Date:Sunday March 9 2008
NINE games remain. Seven wins are realistically needed. Next up is Charlton at Turf Moor. The signs don't look great for Play-Off chasing Burnley.
This is the most testing time for Owen Coyle during his time at Burnley, as the Clarets enter the last but most vital stage of the season.
The Scot clearly isn't scared of changing things around at key points though. Something which could have gone horrifically wrong, turned out to be one of the best moves of the season, as Coyle made five changes to the Clarets' starting line-up.
Hungarian International shot stopper Gabor Kiraly came back into the Burnley nets for the first time in ten games, replacing Brian Jensen, who's howler at Hull lead to the Clarets going down 2-0.
Skipper Steven Caldwell sat the game out through suspension and so in came Stanislav Varga, who partnered Clarke Carlisle in the middle of the back four, with Jon Harley returning at left back following the birth of his baby boy on Tuesday.
18-year old Mark Randall made his first start for the Clarets since his loan switch from Arsenal in January, replacing the injured Chris McCann, whilst Robbie Blake partnered Ade Akinbiyi up top, with Andrew Cole dropping to the bench.
The game exploded into life after just a minute, with Northern Irish forward Kyle Lafferty proving to be a real menace to the Stoke back line, winning everything in the air and showing his intent early on.
It took just three minutes for Lafferty to net his first goal since the defeat against Preston North End at Turf Moor in Decemeber. Akinbiyi picked up the ball on the edge of the 18-yard box and cooly layed the ball to ex-Potter James O'Connor, before threading a perfect ball through to Lafferty, who slotted the ball home past debutant loanee Carlo Nash.
Akinbiyi then missed his fourth close range effort in three games, miss-kicking from four yards out, when a goal looked as certain as the open goal miss he produced against Watford.
The backline seemed to be reinforced with the inclusion of Varga, and Stoke's aimless logn balls into the Burnley area were cooly mopped up by a commanding defence and keeper, something which was lacking at Hull on Tuesday evening.
Robbie Blake had two glorious chances to double the Clarets' lead going into the half time break, firstly firing over a superbly placed 30-yard free kick, which eventually ended up half way back in to the Stoke stand.
The skill filled striker then ghosted past two defenders, only to see all of his hard work undone by a weak effort straight at onloan Wigan stopper Nash.
Richard Cresswell almost brought Stoke level as he flashed a fantastic ball accross Kiraly's area after beating Graham Alexander, but Lawrence couldn't get the vital touch and the ball went out for a throw in.
Half-Time: Stoke City 0-1 Burnley.
Ricardo Fuller was back to his old tricks early on in the second period, diving on the floor whenever there was a Burnley player within a metre of him, but sadly the Premiership referee Howard Webb fell for his tricks.
Thankfully the Jamaican forward didn't fool the referee when he went down looking as though a gust of wind was blowing an empty can along the floor.
Fuller did go close though, when his fantastic turn and snap volley headed goalwards, but Kiraly was equal to it, and made the save look effortless.
Blackburn striker Paul Gallagher made a late cameo appearance, as Tony Pulis started to look desperate for a result, which didn't look like it would come from open play, with Burnley's defiant defensive performance.
Alan Mahon made a welcomed return from injury, coming on to replace a below par Randall in the 64th minute, before John Spicer and Andrew Cole eventually followed, replacing Kyle Lafferty and Ade Akinbiyi respectively.
Lafferty had to be substituted after pulling up with cramp with just ten minutes remaining on the clock at The Britannia Stadium.
Harley was judged to have felled former Leeds man Cresswell in the penalty area, after the big man had took the ball too far, and it was a spot kick to the Potters with just seconds remaining.
Kiraly got an hand to the penalty which was took by Lawrence, but their luck was clearly in, as the ball rebounded off the Hungarian's head before nestling in the back of the net.
Harsh on the Clarets, who will really have to do something special to get themselves into the top six come the end of the season.
Burnley gaffer Owen Coyle wasn't happy with the penalty decision during the game, he said: 'I've looked at the replay and I don't think it should have been a penalty. There was contact, but it was minimal and it was a soft award.
'A draw would have been a good result before kick-off, but we are desperately disappointed we haven't won.
'The boys defended manfully and I was pleased with the performance.'
STOKE CITY: Nash, Griffin, Riggott, Cort, Pugh, Lawrence, Diao (Parkin 84), Delap, Cresswell, Sidibe (Gallagher 70), Fuller.
Subs Not Used: Simonsen, Shawcross, Wilkinson.
Booked: Diao, Cresswell, Lawrence.
Goals: Lawrence 90 pen.
BURNLEY: Kiraly, Alexander, Carlisle, Varga, Harley, Elliott, James O'Connor, Randall (Mahon 63), Lafferty (Spicer 78), Blake, Akinbiyi (Cole 81).
Subs Not Used: Jensen, Unsworth.
Booked: Lafferty, Harley.
Goals: Lafferty 3.
Ref: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire).
Date:Sunday March 9 2008
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|20. Leicester City||16||2||4||10||-12||10|
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