Burnley Better Bluebirds But Still No Win!
Saturday 20th August 2011 @3pm Kick-Off
The Clarets are still looking for their first league win of the season after only managing a 1-1 draw against Cardiff City at Turf Moor on Saturday. Once again there were some positives to take from this match both in terms of the team and individual performances but let`s not get carried away. The Bluebirds looked a distinctly average team and were certainly missing key players in midfield. Burnley did boss them for long periods of this game though but once again we could not make the possession count and again we were incapable of keeping a clean sheet despite having gone ahead with just two minutes on the clock. An Earnshaw goal five minutes before half-time levelled things up for the Bluebirds and neither side could find the winning goal in the second half.
The result, although of course it is still early days after just three league games of the new season does leave us in a precarious situation. With just two points from a maximum nine, we are currently fourth from bottom, outside the relegation zone by just one place on goal difference over Watford. Only Coventry and Doncaster have so far got fewer points. It is certainly worrying despite some improvement on Saturday. It is crucial we get our first win on the board soon to restore confidence to both team and fans alike but the trouble is we now travel to high-flying Derby County for our next league game and they are currently in 2nd spot with maximum points from their opening three matches. They are just behind Southampton on goal difference by just one goal.
Of course many fans are pointing to the fact that we went five games without a win in our promotion season. That may be but lightning rarely (if ever) strikes twice and frankly to put a dampener on things there is absolutely no way at the moment in my opinion that the quality in this team or the experience in the side is better than our promotion season under Coyle. If we continue to play like this the best we can hope for is midtable mediocrity and I think that will be an achievement. You would expect nothing more from a side that Howe freely admits is in transition and being rebuilt. I just hope that we are not in a relegation battle because so far I have seen nothing that would rule out that possibility but then I never was one for rose-tinted spectacles and blind faith.
Clarets fans however were boosted in midweek with news of two new arrivals both in the striker department. Young 19 year old Danny Ings arrived on Monday from Bournemouth to be followed later in the week by West Ham striker, Zavon Hines. So what would our line-up be up front against Cardiff City and would Howe give any of his new lads a debut?
Howe had hinted all week that he would be tempted to ease Ings in gently so it came as no surprise when he wasn`t even mentioned in the sixteen. What we didn`t know though was that he wouldn`t have been selected anyway having picked up a serious cartilage injury during training. The grim news we found out after the game was that the luckless Ings would now be sidelined until early 2012 and that his knee would require surgery to fix the problem. I suspect that had Ings been enough fit to play, he would have been named on the bench along with Zavon Hines who was! The reason I think this was the fact that Alex MacDonald was named on the bench as another striker along with Hines suggesting Howe had intended to select two substitute strikers and had built his tactics around that option during the week before the injury to Ings struck. It was Charlie Austin, making a return to the starting eleven and Jay Rodriguez though who led the attack with Howe opting for 4-4-2.
Howe also made some further changes to the side that went down 2-0 to Palace at Selhurst Park a week earlier. There was yet another change to the centre of defence with Duff coming in to replace Amougou. The artiste formerly known as Bikey did not even make the sixteen. Conspiracy theorists started putting about the rumour that his car was not in the car park and that he might be off somewhere but this was categorically denied by Darren Bentley. The club`s media man 'tweeted` the news that he had been dropped purely for tactical reasons so that appeared to put pay to the speculation. Edgar who started last week`s game in midfield might have been hoping for a central defending role too but instead he had to be content with a place on the bench with Marney returning in midfield.
Wade Elliott also found himself back on the bench after a start inside midfield against Palace. Wallace and Treacy kept their place on the flanks and in summary we lined up as follows:
Grant, Trippier, Duff, Mee, Easton, Treacy, McCann, Marney, Wallace, Rodriguez, Austin
Subs Not Used: Jensen, Edgar, Elliott, MacDonald, Hines
Stoke referee, Tony Bates got the game underway on a bright and sunny but rain-threatening day in Burnley.
It was the Clarets who stormed out of the blocks and it was during this impressive opening spell that they took the lead with just two minutes on the clock leaving the Bluebirds shell-shocked and reeling. Our wingers were causing them all sorts of problems but it was Trippier who caused the greatest damage in this opening period. Charging down the flank from full-back position Trippier first left Taylor for standing and then got over a delectable cross that was perfectly weighted for Austin to head down past the keeper`s left hand to claim his third goal of the season.
The double act of Trippier and Austin then nearly made it 2-0. This time though Austin could only head the ball from Trippier`s cross wide of target. Burnley were buzzing at this stage playing some dazzling football, certainly their best so far all season. Austin was on fire and tried a stunning shot from 30 yards out. The Bluebirds keeper, David Marshall did not look at all confident as the ball whizzed towards him despite being successful in parrying the shot away.
The Clarets looked to be in complete control now but a sequence of bookings and bad tempered exchanges seemed to disrupt their concentration and we lost the momentum. Cardiff embarked on some dodgy challenges and suddenly found they had three of their defenders booked with McNaughton, Gerrard and Hudson all picking up yellow cards. Gerrard`s foul in particular and his reaction afterwards incensed the home crowd after he charged into Austin from behind with the ball going out of play. Mind you, we were lucky not to lose Marney after he came close to picking up a second yellow for a high tackle but at least we were giving both their full backs a torrid time.
Treacy, despite by Howe`s admission still not being fully match fit, looked impressive in the first half and in the 30th minute gave the hapless McNaughton the slip yet again to get in a low shot which agonisingly bobbled across the face of goal.
Cardiff though now seemed to be coming back into the game more and more and they were rewarded with five minutes of the half remaining. Taylor got over a cross to find Earnshaw who had been given far too much space in the box to control the ball and with his typical poaching skills the Welsh international shot home to level from eight yards out.
It was 1-1 then at half-time and Eddie Howe decided to make no changes for the start of the second half. Burnley again started strongly with Wallace skimming a shot just wide from distance. The Clarets continued to press in the second half with Wallace involved in a number of the attacking moves. A sublime cross from Wallace cross field found Treacy bearing down on goal. Taking the ball inside past McNaughton, he let rip with a shot that need an outstretched leg from Hudson to block the attempt.
Howe decided to freshen up proceedings just past the hour mark and on 65 minutes on came debutant, Zavon Hines to replace Charlie Austin. The Clarets though just could not get the breakthrough and Cardiff always looked a handful on the break. Hines though did look to have some pace and at times threatened the Bluebirds defence cutting in a number of times from a wide position before bearing down on goal.
Cardiff came close to nicking it though on a couple of occasions. Our former loan, Peter Whittingham attempted a long-distance shot putting the ball just wide and then Ben Mee had to come to our rescue heading away a dangerous looking attempt from Kenny Miller.
We should have stolen all three points though with eleven minutes to go after some nice work down the flank from Brain Easton. His sublime cross looked certain to be converted by Chris McCann but somehow he managed to put his downward header wide of target when it looked easier to score.
In the end Burnley had to be content with yet another disappointing point and their second consecutive one at home this season in the Championship. Yes, this was a much improved performance but no, it was not one that would give you much optimism that we could be on for promotion this season. In order to be confident of that, we would have to play like we did in the first 20 minutes of this game for a full 90 minutes and at the same time try and plug the gaps in defence. We have conceded in every game so far this season and we have to tighten up significantly in that department if we want anything other than an average season.
Burnley: Grant, Trippier, Duff, Mee, Easton, Treacy (Elliott 77), McCann, Marney, Wallace (MacDonald 84), Rodriguez, Austin (Hines 65)
Subs Not Used: Jensen, Edgar
Goal: Austin (2)
Booked: Yellow card for Marney
Cardiff: Marshall, McNaughton, Taylor, Hudson, Gerrard, Whittingham, Cowie, Conway, Miller, Earnshaw (Gestede 75), Mason (Blake 69)
Subs Not Used: Heaton, Keinan, Quinn
Goal: Earnshaw (40)
Booked: Yellow cards for McNaughton, Hudson, Gerrard and Miller
Possession: 55% Burnley, 45% Cardiff City
Ref: Tony Bates (Stoke)
One player who deserves a special mention is Michael Duff; he looked solid at times and seemed to be marshalling those around him something which perhaps Chris McCann should emulate as captain.
It was a really good cameo too from new striker Zavon Hines after he came on from the bench in the 65th minute to make his Clarets debut. I thought he looked sharp and full of pace offering something different up front. He seems to like charging in from the wing at times cutting in with determination and skill towards goal. Very impressed!
Our Star Player though surely has to be Charlie Austin. He continues to improve and looked on song in this game playing with grit, skill and determination. He scored his goal well after latching onto the Trippier cross and heading home with just two minutes on the clock. I thought he deserved to stay on to be honest in the second half. Jay Rod having a poor, lacklustre day up front should have been the one to be replaced in my opinion.