Unbeaten home run comes to an end
Struggling Queens Park Rangers came to an expectant Turf Moor and, against all the odds, went home with all three points from a 2-1 win to aid their relegation fight and leave us still looking for three more points to win the league.
Their winning goal came late in the game, this after we’d already drawn level once through Manuel Benson. It left most of those inside the ground stunned with a result that I don’t think anyone could have ever predicted.
My day started earlier than usual. I was on ‘Clarets for Foodbanks’ duty, supporting West Yorkshire Clarets. It proved to be a good day in that respect with a bumper collection at our point on Ormerod Yard, behind the cricket pavilion.
While there, we picked up the team news which showed five changes from the team that had drawn at Rotherham in midweek and it was a more familiar looking team with returns for Arijanet Muric, Taylor Harwood-Bellis, Josh Brownhill, Manuel Benson and Ashley Barnes who replaced Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Ameen Al-Dakhil, Vitinho, Scott Twine and Lyle Foster. It was something of a surprise to see Brownhill back as it was that Jay Rodriguez was named as a substitute.
It started well enough too. It was virtually one way traffic with QPR rarely getting a touch on the ball unless it was their central defender Rob Dickie who kept turning up on the line to clear goal bound shots.
We could have been going home assured of the points a quarter of the way into the game so much were we on top and so close we came to scoring on so many occasions. Dickie headed an Ian Maatsen shot off the line and he was at it again soon after when we were denied three times. Benson headed against the bar with Barnes having his shot on the rebound saved by Seny Dieng. It fell again for Benson and this time he was denied by Dickie right on the line.
Surely the goal had to come. Barnes did well to get in a shot that went just wide, Dickie was at it again to head out a Connor Roberts shot and as half time approached, Harwood-Bellis shot wide from close in.
As for us, I’m sure we all thought that the goal would come eventually. We’d been so much on top; this could easily have been another Preston or Huddersfield or Wigan.
The second half was a different story I’m afraid. I don’t think we’ve played quite so badly since that second half at Sheffield United back in early November and we made it far too easy for QPR who really did turn to the dark arts of the game. They took time wasting to a new level, clearly happy with a draw, but they went on to win it.
After a less than inspirational start to the second half, we made a double change. Rodriguez and Twine came on, replacing Barnes and Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson. I have to admit to being stunned at JBG coming off; I thought he’d been as good as anyone for us but so often a substitution has surprised me only for me to be proved totally wrong.
The whole place was stunned but, a Rodriguez effort apart which was saved comfortably by Dieng, we didn’t offer too much threat. That was until Benson got the ball out on the right. Rodriguez made a decoy run and that allowed him to come inside a defender before unleashing a trademark left foot shot into the far corner of the net.
It was another for the Benson collection of superb goals, but would it now lead to us getting the win that would be enough to win the league? As we tried to build some momentum, QPR players were falling down one after the other. Nothing was being done to stop it, so they kept on doing it. The home crowd were getting more and more frustrated and there was no chance of us building any momentum on the pitch.
There was no inspiration on the pitch at all and it was QPR now looking the more likely. And likely became reality three minutes from time. From a left wing corner, which they took short, the ball came in for Chris Martin, who had just come on, to head home. The defending was awful, there were three or four QPR players left unmarked.
It might as well have been one minute because we offered nothing and the whistle blew on this first home defeat since last May when Newcastle beat us.
Kompany explained his changes in the second half at the end of the game. He felt his team were chasing the occasion rather than do what we’ve been doing all season. A delighted Gareth Ainsworth said he wanted his team to defend deep and try to catch us on the counter. That’s exactly what they did.
This season, Howard Webb has taken over at PGMOL. Based on this game, he has some major problems. You get referees who make bad, game changing decisions, such as Bobby Madley who missed the clearest of penalties at Rotherham. Then you get far worse referees, those who fail to manage the game and Dean Whitestone fell very much into that category. He was downright awful without making any costly, game changing decisions.
As for us, I’ve seen so much negativity. It was plain to see that we didn’t play well in that second half but I remain convinced that had we got the lead, we’d have gone on to win it comfortably against a struggling sides.
But all teams have bad days, just as all teams have good days. The best teams, like us, don’t have bad days too often. This game will not define our season, this game and this result will very quickly be forgotten, certainly by next season when we are playing Premier League football again.
What a shame though that we couldn’t complete a home season unbeaten for only the second time and the first since 1911/12. And what a shame that we fell one short of the 23 unbeaten games recorded seven years ago.
None of us are able to be there this Tuesday but I can assure you that we all want to do it while watching on television. To clinch it at Ewood while denting their play-off hopes would be sweet justice given their disgraceful attitude to our supporters. No one will be cheering louder than me if we are crowned champions there.
The teams were;
Burnley: Arijanet Muric, Connor Roberts, Taylor Harwood-Bellis, Jordan Beyer, Ian Maatsen (Michael Obafemi 76), Josh Cullen, Josh Brownhill, Manuel Benson, Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson (Scott Twine 57), Anass Zaroury, Ashley Barnes (Jay Rodriguez 57). Subs not used: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Charlie Taylor, Jack Cork, Vitinho.
Yellow Cards: Taylor Harwood-Bellis, Scott Twine.
QPR: Seny Dieng, Aaron Drewe (Ethan Laird ht), Jimmy Dunne, Rob Dickie, Kenneth Paal, Albert Adomah (Sinclair Armstrong 59), Tim Iroegbunam (Luke Amos 68), Sam Field, Ilias Chair, Jamal Lowe, Lyndon Dykes (Chris Martin 85). Subs not used: Jordan Archer, Taylor Richards, Chris Willock.
Yellow Cards: Sinclair Armstrong, Ethan Laird.
Referee: Dean Whitestone (Northamptonshire).
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