Not many Clarets fans (if any) would have predicted a 5-1 Burnley victory against Portsmouth at Fratton Park yesterday but that`s how it finished.
We all know about Pompey`s problems both on and off the pitch with many neutral fans believing the club should have been more harshly punished following two administrations in three years. They are of course now fighting for their very survival as a club and even if they continue in business they still currently face a battle to stay in the Championship after being docked ten points and dropping into the relegation zone.
Portsmouth though (along with Burnley and Reading) had not lost a game by more than two goals all season ahead of this clash and they have also recently been impressive at home beating promotion-chasing teams, Hull City 2-0 and Birmingham 4-1. They were clearly on a roll despite their problems whilst the Clarets on the other hand had been going through a barren spell with no win in seven games. We might therefore have expected a tough game and although a win was not impossible the scale of the victory was not something you would have seen in most prediction leagues!
Boy this was a strange match too! A game of two halves, you often hear and by gum was that true at Fratton Park yesterday
It all started well for the Clarets though. In the 16th minute we got our noses in front after Trippier scored from our trademark corner routine but sadly the lead did not last long. Within three minutes, Pompey had equalised and of course it had to be David Norris who scored! He scored the late winner in added time in the reverse fixture at Turf Moor back in December and also scored home and away against the Clarets in the previous season!
Could an embarrassing double against us now be on the cards? It certainly looked a distinct possibility as the first half progressed. Burnley struggled to put together any meaningful attacks and seemed to be permanently entrenched in their own half. Pompey, lifted by their buoyant fans, began to pummel our defence especially down Ben Mee`s flank led by Luke Varney. Mee was under considerable pressure and struggled to cope. It was amazing we managed to hold on and go into the dressing room at half-time with the scores still level.
Somehow we had to regroup and move to Plan B, but what could Howe do? Our weakness was clearly at left back and we had no defenders on the bench to replace a shaky looking Ben Mee.
In the end he made no changes for the start of the second half with many Clarets fans at this point fearful of another mauling. We need not have worried though because a remarkable transformation was about to take place.
Just two minutes into the second half, Burnley regained the lead! Danny Ings found the net with a header from close range to score his first goal for the Clarets. The Pompey fans though at this stage continued to cheer on their team and if anybody was going score next, Portsmouth looked to be the favourites.
Eddie Howe in an effort to stop Pompey`s progress now changed tactics moving Wallace in the hole behind a two-man attack with Ings joining Paterson upfront. In the 52nd minute though Howe was forced to change things around once more when sadly the injury-prone Pato pulled-up yet again with a suspected hamstring injury. On came Charlie Austin and little did we know what influence he would now have on the game!
Wallace would now become the playmaker as the Clarets began to take control and enjoy their own spell of possession. Just as it looked like Burnley were beginning to take control though we lost another player after Ben Mee pulled up injured. With no defenders on the bench, Howe had little option but to move Wallace into the left back spot after bringing on McQuoid.
Would the balance of play now change again in favour of Pompey? It might have done had we not increased our lead in the 74th minute. Charlie Austin latched on to a Wallace free kick to score from inside the six-yard box and make it 3-1. Portsmouth now looked a spent force and began to lose their composure with the home crowd now also becoming impatient and verbally venting their frustration.
The Clarets now looked comfortable with three points virtually in the bag. We have lost two goals leads before though a few times so there was always that element of doubt especially when six minutes of added time was announced following some prolonged treatment for Danny Ings who was replaced by Stansislas in the 90th minute.
We need not have worried because the sensational was about to happen with two goals in added time for the Clarets both of them scored by Charlie Austin to notch up his first hat-trick for the club and make the final score a remarkable 5-1! So the Clarets return home from Hampshire with their ninth away win of the season and they do it in some style despite a somewhat dubious first 45 minutes.
The result still leaves the Clarets in 16th spot. Burnley now have 53 points, ten points behind both Blackpool in fifth and Brighton in sixth with a game in hand over both clubs. The Clarets also still have to play both Blackpool (away) and Brighton (home) so you never know. Mathematically we could still reach the play-offs with seven games remaining and 21 points to fight over but realistically you can`t see that happening (although some are still hopeful!). If we beat Birmingham in the rearranged game at Turf Moor on Tuesday night and can follow that up with victories against Brighton at home and bottom-club Doncaster Rovers at the Keepmoat over the Easter period who knows what might happen! We just have to try and finish as far up in the table as possible now and hope we can at least finish the season on a high-note.
Anyway enough of all these ifs and buts, let`s just bask in a fabulous away win!
Left-back, Daniel Lafferty who had been expected to be in contention was still absent with his hamstring problem.
With Jay Rodriguez also still sidelined with a troublesome hip and groin ‘wear and tear` injury, Eddie Howe therefore named an unchanged starting eleven.
There was only one change to the sixteen with one young gun on the bench being replaced by another. Steven Hewitt was an unused sub in our last game at home to West Ham and although he made the journey down with the first team, he would be replaced on the bench by 17 year old Cameron Howieson
Howieson has made his mark in this season`s FA Youth Cup run and the New Zealander has impressed so much this season he has been rewarded recently with his first professional contract. He proudly took up his place on the bench wearing the squad number 32 shirt.
In summary then our sixteen was as follows:
Grant, Trippier, Edgar, Duff, Mee, Wallace, Marney, McCann, Bartley, Ings, Paterson
Subs: Jensen, McQuoid, Stanislas, Howieson, Austin
We basically lined up with Marney in the holding midfield role behind a four man midfield. Ings started the game playing a wider role on the left flank with Wallace on the right. Paterson was our lone striker up front.
Full Match Report
Burnley had taken the opportunity to fly down to Hampshire in view of the long journey so arrived fresh and raring to go as Chris McCann led his team out onto the pitch wearing their all lemon chrome kit. The Clarets had an impressive away record earlier in the season but had now gone five games on the road without victory so could they now put that right and indeed win their first game of any description at their eighth attempt? We would soon find out!
Warwickshire referee, Stuart Attwell got the game underway and it was soon clear that Pompey were high on confidence despite their financial predicament and lowly position.
They had beaten promotion-chasing Hull at home in midweek to add to their impressive 4-1 victory over Birmingham in their previous game at Fratton Park. Pompey gaffer, Michael Appleton had named an unchanged team for the clash against the Clarets.
In an attacking 4-4-1-1 formation and buoyed up by a lively and noisy home crowd, they came out determined to win their third home game in succession. Quickly out of the traps, they began to play some attractive football in the opening exchanges although rarely tested Lee Grant. Tal Ben Haim though did put over an early cross that Grant managed to snuff out.
The Clarets though soaked up the early Pompey pressure and then took the sting out of their tails by taking the lead in the 16th minute. It came from our trademark corner routine following a clearance by Ross Wallace at the other end. The ball threatened to reach Paterson before Karim Rekik managed to get the ball away to concede a corner.
As the ball came over from Dean Marney`s corner, there was David Edgar to dummy the ball and in Rodriguez`s absence allow Trippier to pounce. He duly obliged and thumped the ball home into the bottom corner from 20 yards out.
The goal though did not silence the home crowd and they continued to lift their team. It had the desired effect with Pompey level just three minutes later.
A lively-looking Luke Varney was already proving a handful down the Clarets left flank with Ben Mee in particular under pressure in these early stages. Varney now got over a low cross that was latched onto by David Norris inside the six-yard box and the former Plymouth and Ipswich midfielder thumped the ball home into to the top left corner of the goal to make it 1-1.
Although Portsmouth fully deserved to get their equaliser they had certainly been helped by some woeful decisions by the referee and that would continue for most of the game. Atwell had already been stripped of his Premier League status and on the evidence of this shocking performance it was clear why! Almost every decision at one point seemed to go the way of Portsmouth and there was poor decision after poor decision evident throughout the game. He was literally having a nightmare of a game and to be honest he should be disciplined for such a woeful performance. Sigh! OK rant over back to the game…
With the scores now level Pompey began to turn the screw and they knew exactly where the weakness was. The pressure was all on Ben Mee with David Edgar at times making the situation worse by making errors and putting the back four and keeper in danger.
Burnley were simply not at the races now with Pompey beginning to dominate possession. Our defence to be honest was shocking with Mee getting crucified and our passing game non-existent.
Eddie Howe did not seem to have the answers tactically and we struggled for most of the first half with Paterson completely isolated up front and Ings needing support.
A poor square pass from Edgar nearly led to Portsmouth taking the lead after Allan pounced. Racing forward, he unleashed a shot which flew just over the bar much to the Canadian international`s relief. Incredibly there was another let off for the woeful Clarets when Ben Haim in the penalty area failed to find a team mate despite the absence of a lemon chrome shirt around him.
Ben Mee was having a torrid time in defence so probably in frustration decided to have a go attacking instead and indeed came the closest to scoring the third goal very much against the run of play. Charging forward, he cut inside to unleash a shot with his right foot. The ball, taking a deflection, looked to be heading for the roof of the net until Pompey keeper, Jamie Ashdown came from nowhere flying through the air backwards to tip the ball over the bar.
That was the final action of the first half and the Clarets sloped back to the dressing room wondering what had hit them. They would have to re-group and have a rethink but on the evidence of the first half performance things were looking very bleak indeed.
Eddie Howe must have said something right because the transformation in the second-half was amazing. Despite making no changes for the start of the second-half within two minutes we were back in front.
Burnley now on the front foot had started the half brightly and were soon awarded a corner which Pompey then cleared. The Clarets though picked up the ball and keeping possession set up Edgar to thump over a superb cross. Danny Ings now playing more of a striker`s role and running forward latched onto the cross to head the ball into the top corner of the net and score his first goal for Burnley.
Just as things looked to be on the up, Paterson then pulled up with what proved to be yet another hamstring injury in the 52nd minute. Pato certainly doesn`t seem to have much luck and every Clarets fan felt for him as the injury prone striker once more had to leave the pitch.
Charlie Austin came onto the pitch to replace him and the Clarets soon began to take control with the home crowd now getting somewhat restless.
They were still trying to raise their team`s spirits though but you just sensed this time Pompey had nothing left in their locker to respond.
Seventy minutes into the game, the Pompey manager, Michael Appleton tried to force the issue by making a double-substitution. On came Etuhu and Futacs for Ward and Allen.
Soon after, Burnley were forced into yet another substitution when Ben Mee picked up a knock. The left-back position had been a problem all afternoon for the Clarets, but with no defenders on the bench what could we do now? Josh McQuoid came on to replace Mee but that meant we had to change formation and tactics with Ross Wallace now taking over the left-back spot.
It was a shame really because Wallace who had been playing in the hole behind the strikers in the second half had been looking quite effective. Pompey had put together few attacks in the second half but they came close to equalising when a cross from substitute, Etuhu found the head of Varney. Thankfully though the ball flew wide of target and Burnley fans could breathe again.
With 15 minutes to go, Pompey`s hearts sank when Burnley increased their lead virtually ensuring game over. The Clarets had been awarded a free kick which Wallace duly delivered. McQuoid could not get on the end of it but the ball fell nicely for Austin behind him and the former Swindon striker touching the ball forward then hooked it past Ashdown from close range to make it 3-1 Clarets.
Portsmouth were now in total disarray and with the home fans now turning against them could do little to stop the Clarets onslaught. McQuoid nearly made it 4-1 after Ings had made an impressive run to get the ball to him. His shot though rose a little too much with the ball flying just over the top.
The fourth official now announced six minutes of added time and almost immediately the Clarets nearly increased their lead even more. Chris McCann found McQuoid with a superb, clever pass only for the on-loan Millwall winger to be denied yet again with Ashdown this time pulling off an excellent save.
It wouldn`t be long though before the Clarets did score the fourth and it came from a defensive blunder from Jason Pearce. He tried a back pass that was woefully short allowing Austin to pounce, round the keeper and score his 50th career goal.
The Clarets amazingly though were not done yet and they really rubbed salt into Pompey`s wounds with virtually the last kick of the match to make the final score a thumping 5-1 Burnley victory. With the Pompey defence at sixes and sevens, McQuoid who could probably have scored himself instead unselfishly laid the ball off square to Austin and he made no mistake firing the ball into the top left corner of the net to record his first career hat-trick and his 14th goal of the season for the Clarets.
Let`s hope the Clarets can now take heart from this and plough on for the remainder of the season. A Top 10 finish would at least go some way to relieving the frustrations of a somewhat disappointing season.
Portsmouth: Ashdown, Ward (Etuhu 69), Pearce, Halford, Rekik, Ben-Haim, Allan (Futacs 69), Norris, Thorne (Scapuzzi 81), Varney, Maguire
Subs Not Used: Rocha, Harris
Goals: Norris 19
Booked: Yellow Cards for Futacs (77), Maguire (77) and Norris (83)
Burnley: Grant, Trippier, Duff, Edgar, Mee (McQuoid 71), Wallace, McCann, Marney, Bartley, Paterson (Austin 52), Ings (Stanislas 90)
Subs Not Used: Jensen, Howieson
Goals: Trippier 16, Ings 47, Austin 74, 90+3 and 90+5
Booked: Yellow Cards for Grant (59), Marney (77) and Austin (90 + 3)
Possession: 48% Portsmouth, 52% Burnley (Source: BBC Sport)
Ref: Stuart Attwell (Warwickshire)
Burnley team turn up 45 minutes late!
Not many Clarets fans (if any) would have predicted a 5-1 Burnley victory against Portsmouth at Fratton Park yesterday but that`s how it finished.