Date:Tuesday March 4 2008
4th March 2008
The Clarets continue their hectic schedule of games this month with a trip across the Pennines tonight to face Hull City at the KC Stadium in an important Roses clash for both teams.
Both sides are in the fighting pack for a Top 6 finish with Hull only one point behind the Clarets with a game in hand. The Clarets are currently in 8th place just one point behind the equally 6th placed clubs, Ipswich & Plymouth. Hull are one place behind the Clarets in 9th on 50 points.
If ever there was a time to seal an away victory, now is that time. We have the second best away record in the League but suffered at the hands of Plymouth in our last match on the road going down 3-1. Hull on the other hand have beaten WBA on their travels recently but went down 2-1 to Bristol City at Ashton Gate in their last match.
Their home form has also been less than convincing with two 1-1 home draws in their last two games against Colchester and Norwich and we could be in with a chance of getting revenge for that home defeat at Turf Moor back in November. That match which finished 1-0 to Hull was the last game in charge for Steve Cotterill.
Owen Coyle will have a point to prove, having virtually the same squad apart from three new additional loans but of course also the loss of Gray.
Michael Duff in particular but also Bes Berisha are both making good progress as they recover from long-term cruciate ligament damage and both could feature at some point during the season, but it is too early for this match.
Andrew Cole looks to have fully recovered from his Achilles injury and partnered Ade Akinbiyi in the last match against Watford. Alan Mahon and Steve Jones look to still be sidelined with injury though.
Owen Coyle therefore still faces a number of selection dilemmas. The back-four probably picks itself with Coyle opting I would think for the same line-up of Alexander, Carlisle, Caldwell and Harley. The big question is whether Robbie Blake will be in the starting eleven after his stunning performance off the bench against Watford. His brace of goals in the last 17 minutes of the match saved the day and earned the Clarets a valuable point.
If he does start who will make way for him? Could he partner Cole up front at the expense of Akinbiyi (or vice versa), could he be tried on the wide left with Lafferty losing his place or maybe one of the other midfielders could be dropped to make way for him?
Chris McCann has probably been the least effective overall in recent matches despite his goal in the home game against Coventry a week ago.
My own preference would be to start with Cole, Akinbiyi and Blake at the expense of Chris McCann. The problem is we don`t really have an alternative on the left wing and although Lafferty has not been too impressive in that position, he is still probably the best option we have for that role.
My starting eleven would therefore be:
Jensen, Alexander, Carlisle, Caldwell, Harley, Elliott, James O`Connor, Blake, Lafferty, Cole, Akinbiyi
Subs: Kiraly, Unsworth, Randall, McCann(or Spicer), Gudjonsson
Come on you Clarets!
'What it takes is just the same as what we gave on Saturday; a level of attitude, character, desire and commitment that was there in abundance.
'I think it's going to take all that, and the little bit of luck and decisions that we don't seem to have had, certainly in my three months here.
'But above all that, it takes good players to be brave and show we're up for the battle and the fight, and within that, that we can play a bit
'We've shown that lately and we have to continue to do that.'
'It's a hectic time. There are four games within 12 days so it's important that we're ready.
'But if we come through Hull, Stoke, Charlton, and Wolves and we're there or thereabouts, maybe we can have a big say in our destiny.
'We've tried to give the players the encouragement and belief because we do believe they can win games against anybody in this Championship.
'I think they've grasped that and sensed that.
'Sometimes things will conspire against us for whatever reason - individual mistakes or the bounce of the ball - but at the end of the day those players know they can play and win games at a very high level.
'I've stressed to the lads that as years go by there are times you don't get involved in this sort of thing.
'So when you get an opportunity you should grasp it, take the bull by the horns and make sure you're in that shake up
'If it's not to be, then make sure it's not through lack of effort.
'But you don't want to be running into the last four or five games with them being meaningless.
'We want to make sure we're really playing for something at the top end of this league and that starts again at Hull.'
Manager Phil Brown is expected to name an unchanged Hull line-up although it is reported that Dean Windass could make it to the bench.
Phil Brown revealed that the 38 year old veteran striker and top scorer at the club with 12 goals so far this season,has completed a full training session and considers himself fully fit for selection, just two weeks after knee surgery.
Michael Turner is available after a suspension but defender Neil Clement is likely to maintain his place
Will they be tempted to bring on their veteran striker at some stage of the match? Always seems to be a danger for the Clarets.
Alan Mahon, Steve Jones, Bes Berisha and Michael Duff are still all sidelined but everybody else in the squad is available for selection giving Owen Coyle a number of selection dilemmas.
Surely Owen Coyle will have to select Robbie Blake in the starting eleven after his stunning performance and brace of goals in the last match against Watford. He came on from the bench with only 17 minutes to play!
Hull inflicted a 1-0 defeat on the Clarets at Turf Moor back in November. The performance was so dire, it led to the demise of former gaffer Steve Cotterill and it proved to be his last game in charge.
In the previous season, Hull also got the better of the Clarets at the KC defeating the lads 2-0 back in December 2006.
I think we can shade this one so 1-0 Clarets
Saturday 8th March @ 3pm KO and a tricky away visit to the Britannia to play Stoke City currently riding high in 2nd place.
Date:Tuesday March 4 2008
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