The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Sam Tobin

IF THIS proves to be Nigel Clough’s fi­nal game as Bur­ton boss he could not have asked for a bet­ter send off.

Clough has been strongly linked to the va­cant Not­ting­ham For­est job and ad­mit­ted the pos­si­bil­ity of fol­low­ing in his fa­ther’s foot­steps could be too good to turn down.

For now he is still in charge of the Brew­ers though and they led af­ter 11 min­utes when Luke Mur­phy’s 30yard ef­fort – Al­bion’s first goal of the new year – found the bot­tom cor­ner.

The vis­i­tors dou­bled their lead through Lloyd Dyer’s cool fin­ish, be­fore Conor Wash­ing­ton pulled one back to keep Rangers in it.

But Bur­ton de­servedly held on to claw them­selves out of the bot­tom three with their first points of 2017 pos­si­bly dou­bling up as Clough’s part­ing gift.

“I’m not go­ing to be naive enough to sug­gest to you there’s no in­ter­est with a club that I’ve had such a long as­so­ci­a­tion with,” Clough said.

“What­ever hap­pens in the next few days hap­pens, I hon­estly can’t tell you any more.

“We’ll sit down the next few days and talk about it. The most im­por­tant thing was to not let any­thing dis­tract us from the game.

“It was a bril­liant per­for­mance, bril­liant three points for us. I thought we de­served it.”

Asked if he knew if he would be in charge for Bur­ton’s next game against Ful­ham, Clough replied: “No, the chair­man might sack us be­fore then!”

The Brew­ers lost John Bray­ford to in­jury af­ter just four min­utes, but they took an early lead when Mur­phy fin­ished a rapid coun­ter­at­tack.

Matt Palmer’s flighted ball found Dyer and, though his cross was snuffed out, the ball sat up for Mur­phy to score his first Bur­ton goal.

The deficit failed to rouse the Hoops who cre­ated lit­tle in the first half while Al­bion threat­ened on the counter, Marvin Sordell’s ex­cel­lent hold-up play al­low­ing Dyer and Lasse Chris­tensen to get for­ward.

Groans could be heard around Lof­tus Road as the home crowd be­came in­creas­ingly frus­trated with their side, who were booed off at half-time.

Ian Hol­loway switched to 4-4-2 for­ma­tion, in­tro­duc­ing Wash­ing­ton in place of de­fender-cum-mid­fielder Grant Hall, but Bur­ton went two-up af­ter 52 min­utes ex­pos­ing QPR once again on the counter.

Dyer’s ini­tial at­tempt to feed Sordell was thrwarted, but the ball fell to Chris­tensen, who played Dyer in to calmly slot past Alex Smithies.

The Hoops got them­selves back in it through Wash­ing­ton’s per­sis­tence, lash­ing his fol­low-up into the roof of the net from close range af­ter his first ef­fort was blocked.

Al­bion were still dan­ger­ous and QPR were thank­ful for Smithies’ strong hands on 70 min­utes when he de­nied Dyer from an iden­ti­cal po­si­tion to his goal.

Idrissa Sylla saw a header trickle be­yond the post in in­jury time, but a late equaliser would have been harsh on a much-im­proved Bur­ton.

QPR man­ager Hol­loway said: “It’s bit­terly dis­ap­point­ing be­cause I felt we could play bet­ter than that and give a bet­ter show of our­selves.

“I’m sick and fed up of feel­ing like I feel right now and un­for­tu­nately you could al­most feel that out there.

“We have to as­sert our­selves on games and take games to peo­ple and I didn’t feel we did that.

“We gave prob­a­bly the worst per­for­mance over the last cou­ple of months.”

PIC­TURES: ProS­ports/ Matt Red­man

OPENER: Luke Mur­phy scores for Bur­ton Al­bion. IN­SET: Nigel Clough

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