One Half Dire, One Half Better!
Wednesday 10th March 2010 @7:45pm Kick-Off
Burnley earned their first point in six games on Wednesday night following a 1-1 draw at Turf Moor against Stoke City. This to be honest though was a disappointing result and keeps the Clarets in the bottom three. We have moved up a place though and are now third from bottom with 24 points ahead of Hull on goal difference having played a game more. Wolves who we play next this Saturday at Turf Moor are also on the same number of points but are ahead of us on goal difference fourth from bottom and with a game in hand. The pressure is now really on for the Clarets to win this Saturday and nothing less than three points will be enough to settle the nerves and give Clarets fans some hope that we can still avoid an immediate return to the Championship.
The match against Stoke really was the epitome of the expression 'a game of two halves`.
We looked nervous in the first half and couldn`t seem to string two decent passes together against a strong physical Stoke City side. Questions could be asked in all departments, the defence was error prone, the midfield unsure and the strikers were getting very limited opportunities often trying to get on the end of totally ineffective long balls. There was much pre-match talk about how we were going to deal with the threat of Rory Delap`s long throw-ins. The cunning plan of moving all the advertising hoardings nearer the line seemed a good idea and of course we had our so-called secret weapon Leon Cort who had been tapped up for inside information about his former club and their tactics involved during Delap`s missile launches! How disappointing therefore that we fell behind in the first half from such a throw in. Delap`s throw into the penalty area confused the Clarets defence and Mamady Sidibe flicked on for Tuncay Sanli to head home from the edge of the six-yard box after 23 minutes. Burnley went in 1-0 down at half-time and after such a dire performance the subdued Clarets faithful feared the worst.
It is not often this season you see the Clarets make a change at half-time; Owen Coyle never seemed to do it. Our first half performance was so poor though, Laws probably had no option but to try Plan B for the start of the second half. Kevin McDonald was the man to come on, replacing the largely ineffective and nervous looking, Jack Cork and boy did that seem to do the trick. The Clarets looked far livelier in the second half and at long last started stringing some decent passes together.
Seven minutes into the second-half and we had equalised. Paterson who was at the top of his game crossed from the edge of the 18-yard box for Nugent to rise highest and score his sixth goal of the season with a strong header.
At long last the Clarets fans had some hope and our bright start then continued for most of the second half. If any team was most likely to get the winner it was the Clarets who continued to have most of the possession with the action mainly in Stoke`s half. It was not to be though and in the end Clarets fans went away reflective wondering what might have been had we not been so awful in the first 45 minutes. Let`s be clear whether you think this was a good result or not, if we are to survive this relegation battle, we can`t afford to play like we did in the first 45 minutes against any team. The players` nerves are clearly beginning to take effect and now they will need to be steadied like mad with Wolves next up on Saturday.
The Clarets Team Sheet
Steven Fletcher was still deemed too unfit to play with his broken hand. Most Clarets fans would have expected therefore a similar line-up in attack as in our last match at the Emirates with Nugent supported by Paterson. Brian Laws though had other ideas and decided to give Steven Thompson his first Premier League start of the season in partnership with Nugent up front but also including Paterson playing a wider role. Kevin McDonald was the one to make way and he was dropped to the bench.
The line-up in summary was therefore as follows:
Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Cort, Fox, Alexander, Cork, Eagles, Paterson, Nugent, Thompson
Subs: Weaver, Duff, Jordan, McDonald, Bikey, Blake, Elliott
The Full Match Report
Once more for the umpteenth time this season we had a change to the scheduled referee for this clash and once more Howard Webb was the man in charge.
With the match underway the Clarets looked to be quite nervous but seemed to be coping well with all Stoke`s set-pieces including the inevitable Delap testers from the throw ins. Had we moved those advertising hoardings in close enough though? It didn`t look like it as would be later confirmed.
After 16 minutes the Clarets had their first real chance to break the deadlock. A flick-on from Thompson set Eagles free and he got in a superb pass to find Cork charging in. He should have gone for goal but instead tried to pass to Paterson and the attack broke down. Fox from a corner then got in a low shot that the Stoke keeper, Sorensen rather unconvincingly had to push round the post
Stoke though were looking dangerous and all Clarets fans hearts sank when every inevitable throw-in was awarded to them in our half. On 23 minutes one such throw-in led to Stoke getting the lead.
Sidibe flicked on the long throw for Tuncay Sanli, ideally placed on the edge of the six yard box to head home.
We were not that impressive before they got the lead, now we looked awful with mistake after mistake being made in all areas of the park. The effect was wearing on the Clarets fans and the atmosphere was again pretty subdued. There were certainly a lot of disgruntled noises being aimed at the manager who just didn`t seem to have any answers as he shuffled his tactical papers in an effort get the Clarets back on track.
Eagles and Mears had the odd burst down the flanks but nothing really came from the attacks and to be honest we only had one real chance to equalise in the first half.
With seven minutes to go, Eagles put over a cross deep into enemy territory to find Paterson but the former Stoke striker could only side foot his attempt wide of target. 1-0 at half-time and Laws had a massive task on his hands now to get this side playing well enough to get anything from this game.
He must have said the right things at half-time plus he made an inspired substitution with McDonald coming on to replace the lacklustre and ineffective, Jack Cork. We were a different team from the start of the second half and stormed out of the blocks to at long last buck up the worried Clarets fans. Eagles was now looking particularly dangerous with McDonald adding that extra dimension we needed in midfield.
On 52 minutes we made our impressive start count and got the equaliser we so badly needed.
Thompson holding the ball up neatly passed to Paterson out wide who charging into space put over a delightful cross to find Nugent well placed to rise well and head home past Sorensen.
That was just the tonic we needed and the possession and pressure now continued with Stoke on the back foot, finding it difficult to get out of their own half. A weak save by Sorenson from another Paterson cross fell kindly for the keeper with Nugent and Eagles both unable to pounce.
Sorensen was tested again this time by Eagles as he struggled to get to his dipping shot from distance. Clarets fans were now hopeful we might just get that winner we so desperately needed.
Elliott replaced Thompson after 71 minutes and he looked a lot brighter than late. Charging forward he was fouled by Delap and from Fox`s free kick Clarke Carlisle tried his best to head home from the far post but the angles were all wrong.
Stoke gradually came back into the game and there were a few nervy moments for Clarets fans but we still had enough in reserve to keep pressing for the winner.
There were a couple of great chances for the Clarets with full-time approaching. Eagles came close but could only lift his shot over the bar and then it was the lively McDonald`s turn but he put his shot just wide of target.
In the end we had to be content with a point; a point that could still prove crucial but with games running out we should really have got three points and might have done so had we not been so dire in the first-half.
Burnley: Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Cort, Fox (Jordan 77), Alexander, Cork (McDonald 46), Eagles, Paterson, Nugent, Thompson (Elliott 71)
Subs Not Used: Weaver, Duff, Bikey, Blake
Goal: Nugent (52)
Booked: Yellow Cards for Carlisle and McDonald
Stoke: Sorensen, Huth, Collins, Faye, Wilkinson, Lawrence (Pugh 63), Whitehead, Sanli (Moult 85), Delap, Etherington, Sidibe (Kitson 63)
Subs Not Used: Begovic, Davies, Faye, Lund
Goal: Sanli (23)
Possession: 51% Burnley, 49% Stoke (Source: BBC Sport)
Referee: Howard Webb (Rotherham)