Rangers Fail On The Turf!
11th April '09 at 3.00pm
Attendance: 15, 058
QPR, sporting the black away strip (in memory of the recently departed Paulo Sousa?), took on Burnley at Turf Moor this afternoon - a team we have not beaten this season. And we were not to beat them this time, either. With Gareth Ainsworth back in charge of the team, at least in the short-term, it was another QPR old-boy - Clare Carlisle - who condemned Rangers to a 1-0 defeat and meant that, at least this season, we were unable to beat Burnley.
Burnley had chances to extend their lead, which thankfully they failed to take; and Rangers had a couple of chances themselves, Lee Cook probably having the best chance to equalise late in the 2nd half, but he failed to capitalise on a slip by Burnley defender Stephen Caldwell.
This may have been our first defeat in four matches. But the statistics do not make for pretty reading. We had only 2 shots on target all game and only 10 shots on goal. We had only 40% of possession and managed to win only 7 corners (to Burnley`s 12!) By the end of the game we did not even have a recognised striker on the pitch - a telling reflection of the poor decision made to loan Blackstock out a few weeks ago with Heidar Helguson still injured.
Temporary manager, Gareth Ainsworth, made one change to the line-up which started against Crystal Palace last weekend. Ainsworth opted for a 4-4-1-1 formation. The defence picked itself again, with Ramage and Delaney retaining their full-back positions and Gorkss partnering Connolly once more in centre defence. The midfield consisted of Mikele Leigertwood and Hogan Ephraim in the centre, with Wayne Routledge and Adel Taarabt occupying the wings. In for his first start since breaking his leg last April was our iconic number 8 - Rowan Vine (in place of Liam Miller). He played just in front of the midfield four and just behind Samuel Di Carmine who was up in attack.
Our substitutes did not include a goalkeeper or striker. Instead Lee Cook, Jordi Lopez (recovered from injury), Gavin Mahon (also back after injury) and Matteo Alberti (all midfielders) joined defender Damion Stewart.
Owen Coyle, the Burnley manager, handed Jay Rodriguez a full start, following a period where he seemed only able to get on the pitch as a substitute. Martin Paterson, Burnley`s leading goal-scorer, was named on the bench. Clarke Carlisle, in defence, kept Michael Duff out of the side today.
Kick off: Burnley v Queens Park Rangers
Wade Elliott tried a shot at goal from about 30 yards out straight from the kick-off, clearly stating Burnley`s intention very early on. Within a couple of minutes, though, Adel Taarabt had his own shot - suggesting that Rangers were not just going to roll-over this afternoon.
Rowan Vine hit the post, having played a neat one-two with Hogan Ephraim. He hit the return ball on the volley and his shot struck the post. What a strike! Shame the linesman had flagged for offside so his effort would not have counted if it had gone in!
From a harsh free-kick awarded to Burnley following a challenge by Routledge on Kalvenes, Burnley had a faint chance with a strong header from close range from Jay Rodriguez which was high and wide. Rangers had packed the defence in anticipation so as to protect Cerny - remember he is leading the Golden Gloves league at present with 18 clean sheets.
Burnley were managing to get in some good crosses. Clarke Carlisle had a good header from close-range which went wide of the left-hand post, from one such cross. Carlisle had another good opportunity from a Robbie Blake corner a few minutes later, but that also missed the left-hand post.
Vine was doing his best to make a name for himself. He darted in from the left, on the blind side of the Burnley defence, and almost managed to turn the ball into the Burnley net following a pinpoint cross from winger Wayne Routledge. Unfortunately for him, and for us, Brian Jensen, in the Burnley goal, turned the ball away for a corner. Ephraim took the corner well and the ball reached Kaspars Gorkss, but he could only manage to put his header wide.
The first 15 minutes were entertaining and Rangers were certainly playing their part, attacking at all opportunities, dispelling fears that, following the shenanigans at the Club this week, the players may not perform to the best of their ability today.
The game then descended into a more scrappy affair where things weren`t going too well for either team. Rangers were defending well but had to deal with far too many crosses for my liking! Cerny had to catch cleanly following a cross from Chris Eagles on 20 minutes and this was quickly followed a headed effort from Jay Rodriguez which went wide of the mark.
I suppose the fact that Cerny hadn`t had an actual save to make in the first half-an-hour was positive, but neither had Jensen! The hardest Jensen had had to work was to make a decisive punch to clear after good work by Matthew Connolly, which allowed the central defender to put in a superb cross.
couple of corners by Rangers put Burnley`s defence under pressure, but we were unable to capitalise on this pressure.
Just after the half-hour mark, following a foul on Routledge by Kalvenes, Connolly took a free-kick. He got the ball to Taarabt who managed to get his cross in only to see ex-Ranger`s defender Clarke Carlisle make the clearance. But Rangers then came under pressure themselves.
First Rodriguez``s shot had to be saved by Cerny, which he did with aplomb. Then, less than a minute later, Graham Alexander took a shot which brought out an even better save from Cerny, but the ball went out for a corner. Blake sent the ball into the area, the ball came out to Chris Eagles, just outside the box, and he took a shot which flew wide of the right-hand post. Burnley continued to press and, following yet another corner from Robbie Blake, Stephen Caldwell placed his header just past the left-hand post.
Cerny was now being called upon more and more. He had to punch the ball clear following another Burnley corner and, when Rangers tried to clear the ball out of defence, Burnley relatively easily picked up the ball and began another attack. Cerny had to save from Graham Alexander. Rangers did manage to get out their half towards the end of the first 45 minutes, but Burnley won the ball back before our attack could amount to anything. They went on a marauding run and the ball fell to Rodriguez. Just as he was about to let fly, Matthew Connolly made a brilliant clearance, sending the ball out for yet another corner to Burnley but ensuring the imminent danger was avoided.
In the final few minutes, Samuel Di Carmine, who had been mostly anonymous throughout the previous 45 minutes, took a shot, but it was blocked by Stephen Caldwell. That was the end of our attacks for the half, as Burnley returned to the attack themselves and had another couple of quick corners, which thankfully came to nothing. Rodriguez then had a chance from the edge of the area which flew past the right side of the goal. At that was it for the half!
Half time: Burnley 0 - 0 Queens Park Rangers
Burnley started the second half in the same manner in which they finished the first - on the attack. Following a very early corner from Robbie Blake, Chris McCann placed a strong header (luckily) against the upright - much to my relief but the chagrin of the Burnley fans.
Goal: Burnley 1 - 0 Queens Park Rangers
Unsurprisingly however, following another Burnley corner, the elusive goal now materialised. The goal, a (deflected?) header from Clarke Carlisle, was shrouded in controversy. Cerny, along with Hogan Ephraim, claimed very vociferously that the ball had been turned in via a hand, but the referee was having none of that, and allowed the goal to stand. However, my man-in-the-stand, our very own Boxer, assured me that, having watched the reply it was clear that Rodriguez flicked the ball off his hand in front of Cerny from Carlisle`s header! Typical refereeing - turn a blind eye at the wrong time!
Burnley went looking for their second straightaway. Chris Eagles took a shot from outside the area which went wide of the goal and, a few minutes later, he had another go - but this time, his shot was blocked by Leigertwood. This was followed by the confident Carlisle having a shot himself and then McCann, whose shot was expertly blocked by the industrious Peter Ramage.
Rangers were struggling to get back into the game. We were playing more of a 4-5-1 formation at this stage, with Vine playing far more of a midfield role and Di Carmine, the lone striker, doing nothing. So Ainsworth changed things by taking Di Carmine off and bringing Lee Cook on in his place. Vine became the predominant striker and was supported by Taarabt. Cook went out onto the left-wing.
Straightaway, Rangers went on the attack through the industrious Rowan Vine. He had not done very much up till now, but what he did was always effective, and this attack was no different - he won a corner from which Leigertwood had a header on target, but Jensen was able to gather.
Rangers kept up the momentum and were now making more of a fight of it. Damian Delaney took a shot from just outside the area, on about 60 minutes, but it rolled just wide of the right-hand post. Vine then found himself in an offside position - he was upended in the box (a tackle from behind). Nothing was given but at least Vine was getting forward!
Taarabt was starting to get more into the game, although his trickery didn`t yield immediate results. He had a chance to run between two Burnley defenders, but instead inexplicably went down. More`s the shame as he had been in a good position before his tumble.
The trouble was, though, that Rangers were not stringing enough passes together and we kept losing the ball to Burnley in silly positions. And there was always the danger that Burnley could catch us on the break, as a result of us giving the ball away.
First, Chris Eagles almost scored. He whipped in a cross from the right which almost caught Cerny out. He did, however, manage to deal with the cross before it crept under the crossbar! Then on about 70 minutes, Carlisle had another good header which did beat Cerny and was heading for the back of the net, before Hogan Ephraim stepped in, in a timely manner, and cleared the ball off the line. That was the last job Ephraim would do for us today, however, as he was immediately substituted, being replaced by Jordi Lopez, fit again after missing last Saturday with a slight injury.
Immediately after this, Rangers went on the attack. There was, after all, 18 minutes still to go! Cook whipped in a good cross and Routledge nipped in between two Burnley defenders, causing all sorts of panic in the Burnley defence. As a result, one of their defenders ended up slicing the ball out for a corner. From the resulting corner, which was cleared by the Burnley defence, QPR won a free-kick just outside the area as Lopez was fouled by Robbie Blake. Lee Cook took the free-kick, swinging the ball into the area, but Vine`s header went wide.
Robbie Blake was substituted soon after this by Joey Gudjonsson. Cook had a chance to equalise shortly after this on about 82 minutes. He received the ball from Peter Ramage and a golden opportunity presented itself to him as Stephen Caldwell fell over. Trouble is, Cook was taken so much by surprise that he pulled his shot wide instead of burying it in the Burnley net!
And this was followed by a spate of substitutions rather than actual action! Rowan Vine was taken off for Matteo Alberti - so that we did not actually have a conventional "striker" on the pitch! Taarabt went up front, with Cook and Routledge on the wings and the centre midfield berths were occupied by Lopez, Alberti and Leigertwood. And, with four minutes of normal time to go, Burnley`s leading goal-scorer, Martin Patersen, came on for Jay Rodriguez. A final Burnley substitution saw Eagles replaced by Kevin McDonald.
After all these substitutions, there wasn`t much time for football and, in fact, after three minutes extra time, Mr Haywood put an end to this match. Without a Snickers bar in sight, the Rangers faithful who had made the trip up north, left the stadium to start their journey south somewhat disappointed by the final outcome. In terms of tactics and formation, Ainsworth seemed to copying his predecessor, Paulo Sousa, but yet again the Rs failed to conjure up a goal - how many hours is that not without scoring?
Final whistle: Burnley 1 - 0 Queens Park Rangers
Burnley: Brian Jensen, Rhys Williams, Clarke Carlisle, Stephen Caldwell, Christian Kalvenes, Wade Elliot, Graham Alexander, Chris McCann, Chris Eagles (Kevin McDonald, 89), Robbie Blake (Joey Gudjonsson, 79), Jay Rodriguez (Martin Patersen, 86)
QPR: Radek Cerny, Damien Delaney, Matthew Connolly, , Kaspars Gorkss, Peter Ramage, Mikele Leigertwood, Wayne Routledge, Hogan Ephraim (Jordi Lopez 71), Adel Taarabt, Rowan Vine (Matteo Alberti, 84), Samuel Di Carmine (Lee Cook, 54)