Shooting Stars 3 Damp Squibs 1
Saturday 5th November 2011 @3pm Kick-Off
On Saturday November 5th, Burnley returned from Ashton Gate needing a rocket up their proverbial after dismally and embarrassingly losing to second-from-bottom club, Bristol City 3-1. Keepng the Bonfire night analogy going, this performance confirmed there were no sparklers on display to enthuse about with any hopes of a spectacular display soon fizzling out after damp squib after damp squib failed to ignite.
It was of course tempting fate to mention before the match yesterday, the fact that Bristol City was the only team along with Bolton not to have won a home game so far this season The only consolation this morning is that Bolton & Owen Coyle are now carrying that torch alone unless they beat Stoke today at the Reebok.
This defeat follows on the back off the 3-1 loss to Leicester City at home on Tuesday night when another record fell after crowing we had not lost a night game in 28 league and cup matches, a record going back to December 2007. It has certainly been a miserable week for the Clarets after the highs of beating Blackpool at home and this defeat against the Robins means we slide down the table to 19th spot with just 18 points from 15 games.
The miserable result yesterday also means we will now go into the International break looking over our shoulder at the relegation drop-zone. It is now looming ever closer and handing three points on a plate to Bristol City allowed them to climb to third from bottom only five points behind the woeful Clarets albeit having played a game more.
These are desperate times for everybody at the club and if we continue being so consistently inconsistent our future could look bleak. On the evidence of the last two games, the worry is we become consistently poor and find ourselves in a relegation dog-fight. The question is who do we blame? Is it mainly the fault of the Board for their blatant underinvestment in players and determination to reduce the salary cap and squad size no matter what effect that has on our promotion or indeed survival chances? Could it be the manager, who is more-and-more being criticised for being inexperienced at this level and accused of making some strange tactical decisions? Indeed it might be both the Board and the manager we should criticise although to be honest the players too may have to look at themselves and question whether enough of them have the right mental attitude.
Our tactics certainly seemed wrong yesterday. Was it right to drop Amougou and move Mee back into the centre of defence just so we could accommodate a fit-again Easton at left back? The back four is crying out for experience but the most vocal, Michael Duff having recovered from injury was not even on the bench. The next best option was surely Amougou. Love him or hate him, he can chivvy up the back four and some have even suggested he should be captain despite those infamous Bikey moments! Wrong decision, Mr Howe to drop Amougou! It is as though the manager drops Amougou from the starting eleven at the first opportunity every time. It has been suggested by some fans that there is some friction between the two which would explain why Amougou always seems to get the short straw but that is surely wrong if we are dropping players that we need to provide some experience in the team. Yesterday`s result after yet another woeful display in defence proves the point.
You could also be critical about Howe`s tactics in terms of the formation too. No doubt mindful of Bristol City`s five men midfield, he elected to play Rodriguez out wide, put Wallace in the hole and leave Austin alone upfront. Everytime we have tried this sort of tactic, it has failed and failed miserably. Yesterday was no exception, so why do we keep trying it?
Bristol City dominated the first half and on the stroke of half-time took the lead with three minutes remaining. It was a killer blow really but one that once again exposed our sloppy defending. Debutant loan winger from Derby County, Stephen Pearson latched onto an Elliott header and unchallenged walked the ball into the net.
Clarets fans hopes though were raised just two minutes into the second half when we got the equaliser. It was that man Wallace again who scored to make it four in four games for the Scot. You have to go back six years for the last time a Clarets player managed to do that and it might surprise you to learn that it was Garreth O`Connor who was celebrating the achievement back then.
Bristol City though fought back after the goal and we never really looked like taking the lead. The chances of that evaporated in the 61st minute when Robins` substitute, Pitman who always seems to score against us made it 2-1 with our suspect defence once more having to take the blame after Maynard beat the offside trap. Maynard pulled back the ball but the Clarets were far too slow to react allowing Pearson to cross for Pitman inside the six yard box to thump the ball home.
It was curtains for the Clarets after the Robins increased their lead in the 73rd minute. Burnley`s gung ho attitude was punished again this time on the break. Bristol City counter-attacked at speed following a loose Wallace free-kick after Kilkenny pounced to find Adomah racing clear in acres of space. He shot home past Grant on the edge of the penalty area to make the final score 3-1 and give Eddie Howe a major headache ahead of the international break.
This performance and result is quite simply not good enough. We should not be giving away three points to a club that until yesterday had not won a home game and had only scored four goals at Ashton Gate all season. Quite simply these are worrying times and something will have to be done to try and rectify the situation. I just worry that once again we will sleepwalk into doing nothing and suffer the consequences.
Brian Easton, having recovered from his hip injury rightly or wrongly made an immediate return to the starting eleven reclaiming his left back position. This meant that Ben Mee having deputised well at left back in the past two games would replace Amougou in his more favoured position of centre back. Amougou would have to be content with bench-warming with many Clarets fans simply wondering what he had done so wrong to deserve being dropped. Michael Duff, who had just returned to the sixteen after a long absence with a knee injury, would be the centre back to miss out completely.
There were no further team changes to the sixteen that had lost out at home to Leicester City in midweek so we lined up as follows:
Grant, Trippier, Mee, Edgar, Easton, Wallace, McCann, Bartley, Stanislas, Rodriguez, Austin
Subs: Stewart, Amougou, Marney, Treacy, Hines
Although the team selection had few changes to Tuesday night, the tactics and formation were certainly different. Rodriguez was playing a wider role with Austin alone up front and Wallace in the 'hole` behind him. Why oh why, I do not know!! This was a formula that had failed time-and-time again and was about to do so again.
Full Match Report
Lincolnshire referee, Gary Sutton took charge of this clash in only his third Championship game. You would have to go back to 2006 for the last time this referee was in charge of a match involving the Clarets. At least that day, we won beating Barnsley 4-2 at home with Gifton Noel Williams scoring a famous hat-trick. Would that be a good omen? Well there was some link to 'The Omen` with the number of Clarets fans making the journey to the South West totaling 666. It would certainly not turn out to be a good omen though despite Clarets fans hoping it would be as the game got underway on a pleasant if cold day in Bristol.
Bristol City had the first chance on goal only for the ever-dangerous Maynard at full-stretch to put the ball just wide of target. The Clarets were then in action at the other end with Jay Rodriguez coming close with an attempted shot.
Easton may not have been everybody`s choice at left back but he got in a crucial covering tackle early on to deny Adomah. The Robins striker was closing in on goal after latching onto a lofted ball from Kilkenny before Easton intervened to save the day.
It was now end-to-end stuff. Austin and Jay Rod linked well in a clever one-two but Rodriguez could not get enough on his attempted shot and David James pushed the ball round the post. Cole Skuse then denied Austin after getting in a last-ditch tackle. At the other end, Grant on 30 minutes got down to save well from Adomah and then moments later pulled off a superb block after spreading himself wide to deny Stephen Pearson.
Bristol City by now were beginning to get the upper hand and Grant was virtually keeping the Clarets in the game. He came to their rescue again after diving to his left to deny Marvin Elliott following an attempted low drive.
The Clarets did still have their moments though especially when Austin pounced on a mistake by Skuse. Trippier had put over a long ball which Skuse failed to deal with setting up Austin. However the former Swindon striker could only shoot just wide of target.
If the Clarets were hoping to go into the break all square, the Robins had other ideas and they finally made their domination count three minutes before half-time. Elliott headed the ball down from a McGivern cross allowing Pearson to get a touch and shepherd the ball into the bottom corner of the net.
Eddie Howe decided to make no changes for the start of the second-half despite the Robins having the lion`s share of possession in the first 45 minutes. Whether the tactic was the right thing to do or not was soon answered three minutes later when out-of-the-blue, the Clarets equalised. A poor clearance by McGivern allowed Trippier to pounce and put the Robins` back four under pressure. The ball fell to Stanislas, who had been somewhat quiet up to now. The former West Ham winger though set-up Wallace with a pass and the Scot with a left-footed shot from ten yards out cleverly floated the ball over James into the roof of the net.
For a time Burnley looked to be on the rampage and gradually began to play their best football of the afternoon. The Robins though were always a threat despite some pressure from the Clarets at the other end. Grant had to punch away a shot by Adomah before disaster struck for the Clarets just past the hour mark. It was typical that once again, it would be our woeful defence that would be left wanting. They were far too slow to realise the danger posed by a Maynard pass pulled back to find Adomah. This time he mis-cued but with the Clarets defence ball-watching, Pearson pounced and was allowed to cross the ball to find Pitman ideally placed in the danger area He had the simple task of ramming the ball home from inside the six-yard box to give the Robins a 2-1 lead.
The Clarets tried to hit back immediately but Rodriguez`s header flew straight at James. It was now time for Plan B. In the 71st minute, Eddie Howe decided to bring on Treacy in place of the lacklustre Stanislas in an effort to inject some pace into our attack. However before the former Preston winger had time to touch the ball we were 3-1 down!
How many times have we conceded on the break this season? Probably too many to count but we can now add another to that list. This time it all came from a cleared free-kick by Wallace. At breathtaking speed, Bristol City charged forward with Kilkenny spotting Adomah on a run. Picking up the ball, Adomah raced clear to shoot past Grant from the edge of the penalty area.
It was effectively game over, with the Clarets once more having embarrassing egg on their faces.
Jay Rodriguez tried to reduce the arrears four minutes later but his shooting accuracy once more deserted him and his low drive flew wide. One final attempt by Treacy came in injury time but James was equal to it and saved his thumping shot.
That was it, 3-1 to Bristol City and the end of a miserable week for Clarets fans and Burnley Football Club. We now have two weeks to reflect on the disappointment of the last two games with Eddie Howe in particular having some hard thinking to do. Somehow we have to come back stronger and more determined after the international break before confidence really plummets and we get ever closer to the bottom three! Oh great what a time to be facing Leeds United in our next game at home on Saturday 19th November.
Bristol City: James, Fontaine, Nyatanga, McGivern, Elliott, Kilkenny, Skuse, Bolasie (Pitman 54), Adomah, Pearson (Cisse 72), Maynard (Woolford 82),
Subs Not Used: Gerken, Wilson
Goals: Pearson 42, Pitman 61, Adomah 73
Booked: Yellow card for Pitman
Burnley: Grant, Trippier, Edgar, Mee, Easton, Wallace, McCann (Hines 79), Bartley (Marney 86), Stanislas (Treacy 71), Rodriguez, Austin
Subs Not Used: Stewart, Amougou
Goal: Wallace 47
Booked: Yellow cards for Edgar and Wallace
Possession: 51% Bristol City, 49% Burnley (Source: BBC Sport)
Ref: Gary Sutton (Lincolnshire)
As for our defence, I don`t even think they are worthy of the name. What defence? If the club and Eddie Howe don`t do something quickly about our back four, it is going to be a torrid season for the Clarets if it isn`t already. Amougou is quite clearly out of favour with the manager despite probably being our best option at the moment. In many ways, we also need Michael Duff back in the centre, he might not be the world`s best defender but he can shout his way to victory and chivvy up the defence in no uncertain terms. If Howe is going to do neither then he simply has to stop making up excuses that he can`t find a better defender in the loan market.