A Tragic Comedy called 'Up Pompey!'
Saturday 27th February 2010 @3pm Kick-Off
Ooh er missus, Frankie Howard will be turning in his grave after seeing his 'Up Pompeii 'comedy series take on a new twist at Turf Moor on Saturday.
As the walls of Fortress Turf Moor crumbled, it soon became evident the whole stronghold had been built on sand after bottom club, Portsmouth, now in administration and simply playing for pride somehow beat the Clarets 2-1.
This was a day which can only be described as a Comedy of Errors! Who would have predicted last August when we beat Manchester United and Everton at home that we would go on to lose against Pompey, a club that has now completed the double over us this season? The sad thing for Portsmouth is that they would now be just four points behind the Clarets but for the nine-point deduction that is about to hit them for going into administration. The way we played yesterday, I could have seen Portsmouth catching us!
This indeed was a comedy, but a tragic one for Clarets fans and a disaster in terms of trying to avoid relegation. It gives me no pleasure to say this but I just felt all along we would come unstuck in this match and play like a set of plonkers! You always know when the Clarets are going to let you down, and make no mistake about it they did that in style on Saturday. This defeat hurts so much, especially with Bolton winning as well and it is difficult not to apportion blame from the Board down for the predicament we now find ourselves in, second from bottom, losing ground and with Arsenal at the Emirates next up!
This tragic script began in my opinion with a bizarre and totally incomprehensible team selection by Brian Laws. Where is the logic in dropping our best midfielder by far in our last game against Villa (Jack Cork) and replacing him by a player that is in terrible form and has failed to deliver the goods now in well over ten games (Wade Elliott)? Surely Laws could see that considering Elliott came on as a sub only last Sunday against Villa and failed to shine yet again?
Then we have Chris Eagles on the bench, another player that did reasonably well against Villa and one who can turn games round.
Even with those changes though there is no excuse for what happened next and really you have to blame Clarke Carlisle for most of our woes. Carlisle in the absence of injured club captain, Steven Caldwell and deputy, Graham Alexander has been given the captain`s armband, he therefore has to carry the can if the team fail to gel, are tactically inept, and make error after error! The trouble is he couldn`t lead by example because quite frankly he was not at the races and was directly responsible for giving away two penalties in the second-half, the first of which Pompey thankfully missed after Jensen saved.
The second penalty though was an absolute howler to give away and no doubt Frankie Howard from upon high would have been shouting, `Woe, Woe, and Thrice Woe!`
Thrice? Well yes he was also at fault for Pompey`s earlier first goal and should have been more alert to the danger posed by Piquionne who got in behind the Countdown wizard to tap home after 25 minutes. Countdown wizard? Well it`s inevitable that had to be mentioned somewhere in the article but at least I resisted the temptation to include the reference in some sort of cynical title. Carlisle is probably embarrassed enough without having it rammed home by every media editor. I won`t dwell on how badly Carlisle played anymore, we all know that one word 'rubbish` sums it up so let`s leave it at that and hope his form drastically improves for our next game otherwise the unforgiving knives of the Clarets fans will surely be out looking for his scalp.
What worried me most about this disaster was not so much the result but the manner of the defeat. The team just doesn`t seem to have the passion it once had and their heads soon seem to drop. They look clueless in so many departments, defensively naive and inept in midfield. Everybody knows one of Pompey`s best players is O`Hara on loan from Spurs. I lost count of the number of times I saw the lad in acres of space in midfield mounting yet another dangerous attack. Where were Bikey and McDonald? Not tracking back as usual and watching the game unfold towards our end from Pompey`s half whilst playing 'I spy something beginning with G`. That would be goal to them then?
There was just one bright spot for Clarets fans and that was the magical equalising goal on 31 minutes from Martin Paterson who was making his first start since returning from a long lay-off after recovering from a torn cartilage. His awareness and crafty hooked lob caught James out to make the score 1-1. I would have liked to have said that at least the attack were trying hard and were on the ball but even then Fletcher missed a glorious chance to score with an header with the ball somehow going hopelessly high over the bar. Fletcher may be our top scorer but boy has he fluffed some attempts this season!
There is though something seriously wrong with the team at the moment, they are just not gelling and far too many individuals are off form or under par. They are struggling and their body language speaks volumes. It is a frustrating and worrying time at the club for all concerned and I feel for Brian Laws who seems incapable both tactically and motivationally to inspire these players to perform to the standards required in the top flight. Of course we are not doomed yet and we can still survive but not without some significant improvements in our team performance. It is now also more crucial than ever that we begin to pick up some points on the road but just at present I am not in the mood for being positive with Arsenal next up at the Emirates on Saturday!
The Clarets Team Sheet
Laws made three changes to the team that were crushed during a thirteen minute spell at Villa Park last Sunday. One change was enforced with David Nugent being ineligible to play against his parent club under the terms of his loan agreement. It was not surprising that Paterson was named as his replacement after coming on from the bench last week and scoring a consolation goal deep into added time against Aston Villa to make the final defeat 5-2.
The other two changes though were controversial and somewhat puzzling as we indicated in the introduction above.
Jack Cork after easily being the Man of the Match last Sunday was dropped with the previously lacklustre Wade Elliott returning to the starting eleven. Chris Eagles was also demoted to the bench with Robbie Blake getting a start.
The line-up in summary was as follows:
Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Cort, Fox, Bikey, Elliott. McDonald, Blake, Paterson, Fletcher.
Subs: Weaver, Edgar, Duff, Jordan, Cork, Thompson, Eagles
The Full Match Report
I have to say that before I start a rewind of this awful game for the Clarets in gory detail I was surprised by Pompey`s low turnout! After going into administration, I thought there may have been a positive backlash of support and indeed there was talk of a demonstration outside Turf Moor against the Pompey board. Did I miss it, did it happen? In the end, our gate was sub-20,000 and that really was down to the few mini-bus loads of Pompey fans that seemed to take any interest in watching this game live. They were of course rewarded with a victory and were the one`s smirking at the end but I expected more than the odd rendition of 'Play up Pompey`
That contributed I think to a very poor atmosphere and in fairness if I am critical of the Pompey fans, I am also critical of the Clarets fans, who although turning up in their usual numbers seemed quiet and subdued. It was perhaps the shock of that four-goal onslaught at Villa Park in thirteen minutes that had knocked the stuffing out of us but you could almost sense the nervous tension and feeling this was yet again not going to be our day!
County Durham referee, Mark Clattenburg got the game underway and it was soon evident Pompey were here to prove a point with the Clarets on the opposite side of the coin making a very nervy start that would continue for most of the game.
The nerves of both Clarets fans and players were not helped by the fact that Pompey had the ball in the net after just 14 minutes but thankfully Danny Webber's effort was ruled out for offside. It seemed a perfectly good goal until close inspection revealed that his touch from a short corner was clearly made from an off-side position. Well spotted Mr Clattenburg!
Fletcher and Paterson were trying their best up front but to no avail and it probably came as no surprise when Portsmouth took the lead after just 25 minutes. Nobody could deny they did not deserve it either! Webber found space to get in a low cross to the far post. Carlisle should have been man-marking more effectively but there was Piquionne to simply tap-in with our defence again open to criticism.
At least for a time the goal seemed to wake up the Clarets! Blake on the break linked well with Fletcher but in the end our Scottish international striker could only shoot over the bar. Kevin McDonald then went on a powerful run into the penalty area before unleashing a shot that Pompey keeper, David James had to deal with at the expense of a corner. Corner? Well we all get excited by them, but we still have to score from one this season and that is still the case!
Burnley though in their best spell of the match finally got a deserved equaliser on 31 minutes after a stunning piece of individual brilliance from Martin Paterson. A long kick by Jensen found the head of Fletcher with the ball falling nicely to Paterson. He had a sixth sense to realise that James was not ideally placed to handle a lob so with the outside of his right boot he tried one and it sweetly went over the strangely long haired James (Is he metamorphosing into Marouane Fellaini?) into the net to make the score 1-1.
If that was going to boost the Clarets to press on to get the lead with hopefully Pompey`s heads dropping, we were going to be sadly mistaken. Portsmouth were playing out of their skins bless 'em and if we had had only half their passion, the result might have been so different. Pompey continued to press in our half and they almost made it 2-1 with five minutes of the first half remaining. O`Hara who had been given little attention during most of the match, once more found he had acres of room in midfield. A pass to him from John Utaka gave him the opportunity to shoot from 20 yards out. The ball though hit the underside of the bar with Jensen in no-man`s-land. Pompey even got a kind rebound with Webber ideally placed to shoot on target. Fox though recovered well to block the ball and ensure the Clarets would go in level at half-time.
Clarets fans were under no illusion by now that this was going to be an easy three points and with the second-half underway things were going to get even more hopeless and desperate.
It took just 10 minutes for Pompey once more to show their fighting spirit. Carlisle having a mare of match with far worse still to come gave away the first of two penalties after a rash panicky challenge on Piquionne. O`Hara took the spot kick but Jensen was equal to it and saved brilliantly blocking the shot to his left.
If only we could get that second goal even though we did not really deserve it, Pompey`s heads could at last drop and we could relieve the nervous tension emanating from three and a half sides of the ground. We should have too on the hour mark when Fletcher missed a sitter from six yards out right in front of goal. Paterson had been a handful for the Pompey defence all afternoon and once more he got the better of them getting in a superb cross from the right. All Fletcher had to do was head the ball down and it was a certain goal. Most Clarets fans still can`t understand how the ball was headed far over the bar but that incident more or less confirmed this was not going to be our day.
Laws at long last decided to bring on Cork and Eagles with the general consensus amongst Clarets fans being that they should have been on from the start! We seemed to perk up for a bit when Fox came close with a long range effort which was just wide of target.
Just as the pressure seemed to be turning in our favour with 15 minutes to go, we chucked-one-in and gifted Pompey a penalty after a bizarre terrible mistake by Clarke Carlisle. Fox had thrown the ball back to him from a throw-in and Carlisle in the area seemed to just freeze getting caught in possession when a big boot and clearance was in order! Utake getting the ball off him was then tripped by Carlisle to give Pompey their second penalty of the afternoon. This time Yebda made no mistake to put Portsmouth 2-1 up and we only had ourselves to blame.
Ricardo Rocha was sent off late in the game for a second bookable offence but it made no odds, ten-men Pompey held on to win only their second away win in 27 attempts in the Premier League this season and break the hearts of all Clarets fans.
Burnley: Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Cort, Fox, Bikey (Cork 63 mins), Elliott (Eagles 63 mins). McDonald, Blake (Thompson 80 mins), Paterson, Fletcher.
Subs Not Used: Weaver, Edgar, Duff, Jordan
Goal: Paterson 31
Booked: Yellow Card for Carlisle
Portsmouth: James, Rocha, Hreidarsson, Finnan, Belhadj, O'Hara (Brown 90 mins), Owusu-Abeyie (Utaka 39 mins), Yebda, Wilson, Piquionne, Webber (Diop 90+3 mins)
Subs Not Used: Ashdown, Mullins, Dindane, Kanu
Goals: Piquionne 25, Yebda (pen) 76
Booked: Rocha sent off for two bookable offences plus Yellow Card for Wilson
Possession: 48% Burnley, 52% Portsmouth (Source: BBC Sport)
Referee: Mark Clattenburg (County Durham)