The Clarets are currently second from bottom in a perilous situation and already four points adrift of fourth from bottom club, West Ham. We now face the third from bottom club, Hull City at the KC Stadium on Saturday in a game that is clearly a vital six-pointer for both clubs. This really is ‘last chance saloon` time for the Clarets with Hull three points ahead of the Clarets with a game in hand. They also now have a superior goal difference after our awful display against Manchester City at Turf Moor last week. We suffered a 6-1 tonking but the club would have been more concerned by the anger and frustration shown by the fans. Burnley had conceded three goals within the first seven minutes and some fans were already making a beeline for the exits. With the Clarets 5-0 down at half-time, a dejected and bedraggled looking Brian Laws had to run the gauntlet of jeering fans as he walked towards the tunnel with torrential rain now falling from the storm clouds above. He got a similar treatment at the end of the game and things simply don`t seem right at the club at the moment. Dark days indeed and Clarets fans badly need a tonic. We truly are playing woeful football currently though with just one win in 14 games for Brian Laws and his men. It is not so much their losing at the moment; it`s the manner of their losing! They seem to look clueless in defence, midfield and attack and there is an apparent lack of passion and commitment not to mention a complete lack of quality. That simply has to change at the KC Stadium if we are to stand any chance of avoiding what looks like almost certain relegation. A defeat would not confirm our relegation but most Clarets fans would see it that way with just four games left to play and the two home games remaining being against two clubs fighting for that 4th place spot and qualification for the Champions League (Liverpool and Spurs)
Predicted Team Sheet
The team selection could be a dilemma for the gaffer, does he wring the changes or does he stick with a basic eighteen that has simply failed to deliver in the last few games no matter what the tactics and formation?
I think he may be tempted to play Steven Caldwell in the back four. The skipper is now chomping at the bit for a start after recovering from a persistent groin injury. Caldwell may well be selected more for his captaincy and motivational qualities than his ability as a defender. You could probably argue that Duff, Carlisle, Cort or even Bikey might be better options in the centre of defence but maybe we need some influential leadership to get this team playing to its full capacity again.
Brian Laws has strenuously denied this week any falling out with players following speculation that he had allegedly had a bust up with Kevin McDonald, Clarke Carlisle, Andre Bikey and Robbie Blake The bust-up was allegedly precipitated at half time following that grim performance against City last Saturday. McDonald was substituted at half-time against City with the Clarets already 5-0 down and after a shower he took it upon himself to bomb off down the road to a local boozer and watch the second half on the telly with his dad. His actions led to a fine by the club and a profuse apology from Kev but is all adds to the feeling that all is not well at the club. Blake was another casualty at half-time and he too was allegedly not happy about the situation. Who knows what is really happening. We might get a clue from Laws team selection for Hull and most Clarets fans will be eager to see whether the above mentioned players feature in the eighteen. Laws has certainly made it clear that the incident with McDonald is now fully resolved and that he will be in contention for a place in the squad to face the Tigers.
This is such an important game for the Clarets, I think Laws will stick with experience rather than risk further experimentation with fringe players. He will have to hope the players find that extra something in terms of grit, determination and passion. We certainly can`t afford and will not accept another performance like the last two home games.
I would go with this line-up below with either Nugent or Fletcher playing a wider role with the other upfront. If that is not working then we need to move to 4-4-2 or even 4-3-3 and we have plenty of options in attack. I have kept Fletcher in the starting eleven because I don`t think Laws would consider dropping the striker. There is an argument to suggest that Fletcher has been the weakest of the strikers in recent games and certainly Paterson looks to have more bite and passion but only if we play him as a pure striker in partnership with another striker. He is wasted on the wing
Jensen, Mears, Duff or Cort, Caldwell, Fox, Alexander, Eagles, Cork, McDonald, Nugent, Fletcher,
Subs: Weaver, Duff or Cort, Bikey, Elliott, Blake, Paterson, Thompson
Hull City Team News:
Ian Dowie does have a couple of injury concerns.
Dutch international midfielder George Boateng has been given a 45% chance of playing. He was carried off on a stretcher in Hull`s defeat to Stoke last Saturday after being hit in the face from the boot of Tuncay during the Stoke striker`s overhead kick attempt. Dowie is waiting to see if he shrugs off any sign of concussion after scans and x-rays showed no serious injuries.
Republic of Ireland winger Stephen Hunt is almost certainly sidelined. He is still struggling to shake off a foot injury.
Centre back, Ibrahima Sonko on loan from Stoke however looks set to return after missing the defeat against his parent club and defender, Andy Dawson is also in contention to start after returning to the bench at the Britannia Stadium following a hamstring injury.
Player to watch: Jimmy Bullard
Jimmy Bullard seems to be a motivational type of player that can inspire his team mates. He has been plagued with injuries at Hull but they always seem to play better when he is in their side.
Bullard signed from Fulham for a record fee of £5 million in January 2009. The 31 year old midfielder does seem injury prone though and in his debut for Hull he picked up a knee injury that would later prove to be cruciate ligament damage; an injury that would keep him out for the rest of the season. He returned in October 2009. In a game against Villa though in December Bullard went up for an aerial challenge against James Milner and landed awkwardly, injuring his left knee. A scan revealed he would be sidelined again this time for six-eight weeks but he is now back in the team. Bullard also has the knack of scoring scores although mainly from the penalty spot. In 11 appearances for the club this season he has notched up 5 goals.
Burnley Team News:
Stephen Jordan picked up a knee injury in the derby against Rovers and missed the 6-1 shocker against City last Saturday. He looks doubtful for the Hull game and with Kalvenes` contract terminated early this week, it looks likely that Danny Fox will keep his place at left back.
Skipper, Steven Caldwell is also in contention for a return after recovering from a persistent groin and abdominal injury that has kept him sidelined for most of the season. He last played against Wolves at Molineux just before Christmas. Caldwell came through his second Reserves game this week without any problems and Laws could take the view that his captaincy could be vital in motivating the players to succeed against Hull.
Our only other injury concern is Chris McCann who recently had surgery to repair a slightly torn cartilage. He will probably play no further part this season with the recovery period expected to be four-six weeks.
Player to watch: Kevin McDonald
After being disciplined by the club this week, Kev needs to show he has put all this behind him by putting in a good strong performance assuming Brian Laws gives him the chance to redeem himself. He let himself down against City both on and off the pitch last Saturday and Clarets fans will be looking for a vast improvement. McDonald can look very effective and solid setting up an attack but he also has to track back more and help out the defence instead of ball watching.
Back to the Future
In the 1975-76 season, the last time the Clarets were in the top flight, Hull City were a struggling side in the old Division 2 and finished 14th that season. In the following season, with the Clarets now relegated we could only salvage a point at Turf Moor in a 0-0 draw and got thumped 4-1 at Boothferry Park.
The last time we played them of course was earlier in the season at Turf Moor at the end of October last year. We won 2-0 and indeed that was our last victory in 2009 and we have won just once since against West Ham at home in February this year. Graham Alexander scored a brace that day. A controversial penalty was awarded to the Clarets after 20 minutes after Hunt was adjudged to have brought down Mears although the video footage later showed Mears may simply have slipped. Grezza made no mistake with his spot kick. In the second half Hull were reduced to ten men after a double-yellow for Geovanni. The Hull midfielder had earlier been frustrated after he scored a goal which was ruled out by the referee after spotting an infringement in our area. He protested so much he picked up his first yellow card and two minutes later he fouled Fletcher to earn his second and receive his marching orders. On 77 minutes the Clarets put Hull out of their misery. Fletcher and substitute, Kevin McDonald were both involved in the build up. It was the Scottish under 21 international though who passed the ball square to Graham Alexander who driving forward then decided to have a go himself. He let rip from 22 yards out and the ball sweetly found the back of the net making it the perfect day for Grezza and all Clarets fans.
In Hull`s Championship promotion season during 2007-8 both our games against them are instantly ones that Clarets fans will want to forget. We lost a dire game at Turf Moor 1-0 in November 2007; a result that was the death knell for former gaffer, Steve Cotterill. That was to be Cotterill`s last game in charge before he left by mutual consent. It didn`t get much better against the Tigers under new manager, Owen Coyle. We lost 2-0 in the return game at the KC Stadium in March 2008.
I mention that season as it potentially contains some interesting parallels. Brian Laws has been under some pressure recently and has had to deny player unrest and bust-ups in the dressing room. The media too this week have been baying for blood with both the Mail and Mirror suggesting Laws could soon be sacked. Could a game against Hull once more dictate the fate of our manager?
Experienced Yorkshire referee, Martin Atkinson is in charge of this relegation battle. He was appointed to the Select Group Referees list in 2005. A year later, in 2006, he was appointed to the FIFA International Referees list. In 2008-9 he took charge of four UEFA Champions League games which included FC Zurich versus Real Madrid at Letzigrund and Inter Milan versus Dynamo Kiev at the San Siro.
We will have to hope this appointment is not a bad omen for Burnley. Atkinson has refereed just two games involving the Clarets this season, both of them away and both of them involving fellow strugglers trying to avoid the drop. We lost both games too first to Wolves at Molineux and then to Bolton at the Reebok! Clarets fans will be praying for third time lucky at Hull.
Hull City have struggled badly this season and are desperate to stay up knowing that relegation could put the club in severe financial difficulty. Manager, Phil Brown has already paid the price for failure and is now on ‘garden leave` with Iain Dowie brought in to try and rescue the club.
The Tigers have managed just two wins in their last ten league games plus two draws but that is still a better record than the Clarets. They did win their last home game albeit against a weakened Fulham team but suffered a 2-0 away defeat against Stoke last Saturday so once more their confidence may well have been dented. Mind you they didn`t get tonked 6-1 at home! Hull`s home form is inconsistent to say the least. They have won six, drawn six and lost five at the KC Stadium this season.
We all know realistically this is our last throw of the dice to try and stay up. I have no option but to predict a Clarets victory and our first away win of a long, hard season which has deteriorated badly since Coyle left. I have no rationale to back up the win other than blind faith. Clarets fans could probably take defeat and be resigned to the drop but only if we put in a good performance and can truly say at the end of the match that we gave it all we got.
Burnley have to dig deep on Saturday and find something special, something which will lift demoralised Clarets fans. There has been plenty of talk from the gaffer this week; it`s now time to ‘walk it`. Come on you Clarets let`s get our first away win of the season and our biggest, most important win! We need something to cheer about in 2010; a year which so far has truly become our annus horribilis
Hull 0-1 Burnley!
It is another tricky game away with the Clarets travelling to the Stadium of Light to play Sunderland on Saturday 17th April (Kick-Off 3pm). This could be an intriguing game if we manage to beat Hull the week before. A victory against Hull would have rekindled our hopes of avoiding the drop and Sunderland are already effectively safe with nothing to play for but pride.