Barnsley Chops Woeful Burnley Down
Tuesday 18th October 2011 @7:45pm Kick-Off
The Clarets were woeful again last night against poor opposition, this time losing 2-0 away to Barnsley. We had problems in every area of the park in this game and never really looked like getting anything against the Tykes. Oakwell has certainly been a bogey ground for the Clarets over the years but any hope of repeating last season`s victory here, the first since 1932 quickly evaporated with the Clarets seemingly 'not at the races` and struggling to find any sort of form.
This too let`s not forget was against a team with an injury list as long as your arm and a team that has not exactly set the Championship world alight for many a season including this one.
We should easily beat clubs like this if we are to have any hopes of promotion this season but on the basis of this performance at this rate we are going to be heading in the opposite direction fighting to avoid relegation. The defeat sees the Clarets drop to 17th and although we still have that game in hand away to Birmingham, we are now just three points clear of the drop zone with another away game to look forward to this Saturday against Coventry City. This is now rapidly becoming a 'must win` game if only to restore some confidence before the tricky Carling Cup 4th round clash away to Cardiff next Tuesday night. We do not want to be in the position of having lost three successive away games on the bounce before we play local rivals, Blackpool at Turf Moor a week on Saturday.
The inconsistency in this team at the moment is crippling. We know they can play well from the three games before the international break but somehow their form changes from one extreme to the other far too often for no apparent reason. The same starting eleven and sixteen have now been selected for the last five games and yet the same players have gone from excellent to very poor in the space of two weeks! It is all so frustrating and depressing. The problem is even if Howe makes changes for the visit to the Ricoh Arena this Saturday, do we really have enough quality and depth in the squad to make any difference?
What is happening to our club? The euphoria of the Premier League promotion was followed by the heartache of relegation but that was still not enough to press the panic button. Clarets fans were still convinced that the parachute money would save us and allow us to compete with most teams in the division by bringing in some high-quality players. Brian Laws may not have instilled much confidence after we lost the charismatic, highly motivational, Owen Coyle but to be fair to him, I think at the moment we did play consistently better under Laws at times than we have so far under Eddie Howe. Howe though may have had his hands tied thanks to a less than ambitious Board, especially this season. Some of us said that you can`t decimate the squad to such an extent and not rebuild with high quality and experienced players whilst expecting the young lads to perform miracles and gain promotion. The writing looked to be on the wall and the sort of results and performances against the likes of Barnsley seems to emphasize the problems we face. Some Clarets fans now see this as a season for consolidation for a team in 'transition`; some are even content with the situation believing we can push for nirvana maybe next season. My fear is that the nirvana, if we are not careful will be seeking promotion back to the Championship! I don`t really want to sound so negative but hand-on-heart some of the performances of late and earlier in the season suggest it will be a season of struggle to say the least.
It is hard to believe we were ever a Premier League club but we shall have to see how we are performing about Christmas time. Promotion looks a distant dream at the moment and we are already eight points adrift of the 6th spot. The biggest fear is that we will still be struggling at the wrong end of the table come the festive season. If we are, it won`t be very festive, if yet again the Board do nothing and still refuse to release the purse strings in the January window. How much lip service is this club prepared to put the fans through before they decide to take some calculated risks and show some damn ambition? Conversely, how much will the fans take before their anger is converted into action against the Board? Can we afford any more excuses and a shed load of 'band-aid` and sticking plasters? What will their excuses be if they spend nowt and we finish up playing Preston in League 1 next season?
Let`s hope it doesn`t come to that and we can turn our season round. It seems a simple task to get this team playing with consistency and confidence considering we know how well they can perform despite the deficiencies in the squad quality and quantity. Eddie Howe really has to prove he can turn this round; he has to earn his spurs because I sense at the moment that fans could be prepared to turn against him if results do not start to improve.
Anyway that`s for the future; let`s return to the dismalness of last night at Oakwell
On this performance and the previous one, it is clear we urgently need to strengthen this team in the back four and probably elsewhere. We simply need a high-quality centre back and left back but all we are hearing from Howe at the moment are excuses that he can`t find the right quality of loan defender. On this evidence it is hard to believe that we can`t find someone better than the current lot in the back four! Someone at the club needs to get a grip before it`s too late.
Defence is not the only area to give concern. Another big question to ask is where was the midfield last night? Question marks must be raised as to the effectiveness of Chris McCann as captain. By anybody`s standards, he is a 'quiet` skipper and you just wonder if the responsibility is so much to bear that it is affecting his play. There is nobody in the team with the experience to raise spirits or conversely 'kick some ass` when needed. This has to be addressed and soon or it could be curtains! Marvin Bartley has been the only one recently to raise his game in midfield and show some energy and drive. Even that deserted him last night!
So problems in defence and midfield but the attack too failed to click last night. What possessed Howe to play Rodriguez wide last night and Wallace in the centre behind Austin? Well, it didn`t work but at least Howe decided to return back to normality for the second half and play 4-4-2. Just a pity that Plan B didn`t work either! Austin may as well not have been on the pitch to be honest and any hope that Stanislas might begin to make his mark out on the flank quickly evaporated with the equally ineffective replacement, Keith Treacy also not at the races.
The Clarets had some chances to be honest but they were somewhat rare and in the end we were killed off by a goal in each half. In the 21st minute, Butterfield put the Tykes in front tapping home from close range and in the second half substitute Vaz Te slotted home Andy Gray's pass with nine minutes of the game remaining.
Just where do we go from here? Well I guess the Ricoh Arena on Saturday! Coventry are another struggling team currently two places and one point behind the Clarets. It goes without saying that we will now be desperate to win this one. We simply have to get three points so we can restore some confidence, start to climb back up the table and get away from the relegation zone. Come on Eddie, prove your worth!
It is perhaps typical that with no further injuries or suspensions to worry about, Eddie Howe chose to keep faith in the same starting eleven and sixteen for the fifth game running. It was certainly a gamble considering our very poor performance in our previous game at home to Reading last Saturday.
In summary then we lined up as follows:
Grant, Trippier, Edgar, Amougou, Easton, Wallace McCann, Bartley, Stanislas, Rodriguez, Austin
Subs: Stewart, Mee, Marney, Treacy, Hines
Although the same players were named there was however a change in tactics for the start of this game. For some reason, Eddie Howe decided to play Wallace in a more central attacking midfield role electing to play Rodriguez out in a wider position with Austin alone up front. Would the change in formation work? We were about to find out!
Full Match Report
Both Kieran Trippier and Jay Rodriguez were making a return to the club they used to play for on-loan last night and two former Clarets players were also in the Barnsley side, defender Stephen Foster and striker Andy Gray.
Bolton referee, Lee Mason got the game underway in front of a lowly 9692 crowd. 965 Clarets fans had crossed the Pennines for this one and they would soon find out if the journey was worth it.
The Clarets started brightly enough and Wallace was desperately unlucky not to give Burnley an early lead. The Tykes could only half-clear a Trippier cross giving Wallace the chance to thump the ball home from the edge of the penalty area. His powerful shot looked certain to cross the line before Barnsley defender; Rob Edwards blocked the attempt on the line.
At this stage of the game, we looked good going forward with Trippier in particular keen to make an impression down the flank against his former club. After the first 10 minutes of play though we began to lose our way with Barnsley now beginning to get in the game and starting to expose our weakness in defence. Andy Gray was getting involved and becoming more of a threat and O`Brien was giving Easton a torrid time down the flank. It was as though Barnsley had done their homework and realised left back was our weakness. It proved to be correct with Easton clearly struggling. They began to carve us up and find gaps in our back four to exploit. We simply could not get out of our own half as the pressure mounted.
With 19 minutes played the Tykes were awarded a corner. From the corner, which was taken by Butterfield, Jimmy McNulty got up but could only put his header just wide.
Two minutes later though, Burnley were one nil down. Craig Davies latched onto an O`Brien cross heading the ball downwards into the path of the impressive Butterfield and he made no mistake with his shot poking the ball home from six yards out.
Burney tried to respond immediately and it was almost 1-1 after Rodriguez drived in a shot that dipped before unluckily hitting the crossbar.
We had our odd moments in attack but it was the defence that was letting us down time and time again. The centre of defence simply turned off at times looking far too hesitant whilst our midfield seemed clueless leaving the attack chasing shadows for most of the first half. Had the Tykes been more accurate with their shooting, we could have been killed off before the half-time whistle.
Five minutes before the break, Barnsley nearly doubled their lead. A fierce shot by Drinkwater from a free kick left Grant with only one option to try and parry the ball away. Grant`s parrying is infamous and it nearly led to disaster again. Both Gray and Edwards chased towards the loose ball and it needed both Grant and Edgar to block the danger.
Eddie Howe made no changes for the second half except to revert back to the more orthodox 4-4-2 by moving Rodriguez up front to partner Austin and allowing Wallace to become a winger again!
Burnley had an early opportunity to restore some dignity and equalise. Austin had a rare chance to make an impression with two minutes of the second half played. His first attempt though was blocked by McNulty and he could only produce a follow-up shot that flew into the side netting.
Barnsley though once again now began to take control and put the Clarets on the back foot. In a hectic spell we were lucky to survive with the Tykes in total command. In a one-on-one with just the keeper to beat, Davies fluffed his attempt before Grant did well to save a well-hit drive from Butterfield. Davies then had a second chance to make amends for his earlier miss. This time Gray flicked the ball behind our defence to find the former Chesterfield striker in acres of space and not offside. This time though he hooked his shot wide and the Clarets could once more breathe a sigh of relief.
The Clarets again had their moments and the match was becoming quite open. You just sensed there was another goal to come in this game and Burnley nearly got it when Wallace thumped in a long range effort which Steele saved at full stretch. Our best chance came shortly after. Steele came charging out to deny Bartley but the clearance fell to McCann who from 50 yards out could spot the open goal and attempted a shot which in the end was only inches wide and had the keeper scrambling back and throwing himself across the goal but failing to connect.
Wallace also had a penalty shout waved away when he was brought down by McNulty with 18 minutes remaining.
This was probably our best spell of the game but there was always the danger with our dodgy defence that the Tykes would catch us out on the break and so it would prove when they doubled their lead on 81 minutes.
Wiseman picked out a hesitant looking ball that got the better of Edgar and there was a thankful Gray to pounce and feed the unmarked Vaz Te who fired the ball past Lee Grant into the bottom corner of the net.
Both Austin and Rodriguez came close to reducing the arrears with long-range efforts that flew wide but it was all a little too late as the Clarets went down to their second defeat in four days. A major headache therefore for Eddie Howe as the Clarets fans who had braved this War of the Roses clash made their weary way home. This was a miserable night on so many levels and one both frustrating and worrying.
Barnsley: Steele, Edwards, Foster, Wiseman, McNulty, Doyle, O'Brien, Butterfield, Drinkwater, Davies (Vaz Te 74)
Subs Not Used: Preece, Addison, Stones, Park
Goals: Butterfield 21, Vaz Te 81
Booked: Yellow card for Gray
Burnley: Grant, Trippier, Edgar, Amougou, Easton, Wallace (Hines 87), McCann, Bartley, Stanislas (Treacy 68), Rodriguez, Austin
Subs Not Used: Stewart, Mee, Marney
Possession: 55% Barnsley, 45% Burnley (Source: BBC Sport)
Ref: Lee Mason (Lancashire)
So problems in defence, problems in midfield and let`s be honest even in attack we have not been delivering. Charlie Austin was dreadful last night and Jay Rod at times looked totally disinterested although that might have been because Howe chose to play him in a wider role in the first half. At least he changed tactics in the second half after realising Jay Rod was a striker for gawds` sake!! How do I give out a Star Player award on the basis of that shambolic performance? I was tempted not to bother but a quick trawl of other match rating threads suggests that Jay Rodriguez should get the award but let`s not get excited. An average rating of 6 with some scoring JayRod as low as 4 is not exactly a 'Star` performance more a 'Black Hole`!