PHOTOS: Burnley FC 0, QPR 0
EDDIE Howe took his seat in the directors’ box in the Bob Lord Stand just as the teams took to the field to the strains of Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up”.
And while there was the pressing matter of a big game against the Championship leaders to contend with first, it’s fair to say most fans’ minds were focused on whether the club’s youngest ever manager could reawaken the Clarets’ promotion push.
Poignantly, at the same time Howe descended the steps into the stand, a legendary predecessor was also saluted by the home support, in his first visit to the ground in over 30 years – Jimmy Adamson, present for the unveiling of a new suite named in his honour.
Adamson captained the club to the First Division title, FA Cup final and European Cup quarter-final, before becoming coach and then manager – declaring his side would be the “Team of the Seventies.”
I doubt whether Howe would have delivered a similarly bold prediction at yesterday’s press call, but he will have had the task awaiting him spelt out in no uncertain terms against Queen’s Park Rangers.
He finds a team underachieving, playing without the confidence and virtuosity that became their hallmark on their inexorable rise to the Premier League, after a damaging 12 months which saw the club slip from 14th in the top flight to ninth in the Championship under Brian Laws.
His first job will be to try and combine the defensive steel displayed in earning a first clean sheet in 15 games with the vibrant, positive football we know these players are capable of. We seem to get either one or the other – flair and frailty, or solidity and conservatism, but rarely silk and steel.
Credit to QPR, they prevented Burnley’s flair players performing, as they looked to add to the eight goals they had scored in two previous home games under caretaker Stuart Gray.
And in Adel Taarabt they had the best – and equally most infuriating player on the pitch, and, indeed, the Championship as a whole.
You couldn’t argue with Neil Warnock’s claim that if any team was going to win the game it was the Rs, but a goal-less draw was probably fair in a game that is best forgotten.
QPR arrived having taken only seven points from six games after seeing their 19-game unbeaten run ended, with a terrible record at Turf Moor, losing seven of the last eight.
The last time they avoided defeat in Burnley, a certain Owen Coyle was at the beginning of his journey with the Clarets, while QPR had just been saved from financial ruin by Flavio Briatore.
The two clubs have had some weird and wonderful comings and goings since, but QPR are the side to catch, although Burnley, for a second time this season, showed there is little between either.
The Clarets didn’t get going for the first 15 minutes or so, with QPR dominating a scrappy opening in swirling wind and rain.
The wily Shaun Derry had a shot turned round the post by Grant, before Taarabt dragged a shot wide of near post.
Chris Eagles – who caused QPR no end of trouble at Loftus Road before being replaced at half-time after being targeted by the home side and their fans – provided Burnley’s best early moment as he drove at the heart of the defence before being clattered by Matthew Connolly, and Tyrone Mears’ lurid orange boot flashed the free-kick just over the angle.
Danny Fox did well to intervene with former loan man Bradley Orr set to pounce at the other end, but the Clarets put together a spell of pressure before the break, without seriously troubling Paddy Kenny. Jay Rodriguez pulled a shot wide of the near post before Eagles and Chris Iwelumo combined to hand the youngster a shooting opportunity, with Kenny saving his daisy cutter by the post.
Rodriguez was again involved as he headed over Wade Elliott’s cross at the far post, while Elliott’s quality again caused problems, with his inviting centre just out of reach of Iwelumo.
Michael Duff was ludicrously booked after winning the ball from Taarabt, and from the resulting free kick, Clint Hill’s free header was saved by Grant, and defenders again threatened at the other end, with Clarke Carlisle volleying wide from Fox’s cross.
If the first-half failed to ignite, the second was even more of a damp squib.
What looked all day long a goal-less draw played out to a frustrating finale, with five Burnley bookings summing things up.
Alexander, Fox, substitute Steven Thompson and Jack Cork – well marshalled by Derry – all picked up yellow cards, as QPR’s well-organised back four and midfield shut down the Clarets effectively.
Neither side had a real chance of note after the break, with Taarabt’s free-kick just after the restart the only effort that came close to breaking the deadlock. Burnley are six points from the top six, with Howe now given 21 games to try to push the Clarets towards the play-off places, and possibly beyond.
There is little margin for error this season, and Howe has a fortnight-long transfer window to try to inject some freshness into the squad.
He felt the opportunity to take over at Turf Moor was “too good to turn down”.
It is a brave and ambitious appointment, but his career trajectory so far suggests a manager very much on the up, with an infectious and enthusiastic approach Burnley need at present.