Pesky Heskey is Villan of the Peace in Draw
Saturday 21st November 2009 @3pm Kick Off
All Clarets fans at the start of this season would have taken a point at home against Aston Villa so the 1-1 draw in Saturday`s Battle of the Claret & Blue in front of a record crowd this season was not a complete disappointment. At the end of the day this was a valuable point against a team expected to do big things this year and a team 5th in the table at the start of this match. The result left us briefly flirting with 9th spot until Stoke`s victory on Sunday dropped us back down to 10th place.
I thought we played exceptionally well under torrid conditions of sweeping rain and gusty winds and we were unlucky not to come away with all three points. A goal by Heskey with just four minutes of the game remaining was a disappointing end to the match and took away some of the gloss after the lads had played some impressive stuff especially in the first half. It was also a tadge disappointing for Owen Coyle too who could have been celebrating a win to coincide with his second anniversary at the club this week.
In the first half we thoroughly deserved to take the lead in the 9th minute after Steven Caldwell headed home from a Blake free kick and for most of the remainder of the half we continued to press and take the game to the Villans. The Clarets had ample opportunity to double their lead in the first 45 minutes but it just wasn`t to be.
We took our foot of the gas slightly in the second half although it looked like we had contained them until Jensen decided to punch the ball clear from a corner instead of catch it with 86 minutes on the clock. The ball fell to Milner who whipped it into the box for pesky Heskey to equalise. We still had our fair crack at the whip on the attack though and Villa did not have it all their own way by any means.
After we eased off in the second half, a draw was probably a fair result in the end but Villa certainly didn`t look like a team gunning for a top four spot especially when you consider the Internationals and supposed quality in their side. I thought we matched them for long periods in this match and indeed on occasions it was the Clarets who were by far the most impressive in defence, midfield and attack.
The Full Match Report
Owen Coyle predictably made no changes to the eighteen for the Villa clash so we lined up as follows for the fourth match running:
Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Caldwell, Jordan, Alexander, Bikey, Eagles, Elliott, Blake, Fletcher
Subs Not Used: Penny, Duff, McDonald, Gudjonsson, Guerrero, Nugent, Thompson,.
For Villa, Emile Heskey as predicted returned to the side after injury but only on the bench and there was another face on the bench that shocked a few folk. Stewart Downing was named in the eighteen which was surprising as most fans had been led to believe he was still a few weeks away from a full recovery from his fractured foot in terms of being fit enough to play. Two former Blackburn Rovers players in the side, keeper Brad Friedel and defender, Stephen Warnock were of course given the traditional welcome by Clarets fans with the boos ringing out every time they touched the ball which seemed to at least effect Warnock`s performance who certainly had an off-day. I can`t condone the booing, which I see as childish and irrelevant but some players seem to be affected by it more than others!
The atmosphere at Turf Moor was electric. The Villans fans too were a noisy bunch and came in their droves selling all their ticket allocation. It all made for a buzzing occasion with the whole crowd a mass of Claret & Blue. Spirits were lifted by the chanting from both sides on what to be honest was an atrocious day weather-wise. The noise spurred on both teams it seemed to make this match an entertaining one despite the weather conditions.
It was well respected referee, Howard Webb who got the match underway and his imposing presence was one of the few things you couldn`t miss as the dark clouds swirled around Turf Moor with the horizontal rain falling and gale-force winds blowing making life difficult for both sides.
The Clarets made a confident start and were ahead after just nine minutes. A foul on Robbie Blake by Luke Young on the left led to a free kick taken by the magician himself. As the ball swung into the danger area, Steven Caldwell neatly rose between Freidel and Dunne with Carlisle in close company to power his header home into the back of the net.
The Clarets were now playing some impressive stuff and refused to let Villa back into the game.
Warnock taunted by the booing from the Clarets fans was a definite weakness for Villa all afternoon and was no match for Chris Eagles who ran him ragged. It was a cross by Eagles that found Fletcher after 24 minutes. The Scot made a nice lay off for Andre Bikey who attempted a powerful volley only to see the ball go over the bar. Bikey was a player in form all afternoon and he came close to scoring on a few occasions but it was Eagles on the half-hour mark who went on a run to cross for Alexander and set up a shooting opportunity. Grezza`s shot though was deflected for a corner. Blake took the corner but Bikey could not get any power on his header after shaking off the defender and his attempt was off-target.
A few minutes later, Sidwell managed to get some contact on the ball following a thunderous attempt by Bikey from distance, just enough to send the shot wide.
Some of our play at this stage was breathtaking and you would never have believed Villa were a team pressing for a Top 4 spot this season. A cross by Blake gave the impressive Fletcher a chance to score with just over 10 minutes of the first half remaining but he headed just over.
There was just one anxious moment for the Clarets with half-time approaching. On 37 minutes, Petrov delivered a long ball which confused Jensen and allowed Agbonlahor to take the ball off him. He passed the ball to Ashley Young who with only two defenders in front of him to defeat decided instead to shoot. Thankfully the ball went over the bar and that was it for the first-half with the Clarets 1-0 up at half time and looking by far the better team.
There were typically no changes made by Coyle for the start of the second half and once more it was the Clarets who came out of the blocks looking the more determined of the two sides. Cuellar brought down Fletcher early on for a free kick and up stepped England prospect, Tyrone Mears to take the kick only to see his direct attempt sail a few inches over the bar.
A little bit of magic from Blake after darting across midfield and then cutting in to shoot brought out the best from Friedel who saved at full stretch to parry away the danger.
The Clarets though now seemed to visibly take their foot off the accelerator and allowed Villa to come at them more. You just sensed at this stage that one goal was not going to be enough and that we couldn`t afford to relax.
Carew flicked on the ball from a Freidel clearance and got in behind the Clarets defence but Jensen came to the rescue getting a hand to the ball to send it just past the post. There were now a few anxious moments for the Clarets as Villa started to dominate play.
Stephen Jordan had to deny Milner with a superb bit of defending with the England international charging towards goal dispossessing the former Newcastle winger with a breathtaking tackle.
It was now time for Owen Coyle to change things round in an attempt to get back some control in this match so on came Kevin McDonald for Eagles after 69 minutes and almost instantly he was involved in a Clarets attack that relieved some of the pressure. He neatly set up Fletcher who with some deft footwork got in a thunderous shot only to be denied by a save from Friedel on 72 minutes.
Further substitutions by Coyle saw Nugent come on to replace the impressive Fletcher after 74 minutes followed seven minutes later by Gudjonsson replacing an equally impressive, Blake. Villa though also made substitutions around this time with both Heskey and Downing coming on in the last twenty minutes and that seemed to give them even more impetus.
A marvellous effort though by Nugent from 40 yards which saw the ball hit the back of the net had already been ruled offside. Although I couldn`t see this clearly from my vantage point it would appear this was a very dubious decision with a number of Clarets fans near the incident protesting furiously along with Sandy Stewart but to no avail.
The Clarets had defended heroically all afternoon but you just sensed we might not survive the onslaught and so it proved heartbreaking for Clarets fans with just four minutes of the game remaining. As a corner came over from Downing, Jensen elected to punch away the danger rather than catch the ball. On a normal day without the howling winds, the tactic might have been successful but in the end it proved disastrous for the Clarets. The ball fell to Milner who crossed over into the danger area with Heskey well placed to head home.
So that was it our first draw at Turf Moor this season but our third game in a row without defeat. If we continue to play like this, survival will be well within our grasp and I think at long last the pundits are beginning to agree and handing out far more compliments than we used to get. Our attractive style of play and grim determination to battle against all the odds is paying dividends. Owen Coyle has found the magic from somewhere to turn one of the smallest squads in the Premier League, paid the smallest salaries into one of the most highly motivated machines in the league. We don`t seem daunted by anybody and we now have to ensure we can maintain this consistency at least on home soil. It would however be nice to win away now and avoid putting too much pressure on our home games. We have the ideal opportunity in the next two weeks with two massive back-to-back games away to struggling sides. West Ham are first up next Saturday followed by Portsmouth a week later. Six points from those two games and survival could almost be a formality. Come on you Clarets!
Burnley: Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Caldwell, Jordan, Alexander, Bikey, Eagles (McDonald 69), Elliott, Blake (Gudjonsson 81), Fletcher (Nugent 74).
Subs Not Used: Penny, Duff, Thompson, Guerrero.
Goal: Caldwell (9 mins)
Aston Villa: Friedel, Young (Heskey 80), Sidwell (Downing 70), Dunne, Young, Milner, Carew, Agbonlahor, Petrov, Cuellar, Warnock.
Subs Not Used: Delph, Heskey, Reo-Coker, Shorey, Guzan, Beye.
Goal: Heskey (86 mins)
Bookings: Yellow cards for Dunne, Cuellar and Sidwell
Referee: Howard Webb (Rotherham)