Burnley Fail to Stoke Fire But Embers Still Burn
Saturday 15th August 2009 @3pm Kick Off
The Clarets went down 2-0 away to Stoke in their first match in the top flight for 33 years with both goals for the Potters coming from set-pieces in the first half. Burnley`s debut in the Premier League against Stoke at the Britannia Stadium though was still a solid performance and despite the result there was a lot of positives to take away from the game and Clarets fans should not be too disheartened.
Our record at the Britannia over the years in the lower league clashes has been impressive winning four and drawing two of the last eight games but this time we were to draw a blank. Britannia Stadium has become a bit of a fortress though since Stoke returned to the Premier League last season and not many clubs have come away with points so we should not underestimate our performance in this game.
So not a bad start really apart from the result but we do though need to brighten up our ideas in defence, especially from set-pieces and both Stoke goals should have been handled better. The Clarets fell behind after 19 minutes when Ryan Shawcross rose unchallenged to head home the ball from a free kick taken by Liam Lawrence. We then fell to a sucker punch from one of Rory Delap`s long throws on 33 minutes. Jordan rose to clear the danger but he could only glance the ball into his own net.
Burnley 2-0 down at half-time came out much brighter in the second half and began to take the game to Tony Pulis`s side. The Clarets had most of the possession in the second half as Stoke began to take the foot off the throttle but they couldn`t make the pressure count and get a goal to reduce the arrears. Once too often it seemed the final ball was wasted.
Clarets fans could also legitimately claim we should have had a penalty or two maybe as well but referee, Steve 'Gordon` Bennett seemed determined to keep his hands firmly in Stoke`s pocket and refuse to point to the spot.
There can be no excuses really though for losing this match and in the end we simply have to do better, especially in terms of tightening up the defence.
To be fair though, we did have a makeshift defence on display at the Britannia. Captain, Steve Caldwell was out injured with a groin strain picked up in the midweek match for Scotland against Norway in Oslo. New centre back, David Edgar was sitting out a one-match suspension after being sent off for a double yellow in Newcastle`s last game of 2008/9. Michael Duff also still seems to be struggling with an ankle injury that he picked up during the US Tour in the second match against Portland Timbers and once more was sidelined.
Owen Coyle therefore had limited options in the back four and chose to play Jordan and Carlisle in the centre with Mears at right back and Kalvenes on the left. Alexander, made captain for the day in the absence of Caldwell was once again given the holding midfield role as the Clarets lined up 4-1-3-2 with Fletcher being the target man and Paterson playing a wider role out on the right.
The full line-up was as follows:
Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Jordan, Kalvenes, Alexander, Elliott, McCann, Blake, Paterson, Fletcher
Subs: Penny, Eckersley, Gudjonsson, Guerrero, McDonald, Eagles, Thompson
On a warm overcast day, referee Steve Bennett got the match underway with 3000 Clarets fans filling their allocation in the South Stand to capacity and eagerly awaiting their first ever game in the Premier League.
Old fogies like me had waited 33 years for this moment and as the whistle went there was certainly an emotional tear or two. Burnley Were Back!
Fletcher, making his debut in English football was soon in action latching onto Alexander`s punt up field. The angle was too tight though as Sorensen rushed out from goal and Fletcher could not get his shot on target.
Elliott got in a low cross after six minutes to find Blake whose first-time shot was then blocked but this was an encouraging start to Premier League life so far from Burnley.
Stoke were having their moments though buoyed up no doubt by the noise made by the home crowd and Delap was being given numerous chances to display his long-ball throw in skills.
It was the Clarets though who again came close to scoring with 18 minutes played. The first save of the match denied Blake after he tried a shot from distance following some nice work from Alexander. Sorensen though saved well to the relief of the home contingent. One minute later though their decibel reading went up a notch or two after the Potters took the lead in the 19th minute.
A free kick was awarded to Stoke near the left touchline after Fuller had practised his diving skills hoping to win a BAFTA award. Shawcross got his head to the ball as it came in giving Jensen no chance with the back four staring at each other thinking they could and should have done better to defend it. 1-0 Stoke.
In typical Burnley fashion they didn`t let their heads drop and almost immediately nearly got the equaliser. Paterson broke down the left and found some space to find Wade Elliott but somehow an outstretched leg at the near post denied the Wembley hero another goal.
Clarets fans hearts sank though in the 33rd minute when Stoke extended their lead.
Stoke were awarded yet another throw in Delap missile launching territory. Jordan tried to clear the danger as the ball flew into the heart of the defence but could only head the ball into his own net. 2-0 Stoke with Clarets fans fearing the worst.
The Clarets though could have reduced the arrears on 40 minutes if Steve Bennett had awarded a penalty for a blatant handball after a cross by Tyrone Mears deep into the Stoke defence. Andy Wilkinson seemed bamboozled and the ball bounced up to hit his arm only for Bennett to award a corner with the incensed Clarets fans up in arms about the decision. This was the second time Bennett had refused to give the Clarets a penalty following an earlier incident when Elliott seemed to have been brought down in the box via a shirt pull. Carlisle could only head over from the corner and was soon in action at the other end preventing Stoke getting another goal with half-time fast approaching.
Jensen rushing out to defend a Lawrence free-kick could only despair as Fuller got in a header. The ball now looked certain to cross the line before Carlisle tried his acrobatic skills and managed to clear off the line to keep the Clarets in the game.
That was the last action of the first half and the Clarets would now have some thinking to do, if they were to get back into this match.
Owen Coyle made no changes for the start of the second-half and once more we started brightly.
Sorensen at full stretch could not get to a thunderous drive by Elliott from 35 yards out but luckily for Stoke the ball flew over the bar by a whisker.
Stoke defender, Abdoulaye Faye had been struggling against Elliott and was finally booked when he hacked him down. Now on a yellow card, he came dangerously close to being sent off following a clumsy challenge on Mears. Bennett once more enraged the away contingent refusing to even talk to the defender instead preferring to make the situation even worse for Clarets fans by yellow-carding Alexander for strongly complaining about Faye!
At least we were awarded a free kick from the incident and it caused all sorts of problems for the Stoke defence with first Blake and then McCann seeing their efforts blocked by a defence in panic.
To be honest, Stoke had by now taken their foot off the throttle, happy to sit back and soak up all the pressure the Clarets could chuck at them.
With the hour mark approaching, Sorensen did well to hold onto a strong shot by Blake from a free-kick and he came to Stoke`s rescue again soon after. This time Paterson linked well with Blake allowing Fletcher a run on goal. The Scot unleashed a drive that angled towards the near post where the Danish keeper was ideally placed to further deny the Clarets a chance of a comeback.
With the Clarets now enjoying the bulk of the possession, Coyle decided to liven things up even more in the 72nd minute by bringing on Eagles and young whiz kid, Guerrero. The double substitution replaced Blake and Paterson.
In the 77th minute a lively looking Eagles got in a deep cross with Sorensen this time making a hash of things. Missing the ball completely, the keeper was lucky to see it bounce off the back of his defender, Wilkinson and away to safety just wide of the post. On the break however, Stoke nearly made it game over a few moments later when substitute Kitson let rip with a shot that hit the crossbar. It would have been an injustice had he scored since this was virtually the only attacking move Stoke had put together so far in the second half.
Burnley though were soon back on the attack and this time it was the impressive-looking Guerrero who got the better of the Stoke defence. Getting in a cross, it whizzed past over Sorensen and fell tantalisingly wide of the far post.
It wasn`t to be for the Clarets though and despite their second-half domination they had gone down to their first defeat in the Premier League at their first attempt to get some points on the board.
They battled well though and they were by no means disgraced. 'Welcome to the Premier League` they said rather cynically on Match of the Day but at least Alan Hansen wasn`t too harsh on our defence but it is certainly an area we need to strengthen when you look at the next four fixtures.
Rumours were rife at the Britannia that we had signed Reading controversial centre-back, Andre Bikey although nothing has yet been officially announced. At least however Edgar will now be available and we have to hope Caldwell and Duff soon recover from their injuries.
Manchester United at Turf Moor are next up and what a home Premier League baptism of fire that will be this Wednesday night. We then play Everton at home on the Sunday 22nd August followed by two away games at Chelsea and Liverpool! Simples!
Oh well who cares about the Stoke result, We Are Premier League and We are Back!
Burnley: Jensen, Kalvenes, Carlisle, Jordan, Mears, Alexander (Thompson 82), Blake (Eagles 72), McCann, Elliott, Paterson (Guerrero 72), Fletcher.
Subs: Penny, McDonald, Gudjonsson, Eckersley
Booked: Alexander 57, Jordan 66
Stoke: Sorensen, Wilkinson, Faye, Shawcross, Higginbotham, Lawrence, Delap, Whitehead, Etherington (Whelan 76), Beattie (Kitson 67), Fuller (Cresswell 87)
Subs: Simonsen, Griffin, Cort, Pugh
Booked: Faye 54
Ref: Steve Bennett
The best player in the back four for me was Tyrone Mears. After some indifferent pre-season performances, today he looked solid. He seemed determined to make a better go of it than he did for Derby in the season they were relegated from the top flight and but for his performance against Stoke the scoreline could have been much worse.
Vital Burnley therefore give their first ever 'Star Player' award for a game in the Premier League to Tyrone Mears