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'If It's Football, It's Vital'

West Bromwich Albion 2 - Burnley 1

The Hawthorns

2nd February 2008 @ 3pm

Attendance: 22,206.

Baggies Just Too Good

It was not to be at the Hawthorns as gallant Burnley fell to a 2-1 defeat despite scoring first in the third minute. The Clarets went ahead thanks to a goal by former Baggies player, James O`Connor. His goal on three minutes was his first of the season. West Brom however then piled on the pressure in the first half to try and get the equaliser. It was no surprise they did so on 26 minutes when Cesar smashed in a left-foot volley. The first half was then all West Brom and the Clarets did well to survive the onslaught and go in 1-1 at half time. The second half started the way it had finished and on 60 minutes it was Roman Bednar who headed in from a corner to put the Clarets 2-1 behind. It looked to be game over when the Baggies won a penalty, but Robert Koren failed to beat Jensen who saved against his former club. This stroke of good fortune seemed to spur the Clarets on and they then played their best spell of the game, with debutant Cole in particular looking lively despite his advancing years. Cole had replaced Akinbiyi after 61 minutes and there was also an opportunity for the Clarets faithful to see how another new boy, Mark Randall would fare when the Arsenal loan came on after 70 minutes to replace McCann in midfield. Despite a few gallant efforts by the Clarets to find the elusive equaliser, you always sensed the Baggies were in control of this match and they thoroughly deserved their three points as the final whistle went.

This defeat saw us drop a few places to 10th remaining on 43 points but still only 2 points behind 6th placed club Ipswich.

The defeat brought out the following comments from Owen Coyle:

'We made a terrific start and we tried to be positive against a fantastic side that are not top of the table by accident. I will be very surprised if they do not get one of the top two spots this season.

'At the end we have to be disappointed that we did not see it through after the start we made. I am not going to make too much of it, but for me there was a clear foul in the build-up to Albion's first goal.

'We were disappointed with the second goal we lost but there are still a lot of positives to take from the game. The effort and work ethic from my players was second to none.'

At the start of the game the Clarets chose to line-up exactly as they did in their last match against Scunthorpe last Saturday at Turf Moor. The only changes came on the bench, with both new loans, Andy Cole and Mark Randall named on the bench. Captain Caldwell also found himself on the bench again along with Spicer and Kiraly. Injuries to Alan Mahon, Clarke Carlisle and Steve Jones kept them sidelined and of course Kyle Lafferty was sitting out his final match following his red card sending off against Arsenal.

Kevin Phillips was in the team for the Baggies despite the doubts surrounding his injury. This came as no surprise and clearly looked to be a part of Mowbray`s psychological warfare ahead of the match.

The teams therefore lined up as follows:

Burnley:

Jensen, Alexander, Varga, Unsworth, Harley, J O'Connor, Gudjonsson, McCann, Akinbiyi, Blake, Elliott.
Subs: Kiraly, Spicer, Cole, Randall, Caldwell

West Brom:

Kiely, Hoefkens, Albrechtsen, Cesar, Robinson, Phillips, Koren, Greening, Morrison, Gera, Bednar
Subs: Barnett, Beattie, Danek, Teixeira, Brunt

Cumbrian referee, Mike Pike got the match underway in front of a huge Clarets contingent, obviously taking advantage of the Club`s offer of free travel to the match.

It was Burnley who came out of the traps the quicker of the two sides. A Robbie Blake cross found Unsworth and his header down to James O'Connor allowed the former Baggies midfielder to shoot home with style and put the Clarets ahead in only the 4th minute.

Chris McCann nearly made it 2-0 soon after but his shot just went wide of the post.

It was the Baggies who then began to pile on the pressure as the Clarets became more and more subdued.

Their first effort was a shot by Morrison but the ball was deflected wide for a corner. West Brom then hit the bar from this corner but the referee had already blown for a foul.

Wade Elliott from 25 yards out then found some space on 9 minutes, beat Cesar but put his shot narrowly wide of the left hand post.

Kevin Phillips then fired wide for the Baggies as the home side began to take control.

After 17 minutes, Zoltan Gera headed harmlessly over from a corner.

A very bad tackle by Chris McCann, fouling Robinson after the ball had gone looked ominous but the referee decided a yellow rather than a red card was the fairer option much to the relief of the Clarets.

Morrison down the left wing found Phillips but his shot from just outside the box went wide again.

However West Brom did finally equaliser on 26 minutes after sustained pressure when a Greening corner found Cesar unmarked to score from about 7 yards out. This was clearly poor defensive work from the Clarets, and they need to tighten up from corners.

As the pressure continued, an overhead kick from 20 yards by Gera flew past the post with Jensen looking stranded.
In injury time, Morrison then shot wide. Wade Elliott having a quieter game than normal, then got the better of the Baggies left back but his cross flew over the Baggies bar.

So 1-1 it was at half-time with the Clarets having soaked up most of the West Brom pressure but looking like a side that would be lucky to survive in the second half if the Baggies continued their dominance.

Stan Varga had looked a weakness for most of the first half suffering from lack of pace but he got in an important challenge to prevent an early chance for the Baggies to take the lead in the second half with Elliott also helping out.

Elliott now looking livelier found Blake at the far post but his cross was headed just over the bar by Akinbiyi. Alexander then stopped James Morrisson from scoring from a Greening cross.

The Clarets though finally succumbed to the pressure and went behind on 60 minutes when Bednar scored from six yards out, heading home a cross from Robinson. Owen Coyle had seen enough and immediately brought on Andy Cole for the tiring Akinbiyi to make his debut for the Clarets.
Brian Jensen then calmly saved from Cesar just before becoming the saviour for the Clarets after a penalty was awarded with Jon Harley the culprit. Koren squandered his penalty kick with the Dane guessing right, saving down to his left to keep the Clarets in the game.

Chris McCann then made way for debutant, Mark Randall after 70 minutes as the Clarets began to play some of the their best football of the match. James O'Connor got in shot on goal after some nice link play between Cole and Elliott, but this was easily saved by Keily.

Gera`s shot was then palmed round the post by the Beast and with four minutes added on the clock, Koren fired a shot narrowly wide. As the clock ticked down, the Clarets could not find a way to find an equaliser and it was the Baggies who finally took all three deserved points.

-------------------------------------------------------

West Brom: Kiely, Hoefkens, Cesar, Albrechtsen, Robinson, Gera, Koren, Greening, Morrison, Phillips (Beattie 61), Bednar (Filipe Teixeira 76).

Subs Not Used: Danek, Barnett, Brunt.

Goals: Cesar 26, Bednar 60.

Burnley: Jensen, Alexander, Varga, Unsworth, Harley, Elliott, McCann (Randall 70), James O'Connor, Gudjonsson (Spicer 81), Akinbiyi (Cole 61), Blake.

Subs Not Used: Kiraly, Caldwell.

Booked: McCann, Harley, Randall.

Goals: James O'Connor 3.

Ref: Mike Pike (Cumbria).

Star Player

James O'Connor, Graham Alexander and Jon Harley all had good games for the Clarets plus Andy Cole looked up for it after he came on from the bench in the second half. We shall give the award on balance to Alexander though who had an awesome match in defence.

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