Burnley Prey-Saints Pray
19th April 2008 @ 3pm
With nothing left to play for other than pride this season, the Clarets travelled down to Hampshire yesterday to face Southampton, a side desperate to avoid relegation which for them would mean playing in the third tier of English League football for the first time in 48 years.
They surely had to be the team with most at stake and this fixture was recognised as the easier of their three remaining games with a trip to leaders West Brom next week and a tricky home game against resurgent Sheffield United completing their season at home.
The Saints threw everything they could at the Clarets and they had a total of 12 corners in the match but our defence was just too good for them and they could not break us down, Clarke Carlisle in particular had a tremendous game and won virtually everything in the air with Brian Jensen also putting in a solid performance and pulling off one notable spectacular save to deny the Saints an equaliser in the final few minutes of the game.
Steven Caldwell was also as solid as a rock in defence, but in this match he will be remembered more for scoring his second goal for the Clarets after heading in unmarked from a Blake corner in virtually the final minute of the first half.
1-0 for the Clarets at half-time was to remain the final score condemning Southampton to an anxious final two weeks as most of the other clubs around them picked up points leaving the Saints 4th from bottom on 50 points just one clear of Sheffield Wednesday and with a vastly inferior goal difference.
Three points for the Clarets therefore, our 9th away win of the season and a climb of one place up the table to 12th on 61 points. Crystal Palace though won at Watford and now being in 6th place on 68 points are uncatchable for the Clarets. Although most Clarets fans had already given up hope of reaching the play-offs, the final mathematical possibility of achieving it has now gone and we can finally say 'Season Over`.
Two games to play now for pride and it would be nice to finish on a high note and in the Top 10. It would certainly be nice to finish above Preston for a change. They could still catch us if we lose our last two games and they win their last two. They are currently in 15th place on 55 points with a goal difference just one worse than ours.
The Clarets welcomed back Clarke Carlisle for the match yesterday following his three-match suspension and with Kyle Lafferty out for the rest of the season following an appendix operation, in came Ade Akinbiyi to partner Andrew Cole up front supported by Blake and Elliott.
It would appear Harley was still suffering from a hamstring problem so Jordan was given yet another chance to shine in the left back spot, something he failed to do miserably in our last match at home against the Blades.
Michael Duff was again named on the bench but again was not going to feature in this match.
We therefore lined up as follows:
Jensen, Alexander, Carlisle, Caldwell, Jordan, Elliott, James O'Connor, McCann, Blake, Akinbiyi, Cole
Subs: Kiraly, Duff, Gudjonsson, Spicer, Mahon
Southampton did not have former Claret, Wayne Thomas in the sixteen and it is understood he is out injured with a back problem although his form has not been too impressive anyway according to some Saints fans.
One familiar face however was on the bench, our former loan, Nathan Dyer. Saganowski, a striker closely linked with a possible move to the Clarets last summer was also on the bench for Southampton.
49-year old referee, Paul Taylor (Hertfordshire) who is retiring at the end of this season, got the match underway and he was soon into action booking Southampton-born, Wade Elliott for a foul with less than a minute on the clock.
James O'Connor shot over the bar after some nice play between Stephen Jordan and Robbie Blake down the left.
Blake then couldn`t get onto the end of a cross by Akinbiyi who had beaten the offside trap.
The Clarets kept pressing in these early minutes of the match. James O`Connor could not get enough accuracy on a shot from distance as the Saints tried to get into the game.
Towards the half-hour mark though, Southampton began to pile on some pressure and had managed to clock up five corners in the first 25 minutes of play. Chris Lucketti headed over the crossbar from their fifth corner on 25 minutes.
On 30 minutes, Inigo Idiakez powered in a 30-yard drive only to see this shot go inches wide of the right hand post.
All hell was about to break loose though in the final few minutes of the half in some entertaining end-to-end stuff for the neutrals.
Stern John was almost relieved to be offside after making a hash of his shot after 44 minutes with Jensen using his feet to good effect. The Beast was then on form again a few moments later to deny Andrew Surman, parrying away the ball following his blistering shot.
During stoppage time though, the Clarets took the lead. From a free kick, Blake found McCann and his header was turned over the bar by Saints keeper, Richard Wright.
Blake took the resulting corner and found Caldwell in acres of space. He coolly headed in from point-blank range to stun the home crowd and delight the estimated 300 Clarets fans making the journey down.
The Saints just had time to kick-off before the whistle went for the end of the first half.
It was a very good half then for the Clarets with the defence looking strong. The only weakness again looked to be Jordan at left back. He had a somewhat torrid first 35 minutes but at least his performance was to improve in the second-half.
Southampton came out for the second-half determined to get the equaliser.Bradley Wright-Phillips hit the inside of the post but it fell nicely to Caldwell who hacked the ball away to safety. Stern John then miscued his shot following Wright-Phillips cross from the right-wing on 55 minutes. It was then the turn of Idiakez and Wright-Phillips to both try 25-yard pile-drivers but they both went straight to Jensen to deny Saints that all important equaliser.
The Clarets were simply soaking up all the pressure though as the Saints begun to look more and more desperate to score.
A series of substitutions for both sides then took place and on 64 minutes, former Claret loan, Nathan Dyer came on for Licka at the same time as Gudjonsson replaced James O`Connor for the Clarets.
Just before another sequence of substitutions, the Clarets nearly doubled their lead on 70 minutes.
Robbie Blake beat his marker and shot into the six yard box where Andrew Cole was denied by a desperate bit of defending at the last minute. Brian Jensen then made a superb save with 18 minutes remaining diving low to his right to get to Idiakez`s shot.
After 79 minutes Saints brought on Viafara and Saganowski to replace Idiakez and Wright-Phillips whilst at the same time Alan Mahon came on to replace Andrew Cole. Blake therefore now moved into attack to partner Akinbiyi with Mahon on the left.
Carlisle was denied following a Blake corner, his header cleared off the line.
Southampton now though were trying everything they could but the Clarets simply stood firm as the Saints corner count crept into double figures.
Stern John remarkably failed to score from three-yards following a cross from the right by Viafara and then Jensen pulled off the best save of the match in stoppage time to deny Safri.
It was game over and three points for the Clarets. You almost felt sorry for the Saints with two awful games to play to try and avoid relegation but that`s football.
Southampton: Richard Wright, Jermaine Wright, Lucketti, Perry, Surman, Licka (Dyer 64), Safri, Idiakez (Viafara 79), Euell, Wright-Phillips (Saganowski 79), John.
Subs Not Used: Davis, Pericard.
Burnley: Jensen, Alexander, Caldwell, Carlisle, Jordan, Elliott, James O'Connor (Gudjonsson 64), McCann, Blake (Spicer 90), Akinbiyi, Cole (Mahon 79).
Subs Not Used: Kiraly, Duff.
Booked: Elliott, Alexander, Caldwell.
Goals: Caldwell 45.
Ref: Paul Taylor (Hertfordshire).