Clarets Pompey the Price on Road to Nowhere
Saturday 5th December 2009 @12;45pm Kick-Off
Burnley went down 2-0 to bottom club Portsmouth at Fratton Park on Saturday leaving Clarets fans wondering what we have to do to win away this season. We have the worst away record in the Premier League with just one point now from eight matches on the road. It was not very comfortable going down to a team at the foot of the table, giving them only their third win at home this season.
All Clarets fans too felt confident we would get something from this game and to be honest we should have such was our dominance for the first 65 minutes of the match. We just couldn`t convert any of our chances though and paid the price. Pompey fans were subdued and quite understandable nervous up until they scored in the 68th minute. This was a must-win game for them. Firmly anchored at the foot of the table another defeat would have made their pending relegation ever closer with an almost impossible mountain to climb. Fair play to them, they got the lifeline they needed but I am not convinced they deserved it. If anything we gifted them the chance by not putting the game beyond their reach in the first half. It looked like it was going to be our day too especially when they even missed a penalty in the first-half; a penalty by the way that should never have been thanks to referee Phil 'Mr Magoo` Dowd who should have gone to Specsavers!
We seemed to have the right tactics for most of this game. We completely dominated the first half and as I said previously I thought it was going to be our day.
I still thought so up until they scored their first goal. We then seemed to look tired and a little bit clueless although still had our chances. Coyle tried to instil some fresh energy into the team although I was not convinced by his two substitutions, especially when Guerrero came on to replace Eagles. Eagles may have been tiring slightly by the 73rd minute but he still looked the most likely to me to have some influence on this match and give us a chance of getting an equaliser. Guerrero is a young lad and is an exciting prospect and although he ran his socks off, he never quite looked like influencing the game and to be honest none of the other players seemed keen to use him preferring it seemed to pass the ball inside or cross over to the other wing leaving Guerrero in acres of space out on the opposite flank wondering why he wasn`t being given the chance to dazzle.
If you don`t take your chances, and we had many opportunities to put this game out of sight then there is always the danger you will be punished. We were punished! So much so I do think it is time for Plan B on the road; it just is not working for us away from Turf Moor at the moment.
Coyle might be ensuring we are playing attractive football but we are losing points and dropping further into the danger zone. It is time to grind out some results on our travels and if that means being more defence minded and being as boring as hell then so be it! Every home game is fast becoming a must-win match and although 'Fortress Turf Moor` is holding up at the moment the situation is putting unbearable pressure on the team to win not to mention pulling at the fans` heartstrings with that relegation zone looking closer and closer.
After the weekend games, the Clarets are now 13th still on 17 points
I have to say this defeat has made me nervous for the first time this season. We are steadily dropping down the table, feckin Rovers have now gone above us and we are just four points off the drop zone although with my 'glass half full` brain switched on we are also just four points off 9th spot too so come on 'Fortress Turf Moor` next week against Fulham!
Two of the sides in the bottom three, Wolves (Molineux) and Bolton (Turf Moor) are due to play the Clarets soon and we could do ourselves a big favour if we get some points against those two teams before the New Year. My hope is that we get a minimum of six points from our next five games leading up to Christmas. That would put us on a minimum of 23 points before the start of 2010 which is a good platform to build on and hopefully survive our first season in the Premier League.
The Full Match Report
Owen Coyle faced two forced changes to the eighteen with David Nugent ineligible to play against his parent club and his captain, Steven Caldwell suspended after picking up a one match ban for his straight red last week against the Hammers at the Boleyn Ground. As expected Steven Thompson was again on the bench as cover for Fletcher and in the end with a number of options in the back four and midfield, Coyle decided to drop Bikey into the back four from his recent midfield position and give Kevin McDonald a rare start and his first full Premier League debut.
I had predicted he might give Michael Duff an opportunity in the centre of defence, my thinking being this would cause the minimum disruption to the team and be a motivational boost for Duff after being named on the bench for the last eight games but not getting on the pitch. By the end of the match I was beginning to think I was half-right. Poor Andre Bikey seemed to be suffering from the 'What Position Am I Playing Today?` syndrome. He made some silly mistakes under pressure, looked close to being sent off for a second yellow quite a few times and a lot of the game was far too far up the pitch no doubt muttering under his breath 'Shit I`m the back four today!` Our wag, Barnsey in front of me at one point burst into song singing 'Bikey is a loon, he comes from Cameroon` although I think it was meant to be a compliment!
Having said that though, Bikey moving into the back four again did give Kevin McDonald an opportunity in midfield and in the end was my Star Player so I have mixed feelings about Coyle`s selection.
Another surprise in the eighteen was the naming of Easton on the bench especially with another left-back, Kalvenes also bench-warming. Easton it would appear though has been tried in midfield in reserve games so that may have been the thinking behind the selections although in the end neither player was used.
There were also some tactical changes with Wade Elliott now playing out on the right wing and Robbie Blake offering central support for Fletcher.
The line-up was therefore as follows:
Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Bikey, Jordan, Alexander, Eagles, McDonald, Elliott, Blake, Fletcher
Subs: Penny, Kalvenes, Easton, Duff, Gudjonsson, Guerrero, Thompson.
Stoke-on-Trent referee Phil Dowd got the match underway on a fairly miserable cloudy, dark rainy day on the Hampshire coast.
Fletcher fluffed an early chance to put the Clarets ahead with Pompey clearly nervous and desperate not to lose this game. Blake on the break from his own half found Elliott with a quick lay-off. He ran forward to cross for Fletcher. The Scot got the better of Pompey defender, Marc Wilson getting in an ideal situation to shoot with just the keeper to beat. He could only scuff his shot though on his wrong foot and our first chance, one of many to come had gone!
The Clarets continued to bombard the Portsmouth goal with the Pompey fans clearly subdued and concerned that another game was about to slip away from them. They looked particularly prone down the right flank with Elliott causing them all sorts of problems. Elliott got in behind the defence but just failed to get the ball to Fletcher or Eagles in dangerous positions.
Time after time at this stage we were attacking their goal but it seemed that the attacks always broke down in their penalty area. We should and could have been 2-0 up in the first 30 minutes maybe even more but the chances were squandered and it now looked like we were going to pay the price for those missed opportunities after a bizarre penalty was awarded to Pompey after 32 minutes of play.
Elliott was adjudged to have brought down Hreidarsson when all Clarets fans could see clearly that Elliott was totally innocent. Match of the Day highlights clearly confirmed this too but Mr Magoo was having none of it as up-stepped a nervous looking Dindane to take the pressure kick from the spot.
The penalty kick was a weak affair and Jensen saved with ease as the Clarets got the justice they deserved.
Pompey looked totally out of the game for the first 35 minutes although the penalty miss did seem to kick start them into action and Dindane having a pretty torrid afternoon nearly helped give them the lead after nicking the ball of a bemused-looking Bikey. Jensen however was able to save before Dindane could pass to a team mate.
So a goalless first half came to an end and boy how we would rue those missed chances!
The second half started with the Clarets in control and we almost got that elusive goal after just seven minutes from the restart.
Eagles took advantage of a poor pass by Tal Ben Haim and charged at the Pompey defence before the attack broke down. However the Clarets kept possession with Eagles on the ball again and this time he found McDonald who let rip with a thunderous shot from 25 yards out. The Pompey keeper, Begovic though was alert to the danger and at full stretch tipped the ball over the bar.
The lively McDonald then found Fletcher who getting the ball onto his left foot hit a low shot towards goal only to see the ball fly just past the far post. Another chance gone and soon there was another again by Fletcher! This time the unlucky Scot got in a shot from distance and it looked like the swinging ball was on its way into the top corner of the net before Begovic pulled off the save of the match to deny Fletch his ninth goal of the season.
With the Pompey fans edgy and the pressure beginning to tell on their team, Avram Grant adopted his Plan B and brought on Kanu. Sadly for the Clarets, he was quickly into action and was involved in setting up Pompey`s first goal. Kanu picked up a pass from Boateng and sweetly laid-off the ball to Hreidarsson to put him clear on target. The angle looked a little tight but he got in a left foot shot that flew across Jensen into the far corner of the net. The Beast should perhaps have done better but no matter we had paid the price and now the inevitable Pompey drum and chants of 'Play Up Pompey` echoed across the ground with their relief evident for all to see!
Seven minutes later, Pompey nearly made it 2-0 after the impressive and influential Kanu again set up an opportunity, this time for Boateng. However this time the shot was not so good and the Clarets could breathe again.
With some of the Clarets players visibly tiring, Coyle decided to freshen things up bringing on Thompson and then Guerrero to replace Blake and Eagles with Burnley looking to get an equaliser in the last 20 minutes of play.
We just couldn`t seem to get back in the game although Bikey got on the end of a corner kick only to see his header fly over the bar.
With six minutes to go, it was game over for the Clarets when Pompey doubled their lead after Dindane headed home from an O`Hara cross to make the final score 2-0 and bring to an end a frustrating afternoon for Burnley.
Oh well I still enjoyed my day out in Portsmouth despite the early start and a four hour train journey putting paid to any chance of a pre-match drinky poo. I do love these traditional grounds though and Fratton Park was a breath of fresh air (except in the loo!) with a sixties feel to the place. A proper old fashioned footy ground with dodgy loos, dodgy burgers and quaint stands with posts in the way! At least they have a roof covering the away fans end now. Well done to Pompey too for only charging £20 for the pleasure.
Portsmouth: Begovic, O'Hara, Hreidarsson, Brown, Finnan, Smith (Kanu 59), Boateng (Mullins 90), Dindane, Ben Haim, Yebda, Wilson.
Subs not used: Piquionne, Vanden Borre, Hughes, Belhadj, Ashdown.
Goals: Hreidarsson 65, Dindane 84
Booked: Finnan, O`Hara, Boateng, Dindane
Burnley: Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Bikey, Jordan, Alexander, McDonald, Eagles (Guerrero 73). Elliott, Blake (Thompson 68), Fletcher
Subs not used: Penny, Kalvenes, Duff, Gudjonsson, Easton.
Booked: Mears, Bikey
Referee: Phil Dowd (Stoke-on-Trent)