Weary Defeat on Wearside!
Stadium of Light
Saturday 17th April 2010 @3pm Kick-Off
It looks like curtains for the Clarets with a drop back down to the Championship seeming inevitable after yet another poor, lacklustre and clueless performance this time against the Black Cats at the Stadium of Light. The 2-1 defeat sees the Clarets drop to second from bottom after Hull secured a 0-0 draw away to Birmingham to jump above us with a game in hand. With Bolton and Wigan also winning over the weekend, our only hope is to now win our last three games and hope both West Ham and Hull stumble. West Ham, fourth from bottom are still four points clear of the Clarets and play their game in hand tonight away to Liverpool. If the Hammers pick up any unexpected points at Anfield it is effectively the end of the road for the Clarets with most fans already convinced we will be plying our trade in the Championship again next season.
Clarets fans hopes at the Stadium of Light were high too after that stunning away win against Hull City at the KC Stadium last week and we had thought that 4-1 victory would have given the lads the passion and confidence to try and get their second double and second away win of 2009-10.
The score line suggests a hard fought match but nothing could be further from the truth. We were completely outplayed and outclassed by Sunderland in the first half. Already 2-0 down thanks to goals from Campbell and Bent after 25 and 40 mins we looked a beaten side at half-time. In truth it could have been far worse with our defence seemingly having returned to its all too familiar suicide mode and Sunderland looking to extend their lead even more. We were also so ineffective up front I am struggling to remember one decent attempt on goal.
We looked slightly better in the second half and enjoyed a lot more possession but you just sensed Sunderland were taking it easy. Thompson was looking more effective up front after coming on at half time to replace Paterson but we had to wait until the 82nd minute before we could give Sunderland a scare. Robbie Blake had only been on the pitch a minute but a little bit of magic from the wizard found Thompson who thumped the ball home from 25 yards out. The Clarets now had something to fight for in the last eight minutes of this match and you would have thought it would have stirred them into action to try and get the equaliser. We just never seemed to press enough after that though and despite four minutes of added time we never looked like getting a point.
Just too many of our players were not at the races on Saturday, most notably Chris Eagles. He put in a terrible performance and it looked like his mind was more on his next career move rather than trying to save the Clarets from the drop. He needs to be careful if he wants those Premier League clubs to come-a-bidding in the summer. There was no evidence of showboating in this game! He has been linked with moves to West Brom, Everton and Spurs but if any of the managers of these clubs were there yesterday they might now be having second thoughts after this woeful performance. He was lightweight and totally ineffective. He used to score goals for the Clarets too; I can`t remember his last one (It was actually against West Ham at Upton Park way back in November, only his second of the season so far!)
Hull aside, in addition to woeful individual performances, the tactics also just don`t seem to be working no matter what we try. The number of times I saw Jensen boot the ball up for Fletcher to head on to nobody was unreal. If Fletcher was not heading into a black hole he was chasing around on the wing putting the ball in to nobody! Why do we also persist with playing our strikers out wide? Martin Paterson never has been and never will be a winger. He needs to be in the centre playing off a tall striker in 4-4-2 to be at his best. We may have missed Nugent yesterday who was out with a hamstring injury but surely we can do better in attack than this. I would have played both Eagles and Elliott on the wing and put Paterson upfront with Fletcher. Paterson came off at half-time for being ineffective with Thompson moving into the attack up front and we looked slightly better.
To be honest though it`s no use getting the attack sorted if they don`t get enough service and in this game only Cork looked to be doing enough in the engine room.
There was a lot of debate as to whether we should have brought Robbie Blake on earlier too rather than give him just the last ten minutes to try and impress. A little bit of Blake magic set up our goal but even then we couldn`t seem to turn up the heat to try and get that equaliser and it all seemed to just fizzle out in the end. Blake is an impact player these days; he rarely has the legs to put in a full 90 minute shift. Whether bringing him on earlier in the second half would have given us a better chance is debatable and we will never know.
Oh well three games to go now and they don`t make pleasant reading for Clarets fans. Liverpool and Spurs at home with Birmingham away squeezed in the middle and we need to win all three. Barring a miracle it`s Barnsley and Donny Rovers next season for us. Such a shame!
The Clarets Team Sheet
The Clarets had to make one enforced change with news that David Nugent had picked up a hamstring injury and couldn`t feature. Chris Eagles took his place in the starting eleven with Stephen Jordan also making a return to the bench.
Burnley in summary therefore lined up as follows:
Jensen, Mears, Duff, Cort, Fox, Alexander, Elliott, Cork, Eagles, Paterson, Fletcher
Subs: Weaver, Carlisle, Caldwell, Jordan, Bikey, Blake, Thompson
The Full Match Report
The impressive Stadium of Light lived up to its name on this bright and sunny day on Wearside as Rotherham referee, Howard Webb got the game underway. Clarets fans buoyed by the win at Hull City last week were hoping for more of the same and it was Burnley as well that made the livelier start. Jack Cork was looking solid and energetic in midfield and he got in a couple of early breaks but they came to nothing.
It didn`t take long though for the pace and power of the Black Cats strike force to begin to take effect with both Darren Bent and Kenwyne Jones starting to expose the weaknesses in our back four. Clarets fans hopes that Sunderland might have been thinking about their holidays with safety and a midtable finish virtually assured were to be dashed with the Black Cats looking strongly up for this match and taking the game to Burnley.
The Clarets back four have found it difficult this season to defend against set-pieces and so it would prove again. In the 19th minute, Jensen had to make a superb save diving low to his right to keep out a header from Mensah quickly recovering to then prevent the follow-up from Michael Turner.
The woodwork then came to our rescue when Kenwyne Jones thumped the ball against the post from a corner.
The onslaught from Sunderland though was beginning to tell and they eventually took the lead on 25 minutes. Alan Hutton, Sunderland`s on loan defender from Spurs decided to go on a charge down the right wing getting in a low cross that found Fraizer Campbell in an ideal position to slide home the ball past Jensen from close range. Again our defence should have done better with questions once more being asked.
The Clarets already looking nervous now seemed to have the stuffing taken out of them as the relentless pressure and possession from the Black Cats continued to wear them down. Darren Bent nearly made it 2-0 after getting in a header from another cross from Hutton but the ball flew just wide. Bent though wouldn`t have long to wait to score his 23rd League goal of the season. With five minutes of the first half remaining Campbell who looked to be marginally offside got on the end of a chipped pass from Henderson and headed the ball down to find Bent six yards from goal. He simply had to side foot home completely unmarked. So it was 2-0 down at half-time and a mountain to climb for the Clarets. In this case they hadn`t even got out of base camp so far with virtually no attempts on goal in the first 45 minutes. Very, very disappointing! Yes OK Sunderland had a vast display of talent on show showboating the club`s £50 million of debt but this was virtually the same team that the Clarets had thumped 3-1 in the earlier encounter at Turf Moor this season! If only we could have played the same way in the return fixture and shown the same quality and determination. Something would need to change in the second half if we were to stand any chance of rescuing something from this game. How we went in just 2-0 down was a miracle in itself we were that poor.
It was perhaps no surprise that Laws made a change at half-time bringing on Thompson to replace the lacklustre and totally ineffectual, Martin Paterson. He had done nothing in the first half but then playing him out on the wing is folly anyway and a waste of his talents.
Thompson upfront gave us the firepower in attack that was sadly lacking in the first-half and the effect was almost instant. He got the better of Anton Ferdinand with a neat turn to put over a cross which Chris Eagles could only head off-target. The early signs though were encouraging.
Just under the hour mark, the Clarets went on a charge opening up the Black Cats defence with some nice passing. It was Tyrone Mears who eventually put over a low cross but it was Hutton who got on the end of it to clear the danger.
The Clarets were by now enjoying quite a bit of the possession and it looked liked Sunderland had switched off confident they could contain anything the Clarets chucked at them without busting a gut.
Thompson looked to be challenged unfairly in the box after being felled by Campbell and there were appeals for a penalty although it was by no means clear cut. Clarets fans briefly thought it had been given until they realised that Howard Webb had decided instead to amazingly give Thompson a yellow card!
A punch from the Black Cats keeper, Gordon following a cross by Mears led to a half-chance with the ball falling nicely to Alexander 25 yards out from goal. Grezza let rip with a left footed daisy cutter but the keeper going to his left managed to grab the ball.
Sunderland who had clearly taken their foot of the accelerator seemed to have few chances in the second half but they always looked dangerous on the break. We seemed to take ages plodding along getting the ball up to our attack whereas Sunderland just seemed to need to string a couple of decent passes together and we were under pressure and having to defend like the clappers.
Bent should have done better but fluffed a chance at the other end to make it curtains for the Clarets but to give them their due, Burnley continued to press.
Fox attempted to score from a direct free kick but the ball dipped onto the roof of the net.
With nine minutes to go, Laws decided to bring on some fresh legs in a move that would prove inspirational. On came Robbie Blake to replace the industrious but tiring Jack Cork and within a minute the magician was setting up a goal to make it 2-1 and give the complacent Sunderland some jitters in the last few minutes of the match.
After some nice approach work, Blake laid off a typical neat pass to find Thompson just outside the box. He calmly slotted his low shot home into the bottom corner of the net to give Clarets fans some hopes of a late recovery.
Sadly though we never really pressed for the equaliser after that and indeed it was nearly Sunderland who extended their lead when Jensen had to save well to deny Kenwyne Jones.
Yes, a disappointing game lost in the first half in a fashion that is fast becoming the Burnley trademark weakness with just too many players underperforming and making crucial schoolboy errors in defence.
Sunderland: Gordon, Turner, Hutton, Mensah (Ferdinand 46), Malbranque, Richardson, Henderson, Meyler (Zenden 88), Campbell, Bent (Mwaruwari 90+4), Jones
Subs Not Used: Carson, Bardsley, Da Silva, Kilgallon
Goals: Campbell (25), Bent (40)
Booked: Yellow Cards for Mensah, Malbranque & Meyler
Burnley: Jensen, Mears, Duff, Cort, Fox, Alexander, Elliott, Cork (Blake 81), Eagles, Paterson (Thompson 46), Fletcher
Subs Not Used: Weaver, Carlisle, Caldwell, Jordan, Bikey
Goal: Thompson (82)
Booked: Yellow Cards for Duff & Thompson
Possession: 57% Sunderland, 43% Burnley, (Source: BBC Sport)
Referee: Howard Webb (Rotherham)