Clarets Lack Killer Instinct in Brum Draw
Saturday 7th February @3pm KO
The Clarets got a well-earned point in the end at St Andrews yesterday against 3rd placed club, Birmingham.
The 1-1 result though could have been so different had we taken our chances during the first 30 minutes of the first half. We completely dominated this period after taking an early lead with just 3 minutes of play on the clock. The Clarets could and should have put the game beyond Brum`s reach with 2-3 clear chances that would normally have been put away.
Paterson`s goal though seemed enough to ensure a first half lead until a defensive mix-up led to Kevin Phillips equalising eight minutes before half-time.
That goal raised the Brum spirits after seemingly suffering from the Birmingham Blues for most of the first half and the second-half was a much more even affair. At the start of this game, we would have taken a point but once more, not for the first time this season, the lack of killer instinct seems to have denied the Clarets all three points.
The point though ensures we keep in contention for the play off places although we did drop to 10th place with a points tally of 47 points. Local rivals, Preston remain in 6th place and we are still 3 points behind them with a game in hand after the Lilywhites could also only draw away albeit to high-flying Reading.
The Owls also did the Clarets a favour, beating the Blades 2-1 in the local Sheffield derby at Bramall Lane.
Sheffield United in 5th place have now also played one more game than the Clarets and are catchable on 51 points.
Owen Coyle made one change to the side that lined up against West Brom in the FA Cup 4th Round replay in midweek. Our new loan, Rhys Williams returned at right back after being ineligible for the cup game on Tuesday night. Kevin McDonald was the unfortunate player to lose out being forced to be content with a place on the bench.
Although the names in the starting eleven were more or less the same, Coyle did make some changes to the formation for this match once more showing his attacking intent in this,the Clarets 42nd game of the season.
Coyle opted for a 4-4-2 formation with Alexander part of the straight midfield instead of his normal holding midfield position. Chris Eagles, who had been suffering from a chest infection as late as Friday afternoon did recover in time to make the bench.
The gaffer also had to keep goal poacher, Steve Thompson in the starting eleven after his two consecutive braces against Charlton and West Brom so he partnered Paterson up front.
Kalvenes played at left back again with Jordan still sidelined with a knee ligament injury and it looked like the three players who had been suffering from the lurgy in midweek must have made a full recovery. The out-of-form Clarke Carlisle missed out completely and he now faces a fight to try and regain his place in the centre of defence with Duff now partnering Caldwell in the middle. By common Clarets consent, most believe Duff plays better in the centre than at right back, so barring injuries and suspensions in the back four, it could be a long hard battle for Carlisle to get back into contention.
The Clarets in summary, lined up as follows:
Jensen, Williams, Duff, Caldwell, Kalvenes, Elliott, McCann, Alexander, Blake, Paterson, Thompson
Subs: Penny, Gudjonsson, McDonald, Eagles, Rodriguez
So could the Clarets, who had not won in the last three away games in the Championship get anything from this match against a Brum side who had now only won one out of their last five games at home in all competitions?
We were about to find out as Hampshire referee, Keith Stroud got the match underway on a somewhat bare and bumpy pitch.
The Blues did not look at the races as the Clarets stormed out the block and took the lead after just 3 minutes. A low cross by Elliott bamboozled the Brum defence with Blake picking up the ball and crossing to the far post. His instinct was spot on and Paterson was there to tap home from close range.
The Clarets now completely dominated play with Birmingham finding it difficult to get out of their own half. A bizarre 30 minutes would now be acted out, with the Clarets looking determined to avoid scoring despite a number of glorious chances being presented to pull further ahead.
Steven Thompson could only fire over the bar following a mistake by Brum keeper, Taylor after 7 minutes. The keeper had flapped at the ball after Blake had attempted a through-ball.
Blake then somehow failed to score from ten yards out in the 14th minute after Paterson got the better of the very shaky Larsson, normally a midfielder deputising at right back. Paterson on the by-line then pulled the ball back for Blake. With an open goal in front of him, he could only side foot the ball over the angle and at this point all Clarets fans just sensed these missed opportunities could well come back to haunt us. We were right but not before we had chance to sense it again a few more times!
Just 20 minutes played and now it was Thompson who would be denied a goal after being put clean through on goal. Taylor though saved the day for the Blues with the Clarets ruing the fact they could be 3-0 up by now.
The Clarets dominance though continued and a crafty ball from McCann on 28 minutes found Paterson who volleyed from 18 yards out only to see the ball go just wide.
A linesman`s flag on the half-hour mark saved the blushes of McCann after he failed to make the right contact from six yards out following an in-swinging ball from Blake.
Now the worst fears for the Clarets were realised in the 38th minute after an awful defensive mix-up led to danger man, Kevin Phillips equalising to score his 13th goal of this season in the Championship.
A weak, short back pass by Caldwell meant Jensen had to come out to try and clear the danger. The awful condition of the pitch seemed to affect Jensen`s judgement, knowing he couldn`t handle the bobbling ball, he weakly headed it instead with Phillips ready to pounce and pounce he did, rolling the ball into an empty net to make it 1-1. It nearly got worse in stoppage time after a cross (or was it a shot?) by Cameron Jerome. Phillips stretching to reach the ball was a few inches away from making contact.
The whistle for the end of the first half actually came as a relief for the Clarets and they would now have to regroup in the dressing room and try and put to the back of their minds what might have been.
The Clarets made no changes for the start of the second half and neither did Birmingham. One does wonder if McLeish would have made some changes had they gone in behind at half-time considering our dominance up to the 38th minute. Just shows what a goal can do to raise spirits and confidence and as the second-half progressed it looked like our chances of getting three points had gone with Birmingham now looking far stronger than in the first half.
Rhys Williams though had other ideas as the second-half got underway. He could only shoot over the bar though after charging to the edge of the box.
Birmingham now turned the screw with the game developing into a much more even contest.
Lee Bowyer was just wide with a shot in the 49th minute after being put through by Phillips and six minutes later Jensen made amends for his first half blunder by tipping a Larsson free-kick from 25 yards out round the post. It was then Jensen again who saved the day denying Phillips from point blank range.
The Clarets were not done yet though. Paterson after linking well with Blake brought out a save from Taylor.
It was now time for Coyle to bring on some fresh legs and those legs would be Chris Eagles who came on in the 77th minute to replace Blake who seemed to have gone off the boil in the second half. It seems remarkable the influence Robbie has on our play, when he`s not in the game, we seem to struggle and go back on the defensive.
This match was now developing into a midfield slog.
An Elliott cross though found Thompson who could only head straight at Taylor on 82 minutes from 12 yards out and two minutes later Rodriguez came on to replace the tiring Paterson who had put in an excellent performance all afternoon.
West Brom had brought on the Honduran, Carlos Costly earlier in the second half for his Blues debut. The loan striker from Polish side, GKS Bełchatów has a media writer`s dream name and I can`t but resist but refer next to a 'Costly Mistake`. He did after all drag his shot wide on the turn late in this game much to the relief of Clarets fans.
There was just time for the Clarets to have the last say in stoppage time after Eagles decided to shoot rather than cross from the left catching everybody by surprise. Despite the tight angle, his shot was a hair-breadth`s away from giving the Clarets all three points.
It wasn`t to be though and we had to settle for a point. A good point in the end but again it feels like two points lost. At least one remarkable statistic remains in place. We have now lost only once this season after taking the lead (no prizes for guessing which match) and let`s hope this continues in our next game of this Midlands sequence against League leaders, Wolves at Turf Moor next Saturday.
Heck, we don`t have a midweek match this week. An editor`s rest at long last.
Birmingham: Maik Taylor, Larsson, Martin Taylor, Ridgewell, Murphy, Bouazza (Costly 63), Carsley, Bowyer, Sinclair, Phillips, Jerome (Fahey 74).
Subs Not Used: Doyle, Queudrue, Johnson.
Booked: Bowyer, Ridgewell.
Goals: Phillips 37.
Burnley: Jensen, Williams, Duff, Caldwell, Kalvenes, Elliott, McCann, Alexander, Blake (Eagles 77), Paterson (Rodriguez 84), Thompson (McDonald 90).
Subs Not Used: Penny, Gudjonsson.
Booked: Thompson, Kalvenes.
Goals: Paterson 3.
Ref: Keith Stroud (Hampshire).
However the man that made things happen and our engine room all through the game was Graham Alexander who seemed to be just as effective in a normal midfield role as he has been as holding midfielder. Where does he find all this energy at his age? Star Player our Graham and not just in this match.