QPR’s record breaking unbeaten start continued at a wet W12 as Burnley came to town having lost heroically at Villa Park midweek, and followed a 4-0 thumping at home to Reading last weekend. Neil Warnock was forced into changing the line-up from last week’s draw at Ashton Gate after Heidar Helguson failed a fitness test. That gave Rob Hulse his long awaited start since joining back in August having played the last half hour at Bristol City.
Just before kick-off, there was a torential downpour and the rain continued for most of the 90 minutes although at times it was just a light drizzle. Despite the rain, it was rather mild, balmy even, yet the Burnley full-back Tyrone Mears deemed it necessary to wear gloves with a short sleeve shirt. And who said footballers are dense ?
Burnley started off brightly as did we, with both sides having a fair portion of the possession. Their trio of Dean Marney, Graham Alexander and Wade Elliot were giving our midfield a good test. In the first 15 minutes, I thought that Burnley had the better possession and held onto the ball longer than we did. Despite this, it was QPR who had the first opportunity on 15 minutes when a Derry shot from range ricocheted to Mackie who looked up and as he was about to shoot, Michael Duff put in a tackle which resulted in a corner. Then, straight up the other end, Marney had a close range shot go just wide of the goal with Kenny covering it comfortably. Halfway through the 1st half, Kenny had to scramble across his goal to turn a curling shot round for a corner, although he managed to make it look routine.
Kenny’s next involvement 2 minutes later, showed why he has yet to concede a goal at home this season. A 20-yard shot from Eagles, on a skidding surface remember, was palmed out by Kenny into the path of Rodriguez some 8 yards from the goal. As the Burnley player hit the ball, Kenny was still getting up but somehow he managed to palm the ball away again. According to some fans in the Lower Loft, he should’ve held the first shot. As I mentioned earlier, it was very wet and there was obviously a drip in Block LL !
On 30 minutes, Chris Eagles was booked for a ridiculous dive right in front of the Loft and the home crowd rounded on him. It was only one of about five big decisions that the referee got correct all afternoon. After about 9 minutes, he could’ve given Burnley a penalty when Eagles was flattened (by Hill I think ?) as he waited for the ball to drop out wide on the corner of the box. I remember my mate saying: “You watch him give a dubious penalty for them later.” Also, Adel was adjudged to have dived in the box at the School End, yet the referee waved play on and said nothing.
So the ref had lost control basically after about 20 minutes as he frustrated every player and spectator with some bizarre decisions, stopping the game for nearly every contact between players. Some decisions he even made up as he didn’t know at one point and watched as our players retreated at a thrown-in which told him that it was a Burnley throw, but he still took about 30 seconds to make his guess !
On 33 minutes, Adel Taarabt showed why he is rated so highly. Picking up a ball 25 yards out, dead centre, he went at the defender marking him, turning him left then quickly to his right, too quickly in fact and unleashed a screamer of a shot at waist height. The keeper dived full length to his left, but such was the power and direction, it hit the back of the net in a split second. From where I sit (behind the goal in the Lower Loft) it was a goal the second it left his foot. A minute later, and Mackie had a half decent chance in the box, but dragged his right footed shot just wide. Five minutes after his booking, Eagles tripped Taarabt as he was in full flow. Any referee who was in control would’ve booked him, but he just spoke to the player.
On 38 minutes, Eagles had a decent shot at goal which was easily saved by Kenny. Then the ref had more words with Eagles as he committed another foul, which had the home fans baying for another yellow which would’ve been harsh in my opinion, unlike his earlier trip on Adel. Just before half-time, it was Adel’s turn to be yellow carded. He went into a tackle and bottled out, then went to get the ball again, went to ground and as he did so, grabbed the ball claiming he was fouled. It was now the Burnley fans to get uppity with the referee as they seemed to be aggrieved that he wasn’t carded for the eartlier dive.
Then right on half-time, my mate’s words came back to haunt me as the referee gave a very soft penalty, which I believe he looked to his assistant on the Ellerslie Road side as he couldn’t make up his own mind being that he was nearer to the incident. Up stepped Graham Alexander to slam it to the keeper’s right while Kenny chose left having no doubt seen videos of his previous 20 penalties or so. It’s no shame to concede from 12 yards from this division’s best penalty taker and he nearly made it ten hours without having to pick the ball out of the net at home. In the 1st half, we had a couple of players who were on the missing list and in particular Hogan Ephraim who only touched the ball twice I seem to recall, with good contributions from Kenny, Walker, Connolly, Gorkss and Taarabt. Half-time: 1-1.
Chris Eagles was replaced by Ross Wallace for the 2nd half and who could blame them, what with this referee. We stayed the same somehow. On 59 minutes, Ephraim got his first touch of the ball since the re-start and lost control of it and it went for a throw-in. Then 3 minutes later, he was replaced by Agyemang, Ten minutes after that, Leon Clarke came on for Hulse. We were struggling to create anything, in fact, we strung our first 4-pass move together of the 2nd half on 68 minutes. Anytime we tried anything, the ref would blow up for some innoccous challenge which didn’t help us one bit, or Burnley’s defence would put in a tackle. The first decent chance of the 2nd half fell to Burnley’s top scorer, Iwelumo. Bursting into the box on 75 minutes, he eluded a lunging challenge, but thankfully for us, he hit a shot which cleared the bar when he should’ve hit the target.
Straight up the other end, following a foul on Taarabt, he floated a free-kick into the box and Agyemang’s glancing header went agonisingly wide. Then on 80 minutes, we were let off again when Rodriguez put a deflected cross wide of the goal from about 6 yards out when it looked easier to score. With 8 minutes to go, the ubiquitous substitution of our captain took place with Tommy Smith replacing him. Suddenly we looked a better outfit going forward, any coincidence ??? Following a scramble on 86 minutes, Gorkss hit a shot over the bar from about 7 yards with his right foot, or wrong foot on this ocassion. Then on 87, a Smith free-kick was floated into the 6 yard area and Hill rose highest, but his effort went narrowly wide. In the second minute of the five added on, Smith went on a run down the left, cut inside and hit a curled shot to the far post which only missed by inches. Then with about 20 seconds left, following another goalmouth scramble, Derry hit a left footer from 12 yards which went a yard wide.
Another frustrating afternoon with our fourth consecutive draw and our third consecutive one at home. But we are stil unbeaten and in 2nd position and we would’ve taken 6th postition back in August. And it’s all put into perspective when you read page 7 of the match programme and the story of David Barnsdale, a true hero.
Team with player ratings: Kenny: 8, Walker 8, Hill 7, Gorkss 7, Connolly 7, Ephraim 2, Faurlin 6, Taarabt 7, Derry 6, Mackie 6, Hulse 5.
Subs: Agyemang 6, Clarke 5, Smith 7.
Subs Not Used: Cerny, Orr, Leigertwood, Rowlands
MOM: Walker – What a find by Neil Warnock and hopefully his loan will be extended even further.
Referee: G.Williamson 5. He never let the game flow for more than 2 minutes without blowing his whistle for something or the other.His handling of some major decisions tells me that he had a bad day at the office.
Attendance: 15,620 (including 1,404 Burnley fans).