No Shame in Stoke Friendly Defeat
The Clarets pre-season record of no defeats in any of their friendly games this summer was spoilt on Saturday when they went down 2-1 to Premier League, Stoke City at the Galpharm Stadium in Huddersfield in front of 1435 fans. About 1100 Clarets fans had crossed the Pennines for this 'home` game rescheduled to the Galpharm Stadium due to the pitch improvements still underway at Turf Moor.
There was no shame in this defeat though against tough opposition and there were many positives to take away from the match with the 2010-11 Season about to kick off next Saturday with our opener at home to Nottingham Forest in the Championship.
Depending on which paper you read or which betting organisation you follow, the Clarets are one of the top three clubs tipped for promotion at the end of the 2010-11 season so we have a lot to live up to as Brian Laws plots an immediate return to the top flight following our disappointing relegation last season. Nottingham Forest are also interestingly one of the fancied clubs for promotion so our game against them at Turf Moor next Saturday could be an intriguing first test. Generally speaking though, Middlesbrough would appear to be the team to beat with most pundits and fans giving them the greatest chance of automatic promotion.
Most Clarets fans have hopefully now got over the disappointment of the drop back down into the Championship last season and have been pleasantly surprised by our pre-season campaign and how well the new signings have slotted in. I certainly am buoyed up at the moment and wish Brian Laws all the best as we start another gruelling campaign in the second tier of English football. It won`t be easy but there are grounds for optimism particularly if we can hold onto Chris Eagles and Tyrone Mears.
Do we have any clues what our starting eleven will be for the opener against Forest? Well although denied by Laws, the one that started against Stoke City could be pretty close.
We lined-up as follows:
Jensen, Mears, Duff, Bikey, Fox, Alexander, Marney, Elliott, Wallace, Paterson, Thompson.
The rest of the first-team squad who were basically not injured were named on the sub`s bench including new keeper, Lee Grant. The full bench was as follows:
Grant, Carlisle, Harvey, McDonald, Iwelumo, Edgar, Eckersley, Cort, Rodriguez, Eagles, Easton, Fletcher.
Well as stated previously if this line-up was a clue about our preferred Championship starting eleven Brian Laws put a dampener on that theory after the match.
'People will read into this last game and I can`t stop speculation - even among the players - as to who will start,' Laws told Burnley`s official website.
'They will know next week, but what we have done is try to make sure everyone has had equal time by spreading it around.
'It`s all to play for and one or two have to brush up on their act a wee bit, while others are making sure they are ready for that first game of the season.
'But we have certainly not given Forest anything to work on and our objective (against Stoke) was not to show our hand in any way.'
So how well did we play and was there enough on display to give Clarets fans confidence ahead of the new season?
Well this was always going to be our toughest challenge yet against Premier League opposition and we know Stoke City are no mugs. They put out a strong team lining up as follows:
Begovic, Huth, Higginbotham, Whelan, Shawcross, Faye, Lawrence, Whitehead, Sidibe, Tuncay, Delap.
Subs: Fuller, Pugh, Collins, Tonge, Wilkinson, Sorensen
The match to be honest followed a typical friendly pattern with no club wanting to bust a gut and risk injury but certainly as the game progressed in the first half, the Clarets looked the stronger of the two teams .Burnley gradually began to get more of the possession and put together some encouraging moves. They were unlucky not to be leading at half-time although to be honest neither keeper had been fully tested over the first 45 minutes.
We seemed to have a referee however who was reluctant to award penalties and we had two clear appeals in the first half. Shawcross handled the ball in the area and it looked blatant to everybody except the referee and maybe the 300 or so Stoke fans that had made the journey to Yorkshire.
Clarets fans though could hardly believe it when another penalty appeal was turned down
Glen Whelan had just been substituted by Danny Pugh after picking up a calf strain and Pugh`s first action was to bring down Mears in the area. No foul said the referee! Yeah right!
In the first half-hour Stoke as well as losing Glenn Whelan also lost throw-in expert, Rory Delap due to a back injury. This was a cue for some of the Clarets faithful behind the technical areas to have a dig at Stoke gaffer, Tony Pulis by jokingly suggesting he was now panicking with no Plan B on how to score!
Well they certainly didn`t in the first half and the Clarets went in at 0-0 having tested Stoke quite well without breaking the deadlock.
Laws made two changes for the start of the second-half. Clarets fans got their first chance to see how well new keeper, Lee Grant would fare .This would be Grant`s second game for the Clarets since signing from Sheffield Wednesday in midweek. He played in the behind closed doors game against Accrington Stanley on Thursday night. Former Stoke defender, Leon Cort also came on to replace Duff.
Grant had made just one touch before he was picking the ball out of the net on 52 minutes. He wasn`t to blame for Stake`s opening goal though. Stoke took the lead through Tuncay who headed home unchallenged at the far post header from Liam Lawrence's right wing cross giving Grant no chance. It was probably deserved with Stoke looking stronger in the second half with the Clarets seemingly losing momentum.
The Clarets seemed to be knocked sideways by the goal and it took some time for them to get back into their stride. On the hour mark, Cleveland referee, Peter Quinn once again turned down a penalty for the Clarets. This time Elliott had burst forward into the box and was seemingly clipped by Faye. Despite taking a long, hard look this time the result was still the same, no penalty!
It was time to bring on some fresh legs now and after 64 minutes in a triple substitution, Iwelumo came on on for Thompson, Rodriguez for Paterson, and Chris Eagles replaced Wallace. A rather unhappy, worried looking Wallace walked off after picking up a knock but the changes in general seemed to invigorate the Clarets. As far as Wallace is concerned though, Laws is hopeful the winger will be fit enough to come into contention for the season opener.
Almost immediately after the changes, the Clarets got a well-deserved equaliser and believe it or not it was from a penalty!! Fox had taken a deep corner to find Chris Iwelumo and the referee spotted Robert Huth pulling at Iwelumo`s shirt in the penalty area. Clarets fans could hardly believe it when we finally were awarded a penalty but Alexander in his usual cool fashion made no mistake with the spot kick to make it 1-1.
Sadly for the Clarets, we had hardly stopped celebrating before Stoke City regained the lead less than a minute from the restart.
This time substitute Michael Tonge cut in from the left and let rip with a drive from the corner of the box that rose into the net easily beating Grant to make the score 2-1 to Stoke.
A double substitution on 81 minutes saw David Edgar come on to replace Marney with Carlisle replacing Bikey. Bikey had just returned from compassionate leave after spending some time with his new daughter who had been born whilst he was away on the Clarets Singapore tour.
The Clarets tried their best to get back into the game but Stoke City finished the stronger side and on balance deserved their win. Rodriguez came close to equalising on two occasions. His first chance came with seven minutes remaining after robbing Wilkinson who was caught in possession. Cutting in from the left he drilled his shot just wide. With just seconds of the game remaining he managed to get in another shot which came close but it wasn`t going to be our day.
On the day then we did not get the result but we played well and there were plenty of positives to take away. Bring on Forest for the true test!