Clarets Rocky Horror Show as Brighton Rock!
Saturday 1st September 2012 @3pm Kick-Off
The Clarets went down to their third successive league defeat of the season against Brighton at Turf Moor on Saturday and it was not pretty to watch! Outplayed and outclassed, the Seagulls had certainly done their homework and came away with a 3-1 victory against a very poor Burnley side. We might have only played four league matches so far but our position in the Championship table makes grim reading. Did any Clarets fan believe after the dizzy heights of that impressive 2-0 victory over Bolton at home in the opening match that just two weeks and three games later we would be in the relegation zone? Well with just three points after four games heading into the International break we are third from bottom in 22nd spot and these are certainly worrying times for Eddie Howe and his men not to mention the fans with only about 11,000 bothering to turn up on Saturday.
Something is not clicking, something is not gelling and the fans sense the frustration. Eddie Howe needs to be careful, the jury is still very much out and the crowd could easily turn if performances and results continue in this vein. A subdued home crowd never really got going until the second half when the first chant of 'Eddie Howe`s Claret and Blue Army` could be heard. Indeed certain sections of the home fanbase were verbally hostile to the extent that media manager, Darren Bentley felt obliged to blame these fans on Twitter for not getting behind the lads and lifting the team. He then consequently had to run the gauntlet of criticism himself eventually having to close his own personal Twitter account! This is just a sign of the frustrations at Turf Moor at the moment. Fans seem to be losing patience in their droves and staying away if the attendance at Turf Moor on Saturday is anything to go by.
The situation was not helped of course by a relatively poor performance against League 2 Plymouth on Tuesday night in the Capital One Cup. With the score still 1-1 after extra time the match had to be decided on penalties. Although we won the shootout 3-2 by then the damage had already been done. Most Clarets fans wanted to leave after 90 minutes following the dire performance by Burnley but had to endure extra time following the Pilgrims last minute penalty and equaliser from the spot. Of course we could all make excuses this was very much a 'scratch team` with Howe giving a number of his fringe players the chance to shine with most failing to do so! There could be no such excuse on Saturday with the regular first team squad back in action (or was it lack of action?). The tactics were simply wrong in hindsight with Howe choosing to play just one striker up front in the first half. That task was given to Austin and he spent most of the first half chasing shadows and looking lost. Surely tactically that was a mistake? Austin is not the sort of striker who can play the 'target man` role on his own. He needs a partner to feed off and our performance improved a bit in the second half when Paterson came on and we reverted to two up front.
Eddie Howe also seems to have a fetish for wingers at the moment. Not content with Wallace, Stanislas, Treacy and Porter we have also brought in Cameron Stewart on loan from Hull this week. He went straight into the starting eleven dislodging Wallace who had to be content with bench warming. Keith Treacy after a woeful performance on Tuesday night failed to even make the eighteen. Wingers in terms of options therefore do not appear to be a problem area and we will even have another one in January when Dane Richards arrives! Just one thing Eddie though, what happened about getting in another striker?
Oh well back to the line-up for the Brighton game. Apart from the inclusion of Stewart, Howe selected a similar starting eleven to the one that lost to Huddersfield in the John Smith`s Stadium the previous Saturday opting this time though to change tactics with three recognised central midfielders in the team and just the one striker up front. Marvin Bartley was recalled to the starting eleven in central midfield. The good news for Clarets fans too was that at least Martin Paterson appeared to have recovered from his minor hamstring tear after being named on the bench. Our eighteen then was as follows:
Grant, Trippier, Shackell, Edgar, Mills, Stewart, McCann, Marney, Bartley, Stanislas, Austin
Subs: Jensen, Duff, Mee, Stock, Wallace, Vokes, Paterson
Tyne & Wear referee, Eddie Ilderton got the game underway on a bright late summer`s day.
Sadly the game would soon deteriorate into a niggly, scrappy affair with neither side looking likely to break the deadlock. This seems to be the norm when these two sides clash and the first 45 minutes were no exception. Burnley struggled in the first fifteen minutes to make any sort of impression apart from one speculative effort by debutant Cameron Stewart early in the game.
It got worse for the Clarets in the 18th minute when Brighton got their noses in front. A challenge by Marney on Wayne Bridge looked high enough to warrant a booking but the referee simply awarded a free kick despite Brighton`s protests. Bridcutt put the ball over into the danger area where Greer chested down for Mackail-Smith 22 yards out to turn and volley his right footed shot past Grant into the top corner of the net. If Clarets fans were expecting a response they did not get one with Austin looking a forlorn figure up front and getting little service. The tactics were clearly failing and apart from an effort by McCann blocked by Greer there was little for Clarets fans to shout about.
Howe would have to do something for the start of the second half and thankfully he did bringing on Pato to support Austin up front at the expense of Bartley. Almost immediately we looked sharper playing 4-4-2 but it would be the Seagulls who came closest to scoring. Trippier, having an unusually poor game could not get the better of Lua Lua and beaten for pace he could only breathe a sigh of relief when he saw Lua Lua`s cross fly across the face of the goal with no Brighton player able to get a touch.
Burnley`s first real chance of the half came in the 56th minute when Austin got on the end of a Trippier cross only to head over. This was probably Burnley`s only decent spell and with the crowd now behind the team spirits were lifted and within four minutes we had equalised albeit from an own goal. Paterson had livened up the team up but it was Stanislas this time that caused the damage. His perfectly curled cross forced Greer under pressure from Pato to head back past his keeper into his own net. Could Burnley now press for a winner? Well Howe decided to have a go bringing on Wallace to replace Stewart in the 62nd minute to try and liven up proceedings.
Wallace almost immediately made the difference with virtually his first touch sending over a cross that should have been put away by Stanislas. The former West Ham winger though could only get in a weak header with just the keeper to beat and Brighton could breathe a sigh of relief.
With 20 minutes to go, Wallace let rip with a 35 yard left-footed screamer that looked certain to be heading for the top corner before Seagulls keeper, Kuszczak earned his spurs by diving to his left and somehow turning the ball over the bar.
The game had certainly livened up now but any hopes Brighton would now be on the back foot soon evaporated with the Seagulls once again stepping up a gear and beginning to threaten. The ever dangerous Mackail-Smith was becoming a handful and it was perhaps no surprise when he restored Brighton`s lead with fifteen minutes to play. Mind you what a breathtaking goal it was! Grant had just saved from the danger man following his run from the half-way line but from the resulting corner, the Burnley defence were unable to clear. The ball fell to Saltor Bruno and as the cross came back over Mackail-Smith flew into acrobatics mode and from his stunning overhead kick the ball sailed into the back of the net silencing the home crowd once again.
To say that goal took the stuffing out of the Clarets is an understatement but we now reverted to form and that form was very, very poor! Once again we looked lacklustre and clueless, once again the build up was slow and plodding and once again Brighton took advantage! Austin was not scoring and although he was trying his headers were just not finding the target or being thwarted by the keeper. His best chance came just after the second Brighton goal when he latched onto a cross from Shackell only to see his towering header saved at full stretch by Kuszczak.
It was game over for the Clarets though when Brighton went further ahead with just two minutes to play. A corner by new signing and substitute, Andrea Orlandi was met by Greer who made amends for his own goal by heading home and completing a miserable day for Clarets fans.
This was a terrible game by anybody`s standards for the Clarets and when you think we only had 44% of the possession, you begin to see the problems we face. There has to be a restoration of confidence and somehow we have to start playing like we did against Bolton. Surely that performance can`t just be a one off? We have to hope not. I said at the start of the season I was happy with the signings, especially in defence and the Bolton game just cemented that thought! Now the doubts are creeping back in again. Surely though if this team can play like they did against the Trotters then there is some hope? Well we have to think so don`t we or its going to be a long hard season and on the basis of the last four games a possible dogfight at the wrong end of the table!? We now have time to reflect and come back fighting following the International break when we face Peterborough at home, If there was ever a must-win game this is probably it for so many reasons including team morale, fans sanity and more than anything for Eddie Howe to continue to keep the faith so far shown in him by the majority of fans. Lose that one and the fans could begin to turn on the manager and we all know where that could lead! Howe in his post-match comment is not exactly keen for the break. He told the press after the game :
"As always it (the international break) seems to have come at a bad time for us.
"We lose a few players but that`s how it is.
"It`s a long two weeks from my perspective, I want to play tomorrow.
"That performance will live long in my memory now.
"We`ve got a break which we didn`t really want now, but we`ve got a game to look forward to against Peterborough."We have got to prepare right and make sure we put a performance on."
You can say that again Eddie!
Burnley: Grant, Trippier, Shackell, Edgar, Mills, Stewart (Wallace - 62), McCann, Marney (Vokes - 83), Bartley (Paterson - 46), Stanislas, Austin
Subs Not Used: Jensen, Duff, Mee, Stock
Goal: Greer 60(og)
Booked: Yellow Card for Wallace and McCann
Brighton & Hove Albion: Kuszczak, Bruno, Greer, El-Abd, Bridge, Crofts (Buckley - 38), Dicker, LuaLua (Orlandi - 79), Bridcutt, Barnes, Mackail-Smith
Subs Not Used: Ankergren, Dunk, Calderon, Harley, Agdestein
Goals: Mackail-Smith 18, 77, Greer 88
Booked: Yellow Cards for Kuszczak, Bruno, Barnes and Buckley
Possession: 44% Burnley, 56% Brighton (Source: BBC Sport)
Ref: Eddie IIderton (Tyne and Wear)