Taking Pride from Pride Park in First Season Win
Saturday 27th August 2011 @3pm Kick-Off
The Clarets at last got their first league win of the 2011-12 season under their belt at their fourth attempt on Saturday thanks to a brace of goals from Charlie Austin. They travelled to Pride Park to play high-flying and undefeated Derby County and came away with a surprise 2-1 victory. I say surprise because many fans feared the worst in this match based on our recent form compared to the Rams. We went into the game with just two points from three Championship games after a couple of disappointing draws at home to Watford and Cardiff and a woeful display and defeat away to Crystal Palace. In particular our back four had been having a torrid time and even in the Carling Cup in the two games against League 2 opposition, Burton and Barnet at Turf Moor we had still managed to concede five goals in total.
Our defence has been a worry for some time. Indeed we have managed to keep only 14 clean sheets in the 99 games we have played since our Wembley victory and promotion to the Premier League. Our last one was actually 17 games ago! It was those statistics and the fact we had not kept a clean sheet at all this season that preyed on Clarets fans minds as we faced up to the Rams. That worry was made worse by the fact that Derby had got their season off to a flying start. Before this clash the Rams were in second spot just behind Southampton on goal difference by one goal having won all four of their Championship games. They had also conceded just one goal in the League giving our strikers food for thought ahead of the clash.
We need not have worried though because quite simply we took Derby by storm on a ground that has been kind to the Clarets in recent seasons. Indeed the last time we won away was against the Rams when we enjoyed a 4-2 victory against them at Pride Park back in April last season. This time though optimism and expectations were low but in true Burnley fashion when the chips are down they surprised many a fan by putting in an unexpected belter of a performance especially in defence with Edgar in particular having a superb game in partnership with Ben Mee. Burnley effectively dominated the first half but just could not get that breakthrough goal and went into the break with the score 0-0.
We worried the Rams manager so much though that he made two changes for the start of the second half. Jamie Ward, already on a yellow card must hate playing the Clarets. In the last two games against us he has been sent-off so maybe that was behind Nigel Clough`s thinking when he was replaced at half-time by Croft. Theo Robinson was the other sub to come on for the Rams replacing Steve Davies. The substitutes did seem to give Derby better shape but it was the Clarets who continued to impress and in the 49th minute our efforts were rewarded when Austin latched onto a Treacy cross to fire home. It had been a sign of our dominance and possession that Derby`s only meaningful attack at this stage had been an effort from Theo Robinson in the 48th minute just one minute before we took the lead. Brian Jensen had had little to do but the goal did stir the Rams into action and we suddenly started coming under the cosh. Frustratingly for the Clarets we caved into the pressure after defending deep for long spells. In the 74th minute, we ensured that the worrying statistics concerning lack of clean sheets continued when the Rams equalised. Theo Robinson did the damage after side-footing home a low cross from Craig Bryson.
That set the nerves a-jangling amongst the 600 Clarets fans or so who had made the journey to Pride Park but the nervous tension reverted to elation just three minutes later when the Clarets restored their lead in impressive style. A stinging attempt by Wallace from 25 yards out burnt the fingers of Rams keeper, Fielding and the loose ball fell nicely to Austin to slide home the ball into the bottom corner of the net.
Could we now hold on with the Rams now desperate to get the equaliser? Well the nerves were certainly not helped by the announcement that there would be seven minutes of added time but in the end we did hold on and if anything came the closest to getting another goal. The 2-1 victory saw the Clarets rise to 15th in the table with now five points from four games. These are early days but we are only three points behind 6th placed Cardiff having played a game less.
This was a very encouraging performance then after the heartaches of the earlier games this season. It was a comprehensive win in the end considering our dominance and indeed it could have been a win by a bigger margin bearing in mind we also hit the woodwork twice. The message seems to be clear though and that is we have to consistently perform as well as we did in defence against the Rams and the attack will look after itself. This finally gave me some confidence that we might at least not struggle to survive this season, especially if we can strengthen further before the transfer closes next Wednesday. The club are bullishly suggesting we could have another 2-3 signings in by then so let`s hope there are no last minute hitches.
Whether the team is good enough for promotion though is another matter but put it this way if we can consistently perform like we did against Derby on Saturday and also eventually get some clean sheets on the board, I don`t see why not. This was a good time to start winning considering we now have an International break coming up and hopefully we can now maintain this new found momentum when we play Middlesbrough at Turf Moor in our next game on Saturday 10th September. Come on You Clarets!
Full Match Report
Eddie Howe had made three changes to the team that seemed to make hard work of their 3-2 victory against Barnet in the Carling Cup clash at Turf Moor in midweek. One change was forced following the sad news that Michael Duff had picked up a knee injury that would keep him sidelined for 4-5 weeks. He limped off in the game against Barnet just before half-time and a scan later revealed he had sustained medial ligament damage in his knee. David Edgar got the nod ahead of Andre Amougou replacing Duff in the starting eleven with the Cameroon international having to be content with a place on the bench.
As expected, our captain Chris McCann returned to the team after coming on from the bench against Barnet. The biggest surprise perhaps was that Howe decided to drop Lee Grant and give Brian Jensen is first start of the season presumably conscious of the fact we had still to keep a clean sheet this season. That could be viewed by some fans as being a tadge harsh on Grant. He could not really be blamed for most of the goals conceded this season with the back four having to take their fair share of the blame. Nevertheless, Howe may have thought Jensen would give the back four additional confidence and I have always thought personally Jensen is the better bet. His size alone is an intimidating advantage and there is something magical that seems to take place when the fans can shout their famous 'Beastttttttttttttt`. That almost seems uplifting in itself and can motivate the team! There is not much to choose technically though between the two keepers and you would not describe either as outstanding. Grant though must be wondering now if Howe`s decision had been fair although the performance and result at Pride Park would tend to support the gaffer`s decision.
One amusing fact is that Jensen, now 36 put the average age up to 24 after being selected but whichever way you look at it we are indeed a very youthful side at the moment, although whether we have enough experience in the team now is a debate for another day.
Moving on then, in summary our team lined-up as follows:
Jensen, Trippier, Mee, Edgar, Easton, Wallace, McCann, Marney, Treacy, Rodriguez, Austin
Subs: Grant, Amougou, Elliott, MacDonald, Hines
Sunderland referee, Andy Haines got the game underway on a somewhat blustery day at Pride Park.
It was the Clarets who started this game the brighter and we could have taken lead after just four minutes play. Austin`s header though was just a little too close to Rams keeper, Frank Fielding. The Clarets though were buzzing and causing the Derby defence all sorts of problems in these early stages. Our wingmen in particular were slicing through the home side`s back four like butter. Both Treacy and Wallace also tried shots from distance and came close to opening the scoring for the Clarets.
Our best attempt though came in the 15th minute and it was the impressive Wallace who set-up the chance. His cross found Austin who looked to have glanced his header home until the ball frustratingly hit the post with the keeper well-beaten!
Jensen was having a pretty quiet time of things in the first half and the only meaningful thing he had to do was produce a routine save from Bryson. Derby had their moments but no real chances and the Clarets sensed the Rams frustration and grew in confidence by the minute.
The game became a little scrappy in the middle of the half not helped by the stop-start whistling from the referee with so many free-kicks being awarded but towards the end of the half the Clarets seeked once more to take advantage and again came close to breaking the deadlock.
A step-over by Wallace from a Trippier corner set-up Edgar to have a pot at goal but his shot was just wide of target. A mistake in defence by Brayford was then nearly punished by Austin who forced Fielding into a block after letting rip with a shot. Chris McCann looked to pick up the rebound but was then challenged in the box and fell to the ground amidst strong appeals for a penalty. The referee was having none of it though and the Clarets had to be content with a goalless first-half.
There is no doubt though which team had had the upper hand in the first 45 minutes and to some extent that forced Nigel Clough into making changes for the start of the second half with two substitutes coming on.
The tactic almost paid off immediately for the Rams. Substitute, Theo Robinson forced Jensen into an early save with the Beast getting his legs in the way to deny the 22 year old striker.
Burnley though responded well and looked determined not to fall behind. It was joy all round for the Clarets when they got the lead they richly deserved on 49 minutes. Keith Treacy, looking fitter and more effective by the minute beat Mark O`Brien on the by-line pulling the ball back for Austin to gratefully receive and thump home his first away goal of the season.
Austin nearly doubled the lead moments later after latching onto a great pass from Trippier in a game that was now fast becoming end-to-end with the Rams stirred into action at long last and desperately seeking an equaliser. It was frantic at times now. Ben Mee came to the rescue with a superb block on the goal-line to deny Jeff Hendrick. The Clarets then hit back again with Treacy this time charging forward to shoot on target from 12 yards out. Once again though the Clarets were denied by the woodwork and we would eventually suffer for our bad luck.
With 19 minutes of the match remaining the Clarets finally buckled under pressure and had a momentary lapse of concentration in defence allowing Robinson to poke home John Brayford's driven cross from close range to make the score 1-1. Once again then we had failed to keep a clean sheet with questions asked of the defence.
However though at least this time we showed some resilience to fight back quickly and within three minutes we had once more put our noses in front.
David Edgar was the architect this time. He laid off a great pass to Rodriguez who found the buzzing Ross Wallace scenting a goal from 25 yards out. His stinging shot certainly stung the hands of Rams keeper, Fielding who failed to keep hold of the ball. Austin was in the ideal place to take advantage of the rebound and he was the quickest off the mark to pick up the loose ball sliding it home into the bottom corner of the net to score his brace and his fifth goal since joining the Clarets.
The Rams were not going to give up just yet though and the Beast came to our rescue almost immediately after we had retaken the lead. Jensen pulled off a great save to deny Bryson by tipping the ball over the bar with Clarets fans once more breathing a sigh of relief.
The nerves would have been steadied though if Austin could have secured his hat-trick moments later. This time though he should have done better firing over after Rodriguez had pulled the ball back for him to shoot.
Amougou replaced Austin in the 85th minute so the hat-trick would elude the striker but Howe was at least trying to shore up the defence and protect Brian Easton in particular. Amougou seemed to be playing in front of the back-four at times but the tactic appeared to be working despite some pressure from the Rams.
Clarets fans nerves continued though when it was announced that a total of seven minutes added time would have to be played out.
In the end though we held on and indeed could have increased our lead in added time. Fielding managed to tip a McCann shot over the bar before Marney was also denied by the Rams keeper in the dying seconds of the match. Phew, what a game and more importantly what a victory against all the odds and predictions of defeat! Have a rest fellow Clarets and then bring on the Boro!
Derby: Fielding, Brayford, Shackell, O'Brien, Bryson, Bailey, B Davies, Hendrick, Kilbane, S Davies (Robinson 46), Ward (Croft 46)
Subs Not Used: Legzdins, Roberts, Maguire
Goal: Robinson 71
Booked: Yellow card for Ward
Burnley: Jensen, Trippier, Mee, Edgar, Easton, Wallace (Elliott 82), McCann, Marney, Treacy (MacDonald 90+2), Rodriguez, Austin (Amougou 85)
Subs Not Used: Grant, Hines
Goals: Austin 49, 74
Booked: Yellow card for Mee
Possession: 52% Derby, 48% Burnley (Source: BBC Sport)
Ref: Andy Haines (Sunderland)
It would be easy to give the Star Player award to Charlie Austin for his superb brace. The striker is beginning to make an impression at long last following his unfortunate shoulder injury and could soon become a fans favourite if he isn`t already.
A special mention must also go to Ross Wallace, who seems a much improved player this season. He was giving the veteran 34 year old defender, Kevin Kilbane a torrid time all afternoon and got in some telling crosses
However the day has to belong to Edgar when so much was expected of the back four. He really made his mark and it was fitting that on the same day it was announced he had got another call-up to the Canadian national squad.