban. Phillips came on for Fer by way of clock running. Burnley brought on Jutkiewicz for Jones and Marvin Sordell for Barnes but had drifted out of the contest after a bright opening hour. Robert Green came out for a late cross and bravely punched clear under heavy fire. Jutkiewicz fouled Isla and was generously let off without a card being shown.

Moss added four minutes and played five. Three points in the bag, QPR climb to seventeenth and look the best set of the newly promoted sides to stay in the division. Burnley will welcome back Sam Vokes from long term injury shortly, solving one of their biggest problems here — a viable partner for Danny Ings which Barnes, Jutkiewicz and Sordell simply don’t look capable of being. A big December of winnable home games has brought six from six and, providing West Brom don’t lose this weekend to Aston Villa and sack Alan Irvine, there’s no reason to think that can’t be nine from nine in a fortnight’s time.

If only QPR could find a way to win points on the road, then they’d really start to believe.

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QPR: Green 8; Isla 7, Dunne 8, Caulker 7, Suk-Young 6; Vargas 7 (Much 78, 6), Barton 6, Henry 6, Fer 7 (Phillips 90+1, -); Austin 7, Zamora 6 (Kranjcar 66, 7)

Subs not used: Ferdinand, McCarthy, Onuoha, Hoilett

Goals: Fer 51 (assisted Austin), Austin 74 (assisted Isla)

Red Cards: Austin 76 (two bookings)

Bookings: Fer 45+1 (foul) Austin 71 (foul), Austin 76 (elbow)

Burnley: Heaton 6; Trippier 6, Keane 6, Shackell 6, Mee 6; Boyd 7, Marney 6, Jones 6 (Jutkiewicz 86, -), Arfield 7 (Wallace 75, 6); Barnes 5 (Sordell 89, -), Ings 6

Subs not used: Reid, Kightly, Long, Gilks

Bookings: Barnes 46 (foul)

QPR Star Man — Richard Dunne 8 Narrowly pipping Green thanks to a fantastic, dominant display of thou-shalt-not-pass centre half play. This really was Dunne at his absolute best.

Referee — Jon Moss (West Yorkshire) 6 The Charlie Austin sending off was correct, although I thought Fer should have been awarded a free kick on the edge of the box just before his first yellow card. Heaton’s challenge on Austin in the first half, and Caulker’s on Barnes in the second, should probably both have been penalties.

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TacticalR added 23:16 - Dec 7
Thanks for your report.

This may just be the benefit of hindsight, but however well Burnley played in the first half, there was something unconvincing about them. Perhaps it was that Vokes is still out. Perhaps it was that Dunne was able to keep Ings quiet. Perhaps it was that some of our summer purchases have come through for us and we had a little bit more class than when we last met them.

Dunne. I say this every week, but another commanding performance from Dunninho, who seems to be thriving on those international breaks.

Barton. We're really seeing the good and bad side of Barton at the moment. Barton tends to be at his best when focused on defense. I don't blame him for having a shot if a shot is on, as the ball often comes to him in a central area, but there's no point in him taking one if he's much further out than the edge of the box as his accuracy just isn't that good. He also has a tendency to make telegraphed passes, so those get cut out quite easily. Despite his shortcomings at least he offers us a viable replacement for the fragile Sandro.

Kranjčar. Every time he got the ball he seemed to operate in a pocket of space and looked to create havoc around the Burnley box. The irony is that last season Burnley were the first team to realise the danger he could pose, and had men on him the whole game at Turf Moor. Perhaps they'd forgotten about him?

Fer. Another good game, another goal. Skillful on the ball, made some good passes, and seemed completely unfazed when he had three or four players around him.

Green. With my view from Ellerslie I genuinely didn't think that save from Boyd was a save as it seemed so far away from Green. Astonishing!

062259 added 04:29 - Dec 8
It's impossible to underestimate the importance of the next two home gains, against WBA and Palace. Two wins would result in a minimum of 20 points at the half way stage, assuming losses at Everton and Arsenal. In the second half of the season, all remaining 9 home games will be against teams currently 12th and higher (gulp), while only 3 of the 10 away games will be against teams 11th and higher (Villa, Liverpool and City).

Recoilboss added 08:08 - Dec 8
Another desperate home win squeezed out as we cling to survival hope. Dunne & Green immense as is becoming the norm. Fer having more good games than bad and seems like his heart is well in it when not just required to sit deep away from home.

Heaton’s Harald Schumacher-inspired boot straight into the meat & two veg combined with a left hook to the face was, frankly, astonishing. No antics however, no screaming or pleading - how impressive was Charlie ‘hard as nails’ Austin to just pick himself up like a drunk boxer and shake himself down, re-setting his own jaw while making a mental note for the future Turf Moor fixture? Nice one ref... or Mr McGoo.

Meanwhile Ed Vargas, who we don’t seem to be getting quite the best from yet despite his abundant talent & efforts, did his utmost by applying an unusual sock enhancement - a twinkle toes tweak which seemed to bamboozle the opponents at times. Perhaps the whole squad could embrace this subtle sartorial update ((that Nike shambles can only be improved anyway) to create the hypnotic illusion of more pace & guile in the team?

Metallica_Hoop added 09:01 - Dec 8
Thanks for that Clive.

QPunkR added 09:54 - Dec 8
Everything as I saw it again Clive. However I thought Heaton's hatchet job on Charlie was outside the area? Obviously they declined to show it on MOTD so I haven't been able to see it again.
Barton - I think he was summed up well above. Stop shooting, stop imagining QPR players where there are none.
Fer - I still think he didn't have a great game. The only things he manages to do right are when he doesn't mean them - both goals have been poorly struck and if he caught them as he intended I fancy they'd both have ended up in the Upper Loft!
Greeno and Dunne - simply faultless.
Don't mind missing Charlie for Everton - we were never gonna get anything there anyway as it's an away game; he may as well have a rest!

londonscottish added 10:26 - Dec 8
Thanks Clive. Agree about Niko. He was very handy again.

probbo added 10:58 - Dec 8
Another precious 3 points at home. I fear that our away form will continue while HR sticks with the tactic of trying to play (defend) for a 0-0 draw. I think HR is more worried about playing a more attacking side and risking a humiliating thrashing than trying to steal a point and only losing 0-1 or 0-2 (or still being thrashed 0-4 in some cases this season). I guess the balance between those extremes would be defend then counter attack but to do that we need more pace in midfield or bring Suk-Young more in to play as an attacking wing back. Either way though its going to be hard to rely solely on home form to keep us up this season. If we could just get an away win, the monkey would be off the back and we can push on from there.

sexton added 12:46 - Dec 8
Heaton's assault was outside the area. A clear straight red.

Schumacher himself once played at LR


billericaydicky added 13:03 - Dec 8
Excellent stuff as always Clive - love the comment about Boyd - yes I have pulled worse, but don't tell anyone...

extratimeR added 13:13 - Dec 8
Thanks Clive!

Spot on.

Fer causes a lot of argument amongst the lads, (he was good on Saturday), the general opinion seems to be as he is obviously very good with a marvellous touch, surely he should play in the middle with a fit (?) Sandro, that's harsh on Henry who has been very consistent.

I just think that he would move the centre 10-15 yards up the pitch, Barton and Henry are so deep, it makes it hard for our full backs to get forward.

I would love to see Fer run at their central defenders from the middle, it would certainly help Vargas.

The only slight flaw in this plan is he is a lazy sod who does not cover back, and has a worrying tendency to take on five men and lose the ball.

Still its better than Joey's floated balls into Tesco's on the Uxbridge Road.

Clive, curious no one seems to have mentioned Redknapp not taking Charlie off when he asked to go off, he pointed at his left leg and started walking off, then Harry changed his mind and said he could not come off, then he got sent off, er because he was unable to jump of his left leg and put a wonky arm into Trippier.

AgedR added 13:22 - Dec 8
Agree with your ratings. I'm afraid Barton is the poor man's Sandro. Unfortunately, Sandro is just never going to be fit for any prolonged period, so we are stuck with 'Joey, the people's champ' or trying Mutch in that role alongside Henry (and then sit back to witness how Barton reacts to being dropped). He's not a bad player, it's just that he is a different class to what he thinks he is.

I thought Burnley were no more than efficiently organised in the first half, but, showed absolutely no ambition in the second. Even at 2.0 down and playing against 10 men, they defended a corner with 11 men in the box. I was disappointed with them and away trips against Burnley, Leicester, Sunderland, Hull and Villa really shouldn't hold an fears for us, even with our Jeckyl and Hyde approach the football matches.

Another bright point was that Phillips looked ok when he came on, albeit very briefly.

I think we're doing ok this season even after the inevitable loss next Monday.

Marshy added 22:12 - Dec 8
A frustrating at times but satisfying win. With 15 odd minutes still to play when Charlie got sent off, I feared that Burnley would claw their way back into the game. Surprisingly I thought this was their worst period in the match, when they really should have capitalised on us having only 10 men. Agree with most that Dunne & Green were really excellent.

So, Charlie gets to have a rest next Monday, but we should not just throw in the towel against Everton. There is no reason why we can't go there and get something out this game. Surely we are eventually going to pick up some points away from home somewhere.

062259 added 00:16 - Dec 9
I agree with extratimeR. Fer can trouble defences if he is in the mood. I'd like to give the wingers a go at Everton and tell them this is the opportunity for them to prove they have something to offer. Nothing to lose. Stick Vargas up front 4-2-3-1 and take a look at how well he can play as a central striker. Have a go.

Isla, Dunne, Caulker, Yun
Barton, Henry
Phillips, Fer, Hoillet


Kaos_Agent added 02:34 - Dec 9
Never ever thought Dunne would be so critical to our success on defense.
If he can keep this level of play up in combination with Green's good play we should stay up.

The Isla-Vargas connection up the right side is so good that we may lose some penetration by having Vargas up front and center. Worth a try though. He really should have more goals than he does, including his record in Chile. We need to unlock his scoring potential somehow.

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