No end at North End!
17th March 2007
Recently beaten at Southend, we now choose to be beaten at North End, but at the moment there looks to be no end at any end as the Clarets continue on this nightmare run clocking up now their 18th match without a win. The Clarets went down to a goal in either half from Nugent and Agyemang respectively. All that can be said in defence of the manager and the team is that we didnt disgrace ourselves and showed fighting spirit throughout. The situation was not helped again by further problems in the back four and having to change round a number of players. Its easy to be accused of finding excuses but if anybody didnt think that referee, Colin Webster was a bit of a homer then they must have been a Preston fan! McCann,Duff, Harley,Elliott and Branch all found their names in the book. Despite Preston players getting away with murder in the first half, the guilt must finally have got to Webster in the second half and Preston finished up with three players booked. So a total of eight players booked in a match that didnt seem that aggressive.
The big concern at the start of this match would be the Clarets line-up.How would Steve Cotterill rectify the potential problems in the back four with numerous injury concerns? Wayne Thomas was not available and still recovering from a cartilage operation and McGreal, Foster and Duff had all picked up knocks in the previous game against Southend.
Thankfully at least Duff had recovered in time and took up the right back position with Harley on the left. This meant Caldwell would be joined by Chris McCann in the centre of defence. A strange unfamilar role for Chris McCann but one which would prove successful.
Steve Cotterill as well as sorting out the back four also made a few other changes, the most surprising perhaps being Andy Gray who was dropped from the 16 with Lafferty lining up with Akinbiyi in 4-4-2. It was however later explained by Steve Cotterill that Andy Gray was ill and had not been dropped due to poor form. Steve Jones also found himself in the starting line up perhaps the manager recalling how he ran rings round Alexander in the same fixture at the Turf back in October.
Djembe-Djembe finally got his chance too replacing the lacklustre Gudjonsson who found himself relegated to the bench.
Clarets fans had been debating recently whether Brian Jensen and Steve Cotterill would sort out their differences with the keeper still officially on the transfer list. This seems to have been partially answered at least since 'The Beast' was named on the bench for the first time in 11 matches!
The line-up and subs were therefore as follows:
Coyne, Duff, Caldwell, McCann, Harley, Elliott, Djemba-Djemba, J O'Connor, Jones, Lafferty, Akinbiyi.
Subs: Jensen, G O'Connor, Branch, Spicer, Gudjonsson
I suppose the only interesting observation in the Preston line-up was that former Clarets loan, Michael Ricketts would not feature and was still injured. The discomforting thought that he would most probably score against the Clarets was therefore put to one side as we worried about Nugent instead!
So the whistle went for the start of the match and the Clarets set off in style. Lafferty came close after only one-and-a-half minutes, his header from six yards forced an excellent save from Lonergan, tipping the ball round the post for a corner.
The Clarets continued their bright start and seemed far more uptempo than usual. Ade's pace saw the better of Chilvers in one attack which led to an Elliott corner after about six minutes. There was quite a bit of Burnley pressure in the first 10 minutes of the match with Preston looking to struggle at the back.
Callum Davidson caught Jones with a blatant foul after 10 minutes to set off a sequence of Preston fouls that our 'homer' seemed scared to yellow card!
Shortly afterwards, the lack of luck for the Clarets continued when our captain and our rock in defence fell awkwardly on the hand he had broken in a training session before the previous Southend match. Although he seemed to recover from this and played out the rest of the first half, he was eventually substituted by Branch just after the start of the second half providing another back four headache for Cotterill. We just have to hope that the break for two weeks until we play Luton in the crucial home game will give enough time for all the players injured to recover.
Clarets fans were disgusted by the referee following a number of Preston fouls when McCann was the first to be booked in the match for what seemed like a relatively innocent foul on Brett Ormerod after 22 minutes.
By now maybe some fans sensed this was again not going to be our day and this was cruelly confirmed after 32 minutes when Nugent slotted home a right footed shot from 12 yards.
The Clarets heads however to their credit didnt drop after the goal and they battled away but to no avail as the teams went in at half-time with our rivals 1-0 to the good.
The Clarets made no changes to the team at half-time as the second-half got underway. Duff became the second player to be yellow carded a few seconds after kick-off and it soon became clear why Branch had been warming up as Caldwell came off to be replaced by the veteran Claret. Ade Akinbiyi took up the Captain's armband for his second match since re-joining the Clarets.
Branch joined Ade Akinbiyi up front as Lafferty moved out wide. Wade Elliott, yet again found himself forced to move back in defence at right back for the second match running with Duff now in the centre.
The yellow-card count increased for the Clarets after 52 minutes with Harley alleged to have fouled Songo. Perhaps the referee was now feeling guilty because one minute later he booked Songo for returning the favour on Harley!
After 56 minutes, Branch nearly became our saviour when he hit a glorious right-footed volley from 20 yards only to see the shot hit the crossbar! Just the sort of shot that goes in when you are not on an 18 match run without a win!
Alexander became the second Preston player to be booked after 59 minutes for a foul on Jones as the Clarets continued to press for that elusive equaliser.
After 70 minutes, the referee thought it was about time he added another yellow-card to his collection as Elliott this time was booked for a foul on Pugh.
Four minutes later, the game was over and Clarets hearts sank as Patrick Agyemang popped up to score from 18 yards.
Thankfully, there was no further damage and the lads to their credit didnt fold. We of course also had the obligatory penalty appeal turned down when Lafferty thought he should have had one with 15 minutes remaining after a clumsy challenge inside the area by Sedgwick.
On 90 minutes, Pugh went into the book when it didnt really matter! Nugent had been getting away with fouls throughout this match as the referee turned a blind eye and wondered if the white was beginning to show through his painted shirt! Not to be outdone though, there was still time to book Branch and make it a total of five bookings for the Clarets and three for Preston. A neutral seeing those bookings would assume this had been a firey Derby with all sorts of nasty fouls and incidents. In fact it was just a homer of a referee messing about and losing the plot.
The final whistle went and yet again we had to be content with nothing apart from putting in a creditable performance and not disgracing ourselves.
The early kick-off in this match, then meant all Clarets fans had to endure 90 minutes waiting for the scores from the other matches involving relegation-haunted teams. It could have been far worse, but QPR would have to win away and ensure we are now only 2 points away from the third relegation spot. We do still have two games in hand over most of the clubs below us and a far superior goal difference but if ever there was a must-win game, it has to be the next one against fellow strugglers Luton at Turf Moor in two weeks time.
Preston: Lonergan, Alexander, St. Ledger, Chilvers, Hill, Songo'o (Agyemang 72), Sedgwick (Nowland 90), Davidson, Pugh, Nugent, Ormerod (Dichio 80).
Subs Not Used: Henderson, Soley.
Booked: Songo'o, Alexander, Pugh.
Goals: Nugent 33, Agyemang 75.
Burnley: Coyne, Duff, Caldwell (Branch 47), McCann, Harley, Elliott, Djemba-Djemba, James O'Connor (Spicer 76), Jones, Akinbiyi, Lafferty.
Subs Not Used: Jensen, Garreth O'Connor, Gudjonsson.
Booked: McCann, Duff, Harley, Elliott, Branch.
The Vital Burnley FC award though goes to our veteran utility player, Graham Branch. he has not featured in many games in this his last season for the club, but he still has what it takes and always gives 100% for our club.