Stalemate at Glanford Park
Saturday 22nd January 2011 @5:20pm Kick-Off
Eddie Howe`s first game in charge as the new Burnley gaffer perhaps didn`t quite have the happy ending we were all praying for but we had a damn good try and in the end came away with a point after a 0-0 draw at Glanford Park against Scunthorpe United. The result meant that we had now kept two clean sheets in a row but had also failed to score as well.
This in many ways was a frustrating game despite our defence holding firm, our midfield creating chances and our attack having numerous attempts on goal especially in the second half. In general it was a very good team performance on a difficult pitch. Had we not been so wayward in our shooting and been better in the final third, it could have been a very different story.
Our normal passing game though was hampered by a poor pitch which was soft under foot causing problems for both sides in a match that could hardly be described as classic. The neutrals watching this late kick-off game live on Sky Sports may well have fallen asleep in this one although the Clarets tried their best in the second-half to raise the tempo putting the Iron under sustained pressure and having by far the greater possession (56% in fact)
Burnley, after the results from the earlier normal 3pm Kick-off games in the Championship were known had slipped two places to 12th spot before the start of this clash which kicked-off at 5:20pm.
That was not lost on the Sky Sports commentary team which included Robbie Blake. You could tell Blake was trying to be diplomatic about Brian Laws but was failing dismally. He thought Howe would put a smile back on the Burnley players` faces suggesting all was not well under Laws. It was clear too that 12th spot was a sign of underachieving after a season in the top flight.
In his pre-match interview on Sky, Howe said he thought it would be a tight game on a surface that was not too great. He hoped his players would take the game to Scunthorpe in a positive way.
Eddie Howe made just two changes from the side that faced QPR at home in our last game managed by caretaker manager, Stuart Gray.
Dean Marney replaced captain, Graham Alexander who returned to the bench and there was a start for Ross Wallace. Howe decided to start with a 4-3-3 formation with just Jay Rodriguez up front supported by Eagles and Wallace on the flanks. Chris Iwelumo therefore had to be content with a place on the bench.
In summary then we lined up as follows:
Grant, Mears, Duff, Carlisle Fox, Eagles, Cork, Marney, Elliott, Wallace, Rodriguez
Subs: Jensen, Bikey, Edgar, Easton, Alexander, Iwelumo, Thompson
Scunthorpe had a number of injury problems before this game. Republic of Ireland international keeper, Joe Murphy was out injured and was replaced by Josh Lillis. Four other players were making debuts or home debuts. Left back, Andy Hughes was in the team after only just signing from Leeds on a free transfer on the Friday before the game. On-loan Manchester City midfielder, Abdisalam Ibrahim was also in the starting eleven along with defender Paul Reid recently signed from Colchester and winger, Mark Duffy who arrived at Glanford Park only last week from Morecambe. With Scunthorpe second from bottom in the Championship and having the league`s worst home form, the enforced changes to their team gave Clarets fans even greater hope and expectation.
Hertfordshire, referee, Grant Hegley got the game underway and if Howe was looking for a positive start from the Clarets he certainly got one. We looked to be in control for the first few minutes of the game with Eagles in particular causing problems for the Iron defence. However Scunthorpe eventually responded and began to put the Clarets under pressure with a few early corners and attacking moves. Lee Grant made an early hash of things flapping about and Wade Elliott, making his 450th career appearance came to the Clarets rescue having to head a Togwell effort off the line. Clarke Carlisle got in a crucial tackle to then deny Forte before Grant made amends for his earlier lapse by saving a long-range shot from the lively Togwell after diving low to his left.
The game now became a very scrappy affair with few chances for either side. Burnley simply lacked quality and couldn`t seem to get their full-backs forward. The Clarets got bogged down in midfield with the pitch not helping their passing game. Both defences were now easily snuffing out any attacking moves which were few and far between. Our few attacks seemed to break down in the final third but on 33 minutes we finally had a real chance to break the deadlock.
A corner from Wallace eventually skidded over to Eagles but he could only lift his shot over the bar from 12 yards out.
A subtle change in tactics to a more pseudo 4-4-2 formation saw Eagles take on a more central role with Elliott going out on the flank. Eagles was certainly now in the thick of things and at this stage was our liveliest player. His shooting touch though was deserting him but his best chance came when he burst into the box and got in a shot that Lillis did well to save.
Scunthorpe had shown very little in the first 45 minutes but looked to catch us out on the break at every opportunity and it nearly paid off when ten minutes before half-time, Martyn Woolford forced Grant into a save.
The game had not been a dirty match by any means and Grant Hegley, not renowned for handing out cards had kept things under control although Fox had picked up a yellow on 35 minutes for a foul. Michael Duff though was lucky to still be on the pitch when in full view of the referee; he got in a bad-looking waist high challenge that amazingly went completely unpunished. Duff didn`t even need to have attempted a challenge since the referee had already blown for a Burnley free-kick.
Clarke Carlisle also picked up a painful knee injury during the first 45 minutes but after treatment he soldiered on for the remainder of the half which remained goalless. Carlisle later admitted he had carried on based on the adrenaline rush alone but realised he couldn`t continue when the injury tightened up in the dressing room at half-time. He was replaced by Andre Bikey for the start of the second half but that was the only change Howe made.
The Clarets defence continued in the same vein allowing the Iron only limited opportunities to break the deadlock. Bikey seamlessly took over the role that Carlisle had done excellently in the first half to continue to frustrate the home side. The Iron had to resort to long-range efforts which rarely challenged Grant and the back-four although Woolford on the hour mark put a swinging shot just wide of target.
Two minutes later, Rodriguez came close to giving the Clarets the lead after picking up a long ball from Duff. Controlling the ball well and running towards goal, Jay Rod could only put his shot wide from 20 years out after being put under pressure by Iron defender, Reid.
It was now time for Eddie Howe to make a change in an effort to step up a gear. On came Iwelumo to partner Rodriguez up front. Wallace was the player to make way, with both Eagles and Elliott now taking on the role of wide-men down the flanks. It was an inspired substitution as the Clarets now began an onslaught on the Scunthorpe goal that made the home side look nervous for the rest of the game.
Almost instantly, Iwelumo was in action. A cross from Eagles to the near post found the head of Iwelumo. In his first touch since coming on, he headed on target and would have scored had the post not got in the way. The relentless Clarets pressure though now continued
It was just one of those days for Eagles and it was summed up when a curling effort from him was heading for the top corner of the net before Lillis intervened to gather the ball and save the danger.
Iwelumo too was causing the Iron defence all sorts of problems and he seemed to be able to do anything but score. He failed to score after chesting down a great ball from Jack Cork and then stretched to get in a shot which Lillis parried away.
You just sensed it wasn`t going to be our day despite now being in complete control and enjoying the lion`s share of possession.
We continued to be frustrated though when a Marney shot was deflected wide and then a swerving shot from Eagles was denied by Lillis after he somehow managed to keep the ball out.
That was it, a goalless result for the second time in succession following the 0-0 against QPR at Turf Moor a week earlier. It was not a perfect start then for the new management team, but at least lowly Scunthorpe did not get the double over us.
The result leaves the Clarets frustratingly just out of reach of the play-offs promotion chasers. They are now in 11th spot, six points behind the sixth placed club who are now Nottingham Forest and Forest also have a game in hand over us. Other clubs in the top six though could be catchable with Burnley having games in hand over them. They really, really do though now have to start winning away and putting a run together. Their hectic January schedule is followed by an equally hectic February with nine games to play between now and the end of next month. The results from those games could make or break our season, especially with five of those matches being played away and with the Clarets still only having one away victory to their credit all season.
Come on we can do this with Eddie at the helm!
Scunthorpe: Lillis, Raynes, Reid, Wright, Togwell, Woolford, Hughes, Ibrahim, Duffy (Nolan 84), Dagnall (Grant 71), Forte (Godden 88)
Subs Not Used: Slocombe, Mirfin, Wright, Collins
Burnley: Grant, Mears, Duff, Carlisle (Bikey 46), Fox, Eagles, Cork, Marney, Elliott, Wallace (Iwelumo 62), Rodriguez
Subs Not Used: Jensen, Alexander, Edgar, Easton, Thompson
Booked: Yellow card for Fox
Possession: 44% Scunthorpe, 56% Burnley (Source: BBC Sport)
Attempts on Goal: Scunthorpe 9 (6 on target), Burnley 19 (12 on target)
Ref: Grant Hegley (Hertfordshire)
Chris Eagles tried his best and was certainly in the thick of things, especially in the first half but he simply had an off day in terms of his timing and accuracy in his shooting attempts. He also faded somewhat in the second half. The Clarets looked in far better shape when they brought on Chris Iwelumo and moved to 4-4-2. Iwelumo caused the Iron back-four all sorts of problems and probably had the best chances to score during our sustained pressure in the second-half. He was unlucky that the post got in the way of one of his headed attempts on goal.
Jack Cork quietly got on with things in the engine room and looked his usual impressive self. He was a strong candidate for our Star player award but I thought one of other midfielders shaded this one. Step forward, Wade Elliott! He tore the Iron defence to shreds and they simply couldn`t handle him.