Slip Sliding to Mid-table Mediocrity?
Tuesday 9th November 2010 @7:45pm Kick-Off
The Clarets once again dropped valuable points last night managing only a 1-1 draw against Doncaster Rovers. This was a very poor performance but a match once again where we failed to take our chances including even a penalty which Eagles fluffed from the spot. We have now gone four games without a win (five if you include the Carling Cup defeat to Villa) and although three of the games were drawn, this is by no means Championship promotion form.
Doncaster were a very ordinary team indeed and on this performance the Clarets looked nothing like promotion candidates and recent games do beg the question whether we have enough armoury in the locker and managerial technical nous to put this club back where it belongs, in the Premier League. We hear about being debt-free, we here about the club making a record profit of £14.4 million, we hear about going down stronger and we hear about the new director, John B wanting to make Burnley FC into a global brand! We have listened and we have wondered! Maybe it is now time the Club listen to the growing number of fans that want more than this tosh witnessed last night and want some of this new found wealth and ambition put behind making this team a true, strong contender for the top flight starting with the January transfer window. Based on recent performances we are a million miles away from emulating 'Boing Boing` West Brom, Newcastle and the other teams who have made immediate returns to the top flight. Something is not right, something is not clicking and I just hope we have not squandered our chances of playing in the Premier League in the short-term by not having enough financial bottle to stay up when we had the chance.
Last night was truly shambolic and we were lucky clubs around us did not seem to take too much advantage by also dropping points. With some more Championship matches still to come in midweek, including Cardiff away to Reading things could get more desperate for the Clarets. Second-placed Cardiff are already 9 points clear of Burnley who are currently 9th with 23 points from 16 games. Yes, we might still be only one point away from the 6th spot currently occupied by Coventry who we play at the Ricoh later this month, but then we are also only four points clear of mid-table mediocrity which on the evidence of last night is where we are heading if we don`t pull our socks up!
Not good enough Burnley!
It was bad night for the Clarets and not just in terms of the result and performance. We also lost Danny Fox with a suspected ankle ligament injury after he was stretchered off following a heavy fall in the second half. Martin Paterson too failed to materialise for the start of the second half. Clarets fans thought this was simply tactical with Chris Iwelumo coming on to take his place. In fact he had picked up a thigh strain just before half-time and both players could now be doubtful for the Watford game on Saturday.
I watched this game with a mate and we both came to the same conclusion. For heaven`s sake let`s play 4-4-2 more often. Paterson looked lonely upfront on his own last night although after his brace in the Norwich game that is marginally preferable to playing him out wide. He doesn`t have the height though and if nobody is playing off him our scoring chances become limited. Iwelumo has the height but time and time again last night he was heading the ball into empty space with nobody around him. The solution is simply to use our strikers as strikers not makeshift wingers! Play two up front supported by the wingers and a couple of attacking midfielders. Also let`s start using Elliott as a winger; I am sure he is more comfortable there. I would like to see Elliott, Cork, Marney, Eagles supporting two from Rodriguez, Paterson and Iwelumo. Jay Rod and Pato are NOT wide-men so stop using them there!
Brian Laws chose a half-way house for his eighteen last night with elements from both the previous two games on the road against QPR and Norwich City.
Jack Cork returned to the starting eleven in the holding midfield role with Alexander having to be content with a place on the bench. Martin Paterson kept his place in the side with Chris Iwelumo once more bench-warming. The central defence pairing of Duff and Carlisle were selected again suggesting Andre Bikey not even on the bench had still not fully recovered from his troublesome rib-injury. Even if he had been fit though, Duff and Carlisle had done enough in recent games to merit selection. We lined up as follows in 4-1-4-1 formation:
Grant, Mears, Duff, Carlisle, Fox, Cork, Eagles, Elliott, Marney, Rodriguez, Paterson
Subs: Jensen, Cort, Edgar, Alexander, Wallace, Thompson. Iwelumo
In a change of scheduled referee, David Foster (Tyne and Wear) took charge of this clash on a damp and cold night in Burnley.
The Clarets stormed out of the blocks and almost scored straight from the kick-off on just 16 seconds. A perfect through-ball by Jay Rodriguez put Elliott clear. He should perhaps have been more composed but shot too early and 40 year old keeper, Neil Sullivan was able to save the low strike. Shelton Martis was then able to clear the loose ball but in all honesty Elliott should have buried it!
The referee then angered the home crowd after 3 minutes of play when he failed to award what looked like a blatant penalty aided and abetted by an equally blind linesman. Our former defender, Wayne Thomas clearly handled the ball from a Fox corner and Clarets fans just sensed it was going to be one of those nights!
Burnley then suffered a body blow on 13 minutes when Doncaster in virtually their first meaningful attack took the lead. It was a cross from another former Clarets player, John Oster that did the damage. The ball took a deflection off Jack Cork, hit the post and fell nicely to Hayter who simply tapped home to put Rovers 1-0 up.
The Clarets eventually recovered and again looked threatening for a time. Eagles on a run was eventually blocked by Sullivan and then Paterson just failed to make contact after Rodriguez had knocked the ball down to him. The pressure looked to have counted when Dean Shiels handled in the area whilst blocking an attempt by Eagles to chip the ball forward and this time the referee did see it to award a penalty
Eagles took the penalty himself in the absence of Alexander but the keeper guessed right and saved it spoiling the winger`s 100% record from the spot this season. Drat! Now it really was becoming one of those nights!
Just before the end of the first half, the Clarets got their best chance to equalise in open play when Eagles laid off a sublime pass to find Mears on the overlap. He should perhaps have continued forward himself and shot but instead he picked out Jay Rodriguez. Jay Rod`s side-footed attempt from eight yards out looked certain to cross the line but Martis`s heels somehow got in the way and the ball bobbled away to safety.
Donny would have the final say of the half though. David Healy found Hayter with a square pass with only Grant to beat but somehow he failed to make contact much to the relief of Clarets fans
Burnley went into the break then 1-0 down and a generally lacklustre performance was hard to stomach. It looked like Laws had made a rare tactical change for the start of the second half bringing on Iwelumo for Paterson until it was later revealed that the latter had picked up a thigh strain.
The Clarets seemed a lot brighter in the second half and Iwelumo was soon into action setting up Eagles from an Elliott cross. Eagles stinging shot must have been felt by Sullivan but the score remained the same with the Clarets desperately seeking an equaliser.
At long last we did equalise 3 minutes past the hour mark. Carlisle headed towards goal from an Eagles cross. James O`Conner managed to block on the line but both Cork and Duff were charging forward hoping to pick up the loose ball in the air. Cork beat his compatriot to the chase and headed home tumbling into the net at the same time.
The Clarets should now have been on top and gone for a winner but somehow Doncaster rallied and they looked the most likely to score next with Burnley looking nervous and making silly mistakes in defence and midfield.
Grant kept the Clarets in the game with two splendid saves in quick succession. He flew through the air to save a powerful shot by John Oster and then from the resulting corner denied Wayne Thomas after blocking his attempt.
It got worse for the Clarets when Danny Fox landed awkwardly trying to make amends for a generally poor performance. With Fox stretchered off on came Graham Alexander into midfield with Elliott dropping back into defence as left back. This was another mysterious substitution for me with Edgar available. Having said that Elliott too was having a bit of a mare so his presence in midfield was hardly missed.
There was very little action after that other than a couple of efforts from Carlisle but in the end Doncaster held on comfortably for a draw despite five minutes of added time to make it a hugely disappointing night for all Clarets fans. Must do better, starting against Watford at home on Saturday! I just sense it`s too late now to get promoted but hope to God I am wrong.
Burnley: Grant, Mears, Duff, Carlisle, Fox (Alexander 74), Cork, Marney, Elliott, Eagles (Wallace 89), Rodriguez, Paterson (Iwelumo 46)
Subs Not Used: Jensen, Edgar ,Cort, Thompson
Goal: Cork 63
Doncaster: Sullivan, O`Connor, Martis, Thomas, Dumbuya, Stock (Hird 90+4), Oster, Coppinger, Hayter, Healy (Brooker 89), Shiels (Wilson 67)
Subs Not Used: Woods, Webster, Fairhurst
Goal: Hayter 13
Booked: Yellow card for Stock
Possession: 47% Burnley, 53% Doncaster Rovers
Referee: David Foster (Tyne and Wear)