A humdinger of a clash was on the lunchtime menu for Sky viewers who were treated to a topsy-turvy feast of Championship football. The pendulum swung back and forth in a action-packed tie which positively crackled along.
And in fact the match was preceded by a topsy-turvy week down at Loftus Road. Thursday saw the heartbreaking news that talismanic Rangers striker Charlie Austin would be out for a prolonged period. Later Harry Redknapp described Austin as “out for the season”. This news was accompanied by Transfer Deadline moves for youngsters Coll Donaldson, Guilherme Dellatorre, Will Keane plus more experienced heads in the shape of Modibo Maiga, Aaron Hughes and Kevin Doyle.
Doyle went straight into the starting lineup in a 4-4-2 formation alongside Andy Johnson. Nedum Onuoha took the right back berth to replace injured Danny Simpson. Hughes and Maiga each took a place on the bench.
But it was another substitute who was quickly brought on after play started. Junior Hoilett came on for Matty Phillips who picked up a serious knock in the first five minutes and was stretchered off.
After this ominous start the debutant Doyle made a much more positive start to his Rangers career. On five minutes, Niko Kranjcar delivered a corner which Johnson met with a header forcing a save from the Burnley keeper. From the resulting corner Kranjcar put in an almost identical ball. Doyle got in a glancing header which saw the ball go sailing into the corner of the net.
Doyle’s header hits the back of the net
Rangers looked confident on the ball and were buoyed by possibly the best atmosphere heard at Loftus Road this season. The bubble was burst halfway through the first half when Kieran Trippier got free down the Burnley right and put in a pinpoint ball. Danny Ings finished beautifully with his right foot leaving Rob Green with no chance.
The pendulum swung again on 33 minutes when bandaged R’s defender Richard Dunne got on the end of a corner to power home a stunning volley. Loftus Road was jumping.
Dunne finishes with a stunning volley
The second half was another mixed affair. Burnley came from behind with two goals down to poor QPR defending, both scored by Sam Vokes. The equaliser came on 53 minutes when impressive Clarets’ winger Michael Kightly was afforded acres of space by Onuoha, who was struggling with his role as a make shift right back. Kightly crossed in for Vokes to strike the ball home.
Burnley’s third had an element of farce as Benoit Assou-Ekotto got caught in possession rather casually by Ings, who was clear in to provide Vokes with relatively simple tap in.
Hero – Assou-Ekotto tidies up in the box
Villain – Assou-Ekotto languishes after holding on to long leaving Ings clear
Rangers’ blushes were spared by new boy Maiga, a replacement for the lively Johnson. Hoilett on the right was finding the game tougher as time progressed, by managed to stay wide and beat his man on this occasion. The winger found Maiga with a low cross and the Malian striker was able to poke home.
Probably the right result in the end, although Rangers were rather fortunate to get that late equaliser. Anyone who thought Burnley might fade in the second half of the season may have to rethink that assessment. They are highly worthy competition for that second automatic promotion slot.
Team: Green 6, Onuoha 6, Assou-Ekotto 6, Kranjcar 7, Dunne 7, Hill 7, Phillips 6 (Hoilett 6), Barton 8, Doyle 7, Johnson 7 (Maiga 7), Traore 7 (Henry 6)
Substitutes not used: Carroll, Hughes, Zamora, Murphy
QPR MOM: Barton – Did what he has done so often this season, spurred Rangers on in the middle of the park. He brought spark and urgency in the face of adversity.
Burnley MOM: Kightly – Would have been easy to choose one of the Burnley front men, but Kightly was superb with surging runs and great deliveries
(Photographs provided by Sandra Sayce and are used with permission)