It`s Going Down to the Wire in Final Game
Saturday 25th April 2009 @3pm KO
The Clarets came from behind twice and saved a penalty in our 2-2 draw against Southampton at St Marys yesterday The result condemned Southampton to relegation but with Preston beating Birmingham 2-1 at St Andrews the point was not enough to ensure the Clarets a play offs spot.
We will now have to win our final fixture of the season at home to Bristol City next Monday to ensure we can keep Preston at bay.
The Clarets are currently in 6th spot now on 73 points just two points ahead of Preston in 7th. Our local rivals look to have a relatively easy final game against QPR at home next Sunday but if they drop any points against the Rs, the Clarets will be in the play-offs no matter what our result is against the Robins. The tense, nervous end in this final countdown will therefore continue for all Clarets fans and the Robins game on Sunday is now yet another 'Cup Final` that we have to win.
Interestingly if we do win next Sunday we could finish as high as 4th if Reading and Cardiff lose or draw their final games. Reading currently 4th on 74 points with a game in hand face a tough final game at home to automatic promotion chasing Birmingham and also play relegation threatened Norwich at Carrow Road on Monday night. Cardiff in 5th spot with also 74 points are on the road to Sheffield next Sunday to play the Owls.
But that`s all for the short-term future what about the match yesterday at St Marys on a bright, sunny day in Southampton?
It was certainly an eventful day in Hampshire for both sides, with Southampton knowing they effectively had to win their last two games to try and finish out of the bottom three. If they could achieve that they would of course still be relegated after picking up a ten-point deduction for going into administration but at least those points would be taken off this season and they could start next season in League One without a ten-point penalty. On the other hand of course, three points for the Clarets and we would have a play-off spot confirmed so the scene was set for a tense, nervy day for both sets of fans, of which 2057 Clarets had made the journey down to the South Coast including yours truly.
The Clarets lined-up in predictable fashion with Owen Coyle selecting the same sixteen as per our last game against the Blades at Turf Moor. Steven Thompson, as expected was still sidelined with an ankle ligament injury so once more Martin Paterson took the lone striker role up front in preference to Jay Rodriguez.
Our sixteen was therefore as follows:
Jensen, Williams, Caldwell, Carlisle, Kalvenes, Alexander, Eagles, McCann, Elliott, Blake, Paterson
Subs: Penny, Duff, Gudjonsson, McDonald, Rodriguez
A late change of referee saw Mike Jones from Cheshire take over the reins from Premier League referee Peter Walton and as the match got underway it was clear that Southampton were going to fight for anything they could get despite the despondent Saints news in midweek of almost certain relegation after the ten-point deduction ruling by the Football League.
They put the Clarets under pressure in the early stages of this match and indeed effectively dominated possession in the first half. Paul Wotten who had earlier been booked in this exciting clash, got in a shot after 10 minutes that was deflected over for a corner.
The Saints pressure began to tell and in the 11th minute they took the lead.
Bradley Wright-Phillips was put through on the right and his shot from the area got a wicked deflection off a Burnley boot before bouncing on the pitch and over Jensen into the far corner of the goal to put the Saints 1-0 up.
Owen Coyle decided it was time now for Plan B and put Blake up front alongside Paterson with Elliott now playing wide right. Chris Eagles changed to the left as the Clarets desperately sought out an equaliser.
It was however the Saints who looked the most likely to score and double their lead.
Gillett looked to be an offside position on the 18 yard line but with the linesman keeping his flag down, he should have scored having found himself in acres of space. Jensen though brilliantly managed to parry the ball away to safety.
With nearly 30 minutes played, The Beast once more came to the rescue to deny Wright-Phillips a brace. In a one-on-one situation, Wright-Phillips over-ran the ball just enough for Jensen to block.
It was however the Clarets who would now score and get that all important equaliser against the run of play.
Jan-Paul Saeijs attempted to halt Paterson who had charged into the box but the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot after deciding it was an unfair challenge. Up stepped penalty supremo Graham Alexander to coolly slot home on 30 minutes by thumping it down the middle.
A Blake free kick nearly gave the Clarets the lead in typical fashion but his shot was over the angle and then the Saints had a chance at the other end with Lallana putting his shot just wide.
On 43 minutes though, the Saints did restore their lead. A low cross by James from the right of the area found Euell who let rip with a fierce shot only for Jensen to make a superb point-blank save. Sadly for the Beast though, the ball fell into the path of McGoldrick who made no mistake with his shot inside the six-yard box. 2-1 Saints then at half-time
Owen Coyle surprisingly made a change for the start of the second half, something he rarely does but the decision may have been forced upon him after realising that the lacklustre Eagles was still suffering badly from an illness that he picked up in midweek. Rodriguez came on to replace him and partnered Paterson upfront with Blake taking up a wide left position again.
The changes seemed to have a positive effect on Burnley`s play and we started the brighter of the two teams as the second half got underway.
A low cross by Elliott was cleared for a corner. McCann got in a header from the corner to bring out a good save from Davis.
On 60 minutes though, it looked like it was game over for the Clarets when the referee awarded a penalty. Williams was adjudged to have fouled Euell in the area after the striker had got the better of him.
Jensen though had other ideas and diving to his left saved McGoldrick`s spot kick.
Williams seemed to be penalised for his tug on Euell and was replaced by Duff at right back on 63 minutes.
Four minutes later though and the Clarets had equalised after being awarded a free-kick.
Blake took the free kick to find Carlisle who blasted home from six yards out to make it 2-2 in a thrilling, pulsating game.
The Clarets then nearly took the lead in spectacular fashion seconds after getting the equaliser.
An air shot inside the centre circle by James gave Rodriguez a chance to run at goal from 40 yards out before shooting. Davis saved well but he could only watch as Rodriguez pounced again. This time the spinning ball confused everybody and as it came back, Rodriguez was unable to pick it up and shoot despite having an open goal in front of him.
With the Clarets pressure now mounting, a cross by Blake on the right flank was flicked on by McCann only for Elliott to fail in his attempt at the far post. Davis then had to save in spectacular fashion at full stretch by turning over a Blake drive from 18 yards.
The game was now becoming end-to-end with both teams desperate to find that third goal that would mean three extra points so vital to both sides for different reasons. It wasn`t to be though and both sides had to settle for a point as the final whistle went.
News had filtered through that the Blades had beaten Swansea so now we only had to worry about the Preston result in the late afternoon game. The Clarets day was soured as we found out travelling back that Preston had nicked a goal in the final minute to win 2-1 away to automatic promotion candidates, Birmingham! Drat and double drat!
For Southampton though, the news was even bleaker. They would now be relegated no matter what the result away to Nottingham Forest in their last game on Sunday 3rd May and they would have to start their first season in League One with a ten-point deduction. No fan should wish that on any club and during the day a lot of us had shown great sympathy with the Saints fans ahead of the game and had some good banter in the local pubs. A pity a few numpty fans supporting the Saints had spoiled the good humour in the end by coming over to the away end after the final whistle to hurl coins and flares at the flabbergasted Clarets fans. Disgraceful and I hope the police do something about it!
Southampton: Davis, James, Perry, Saeijs, Gillett (Saganowski 72), Wright-Phillips, Wotton, Lallana (Smith 77), Surman, McGoldrick (Schneiderlin 90), Euell.
Subs Not Used: Forecast, Liptak.
Booked: Wotton, McGoldrick, Perry, Saeijs.
Goals: Wright-Phillips 11, McGoldrick 44.
Burnley: Jensen, Williams (Duff 63), Caldwell, Carlisle, Kalvenes, Eagles (Rodriguez 46), Alexander, McCann, Elliott, Blake, Paterson (Gudjonsson 83).
Subs Not Used: Penny, McDonald.
Booked: Paterson, Alexander, Caldwell.
Goals: Alexander 32 pen, Carlisle 67.
Ref: Mike Jones (Cheshire).
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