Date:Sunday May 1 2011
Saturday 30th April 2011 @12:45pm Kick-Off
Burnley`s play offs dreams are over following a 1-0 defeat to Leeds at Elland Road on Saturday. Chairman, Barry Kilby earlier in the season admitted if we did not reach the play-offs it would be viewed as failure by the club. So we have failed and if yesterday`s performance is anything to go by, it is quite clear why we have not taken the Championship by storm this season. That is despite being one of the clubs tipped for automatic promotion at the start of 2010-11 following a season in the Premier League. We can try and blame the Board for lack of investment, especially last year when we had the chance to stay up in the Premier League, and we can try and blame the manager, first Brian Laws and now maybe even Eddie Howe but yesterday you simply had to blame the players. These players we were constantly told this season were good enough to get us promoted but after a very frustrating and inconsistent season you will be hard put to find one Clarets fan who heart-on-heart really felt that was true during any part of the season. We had our moments and our good runs especially under Howe but we also had our slumps always failing to take advantage at crucial times it seemed when we were within a sniff of getting into the top six. Yesterday`s game was a typical example.
In all honesty we were outplayed and outclassed by Leeds United who started this match one point behind the Clarets. Both sides needed a win to keep their slim hopes alive of finishing 6th and reaching the play-offs. So who fought the most with so much at stake? Well, it wasn`t the Clarets and that is why yesterday`s result was doubly disappointing. We just did not seem to have enough passion and determination to make our mark and to be honest we were lucky to escape with only a 1-0 defeat. You always know there has been a problem when your best player on the pitch is your goalkeeper. We were pummelled at times and but for some great saves by the Beast and some wayward shooting as well by the Leeds strike force, the score could have been an embarrassment.
Leeds had belief and indeed their victory still gives them a slim chance of being in the play-offs despite Nottingham Forest thumping relegated Scunthorpe United 5-1 at home. They are in seventh spot three points behind Forest in 6th but with a six goal inferior goal difference. They have to hope Crystal Palace can beat Forest at Selhurst Park next Saturday by a margin of three goals or more whilst they beat confirmed Champions, QPR by an equal score at Loftus Road! It`s not going to happen is it? The annoying thing for the Clarets though with Millwall also losing 2-0 at home to Swansea is that had we won at Leeds we would only have been two points behind Forest going into the final game of the season. We would have overtaken them and been in the play-offs had we then won against Cardiff at Turf Moor next Saturday and Forest had lost to Palace.
So clutching at straws has been the norm in these latter stages and even now there is still one huge straw to cling onto! If we beat Cardiff on Saturday we will finish the season on 70 points and if Millwall lose or draw with QPR also beating Leeds we could finish in 7th spot. QPR already confirmed champions would finish the season on 91 points if they beat Leeds at Loftus Road. Where is this leading you may ask? Well QPR of course are sweating on a the outcome of a Football Association hearing on Tuesday regarding the 2009 signing of midfielder Alejandro Faurlin and the breaking of third-party ownership rules. There is a chance of a points deduction but how many is anybody`s guess. All Clarets fans will have to hope its 22 points or more! I told you it was a huge straw to cling too! I know, I wish I hadn`t mentioned it either!
Let`s be honest though, the Clarets do not really deserve promotion do they? There have been far too many dismal and lacklustre performances from Burnley this season. They have just not delivered in the key games and seem to have bottled it every time we could have made significant progress.
It would have been nice to come away from Leeds in the bright sunshine with our play-offs hopes still intact or at least have come away defeated knowing we had tried our best and looked up for it. Sadly neither happened in this early 12:45 pm kick-off game changed from 3pm to pamper the wishes of Sky Sports. Not many Clarets who travelled to Elland Road and also recorded the match will want to watch it again at home that`s for sure.
Eddie Howe made no changes to the side that could only muster a draw at home to Pompey on Easter Monday.
So we lined up as follows:
Jensen, Mears, Duff, Bikey, Fox, Elliott, Cork, McCann, Eagles, Iwelumo, Rodriguez
Subs: Grant, Carlisle, Bartley, Alexander, Wallace, Delfouneso, Thompson
Kent referee, Phil Crossley got the game underway on a hot, sunny afternoon in front of a tension-filled sell-out crowd.
Leeds came out with all guns blazing and soon put the Clarets on the back-foot in the early stages of the match. Billy Paynter came close with an attempt from just outside the box but his drive skidded away to safety.
Michael Duff given the Captain`s role was looking solid in defence soaking up a lot of the pressure and driving his men forward. He then though drove himself forward almost putting the Clarets 1-0 up after 18 minutes.
Tyrone Mears put over a free-kick into the danger area. Iwelumo rose to head the ball but seemed to be challenged unfairly in the box falling to the ground in a flattened heap. Duff continued on though picking up the ball to get in a volley from close-range which Leeds keeper, Kasper Schmeichel did well to smother.
Eagles cleverly cut-in to let rip with a 25 yard blast that flew over the bar with the Clarets briefly now threatening to impose themselves on the game. Leeds though stifled our play and looked dangerous on the break.
Jensen was equal to a shot from long-range by Max Gradel before coming to the Clarets rescue again keeping out a downward header from Paynter.
The Leeds pressure paid off in the 33rd minute though. Bradley Johnson put Ross McCormack clear with a through ball and the former Cardiff City striker slotted home past Jensen to score his first goal of the season!
Burnley almost drew level 60 seconds later when Bikey got in a header from a Fox corner which flew just wide of target but it would be 1-0 Leeds at half-time. The Clarets knew they had been pummelled in the first half and now had just 45 minutes to find that extra spark to save their season.
The Leeds goal though was a blow that the Clarets never really recovered from. The comeback kings this time never really looked like scoring in the second-half and that was the biggest disappointment for Clarets fans.
The writing was on the wall early in the second half when the Clarets could have been 3-0 down in the space of a minute. Paynter should have got more force behind a header but he could only direct it tamely towards Jensen. He was then put clear by Kilkenny and should have shot but he decided instead to try and round the keeper running out of space before putting the ball into the side netting.
The game was developing into a bad tempered affair now and on the hour mark all hell broke loose after a fracas involving both sides. Chris McCann got in a high challenge on Gradel and the Leeds players overreacted with Burnley responding. There was lots of pushing and shoving with the officials trying to break them up and in the end three names went into the book; McCann for the original foul plus Kilkenny and Lichaj for being silly beggars and overreacting to the foul.
Eventually the free-kick was taken with Jensen easily keeping out the headed attempt from O`Brien but it would prove a busy day for the referee. By the end of the game 8 players, four from each side would have picked up yellow cards.
Leeds though continued to pile on the pressure and once more we had to thank Jensen for keeping the score within touching distance. McCormack thought he had doubled Leeds advantage only to see the Beast get his finger-tips to the ball in a stunning save to deny him his brace.
Burnley`s opportunities in the second half were few and far between. Cork got in one decent effort from 25 yards out only to see the ball fly inches wide over the top corner of the net.
Eddie Howe had to do something to try and get back into the game and on 64 minutes he sacrificed a midfielder (Chris McCann) bringing on striker, Nathan Delfouneso but it had little effect. In fact one wonders why Iwelumo had not been replaced, he was having a shocker of a game but Howe stuck with him until the 79th minute before bringing on Steven Thompson. Clarets fans had been shouting Thommo`s name in vain for most of the second half after being totally frustrated by Iwelumo`s lack of ability.
Howe had also replaced Duff in the 74th minute bringing on Wallace to add some sparkle on the wing. The move though also meant we had to drop Cork back into the centre of defence whilst at the same time making ourselves vulnerable to the counter-attack.
Jensen again came to our rescue after a Leeds break led to Howson getting in a good attempt which brought out an equally good save. McCormack then dragged a shot wide as Leeds piled on the pressure in the dying minutes.
The response from Burnley seemed to finally kick-in but it was all to be honest a little too late. Wallace came close from a free-kick but his dipping shot was saved in spectacular fashion by Schmeichel. Elliott then got in a shot from a corner but it was blocked leading to a goalmouth scramble with Burnley failing to get that final all-important touch.
The fourth official then announced five minutes of added time. Five minutes for Burnley to save their season and keep their play-offs dreams alive. It may as well have been 50!
So a disappointing end to a disappointing season. All we can do now is regroup and look forward to a rebuilding programme in the summer. We certainly need one, we need to freshen up the team and get rid of some of the deadwood. Eddie Howe needs to stamp his authority and build his own team before we can judge him.
I just make one plea to Barry Kilby. By your own admission, not reaching the play-offs has been a failure, so now you have to prove we really have gone down stronger and that means digging deep and releasing the purse strings so we can bring in enough players of the right quality to mount a proper challenge for promotion next season. Do not let this club drift back into mid-table mediocrity again with the parachute payments rapidly drying up and gate revenues falling. You can only take so much of pleading poverty and the longer we stay down the more folk will realise what a missed opportunity it was last season in the Premier League.
Leeds: Schmeichel, Naylor, Lichaj, McCartney, O'Brien, Gradel (Watt 89), Kilkenny, Howson, Johnson, Paynter (Snodgrass 76), McCormack (Bromby 90+3)
Subs Not Used: Higgs, Connolly, Bruce, Livermore
Goal: McCormack 33
Booked: Yellow Cards for Naylor, Kilkenny, Lichaj and Johnson
Burnley: Jensen, Mears, Duff (Wallace 74), Bikey, Fox, Cork, Elliott, McCann (Delfouneso 63), Eagles, Iwelumo (Thompson 78), Rodriguez
Subs Not Used: Grant, Alexander, Carlisle, Bartley
Booked: Yellow Cards for Duff, Rodriguez, McCann and Bikey
Possession: 58% Leeds United, 42% Burnley
Ref: Phil Crossley (Kent)
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Date:Sunday May 1 2011
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