'Reds Alert Burnley Failings' by Cuban Claret
Reds Alert Burnley Failings
WHATEVER positive feelings Burnley supporters took into the international break a fortnight or so ago appear to have been extinguished by two successive defeats to mid-table Championship opposition.
First Reading and now Barnsley (both teams we haven't had a particularly good record against in recent seasons)have heaped an inferiority complex onto Eddie Howe's vulnerable players, leaving supporters looking bleakly into an autumnal abyss.
That said, the inconsistencies of Championship football affecting all but the leading team in the division at present, means that nobody would be surprised whatever the outcome on Saturday at the Ricoh Arena.
While the travelling fans deserve great credit for setting out in the first place on an utterly horrible October evening and even more for sticking behind the team throughout, the final whistle drew a volatile response that would have only added to the players' sense of isolation.
I had the benefit of a view from the halfway line among neutrals. From where I sat, I could understand both the fans frustration and Eddie Howe's view that, for a decent stretch of the match, we bossed the game.
But, like Reading on Saturday, Barnsley had the upper hand tactically. Keith Hill's deployment of two sitting midfielders, defending deep and making the most of the counter attacks, worked effectively and the team had good shape.
Burnley's tendency to over elaborate in key areas, a serial failure as the season wears on and to make at least one critical defensive lapse per match, is costing us points and league position.
The lack of options from the bench or trust in the substitutes is giving us nowhere to turn when things get tough. Sadly the vibe at the moment is if we fall behind we might as well forget it, hardly a hallmark of Burnley teams in the recent past.
It all started in encouraging fashion for the Clarets. A raid down the right by Kieron Tripper in the 5th minute resulted in a fine low centre that was only cleared as far as Ross Wallace, whose well controlled low shot from the edge of the box had the goalkeeper beaten but struck defender Rob Edwards on the goalline.
It was an open start, end-to-end, Barnsley had some good possession but Burnley had better openings. From one, Junior Stanislas crossed superbly after good work from Amougou in the middle but the ball eluded Charlie Austin by a whisker when a simple contact would have been enough.
We were threatening with the ball but not sharp enough without it.
Barnsley had three mobile central midfielders finding the pass too easily. Jim O'Brien made mincemeat of Brian Easton that led to a 20 yard shot being charged down by David Edgar but the growing pressure told in the 23rd minute when Craig Davies headed an O'Brien cross back across goal from the far post and Jacob Butterfield rolled the easiest of chances past Lee Grant from six yards.
Burnley's response was immediate. Jay Rodriguez, hugging the left hand touch line for much of the first half, picked the ball up just inside the Reds half and ran 20 yards before cutting across his man and striking a fine right foot shot against the Barnsley crossbar from 25 yards.
Barnsley finished the first half in the ascendency. Gray went close with a clever back heel and Manchester United loanee Danny Drinkwater struck a 35 yard free-kick with precision and power that Grant parried into the path of an onrushing attacker.
The second half began with Clarets followers in good voice and the Rodriguez employed more centrally with Wallace moving wide for a more obvious 4-4-2.
Austin hit the side netting after a flowing move from left to right and Burnley enjoyed good possession but one casual pass led to Barnsley all-of-a-sudden on the verge of a second goal when Davies found himself free of the Clarets defence and bearing down on goal.
Davies is still to find the scoring form he enjoyed in League Two with Chesterfield last season and he spurned his glorious chance by shooting a foot wide of Grant's right hand post.
The forward had chance to redeem himself in the 57th minute when he latched on a giant kick by Luke Steele but his shot rolled wide as Burnley breathed again.
If Burnley were going to equalise, there was as much chance as any of it coming from the boot of Wallace. He fizzed an excellent shot in the 63rd minute from outside the box that Steele saved with a dive to his right. He then went down in the penalty box under a challenge by Jim McNulty but the referee correctly waved play on.
Wallace hit the target again from a 25-yard free kick after Amougou had been upended. Then Keith Treacy was thrown on for Stanislas in the 68th, who had faded badly after a decent start.
With 20 minutes to go and tension rising, Chris McCann found Marvin Bartley with a fine pass that drew Steele out to the edge of his area. He just got to the ball first but his clearance found its way back to McCann close to the halfway line and the Burnley skipper tried his luck with a first-time shot that attempted to capitalise on Steele's loss of position.
Sadly it dropped just wide.
The situation was exacerbated in the 81st minute. A hopeful ball was misjudged badly by Edgar and Gray scurried away unattended down the right flank. He picked his pass inside to substitute Ricardo Vaz Te who took two touches before striking a lovely shot beyond Grant from a narrow angle.
This sucker punch was a little harsh on the Clarets but 2-0 it was and there was little more to come from beleaguered Burnley.
It's more than a little alarming how the team tend to fall away towards the end of the match.
Zavon Hines might have been a useful substitute earlier in the piece but coming on in the 88th minute was as pointless as it must have felt futile for the player himself.
This season of transition is going to be tough and there will no doubt be plenty matches like this ahead but it should be remembered that Eddie Howe himself is on a steep learning curve.
On tonight's showing, there were positives to take forward. I don't buy that the players lacked effort. I do buy that we are lacking experience, leadership and the fact that we did not replace key players is taking its toll. The likes of Easton and Edgar have had a long enough crack at it now to have a good look at them and neither look anything better than squad players to me.
But its not the personnel as such that's the key frustration. The decision making by the players and the reluctancy to play percentage football when in key areas is our undoing.
Against Forest the other week we hammered them because our service into the box was so impressive. I didn't see that last night, leading to a hugely frustrating night for our frontmen.
In summary, we need to be better in both boxes and cut out the fancy stuff. Our season depends on it.
Cuban Claret aka Matt Evans