Pompey Defeat Brings Back Despair and Doubt!
Saturday 10th December 2011 @3pm Kick-Off
Oh groan, just when you think it`s safe to go back in the water on the back of three great consecutive wins we turn in a shocker again at home against yet another average side. The Clarets were quite frankly woeful against Portsmouth. Pompey were hardly much better themselves to be honest but they still managed to snatch a late winner in added time and secure all three points in a 1-0 victory. It just so happened this was their first away win in 10 months and of course it had to be Burnley who gave them the opportunity to put their awful record to bed. Did we deserve to lose to such a late winner? Well, some think a draw would have been a fairer result based on two average teams struggling for most of the game to make any impression but in the cool light of day, Pompey were probably the better team on balance. We only have ourselves to blame for not being able to rescue at least a point from this dire, poor spectacle of a game.
The tactics seemed all wrong in this game. Hoofing the ball upfront in the hope Vokes might get on the end of it, seemed pointless with such a tall, centre back line. The two centre backs mopped up the danger for most of the afternoon and our passing game fell apart, if indeed it ever got going! The partnership between Mee and Stanislas was non-existent and the former West Ham winger struggled all afternoon to make any sort of impression with at times woeful, almost laughable passing (or lack of it!)
This is exactly the sort of result coming on the back of such a convincing win away to high-flying West Ham last Saturday that convinces you that the best we can hope for this season is a midtable finish. Everybody was on such a high following the great result in East London last weekend, not to mention the comeback against Hull the previous Saturday and the 4-0 tonking of Ipswich in the midweek game. Three consecutive wins and just six points off the play-offs before the Pompey clash. Wow, what a contrast to the doom & despondency at 2-0 down at the KC Stadium with the drop-zone beckoning! It looked like a banker against the struggling Hampshire club but of course we should have realised that consistency has not been our strong point this season and as we are continually reminded on the day anybody can beat anybody else in the Championship! That is perhaps true but quite frankly we are just not getting enough of those days to be a real force in this league and that is a huge disappointment.
This truly awful defeat sees the Clarets drop to 15th to a situation basically in no man`s land! We are now eight points behind the 6th placed club, Leeds United but worrying also only seven points off the drop-zone! If any Clarets fan tries to predict with some confidence the likely outcome of this season, I will simply not believe them! They may as well throw a dart at a set of blanked-out balloons numbered between 3 and 24 to decide our final position! Consistency is just not going to happen it seems and my instinct still remains that we will avoid relegation but will fail to challenge for a play-offs spot with any conviction.
Basically, Eddie Howe decided to stay loyal to most of the sixteen that did so well against West Ham at the Boleyn Ground in our previous game. However he did wring some changes which mainly affected the bench although there was no place at all for Keith Treacy with Junior Stanislas being preferred in his place and Ross Wallace returning to the starting eleven on the opposite flank.
Both Charlie Austin and Martin Paterson made a welcome return after injury and both were named on the bench which meant that our other striker, the unfortunate, Zavon Hines missed out completely with Rodriguez and Vokes partnering each other up front in the starting eleven.. With Howe preferring the 4-4-2 formation at home, the central midfielders virtually picked themselves with Captain Chris McCann and Marvin Bartley getting the usual nod. This was a tadge unfortunate for Dean Marney who was arguably man of the match against West Ham after playing a deeper, more defensive role in 4-1-4-1 against the Hammers. He had to be content though with a return to the bench against Pompey.
In summary then we lined up as follows:
Grant, Trippier, Duff, Edgar, Mee, Wallace, McCann, Bartley, Stanislas, Rodriguez, Vokes,
Substitutes: Stewart, Easton, Marney, Paterson, Austin
Full Match Report
Staffordshire referee, Steve Rushton got the game underway on a pretty cold, wet miserable, dank day in Burnley and the Clarets struggled to make any sort of impression in a dire first 45 minutes. The only saving grace was that Pompey were devoid of any ideas to punish clueless Burnley; they too could not step up a gear and consequently failed to put us under any sort of pressure. At times they perhaps looked better at their passing game but really rarely threatened. To be honest the match was that bad, any neutral fan at the game would have been long since been fast asleep by the time the first half came to a close.
Pompey could have nailed the game in the first 15 minutes but thankfully Luke Varney, making a return to the starting eleven failed to capitalise on the two chances he was given. He was too slow to react to a save by Grant who at full stretch had managed to palm away an attempt by Norris. Grant then got the better of him again beating him to a Norris through-ball. The only other memorable action again came from Pompey after Hayden Mullins tried a shot on target which Grant kept out following an initial fumble.
Yes, that`s right not one shot or attempt on goal from the Clarets in the first 45 minutes. Things surely could only get better in the second-half? Sadly they didn`t, well not that much! Eddie Howe should have heard the alarm bells ringing to be honest but refused to make any changes at half-time and we would eventually be punished for that decision despite the eventual substitutions that took place with both Martin Paterson and Charlie Austin coming on to replace Stanislas after 59 minutes and Sam Vokes after 74 minutes respectively.
Stanislas should have been replaced at half-time and to be honest Jay Rodriguez was having a woeful game. Howe seems reluctant to take Rodriguez off at any point these days and sometimes you just wonder why. But ces`t la vie, at least we now had a chance to see how Pato would perform following his long absence from first-team action and we could also check out Austin`s progress following his recovery from a dislocated shoulder. To be brutally honest, they were a waste of space and did little to change the course of this match so it was back to the drawing board for Howe!
Our first chance in this game actually came in the fifth minute of the second half. It all started from a forward ball from Michael Duff that was dummied by Vokes allowing Rodriguez to pounce and set up McCann. The skipper let rip with a thunderous drive that Pompey keeper, Stephen Henderson somehow got a touch to tipping the ball over the top to safety.
Pompey then came close when substitute, Eric Huseklepp, who had replaced Varney after just 20 minutes , volleyed just wide of target with the game now entering the last 30 minutes.
Pato was straight in the thick of things after coming on in the 59th minute setting up Wallace with a neat pass. The winger unleashed a shot from distance but his effort was wide of target. Some clever thinking by Paterson led to a short-corner after snatching the ball away from Henderson only for Edgar to head wide and at this point we seemed to be getting some momentum going. Sadly it wasn`t to last long!
Charlie Austin came on to add some more umph up front but again, it all seemed to fizzle out although he did have one attempt after linking well with Pato. His shot though was deflected for a corner which came to nothing.
The game looked to be adding for an inevitable goalless draw and we would and should have taken that to be honest but there was one final twist to this sorry saga and it came in the first minute of the three minutes of added time! It was perhaps cruel but still nonetheless almost expected these days to concede in the dying minutes of a game. How many times has this happened to us this season? This time Norris went on a charge and shot into the bottom corner of the net to make it one hell of a miserable day for all Clarets fans. Such a letdown and such a disappointment! It is clear we have to freshen up in the January window. I just hope we don`t fund any new signings by selling some of our squad. You just sense they will though! The bottom line? Let`s be honest, despite the recent highs, we simply do not have enough in the locker currently to mount a convincing promotion campaign. If we did, we would not be losing points against distinctly average Championship sides.
The Alternative View-The Pompey Perspective
We asked one of the Vital Pompey journalists what he thought of the game from the Portsmouth perspective. Here then is the Pompey Match Report from Daniel Fripp aka PompeyFrippy:
After 10 months without an away win, hopes weren't exactly high for Pompey coming into the match at Turf Moor, but with Michael Appleton recording his first win for the club the week before against Coventry fans were eager to see his effect on the team after disappointing in their last away performance against Watford. Burnley came into this match in fine form, winning their last 3 games.
385 Pompey fans had made the 550 mile, 10 hour round journey up North, and as usual were making plenty of noise approaching kick-off. The best bit of team news was seeing Luke Varney's name on the team sheet, after he had missed the last 2 games through injury, and after a bright start, it was Varney who had the best opening, failing to convert after Lee Grant directed the ball into his path.
It was Varney again who was in the thick of it 15 minutes later, seemingly being brought down by Lee Grant when through on goal. But as the Pompey fans looked for a free-kick and a possible red card, the referee somehow managed to award it to the home team. Even worse for the visitors, Varney was struggling and twice needed some treatment before having to be taken off. For some reason this annoyed the Burnley fans, who were struggling to find their voice after a slow start.
Pompey continued to impress on the pitch, edging the midfield battle and limiting The Clarets to long range half-chances. Erik Huselkepp came within inches of an opener 10 minutes into the second half, after a fine Pompey move saw the ball land to him, but his volley was just off target. Minutes later Burnley had arguably their best chance of the game, when Ross Wallace drilled a 20 yard shot just wide of Stephen Henderson's goal.
As the second half progressed, the match got scrappier and looked to be heading towards a stalemate, and the referee wasn't helping matters, continually stopping the game for minor infringements, much to the annoyance of the travelling players and supporters. One such player who expressed his fiery anger was Dave Kitson, who was softly booked early on for an innocuous looking challenge on Chris McCann. His constant 'chats' to the referee had many Pompey fans worried that he wouldn't last the 90, and thus miss next weekend's big South Coast Derby.
However as the game seemed to be heading towards an unforgettable finish, cometh the hour, cometh the man, as the clock ticked past the 90 minute mark. The ball fell to Pompey captain David 'Chuck' Norris on the edge of the box, and he hammered the ball home to seal the points for The Blues, chalking up their first away win in 14 attempts, which, given Pompey's next fixture is against their biggest rivals Southampton, was a perfect time to record their first back-to-back wins since March.
From a Portsmouth view, Burnley did not look threatening throughout, perhaps taking their opponents for granted and expecting a much easier match than they got. Although the victory came in exceptional circumstance, I feel that Pompey had edged the game and deserved all 3 points, although a point each wouldn't have been an unfair outcome either.
'Man of the Match` for me was Hayden Mullins, in a day where we played so well in midfield, Mullins seemed to be the catalyst of most moves, responsible for spreading play and breaking down attacks. He had done this to perfection throughout.
Many thanks to Daniel for sharing his thoughts from the Pompey point of view.
Editor`s Note: Hope you liked the 'Alternative View`! If you would like Vital Burnley to ask our counterparts more often for their own interpretation of the game from the opposition`s perspective then please let me know and we might be able to make this more of a regular feature..TMP
Burnley: Grant, Trippier, Duff, Edgar, Mee, Wallace, McCann, Bartley, Stanislas (Paterson 59), Rodriguez, Vokes (Austin 74)
Subs Not Used: Stewart, Easton, Marney
Portsmouth: Henderson, Ward, Rocha, Pearce, Halford, Mattock, Mullins, Norris, Thorne, Varney (Huseklepp 20), Kitson
Subs Not Used: Ashdown, Mokoena, Futacs, Mwaruwari
Goal: Norris 90+1
Booked: Yellow cards for Mattock and Kitson
Possession: 51% Burnley, 49% Portsmouth (Source: BBC Sport)
Ref: Steve Rushton (Staffordshire)
Marvin Bartley won the fans texted man of the match award but quite frankly you would find it hard to rate any player above 5 out of ten after that abject performance. Bartley gets our 'Star Player` award simply because he may as well have it!