Stadium of Fight
Stadium of Light
27th April 2007
The Clarets fought to win this match with great passion but little reward despite having nothing really to play for except pride. In the end, Sunderland probably just deserved to win the match 3-2 but the Clarets did not make it easy for the club now virtually assured of automatic promotion.
It was a match of high drama with three penalty awards and two spectacular goals. The Clarets were finally awarded a penalty after 66 matches without one and actually scored with Andy Gray making no mistake from the spot against his old club. 'The Beast' was in top class form and saved a penalty which should never have been awarded in the first place. He was not however lucky enough to save their second.
Wade Elliott, in the second half scored a blaster to secure by far the club's Goal of the Season and actually put the Clarets ahead 2-1. It certainly silenced the Mackems before Sunderland got their second penalty and scored.
Sadly for the Clarets with 10 minutes to go, Carlos Edwards also scored a spectacular goal from 25 yards to seal all three points for the home team.
The Clarets therefore remain on 57 points in 15th place, going into Saturday's matches. We will drop one place if Norwich get at least one point at home to Southampton over the weekend. Steve Cotterill will now be hoping we can finish the season on a high in our last match of the season against Coventry at Turf Moor on Sunday 6th May. A win and we finish the season on 60 points, the same tally as our best post-Digital season in 2004/5 and with a better goal difference (in the positive).
Despite coming away without any points, the performance, pride and passion shown by the lads augers well for the future and if we can bottle the performances in April with our form displayed earlier in the season up to November 2006, Season 2007/8 could well be a Clarets one! We just need to sustain it for a whole season and try and avoid the post-Xmas slump that has now affected all three seasons under Steve Cotterill.
Most Clarets will be asking themselves what would have happened if we hadn't lost Andy Gray to injury back in November and embark on what turned out to be a 19 match winless run. It has been some season but again we will finish on a relative disappointing note in terms of our final placing after all the talk of reaching the play offs.
We have however to be realistic. Despite the Board showing fantastic ambition in January 07 and releasing the purse strings at a time we normally sell our key players, we should remember we still have for most of the season only had 23 players in the squad or less with most teams around us enjoying the luxury of 25-30 players or more.
Some folk will point to the success of Colchester with a similar size squad, good luck to them if they get promotion via the play-offs, but what if they dont? Will they become the next Luton or Hull and fall away next season? The jury is still out but its very rare for a squad with such low numbers to achieve promotion and its inevitable in the second-half of the season that tiredness,injuries and suspensions will take their toll, magnifying the problem and reducing options.
Further encouraging signs it seems have been made by the Board with Steve Cotterill suggesting he wants his 'High Five' of players to be signed in the close season. We have to hope that these new faces provide additional squad numbers as well as additional quality so we can plough on in 2007/8.
Ah well thats for the future, one I am now increasingly looking forward to,particularly after last night's performance and our results in April.
Lets however get back to the match last night.
The Clarets of course were without James O'Connor who was rested following his clash of heads with McShane in our last match against the Baggies. James was knocked unconscious as he fell to the floor and regained it in the club's medical room after being stretchered off.
Chris McCann, who replaced him in that match was also named in the starting line-up against Sunderland as expected. The gaffer also chose to play Paul McVeigh upfront just behind Andy Gray in 4-4-1-1 with Ade Akinbiyi as expected relegated to the bench. There was also a surpise recall for Joey Gudjonsson who was named on the bench.
The Clarets therefore lined up as follows:
Jensen, Duff, Thomas, Caldwell, Harley, Elliott, McCann, Djemba-Djemba, Jones, McVeigh, Gray.
Subs: Coyne, Coughlan, Spicer, Akinbiyi, Gudjonsson.
Berkshire referee Trevor Kettle would be hoping to stop the match boiling over (sorry!) as he blew his whistle (sorry again!) for the start of the match in front of a massive 44,448 crowd and in front of the Sky cameras, Burnley's second game in front of them in five days.
In the first 15 minutes the Clarets were put under relentless pressure by the Black Cats. Edwards in the 13th minute found himself free on the right side of the penalty area, but Jensen rushed off his line to block with his legs. This was the first of many awesome saves to come from 'The Beast'
Just as the Clarets fans were recovering from that scare, one minute later Murphy scored an easy goal from six yards and yet again a goal had been conceded in the first 15 minutes. The Clarets however in recent times are not phased by going behind and despite continued pressure from Sunderland slowly began to get back into the game.
It was nearly almost game over though in the 20th minute with a bizarre penalty award to the home team. Wayne Thomas in trying to clear a Edwards' cross dived with his arms outstretched to break his fall. Connolly seemed to fall over Thomas's arms, even the player himself did not appear to be claiming a penalty but the 'Kettle calling Potty' was determined to give him one.
However step forward hero Brian Jensen who correctly guessed which way Connolly's spot kick would go and saved in spectacular fashion.
In the 29th minute McCann was clearly struggling with an injury despite bravely trying to shrug it off. The hobbling midfielder was replaced by Joey Gudjonsson, and he was almost immediately called upon to take a 30 yard free kick. He put it however well wide.
A miracle happened though 8 minutes before the break. We got a penalty...I will say that again WE GOT A PENALTY!!
It has been 66 games and 16 months ago since we last saw the Clarets get one back in December 2005.
Most Clarets fans probably cant even remember it,let alone know who our penalty takers might be these days.
We were about to find out.Eric Djemba-Djemba passed a lovely through ball to Elliott with the winger then clearly floored as he tried to go round Darren Ward.
Andy Gray stepped forward to take the penalty and made no mistake sending the keeper the wrong way as the ball thundered into the right hand corner of the net.
This seemed to unsettle the Black Cats and the Clarets finished the first half on top and doing most of the pressing.
The jaws of the Mackems fell even lower in the second half when only 5 minutes after the kick off, McVeigh found Wade Elliott who with a stunning 35 yard right footed shot found the top corner of the net. The Clarets 'Goal of the Season' by far!
The Clarets fans joy though was not to last long. 'The Beast' made a clumsy challenge on Edwards, three minutes later and the referee had no hesitation in awarding the third penalty of the night. This time Connolly made no mistake sending Jensen the wrong way to make it 2-2.
Sunderland were now revitalised and put the Clarets under increasing pressure especially down the left. Akinbiyi replaced the lacklustre,Jones after 58 minutes with McVeigh now taking a wider role. After 65 minutes, McVeigh almost scored with Ward saving from under the crossbar. Gudjonsson from the resulting corner was then inches away from scoring from a volley.
With 15 minutes left Elliott was replaced by Spicer and so the entertaining game continued.
Typical Sunderland though got the winner 10 minutes from time. How many games have they won in the last 15 minutes?
It was another cracker of a goal though. Edwards unleashed a blaster from 25 yards to the delight of the home crowd.
Make no mistake though as the final whistle went for the end of this absorbing game, the Clarets were awesome against a side destined for automatic promotion. The passion,pride and fighting spirit has to be bottled to mature over the close season. If we continue to play like that with consistency we must surely be a contender for the play-offs in 2007/8
Sunderland: Ward, Simpson, Evans, Edwards, Whitehead, Stokes (Hysen 71), Murphy, Nosworthy, Collins, Connolly (John 86), Miller (Leadbitter 74).
Subs Not Used: Fulop, Yorke.
Burnley: Jensen, Harley, Thomas, Caldwell, Duff, Jones (Akinbiyi 58), Djemba-Djemba, McCann (Gudjonsson 30), Elliott (Spicer 74), McVeigh, Gray
Subs Not Used: Coyne, Coughlan
Booked: Caldwell 20, Duff 77