CLOUGH FAILS TO QUASH EXIT TALK
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.”
OPENER: Luke Murphy scores for Burton Albion. INSET: Nigel Clough