Enigma Variations: Number 22- Simply Rubbish!
Christmas Bank Holiday Tuesday, 28th December 2010
The Clarets fell to new lows (and new Laws) today putting in a woeful performance in our last game of 2010.This 2-0 home defeat to second from bottom, Scunthorpe United, a side that had not won in five games was simply disgraceful and there can be absolutely no excuses made for this abject performance. Easily our worst performance all season as we slumped to our third home defeat of 2010-11 and our second on the trot following the Leeds debacle.
We had an ideal opportunity today to get our first back-to-back win under Brian Laws and our first since Owen Coyle plotted the Turf Moor defeat against Manchester United and then Everton in the heady days of Premier League life back in August 2009. A Boxing Day triumph over Barnsley at Oakwell, just two days ago had put the Clarets fans in good cheer and at long last we were beginning to believe that just maybe we had turned a corner. Our first league away win of the season and our first at Oakwell since April 1932? Surely now we could march on up the table with two home games coming up next and just for once have a glorious festive season? If we did win that would be our first back-to-back victory over the Christmas period since 1989! In those days we were pfaffing about in the bottom tier and trying to get excited about beating first Carlisle and then Halifax. Wow!
Well that record remains safe! In the end it turned out to be a disaster and the Scunthorpe defeat must once more put the future of Brian Laws in doubt. Clarets fans were not in the mood to be generous after this pathetic defeat and made their concerns known verbally with loud chants of 'Laws Out` echoing around the ground. There were many more thinking the same even if they couldn`t bring themselves to shout it out!
It wasn`t just the defeat; it was the manner of the defeat. We simply were never at the races and all eleven players with the possible exception of Jack Cork put in a below par performance and paid the consequences. Something was clearly not right today! You could argue that Laws perhaps should have rested some of the players after the Barnsley game just two days before but he did not and selected the exact same eighteen. You could argue that Scunthorpe had benefitted from the inclement weather. They had not played a game since December 4th due to postponements so could have been fully rested but come on there can be no excuse for losing to the Iron in this manner.
It is hard to recall one decent shot on target with distribution to the two strikers up front non-existent. Guidetti and Rodriguez, when they did get the ball seemed incapable of doing anything constructive with. Jay Rod struggled to win a header all afternoon. It didn`t get any better in the second half when both Iwelumo and Thompson came on. Did we even test the keeper? We simply had no end product, could not keep the ball on the deck, resorted to the long ball far too often, and could not string any decent passes together with far too many going astray.
We had an ideal opportunity to get into the play-offs positions today. We were just two points off the 6th placed club, Coventry and they had earlier suffered a 2-0 home defeat against league leaders, QPR. The omens were good too ahead of the Scunthorpe match! Our last back-to-win coincided with the Ashes victory and we all know how well the England cricketers are doing in Australia at the moment but alas it wasn`t to be. After the result today we still find ourselves in a reasonable position but a frustratingly disappointing one. We should be doing far better than 9th spot but at least we are still just two points behind the new sixth placed club, Reading having also played a game less. The QPR victory though sees them consolidate their position at the top of the league and they are now 15 points clear of the Clarets albeit having played one game more. Automatic promotion continues to look a distant dream although at least second-placed club Cardiff lost 4-1 away to Watford. The Welsh club remain 8 points clear of the Clarets although that could be reduced to two if we beat them away and win our game in hand.
As we mentioned above Brian Laws elected to name the same eighteen for the home clash against Scunthorpe showing faith in the team that beat Barnsley at Oakwell. We therefore lined up as follows:
Grant, Mears, Carlisle, Bikey, Easton, Elliott, Cork, Alexander, Wallace, Guidetti, Rodriguez
Subs: Jensen, Duff, Edgar, Marney, Eagles, Iwelumo, Thompson
On a thawing day in Burnley and on a near perfect pitch thanks to the under soil heating and the work of the ground staff, Northamptonshire referee, Andy Woolmer got the match underway following a minute`s applause for Clarets legend, Ralph Coates who sadly died earlier this month . Woolmer was last in charge of a Clarets game when we played QPR at Loftus Road back in November 2008. That might have been viewed as another omen since we beat them 2-1 that day! Gawd we really do clutch at straws don`t we? Scunthorpe have had the better of the clashes at Turf Moor in recent history, although they lost 2-0 on their last visit that was only the second game they had lost in their last ten visits! One good omen followed by one bad one then? Oh let`s get on with it!
Woolmer made his intentions clear from the kick-off booking Scunthorpe`s Nolan for a foul in the first minute. It was the Iron though who seemed to be up for this game and they battled hard in the first few minutes getting in three shots from distance. The third attempt came close too after a long range effort from Michael O`Connor tested Lee Grant at full stretch. Grant got a touch though and was thankful to see the ball bounce off the bar to safety.
On 14 minutes though, Scunthorpe broke the deadlock in a game that was rapidly becoming a very scrappy affair. Jay Rodriguez was booked for a foul on Andrew Wright after clicking his heels. He picked up therefore his fourth yellow card of the season. Providing he didn`t pick up another though, he would be safe since the 5 yellow card ban was coming to an end this month and our next game was on New Year`s Day!
There may have been some relief in that but from the free kick, Garry Thompson swung the ball over into the penalty area and with a clueless Clarets defence looking on, Woolford pounced to drive in a low left footed shot past Grant. Grant may now be first choice keeper but he has yet to keep a clean sheet since replacing Jensen following the home defeat to Reading back in October. Jensen having requested a transfer must be wondering about Laws judgment following that statistic. Grant also seemed to be having an off-day and countless times booted the ball into touch allowing Scunthorpe to further time-waste now they had the lead. Bad day at the office? An understatement waiting to happen as the Clarets failed to come even close to looking like getting the equaliser.
This was now the fifth game out of the last six at home that the Clarets had gone behind but this time they never looked like coming back. The Clarets struggled for the rest of the half and we were particularly poor down the left side with Easton having an uncharacteristically average game at left back failing time and time again to set Wallace free.
Our best chances in the first half came from our centre backs, which sums everything up. Bikey, picking up the ball from a free kick let rip from 30 yards out testing Murphy to the full. Carlisle then got in the act after Murphy had parried away a curling Alexander free-kick for a corner. As the corner came over from Wallace, Carlisle got his head to the ball only to see it go over the top of the bar.
Scunthorpe then nearly doubled their lead with nine minutes of the first half remaining. O`Connor put Forte clear on goal with just Grant to beat but he seemed to panic and the former Owls keeper came to the rescue to save and keep the Clarets in contention. Not that we deserved to be! A woeful first half came to an end with the anti-Laws contingent getting more vocal by the minute.
Laws surely had no option but to make a rare change at half-time? Well at least he did bringing on Chris Eagles for Wade Elliott. Some fans though could be critical of that decision considering most of the few chances we had in the first half came from the right flank. A more sensible substitution might have been to bring off Ross Wallace who had been virtually ineffective in the first 45 minutes although let`s be honest Elliott was hardly firing on all cylinders!
The Clarets set off looking determined for the start of the second half getting four corners in a minute but it wasn`t going to last long. 55 minutes gone and Laws made his second substitution bringing on Chris Iwelumo for the disappointing, John Guidetti! The tannoy announced his arrival and that would probably prove the last time Iwelumo`s name was mentioned in vain. I don`t recall Iwelumo being involved for the rest of the game, we were that bad!
The corners kept coming but we couldn`t make any of them count. In the end we had twelve corners to Scunthorpe`s two but may as well have had none!
Laws tried to inject some positivity by bringing on Thompson after 72 minutes to replace Wallace with Jay Rod taking up a wider role. It was completely fruitless!
It was only a matter of time before Scunthorpe put the Clarets out of their misery and that came six minutes from time when they caught us out on the break
Woolford, who had been a thorn in the Burnley side all afternoon, got in a cross to find Dagnall. He had the simple task of side-footing home past Grant to make it one hell of a miserable day for Clarets fans.
It really is now time for some action from the Board and it is time for Kilby and Co to have some balls and do the right thing. It is all too energy sapping for Clarets fans at the moment and I think the vast majority now want to see some changes to the management team at Turf Moor.
It is not easy for a Chairman to stand up and say he got a management appointment wrong but come on do the decent thing, own up to the mistake and rectify the problem whilst we still have a chance of promotion. There is something lacking with the enigmatic Burnley at the moment and Brian Laws has had his chance. Still no back-to-back win in nearly a year with Laws at the helm and with a win rate of less than 30% now is the time to make a decision, one we all know has to be made before the life blood of this club ebbs away and we return to the mid-table mediocrity of the recent past!
Burnley: Grant, Mears, Carlisle, Bikey, Easton, Elliott (Eagles 46), Cork, Alexander, Wallace (Thompson 72), Rodriguez, Guidetti (Iwelumo 55)
Subs Not Used: Jensen, Duff, Marney
Booked: Yellow Card for Rodriguez
Scunthorpe: Murphy,Jones,Byrne,Nolan,Wright,Togwell, Woolford,O'Connor,Thompson (Collins 77),Dagnall (Wright 90+2),Forte (Godden 81)
Subs Not Used: Slocombe, Mirfin, McClenahan, Cowan Hall
Booked: Yellow Card for Nolan
Goals: Woolford 14, Dagnall 84
Possession: 51% Burnley, 49% Scunthorpe (Source: BBC Sport)
Ref: Andy Woolmer (Northamptonshire)