Disappointing Draw Makes Mountain Steeper
Easter Monday 25th April 2011 @3pm Kick-Off
The Clarets could only muster a 1-1 draw against Portsmouth at Turf Moor on Easter Monday and it would take somewhat of a miracle now to achieve the play-offs. You can never, say never, but we are now in 8th spot two points behind 6th placed club Nottingham Forest with just two games left to play. Forest on the same number of points as Burnley before the Easter Monday fixtures annoyingly beat Bristol City 3-2 at Ashton Gate. The only result that went our way was the 1-0 home win by Crystal Palace against Leeds. The Yorkshire outfit drop to 9th, one point behind the Clarets setting up a pot boiler of a game on Saturday with Burnley the visitors to Elland Road. Burnley now have another problem too after Millwall picked up three points following their 2-1 win on the road against Scunthorpe. The Lions have a vastly superior goal difference and are now in 7th on the same number of points as the Clarets.
Even if we won our last two games, we are now relying on both Forest and Millwall dropping points in their last two games.
The fixtures remaining are as follows:
Leeds United (A) Saturday 30th April (Kick-Off-12:45pm)
Cardiff City (H) Saturday 7th May (Kick-Off-12:45pm)
Swansea City (H) Saturday 30th April (Kick-Off-3pm)
Barnsley (A) Saturday 7th May (Kick-Off-12:45pm)
Scunthorpe United (H) Saturday 30th April (Kick-Off-3pm)
Crystal Palace (A) Saturday 7th May (Kick-Off-12:45pm)
Burnley (H) Saturday 30th April (Kick-Off-12:45pm)
QPR (A) Saturday 7th May (Kick-Off-12:45pm)
Burnley`s mission looks impossible but all we can do is try and win both our last two games and see what happens.
We badly needed three points against Portsmouth and many fans will have felt let down by the performance. In many ways this was typical Burnley after a run of three great games to put us within a sniff finally of that sixth placed spot.
Every time we have had a chance this season to make our mark and get into the play-offs positions, we seem to have dropped points in disappointing fashion. The Easter Monday game was no exception!
Steve Cotterill clearly came with a defensive plan to frustrate Burnley and it paid off but to be honest we should have raised our game more in view of its importance instead of looking lacklustre and generally undepar. Our crossing was woeful on too many occasions with our attack struggling to make any mark.
Eddie Howe selected the same starting eleven that had lined-up in the previous game against Derby at Pride Park for the Pompey clash with just one change on the bench. Marvin Bartley returned following completion of his three-match suspension to replace David Edgar.
We therefore lined up as follows:
Jensen, Mears, Duff, Bikey, Fox, Eagles, Cork, McCann, Elliott, Rodriguez, Iwelumo
Subs: Grant, Carlisle, Alexander, Bartley, Wallace, Delfouneso, Thompson
Jensen was making his 300th appearance for the Clarets whilst for Chris McCann this was his first appearance at Turf Moor in the first team since September 2009.
This was also 'Graham Alexander Day` and to celebrate his recent 1000th career appearance, Grezza was given a guard of honour by both sides as he came out onto the pitch to rapturous applause and ovation from both sets of fans.
Our former gaffer, Steve Cotterill was also given some polite applause as he walked to the Portsmouth dugout and of course our former loan striker, David Nugent was also making a return lining up against his former colleagues.
East Yorkshire referee, Carl Boyeson got the game underway on a sunny, warm day in Burnley
Burnley got off to a sluggish start and maybe their exertions in the stifling heat at Pride Park on the Saturday were now beginning to take their toll because they looked somewhat jaded and hesitant in these opening minutes. Our first attack did not really come until the 15th minute, when on a quick break, Jay Rodriguez headed wide from an Eagles cross.
Eagles then attempted a shot from distance but his volley flew wide before Elliott attempted a header from a Cork cross. The ball though flew straight at Pompey keeper, Jamie Ashdown who saved at full stretch.
The Clarets had not really tested the keeper fully until Chris McCann unleashed a shot following a blistering run close on the half-hour mark. Ashdown though saved the danger and he was there again to thwart Danny Fox after blocking his attempt from the follow-up.
Pompey continued to frustrate the Clarets in defence whilst creating little chances themselves. Jensen had little to do and the only real effort he needed to deal with in the first half came from a Nugent header which he easily mopped up.
McCann was impressive in only his second game this season following his return against Derby at the weekend and he came close to scoring just before half-time but put his shot just wide.
Burnley then appealed for a penalty for handball after Joel Ward appeared to get the top of his arm in the way of an Eagles header. It wasn`t to be though and the score remained goalless at half-time. In truth although we had by far the greater possession in the first forty five minutes we just could not make the pressure count and to be honest we let Pompey off the hook.
The Clarets made no changes for the start of the second half and for a time we looked a lot brighter putting Pompey under pressure in the penalty area. Cross after cross came over but none of them really looked threatening enough to break the deadlock.
12 minutes into the second half and Pompey took the lead despite the early pressure from the Clarets. What made it worse for Clarets fans was the fact that the goal-scorer was David Nugent, our popular former loan striker. He certainly wasn`t popular after that!
Kanu set-up the danger finding Nugent with a square pass. Nugent then thumped home the ball from just outside the penalty area into the top corner of the net to make it 1-0 Pompey and bring that sickly feeing to the entire home crowd.
Eddie Howe acted quickly and with McCann now visibly tiring brought on Delfouneso to replace him whilst adding more weight up front to try and get the equaliser. Many Clarets fans thought Thompson might have been a better bet but what do we know?
The Clarets though now upped the ante desperate to draw level. Elliott picking up a threaded ball from Rodriguez forcing Ashdown into half-parrying the ball away before Iwelumo failed to head home an Eagles cross from just six yards out. Burnley were trying but it just wasn`t happening.
The game looked to be out of our reach with crosses time and time again going astray and attempts failing to hit target but with 15 minutes to go a little bit of class from Eagles brought the Clarets level. Mears and Eagles linked well in the build up before the former Manchester United winger unleashed a left footed angled shot that drove into the top corner of the net. Wade Elliott may also have got the faintest of touches to the ball with his head as it sailed towards target but it looks like Eagles is claiming it.
Pompey now resorted to time-wasting tactics and had two players booked including their keeper for their actions. This though was Steve Cotterill`s team and we know how he can get his teams to dig deep defensively and frustrate the opposition by grinding out results, something perhaps we should have done last year in the Premier League. They certainly did that to us in this game and we had no real answer to the problem
Delfouneso just can`t seem to impress and with Iwelumo also failing to deliver in recent games our strike force up front continues to look underpar. Thompson had replaced Iwelumo on 68 minutes but he too seemed to fade into the background. 'The Fonz` had one good chance to put the Clarets ahead but his shot from a tight angle went straight at the keeper.
With four minutes to go, our slim hopes of reaching the play-offs looked doomed after Nugent was put clean through on goal. Somehow Jensen, who may know a thing or two about Nugent`s weaknesses, got down to smother the ball at his feet.
The frustrating time-wasting tactics from Pompey virtually added five minutes of extra time but with Burnley desperate to find the winning goal it was perhaps inevitable that Portsmouth would look dangerous on the break. They seemed most likely to score in added time but the Clarets had one final last attempt when Wallace put over a cross that was cleared off the line by Greg Halford who managed to get his head to the ball.
That was it a hugely disappointing result and as the final whistle brought to an end an extremely frustrating afternoon all subdued Clarets fans could do was to contemplate a miracle starting with victory at Elland Road next Saturday.
Burnley: Jensen, Mears, Duff, Bikey (Wallace 87), Fox, Cork, Elliott, McCann (Delfouneso 59), Eagles, Iwelumo (Thompson 68), Rodriguez
Subs Not Used: Grant, Alexander, Carlisle, Bartley
Goal: Eagles 74
Portsmouth: Ashdown, Halford, De Laet (Dickinson 76), Hreidarsson, Ward, Mokoena, Mullins, Hogg (Webber 79), Cotterill, Nugent (Ciftci 90+1), Kanu
Subs Not Used: Flahavan (only fours subs named)
Goal: Nugent 57
Booked: Yellow Cards for Ashdown, Hreidarsson, Cotterill
Possession: 53% Burnley, 47% Portsmouth (Source: BBC Sport)
Ref: Carl Boyeson (East Yorkshire)