BURNLEY made an immediate return to the Premier League this afternoon with a 1-0 win over QPR at Turf Moor.
Sam Vokes headed the all-important goal for the hosts on the hour-mark, flicking the ball beyond Matt Ingram.
It was a harsh result on Rangers who had more-than-matched their table topping opponents, with Burnley scoring with their first effort on target after a spirited display by the visitors.
Michael Petrasso went close on a couple of occasions, so too did Junior Hoilett and Matt Phillips, while Ale Faurlin hit the post after Burnley had taken the lead.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink made four changes from the side that drew 1-1 against Reading, bringing in Clint Hill, Karl Henry, Hoilett and Petrasso for James Perch, Mass Luongo, Tjaronn Chery and Ben Gladwin.
It meant the R’s lined up with Matt Ingram between the sticks behind a back four, from left to right, of Cole Kpekawa, Hill, Grant Hall and Nedum Onuoha.
Matt Phillips started on the left wing with Petrasso on the right, while Henry partnered Faurlin in the centre of the park.
Hoilett played in the hole behind Seb Polter.
Following Brighton’s draw with Derby earlier in the afternoon, the atmosphere around Turf Moor was pretty special, with an expectant and excited home crowd hoping to roar their side to the win which would secure them an immediate return to the Premier League.
The Clarets almost made some start to the game, lifting the ball over the R’s backline in the opening minute in an attempt to release Andre Gary, but thankfully for QPR, Ingram was alert to the danger and raced out of his penalty area to head the ball to safety.
Four minutes into the match, Polter put in a heavy challenge on former R’s midfielder Joey Barton which saw him pick up an early booking, and it only served to add to the atmosphere around the ground.
But QPR certainly weren’t here to simply make up the numbers and they nearly took the lead on 16 minutes with a fine strike from Phillips, but Burnley’s Tom Heaton dived low to his left to make a great stop.
And moments later, Hoilett picked out Petrasso with a great ball over the top of the home backline, but the Canadian was unable to take the ball down, and Heaton smothered.
In the 20th minute, the referee penalised Polter for another infringement, and called the German striker over along with skipper Nedum Onuoha with what looked like a final warning. With seventy minutes remaining, it would certainly have been a concern to Hasselbaink.
Sam Vokes fired narrowly over following Kpekawa’s headed clearance in what was an end-to-end game of football, while the R’s left back saw his shot from 25 yards saved by Heaton.
Polter was certainly make a nuisance of himself and won a freekick on the edge of the Burnley box in the 28th minute. Faurlin took the resultant set-piece but his low drive deflected wide of the near post.
Three minutes later, a rasping low drive from Hoilett stung the palms of Heaton, who gathered at the second attempt.
Phillips was the next to try his luck from distance, but saw his effort saved. Hasselbaink would certainly have been pleased with his team’s performance in the opening half hour, and it was clear he had set his side up to take the game to the promotion-chasing hosts.
Petrasso again broke in behind the Burnley defence seconds later, latching onto Kpekawa’s clearance, but the over-worked Heaton was again equal to it and gathered.
On the stroke of half time Kpekawa was booked for a late challenge on Scott Arfield.
As the sides went in at the break, it will surely have been Hasselbaink who would have been the happier of the two managers.
After the break, Burnley quickly went close to opening the scoring. A Barton free-kick from the right was initially headed clear by Onuoha but a goalmouth scramble followed with Rangers – notably Hill – throwing themselves in the way to protect Ingram’s goal, before Arfield saw his audacious lob drift just wide.
On 54 minutes Gray broke clear of the shackles of Hall, but as Ingram raced out to close down the angle, the Championship Player of the Year could only chip the ball wide.
With QPR showing no interest in drawing the game against a side unbeaten in 22 league fixtures, it made for a fascinating match.
Hill saw his header from Faurlin’s corner saved by Heaton after some initial good work by Polter.
But on the hour Burnley fired themselves into the lead with a fine header from Vokes following David Jones’ freekick from the left after Hill had been penalised for pulling Gray’s shirt.
It was a great ball into the box, and Vokes applied a deft flick to find the far corner of the net, giving Ingram no chance. It was harsh on QPR, with Burnley taking the lead with their first shot on target of the afternoon.
Hasselbaink immediately reacted to the goal, replacing Hoilett with Conor Washington.
Turf Moor was full of noise but they were almost stunned into silence when the impressive Petrasso found Faurlin on the edge of the box, and the Argentinian fired a shot off the Burnley upright with Heaton seemingly beaten.
Hasselbaink made a further two changes in the 70th minute, replacing Petrasso and Polter with Nasser El Khayati and Gladwin.
Gladwin moved to the right, with Phillips on the left and El Khayati playing just behind Washington.
Burnley played with a weight lifted off their shoulders after the goal, making it difficult for QPR to get themselves back into this game.
And with ten minutes to go Arfield came close to doubling the hosts lead but saw his effort brilliantly saved by Ingram, while from the resulting corner Vokes bundled the ball into the net but the referee ruled it out for a foul on Ingram.
With a party atmosphere developing in Lancashire, Rangers were working hard to wrestle back control of this game but were finding it hard to create chances like they did before the goal.
In the closing stages Washington and Faurlin both saw shots from distance deflected wide as Burnley held on for this historic win.