Clarets Take the Cream of Devon
Saturday 21st March 2009 @ 3pm KO
The Clarets pulled off their 7th league away win of the season at Home Park yesterday defeating Plymouth Argyle 2-1 and cementing a place in the play-offs positions. It was a good day all round in Sunny Devon with news filtering through that other teams in the hunt had dropped points.
The away win was just the tonic we needed as we head for a rest that is the International Break. The victory sets us up nicely for our next game, the third in a sequence of three consecutive away games against Derby County at Pride Park on the Saturday 4th April.
The Clarets are now in 4th spot on 65 points just three points now behind 3rd place Reading but they have played a game more. Cardiff in 6th spot play Sheffield United in 5th spot at Ninian Park in today`s Sunday clash. Both of these teams are on 63 points and have games in hand over the Clarets, so a win for either side today will mean we drop to 5th. A draw could well be the perfect result for the Clarets.
The good news though is that Preston currently 7th could only manage a point in a 0-0 draw away to bottom club, Charlton yesterday and there is now clear blue water opening up between the Top 6 clubs and the 7th placed club plus the chasing pack below. Burnley are now 4 points clear of Preston so things are looking good. Our fate is now in our own hands and we have to hope we can sustain our remarkable form of late and at long last be in the play-offs come the 3rd May.
We have now gone five league games without defeat with 4 wins and one draw. Indeed we have now lost only one game (the debacle at home against the Owls!) in 11 games. Not bad for a side that has only used 23 players this season, the smallest number in the Championship and one that has already played 52 games in all competitions this season.
The encouraging news also is that we are picking up points even though we are not playing particularly well and that can also be said about the match yesterday.
There were plenty of nervy spells for Clarets fans yesterday as relegation-threatened Plymouth sought to go ahead after equalising within one minute of Burnley taking the lead in the 16th minute. In periods reminiscent of the game against Ipswich at Portman Road in midweek, the Clarets seemed to defend deep, found it difficult to clear their lines and made the odd defensive cock-up that nearly gave the home team advantage. The game to be honest was a pretty scrappy affair and it needed something special to break the deadlock.
Thankfully that came from the magician, Robbie Blake who popped up to score a wonder goal on 78 minutes, a goal that would be enough in the end to secure our victory.
On the sunny English Riviera on Armed Forces Day at Home Park; Owen Coyle decided to select the same sixteen that faced Ipswich in midweek. Martin Paterson was a doubt before this game having missed training in midweek due to a tight hamstring and with Steve Thompson still recovering from ankle ligament damage that could have been a major headache for Coyle. It was perhaps a relief therefore for Clarets fans to see him in the starting eleven although it did mean once again that Jay Rodriguez chomping at the bit for his full debut had to be content with a place on the bench.
The Clarets sixteen was as follows:
Jensen, Williams, Carlisle, Caldwell, Kalvenes, Alexander, Eagles, McCann, Elliott, Blake, Paterson
Subs: Penny, Duff, McDonald, Gudjonsson, Rodriguez
The Clarets therefore lined up in 4-1-4-1 formation with Paterson leading the attack and with Alexander in the now familiar holding midfield role. Wade Elliott too was once more in a more central midfield position.
Nottinghamshire referee, Russell Booth was the man-in-charge. He was the referee in our game against Bristol City at Ashton Gate this season, so was this going to be a good omen after winning there? If we were to beat Plymouth on their home soil it would be the first time since 1994 and what a game that was. Most Clarets fans I am sure are aware that was the day we thumped the Pilgrims 3-1 in the play-offs semi-final second leg after drawing 0-0 at Turf Moor. The rest was history after the Wembley play-offs final victory against Stockport and a return to the Championship!
But that was yesteryear, what would this season`s clash bring?
With the match underway, it would be the Clarets on the attack first with Paterson beating the offside trap and getting to the by-line to pull the ball back for McCann to shoot first-time. The ball though got a deflection and skimmed over the angle.
Plymouth had been fairly quiet but the home crowd were suddenly stirred into action after Mackie blasted the ball from fully 25 yards. Jensen t was equal to the shot though and saved well to give the Pilgrims their first corner of the day.
It would be the Clarets fans though who would be celebrating though after a goal in the 16th minute to take the lead. A defensive blunder in trying to clear an Alexander header allowed McCann to pounce and set free Robbie Blake. He got in a sublime cross and there was Caldwell charging in to head home at the far post giving their keeper, Romain Larrieu no chance.
Plymouth had only managed one win after going behind all season which was pretty poor compared to a total of 24 for the Clarets! So now all we had to do was let the psychology get to the Plymouth side and all would be well. Well actually no, within a minute they had equalised, going straight down the other end from the re-start and scoring.
The man that did the damage was even worse news for the Clarets since he was on loan from the Barstewards! The Clarets though should have done better in defence and cleared their lines, instead they allowed Judge to run rampant and tap the ball home despite the efforts of a diving Jensen.
Now it was the Pilgrims who looked the most dangerous and we had to withstand quite a bit of possession and pressure as Plymouth desperately looked to take the lead. The Clarets during this period just couldn`t seem to keep possession, had trouble finding their man and panicked too often trying and failing to clear their lines. The game was fast becoming very scrappy though and it wasn`t helped by the dry, bobbly pitch with balls bouncing higher than they should have all over the park.
The Clarets breathed a sigh of relief midway through the first half when Mackie dragged his shot wide of target and in the 29th minute a terrible back-header by Caldwell nearly led to disaster.
Mackie pounced on the ball providing Ashley Barnes with the opportunity to score what looked a certain goal. Thank God, Carlisle was alert to the danger. The in-form defender appeared from nowhere to save the day inside the six yard box.
That let-off and superb bit of defending seemed to lift the Clarets and six minutes from the break, a left-footed curling shot from a Blake free-kick 30 yards out looked to be going into the bottom corner of the net before Larrieu appeared from nowhere to save in spectacular fashion.
Paterson, who once more appears to be lacking conviction and confidence, should have done better in the dying seconds of added time in the first half. A defensive blunder had put Pato clear on goal. The lad has not scored now in 11 games despite being our leading goal-scorer and this was one he should have attempted. Instead he opted to pull the ball back for Blake who found himself clear with an open goal in front of him. Before he could walk the ball in though he was tackled and the danger was averted.
1-1 at half-time therefore with 672 loyal travelling Clarets fans wondering if they had let Plymouth off the hook. It seemed that once again too many of our players were putting in an under par performance, notably Elliott and Eagles.
No changes though were made by either side as the second-half got underway.
On the hour mark though, Coyle had had enough and decided to freshen things up. On came Jay Rodriguez for the lacklustre Eagles who seemed to be limping off. Jay joined Pato upfront with the Clarets reverting to the more orthodox 4-4-2 formation in an attempt to get the lead back.
The game though continued to be a scrappy affair with any side in with a chance of taking the lead as both sides struggled to keep possession and dominate proceedings.
Some alert thinking by Kalvenes prevented Judge having a clear run on goal after being put through by his Blackburn team mate, Gallagher and the Clarets could breathe a sigh of relief after Dugoid put his 20 yard attempt just wide of target.
Very much against the run of play though and with the Clarets under pressure in defence, Robbie Blake came up with an individual bit of magic to restore Burnley`s lead in the 78th minute.
Chesting the ball down from fully 30 yards out, he let rip with a scorching volley to score goal number 8 of the season, a goal that completely silenced the home crowd with their fears of relegation returning.
With the Clarets now ahead, Coyle decided Blake had done enough for the afternoon and after 81 minutes he was replaced by Joey Gudjonsson to add some more defensive midfield qualities to the side.
Jay Rodriguez nearly sealed it for the Clarets moments later after picking up an attempted clearance and rounding the keeper. In so doing though he slightly over hit the ball, giving himself a very tight angle. He tried his best but could only put the ball wide of the far corner with the keeper desperately trying to get back.
It was now a nervy period for the Clarets with the clock ticking down. Three points would mean so much to our promotion chances and it was desperately important we held on.
Coyle decided it was time to bolster the defence even more and with one minute to go, on came Duff to replace Paterson with the Clarets now playing 4-5-1. Clarets fans hearts nearly stopped when the fourth official announced five minutes of added time but the Clarets held on to secure probably their most important victory in the league this season and one that puts us in such a good position
The Clarets can now look forward to the International Break and come back refreshed with their confidence high. We could even be bolstered by the return of Steven Thompson for the next match against Derby at Pride Park on Saturday 4th April although realistically his ankle ligament injury might have recovered more by the time of the match after that at home to QPR on the 11th.
Well done you Clarets and what a nice feeling this morning looking at the league table
Plymouth: Larrieu, Gray, Cathcart, Seip, Sawyer, Judge (Noone 82), Fletcher, Duguid, Mackie (MacLean 80), Gallagher, Barnes (Fallon 80).
Subs Not Used: Paterson, Timar.
Goals: Judge 17.
Burnley: Jensen, Williams, Carlisle, Caldwell, Kalvenes, McCann, Alexander, Elliott, Eagles (Rodriguez 58), Paterson (Duff 89), Blake (Gudjonsson 81).
Subs Not Used: Penny, McDonald.
Goals: Caldwell 16, Blake 78.
Ref: Russell Booth (Nottinghamshire)
We really have to thank Clarke Carlisle though who was majestic in defence for not the first time since his return after being dropped for some indifferent if not woeful performances earlier in the season.
He got every header in yesterday and didn`t put a foot wrong all afternoon. He also saved his captain`s blushes after Caldwell decided to tamely head back the ball to the keeper. He came from nowhere to deny Ashley Barnes who looked certain to score.
He has hit form just at the right time and fully deserves our Star Player award again.