Clarets Derby Delight Double Trouble for Preston!
Saturday 26th February 2011 @ 3pm Kick-Off
The Clarets sudden improvement in away form continued in the Lancashire M65 derby yesterday. Burnley secured a rare win at Deepdale coming from a goal behind to beat the Lilywhites 2-1 and secure a valuable three points in our promotion battle.
Burnley can now celebrate a double over our local rivals this season after beating them 4-3 in a thriller at Turf Moor back in September. The victory also keeps our promotion hopes alive whilst at the same time making bottom club Preston`s task of avoiding relegation almost impossible. They are now 11 points adrift of fourth from bottom club, Crystal Palace, the club we play at Turf Moor next Saturday.
The victory propels the Clarets into eighth place, but crucially with two games in hand over sixth placed club, Leeds United we are now just four points behind the Yorkshire club. It is now firmly game on, with the Clarets on a League run of good form at exactly at the right time. We have kicked our problem winning away firmly into touch and have not lost a Championship game now in four matches.
We have had a remarkable spell over recent games since the arrival of new gaffer, Eddie Howe in January. The change in the FA Cup fixture against West Ham to a Monday night though wreaked havoc with two scheduled home games in February having to be put back until later in the season. This meant we have had to play four away games on the trot including the FA Cup 5th round tie at the Boleyn Ground. There was some concern that we could have lost both momentum and confidence had we not picked up enough points in the February away games. We need not have worried!
Putting aside the 5-1 drubbing at West Ham (and even that score line flattered the Hammers), we have picked up points in all the three Championship games on the road. Winning away to Watford and Preston and securing a well-earned point at high-flying Cardiff has kept the Clarets in contention for a play-offs place. We now just need to keep our winning streak going and keep the pressure on our promotion rivals.
Beating Preston always gives Clarets fans satisfaction, beating them at Deepdale is just the icing on the cake after so many disappointments there in recent seasons. No jammy penalties for the Nobbers this time, no last minute winners for the Lilywhites. The club really are in dire straits and look certain to be heading for League One football next season with no money to dig them out of a hole. Do we care or should we feel sorry for them? Oh stuff 'em! They have had their pound of flesh against us over the seasons. Now they can suffer for a change. New Preston manager, Phil Brown according to some reports turned down the Clarets because Preston sounded more desperate to sign him. Other reports suggest Phil Brown was simply rejected by the Clarets Board. One person who must be laughing now though is Eddie Howe and virtually the whole Clarets community must now be laughing at Phil Brown & Preston! I suppose should we fail to get promotion, playing the likes of Preston are Leeds are crucial to our financial stability in a sense and of course these battles are always good for the fans so it would be sad to see Preston drop down a division just like Leeds a few seasons back in that respect. But not many tears will be shed and of course the victory, whilst condemning Preston to likely relegation also gives the Clarets new found hope of Premier League football next season.
Most Clarets fans now have one thought at the back of their mind. Had the Board had more balls earlier in the season and sacked Brian Laws before they did, would we now be a strong contender for automatic promotion let alone a play-offs spot?
The stats speak for themselves don`t they? With virtually the same squad, Eddie Howe now has the Clarets playing with a new found confidence and our away form is testament to that. Just one away win under Laws all season (Barnsley) now reads four away wins after Howe whipped the Clarets into shape to beat Portsmouth, Watford and now Preston! Even high-flying Cardiff could not beat the Clarets on their home soil under the tenureship of Eddie Howe!
Why did the Clarets board ever set on Brian Laws? One day they will listen to the fans and next time make sure they don`t employ a damp squib ever again just for the sake of saving a few quid.
Anyway enough of all that, let`s return to the day all Clarets fans thoroughly enjoyed for a change at Deepdale.
Eddie Howe decided to select the same team that had fought so hard to reap a well-earned point at the Cardiff City Stadium earlier this month.
We therefore lined up as follows:
Grant, Mears, Duff, Carlisle, Fox, Cork, Marney, Wallace, Eagles, Iwelumo, Rodriguez
Subs: Jensen, Bikey, Alexander, Elliott, Bartley, Austin, Thompson
Clarets fans were perhaps quietly confident ahead of the game in the light of the Lilywhites lowly predicament in the Championship but at the same time we were all hesitant knowing the luck Preston have had against Burnley in previous seasons at Deepdale. There was also the 5-1 FA Cup defeat at West Ham in our last game at the back of our minds. Would that mauling have affected confidence despite the result being somewhat less indicative of our actual performance at the Boleyn Ground? We would soon find out!
Howard Webb (Rotherham) was the referee in charge of this one and as the game got underway it was clear this match would follow traditional derby lines with both sides going hell for leather without managing to get a breakthrough for the first 20 minutes or so of this clash. It was not a pretty performance for the neutral but the importance of this game was not lost on either side.
The Clarets were solid without being exciting and that would follow for most of the game with Preston somehow enjoying the Lion`s share of possession. I did not agree with the final figures that BBC Sport came up with suggesting Preston had 68% of the possession by the end of the game. Certainly watching the match from the Stands (and we stood the whole time!), I did not feel Preston had such dominance and even if they did, it makes you realise how bad they must be if they couldn`t make it count!
Anyway, Preston fired a couple of early shots across our bows with both Nicholson and Ashbee getting in shots thankfully wide of the target.
The Clarets had not really tested the keeper before we found ourselves 1-0 down after 23 minutes. Coutts pounced in midfield and picked out a good pass to find Nicholson. The in-form Preston attacking midfielder found a gap that left the Burnley defence wanting and unleashed a shot with his first touch that got the better of Grant to put the Lilywhites 1-0 up. His third goal then in as many matches and a sickener for al Clarets fans!
Preston may have hoped they could now go on and win their first game since December and their first under new gaffer, Phil Brown but they had not banked on Burnley`s resilience and determination to spoil their party. The Clarets got a new lease of life after the Preston opener and nine minutes later were level.
Eagles and Iwelumo first linked well before the former Manchester United winger found Rodriguez with a pass. Our new England Under 21 international then rifled in a clinical, low shot with just the keeper to beat. He beat him easily to make it 1-1 sending the Clarets faithful delirious.
Rodriguez now had the bit between his teeth and could have helped give the Clarets the lead before the end of the first 45 minutes. He linked well to set up Eagles but the shot went wide and as the first half came to a close you just sensed this could be Burnley`s day after all.
Burnley came out determined to get their noses in front at the start of the second half and it was Rodriguez again who nearly gave the Clarets the lead they deserved. He got in a volley that took a deflection but the ball sadly went wide.
The importance of this result began to affect the technical areas after Eagles dazzling his way into the penalty area appeared to be brought down by Ashbee as he advanced towards goal. Webb had to step in and calm things down after speaking to both benches.
Just over the hour mark, it was Rodriguez again who nearly put our noses in front following a cross from Eagles but he could only head wide in front of a packed-out, fully sold out away end!
Elliott came on after 69 minutes to try and spice things up with former Preston winger, Ross Wallace given a hard time by the home contingent having to give way. Preston too had tried to go for broke by first bringing on Ian Hume after 61 minutes and then Eddie Johnson with 21 minutes to play.
With 20 minutes to go though it was Nicholson who nearly wreaked havoc trying to get his second goal for Preston. On the break, he fired at Grant but thankfully the keeper dealt with the danger.
Eagles then nearly took advantage from an error by St.Ledger but it came to nothing and the game now looked to be heading for a certain draw. The Clarets though had other ideas with Cork and Elliott the architects. A pin-point accurate pass from Cork found Elliott and the sub charged down the flank to get over a cross. Cork had by now advanced into the danger area and there he was to throw himself onto the ball and head home from a few yards out with just six minutes still left to play.
Clarets fans shall we say were now ecstatic (you don`t say!) but we still had a few minutes to see out and it was sweaty to say the least when five minutes of added time was announced by the fourth official. It seemed to take double that time before the referee finally blew for time but we held on to make it a great day out for all Clarets fans
Preston: Turner, Morgan, St. Ledger, Gray, Jones, Coutts (Hume 61), Nicholson, Treacy (Carter 82), Ashbee, Ellington, Clarke (Johnson 69)
Subs Not Used: Lonergan, Wright, Parry, Hayes
Booked: Yellow Card for Hume
Goal: Nicholson 23
Burnley: Grant, Mears, Duff, Carlisle, Fox, Cork, Marney, Wallace (Elliott 69), Eagles (Alexander 88), Iwelumo (Austin 81), Rodriguez
Subs Not Used: Jensen, Bikey, Bartley, Thompson
Goals: Rodriguez 32, Cork 84
Possession: Preston 68%, Burnley 32% (Source: BBC Sport)
Ref: Howard Webb (Rotherham)