Laws of Diminishing Returns? Again?
Saturday 11th December 2010 @3pm Kick-Off
A dreadful second-half for the Clarets saw them lose a two goal lead for the third time this season. The difference this time was that we were playing at home and could not even hold on for a point going down 3-2 to Yorkshire rivals, Leeds United.
In a classic game of two halves, Burnley without breaking sweat found themselves two goals up after 37 minutes and looked to be coasting to victory. It is though a sign of the times when Clarets fans still feel nervous two goals to the good with most at half-time believing the third goal was still going to be the crucial one! That third goal unfortunately was scored by Leeds after just seven minutes into the second half. You simply sensed after that, we were going to mess things up and boy we certainly did that! Two further Leeds goals after 66 and 85 minutes did the damage making it a miserable day for all Clarets fans.
Credit where credit is due, Leeds completely outplayed us in the second half boosted by a massive away following that simply out-shouted a muted set of Burnley fans all afternoon! Why the hell though did we give them the whole of the Cricket Field end knowing the acoustics of that stand? Money signs spinning around again rather than sense? It gave Leeds a huge advantage and why we don`t have part of that stand open to Clarets fans like we did last season is beyond me.
This result was nothing short of a disaster and in typical Burnley fashion we chucked away a golden opportunity to gain ground on the top two pace setters, QPR and Cardiff. Both clubs lost their games over the weekend after Watford surprisingly won 3-1 at Loftus Road on Friday night and lowly Middlebrough on Saturday chalked up a 1-0 home win over Cardiff City.
The Leeds defeat keeps Burnley in 9th spot but on 29 points we are now four points adrift of the play-offs places although we do have a game in hand over all the clubs above us except League leaders QPR. The Rs remain 12 points ahead of the Clarets with Welsh rivals, Cardiff and Swansea City in second and third places respectively on 37 points.
The chatter after the game on the way home, in pubs and clubs, on the local radio phone-ins and on all the Clarets websites revolved around one topic and one topic only. Was Brian Laws the right man for the job? The general consensus being that enough was enough and that it was time for the Board to act now before it was too late. So many are now saying they have to bite the bullet and bring in a more dynamic, competent management team to try and rescue our season. There has to now be some sympathy for this view with Christmas fast approaching with a chance to put things right in the January window. We seem to be going nowhere and nowhere fast. Clarets fans are now struggling to remember the last time we strung two league game victories together let alone put together a run. The sad fact is that under Brian Laws we have not achieved two back-to-back wins in the League since he arrived last January and our away record is a joke. You could make excuses for him in the Premier League but not in the Championship. We are constantly told by the club we have a strong squad but at what point do you put your hand up and say but sadly they are not being led properly?
Does Brian Laws have the dressing room anymore? Are they fighting for him? Are they motivated enough to succeed? On the evidence of the Leeds result the answer clearly appears to be no to all three questions. With the final whistle finally bringing the agony for Clarets fans to a close, the lone figure of Laws traipsing to the dressing room to a chorus of boos cast a sad sight.
For a lot of Clarets fans though, the sympathy vote is no longer an option with many now wanting a change and quickly. Even if by some remote chance we still get promoted this season, can we afford to retain a manager who previously was only able to muster three wins in eighteen Premier League games?
Many Clarets fans of course will still be determined to be happy clappers come what may and support Brian Laws. In a way you have to admire their determination but I know how difficult it can be to defend that stance after trying to support Steve Cotterill before he left by mutual consent. To my way of thinking though Cotterill had already earned his spurs before falling on hard times whereas Laws has not yet delivered anything other than relegation and Championship mediocrity.
There now seems to be an advancing army that appear determined not to put Brian Laws in front of the 'Claret & Blue` bit! They sense blood and are increasingly baying for it. There comes a time when it is difficult to continue to support the manager and performances like the one against Leeds make it virtually impossible. Some will say you can`t blame Laws for this shocking team performance but this is a results-orientated game (as we are constantly reminded )so where does the buck stop?
There is of course another argument put forward by the 'Voice of Reason` types and it goes something like this 'No need to panic yet and besides who would replace Laws if he got sacked tomorrow?` I don`t fully understand that point of view. Do we have to wait until we really are panicking before taking action and are we really saying there are no better managers out there and available now? Some Clarets fans on the local radio after the game where openly saying they would prefer Grezza to be player-caretaker manager in the interim than still having Brian Laws in charge. If we continue to play with such inconsistency the calls for him to go will only increase in volume. I think all Clarets fans need to ask themselves one honest question, can Laws really take this club forward because if the answer is no there is only one outcome and the Board have to do the decent thing rather than delay the agony. Personally, I really, really want to be proved wrong but something deep down inside me says we are just going to stagnate with the current management team in charge.
I said I would give Laws a chance until Christmas before making my mind up but for the sake of a couple of weeks, I think I have now seen enough. We need something new, something exciting to cheer about. Although it pains me to say it, we need a manager akin to Owen Coyle, one who can motivate a team to believe they can beat anybody and then prove it by getting results with some consistency. No doubt we will now go to Cardiff and get our first away win of the season but then so what? Does anybody really have confidence we can put together a good run under the current regime? The problem with Brain Laws is that he is neither a great manager nor a very bad one. We are simply mediocre under him and in some respects that is probably making a decision regarding his fate difficult for Barry Kilby and the Board. If however this club really have the ambition to return to the top flight the Board must surely at least have doubts by now that Brian Laws will be able to achieve the Premier League dream let alone keep us there. Clarets fans have increasingly no doubts at all that a change is needed if we are to keep our promotion hopes alive.
Whilst I am having a whinge could someone also explain to me why the Burnley media machine have been saying for the last two weeks or so that both Chris Eagles and Martin Paterson had now recovered from their injuries and were available for selection? If that is not a downright lie then both must be useless players for Laws not to even consider them for the eighteen! I suppose I have to be thankful for small mercies that at least we decided to start 4-4-2 for this game. I am not the only Clarets fan that has been campaigning for months for this to happen. Just a pity that for the first time in ages we took advantage with this formation to go two goals up in the first half only to chuck one in due to managerial incompetence and a woeful team performance in the second half!
In the end we lined up the way we finished the Derby game
Chris Iwelumo and Jay Rodriguez were the pairing up front supported by Elliott and Wallace on the flanks. Jack Cork and Dean Marney took up roles in the centre of midfield. With Fox not quite ready for a return, Brian Easton continued in the left back spot.
In summary we lined up as follows:
Grant, Mears, Carlisle, Bikey, Easton, Elliott, Marney, Cork, Wallace, Rodriguez, Iwelumo
Subs: Jensen, Duff, Edgar, Alexander, Harvey, Thompson, Guidetti
A record Turf Moor crowd turned up to see this game but let`s be honest there was a certain amount of irony in the massive Leeds support reminding us we only turned up in numbers because Leeds were the visitors. Administration? The Burnley Board fear it, the Leeds Board get on with it
Notts referee, Russell Booth got the game underway on a snow-thawed, above zero temperature day in Burnley and it was the Clarets who stormed out of the blocks first. There was a sting from Leeds though in the first few minutes after Gradel came the closest to opening the scoring. Picking up the pass from Howson, the diminutive winger fluffed his shot from 12 yards out. Gradel at this stage seemed to be doing all the hard work without the end product! Getting behind our back four, he could only slice an attempted cross onto the roof of the net.
Rodriguez though was looking so much more comfortable in the attacking role rather than being wasted out wide and he let rip with a shot from distance that went inches wide in the Clarets first real attempt on goal. On 27 minutes, the Clarets finally broke the deadlock to go 1-0 up and again Rodriguez was in the thick of things. He went on a brilliant run to eventually feed Elliott who crossed to the near post. Schmeichel tested by Iwelumo had no option but to concede a corner. As the ball came over from Wallace, Bikey got up to see his header blocked on the line but there was Easton to blast the ball into the roof of the net to score his first goal for the Clarets and his first in over two years for any club!
The Clarets now sensed blood and Bikey nearly made it 2-0 after thumping a free kick wide from 40 yards out. Just eight minutes of the first half remaining though and the Clarets faithful went wild after Burnley finally did increase their lead.
Clarke Carlisle was the architect after thumping a huge clearance down field from the heart of the Burnley defence. Alex Bruce looked to have it covered but stumbled at the wrong time to give Rodriguez an ideal opportunity to pounce. Pounce he did, and in a one-on-one with only Schmeichel to beat he coolly slotted home beneath the keeper to give the Clarets a two goal advantage at half-time.
Leeds though came out looking a different team for the start of the second half and Burnley fans feared the worst when they reduced the arrears on 52 minutes. We should have done better defensively but allowed Snodgrass to get in a deep cross to the far post. There was danger man, Becchio, pretty quiet up to now to be honest to head down for Gradel to thump the ball home from ten yards out. Now it really was game on and the Clarets seemed to panic no doubt recollecting the Sheffield United and Norwich away games. Laws should have acted after the first goal but he did nowt and now it really was crucial for the Clarets to get the next goal. They nearly did too following a sublime cross from Elliott. Iwelumo looked certain to score but somehow put his header wide with Schmeichel rooted to the spot. That was probably the turning point in this match and gave Leeds even further belief they could now crack on and extend their unbeaten run to eight games.
67 minutes and Leeds were level and they thoroughly deserved it. Connolly started the move after a surging run from the right back position. He linked well with Howson to cross for Becchio to score from close range.
All Clarets fans now feared the worst and the worst was about to happen. Leeds were now shamefully in total control and Laws seemed clueless as to what to do. Snodgrass was denied by the woodwork after a surging run from the half-way line led to a left-footed curling shot that rattled the crossbar. Bikey desperately then had to clear another effort with Snodgrass now running rings round a lacklustre defence. It was clear our midfield were just losing it big-time and if ever a substitution was required, that was the area to plug. It was only a matter of time with Leeds in the ascendency and the Clarets looking like startled rabbits that we would go behind and that came five minutes from time. Leeds captain, Howson decided to go it alone despite plenty of options. From 22 yards out he curled a shot past Grant to make it 3-2 and send the Leeds fans wild soon after reminding Clarets fans we should have gone Christmas shopping! They were right and I hope Laws was listening.
It was clear to everybody that if Burnley were to get back in this game they would to do it via improvements in midfield. The trouble is we only had young Harvey on the bench or possibly Edgar who could help in that department. Alexander would hardly have helped in the pace department and now was not the time to go 4-5-1 with an holding midfielder.
Instead all Laws could resort too was tinkering about with the strike force , so we saw both Thompson and Guidetti come on to replace the ineffectual Iwelumo and the tiring Wallace respectively. The substitutions added nothing despite being given a lifeline of five minutes of added time. It was a tale of woe despite late efforts from Thompson and Guidetti.
I am not going to make myself popular with this report and opinion but I am afraid I can no longer support, Brian Laws. It is clear to me we are not going to progress this season barring a miracle. It is time for the Board to openly admit they made a mistake in appointing Brian Laws and that they did so for all the wrong reasons. Act now and get it over with, don`t delay and prolong the agony! 33 years to get back to the top flight and we had no real resolve to stay there after Coyle left. Scared of administration, we have now been demoralised by a team that hit rock bottom and went through it. In the meantime another one, Pompey are just one point behind us! Did we really go down stronger? If so it`s time to prove it both on and off the pitch because at the moment we are no further forward than we were three seasons ago and the parachute money won`t last forever. Let's get back to basics! Forget fanciful ideas about a new Turf Moor with flashy hotels and Stadi-arenas, Paul F; forget making Burnley a global name John B and please Barry just for once in the January window bring in the players that will get this club promoted under a manager that will know which ones to bring in to do it! If we don`t, if we are not careful the money will run out again and we will be back to square one with pleading poverty back on the agenda. Not that in my opinion it was ever off the agenda! It is time for a different way of thinking at Burnley FC and it is time to give new ideas a chance.
Burnley:Grant,Mears,Carlisle,Bikey,Easton,Elliott,Cork,Marney,Wallace (Guidetti 78),Iwelumo (Thompson 72),Rodriguez
Subs Not Used: Jensen, Alexander, Duff, Edgar, Harvey
Goals: Easton 29, Rodriguez 37
Leeds United: Schmeichel, Connolly, Bruce, Collins, McCartney, Gradel, Kilkenny (McCormack 64), Howson, Johnson, Becchio (Faye 90+2), Snodgrass
Subs Not Used: Higgs, Sam, Hughes, Paynter, Somma
Booked: Yellow Cards for Collins, Johnson, Howson,
Goals: Gradel 52, Becchio 66, Howson 85
Possession: 61% Burnley, 39% Leeds United (Source: BBC Sport)
Ref: Russell Booth (Nottinghamshire)
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Jack Cork too was on fire for most of the match although he too seemed to go off the boil in the latter stages of the second-half.
Personally I am going to give our Star Player award to Brian Easton for another solid performance in defence with of course his first goal for the club an added bonus. He too though tired in the second half giving Snodgrass far too much room on the ball
Nevertheless it will really sum it up for me, if Laws allows Danny Fox to walk straight back into the left back spot after recovering from injury. Easton has been impressive and certainly does not deserve to be dropped.