Villa 5 Burnley 2! Oh woe is me! Where do you start with this embarrassing score line?
The joke seems to be that for the first 55 minutes of this match we were coping with Villa and playing them at their own game. We even managed to score our first goal on the road in over 540 minutes of football not to mention take the lead for the first time since the game against Manchester City at Eastlands back in November! Yes we were one nil up after just ten minutes thanks to some nice play between Cork and Nugent to set up Fletcher. The weary travelling Clarets fans yet to see a victory on the road this season in the league could once more begin to dream. The dream though was about to become a nightmare.
A cross from Ashley Young on 32 minutes started the rot; somehow it went through a mire of players and finished up in the back of the net. On close inspection, it looks like Fox should have done better but the ball glanced off him to deceive Jensen and ensure that Villa went in at half-time on equal terms. There was no panic though, Burnley were still in this game and a point on the road would be both vital and a great achievement against a side pushing for a Top 4 finish. We still looked comfortable for the first ten minutes of the second half and then the spell from hell arrived.
Wham on 56 minutes, Downing puts Villa 2-1 up. Bam, he gets another to make it 3-1 just 2 minutes later. Thank You say Villa as the Clarets wilt and Heskey makes it 4-1 on 61 minutes and Man it`s suddenly 5-1 with Agbonlahor getting in on the act seven minutes later.
In just 12 minutes we had folded, capitulated and been destroyed! Thankfully for the Clarets, Villa did not push much after that to make the score even more embarrassing probably now sitting back and dreaming of Wembley and the Carling Cup final next week against Manchester United.
Deep into added time we actually pulled one back to make the final score 5-2. That might even turn out to be a vital goal if goal difference comes into play at the end of the season. Paterson scored and that was good for him after a long lay-off with injury for most of the season. This was his first goal in the top flight and will be a great boost to his confidence.
Although we can`t use this as an excuse, I also thought this young referee that has been fast-tracked through the system, Stuart Attwell was woeful in charge of the match yesterday. Naive and an easy ‘homer` accusation target he booked three of our players to none of theirs and for the first time that I can recall the Clarets fans actually cynically applauded the referee a few times at one point with hand-clapping when he actually decided to give us a couple of decisions.
In the end though it was same old, same old for Clarets fans once again making a pointless journey and coming away pointless!
The result thankfully did not turn out to be a great disaster in terms of the Clarets staying in touch with our rivals to avoid the drop. Clarets fans just before our kick off yesterday had been strangely buoyed by the fact that Blackburn (normally the ones we hate the most) had just thumped Bolton, (the now most hated) 3-0 at Ewood Park! Wigan also lost 3-0 at home to Spurs yesterday and with Portsmouth, Wolves, Hull and Sunderland also all losing on Saturday it is very much as you were with only West Ham taking advantage after their 3-0 victory against Hull City at Upton Park.
The Clarets remain second from bottom in 19th place on 23 points but just three points off 14th spot so there is still all to play for but once more we are now going to have to rely on Fortress Turf Moor to survive with no allowance for any slip ups.
I am now going to have a rant but sorry. I think I am entitled to have one after going or attempting to go to every league game this season, home and away. I have only missed two matches so far all season; away to Rovers and Manchester United and it wasn`t for the want of trying going to those two either, I just got caught out with the club`s ticketing fiasco and so-called Loyalty Points system. But I am not going to rant against the ticketing system that`s for another day.
Today`s rant is based on the fact I must have spent well over £1200 travelling to away games so far this season and have still not seen the Clarets win an away game and sorry it is just not good enough!
It doesn`t matter what tactics you play, if your squad comprises basically of Championship level players you will not have a cat-in-hells chance of defeating clubs like Villa on the road, nor for that matter Portsmouth! It`s time for Clarets fans to smell the coffee! It has taken 33 years to get back into the top flight but if the Board make statements that they would rather be in the Championship than go into debt then I am afraid their wishes will more than likely come true. Of course those that support the Board wholeheartedly suggest if we go down we will be better placed to come straight back up. I am sorry but I don`t see it. Half the squad will be leaving in the summer, eleven are out of contract and we won`t be keeping most of them. The likes of Eagles and Mears will also no doubt be snapped up by Premier League clubs and both would probably not want to stay anyway. In effect we will have to rebuild and although parachute payments will help, we will be back to gates of under 12,000 and no doubt the club will be tight-fisted and plead poverty again! We will have a team full of Championship quality players again with no guarantee of promotion and even if we did go straight back-up the cycle will start all over again. Apparently Coyle said we had bought for the future so we are going to be relying on Penny, Easton, Eckersley, Edgar, Guerrero and van der Schaaf. Tis a joke!
We simply do not have the players with enough quality and experience of playing in the Premier League and all our new January signings were woeful yesterday (except Cork). If you are not prepared to bring in players with better quality and accept higher salary expectations than the ridiculous £15k/week cap then you will reap what you so. Some Clarets fans might be proud of this stance, I am not.
Whilst being debt-free is admirable the problem is all the other clubs in the top flight lap up the concept of taking calculated risks and going into debt be that right or wrong.
Burnley simply cannot compete and now it really is beginning to show. Now we are on a wing and a prayer hoping we can at least win our home games at Fortress Turf Moor with just 12 games remaining to escape the drop. 33 years to get back and now we are on the praying mat with no real confidence we have enough quality.
No I am sorry, we should have done everything we could have to stay in the top flight even if that meant taking some calculated risks and going into some debt and I am not talking about the scale of Pompey`s either. We have not done that and I hope it doesn`t come back to bite us in the bum. We could have missed our opportunity it seems to stay in the top flight and reap the even greater financial rewards that would have brought. Let`s hope our prayers are answered and we can somehow survive the drop.
The Clarets Team Sheet
Brian Laws decided to change a few things round for this game. Chelsea loan midfielder, Jack Cork was given his first start in the team and at long last Elliott was dropped to the bench after a spate of woeful performances. Laws opted for a 4-5-1 formation with Nugent playing a wider role supporting Fletcher alone up front.
The line-up in summary was therefore as follows:
Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Cort, Fox, Bikey, Cork. McDonald, Eagles, Nugent, Fletcher.
Subs: Weaver, Duff, Elliott, Blake, Nimani, Thompson, Paterson
The Full Match Report
Thankfully the weather was good enough for the match to go-ahead after an early scare of snowfall and indeed in the end it was a pretty nice sunny day for a game of footy!
In this battle of the Claret & Blue obviously the Clarets came out in their away strip. They marched out in front of a pretty large crowd considering the game was not only on a Sunday but an early kick-off and featured live on Sky Sports. Stuart Atwell got the game underway and it was the Clarets who did the early pressing against both a subdued Villa side and set of pretty quiet Villa fans. They were even quieter when the Clarets took the lead after just ten minutes of play.
It was Cork who set-up the move linking well with Nugent. The on-loan Pompey striker then squared the ball to the far post for Fletcher on a well-timed run to simply tap home and put the Clarets 1-0 up.
The Clarets seemed to be buoyed up by their early lead with Villa now looking even more subdued. This would most definitely prove to be our best period of the whole match and we began to put together some attractive attacking football. A shot by Nugent after some neat passing moves glanced off James Collins to go just wide of target. Chris Eagles was also having his best spell of the game after returning to the starting eleven and was becoming a handful for the Villa defence.
Villa though suddenly woke up after 24 minutes when Heskey put a header wide from an Ashley Young cross. Although Villa were not looking too impressive in open play, they always looked a danger from set-pieces and with 32 minutes gone they got their equaliser which started from an Ashley Young free-kick. Jensen saved the danger but only at the expense of a corner. Villa took a short corner which ended up at the feet of Ashley Young again. The Villa winger thumped a low ball into the box through a crowd of players and it took a deflection off Danny Fox`s heel to wrong foot Jensen and sail into the back of the net to make it 1-1. Fox arguably should have done better but both teams had to be happy with honours even at half-time. The Clarets though could have been proud of their first half performance and no changes were made by Laws for the start of the second-half.
The Clarets again looked comfortable for the first ten minutes of the second before disaster struck and we suddenly found ourselves 5-1 down with about 25 minutes still to play! Up until then Eagles had seen a cross cleared whilst a shot by McDonald had been blocked by the Villa defence.
A throw-in though confused the Clarets who were too slow to react. Agbonlahor was quick off the mark and charged forward picking out Young. He saw Downing in space and the former Middlesbrough winger worked hard to finally get in an angled drive that beat Jensen with Cort on the line trying his best to get to the ball and clear the danger! He couldn`t and Villa had the lead.
Two minutes later it was 3-1 with the Clarets having lost all their composure and concentration. This time Jensen managed to save from Agbonlahor who had been put clear but it fell to Downing who shot for goal. Danny Fox having a torrid afternoon once more took a deflection with the ball sailing into the bottom corner of the net.
Villa were now on fire and we were playing like a bunch of damp squibs. They then punished us even more as our defence lost the plot and capitulated. Agbonlahor at the centre of things again went on yet another penetrating run before getting in a low cross for Heskey to make it 4-1! Clarets fans by now had been destroyed and had lost the will to live. On 68 minutes, it was 5-1 and this time Agbonlahor got on the score-sheet himself after some nice play between Milner and Heskey. A side-footed finish was enough to add even more salt to the Clarets wounds with all Clarets fans wondering when the torment would end and whether we might do a Wigan against Spurs and be able to demand our money back!
It may have been a rugby score but for the fact that Martin O`Neill decided to take off three of his impressive strikers with one eye on the Carling Cup final at Wembley ! He left Downing on in case he might get his hat-trick. He didn`t and in all honesty things calmed down a bit after that with Villa noticeably taking their foot off the accelerator.
Laws made some further substitutions. Elliott had already come on to replace McDonald after Villa`s fourth goal but had been largely ineffective. On came Nimani N’galou after 70 minutes to replace Nugent and then Paterson came on to replace Fletcher with eight minutes of play remaining.
Two minutes into added time we got a consolation goal after Martin Paterson latched on to a nice cross from the impressive Cork after the on-loan Chelsea midfielder had linked well with Eagles.
In the end another disappointing result on the road for the Clarets but at least none of our rivals trying to avoid the drop gained much ground over the weekend.
Aston Villa: Friedel, Dunne, Cuellar, Warnock, Collins, Downing, A Young (Sidwell 82), Milner, Petrov, Agbonlahor (Carew 71), Heskey (Delfouneso 76)
Subs Not Used: Guzan, L Young, Beye,Delph
Goals: A Young (32 mins), Downing (56 mins, 58 mins), Heskey (61 mins), Agbonlahor (68 mins)
Burnley: Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Cort, Fox, Bikey, Cork. McDonald (Elliott 64), Eagles, Nugent (Nimani N’galou 70), Fletcher (Paterson 82)
Subs Not Used: Weaver, Duff, Blake, Thompson
Goals: Fletcher (10 mins), Paterson (90 +2 mins)
Booked: Yellow Cards for Carlisle, Fletcher and Nimani
Possession: Aston Villa 51% Burnley 49% (Source: BBC Sport)
Referee: Stuart Attwell (Warwickshire)
Burnley Fell to Spell from Hell
Villa 5 Burnley 2! Oh woe is me! Where do you start with this embarrassing score line?