Clarets Gloomy Pre-Season Continues as Killies Win
In the first of the Clarets two-match Scottish tour, Kilmarnock defeated Burnley 1-0 at Rugby Park last night thanks to a comical own goal by Clarke Carlisle. The game was not particularly entertaining either especially in the first half when goalmouth action was at a premium although things did liven up a bit in the second half with Burnley looking the most impressive in the last 15 minutes of the game. Those Clarets fans making the journey up into Scotland must have been wondering if it had been worth the effort but at least they could cast their eyes on our new signing, Fernando Guerrero. The 19 year old winger came on from the bench in the second half for the last eighteen minutes of the match and showed some of his class. Guerrero had only just arrived at Burnley and had signed a season-long loan deal only yesterday before joining the squad for their Scottish tour.
Clarets fans have not been able to celebrate a pre-season win now since the team arrived back from the US and this must be a worry considering we could only draw 2-2 away to League 2 Accrington Stanley and then put in a dire performance against League 1 Leeds United at Turf Moor eventually losing that match 2-1. We had hoped our fortunes might change against the SPL side but once more the team seemed to struggle putting in a lacklustre performance for most of the game.
We are of course continually told the results of pre-season friendlies do not matter which of course they don`t although with just over a week to go before we kick-off the new season for our first time in the Premier League, most Clarets fans would have been looking for signs of improvement in performance and skill by now in addition to reaching peak fitness levels. If anything since returning from the US we seem to have regressed, and any excuses related to recovery from a gruelling US Tour and jetlag can no longer be made. We have to wonder just how concerned Owen Coyle might be deep down about the last few poor, lacklustre performances considering the next time Clarets fans will see the team play at Turf Moor it will be against Premier League Champions Manchester United. It won`t get any easier for the Clarets after that either with Everton at home to follow and then Chelsea and Liverpool both away! It is certainly a baptism of fire and three points against Stoke in our opening game of the season at the Britannia on the 15th August almost look like a definite requirement. The question is what have we got in reserve and are we simply holding back in the pre-season friendlies? We have to hope the answer to that is yes and that we will be unleashing a much better performance when the new season starts. If we don`t improve it is going to be one hell of a long season with the fear of many tonkings along the way.
Listening to Coyle after the game, he seemed reasonably happy at least in front of the cameras and microphones and took a number of positives from the game especially the performance in the last fifteen minutes of the match when our passing game seemed to improve. His view is that the fitness levels have now been achieved but that we now need to see an improvement in our speed of thought, movement and passing. You can say that again! The general impression given was that it`s best to learn from the mistakes in pre-season games and improve in time for the new season kick-off. That might sound an obvious statement to make but we all have to hope that in this case it is true and that we shall see a better quality, high energy team take the field at the Britannia in just eight days time. It would be nice if we could bolster confidence and cheer up the fans first though by coming away with a win in our last pre-season friendly against St Johnstone at McDiarmid Park this Saturday.
Anyway let`s get back to last night`s match. So what team did Owen Coyle select for the Kilmarnock game?
Well the two injured players, Martin Paterson (tight hamstring) and Michael Duff (ankle) again did not feature. Pato has not played now for the last five friendless after picking up a hamstring strain in training in the US. It had been thought he might play against Kilmarnock but Coyle once more doesn`t seem to want to have risked him having said earlier in the week that he was close to full recovery and could play at Rugby Park. Michael Duff injured his ankle in the final US match against Portland Timbers and has not been named since returning to England. Coyle indicated previously that it would probably be too soon for him to make the Killies game but that there was a chance he could feature against St Johnstone this Saturday. Tyrone Mears also sat out this game along with van der Schaaf.
The eleven selected for the start of the match lined up 4-1-3-2 with Alexander in the holding midfield role and with Fletcher partnering Thompson up front.
The full starting eleven and bench was as follows:
Jensen, Eckersley, Carlisle, Caldwell, Jordan, Alexander, Elliott, McDonald, McCann, Fletcher, Thompson
Subs: Penny, Kalvenes, Edgar, Easton, Gudjonsson, Eagles, Guerrero, Blake, Rodriguez
In the first ten minutes of the game, the Clarets did most of the attacking with McCann getting involved in particular from midfield and Fletcher looking the most likely to score up front. The Killies keeper though was rarely threatened with the Kilmarnock defence usually hacking the ball clear. The story was much the same at the other end with Jensen also having a quiet time.
The first real opportunity for either side did not come until the 27th minute when Carlisle deflected a strong shot from distance to give Kilmarnock a corner. The Killies six minutes later were awarded a free-kick following a foul by McDonald. Hay then bent the ball around our wall from 25 yards out. The Beast though saved the danger after diving at full stretch to the right to palm the ball away.
That was all the first half could offer and both sets of fans would have been hoping for something better in the second half.
Owen Coyle did not make any changes for the start of the second half but thankfully the half started brightly for the Clarets and they nearly broke the stalemate on 48 minutes. Jensen had hoofed the ball deep into the Kilmarnock half towards Fletcher and the Scot controlled the ball well heading it over Cameron Bell, the Killies advancing keeper. It looked like a certain goal but the ball tantalisingly went just wide of the near post.
Just a few moments later and Jensen would have been relieved to see Skelton`s shot from 25 yards out go just over the crossbar.
The hour mark was nearly upon us and in typical fashion it was now time for Coyle to wring the changes and he did so by making a triple substitution. Thompson, Elliott and Eckersley came off to be replaced by Blake, Gudjonsson and Eagles and in a change of formation, Alexander took over the right back role with Fletcher now alone up front flanked by Blake and Eagles.
They hardly had time to settle though before finding themselves a goal behind in somewhat bizarre circumstances after 59 minutes of play.
A shot put over the defence looked harmless enough with Carlisle there to cover and he could have safely done 101 things with the ball other than the disastrous option he chose. Completely on his own with no Kilmarnock player in sight he decided to nod the ball over the advancing Jensen into the wide open net. 1-0 Kilmarnock with the Clarets fans now not knowing whether to laugh or cry! The Killies fans were certainly laughing!
Rodriguez replaced McDonald on 61 minutes in an effort to bolster the attack and get back on level terms but it didn`t take long after that for Clarets fans to get their first glimpse of our loan signing, Fernando Guerrero. With about 20 minutes still to play, the Ecuador International came on to replace Fletcher and immediately began to liven up proceedings with the Clarets entering their best spell of the match in the last fifteen minutes.
On 76 minutes, Blake found Guerrero on the left and eventually got the ball back to get in a curling shot that was well held by Bell.
Two more Clarets substitutions in the 78th minute saw Kalvenes and Easton come on to replace Jordan and McCann and it was Kalvenes who nearly equalised late in the game. A nice move involving Blake eventually found Kalvenes but he could only head over the bar
The pacy, impressive-looking Guerrero then got in a pin-point accurate cross from the left to find Rodriguez. The young striker though just couldn`t make contact and the ball flew to safety for a goal kick.
It was Guerrero again in the thick of things a few moments later, this time finding Gudjonsson who was denied by a deflection after shooting on target. By now it was the Clarets who had all the possession but they just could not make the pressure count. A Kilmarnock defender had to deal with a Blake ball swinging into the danger zone and was relieved to see his header go wide of the far post by a few inches. That was it though as the final whistle went, we had been defeated by a goal worthy of the circus ring and unusually for the Clarets had not managed to get on the scoresheet.
Owen Coyle had this to say after the game:
'These things are better happening in pre-season than during the season (Carlisle Own Goal), particularly with the quality that we'll face. There's no doubt we'll improve from that. We're pleased to get another game under our belt and we'll go from there. The thing about pre-season games first and foremost is to get the fitness levels up to scratch for playing in the relevant competition of whatever league you're in. The guys are still running strongly and what we have to do now is sharpen up that speed of thought, speed of passing, speed of movement. Obviously there are still some areas that we need to work on and that's what we'll look to do. But even in the last 15 minutes we had two or three great chances to score and never took them.'
I guess we all have to take the positives from this game as best we can and trust in Coyle`s apparent unconcern. Guerrero certainly looks to be a find and Fletcher did look impressive up front when given the chance. Let`s just hope we can have something to cheer about to bolster our confidence on Saturday when St Johnstone will provide our final pre-season test before the big kick-off in the Premier League on 15th August.
Burnley: Jensen, Eckersley (Gudjonsson 57), Carlisle, Caldwell, Jordan (Kalvenes 78), Alexander, Elliott (Eagles 57), McCann (Easton 78), McDonald (Rodriguez 61), Thompson (Blake 57), Fletcher (Guerrero 72).
Subs: Penny, Edgar
Kilmarnock (starting): Bell, Hay, Wright, Ford, Bryson, Invincible, Skelton, Old, Sammon, Hamill, Burchill.
Subs: Robinson, Clancy, Fowler, Pascali, O'Leary, Owens, Flannigan, Kelly.