Four Goals and a Party!
3rd April 07
Its been a long time coming, but not only did that first win in 19 matches arrive last night against Plymouth, it came with such style and confidence most Clarets fans will still be pinching themselves this morning to check if they dreamt the 4-0 scoreline!
Steve Cotterill must be a very relieved man this morning looking at the League table. That emphatic win puts in 18th place on 45 points now six points clear of the 22nd placed club, Southend and with one game in hand over all teams below us. Our goal difference of minus 1 is also worth at least another point and place compared to those below us. No team below us can better that goal difference by some distance ranging from minus 13 to minus 25. In fact compared to the bottom 12 clubs we have the third best goal difference which tells its own story.
What was the magic formula that Steve Cotterill found? We will probably never know but it worked bigtime. Of course we are still not mathematically safe from relegation but this result will steady the nerves and let's hope the restored confidence can lead to a winning streak now up to the end of the season.
The gaffer made a number of inspired changes to the team for this match. Ade Akinbiyi, as predicted by Vital BFC was relegated to the bench after poor performnaces of late. New loan,Paul McVeigh took his place partnering Andy Gray up front, a different role to the wider position he had on Saturday against Luton. Lafferty was not even named in the sixteen.
Wade Elliott was recalled to the starting eleven and Duff returned with perhaps surprisingly, Graham Coughlan dropped to the bench.
The Clarets therefore lined up as follows:
Jensen, Harley, Thomas, Caldwell, Duff, Jones, Djemba-Djemba, J O'Connor, Elliott, McVeigh, Gray.
Subs: G O'Connor, Akinbiyi, McCann, Coughlan, Coyne.
Referee, Andy Hall got the game underway with all Clarets fans wondering whether our luck and confidence would ever return. Little did we know what was to follow!
The first real Clarets chance came after nine minutes when Wayne Thomas's header was cleared off the line from an Elliott corner. It wouldnt have counted though as the corner was judged to have gone out of play before curving into the penalty area. Elliott then went on a run with the ball and drilled a shot into the ground leading to a fumble by Pilgrims goalkeeper Luke McCormick.
There wasn't long to wait though until we finally got the ball into the net to score our first goal in four matches.
Duff in the 13th minute headed into the net from five yards after a delightful free kick from James O'Connor.
What a relief but would we be able to consolidate that goal and avoid letting Plymouth back in? Too many games during our winless streak led to a recovery and equaliser by the opposing team. We didnt have long to wait for an answer
McVeigh had a good shot saved by the keeper knees that went out for a corner but he made sure on 20 minutes scoring our second goal from six yards. Jensen had punted the ball upfield to find Gray's head and the flick found McVeigh who skirted round the keeper to shoot into an empty net.
The Clarets were now firing on all cylinders and what a transformation compared to the previous 18 matches.
Our fans delight was made even sweeter after 38 minutes when Steve Jones got on the end of his own rebounded cross and drove a left footed shot into the top corner of the net from about 18 yards.
So as the first half came to a close, we had finally broken this awful spell and put together some convincing and confident football.
One observation in the first half was the whistle-happy referee. The game was by no means dirty but somehow he had managed to blow for 22 free kicks,almost one every two minutes of the first half! Thankfully there had been no yellow cards for the Clarets which must have been comforting for James O'Connor and Harley both sweating on 9 bookings. One more booking for these lads before the deadline of April 8th and they would face an automatic two match ban. Thankfully they also survived the second half although McCann replaced James O'Connor in the second half after 70 minute. This was probably tactical to reduce the risk of him getting that 10th booking.
The second half started rather scrappily and Plymouth probably had their best spell in the first 15 minutes of the half without really looking like scoring.
Any hope they might get one back and make a game of it were dashed on 61 minutes when Elliott popped up to score the best goal of the game with a great solo effort. He picked up a loose clearance and set off on a run, rounding a defender to beat keeper, McCormick with a shot into the far corner of the net from about 18 yards.
Jones now playing with the confidence he had at the start of the season put in a good shot on target and brought out a good parried save from the keeper on 68 minutes. Steve Cotterill made a few changes bringing on McCann for James O'Connor after 70 miniutes and Garreth O'Connor for Elliott after 76 minutes as the Clarets continued to press for a fifth goal.
There was a final bit of drama on 82 minutes when Plymouth were awarded a dubious penalty after Connolly had been bundled off the ball by Djemba-Djemba.
Ebanks-Blake however missed and fired wide of goal! Nothing was going to spoil our evening and for once lady luck was smiling!
Ade Akinbiyi finally got to see a bit of action after 85 minutes as he replaced Andy Gray who got an standing ovation as he left the pitch.
The final whistle blew and somehow we had scored four goals, put in the most impressive performance since November, not had any players booked, seen a penalty miss by Plymouth and..phew won our first game in 19 matches!
What a difference scoring our first goal in ages had on confidence and what great credit we must give to Steve Cotterill for turning this round to such an extent. He has been under the cosh recently so lets give the gaffer some credit for this and hope we have now turned the corner!
Despite the criticisms by some about our manager, I have always believed we have inherently got here our best squad for ages. They only needed to return to the passion and confidence they displayed before we went on this awful run and that was proved last night.
Bring on Birmingham at least I wont now be 'bricking it' for that game and can relax a bit!
Burnley: Jensen, Thomas, Duff, Caldwell, Harley, Elliott (Garreth O'Connor 76), James O'Connor (McCann 70), Djemba-Djemba, Jones, Gray (Akinbiyi 85), McVeigh.
Subs Not Used: Coyne, Coughlan.
Goals: Duff 13, McVeigh 20, Jones 38, Elliott 61.
Plymouth: McCormick, Connolly, Seip, Timar, Capaldi, Gosling (Djordjic 72), Hodges (Buzsaky 35), Nalis, Sinclair, Hayles, Fallon (Ebanks-Blake 60).
Subs Not Used: Halmosi, Sawyer.
Booked: Fallon, Connolly, Seip, Ebanks-Blake.
A difficult choice but we will plump for Djemba Djemba, who has been impressive in the last two matches