Defeat, Despair and Denial at St Andrews
Tuesday 22nd November 2011 @7:45pm Kick-Off
Burnley suffered their fourth consecutive defeat last night going down 2-1 to Birmingham City at St Andrews. Once again it was a last minute goal that denied the Clarets a point, Brum winger, Chris Burke slotting home the winner in the first minute of added time.
I predicted a tonking for this game and thank god I got that wrong but to be honest how the Clarets did not go into the break 2 or 3 nil down is somewhat of a miracle. Burnley were 1-0 down after just 2 minutes when Jean Beausejour in Brum`s first attack of the game reacted quickest to rifle home a rebound after Burnley goalkeeper Lee Grant had turned the ball onto his own bar. The Clarets were at sixes and sevens for most of the first half and struggled to mount any meaningful attacks. We didn`t even get our first corner until the 44th minute. Their wingers were tearing us apart and for the first 25 minutes or so our defence was really under the cosh, looking fragile, nervous and hesitant. Birmingham created a number of chances and we rode our luck at times but a defensive blunder by Edgar looked certain to give them a 2 goal lead just before half-time. Marlon King just eight yards out in front of an open goal somehow fluffed his shot to give himself a chance of becoming a candidate for the 'Miss of the Season` competition! I dread to think what might have happened, had that gone in, probably that tonking I predicted but at least we had survived the first half and could now regroup.
Whatever Eddie Howe said to his ramshackle team at half-time seemed to work and we came out looking much brighter. Within 4 minutes we had equalised. Brum defender, Curtis Davies headed clear from a Wallace corner but the ball fell straight to Bartley and he volleyed home past Myhill with the help of a deflection.
Birmingham however responded well to our equaliser and began to play their best spell of the game. We were under more and more pressure desperate to hold on and get a valuable point. We almost succeeded too, but when you`re down, the luck runs out and so it would prove again. One minute into added time, Murphy charged forward to put over a low cross for Burke to thump the ball home and make it another miserable outing for the heartbroken Clarets fans.
Things are now getting desperate for the Clarets and surely it is time for the Board to take a reality check and stop being in denial. The team as it stands at the moment is clearly not good enough and if we are not careful we could lose our Championship status. That would be a disaster considering where we were three seasons ago having become a top flight club for the first time in 33 years. Having lost our game in hand, we are now just two points and one place off the drop zone. If resurgent third-from-bottom club, Bristol City can somehow defeat league leaders, Southampton at Ashton Gate on Saturday and we lose to 6th placed Hull City at the KC Stadium, Burnley will be in the bottom three. How can we have fallen to this perilous state in just three seasons from being candidates for an instant return to the Premier League to now being threatened with relegation to League 1? Someone has to be accountable for this mess and someone has to be responsible and do something about it before it`s too late. This is an awful time to be a Clarets fan and not something I was expecting after that glorious victory at Wembley back In May 2009.
Eddie made two changes to the eighteen selected for the previous game at home to Leeds. Ross Wallace returned to the starting eleven after recovering from his hamstring injury and lined up on the right flank with Keith Treacy on the left. Junior Stanislas was dropped back to the bench. Charlie Austin of course was sidelined after suffering a dislocated shoulder for the third time in 14 months in the game on Saturday. New loan signing, Sam Vokes who deputised for Austin after coming on from the bench in the 30th minute against Leeds made his first start for the club partnering Jay Rodriguez up front in a basic 4-4-2 formation.
In summary then our line-up was as follows:
Grant, Trippier, Duff, Edgar, Easton, Wallace, McCann, Bartley, Treacy, Rodriguez, Vokes
Subs: Stewart, Amougou, Marney, Stanislas, Hines
Full Match Report
West Yorkshire referee, Robert Madley being fast-tracked for the Premier League was the man in charge; the first time he had refereed a game involving the Clarets.
If Clarets fans were hoping for a positive response following the disappointing defeat at home to Leeds on Saturday, they would soon have those hopes dashed. Arguably, Burnley did not play that badly at the weekend and had to endure quite a bit of bad luck including that last minute goal which sealed all three points for Leeds in their 2-1 victory.
Surely if we continued to play like we had on Saturday though our luck might change against Brum. Well it might have done, had the same team turned up and put in a similar performance but their confidence was rattled within 2 minutes after going 1-0 behind and to be honest they never really looked like recovering from that early shock for the rest of the half.
Brum took the lead from their first attack of the night after Chris Burke played a one-two with Marlon Burke and found himself with just Lee Grant to beat. Grant was equal to the shot forcing the ball onto the bar. Chilean international winger. Jean Beausejour though pounced quickly to unleash an angled shot which sailed into the roof of the net to put Brum 1-0 up with just two minutes on the clock. A disastrous start then for the Clarets and the pressure would now increase.
Birmingham`s forward movement was sublime with both wingers playing havoc with our defence. We just couldn`t seem to handle them and if anyone was going to score the next goal, it certainly didn`t look like Burnley. The Clarets had no answer and offered nothing in attack.
Burke would have got his brace but for a poor first touch following an excellent ball over the top from Stephen Carr. If Burnley needed any evidence of how good defenders should be, they only needed to look at their former centre back, Steven Caldwell now of course playing for the Blues. He snuffed out virtually everything we chucked at him which wasn`t very much and you would have thought we might have tested his area of weakness more i.e pace! Instead it was easy peasy for our former skipper and he got up and won virtually every ball in the air.
All the threats were now coming from Brum and 6ft 7" tall Serbian international striker, Nikola Žigić was always going to be a handful based on size alone especially if the ball got remotely anywhere near his head! With 25 minutes on the clock, he was left unmarked from a free-kick taken by David Murphy. Luckily for the Clarets, his header was not that accurate and the ball flew over the top of the bar. That should have been 2-0 but if that was a let off it was nothing compared to what happened ten minutes later.
It all came again from a defensive blunder. Edgar should have walloped the ball into Row Z but instead got caught out messing about and was robbed by Žigić. His square pass found King in acres of space in front of an open goal. All he had to do was thump the ball home from eight yards out but for some reason he decided to side foot the ball and put it wide! Unbelievable miss but it kept us in the game!
Eddie Howe resisted making any changes for the start of the second half but his pep talk at least seemed to have the desired effect and we looked much brighter in the early stages of the second half quickly earning a corner which sadly came to nothing. We looked particularly effective now down the right with Wallace and Trippier linking well. Could we though get an equaliser against a side that had only conceded two goals at home all season? The answer was yes and it came just four minutes into the second-half.
Wallace from a free kick thumped the ball into the wall for a corner. Treacy took the corner and there was Wallace to have another go. The ball this time was cleared by the Brum defence but it fell nicely to Marvin Bartley who was ready to pounce just outside the penalty area. He lip rip with a thumping volley that looked to be on target even before the ball took a deflection into the roof of the net.
Any hope that the equaliser might have stirred the Clarets on to look for a winner soon evaporated with Birmingham looking determined to regain the lead and once again starting to dominate possession and put Burnley under considerable pressure.
We now had to survive Birmingham`s best spell of the game. A fierce shot from Fahey flew just over the bar and the Clarets once more breathed a sigh of relief. Burnley were at least defending a bit better now and looked sharper in midfield. On the hour mark though, Howe made his first change surprisingly bringing off captain, Chris McCann and bringing on Dean Marney. The change appeared tactical rather than an injury concern but either way, Michaela Duff now wore the captain`s armband. Marney was soon injured himself and there were doubts he would stay on the pitch but eventually he seemed to shrug it off and continued to play on.
Žigić got in a downward header from a cross by substitute, Redmond but again it was off target and Burnley had survived again.
In the 88th minute, Howe decided to replace Treacy and bring on Amougou in a more defensive midfield role. Any hope we could hold on with additional defensive cover would be destroyed one minute into added time when Brum got the winner breaking all Clarets fans hearts. Burke slotted home a David Murphy cross in the 91st minute to lift the Blues to eighth in the table and plunge the Clarets ever closer to the drop zone
Birmingham City: Myhill, Carr, Murphy, Caldwell, Davies, Burke, Beausejour (Redmond 69), Fahey, Spector, King (Wood 88), Zigic
Subs Not Used: Doyle, Pablo, Elliott
Goals: Beausejour 2, Burke 90+1
Booked: Yellow card for Murphy
Burnley: Grant, Trippier, Duff, Edgar, Easton, Wallace, McCann (Marney 59), Bartley, Treacy (Amougou 88), Rodriguez, Vokes
Goal: Bartley 49
Booked: Yellow card for Easton
Subs Not Used: Stewart, Stanislas, Hines
Possession: 54% Birmingham City, 46% Burnley (Source: BBC Sport)
Ref: Robert Madley (West Yorkshire)
It is rare to give plaudits out to our defenders, but to me Michael Duff gave 100% and was commanding in the back-four. On balance he gets our 'Star Player` award.