The 2014/15 relegation battle took another twist on Saturday as two relegation favourites went head-to-head in a must-win match for both teams. Star men Danny Ings and Charlie Austin both made their professional debut on 6th October 2009 and find themselves as their respective team’s top goal scorer in the Premier League 5 years on, as the Clarets travelled to Loftus Road. Both were looking to find the vital goals that would lift their team out of the relegation zone for the first time since September.
QPR brought Zamora and Isla into the starting XI, while veteran Rio Ferdinand still finds himself on the R’s bench as Richard Dunne and Steven Caulker bulk out central defence once again. Burnley’s only change was full-back Ben Mee earning himself a place in Sean Dyche’s squad. Centre-back Michael Keane starts once again as he continues to impress for Burnley; Dyche may be looking at trying to extend his loan from Manchester United which currently ends in January.
Burnley started the match in energetic style, unsurprising when they are unbeaten in four premier league games; the clarets were enjoying their best run in the top-flight for 40 years. On 11 minutes a lofted cross from the right hand side had Green scrambling to half beat it away from the edge of the box but only found Scott Arfield, who obliged to the opportunity for a long ranged shot. Arfield’s shot found an inspired shot-stopper for the R’s, who completed an impressive double save.
Burnley continued to press the QPR back-line; in-form George Boyd finding the bottom of the post after another good save from Rob Green on 28 minutes. Green’s fantastic performance seemed to spur QPR on to find their legs as the first half continued. Vargas had a shot cleared off the line two minutes later; the Chilean having a quiet debut season in the Premier League so far.
The two sides went in at half-time with deadlock still unbroken. Harry Redknapp’s team-talk seemed to breathe new life into his XI, with Leroy Fer quickest out of the traps after the break managing to tuck away a deflected shot which looped over a helpless Tom Heaton on 50 minutes. Charlie Austin provided the assist after a smart run and pull-back to an oncoming Fer. The Netherlands international is slowly building himself a reputation as a key player for the West London club after a big-money-move from Norwich in the summer.
Burnley continued to struggle to find a way into the QPR net, with Danny Ings coming close with a header on 61 minutes; the Burnley striker would hope to opportunities like this one away more often than not. A notable booking came eleven minutes later as Charlie Austin clattered into Trippier without winning the ball. Some fans would be forgiven for thinking that he was lucky not to see red after such a reckless challenge.
Austin picked himself up to unerringly slot home two minutes later after fantastic work down the right-hand side by another Chilean on QPR’s books- Mauricio Isla. The full-back delivered a great cross from the right upon the second time of asking, finding in-form Austin who made no mistake.
A busy 5 minute period for the R’s no.9 which saw him receive a yellow card and score a goal then ended clumsily. On 76 minutes, Austin was adjudged to have led with his elbow in an aerial challenge with Michael Keane to win a header, which saw Michael Keane fall to the ground in slightly over-dramatic fashion. Referee John Moss felt it necessary to issue a second yellow card to the striker, a decision which manager Redknapp had no complaints with when talking in a post-match interview.
Burnley were unable to make their one man advantage count as the match drew to an end; the only notable chance of the last 10 minutes coming from R’s left back Yun who brought a good save from Heaton on 84 minutes. QPR held out to claim their fourth home win of the season and and leap-frog Burnley out of the relegation zone. Burnley remain parked within the zone, alongside Leicester and newly endangered Hull City.
This writer feels that Burnley will struggle to stay up this season if they cannot find the goals necessary to fend-off clubs that are in and around them. Danny Ings has now played just 3 minutes less than Diego Costa, mustering only 4 shots less than Diego Costa’s 39, but remains shy of producing the end product in comparison. Charlie Austin is fairing much better than the Burnley hit man, claiming par shot accuracy with the league’s top goalscorer Sergio Aguero, which could be the difference between the two teams’ chances of staying up. Harry Redknapp insists that other players will need to chip in, like loanee Eduardo Vargas “who should bebagging a few more”. However, ever-the-optimist that Harry is, he is still confident about survival.
QPR travel to Goodison park next to play an Everton side who are low on confidence on the back of two straight defeats. Harry will hope to mastermind another win for the R’s in his bid to remain part of the world’s best league.