Emotional Low at the Reebok on All Fronts
Tuesday 26th January 2010 @ 8pm Kick-Off
The Clarets lost 1-0 at the Reebok on Tuesday night in a bitterly disappointing game on so many fronts. This result means we have dropped into the relegation zone for the first time this season. We are now third from bottom on 20 points, one point above Hull and five above bottom club, Portsmouth having played a game more than Pompey. We should not try and get too disheartened but with no win now in eleven league games and with Chelsea up next at Turf Moor on Saturday, it is difficult not to get depressed. If you look at the table though there are just 3 points between ourselves and 13th placed Sunderland so there is still all to play for.
This game was as much about the Coyle factor as anything else but I have decided not to refer to this issue again in this match report and try and be as objective as possible about a game of football. You can read my article about 'Holy Judas` to cover my thoughts on the Coyle situation but let`s get back now to the football.
The truth is we did not play very well, especially after losing both McCann and Alexander to injury within the first fifteen minutes of this match. Up until then we looked the most likely to score and put Bolton under quite a bit of pressure. With the substitutions though we seemed to lose all our shape and somehow forgot how to play the flowing, passing- to -feet game we have been complimented for in the past and which for a time seemed to be working in this match. In effect we fell apart and seemed to resort to hoof-ball tactics.
Bolton to be honest were dire, a dreadful bruising side who only seemed to have one idea, boot the ball up to Lee in the hope he could weave some magic. Either that or they were falling like flies to try and get the referee to award a set-piece from which they have scored most of their goals this season. It is just so sad we had no response to those tactics and at one stage even seemed to outdo them in the hoof-ball stakes! After Lee scored his goal in the 35th minute, the Clarets basically lost all confidence and in the second half it is difficult to recall any testing shot on goal that Burnley had and it was clear for all to see there was no apparent drive or passion to try and get an equaliser.
Brian Laws is trying hard to get his first win under his belt for the Clarets and prove his critics wrong but he did not seem to have any answers in this match and has now suffered three losses on the trot. At one point in this game we had four strikers on the pitch and none of them could score the vital equaliser. Laws substituted Eagles for our new loan, Frederic Nimani in the 65th minute but his debut did not set the crowd alight and he was s now in the company of Fletcher, Nugent and Paterson all devoid of ideas and influence.
In the end everybody just seemed to be lacklustre and clueless and in such an important six-pointer of a game it was the lack of passion and determination to win that seemed the most obvious problem and one that caused the most concern for Clarets fans. Even Brian Jensen seemed to struggle with making quick decisions whilst holding the ball and time and time again delayed play before hoofing the ball to a non-existent target up front with the backs or wingers in acres of space screaming for the ball to be rolled out to them.
Yes it was a very, very disappointing game and one that has given all Clarets fans something to worry about. Coming back on the coach and indeed to some extent on the ground you could sense the concern and fear for our Premier League survival. We simply do not have enough good quality players in the team who you could class as Premier League standard and with a Board rightly or wrongly hell-bent on being debt-free, you could forgive Clarets fans for thinking that not much is going to change between now and the end of the season. It is very hard to be positive after witnessing that game.
The Clarets Team Sheet
David Nugent was eligible for this game with his contract expiring after the match so Clarets fans are still eager for news on whether his loan extension would be agreed with Portsmouth. He played up front with Fletcher who was also in the team after recovering from his slight ankle injury.
David Edgar must have been wondering what he had done wrong in his last two games with Clarke Carlisle returning to the starting eleven for the first time since picking up a side strain in the game against Wolves at Molineux last month. Edgar was dropped rather harshly in my opinion to the bench.
Andre Bikey is now back in the UK with Cameroon having been knocked out of the African Nations Cup on Monday but he was unavailable for this match. Stephen Jordan had also not fully recovered from a hamstring injury picked up in training last Friday, so the position at left back was filled by Kalvenes returning from paternity leave after his wife gave birth to a baby daughter.
Our new loan striker from AS Monaco, Frederic Nimani went straight into the squad being named on the bench.
The full line up was therefore as follows:
Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Duff, Kalvenes, Alexander, Elliott. McCann, Eagles, Nugent, Fletcher,
Subs: Penny, Edgar, McDonald, Blake, Thompson, Nimani, Paterson
The Full Match Report
5000 Clarets had made the journey to the Reebok and somehow you could feel the tension and nervous energy. We all wanted to win this one so much you could sense the anxiety and putting aside the Coyle factor and the Judas taunts, it was such a vital match anyway. We may have had the numbers out in force and in loud voice letting Coyle know what we thought of him but there was also a subdued worried atmosphere as well, which got steadily worse as the game unfolded and as our performance plummeted. There is no getting away from the fact that the Reebok is an impressive stadium with good facilities and acres of room but you have to question Bolton`s support with huge gaps appearing in the home sections. Our gate was 21,761 for the Boxing Day clash against Bolton at Turf Moor and yet this 'big club` could only muster 23,986 for the return game and 5000 of those were Clarets!
Yorkshire referee Martin Atkinson got this match underway and for the first 15 minutes Bolton were given a lesson in how to play attacking flowing football. They had no answer and looked crude with only the hoof-ball to Lee in their armoury.
Michael Duff came close to an opening goal from the second of two corners from Alexander but he could only stab his shot wide of target.
Tragedy struck though when McCann accidentally collided with his team-mate Kalvenes after just 12 minutes and had to be replaced by McDonald. Four minutes later and our midfield plan was in tatters when Alexander injured his calf and hobbled off the pitch. Laws had to hastily make some changes with McDonald and Elliott now in the centre of midfield with Paterson also now on giving us three strikers up front with Fletcher playing a wider role. It was a plan that never really worked and from that moment on we lost our shape and influence.
It was now the turn of Bolton to turn the screw and after 18 minutes, Muamba broke free and was clear on goal but could only shoot over the bar. A corner by Taylor found the head of Cahill, but our former loan defender put his header was just wide of target.
In a rare Burnley attack, Jasskelainen had to come to the rescue to save from Fletcher. The rebound though fell to Eagles but he sliced his shot over the top. Kalvenes then had an attempt but his low shot whizzed past the post.
Duff made a blunder with a defensive header that let in Lee and Jensen had to rescue the situation by blocking his shot. It was perhaps inevitable that Bolton`s one-trick pony to Lee eventually paid dividends and with ten minutes of the first-half remaining the South Korean winger gave them the lead.
Lee got in behind the Clarets defence after being put through by Davies and fired a shot that hit the underside of the bar to bounce back down over the line. A replay on the Bolton Big Screen showed there was no doubt it was a goal.
It was a sickener although the Clarets came out looking for a quick equaliser and in stoppage time, Eagles went on a charge through the Bolton defence to unleash a shot. It took a deflection off Zak Knight though and bounced agonisingly wide for another corner, our fifth so far.
The whistle finally blew to bring a frustrating first half to a close for all Clarets fans.
In the second half we went from bad to worse with the defence now giving Clarets fans the jitters and the whole team looking nervous and devoid of confidence. They just did not seem to have the steel and passion to turn this game round.
Just seven minutes into the second half, Carlisle made a rare blunder and a hash of his header allowing Elmander to pick up the ball and head towards goal. A well-timed tackle by Kalvenes averted that danger but the ball fell to Davies. Thankfully though he could only shoot wide.
Bolton`s strategy of hoof-ball to Lee continued although now they were also trying everything they could to get set-pieces with Bolton players falling to the ground with the least provocation. A barrage of throw-ins and corners into the penalty area seemed to rattle our defence but somehow we held on. We just could not seem to string two passes together though and it is difficult to remember any meaningful attack in the second-half. Frustrated by the lack of goal-scoring opportunities, Laws through caution to the wind and decided to replace a now tired looking and ineffective Eagles with another striker. On came Frederic Nimani with 25 minutes of the match remaining to make his Clarets debut. In truth although the loan striker made some nice touches we still had no real chances to equalise despite now having four strikers on the pitch.
The game was now pretty scrappy with Bolton bruising their way to victory and Burnley having no creative answer to breaking them down. Brian Jensen made some good saves in this match but worrying seemed too slow in making decisions when some quick throws out to the flanks could have put Bolton on the back-foot. Instead he seemed to dither far too often resorting in the end to ineffective boots down the field to our non-existent attack force. He did however make a superb save with just six minutes to go when he got his fingertips to a shot by Ricardo Gardner.
That was it though and the final whistle went making it a terribly depressing night for Clarets fans on every front with Brian Laws still looking for his first win and the team looking shattered and demoralised. This has been a shocking New Year for Clarets fans so far and to quote the famous song, surely 'Things can Only Get Better`
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Cahill, Muamba, Taylor (Gardner 77), Knight, K Davies, Steinsson, Klasnic (Elmander 52), Ricketts, Cohen, Lee (Weiss 90).
Subs Not Used: Samuel, Robinson, A O'Brien, Habsi.
Goal: Lee (35 mins)
Booked: Yellow Cards for Cohen, Lee and Davies
Burnley: Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Duff, Kalvenes, Alexander (Paterson 16), McCann (McDonald 12), Eagles (Nimani 65), Nugent, Fletcher, Elliott.
Subs Not Used: Edgar, Blake, Thompson, Penny.
Booked: Yellow Cards for Elliott and McDonald
Possession: 46% Bolton, 54% Burnley (Source: BBC Sport)
Referee: Martin Atkinson (Yorkshire)
I just tossed a coin between those two and it is Mears who gets our Star Player award.