Two streakers, no ball boys, one point

Last updated : 03 January 2006 By Tony Scholes
Chris McCann - superb goal and a good performance from the youngster
We got the point after a battling second half display but it is still hard to believe that we ever went in for the half time interval without a lead after totally outplaying our hosts with some of the best football we have played in some time.

Steve Cotterill made two changes to the side that had lost on Saturday. Gifton Noel-Williams was ruled out due to the head injury he received late in that game whilst Graham Branch, substituted at half time two days ago had to settle for a place on the bench. Garreth O’Connor, who came on for Branchy on that occasion, took his place with Chris McCann celebrated his new contract by making his second league start.

It all started fairly quietly with neither side really threatening in the opening exchanges although if anything it was QPR who had most of the early possession. But that all changed in the tenth minute when the Clarets took the lead with a goal from McCann, and what a goal it was.

He received the ball from Wade Elliott about 35 yards from goal and turned two defenders before making a run to the edge of the box. There he threatened he left Danny Shittu on the deck as he turned one way and then the other before curling a superb shot into the corner of the net.

That gave us the lift we needed and for much of the rest of the first half the home side simply had no answer to us. The football we played in the midfield was exquisite as we outpassed them and McCann came close to doubling the lead with another well struck shot but this time goalkeeper Simon Royce was equal to it.
The only time they bothered us at the back was from free kicks they seemed to be able to win far too easily but the most trouble Brian Jensen was put to was retrieving the ball from the empty seating behind his goal. For some strange reason QPR do not employ ball boys and on more than one occasion the Beast had to climb into the stand to get the ball back.

Interestingly that was not the case in the second half when Royce was at that end of the ground, then they had stewards in there to get the ball for him.

Royce though at the other end was keeping his side in the game and he saved again from McCann, this time a header when Chris could perhaps have done better. Then he made two excellent saves in the last couple of minutes of the first half and appeared to ensure his side went in for the interval only one goal down.

The first of them was an incredible save and it came from the best move of the game. It was so reminiscent of the goal that Ade scored last week in the win over Stoke but this time it was Micah who slipped an excellent ball inside the full back for Wade to run on to. Wade’s low cross to the far post was just about perfect and was met by Ade as we all got up to celebrate the second goal.

Now there is no doubt that Ade should really have scored and could have given the keeper no chance. But he certainly didn’t give him much chance but could only watch as he made a stunning save. It was pure reaction but I’m still trying to work out just how he got to it.

And just to rub it in, a minute later he saved well again, this time to keep out a James O’Connor header from a Michael Duff cross. We could have been three up but then lost the lead with a poor goal in the third and last minute of stoppage time.

QPR just lumped the ball forward and there was no danger whatsoever but somehow they turned it into a goal. Jon Harley should have got his head onto it but allowed Gareth Ainsworth to run onto it and beat him. Brian Jensen had wandered into no mans land, doing neither one thing nor the other and the header found its way into the far corner. It was such a bad goal to give away and it did take some believing that we weren’t changing round at half time with a lead.
We didn’t know it at the time but our chance of winning the game had all but gone. We came out in the second half and Ade did well in the very first minute but saw his shot go just over. Apart from a Graham Branch shot later in the game, that was as near as we were going to get to a second goal as the home side took the initiative.

Jensen redeemed himself with an early save at the other end and that’s where most of the action was in the second forty five minutes as we failed to stamp our authority on the game in the way we had done before he interval.

They had other chances but more than once they failed to find the target and again, as they had done in the first half, they seemed to be able to win free kicks a lot easier than we had. Referee Stroud booked both our central defenders, although both looked harsh decisions, and both times we looked unsure with our defensive wall.

Into the last few minutes and there was one last burst from the home side. They hit the woodwork and Jensen fumbled one effort that we eventually got away. Up went the board for three more minutes and then there was some respite for the defence as two streakers decided to hold up the game.

The stewards had shown themselves to be disinterested and incompetent before the game and there efforts to remove the naked two bordered on farce. Eventually they were escorted from the pitch but the last few minute were played out with little incident.

The draw has at least got the points total moving again. We’ve never lost three successive league games since Steve Cotterill became manager, the last time it happened was just over two years ago when we ended 2003 with four defeats.

We were thankful in the end for the point but it was disappointing given the way we had played in the first half. We certainly have the ability at times to look a very good side at this level and that was certainly the case again as we took the game to the home side.

There were so many good performances in that first half, particularly in the midfield and at half time I would have chosen Chris McCann just ahead of Micah Hyde and James O’Connor. But in the second half we had some defending to do and time and again it was John McGreal winning the ball when QPR tried to put us under pressure. And so Johnny Mac gets the nomination from me, just about.

But the last word has to go to Chris – he didn’t look like a player making just his second league start and his third in total, he didn’t look like an 18 year old youngster in the midfield. He did though look like a footballer who could just have a very good career ahead of him. He is a youngster though and he will have some bad games along the way, but he’s certainly done enough to earn himself a few more games in the first team and he was a major plus point from this game.

I’m sure they are all knackered after four games in eight days, a ridiculous schedule for players and fans alike, at least it is five days to the next game when we take a break from the league and look to take the first steps on another cup run. But I’m sure Steve will give them a day or two off after their efforts of the last week.

The teams were,

QPR: Simon Royce, Marcus Bignot, Danny Shittu, Matthew Rose (Georges Santos 75), Mauro Milanese, Gareth Ainsworth, Richard Langley (Scott Donnelly 75), Martin Rowlands, Lee Cook, Shabazz Baidoo, Marc Nygaard (Paul Furlong 13). Subs not used: Jake Cole, Stefan Moore.

Burnley: Brian Jensen, Michael Duff, Frank Sinclair, John McGreal, Jon Harley, Wade Elliott (Wayne Thomas 81), James O’Connor, Micah Hyde, Chris McCann, Garreth O’Connor (Graham Branch 69), Ade Akinbiyi. Subs not used: Lee Grant, Danny Karbassiyoon, John Spicer.

Referee: Keith Stroud (Dorset).

Attendance: 12,565.