Burnley play Nottingham Forest at the City Ground on Tuesday night hoping to get their first win on the board in six games.
These are grim times for all Clarets fans. Our hopes of reaching the play-offs now seem to be fading faster with every game. Burnley have managed to pick up just one point from their last five matches and have slumped to 11th spot. They are already seven points behind sixth placed club, Leeds United albeit with a game in hand over them. We do also still have a game to play against Leeds at Elland Road in our penultimate match of the season later this month but by then it could be all over bar the shouting.
It is a mountain to climb now to reach the play-offs with just six games remaining after Tuesday night and not a mountain many Clarets fans believe we can now scale.
The truth is our current form is abysmal and is getting worse if the terrible 4-0 defeat against Leicester City at the Walkers Stadium on Saturday is anything to go by. We are just not at the races at the moment and it has been the same for the last five games. The defence look vulnerable, the midfield clueless and the strike force non-existent. There is no cohesion and most Clarets fans already fear it is season over. There is more stunned silence and embarrassment at the moment rather than verbal attacks against the manager although some seem less than convinced he has what it takes. I am pretty sure though most fans have not given up on Eddie Howe just yet.
There is a sense though we will have to go through a major rebuilding exercise in the summer and shake out some of the deadwood allowing Howe and Tindall to develop their own squad. Only then can we truly judge them but at the moment it is absolute purgatory to watch.
If there is no improvement on Tuesday night, in fact a significant one, Forest will make mincemeat of the Clarets despite their own poor form of late.
Forest have not won now remarkably in nine games and have been leaking goals like the clappers. In the last three games they have conceded 11 goals. It just shows though how good they were earlier in the season with Billy Davies` men still in 8th spot just four points off the play-offs.
Their home form has also been less than impressive with just two draws and two points from their last four games at the City Ground. So then, two off-form teams will be lining up on Tuesday night, both eager to get their promotion hopes back on track.
Burnley are three points behind Forest with a game in hand so a win against them on Tuesday night will be vital if we are to retain any lingering hope of finishing in the top six.
Come on you Clarets, we need some cheering up big-time!
Nottingham Forest Team News:
Forest gaffer, Billy Davies will be without 24 year old midfielder and left back, Chris Cohen
Nottingham Forest lost their appeal against Chris Cohen’s straight red card which he picked up in their recent defeat by fellow promotion hopefuls Leeds United. The Football Association upheld the decision by referee Mark Halsey to send off the midfielder for a tackle on George McCartney during the first half. Cohen is now sitting out a three-game ban.
Club captain, Paul McKenna could also still be sidelined with a groin problem which could give Davies a headache in midfield with Cohen also suspended.
Winger, Paul Anderson could also be out for weeks following injury to his ribs in the 4-1 defeat at Leeds.
Dexter Blackstock (cruciate knee ligament injury), US international striker, Robbie Findley (torn thigh) and centre back Kelvin Wilson remain on the long-term injured list. Wilson will in any case be moving to Celtic in the summer after signing a pre-contract agreement with the Buoys in January.
Player to watch: Lewis McGugan
22 year old attacking midfielder, Lewis McGugan came through Forest`s youth system and is currently their leading goal-scorer with 12 goals to his credit so far this season all of them scored in the Championship. He also has a habit of scoring from distance so the Clarets will need to keep him in check on Tuesday night.
Burnley Team News:
Danny Fox has completed his two match ban after picking up his tenth yellow card in the recent game away to Bristol City just before the International break.
Jack Cork will hopefully be fit enough to play following his recent illness and heart scare. He has missed the last two games after complaining of palpitations during the recent England Under 21 international friendly against Iceland at Deepdale. He was rushed to hospital at half-time and was kept in overnight for observation. He then returned to his parent club, Chelsea for further tests before being given the all clear by Harley Street specialists.
We await news on injured midfielder, Marvin Bartley. Chris McCann is expected to play in a Reserves game on Monday night as he prepares for a return to the first team after a gap of 14 months during which time he had corrective surgery to fix his cruciate ligament problems and also had to endure a head operation to remove excess fluid following migraine complaints.
Charlie Austin is out for the rest of the season with a dislocated shoulder but there is an outside chance that Martin Paterson could play in one of the six games remaining after Forest. He is making good progress following a recurrent thigh strain. At least one of our strikers, Steven Thompson is now available again after recovering from infected groin surgery and being sidelined since the Preston game back in February. He came on from the bench against Leicester on Saturday.
Player to watch: Jack Cork
Assuming he is fit enough to play, he will be crucial to our midfield. We have to hope he is back on top form and can shake up the team`s lacklustre performance of late. Our midfield needs to be more creative rather than hoofing the ball up to the ineffective strikers all the time. We need to get our passing game going again and there is none better than the classy Cork at his best to do that.
Team & Tactics
What does a manager do when a team is clearly misfiring on so many levels? I am at a loss now to suggest anything that can be done to improve our performance after just one point from five games with no evidence of any improvement. We seem to have tried so many options and line-ups in these last five games and yet none have proved successful.
Brian Jensen returned against Leicester because we had leaked too many goals recently with Lee Grant being made the scapegoat. ‘The Beast` then proceeded to let in four and looked far from assured on a number of occasions. Surely though it would be only far to give him at least one more chance considering this was his first match in the first team since last October and the goals were pretty unstoppable and hardly his fault?
Left back, Danny Fox will be available after a two match ban and I suspect he will go straight back in the side at the expense of Brian Easton. Easton has not done too badly but has certainly not set the world alight.
But what do we do about central defence? Andre Bikey will probably have done enough against the Foxes to retain his place but will new loan, Shane Duffy be back in favour after being dropped to the bench against Leicester? Will Michael Duff once again be on the bench partnering the out of favour, Clarke Carlisle?
Our midfield will hopefully be boosted by the return of Jack Cork following recovery from his illness. There is no doubt we have missed his influence and creativity. Marvin Bartley also suffered an injury during training ahead of the Leicester game so we await news of his availability for the Forest match.
With Chris Eagles continuing to underperform and looking far too lightweight at the moment, you just wonder how he has managed to keep his place. I think I would play Wallace and Elliott on the flanks and have a centre midfield of Cork and Marney. I would then play a true 4-4-2 with Delfouneso and Rodriguez up front together. Steven Thompson, who returned from injury (infected groin operation) and came on from the bench on Saturday, could be another option but I suspect he won`t be named in the starting eleven.
So in summary this would be my eighteen (4-4-2):
Jensen, Mears, Duff (or Duffy), Bikey, Fox, Elliott, Cork, Marney, Wallace, Delfouneso, Rodriguez
Subs: Grant, Easton, Duffy (or Duff), Edgar (or Alexander), Eagles, Iwelumo, Thompson
West Yorkshire referee, Jonathan Moss is in charge of this clash. He started refereeing in 1988, spending a long time in local and Supply League football before reaching level three in 2001. Thereafter he was double-jumped to level two and the National List of assistant referees in 2003.After two more years he was promoted to the National List of Referees in 2005.
Moss, this season has refereed 36 games both at Premier League, Championship and lower league level handing out 6 red cards and 74 yellows. He has been involved with two Clarets games this season so far. He was in charge during our 2-1 defeat against Middlesbrough at the Riverside back in September and was also the man-in-the-middle for our FA Cup 3-1 home win against Burton Albion.
Looking at our current form, if we play like that again I can see nothing but defeat. I have not seen any improvement in the last five games and if anything we appear to be getting worse.
There is nothing to believe Tuesday night will be any different despite Forest’s equally poor form so barring a remarkable Clarets transformation it has to be another loss! 2-0 to Forest.
The games are not getting any easier in the run-in with high-flying and in-form Swansea the visitors to Turf Moor on Saturday 16th April (3pm Kick-off)