To quote Will from The Inbetweeners Movie: “I like football but Burnley? Burnley can f*** off!”
What is it about Burnley? Why do they have this hoodoo over us? Why do they bring out our worst traits? In 2008 we beat them but still lost Folan and Okocha to suspension after they were sent off. In 2009 we were robbed at turf more by a dubious penalty and an even-more dubious disallowed goal. And Geovanni was sent off. In 2010 Iain Dowie’s Tigers were humbled at home and Nigel Pearson’s Tigers humbled away. In 2011 we lost at home to the only goal Nathan Delfouneso will ever score in his life. Almost a year ago they were gifted a win at Turf Moor by a Jack Hobbs error. And then today. Today we suffer the indignity of losing to a goal from Dean bloody Marney. A man who normally finishes like a potter with Parkinsons.
I hate Burnley.
City made one change from last week’s win at Birmingham. Loanee ‘keeper David Stockdale replaced Ben Amos (Amos dropping out of the eighteen altogether). Surprisingly Seyi Olofinjana, rubbish at St. Andrews, kept his place in midfield. Paul McShane was again ruled out through injury.
Tigers 3-5-2: [G] Stockdale [D] Chester, Faye, Bruce [M] Elmohamady, Rosenior, Koren, Olofinjana, Quinn [F] Aluko, Simpson
It was a very good game for the opening 15-20 minutes. The Tigers prodded and probed but gave Burnley the ball enough to make chances at both ends. Aulko had an early shot blocked and Olofinjana’s follow-up was well struck, hard and low, but just wide. Alex Bruce then gave the ball to Ross Wallace who hit a dipping shot, similar to Geovanni’s goal against Fulham in ’08, but Stockdale parried. Chester did well to make the rebound ahead of the lively Austin. Olofinjana then gave the ball away in midfield allowing Martin Paterson to curl a shot wide. Stephen Quinn’s superb cross was headed over by Ben Mee with Olofinjana, Simpson and Elmo all lurking. That capped a breathless opening 11 minutes. It may have been more action-packed if Lee Grant hadn’t started time wasting in the 4th minute. We needn’t have worried though. It only continued for another 83 minutes before the referee spotted it and told him to cut it out.
Cynical tactics aside, Burnley were very good. They retreated very quickly when we won the ball and we spent a lot of time passing the ball in front of ten defenders as a result. They cut out any space in behind and in between defence and midfield meaning Aluko had to go wide to get any possession and Jay Simpson was a spectator. We weren’t good enough to break them down and worse, we kept coughing up possession allowing them to counter on us. Wallace carried the ball well, Austin’s movement, pace and desire to work caused problems and Marney buzzed around as he does. Olofinjana was most guilty of passing to light blue shirts but most of ours had a turn at some point. As a result, Burnley created far more chances than most teams have at the KC this season. We escaped a couple of times before they made the breakthrough. A corner fell to Jason Shackell at the back post but Bruce closed down quickly. Then Wallace picked up in midfield, strode forward and hit a fantastic shot that was arrowing into the top corner before Stockdale stuck out a big right hand and finger-tipped it onto the bar. Alex Bruce was hurt ensuring they didn’t profit from the rebound. Paterson had another effort that Stockdale fumbled and then gathered before the goal came. Another City giveaway in midfield allowed Wallace to run from deep. Marney made a run off to his right, Wallace found him and Marney finished coolly [0-1]. Marney, who’d received a warm applause before kick-off, then ran to the East Stand slapping his Burnley badge and stood looking angrily at the bemused City fans. He was obviously deeply affected by the groans of the East Stand every time he put a shot into row Z. It was pathetic celebration but he can get his kicks anyway he likes. Fair play to him for enjoying the goal; he doesn’t score often.
At half time David Meyler and Robbie Brady replaced the awful Olofinjana and the injured Bruce. City improved after the break but it was deeply frustrating. Burnley gave up attacking altogether and sat 11 behind the ball while wasting every second possible. As a home fan, it was hideous to watch but it was a perfect away performance. Meanwhile the Tigers managed to create several reasonable chances but spurned all of them. Meyler made no difference whatsoever to the midfield. He sat deep, picking up the ball and playing it sideways and backwards. He offered no creative spark or threat at all. He was much better in defending a lead at Birmingham than he was in trying to overhaul one here. We came closest to an equaliser early on in the half and we didn’t have a lot to do with it. Koren received a short corner, crossed poorly, it deflected off one Burnley defender, a second behind him sliced it and it came back off the post. Elmohamady then put in a rare good cross, a terrific cross in fact, and Quinn broke through their defence but headed well, well wide. The run was magnificent, the header quite the opposite. From a rare Burnley corner, Jay Simpson raced away with the ball, hurdled a challenge, evaded an attempt to hack him down and left himself, Koren and Quinn attacking one defender. Simpson slid the ball to Koren and then he and Quinn made runs to the right. When Koren returned the ball, Simpson was offside. Seriously, three on one and he wanders offside. I’m pretty sure Quinn was too. You knew right at that moment that it wouldn’t be our day.
Nick Proschwitz then replaced Rosenior. A fat lot of good that did. There was no system that this point. Burnley weren’t interested in attacking so we left Chester and Faye back, Meyler sat in front of them and everyone else was in attack. A City set piece was cleared to Quinn, Stock then chipped the ball into his own box trying to tackle Quinn, Elmo headed down to Proschwitz 8 yards out but he volleyed way over. The ball was at a difficult height when it bounced up but it was still a massive chance. Proschwitz just failed to connect with an Elmo ball from deep in what was almost a re-run of the winning goal against Ipswich at home. Aluko had two efforts late on, one from distance on the left that sailed wide, the other from inside the box where he turned Marney but shot wide with his left foot. Simpson collected a ball with his back to goal and tried to volley in from a ridiculous position with team mates all around. Awful decision. Simmo then worked himself into a good position on the right wing and crossed into the crowd. Not his best half this. The final chance fell to our German reinfall who had a shot blocked amidst a goalmouth scramble and then snatched at the perfectly presentable rebound and scuffed it way wide.
The ref then checked his watch; seemed satisfied with the 22 minutes the ball was actually in play over 96 minutes and blew his whistle. In his defence, we could’ve played until Christmas without scoring. This is Burnley after all. We might as well accept that we’ll never beat them again and concentrate on the other 44 games a season! This makes 7 consecutive defeats to Burnley. Goals for 3. Goals against 16. In truth, we can have no complaints. Sean Dyche deserves a lot of credit, he devised the perfect plan for playing away from home and his players carried it out to perfection. We passed poorly, moved the ball slowly, invited counter attacks and turned down half decent chances to score.
Not too many players come out of the game with a lot of credit. James Chester played well against the terrific Charlie Austin. Austin is mobile, willing, quick and strong. He worked his socks off for his team. Jay Simpson has had a fine season overall but it’s fair to say we’d be a better team if we had Austin leading the line. Stockdale had a decent debut. He looked very nervous in the first 20 minutes but he made good decisions and once his got over the nerves, his handling was good. He kicked well too from dead balls and under pressure and pulled off one superb save. Robbie Brady had an impact from the bench and got forward well. His weakness is his decision making though and he turned down several chances to put the ball into the box. He hasn’t changed in that regard.
It’s leaders Crystal Palace next and it should be a more open game which will suit us. Alex Bruce went off with a knock for the umpteenth time this season so he may be struggling. Brady must be close to a start too especially as Liam Rosenior has been “doubtful” for the last half a dozen games. Olofinjana has to go from the midfield. I think Bruce will turn to Meyler which would be ridiculously unfair on Corry Evans who should never have been left out in the first place. The front two were quiet today but it’s been proven that they are by far the best combo we have so I wouldn’t change them. Today was still a rarity in our season so there’s no need to panic yet. A win on Tuesday will lift morale and against a potential promotion rival, will be almost priceless.
Now, did I mention that I hate Burnley?