Dull Draw Ends Dull Season!
Saturday 28th April 2012 @12:30pm Kick-Off
A pretty uninspiring 1-1 draw against Bristol City at Turf Moor on Saturday brought to an end a quite frankly disappointing season. The result means we finish the season just in the bottom half of the table in 13th spot. In the end we amassed just 62 points; six fewer than last season when we finished in 8th place. We also annoyingly lost more games than we won with 17 wins, 18 defeats and 11 draws. If you analyse though our relative performance on home soil compared to on the road, you can soon see where our main failure was this season. We won 10 games on the road but could only find 7 wins on home soil. We lost seven of the home games and drew another nine games. 32 points from our away games and only 30 from our matches at Turf Moor says it all!! Traditionally it has been our away form that has scuppered our chances but this time it was the home form that left a lot to be desired and the performance against Bristol City on Saturday was simply typical of our problems at Turf Moor this season.
The game on Saturday had en end-of-season feel about it right from the start. Bristol City had assured their safety and avoided relegation after beating Barnsley 2-0 at Ashton Gate the previous Saturday so were now simply playing for pride. For the Clarets, any hopes of reaching the play-offs had long since evaporated and now their only ambition was to finish in the top half of the table with 10th spot being the highest they could achieve before kick-off! It was a pretty cold day for April with end of season affairs usually finishing in bright, warm sunshine and that seemed to add to the lack of atmosphere! With no team having much to play for, there was little excitement and both sets of fans struggled to be entertained following a pretty lacklustre first half.
It was a little bit livelier in the second half and gradually the Clarets came into their own enjoying a period of possession that eventually led to the deadlock being broken in the 76th minute. Danny Ings warmed things up on a miserable cold day unleashing a shot from 30 yards out that whizzed into the back of the net giving makeshift goalkeeper, Liam Fontaine no chance. The Robins defender had taken over the gloves from David James who had suffered an injury just past the hour mark and could not continue. Bristol City manager, Derek McInnes with no keeper named on the bench had no option but to shuffle the pack using his out-players and it was therefore even more disappointing for the Clarets that we could not go on to make the advantage count. Bristol City had equalised within five minutes thanks to Ryan Taylor's 25-yard effort.
There were a few more attempts on goal from both sides but in the end the game simply fizzled out bringing a disappointing end to the campaign and denying Clarets fans the chance to at least celebrate finishing the season on a high note.
In the end the play-offs dream was never going to happen, we quite simply have not been good enough and our inconsistency has been a constant thorn in our side. But for that run following the away win at Hull that saw the Clarets march up the table and resurrect hopes of reaching the play-offs, we could have been in real trouble but whichever way you look at it, finishing 13th is not what most fans would have been happy with at the start of the season. In the end we finished well short of reaching the play-offs. The sixth placed club, Cardiff City finished with 75 points, 13 more than the Clarets and we simply have a lot to do in the summer if this squad is ever going to mount a good enough promotion campaign.
I can only reflect on this disappointing, frustrating season by recalling this exact same fixture at the end of the 2008-9 season. You may recall we thumped the Robins that day 4-0 to confirm our place in the play-offs! The town that day in the bright sunshine was buzzing and of course even more excitement at Wembley was to follow! The Premier League beckoned...the future looked bright!
It just all seems now such an anti-climax to have returned to nothing more than mid-table mediocrity in the Championship again. The match yesterday was Barry Kilby`s last match as Chairman after 13 years at the helm and of course he has truly done great things for this club, but I just wonder if he sat there pondering this same fixture at the end of 2008-9 as well and I just wonder if he was uttering under his breath...if only, if only!
The club are telling us to have faith again. I want more than faith; I want a club who show they mean business, who show they are sick and tired of the same old 'sticking plaster` approach and the same old small town mentality. Come on try it, build a squad of the right depth of quality and quantity that we need to mount a serious promotion campaign. Don`t fool yourself into believing we will be any better next season without any significant strengthening in the squad especially god forbid if we lose key players like Rodriguez and Trippier to Premier League clubs in the summer.
There were quite a few unexpected changes for Eddie Howe`s final line-up of the season. Back in goal was Brian Jensen who had been offered a new contract in midweek. He would now make his first start since September. Lee Grant was nowhere to be seen, with third-string keeper, Jon Stewart earning his chance again on the bench.
Captain Chris McCann was dropped to the bench with Michael Duff taking over as skipper. Both Ben Mee and Jay Rodriguez also returned to the sixteen following injury with both named on the bench. We therefore lined up as follows:
Jensen, Trippier, Duff, Edgar, Lafferty, Wallace, Bartley, Marney, Stanislas, Ings, Austin
Subs: Stewart, Mee, McCann, Howieson, Rodriguez.
Full Match Report
The first half rarely got going and turned out to be somewhat of a damp squib. Chris McCann, was soon back in action following an injury to Dean Marney on the half-hour mark but it was just a pity he had already lost his ever-present league record this season after being named on the bench for the final match of the season! Nevertheless he took over the armband from Duff and tried to instil some urgency into proceedings.
Brian Jensen in his first game back since picking up a groin injury in the match away to Posh back in September had very little to do with Bristol City seemingly happy to sit back safe in the knowledge they had already secured their Championship lives following a season which continually threatened relegation until their victory last Saturday.
Burnley too though were hardly showing much initiative and they struggled to make any sort of impact. On balance, the Robins probably shaded the first-half but it was dire to watch with both sets of fans having little to cheer about. A Woolford cross found the head of Pitman but the former Bournemouth striker who normally scores against the Clarets should have done better with his attempt and the danger passed. Chris Wood looked to be clean through on goal as well until Daniel Lafferty came from nowhere to get in a superb tackle.
The Clarets had their moments but they simply could not maintain enough pressure and possession to make it count. Wallace had previously thumped an angled drive just wide and Ings following a good run had also set up Stanislas but he too missed the target. Our best chance in the first half came when Daniel Lafferty, making his home debut for the Clarets played the ball into the path of Austin. Getting the better of Carey, Austin turned to curl the ball only to see the shot beat James but finish wide of the far post.
The non-descript match livened up a bit though in the second-half after a goalless first half. Burnley were now looking more determined and Austin was unlucky not to break the deadlock in the 49th minute when his thunderous volley was unfortunate to hit Fontaine to be deflected away to safety.
The Clarets were now enjoying a little spell of pressure. James was tested by both Bartley and Austin saving the danger on each occasion before Wallace thumped a shot just wide of target.
Bristol City also had their moments though and the Burnley defence were put under some pressure when Woolford attempted to hook the ball towards goal. Edgar though cleared the danger and soon the Robins were put at a significant disadvantage after losing England keeper, David James just past the hour mark. James pulled up and had to be replaced. The problem though for McInnes was he had no substitute keeper on the bench so instead had to sacrifice one of his defenders. Central defender, Liam Fontaine therefore had the dubious honour of taking over between the sticks with McGivern coming on from the bench.
Surely now the Clarets could make their advantage count? Well eventually they did but it wasn`t to last. Eddie Howe sensed blood and decided to bring on Jay Rodriguez to liven up the attack. He came on to a rapturous welcome and a chorus line of 'one of our own` but deep down most Clarets fans were probably wondering if this was going to be the last time they would see Jay Rod in a Claret & Blue shirt following speculation he could move in the summer. For now though Jay Rod was back following an eight game absence with a hip injury.
Austin should have done better to test the inexperienced stand-in keeper but there was not enough power on his shot and substitute defender McGivern got in an easy block before the keeper had a chance to test his saving skills. The keeper was stranded though when Ings finally broke the deadlock in the 76th minute. Ings cleverly making space on a charge unleashed a shot from 30 yards out and the right-footed screamer flew past the keeper just inside the post into the net.
Just when Clarets fans were consoling themselves with a t least a top half of the table finish that too was denied them. An error from an otherwise excellent Danny Lafferty gave Taylor a chance to run towards goal and that`s just what he did eventually curling the ball past Jensen to make it all square with nine minutes still to play.
The last chance to get the winner fell to the Clarets but Rodriguez could only fire over the bar without testing the keeper. So that was it, the game had fizzled out, the season had fizzled out and the fans now made their weary way home wondering what next season might bring! Whatever next season brings, Vital Burnley will be here to once again report on the matches but that`s it for now. We hope you have enjoyed the service and that you will be back with us for the pre-season friendlies ahead of the new 2012-13 season. Up the Clarets!
The Post-match Eddie-Torial
Eddie Howe disappointed not to finish the season on a high-note said:
'I felt we had enough chances to win the game but we let it slip.
'Some of our shooting was wayward and I thought we should have put more crosses in the box and asked more questions of the goalkeeper after David James went off.
'We wanted to finish with a win and a performance to send the supporters off in good spirits with an idea of the kind of football we want to play next season but we didn't dominate or dictate the game well enough from the middle of the pitch and that was disappointing.'
Burnley: Jensen, Trippier, Duff, Edgar, Lafferty, Wallace (Rodriguez - 65), Marney (McCann - 30), Bartley, Stanislas (Howieson - 88), Ings, Austin
Subs Not Used: Stewart, Mee
Goal: Ings 76
Booked: Yellow Card for Duff (59)
Bristol City: James (McGivern - 62), McAllister, Fontaine, Carey, Edwards, Woolford, Skuse, Bolasie (Adomah - 82), Pearson, Pitman, Wood (Taylor - 77)
Subs Not Used: Bryan, Kilkenny
Goal: Taylor 81
Booked: Yellow Card for Edwards (24)
Possession: 51% Burnley, 49% Bristol City (Source: BBC Sport)
Ref: Eddie Ilderton (Tyne & Wear)