After a day of phone calls, meetings and negotiations, Harry Redknapp, the patron saint of deadline day, gained immediate reward for Friday’s endeavours, with Kevin Doyle and Modibo Maiga both marking their QPR debuts with a goal.
But even with Richard Dunne also scoring his first for Rangers, Redknapp was forced to settle for a point against promotion rivals Burnley. Indeed, he was grateful for that meagre return as the Clarets, a home-spun team of eight Englishmen and one apiece from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, led with 11 minutes remaining after strike partners Sam Vokes and Danny Ings took their joint tally to 37 goals this season.
His team having twice trailed then led, Burnley’s manager, Sean Dyche, was asked if it was a point gained or two dropped. “Neither,” he said. “It was a great performance. We’ve taken four points off the pre-season favourites, but we’ve earned the right to [be competing with Rangers]. I told the players, ‘Don’t doubt yourselves’.”
They did not, recovering well after a rocky start in which Doyle, liberated from his struggles in League One with Wolves, beat Michael Duff at the near post to score his first goal in 15 matches for club and country.
Burnley gradually felt their way back into the game and levelled when Dean Marney and the impressive Kieran Trippier combined on the right to set up Ings for a neatly taken volley. It was the 21-year-old’s 22nd goal of the campaign.
Dyche has only spent £450,000 on players at Turf Moor, but admitted he had been fortunate to inherit Ings and Vokes. “I tried to buy Danny [when manager] at Watford, but we could only offer two bags of crisps and a pair of studs,”he said.
Rangers regained the lead from another corner. “Another soft goal,” said Dyche, but no manager accepts conceding at set-pieces and Rangers are a threat at these, with good delivery and a stable of powerful players in the air. Nor did Dyche’s assessment credit Dunne’s acrobatic volley with the respect it deserved.
Dunne was less happy soon after the break when Vokes beat him at the near post to turn in Michael Kightly’s cross. Eight minutes later Burnley were ahead, Ings dispossessing Benoît Assou-Ekotto, who had a wretched game, and pulling the ball back for Vokes.
Had Ings’s decision-making been as good in the 73rd minute, when he beat the offside trap to run on to a Vokes pass but went for glory instead of squaring to Vokes or Scott Arfield, Burnley would have won. Making the right choice in those situations will come with greater maturity but it was an expensive error, as soon afterwards Kightly and Ben Mee allowed Junior Hoilett to cut between them and Maiga tapped in the winger’s cross.
Both teams might have won after that, Clint Hill going close from another Hoilett cross and Junior Stanislaus curling a chip just wide in injury time, but neither deserved to lose.
Maiga (left) struggled at West Ham, with three goals in 31 League appearances, but Kevin Bond, Rangers’ assistant manager, said he and Redknapp had watched him at the French club Sochaux and thought the Mali international had “not done himself justice” at Upton Park. “He knows how to sniff out a player,” added Bond of his boss.
It helps to have a chairman as supportive as Tony Fernandes. Though Redknapp, in the programme, lamented: “Everybody says we have a big squad but we haven’t, we’re down to the bare bones,” he was able to name a match-day squad with a dozen internationals, and while he has done well to transform the mood at Loftus Road, he will have few excuses if Rangers do not go up.
QPR (4-4-2): Green; Onuaha, Dunne, Hill, Assou-Ekotto; Phillips (Hoilett, 5), Barton, Kranjcar, Traoré (Henry, 83); Doyle, Johnson (Maiga, 69).
Burnley (4-4-2): Heaton; Trippier, Duff, Shackell, Mee; Arfield, Marney, Jones, Kightly (Stanislas, 85); Ings, Vokes.
Referee: Roger East.