Burnley's Devon Cream Sour
23rd February 2008 @ 3pm
The cream of our defence turned out to be more clots than clotted in Devon yesterday as we went down 3-1 to Plymouth.
Considering our domination in terms of possession, the 3-1 score line slightly flatters Plymouth with all three of their goals down to defensive errors by the Clarets.
If luck is a factor in football, then we certainly did not get any with the early news that Ade Akinbiyi had picked up a bug, was feeling unwell and could not make the trip down with the lads.
This coupled with the news that our other hotshot striker, Andrew Cole was also out with an Achilles tendon injury did not auger well for this match with Owen Coyle forced into Plan C for our attack.
Well I suppose it did give an opportunity for Kyle Lafferty to shine in his favourite position leading the attack as the Clarets adopted a 4:3:3 formation with Lafferty flanked by Blake and Elliott.
However, in practice as the game unfolded it was clear how ineffective this formation would be and Kyle simply fluffed his chance to impress.
The return of Akinbiyi and Cole can`t come soon enough for the Clarets if we are still to remain in with a chance of the play-offs. This defeat sees the Clarets drop to 9th place on 47 points, now 5 points adrift of the sixth placed club, Charlton but with a game in hand.
We do seem to have an aversion to reaching the Top 6 and have failed every time there has been an opportunity to get there in recent months.
Infection and bugs seem rife around Burnley at the moment. David Unsworth succumbed to some sort of virus but was named on the bench yesterday, Ade didn`t make it to Devon and we also found out that Stan Varga was also suffering from a bug but was just about fit enough to start. It soon took its toll though with Varga being replaced by Carlisle after just 23 minutes. Clarke Carlisle therefore came on for the Clarets for the first time in a competitive League game since he picked up a niggling hamstring injury in the match against Bristol City back in December.
By this stage the score was already 1-1 with James O`Connor getting the equaliser on 19 minutes after a howler of a mistake by Jensen had given the home side the lead after only 12 minutes of play.
The farce in our defence was about to bring the house down with laughter (NOT!) when on 35 minutes, danger man Halmosi put Argyle ahead again after the Clarets had about one minute of failure trying to clear the danger.
The shoddy defensive work was a key factor all afternoon, and with the news that Plymouth have never lost when Halmosi scores most Clarets fans feared the worst despite playing the better of the two teams in terms of possession throughout the game, especially in the second half.
Another defensive blunder led to another goal by Halmosi after 76 minutes putting the game beyond the Clarets reach. So we could make excuses. We had injuries and illness to key players and a referee who quite frankly had a mare of a game and gave the Clarets nothing all afternoon. We could also mention a few positives, with Gudjonsson and Elliott excelling in performance and we could point to the majority of the possession in this match. At the end of the day though we were simply just not good enough, woeful in defence and with no creative ideas up front. Lafferty in particular failed to impress. All we can hope for now is to come back strongly in our next two games, both at home against Coventry this Tuesday night and Watford the following Saturday. Six points from these games would keep our play-offs hopes alive with a very difficult March schedule ahead.
The team line up for the Clarets following the news that Akinbiyi was out with an infection and as expected Andrew Cole was rested due to an Achilles injury problem was as follows:
Jensen, Alexander, Caldwell, Varga, Harley, James O`Connor, McCann, Gudjonsson, Elliott, Blake, Lafferty
Both Unsworth and Carlisle returned and were named on the bench along with Kiraly, Randall and Spicer.
Plymouth Argyle had both their new loan signings Gary Teale and Russell Anderson in the starting eleven with the home side seeking their fourth straight victory.
Referee, Jarnail Singh (Middlesex) got the match underway.
It was the Clarets too that started the brighter of the two teams earning two early corners with Blake in particular looking dangerous.
In Plymouth`s first attack though, a defensive blunder by Brian Jensen gave Argyle a soft goal after only 12 minutes. Nalis picked up the ball from the edge of the area after Caldwell had cleared from a free kick. His shot was weak and went straight to Jensen. Somehow the ball slipped through his fingers and into the net with the Danish keeper looking distinctly embarrassed and the Clarets 1-0 down.
The first of a series of terrible decisions by Singh was about to unfold with Elliott quite clearly fouled after an awful tackle but the incident was allowed to pass.
Elliott though played some excellent football soon after and with a bit of nifty play on the wing and a mazzy run past two defenders crossed to Lafferty from the by-line.
The striker headed the ball and found James O`Connor rushing in and the midfielder made no mistake heading the ball into the top corner of the net. The equalising goal after 19 minutes of play was some achievement since the men in green had not conceded in four matches and 333 minutes of play.
Clarke Carlisle replaced the quite clearly unwell, Stan Varga a few minutes later but soon after another defensive blunder by the Clarets gave Plymouth the lead once again after 35 minutes.
In a bizarre sequence of events where for virtually a whole minute, Burnley failed to clear their lines, it was no surprise that eventually Halmosi hit the back of the net from close range.
The farce in defence continued and with only a few seconds of the first half remaining, we nearly went 3-1 down after more defensive howlers this time from Carlisle and then Caldwell. Jermaine Easter took the ball off a slow Caldwell and raced towards goal. Brian Jensen though then redeemed himself for the earlier blunder and pulled off a fantastic save to ensure the rocketing from the gaffer at half-time would be less harsh. There could be no doubt though, that Owen Coyle would have no option but to kick the Clarets butts in the half-time team talk after a woeful defensive performance.
Something must have been said that was effective, because the Clarets came out fighting and for the rest of the game they would dominate possession but be unable to convert the pressure into a goal.
Robbie Blake from a Graham Alexander free kick almost scored within 60 seconds of the start of the second half. After some nice approach play involving four players, Lafferty went on a run down the right and again found James O'Connor but he was denied by a well-timed defensive block. It was 60 minutes before the first Plymouth attack when Jensen again prevented Easter from scoring. Lafferty came close from 18 yards but McCormick was equal to the curved shot. After 63 minutes Lafferty had a better chance but he fluffed his shot from eight yards out after an Elliott cross. Chris McCann was next to have a go a minute later but his shot across goal was deflected for a corner that came to nothing.
It was almost inevitable that the Clarets inability to score and truly test the keeper would be our downfall and so it proved when yet another defensive blunder sealed our fate on 76 minutes.
A powerful shot by Gary Teale led to a corner after Jensen saved. The Clarets again failed to get the resulting corner clear and Halmosi got the better of Jon Harley before making no mistake from the near post to put the game beyond the reach of the Clarets.
A game we need to quickly forget this one and move on, hoping we can get our play-offs dreams back on track in the busy schedule ahead. We do need to address these defensive blunders though; they have cost us dear in two matches in particular, this one of course but also away to West Brom.
Let`s hope we play Plymouth in the play-offs so we can try again to make the pressure count, this time with a fully fit squad and a better strike force, not to mention tighter defence.
Plymouth: McCormick, Connolly, Timar, Anderson, Sawyer, Teale (Wotton 75), Abdou, Nalis, Halmosi, Easter (Mackie 75), MacLean (Fallon 82).
Subs Not Used: Larrieu, Seip.
Booked: Anderson, Sawyer, MacLean.
Goals: Nalis 12, Halmosi 35, 76.
Burnley: Jensen, Alexander, Caldwell, Varga (Carlisle 23), Harley (Unsworth 81), Elliott, Gudjonsson, James O'Connor, Lafferty, Blake, McCann (Randall 86).
Subs Not Used: Kiraly, Spicer.
Booked: Harley, Elliott.
Goals: James O'Connor 19.
Ref: Jarnail Singh (Middlesex).