Eagles Take it, Easy!
4th May 2008 @ 2pm KO
As the famous song by the Eagles goes, Crystal Palace did take it,easy by thumping the under strength Clarets 5-0 to bring a miserable end to the season for Clarets fans whilst at the same time putting Palace convincingly in the play-offs with the side finishing in 5th place.
In effect, we have finished yet again in mid-table obscurity despite getting our highest tally of points since the days of Stan Ternent. However finishing in 13th spot (albeit with 62 points) does not suggest we have been that convincing this season despite the managerial change last November.
Co-incidentally, 13th spot was also the highest place we have managed in the post-Ternent period under Steve Cotterill. In Cotterill`s first season, we clocked up 60 points just two less than this season. It is hard therefore to see any significant improvement despite bettering recent seasons when we finished 17th and last season, 15th.
Midtable mediocrity is becoming the norm for the Clarets and although we finished just eight points off the play offs ( I am sure we can all remember 3 home games we should have won!) we also finished only 10 points ahead of Leicester, the third team relegated yesterday joining Colchester and Scunthorpe. 50 points are normally recognised as the tally for safety in this league, but tell that to Leicester who now find themselves in the third tier of League football despite clocking up 52 points. It also puts into context the fact that 62 points is not as good as it maybe sounds.
So where does that leave us? In fairness to Owen Coyle, he inherited Cotterill`s men, lost one (Andy Gray in the Jan window) and brought in just three loans (Cole, Varga & Randall). He readily admits we need to build in all areas of the park and defence at the moment seems to be a particular area where we need to tighten up. Five players are out of contract in the summer unless Coyle wishes to retain them. It would seem we will know tomorrow which players will get new contracts and which won`t according to the gaffer.
'I will speak to the players on Tuesday and there will be some we make offers to and some we won't
"We will have a chat and take it from there,
"The bottom line is we need to improve. We know the areas we need to look at and we will get one or two in to compliment that and we will be a better team for it."
I think most Clarets fans have a bottom line too, well I certainly have. If we are ever going to get this club promoted, we need depth in squad both in terms of quality and quantity and we need to have a season that avoids the tactics of 'sticking plaster` and second-half season blues.
Owen Coyle needs to strengthen his squad and develop his own team before he can be fully judged but I don`t like the expression 'one or two` in. Hell fire man, we need far more than one or two!
Oh well, let`s see what the close season brings, but please, please, please let`s not have another one where things are promised and nothing is delivered whilst all the clubs around us get their men!
So let`s get back to the match and the tonking that was 5-0. First of all, we need to point out that this is the first match where we have lost by more than 3 clear goals since the days of Ternent. Indeed the last match where we let in four of more goals was against Norwich back in April 2004; a 5-3 defeat at home. There were however mitigating circumstances for this latest disaster but we can`t excuse the team totally.
First of all we never really stood a chance of scoring with Andrew Cole (stitches in gashed leg), Ade Akinbiyi (Chest pains) and Kyle Lafferty (Appendix operation) all sidelined. It was also not legally possible to even play Jay Rodriguez, now back from his loan spell at Stirling Albion.
This left two choices for attack, Robbie Blake and young Alex MacDonald.
Owen Coyle opted for Blake up front in 4:3:3 supported by Elliott and Randall with a midfield trio of James O`Connor, Graham Alexander and Chris McCann.
Michael Duff returned to the starting eleven for his first match since damaging his cruciate ligament in the corresponding game against Palace at Turf Moor back in September 2007. He took up the right back position.
The team selected was therefore as follows:
Jensen, Duff, Carlisle, Caldwell, Harley, O`Connor, Alexander, McCann, Elliott, Randall, Blake
Subs: Kiraly, Jordan, Gudjonsson, Mahon, MacDonald
Referee Kevin Friend got the match underway and he was soon showing he was no friend of the Clarets awarding a dubious penalty after only six minutes of play and reducing the Clarets to ten men with the sending-off of Clarke Carlisle.
The red card means Carlisle will now miss the first two games of the new 2008/9 season. Oh great! Ben Watson scored from the penalty
Owen Coyle was stunned by the decision and had this to say about the incident after the game:
'There is no getting away from the fact that for the first goal and the sending off the lad is five yards offside and the linesman didn't flag.
'It was just an incredible decision. I'm not even sure it was a penalty, but we're one down and down to ten men and then within a few minutes it's another cheap goal given away.
'I've said before that you need good players and good luck in football and I don't remember one decision going our way.'
The Clarets now down to ten men hastily patched things up by moving Alexander to right back and Michael Duff into the centre of the back four with the formation now 4:4:1 but just two minutes after the penalty Victor Moses made it 2-0 for the Eagles with the Clarets looking shell-shocked and clueless.
No chance now and that was confirmed just before half-time. In the 37th minute, Morrison danced round Jensen pulling the ball back for Soares to easily slot home from inside the six-yard box.
3-0 at half-time and the feeling we were going to get a tonking getting stronger and stronger.
Two more goals in the second half completed a miserable afternoon and grim end to the season for the Clarets.
Sinclair made it 4-0 after 61 minutes after picking the ball up on the left touchline. He cut inside Chris McCann, bursting through two more weary challenges before thumping a low shot past Jensen.
Watson just four minutes later then carved open the defence on a run leading to a clever pass to Morrison who with a cool shot made it five nil. There was then another "Exhibition at the Crystal Palace" for the remaining 25 minutes as the Eagles turned it on at our expense but thankfully did not get any more goals.
See you all again next season and let`s quickly consign this match to the trashcan.
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Butterfield, Hudson, Fonte, Hill, Derry (Fletcher 59), Watson, Soares, Sinclair, Morrison (Scannell 72), Moses (Ifill 32). Subs Not Used: Craig, Scowcroft.
Goals: Watson 8 pen, Moses 10, Soares 37, Sinclair 61, Morrison 65
Burnley: Jensen, Alexander, Carlisle, Caldwell, Harley, Duff, Elliott (MacDonald 70), McCann (Mahon 81), Randall (Gudjonsson 46), James O'Connor, Blake. Subs Not Used: Kiraly, Jordan
Sent Off: Carlisle (7)
Ref: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)