The Clarets are beginning to run out of games and we need to start winning if we are going to survive our first season in the top flight for 33 years. ‘The Final Countdown` is now down to nine matches starting with a crucial six-pointer against Wolves at home this Saturday. It is so tight down there, with Wolves, Burnley and Hull all on 24 points separated by just goal difference with Pompey propping up the league and almost certainly down following administration and a nine-point deduction about to be implemented.
Although we have played a game more than both Wolves and Hull, a victory on Saturday would see us climb out of the relegation zone and be in high spirits for our next crucial game away to Wigan. This match is going to be a nervous game for Clarets fans, players and manager alike but it should also be the same for Wolves and we have to make our home advantage count or it could be curtains and back to supping Coca Cola. Wolves have just one win in ten league games and although better than our record of zilch have won just two games on the road all season.
We will all still have to dig deep though and we certainly can`t afford the nervous first half display we put in against Stoke City in midweek! The fans have to shout from the rafters and urge them on, we simply have to get three points and no other result is worth thinking about. Up the Clarets!
Predicted Team Sheet
News is still awaited on whether Steven Fletcher will be fit enough to play with a broken bone in his hand. He looks set to have another late fitness test having failed the one against Stoke in midweek. Our leading goal-scorer with nine league goals this season has now been sidelined for the last two games but the question is with both Paterson and Nugent on form, would he walk automatically into the starting eleven even if he was fit? One option might be to include all three with Paterson playing out wide not unlike the tactics against Stoke on Wednesday night with Thompson playing alongside Paterson and Nugent.
Laws might also be tempted to start McDonald ahead of loan midfielder, Jack Cork. Cork looked out of sorts on Wednesday night and McDonald invigorated the team after coming on for the whole of the second half. Another dilemma for Laws could be Fox who was woeful in defence at left back against Stoke City and to be honest has not been that impressive in the last few games. Jordan replaced him after 77 minutes on Wednesday night and could be favourite to start against Wolves.
I think this team would be potentially the best one we could put out taking into account our performance in the second-half against Stoke and ignoring completely the dire first half.
Jensen, Mears, Carlisle, Cort, Jordan, Alexander, McDonald, Eagles, Paterson, Nugent, Thompson (or Fletcher if fit)
Subs: Weaver, Duff, Jordan, Cork, Bikey, Blake, Elliott
Burnley Team News:
Both Chris McCann (knee) and Steven Caldwell (persistent groin injury) are still believed to be sidelined and Brian Laws will give Steven Fletcher a late fitness test (broken hand)
Player to watch: David Nugent
Nugent seems to be finding his goal-scoring touch again and has now scored six goals this season including one in each of his last two games. We need more of the same against Wolves this Saturday.
Wolverhampton Wanderers Team News:
Wolves have no new injury concerns and look set to field the same team for the fifth game running.
Striker Stefan Maierhofer though has recovered from an ankle injury and could be named among the substitutes.
Edwards (ankle) and Kightly (ankle/knee) remain sidelined.
Player to watch: Kevin Doyle
Wolves have the lowest number of goals scored in the Premier League this season with just 21 in the bag, eleven of those on the road. They have not scored now in three games but their leading goal scorer 26 year old, Republic of Ireland international striker, Kevin Doyle remains their chief threat. The former Reading star joined Wolves from the Royals for an undisclosed fee, reported to be a club record £6.5 million, in a four-year deal in June 2009. The prolific goal scorer has been relatively subdued this season but still has six league goals to his name, one of which he scored against the Clarets in our 2-0 defeat at Molineux earlier in the season
Back to the Future
Wolves and Burnley were of course both promoted together last season and now both are struggling to survive the drop.
The bragging rights so far this season belong to Wolves after our 2-0 defeat at Molineux on a cold, snowy day back in December last year. The match was somewhat controversial with Mick McCarthy having rested virtually the whole of his first team in a game they ‘chucked-in` against Manchester United at Old Trafford a few days before they played the Clarets. We were not particularly impressive that day in all honesty but McCarthy`s actions seemed at the time to be vindicated after his fully refreshed first team squared up to a nervous-looking, error prone Clarets and got the precious three points. McCarthy was not smiling too much though after later picking up a £25,000 suspended fine clearly proving that what he had done was against the rules and against fair-play. He has not done it since, nor dare he!
The last time we played Wolves at Turf Moor was last season when we got a well-earned 1-0 victory in February last year. Those three points against a club high-flying at the top of the Championship but in poor form at the time put us well on the way to eventually qualifying for a play-offs spot. Chris McCann scored our goal in the sixth minute after rising to meet Wade Elliott’s cross to head home from close range.
Before this season, the last time these two clubs met in the top flight was in 1975-76. This was the season of course that we were relegated, never to return for another 33 years. We will also want to forget our clashes against the men in Old Gold that season too! We got thumped 5-1 at Turf Moor in November 1975 with Hankin getting our solitary goal. Wolves had scored in the first minute and were 3-0 up before we scored after 48 minutes. It didn`t get much better at Molineux, this time under new manager, Joe Brown who had replaced Jimmy Adamson. We lost 3-2 in February 1976. Fletcher and Hankin (again) got on the score sheet. In a remarkable co-incidence both teams were relegated that season with Wolves third from bottom one place and two points above the Clarets.
Both clubs we will be hoping there is no repeat of that this season.
The scheduled referee for this game is Kent referee, Steve Bennett. He was appointed to the FIFA International Referees list in 2001 and has been in charge of two league games featuring the Clarets this season. The first was the opening game of the season at the Britannia against Stoke City and the second was in fact our last game in which we won a match against West Ham at home last month. Hopefully that will be a good omen although place your bets that they will change the referee again in what is now becoming a pretty regular event for our games.
The squeaky-bumometer will be in full flow on Saturday with a green gas cloud emanating from all four sides of the ground. We simply have to win, but I find myself saying that for all games now! How about 2-1 Clarets?
We are running out of games in which to win our first away win of the season. Just four now left in which to consign this horrible statistic to the dustbin. Our best chance could come on Saturday 20th March when we travel to the DW Stadium to play struggling Wigan (Kick-Off 3pm). It goes without saying, three points here against a fellow relegation -threatened team could be just the tonic we need in our efforts to avoid the drop! All we have to do is play better than Liverpool did recently here and the points could be ours!