No Win on Groundhog Day
Groundhog Day, 29th December 2007 @3pm
The Clarets continued their hapless form on home soil by losing 1-0 to Bristol City at Turf Moor yesterday. A second half goal from Hungarian Tamas Vasko on 67 minutes was enough to give the Robins victory.
The defeat continues to deny Owen Coyle his first win at home since joining the club. Under Coyle we have now played six games at home and only managed three points from six matches with three draws against Stoke, Leicester and Sheffield Wednesday and defeats against QPR, Preston and now Bristol City. The home form however has not been that good though for some time and as 2007 comes to a close we can only point to six home wins, all of them under Steve Cotterill.
So what excuses can we think of this time for not winning at home? We could try these:
-Suspensions to Gudjonsson, McCann, Spicer and Alexander
-Injuries to Alan Mahon and Andy Gray
-The squad down to the bare bones having to draft in a young second-year apprentice, Adam Kay to complete the bench. He was hastily given a squad number this week
-Jay Rodriguez also on the bench for only his second League game, making his debut in final few minutes after coming on for Jordan
-Other players having to play in unfamiliar positions with Harley in midfield and Caldwell at right back
-Losing Clarke Carlisle due to his niggling hamstring injury after only 33 minutes with Steve Jones coming on requiring a further shuffling of the pack with Wade Elliott arguably our most effective player at the time going to right back.
-Ade Akinbiyi hits the woodwork three times!
-Its Christmas and its traditional to make a bollox of it!
-No fairy dust!
-The result and performance prompted Owen Coyle to describe the day as quote 'Like Groundhog Day` (That`s rather amusing after some Groundhog criticism of your editor on another forum for supporting Steve Cotterill but we won`t go into that!)
We certainly don`t appear to be having any luck at the moment and there was more bad news with David Unsworth picking up a fifth-yellow card and therefore a one-match ban against Arsenal in the FA Cup third-round at Turf Moor a week today. With Clarke Carlisle also likely to be out, there is going to be one major headache for Owen Coyle selecting a back four to keep the Premier League leaders at bay.
The defeat means we have dropped one place to 11th with the play-off places becoming more and more remote. The 6th placed club, Plymouth are now four points clear.
There is now also another sad statistic we need to bear in mind. We have not won home or away in the last five matches although we did get a gallant point away to Ipswich with only 10-men. Those fantastic victories away to Watford, Charlton and Wolves are fast becoming a distant memory and to a lot of fans losing to the bottom clubs at the time, QPR and Preston at home, with a less than convincing performance against lowly Sheffield Wednesday neutralise the away victories.
Of course, it`s far too early to be calling for the neck of Owen Coyle but the situation is not unlike the one Steve Cotterill had to face, time and time again, namely small squads, losing key players at key times and a string of bad luck involving naff penalty decisions, injuries and suspensions. The reality might drop eventually that it`s not easy to progress out of this League with a squad of only 23-24, especially when effectively at the moment you can only select from 14 available players.
The key to all this will be the January window. Who will come in and how many? Who will be leaving if anybody? We just have to hope that we can avoid half-a-season syndrome and finish in a respectable, consolidated position this season. Nothing less than Top 10 would suffice in my opinion to justify losing Steve Cotterill and we have to hope the transfer window is kind to us and we have a decent squad to cover for the tiredness, injuries and suspensions likely to cripple us in the New Year.
We can however at least look forward to the return from suspension soon of basically our midfield, Gudjonsson, McCann and Spicer and Alexander has now sat out his one match ban. We have to hope that the injuries to Mahon, Gray and Carlisle are quick to heal. There is also hope that Michael Duff and even Besart Berisha could still play this season after they fully recover from cruciate ligament injuries.
It`s not all doom & gloom yet, and four points off the sixth place is not an impossible position but something has to be done and done quickly about our home form and Owen Coyle might not have any fairy dust but he needs to find the magician`s touch and pull a rabbit out of the hat quickly (or is it a Groundhog?)
Anyway back to the match yesterday, with the above mentioned injuries and suspensions, Owen Coyle had to put together a sixteen with sticking plaster and bare bones. He chose the one predicted by Vital Burnley although we didn`t expect Adam Kay to be named on the bench and it was Caldwell not Carlisle that took over the right back spot.
Kiraly, Caldwell, Unsworth, Carlisle, Jordan, James O`Connor, Harley, Elliott, Lafferty, Blake, Akinbiyi.
Subs: Jensen, Garreth O`Connor, Jones, Rodriguez, Kay.
Before the match started, there was a one-minute silence for Dr David Iven, the club`s president who sadly died this week and it is great credit to both sets of fans that the one-minute silence was honoured.
Referee, Clive Oliver (Northumberland), got the match underway on a terrible wet and windy day at Turf Moor with Bristol City putting the Clarets under some early pressure. Ivan Sproule seemed to be causing all the early problems for the Clarets with Kiraly pulling off a save from the City winger after only 90 seconds of play.
Stephen Jordan then made the mistake of leaving a lofted ball for Sproule to pounce again one minute later. Thankfully this time he put his shot wide.
Kiraly, probably by now carrying about 50 lbs of rain water in each leg of his track suit bottoms, somehow pulled off a save from McCombe after his looping header was well on target.
It seemed to take an eternity for the Clarets to settle in this match and put together their first meaningful attack but after the first 15-20 minutes the match became entertaining for the neutral at least with end-to-end stuff from both sides.
Robins` keeper, Adriano Basso saved the day for Bristol City on 14 minutes after some nice play between Lafferty and Akinbiyi led to a shot by the Irishman from the edge of the area. Robbie Blake, four minutes later found Akinbiyi but his shot hit the post and bobbled about only for Lafferty to put the shot wide. Wade Elliott then came close after 20 minutes with a curling shot flashing past the far post with the keeper well beaten.
Disaster then struck the ill-fated Clarets again when after 33 minutes, Clarke Carlisle hobbled off with a recurrence of that niggling hamstring problem. Owen Coyle brought on Steve Jones and with no other option was forced to play Wade Elliott at right back with Caldwell moving back to his more familiar central defence role.
Steve Jones was quickly into action bringing out a save by the Robins' Brazilian keeper but after that he seemed to have a quiet game looking like he didn`t even want the ball. What is wrong with him? He needs to be aware that an element of the Clarets fans are not happy with this type of performance and if he`s not careful he could become the next 'boo-boy` target following in the footpath of Branch, Thomas and Gudjonsson.
Anyway back to the match, on 42 minutes Ade Akinbiyi hit woodwork again with a shot being attracted to the upright rather than the back of the net. It was Akinbiyi again, one minute later who came close after picking up the ball from a free-kick but Basso denied him at the near post.
So the entertaining first-half came to an end with no side being able to break the deadlock.
The Clarets started the second-half with guns still blazing and had a number of half chances in the first ten minutes with the best of these coming from that man, Akinbiyi again but his shot this time found the side-netting.
Basso then saved a Jon Harley shot after some nice play between Blake and Lafferty but the ball found its way to Akinbiyi. The luckless striker however found the angle too difficult and another chance went begging.
At this point the Clarets were in control and of the two sides looked the most likely to score. However, that rarely happens these days and in the 67th minute, against the run of play it was the Robins that took the lead. From a McIndoe free kick, Vasko found himself unmarked and simply shot past Kiraly to put the away team 1-0 up.
The Clarets were quick to react and almost equalised two minutes later when from 14 yards out, Ade Akinbiyi turned on a sixpence with his shot hitting woodwork for now the third time as the ball agonisingly came off the post.
Lafferty`s weak header after 72 minutes was not going to redress the balance and it was not going to be a dream debut either for young Jay Rodriguez, given his chance to shine in the 86th minute after replacing Stephen Jordan. Blake dropped back deeper into midfield to accommodate the young debutant.
It was not to be as the final whistle went. Another dire Christmas for the Clarets and only a win at Blackpool on New Year`s Day will go some way to making it even remotely festive.
Owen Coyle in addition to the Groundhog Day comment also had this to say about the performance:
'We are just not being clinical. We had seven or eight real goal scoring opportunities but it's all about composure and sometimes a bit of luck.
'But you have to stay strong; I would be more worried if we weren't creating chances.
'If the players continue to give that effort and keep persevering they will get their reward but we can be more clinical with our finishing.'
Burnley: Kiraly, Carlisle (Jones 33), Caldwell, Unsworth, Jordan (Rodriguez 86), Elliott, James O'Connor, Harley, Lafferty, Akinbiyi, Blake.
Subs Not Used: Jensen, Garreth O'Connor, Kay.
Bristol City: Basso, Orr, McCombe, Vasko, McAllister, McIndoe, Noble (Brian Wilson 80), Elliott, Sproule, Johnson, Byfield (Trundle 61).
Subs Not Used: Weale, Showunmi, Ribeiro.
Goals: Vasko 67.
Ref: Clive Oliver (Northumberland).