Must Do Better, Must Have Better!
Saturday 6th August 2011 @3pm Kick-Off
It would of course be churlish to forecast the Clarets chances of promotion on the basis of one lacklustre performance and one poor result in this, our opening game of the season.
However a 2-2 draw against a very mediocre Watford side at Turf Moor did not instil much confidence at even this early stage of the season. It has to be said too if we continue to play like this for the rest of the season and do not strengthen in certain key areas by bringing in some proven, high-quality players then I am afraid it is going to be one very long season of struggle indeed with promotion looking but a distant dream.
Yes, one again you can pick out the positives. A great show of resilience by the Clarets for example to come from two goals down and rescue a point in the final quarter of the game and yes a very encouraging goal-scoring debut from Keith Treacy once he was let loose in the second half. However the first 70 minutes of this game, if I am honest was painful to watch against a club some think could be relegation candidates this season. Once again we seemed to lack width with both Elliott and Wallace at times looking below par. It is difficult to recall many telling crosses in the first half and even when our strikers did get the ball they seemed unable to make the pressure count with very few memorable attempts on goal.
At the other end Watford though took the game to the Clarets and we were punished. The 'Orns opened the scoring just on the stroke of half-time. A right wing cross from Sordell was flighted over for Forsyth to head home into the bottom corner of the net from six yards out. That was a body blow indeed and at the worst possible moment for the Clarets to concede just before the break! It got worse for Burnley in the second half. Martin Paterson had to be replaced by Charlie Austin at half-time. Clarets fans at the time may well have thought the substitution was simply to replace the ineffective forward after a less than impressive first 45 minutes. However, it would appear Pato did not feel 100% fit asking to be replaced at the break. Howe has since tried to reassure fans this was not a recurrence of the old persistent thigh injury that kept him sidelined for most of last season. Whatever the problem though it was serious enough for Howe to withdraw the player from Northern Ireland`s squad for their game on Wednesday night against the Faroe Islands in their Euro 2012 qualifier at Windsor Park.
The Hornets continued to defend strongly in the second half and we just could not find a way through on goal.
I guess the only saving grace at this point was that Chris Iwelumo had not been allowed to shine and score against his former club with Ben Mee once again keeping a tight rein on the Big Scot like he did last season when playing for Leicester. His chance to score evaporated on 68 minutes after being substituted.
Disaster though struck two minutes later in the 70th minute when Watford doubled their lead. Yeates efforts of the afternoon were rewarded when he drilled home a right-footed shot from 12 yards out to make the score 2-0. The Burnley players` heads began to fall and the Clarets fans were silenced fearing the worst but somehow we clawed our way back. It was Treacy who seemed to make all the difference. Signed from Preston only on Monday, he came on from the bench just past the hour mark and after the lads went 2-0 behind seemed to be stirred into action.
A shot by Treacy took a nice deflection off the face of Austin to make the score 2-1 in the 77th minute and give the long-suffering Clarets fans some hope at last. Austin may have preferred a more convincing goal to open his account for the Clarets but he claimed it none the less!
With just six minutes to go, Treacy also opened his account scoring a debutant goal from a header to level the scores. The Clarets tried their best in the remaining period of the game probably having their best spell all afternoon but that winning goal eluded them and in the end we had to be content with a disappointing draw.
Expectations before kick-off were high as they normally are for the opening game of a new season and Clarets fans had been wondering all week how we would line-up for our first match of 2011-12.
In the end there were few shocks although quite a few Clarets were perhaps surprised that Lee Grant got the nod in goal ahead of Brian Jensen. Clarets fans would also have to wait to see new signing, Keith Treacy. Reports were that he was still not fully match fit after signing from Preston and Howe decided to name him on the bench rather than risk him in the starting eleven.
With the new rules now allowing only five substitutes to be named on the bench there would be disappointment for established first-team players, Michael Duff and Brian Easton who both missed out. There would also be no place either for any of our young guns despite a number impressing in the pre-season friendlies Alex MacDonald, Wes Fletcher, Alex-Ray Harvey and the rest of the Development squad would all have to wait for their chance to shine. Both Manchester City loans, Ben Mee and Kieran Trippier were as expected named in the starting eleven thus making their full competitive debut for the Clarets.
In the end this was the sixteen selected by Howe:
Grant, Trippier, Fox, Amougou, Mee, McCann, Wallace, Marney, Rodriguez, Paterson, Elliott.
Subs: Jensen, Edgar, Bartley, Austin, Treacy
Just before kick-off we witnessed a fitting and emotional presentation on the pitch to Burnley`s best ever player, 79 year old, Jimmy McIlroy. He was presented with his MBE to rapturous applause from both sets of fans. Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire, Lord Shuttleworth KCVO, and the Queen`s representative in the county, accompanied by club chairman Barry Kilby, carried out the presentation following a citation from Deputy Lieutenant, Mr Peter Robinson OBE. The Lord was also an instant hit with the Burnley fans too after self-confessing to be a Clarets fanatic! But the day belonged to Jimmy Mac, a most humble and courteous man who turned down the chance to be presented with the award at Buckingham Palace, saying he did not want to disappoint any of his extended family
"Ever since I came here, the way the everyone has treated me, the club, the people of Burnley, the supporters, I just wanted to let them know that I appreciate what they have done for me" said the great man on a day that made me proud to be a Claret!
So how do you follow that? Well new captain, Chris McCann led out his team for the first time in front of an expectant crowd on a showery day in Burnley and at long last we would soon now see whether our pre-season preparations would come to fruition or not in this our first Championship challenge of the new season.
Watford were almost immediately on the offensive and Sordell should have done better with a pass into the penalty area well stocked with Hornets ready to pounce but somehow he misplaced it and the danger passed. Instead, the Clarets picked up on the mistake with a break of their own initiated by Dean Marney. He released Wallace who then unleashed a shot that was blocked by the Watford defence. The Clarets looked the most likely to score at this stage. Marney failed to capitalise on a defensive blunder by Hornets keeper, Scott Loach following a poor clearance and the 'Orns stopper was then further relieved to see Jay Rod`s attempted volley fly wide of target following a cross by Trippier. That was our best effort of the half to be honest and after that we seemed to take our foot off the accelerator and allow the Hornets to start buzzing around our heads. We did come close though from a free kick when Loach brought down Rodriguez after tripping him on the edge of the penalty area. Wallace`s effort though took a deflection and it looked like we would be going into the break with no side able to break the deadlock. Clarets fans were just getting used to the idea though when disaster struck on 45 minutes. Ross Jenkins cleverly released Sordell and the England U20 international got the better of Amougou (Bikey to you!) to get in a cross which Forsyth at the far post gratefully received to head home. It was 1-0 to Watford then at half-time after a very frustrating and lacklustre half from the Clarets.
Just the one change by Howe for the second-half and an enforced one at that. With Pato complaining of poor fitness and asking to be replaced, on came Charlie Austin. Austin was almost immediately into action.
Trippier again got in a good cross from the right flank and there was Austin ready to pounce in the six yard box. He made contact with his knee but the ball flew agonisingly wide of the post. Watford though were not ready to roll over just yet and began to press again forcing good saves by Grant at the feet of both Iwelumo and Yeates.
Rodriguez though also had a couple of good efforts during this spell. Fox found him with one pass but he dragged his shot wide before Wallace set him up for another attempt. This time though he could only lift his shot over the bar.
Eddie Howe decided to inject some fresh legs onto the scene with about 25 minutes still to play bringing on Keith Treacy to make his debut for the Clarets. He replaced a dejected looking Wade Elliott who clearly seemed miffed about being substituted refusing to shake hands with the gaffer.
The former Preston winger though was quickly into action thumping the ball towards goal. Loach could not hold the stinging attempt but there was nobody to take advantage of the rebound and the danger passed.
It looked like curtains for the Clarets though on 70 minutes when Watford doubled their lead. A flick-on seemed to bamboozle the Clarets defence although Mee got in a tackle to thwart Sordell. The ball though fell nicely to Yeates who charging forward kept his nerve to thump the ball past Grant.
Burnley though were not done yet despite most Clarets fans thinking it was almost certainly game over. With 13 minutes to play we reduced the arrears to make it 2-1 and all to play for. Trippier was again involved after being brought down and earning a free-kick. Wallace took it and found Treacy who let rip with a shot that took a deflection off the face of Austin to give everybody hope.
The team now looked invigorated with Treacy holding all the aces and it didn`t take long for the Republic of Ireland international to get a goal of his own. He had come close minutes earlier only to see Loach save his dipping volley but on 84 minutes it was time for the Hornets fans to sweat a little after we drew level thanks to a well-timed run by the former Rovers and Preston winger. He got on the end of a Wallace cross to powerful head home and ensure the Clarets would at least get something from their first match of the new season.
The title of this Match Report though in summary says it all if we are to get promotion this season-'Must Do Better, Must Have Better`
Burnley: Grant, Trippier, Amougou, Mee, Fox, McCann, Wallace, Marney, Elliott (Treacy 64), Rodriguez, Paterson (Austin 46),
Subs Not Used: Jensen, Edgar, Bartley
Goals: Austin 77, Treacy 84
Booked: Yellow Card for Amougou
Watford: Loach, Dickinson, Taylor, Mariappa, Doyley, Eustace, Yeates, Forsyth, Jenkins, Iwelumo (Deeney 68), Sordell
Subs Not Used: Gilmartin, Mirfin, Mingoia, Massey
Goals: Forsyth 45, Yeates 70
Booked: Yellow Card for Doyley
Ref: Mark Brown (East Yorkshire)
Possession: 59% Burnley, 41% Watford (Source: BBC Sports)
That would be difficult to justify really though since he missed the first 70 minutes. Mee was probably the best in the back four although I didn`t think Fox had too bad a game either especially in terms of his attacking runs. The artiste formerly known as Bikey also had a good, solid game despite picking up a booking. I need a dart to decide! I`ll go with Mee (just) but will put a photo of Austin up since he scored his first goal for the club at long last even though it was because he faced up to his task!! ;-) Hopefully that will be a boost to his confidence and he can now start to really impress up front.