Day of the Jekyll Sets Up New Record
Saturday 3rd October 2009 @3pm Kick-Off
The Clarets maintained their home form setting up a new Premier League record after beating Birmingham 2-1 at Turf Moor on Saturday. Burnley have a 100% record at home this season with four wins out of four and indeed we have now won our last ten games at Turf Moor. No club promoted to the Premier League has ever won their first four matches at home. The previous record was set by Blackburn Rovers who won their opening three home games in 1992 so to wrestle that away from our local rivals makes our achievement even sweeter. In a remarkable co-incidence too, the next game we play will be against Rovers at Ewood Park so we might be able to rub some salt into their wounds by coming away with a point or three.
That though will be an away game and as we know our remarkable achievement at home is in complete contrast to our shocking performance on the road, something not lost on the Match of the Day team who on Saturday night described Burnley as the Jekyll & Hyde club of the Premier League. The Clarets have yet to score away from home let alone get a point and in a bizarre sequence of scores we have now lost 2-0, 3-0, 4-0 and 5-0 in our opening four games away to Stoke, Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs. The big question of course is can we now stop the rot away from home especially with the big one coming up against Rovers. Arsenal tonked Rovers 6-2 at the Emirates on Sunday so we shall have to hope that has dented any confidence they might have had. We quickly need to start picking up points away from home and what better way to start than at Ewood Park?
Saturday`s victory against Brum at Turf Moor though sees the Clarets currently well placed in 9th place on 12 points thanks to the Fortress Turf Moor effect. Birmingham clearly came to Turf Moor to try and stifle the Clarets with negative defensive tactics as was plain to see when they decided to line up in a 4-5-1 formation. The first half was indeed a pretty dire scrappy affair with no side getting the upper hand and it was no surprise that it remained 0-0 at half time with few chances on goal by either team. In the second-half the Clarets suddenly found a way through the tight Blues defence and in a remarkable ten minute spell found themselves 2-0 up when first Fletcher got his first League goal for the Clarets after 53 minutes and then shortly after hit the woodwork before Bikey in a nice one-two with Nugent doubled our lead with a well-hit strike on 62 minutes. Clarets fans were then treated to an acrobatic display from the celebrating Bikey that would have made the British Gymnastic team proud! The Clarets dominated play for the rest of the half and the inevitable victory was only marred by a Brum consolation goal from a Larsson free kick in what turned out to be virtually the last kick of the match in added time.
Before this match, there was a lot of debate as to whether captain Steven Caldwell would return to the back four and if so who he would replace with both Clarke Carlisle and especially Andre Bikey looking potential casualties. In the end, Coyle managed to select all three. Caldwell returned to play his first game for the Clarets this season after picking up a groin injury in the Scotland match in Oslo. He joined Carlisle in the centre of defence allowing Coyle to experiment by playing Andre Bikey in midfield, a decision that would prove fruitful.
The last couple of weeks have been bad news for the Clarets on the injury front with Jay Rodriguez the latest casualty after he picked up a fractured ankle in the reserve game against Hull in midweek. The injury will keep him sidelined for three months and he now joins Martin Paterson (torn cartilage) and Chris McCann (medial ligament) on the long road to recovery. Fernando Guerrero also picked up a hamstring injury in the Hull reserve match and he didn`t make the eighteen against Brum. Kevin McDonald though who also picked up a knock in this mother of all reserve games did make the bench. Steven Thompson, who scored a brace in the 2-1 defeat of Hull Reserves in midweek, had to be content again with a place on the bench with Nugent and Fletcher leading the attack.
The Clarets therefore lined up as follows:
Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Caldwell, Jordan, Alexander, Eliott, Bikey, Blake, Fletcher, Nugent
Subs: Penny, Kalvenes, Duff, McDonald, Gudjonsson, Eagles, Thompson
Leicestershire referee, Kevin Friend got the match underway in front of a crowd of 20102 fans although it has to be said the Blues contingent had not come in force and once more it was the Clarets making the most noise setting up yet another buzzing, intimidating atmosphere at Turf Moor. The weather though were not ideal for football and both sides had to get used to windy conditions.
The game started brightly but turned into a scrappy affair as the half progressed. Bikey getting forward tried an early shot on goal but a defender got in the way before Fletcher put an attempt wide.
A dogged defensive display by the Blues stifled all attempts by the Clarets and indeed it was well past the half-hour mark before any side had a clear cut chance on goal. On 35 minutes, Elliott burst through the Blues defence on a run finding Nugent who struck the ball well forcing the Blues keeper, Joe Hart to dive to his right and save.
If the Clarets were not having many chances to score, our defence was keeping any threat from Brum at bay and indeed it is difficult to recollect any meaningful attempts on goal with the hapless Garry O'Connor alone up front and not getting any service.
Six minutes before the break though a defensive lapse nearly let in the Blues from a short corner. Despite everybody back for the Clarets, the ball fell to an unmarked Roger Johnson in acres of space and he let rip with a shot across the face of the goal which Bowyer thankfully missed, unable to get the right contact from just a few yards out.
No score at half-time therefore and Coyle made no changes for the start of the second half. Alex McLeish however decided to make two changes bringing on Ridgewell and Larsson for Queudrue and Fahey.
Jensen breathed a sigh of relief after Larsson put his shot wide of the Beast`s left hand post early in the second half but the Clarets finally broke the deadlock on 53 minutes.
The Clarets defence first came to the rescue on the edge of the penalty area following a Blues free kick charging down the ball and setting up a counter-attack. Tyrone Mears picked out Fletcher with the Blues defence trying to chase back. Clarets fans thought a pass might be more appropriate but a determined Fletcher continued on goal and let rip with a low shot that flew into the back of the net with the keeper`s legs helping the ball on its way! Fletcher was of course delighted to get his first League goal and he nearly made it two, five minutes later.
In a stunning move, Robbie Blake sweetly found Fletcher getting in behind the defence. The Scottish international chested the ball down and shot past the keeper only to see the ball hit the post. Fletcher was on fire now though and moments later he shot on the turn only to be denied again after this time seeing his attempt saved by Hart.
Clarets fans though didn`t have to wait long before we at last doubled our lead in the 62nd minute and what a superb goal it was too. Bikey under pressure from Ferguson held off the challenge and on a blinding run set up a neat one-two with Nugent before letting rip with a shot that gave Hart no chance. Clearly delighted with his first goal in almost a year Bikey then entertained the crowd with a dazzling display of Gymnastic Floor Exercises including a backwards somersault.
The Clarets now really turned it on and at this stage we could easily have made it three or four with Brum having to now come out to try and reduce the arrears and being caught out on the counter attack. In one such attack on the break, Nugent was fouled on the edge of the box after being tripped by Carr. It was the impressive Mears who took the free-kick forcing Hart to make a finger-tip save for a corner. As the corner came over from Blake, Bikey could perhaps have done better with his header but the ball flew over the bar from six yards out.
The fourth official announced four minutes of added time and with moments to go it looked like we were going to keep a clean sheet but it wasn`t to be after Brum were awarded a free-kick. Actually as I looked at our defence lining up to defend the free kick i could see gaps and just sensed it was going to be a goal and sadly i was right, Larsson giving Jensen no chance.
It didn`t really matter though giving Birmingham a consolation goal with virtually the last kick of the game although Owen Coyle was clearly non-too-happy and Clarets fans were still relieved to hear the final whistle seconds later knowing how jammy Brum had been against us in the past. At long last we had defeated Birmingham in a League game, the last time being in April 1976 which co-incidentally would also prove to be our last home win in the top flight for another 33 years.
So another excellent three points in a month where we really could be well on the way to improving our chances of survival. All we have to do now is start to pick up points away from home in the biggy against Rovers and then beat Wigan and Hull at home in our final two games in October. Simples!
Burnley: Jensen, Alexander, Carlisle, Caldwell, Fletcher (Eagles 72), Elliott, Mears, Blake (Kalvenes 90), Bikey, Nugent (Thompson 87), Jordan.
Subs Not Used: Penny, Duff, McDonald, Gudjonsson.
Goals: Fletcher 53, Bikey 62
Birmingham: Hart, Carr, Bowyer, O'Connor, Ferguson, Johnson, Dann, McFadden, Fahey (Larsson ), Queudrue (Ridgewell ), Tainio (Phillips 67).
Subs Not Used: Maik Taylor, McSheffrey, O'Shea, Carlsey.
Booked; Carr, Dann, Ferguson
Goal: Larsson (90 plus 5)
Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire)
Wade Elliott had an excellent game in midfield as did Steven Caldwell in the back four especially considering this was his first Premier League game of the season for the Clarets. The whole back four looked strong but none more so than Tyrone Mears who was a consistent thorn in the Blues side both defensively and on his charges down the wing. Our Star Player award therefore goes to Tyrone Mears and we will give Bikey an Acrobatic Gold medal for his celebratory display.