Wigan Ate All the Sand Pies!
Saturday 24th October 2009 @3pm Kick-Off
In a hugely disappointing game, 'Fortress Turf Moor` became a sand castle on Saturday after Wigan easily knocked down the Clarets defences and deservedly won 3-1. This of course was our first home defeat in the Premier League after four consecutive wins and indeed with ten straight wins we hadn`t been beaten at Turf Moor since the Owls mugged us 4-2 in a Championship league match back in February.
I suppose the only consolation was that other teams around us were unable to take much advantage and we dropped just one place to 11th spot. There was also some smug satisfaction that Chelsea thumped Blackburn Rovers 5-0 at Stamford Bridge (even we did better than that!) thus ensuring the Clarets stayed above them. The importance of our next game at home to Hull City this Saturday now takes on extra significance though bearing in mind the the Tigers are the third from bottom club and are now just four points behind us ! This is a true six-pointer and we can`t afford any more slip-ups on home soil against such lowly teams.
I thought the atmosphere on Saturday was somewhat subdued as far as Clarets fans were concerned and maybe this had some effect on our performance but there can be no excuses. We seem to struggle against tall, strong, bruising sides and Wigan was no exception. For the second match running we took the lead in the first five minutes of the game only to fold and concede three soft goals against us. Anybody who watches 'Match of the Day` will continue to be reminded about our failings in the back four and once more questions could be asked about our defence.
Owen Coyle rewarded Eagles with a starting place in this game after his cameo performance from the bench at Ewood Park and at long last played Fletcher as a central striker rather than playing him out wide. Nugent after being virtually invisible in the derby match against Rovers was dropped to the bench. The only other change was to see the return of Fernando Guerrero who was named on the bench following his recovery from a hamstring injury.
The Clarets therefore lined up as follows:
Burnley: Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Caldwell, Jordan Alexander, Bikey, Elliott, Fletcher, Blake, Eagles.
Subs: Penny, Duff, Guerrero, McDonald, Gudjonsson, Nugent, Thompson.
The two 50:50 doubts for Wigan miraculously made it to the starting eleven suggesting a bit of psychological kiddology from Roberto Martinez. Whatever it was Kirkland was in goal having recovered sufficiently from a dislocated finger. Wigan defender Paul Scharner was also fit to play after recovering from his hip injury.
Bolton referee, Lee Mason was in charge of this one and got the game underway in front of a crowd of just under 19,500.
It was the Clarets who drew early blood and we were one up within four minutes of play.
Stephen Jordan found Blake from a throw-in and a little bit of magic from Robbie gave him enough space to put in an inch perfect low cross to find Fletcher sliding in to score at the far post. Disaster struck though seven minutes later.
Jensen had already shown his form after saving well from Rodallega and then denying Mario Melchiot from a corner by saving at point-blank range but his luck was about to take a cruel turn.
Melchiot put over a testing cross into the penalty area and it looked at first that Jensen had it covered. He seemed to look indecisive though and then dropped to the floor in agony allowing Hugo Rodallega the simplest of tap-ins to equalise for the Latics.
Jensen had gone over on his ankle and despite lengthy treatment was not going to be able to continue. He did try to walk off the injury but with him still hobbling after a minute or so, it was clear he would have to come off. Clearly annoyed at his bad luck, he hobbled towards the dressing room as Penny came on to replace him. Penny was thus given his first taste of Premier League action and indeed would now be making his first league appearance in over 12 months.
The long delay seemed to affect the Clarets performance and their concentration was not helped when Wigan full-back Maynor Figueroa also had to limp off following more lengthy treatment on the half-hour mark. Six minutes of added time had to be played out before Lee Mason brought the half to a close with the score 1-1 at half-time. After such a promising start, the Clarets had once more for the second game in succession failed to consolidate after taking an early lead allowing the opposition to quickly equalise. More worryingly for the Clarets, Wigan were now looking the stronger of the two sides despite some late pressure in the first-half from Eagles, Elliott and Fletcher.
The Clarets looked lively at the start of the second half and Eagles nearly restored the lead after a breathtaking solo effort from just over half-way in the 48th minute. His pacy run took him past two Wigan defenders before he let rip with a shot at full stretch. Kirkland though managed to get a crucial touch to divert the shot into the side netting.
Despite protests it was clear that Mason had not seen the touch by Kirkland and so the Clarets were denied a corner.
Disaster then struck three minutes later when the Latics took the lead with the dangerous Hugo Rodallega once more breaking the Clarets fans hearts.
Jason Scotland, another handful for the Clarets all afternoon, combined well with Rodallega pulling the ball back for the Colombian international. He shot past Penny and the ball flew over the line after first hitting the post.
Coyle decided now to change tactics. Reverting to 4-4-2, Elliott was now given a wider role with Eagles trying his luck down the opposite flank. Just past the hour mark, Coyle also made his first substitution with David Nugent coming on to replace Robbie Blake after 67 minutes.
At first the substitution seemed inspired, with Nugent livening up the attack and giving Clarets fans hopes of an equaliser.
He immediately went on a charge after coming on getting in a cross for Alexander to shoot. Kirkland though saved well with the game now seeming to turn Burnley`s way. In this spell we had a few chances but Wigan rode their luck and we just couldn`t get that elusive goal.
A cross from Elliott found Eagles but he couldn`t turn it in although he did retrieve the ball to set-up Mears but his shot from six yards out was blocked. The impressive Fletcher then got in a cross after a good run towards goal to find Nugent. The striker after chesting the ball down though could not get into a shooting position with the Wigan defence on top of him and another chance evaporated.
You just sensed that with these missed chances, Wigan were going to further cause some damage and in the 76th minute it was game over after the Latics doubled their lead. It was typical that we fell to a set-piece unable to properly defend from a corner. A flick by Scharner from Rodallega`s corner found Boyce unmarked at the back post and he simply shot from close range to make it 3-1 Wigan.
The Clarets huffed & puffed to find a quick goal to redress the balance and put Wigan under some pressure in the last few minutes. Carlisle came the closest with a header that hit the bar late on but it just wasn`t going to be our day and our proud home record had gone. We can have no excuses and we just have to hope we can come back quickly next Saturday at home to Hull City. It is vital we get three points against lowly Hull if we are to avoid looking over our shoulder at those relegation places as we head towards Christmas. November is going to be a difficult month with one home game against 6th placed Aston Villa sandwiched between two very tricky away games, the first against high-flying Manchester City in 5th place and the second another six pointer in a pressure game against West Ham at Upton Park.
Burnley: Jensen (Penny 15), Mears, Carlisle, Caldwell, Jordan Alexander, Bikey (McDonald 82), Elliott, Fletcher, Blake (Nugent 67), Eagles.
Subs Not Used: Guerrero, Duff, Gudjonsson, Thompson.
Goal: Fletcher ( 4 )
Wigan: Kirkland, Thomas, Scharner (King 78), Scotland, N'Zogbia, Boyce, Bramble, Rodallega, Melchiot, Diame, Figueroa (Gomez 31).
Subs Not Used: Hee-Cho, Koumas, Pollitt, Sinclair, Kapo.
Goals: Rodallega (11, 51), Boyce (76)
Referee: Lee Mason (Bolton)
Meanwhile we have already criticised the back four although to be fair to Jordan he once more put in one of the better defensive displays and I would give him 6 plus for effort.
Clarets fans hearts sank when Jensen collapsed to the floor in agony after failing to get anywhere near to the ball that led to the Wigan equaliser. With Jensen unable to carry on despite trying for a couple of minutes, Penny would now be given the first taste of a League game since the opener against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough last season. How well would he do, would he be a liability, would he show a lack of confidence? We need not have worried. I thought he coped well. He couldn`t really be blamed for Wigan`s last two goals and he seemed to command his area communicating well with the back four when it mattered. He can certainly boot the ball down field centrally but maybe he needs to make sure he doesn`t over hit it in future. Apart from the two goals though, I don`t think Penny was tested too much with Wigan attempts on goal. I think maybe I would rate him 6 plus.
The Clarets performance livened up when Nugent came on from the bench after 67 minutes but by then we were already 2-1 down and it didn`t take long for him to soon don his invisibility cloak again especially after Wigan doubled their lead to make it 3-1.
Steven Fletcher was awarded Man of the Match and he certainly does look more effective when played as a traditional centre forward rather than having him lurk out wide. His goal of course was a bonus so we will concur with the Sponsor`s vote and give him the 'Star Player` award.