Good Point or Season Over in Cardiff?
Cardiff City Stadium
Sunday 18th March 2012 @3pm Kick-Off
Most Clarets fans would have taken a point against Cardiff City on their home soil earlier in the season but somehow a goalless draw against the Bluebirds on Sunday seemed almost an anti-climax and yet another nail in the coffin of our play-offs dreams.
It was perhaps fitting though that we got our first away draw of the season against Cardiff City. The last time we came away with a point on the road was also against Cardiff when last season we drew 1-1 back in February 2011. Until Sunday we had gone 27 matches without another one!
The match was a strangely subdued affair at times. Perhaps the majority of the Cardiff fans had not yet recovered from the Welsh celebrations on Saturday following the Principality`s Rugby Union Grand Slam victory against France in the Millennium Stadium just over the road. Maybe it was just the fact the match was being played on a Sunday which never seems right for a game of football! A long trip to Cardiff and back with work the morning after might also have put a lot of Clarets fans off and in the end just 301 Burnley fans made the long journey into the land of dragons, leeks and daffodils!
Cardiff City not so long ago looked to be strong automatic promotion candidates but since losing the Carling Cup final against Liverpool at Wembley they appear to have had the stuffing knocked out of them, especially playing at home. The Cardiff fans were perhaps resigned to the fact that yet another traditional slump was about to affect their team`s promotion chances. The Bluebirds started this game in 9th spot just two points off the play-offs spots so they could easily have been back in the race had they been able to defeat the Clarets and yet neither the team nor fans seemed to have the belief they could win.
In contrast, Burnley`s play-offs dreams already seemed to be in tatters barring a miracle. Now in 14th spot ahead of the Cardiff clash and eleven points off the pace, most Clarets fans sensed that realistically we were probably only now playing for pride.
Burnley at times though dominated the game on Sunday, especially in the first half when they enjoyed the lion`s share of the possession. Cardiff came back stronger in the second-half and began to put the Clarets under some pressure but to be honest Lee Grant was hardly troubled and in the end it was once again a case of Burnley being unable to find the killer instinct. Clearly it would appear we missed Jay Rodriguez`s firepower up front although Danny Ings tried his best. Rodriguez suffering from a groin injury failed a late fitness test and so missed his first game of the season. Indeed, he has been an ever-present in the side since April last year. The last game he missed was against Nottingham Forest at the City Ground last season.
A well-earned point in the end by the Clarets though simply does not seem enough to ensure the 'miracle` is about to happen and we have now gone 5 wins without a win picking up only two points.
The result leaves Burnley still in 14th spot but now ten points behind 6th placed club, Middlesbrough having played the same number of games. We do have a one game advantage over some of the teams above us and of course we still await to find out the fate of Pompey who are now in administration but realistically it looks like Clarets fans will have to wait until next season for the promotion dream to be rekindled.
It has been a strange topsy-turvy sort of season. At one stage we looked to be heading for the relegation zone, the next looking like promising play-offs contenders! In the end it looks like midtable mediocrity will be our fate unless we can go on an amazing run in our remaining ten games of the season and notch up the vast majority of the 30 points on offer. Miracles do happen sometimes!
Eddie Howe had some thinking to do with Jay Rodriguez missing his first game of the season due to injury. Junior Stanislas came into the starting eleven for the first time since picking up his hamstring injury away to Middlesbrough back in January. Howe also elected to play two up front. Paterson and Ings got the nod with both Austin and McQuoid missing out and having to be content with a place on the bench.
There was also perhaps one surprising change in the back four with Danny Lafferty coming in at left back to make his debut for the Clarets. Ben Mee was dropped but named on the bench.
In summary then we lined up as follows:
Grant, Trippier, Edgar, Duff, Lafferty, Wallace, Marney, McCann, Stanislas, Paterson, Ings
Subs: Jensen, Mee, Bartley, Austin, McQuoid
Full Match Report
It was a nice bright day in Cardiff as the teams came onto the pitch. Burnley were looking for their first win in Cardiff since April 2000 and the Bluebirds were hoping to get their promotion dreams back on track and not lose their fourth game in five matches on home soil.
Berkshire referee, Iain Williamson got the match underway with the Clarets, in their all lemon chrome kit, lining up 4-4-2; Ings playing just behind Pato.
The Clarets tactics from the off seemed to be to catch Cardiff out on the break and in a quick counter attack, Burnley soon notched up their first corner of the game.
Ross Wallace cutting in from the right unleashed a shot from 25 yards out which nearly caught Bluebirds keeper, David Marshall by surprise. The keeper had to scramble across goal before getting a touch on the ball to turn it round the post.
Debutant Danny Lafferty had made a hesitant start but was now growing in confidence. Clarets fans soon began to realise we now had an attacking full-back on our hands with Lafferty often bombing down the flank with great energy and purpose.
Danny Ings too was looking threatening up front. He attempted a volley which flew just over as the Clarets began to take control and frustrate the home crowd.
Wallace then set up Paterson who unleashed a volley bringing out a good save by Marshall on 20 minutes. Indeed Marshall was by far the busier of the two keepers as Burnley pressed to get their noses in front.
Marshall denied Stanislas on the half-hour mark after pulling off an instinctive save. David Edgar also headed wide from a Trippier free-kick. Danny Ings, linking well with Paterson then charged into the box only to shoot low into the side netting.
It all seemed to be Burnley at this stage. Cardiff had only mounted one meaningful attack so far in the first half and that had been early on after Gunnarsson had found Joe Mason with a flick-on. Mason, who scored the winner against the Clarets in the Carling Cup clash back in October, had looked certain to score again after rounding Lee Grant but thankfully he then ran out of space. That early scare for the Clarets now seemed ages ago with Grant now being a virtual on-looker.
Kenny Miller did get in a low shot to bring out a save by Grant but the Bluebirds confidence soon ebbed again and the half finished goalless with the home crowd clearly unhappy after booing their team off the pitch! The Bluebirds had not scored now at home in nearly four hours of football and Malky Mackay was clearly under some pressure to life his team`s spirits.
For the Clarets, in many ways this had been a frustrating half. Enjoying 60% of the possession they had been unable to make it count. At times we seemed to be playing too deep, with the central midfielders failing to get forward enough. The effect was a slow, laborious build-off, something we have been used to seeing in recent games. We had looked particularly bright in the first quarter and by the end of the half had won five corners compared to Cardiff`s none. It was clear we were dominating the game but had not got any reward for our efforts and that was a worrying sign especially since Cardiff came out for the second half looking a lot brighter.
Liam Lawrence was now playing further up field with Cardiff now sensing that the inexperienced Danny Lafferty could be the weakness to exploit. They started to exert some pressure on the Clarets but the Burnley defence stood up to the task helped by the central midfielders in front of them.
Despite Cardiff now playing with more purpose they created few real chances and Grant had very little to do despite the sustained pressure. At times the game was very subdued with an almost end-of-season feel about it and at other times the game opened up with both sides setting up counter-attacks and threatening to take the lead.
Stanislas tried to put Burnley in front from a free-kick but blasted the ball over the bar and with 20 minutes to go, he made way for some fresh legs with Eddie Howe bringing on Marvin Bartley. Could Burnley with a five man midfield now reverse their fortunes and get their noses in front? The short answer was no.
Burnley fans` hearts sank when Malky Mackay decided to bring on Earnshaw in place of Miller with 12 minutes remaining. The guy has a habit of scoring against the Clarets and has notched up four against us including his 200th career goal in the reverse fixture at Turf Moor back in August last year.
Earnshaw did have one opportunity to score in added time but it came to nothing. An incredible five minutes of extra time had been announced by the fourth official and we were still playing in the 8th minute! It was actually the Clarets though who came closest to scoring during this nervous time for Clarets fans. Bartley on a run into the box laid off the ball to Paterson but just as he was about to pull the trigger, Mark Hudson blocked the attempt to deny the Clarets a late winner. Both sides had to settle for a point in the end ; a result which has damaged both team`s chances of reaching the play-offs, especially the Clarets!
The Post-Match Eddie-Torial
Howe said after the game:
'It was frustrating that we didn't score and at the end of the game we were looking for one to go in off someone's backside, but the positives were that in the second half we kept on pushing with balls in to the box and crosses across their six yard box.
'It's one of those that the lads in the dressing room are also frustrated as well, but we're also happy with having kept a clean sheet and limited the opposition to no shots on target in the last hour of the game. The second half we dominated having been forced to be patient during a first half in which Burnley didn't play, dropping a man much deeper than they normally do to protect and frustrate, sitting deep.'
"It was a game that didn't have much goalmouth action for either side. In the first half I thought we had the better chances. Dave Edgar's header was a really good chance, Danny Ings hit the side netting and Martin Paterson had a good volley saved.
'There was enough in it for us and I just think we were very brave today in the way we passed the ball. I was really pleased with how they are adapting to the playing style and some of the football we played today was really, really good.
'In doing that, you are going to give the ball away in dangerous areas, but it's our belief that this is the best way to play the game to get long term results. That's what we have been trying to do all season and the difficulty is trying to adopt a playing style and philosophy, it does take time.
'You can't do that overnight and that's because in this division and this country you have to get results to keep your job.
'It's been a difficult balancing act, but we feel we are moving in the right direction in terms of how we want the lads to play.
'I think if you were a neutral and turned up here today, you would have been impressed by how we tried to play. The next challenge is to try and create more goal-scoring opportunities, but to come here and get a point and a clean sheet are positives for us and I look at it as two games unbeaten.
'I know people might look at it the other way, but hopefully we are over our little wobble now and with some tough games coming up, we can go on and have an unbeaten run.'
Cardiff City: Marshall, McNaughton, Taylor, Hudson, Turner, Whittingham, Cowie (Conway 63), Lawrence, Gunnarsson (McPhail 85), Miller (Earnshaw 78), Mason
Subs Not Used: Heaton, Blake
Burnley: Grant, Trippier, Edgar, Duff, Lafferty, Wallace, Marney, McCann, Stanislas (Bartley 73), Paterson (Austin 84), Ings (McQuoid 90)
Subs Not Used: Jensen, Mee
Booked: Yellow Cards for Marney 70, Trippier 74 and Lafferty 87
Possession: 53% Cardiff, 47% Burnley (Source: BBC Sport)
Ref: Iain Williamson (Berkshire)
It was good to have Stanislas back on the wing. I think we have missed him. He had a reasonable game too against the Bluebirds and looked disappointed to be substituted with just under quarter of the game remaining.
Marney once again looked good in midfield although he did play a little too deep at times along with McCann.
Danny Ings was our outstanding striker though, he buzzed around and looked quite dangerous, especially in the first half although did tire towards the end.
It is a difficult choice to make because nobody really had a perfect game. The highest score was probably about 7/10 and there would be a number of players scoring that.
Bearing in mind, our Star Player award does not necessarily always go the man of the match as such; I think I will give our award to Daniel Lafferty for sheer determination to make an impression on his debut! Take away some of the rough edges and he looks a very promising player based on his debut performance.
Howe talking about Lafferty`s debut said:
'Daniel did well. He hasn't been with us very long and he had a hamstring injury when he joined, so we haven't seen too much of him, so it's been difficult to coach him too much.
'But what time we have, he has taken on board and he has a great attitude and character and those here today will have seen that he is good on the ball and he will only get better.'