Season Surely Over after Hornets Sting Clarets
Saturday 3rd March 2012 @ 3pm Kick-Off
The Clarets were in total control and looked to be cruising at 2-0 up against Watford at Vicarage Road on Saturday. The Hornets though certainly had a sting in their tail coming back strongly to win 3-2 with all three of their goals scored over a 20 minute spell in the second half.
It was in the end a miserable day for the Clarets after such a promising start. The only good note to come out of the game was the fact that Rodriguez scored the first goal to notch up his 20th goal of the season; the first player to become a '20-goal-a-season player` for Burnley since Robbie Blake in 2003/4.
The defeat against the Hornets has had a devastating effect on our promotion hopes with most Clarets fans accepting that our season is now all but over. Our third defeat in a row has effectively (barring a miracle) scuppered our chances of reaching the play offs. We drop to 12th spot and remain on 47 points, now eight points behind 6th placed club, Birmingham who also have a game in hand.
The miracle would involve the Clarets going on a consistent run, virtually winning all their remaining 12 games whilst also hoping that Portsmouth will be unable to complete their season. All the points gained by clubs against Portsmouth would then be wiped out and since Burnley have only played Pompey once this season so far and lost, they could steal a march on some of the other clubs above them. Whichever way you look at it, it is a mountain to climb with mid-table mediocrity now looking a virtual certainty.
The only serious doubt ahead of the game was Chris McCann who picked up a hamstring injury in the previous game at home to Millwall. It looked touch and go all week, and there was clearly a bit of kidology going on in an effort to thwart and confuse Hornets gaffer, Sean Dyche`s team plans.
In the end though our captain was fit to play and led his team onto the pitch.
In the end then it was a familiar sixteen, one widely regarded as our strongest possible line-up, namely:
Grant , Trippier , Duff, Edgar , Mee , Wallace , McCann , Marney , McQuoid , Rodriguez , Austin
Substitutes: Jensen, Easton, Bartley, Ings, Paterson
Full Match Report
There are always problems with the Vicarage Road pitch. The football club do after all also share the pitch with the Saracens Rugby club and boy does it show! The conditions were also made worse by the blustery winds but I suppose you could argue it`s the same for both teams. Either way, the 'cabbage patch` pitch is not conducive to playing attractive football and for long periods of this game that was self-evident with both teams failing to control their passing game. The home team though, would you expect have the advantage since they are playing on this awful bumpy pitch every other week. Watford were certainly the quickest out of the blocks and during their early pressure forced four corners.
A mistake by Ben Mee in these early stages almost gifted the Hornets a goal. A weakly headed back pass to Grant was nearly pounced on by Troy Deeney but Grant was alert to the danger and managed to get in a block to save the day.
Wallace had a few decent efforts shortly after but the game generally deteriorated into a poor quality scrap as both sides struggled to take advantage with the conditions clearly beginning to take effect. Watford had a few limited chances to open the scoring but the Burnley defence never really looked in any danger. Ben Mee, making amends for his earlier error got in an excellent clearance, heading the ball away at the back post just as Prince Buaben was about to pounce. Eight minutes before the break, Grant pulled off a superb save after managing to tip the ball at full stretch over the bar following a deflected shot by Buaben.
Burnley too had their moments with Wallace in particularly lively down the flank getting in a number of crosses to test on loan Manchester United keeper, Tomasz Kuszczak. The keeper though passed the tests and mopped up any danger including an early headed attempt by Edgar. Wallace also got in a drive with the ball finishing up on the roof of the net as the Clarets looked for the breakthrough.
The first half looked like it would end goalless until Rodriguez pounced to put the Clarets ahead in the 41st minute. Ironically, Watford too had looked the most likely to score in these closing stages of the first half. A weak back header though by Mariappa let in Jay Rodriguez, who chesting the ball down charged into the penalty area before drilling a low shot past Kuszczak into the back of the net to reach the 20 goal milestone for the season. With the home crowd now getting frustrated and booing their team off at half-time, it began to look rosy for the Clarets. Burnley had definitely been the better team in the first half with Grant really only having one save to make.
There was however bad news for the start of the second half with Michael Duff not coming out on the pitch after picking up an injury. The club have not yet announced what the problem was but the forced changes Howe had to make to our back four would have devastating consequences in the end. Substitute, Brian Easton started the second half in the left back slot with Ben Mee taking over Duff`s position in the centre of defence.
Just five minutes into the second half, Burnley doubled their lead. A cross by Wallace was met by Mee before Nosworthy headed into the back of the Watford net to record an own goal. Burnley now looked to be comfortable with a 9th away win of the season looking on the cards! Little did we know though that we were about to crumble.
The rot set in when Watford got a goal back just five minutes after the Clarets had notched up a two goal advantage. The weather conditions had changed again with driving rain now affecting play but it didn`t stop Nosworthy making amends by now scoring at the right end to make it 1-2.
Grant has just tipped the ball over the bar from a corner but now it was time for Sean Murray to put another one over from the opposite flank. This time, Nosworthy got up to powerfully head the ball down with the ball flying up into the roof of the net.
That was just the incentive, the Hornets needed and Burnley from that moment onwards seemed to fold much to the despair of the 989 Clarets fans who had made the journey down.
It was clear that Watford with their tails up, could now sense the weakness in our defence with Easton in particular lacking confidence and looking jittery. Our back four now looked uncertain and they were clearly missing the experienced, solid Michael Duff. Burnley were now defending deep with Watford piling on the pressure and looking the most likely to score next.
It was nearly 2-2 soon after the Hornets goal. Nosworthy again got up for a set-piece this time getting in a low drilled shot before Mee in front of Grant came to the rescue and blocked the attempt.
Burnley were now weathering the storm, even though the weather had actually improved with bright sunshine now being the order of the day! We were certainly under the cosh but we seemed to be soaking up the pressure and getting some chances at the other end. Wallace was just a few inches away from scoring from a free-kick before the inevitable happened and we conceded at the other end following a Watford equaliser in the 72nd minute.
A Doyley throw in was neatly flicked on by Garner before the impressive-looking substitute, Alex Kacaniklic looking assured on the ball got in a low shot which flew past Grant into the far corner of the net.
Watford had now done to Burnley what the Clarets had done to the Hornets in the reverse fixture played at Turf Moor on the opening day of the season. Watford that day had enjoyed a 2-0 lead before Burnley came back to earn a point in a 2-2 draw. Was history about to repeat itself and would Burnley hold on to record their first away draw since the game against Cardiff back in February last season? Sadly the answer was 'no` on both counts!
Burnley clearly now demoralised had no answer to Watford`s attacking intent and three minutes after equalising the Hornets got their noses in front.
Once more it was poor defending this time from a corner. Deeney pounced in the six yards box to slot home after the ball had initially been blocked on the line following an attempt by Garner. Disasterville for the Clarets who really only had themselves to blame for losing a 2-0 lead!
The Clarets now tried desperately to get something from the game but their only real chance came when Rodriguez forced the Watford keeper into a save. His fierce drive was turned round the post and even five minutes of added time was not enough for Burnley to get back on equal terms.
The final whistle left Clarets fans devastated wondering how Burnley could possibly have gifted this game to the Hornets. There was now a dawning realisation, that barring a miracle, our season was clearly over. If I was writing an end of school report for the Clarets at the moment it would read 'Average, must do better` and it looks like that improvement will now have to happen in 2012-13 to stand any chance of promotion.
The Post-Match Eddie-Torial
Burnley manager Eddie Howe said after the defeat:
'How we lost that game, I really don't know. At 2-0 the game's over. We've played excellently, executed our game plan perfectly but once we conceded the first goal we just rocked.
'We looked unsteady, unsure of ourselves and set plays we didn't our jobs in the second half and it's a tough one to take. We shouldn't have even got near to losing that game.
'We have to learn from this big time, we've got to really step up to the plate and show a little bit more leadership during games.
'We are a young side but that's no excuse. There's enough people out there who've played enough games to react better to setbacks.'
Watford: Kuszczak, Hodson, Mariappa, Doyley, Nosworthy, Eustace, Buaben (Kacaniklic 46), Murray (Bennett 89), Hogg, Deeney, Garner
Subs Not Used: Loach, Iwelumo, Trotta
Goals: Nosworthy 54, Kacaniklic 72, Deeney 75
Booked: Yellow card for Deeney
Burnley: Grant, Trippier, Duff (Easton 46), Edgar, Mee, McCann, Wallace, Marney, McQuoid (Ings 82), Rodriguez, Austin (Paterson 68)
Subs Not Used: Jensen, Bartley
Goals: Rodriguez 41, Nosworthy (og) 50
Booked: Yellow card for Wallace
Possession: 50% Watford, 50% Burnley (Source: BBC Sport)
Ref: Michael Naylor (South Yorkshire)
Jay Rodriguez was cleanly our most effective striker and it is somewhat worrying that both Danny Ings and Martin Paterson have offered nothing since returning from injury.
Ross Wallace seemed to be in the thick of things but at the end of the day it all seemed to be huff and puff with nothing particularly effective. Marney was probably our best midfielder.
So who do you choose as the 'Star Player`? I think it`s a toss-up between Rodriguez and Duff. Since Jay Rod played the full 90 minutes and was our first player to attain 20 goals in a season since Robbie Blake in 2003-4, he just gets our award. Duff though was quite clearly in hindsight, the player that had the most influence on the game before he picked up that injury.