Well,Well Oakwell-A Boxing Day Burnley Win!
Boxing Day Sunday 2010 @3pm Kick-Off
The Clarets confounded all the pundits, statisticians and Brian Laws critics on Boxing Day by coming from a goal behind to beat Barnsley 2-1 at Oakwell. (Yes I DID say WIN at Oakwell!!...and breathe!) In so doing we recorded our first league away win of the season and indeed our first double having previously beaten the Tykes 3-0 at Turf Moor earlier in the season.
The omens looked bad for this clash though before we even kicked off
1. Burnley had not won a game on Boxing Day since 2005 and Barnsley had not lost one since 2002 and that had included two previous Boxing Day wins over the Clarets!
2. Barnsley were currently on a roll and had won four of their last five games in addition to having kept three consecutive clean sheets. The Clarets meanwhile had not won away since the Premier League clash against Hull City at the KC Stadium back in April over 8 months ago and their current form was also suspect after going down at home 3-2 to Leeds in their last match despite having taken a two goal lead.
3. Not only was it Boxing Day but this match was being played at Oakwell, a bogey ground where we had not won since April 1932!!
Just before setting off for this game, I was greeted with news that the match might be called off due to burst pipes. It sounded touch and go for a time but eventually the all clear was given and we continued along the M1 South. Were we deluded to be happy that our match was still on? This was still after all Boxing Day AND Oakwell we were talking about but what the hell now was the time to put a few taboos to rest!
If ever the Clarets needed to find that Burnley moment with a victory with everything stacked against you this was it. Probably the happiest person on the pitch after the final whistle was under pressure gaffer Brian Laws. Speculation had been fuelled in the media during the day that Burnley could be lining-up Phil Brown to replace Brian Laws which is just the tonic Laws would have wanted (Not!)
There was also certainly a large and seemingly growing section of Clarets fans venting their anger verbally at Laws before kick-off and that grew to fever pitch at half-time with Burnley 1-0 down following a generally mediocre performance. Laws, skulking off the pitch to the sound of boos was not a pretty sight but he must have found something inspirational to say during the break because we came out for the second-half invigorated finding ourselves 2-1 up after just 54 minutes thanks to two goals in five minutes. The result seemed to silence Laws critics slightly but you just sense this is going to continue to bubble under the surface until we begin to string back-to-back wins together. Six points in our next two games both at home could go some way to reducing the pressure on Laws
We face Scunthorpe at home on Tuesday and then the Blades visit Turf Moor on New Year`s Day! Six points could put us well and truly back on track for promotion but anything less could mean more anguish for our hapless manager. The victory at Oakwell saw the Clarets more four places up the table to 8th spot. We now have 32 points from 21 games just two points behind sixth placed club, Coventry with two games in hand over them. Indeed all the clubs above Burnley have played one or two games more than the Clarets so things are not too bleak at the moment although now is the time to start getting a run together.
QPR and Cardiff both enjoyed home wins on Boxing Day so they now occupy the automatic promotion places after Leeds could only manage a draw away to Leicester. I think most Clarets fans are disappointed that at this stage we haven`t been to become one of the pace setters after a season in the top flight. At least our first away win this season keeps us in contention, if only we could now play with consistency and get our first back-to-back win of the season and go on a run. It does look a tall order though with QPR in top spot twelve points ahead of the Clarets albeit having played a game more, Cardiff in second place are eight points clear of Burnley although that could be reduced to five if we win our game in hand .
Laws decided to change things around a little bit for the match at Oakwell after the disappointment of Leeds. Iwelumo found himself on the bench with on-loan Manchester City striker, John Guidetti being handed his full debut after a couple of cameo appearances from the bench. He partnered Jay Rodriguez up front.
Graham Alexander in centre midfield was also named in the starting eleven but Chris Eagles had to be content with a place on the bench after recovering from his back injury.
In summary we lined up as follows:
Grant, Mears, Carlisle, Bikey, Easton, Elliott, Cork, Alexander, Wallace, Guidetti, Rodriguez
Subs: Jensen, Duff, Edgar, Marney, Eagles, Iwelumo, Thompson
It was a bitterly cold day in Barnsley as Tyne & Wear referee, Colin Webster got the match underway in front of a strangely subdued home crowd. 2738 Burnley fans on the other hand were in fine fettle in the North Stand despite the nads-freezing weather. The atmosphere though at Oakwell did appear to be lacking with the home fans it seems maybe wishing they had stayed at home in the warmth!
Mark Robins` side started the brighter but our back-four soaked up the early pressure. It was the Clarets though who nearly broke the deadlock on 15 minutes. Wallace went on a charge from midfield to set Jack Cork free down the flank. He got in a deep cross to Guidetti.His header went tantalisingly back across goal only for the ball to hit the inside of the post. We still had a chance to score when the loose ball fell to Wallace. He drove a shot towards goal only to see Tykes defender, Jason Shackell block on the line.
At this stage to be honest the Clarets had looked to be in control but that would all change on 25 minutes when Barnsley got the lead. It was danger-man Adam Hammill who pounced after a defence-splitting through ball from Lovre. Frustrated by Mears on the flank, Hammill decided this time to run through the centre of midfield to unleash a shot. Mears saved his first attempt but the ball went straight back to him for an easy tap-in. All those visions of Oakwell Hell had now come back to haunt the Clarets and nothing much changed to allay those fears for the remainder of the first half.
We did have a chance though from an Alexander free kick four minutes after the Tykes opening goal. With the ball flying into the penalty area, Clarke Carlisle needed only a touch with his attempted header to put the Clarets level. He didn`t get that touch!
Luke Steele also had luck on his side after a fumbled save from an Elliott cross. After dropping the ball, there was both Rodriguez and Wallace ready to pounce but somehow the Tykes keeper gathered the ball at his second-attempt.
1-0 to Barnsley then at half-time with quite a few Clarets fans venting their anger at Brian Laws. Losing to Barnsley was almost unthinkable but was the Oakwell curse about to strike again and maybe claim a Burnley manager?
We did not have long to wait for the answer to that question. On 49 minutes, Elliott got over another telling cross and this time Guidetti made his height count, getting up to head the ball across the keeper into the corner of the net.
Lovre almost put the Tykes back in front soon after from a Trippier free-kick but could only nod the ball wide.
Surviving that scare we now got our noses in front from a Wallace corner on 54 minutes. Wallace swung the ball over to the near post and there was Bikey to get up and head home powerfully into the top corner of the net. 2-1 Burnley with Clarets fans now both stunned and ecstatic, what a change around! Dare we now sing 'We`re Winning Away`? Well it might have been tempting fate based on recent history but we sung it anyway!
Burnley now began to turn the screw and despite the next 20 minutes of possession and dominance we just could not get another goal to kill the game off. The Oakwell Curse refused to give in it seemed!
Rodriguez could have put the game beyond doubt on a number of occasions but it just wouldn`t happen for him. In one attempt, Guidetti and Elliott linked well to set up Jay Rod before he sliced his shot wide. Guidetti then went on a storming run before crossing over the ball into the danger area. This time Rodriguez got in a glancing header only to see the ball hit the inside of the post.
With 18 minutes to go, Laws made his one substitution of the afternoon bringing on Chris Eagles to replace Guidetti and he soon had Steele diving to scramble away his shot from distance.
The Tykes tried to push everyone forward in the dying minutes of this game and it was still nervy for Clarets fans after the fourth official announced 4 minutes of added time. However for once we absorbed everything the home side chucked at us to hold on and secure our long-awaited first league away win of the season and our first on this ground since 1932!
Barnsley: Steele, Hassell, Shackell, Foster, Trippier, Doyle, O'Brien, Lovre (Hayes 58), Hammill, Colace (Butterfield 63), Gray (Bennett 71)
Subs Not Used: Preece, Hill, Arismendi, Neumann
Booked: Yellow Card for Doyle
Goal: Hammill 25
Burnley:Grant,Mears,Carlisle,Bikey,Easton,Elliott,Alexander,Cork,Wallace,Rodriguez,Guidetti (Eagles 72)
Subs Not Used: Jensen, Duff, Edgar, Marney, Iwelumo, Thompson
Goals: Guidetti 49, Bikey 54
Possession: 44% Barnsley, 56% Burnley (Source: BBC Sport)
Ref: Colin Webster (Tyne and Wear)