Date: 6th January 2011 at 10:54am
Written by:

The Clarets get their FA Cup ambitions underway this Saturday in a third round clash at Turf Moor against League 2 side, Port Vale. Both clubs were looking for a new manager following the sacking of Brian Laws and the departure of Micky Adams to Sheffield United. For the Clarets, caretaker manager, Stuart Gray is in charge of his third and final game unless a new manager is not appointed by the time we play QPR at home on Saturday 15th January. Port Vale have just announced that Jim Gannon has taken over from caretaker, Geoff Horsfield as manager after signing a one-and-a-half year contract.

The Pre-amble

Burnley take a break from their Championship promotion campaign this Saturday to concentrate on the FA Cup. Behind the scenes we are looking of course for a new manager but we now have to focus on beating League 2 side, Port Vale in the third round clash at Turf Moor this Saturday and that task falls to caretaker manager, Stuart Gray who has had mixed fortunes in his two games in charge so far. A great start on New Year`s Day saw the Clarets beat Sheffield United at home 4-2 in a match which saw manager Micky Adams arrive a week earlier than expected after leaving Port Vale to become the Blades gaffer. In his second game though, Gray could not maintain his 100% record and we disappointing lost 2-1 to Reading at the Madejski Stadium despite getting our noses in front.

There will be no room for complacency against Port Vale and we have to avoid any banana skins and hopefully sail through to the next round with an emphatic win. Port Vale are strong contenders for promotion from League 2 this season and are currently in 4th spot just one point behind the automatic promotion places. The new manager`s task has also been made more difficult on Saturday with their leading goal-scorer, Marc Richards suspended. They will be no pushovers though and have a record of beating higher league teams in cup competitions. Last season they shamed both clubs in Sheffield and this season took the scalp of Championship league leaders, QPR beating them 3-1 at Loftus Road in the first round of the Carling Cup.

Burnley Team News:

Stuart Gray once more looks to have virtually the whole squad to select from with the exception of Chris McCann who is still recovering from the operation last year to correct his cruciate ligament injury. Martin Paterson was in training last week and looks close to making a return following the troublesome thigh injury that has kept him sidelined since the Doncaster game at Turf Moor back in November.

Danny Fox is fully fit again and could be looking to dislodge Brain Easton from the left back spot.

The Clarets though are now a striker light after losing John Guidetti. Burnley failed this week to extend his loan and he has now returned to Manchester City.

Player to watch: Tyrone Mears

Mears has looked impressive in the last few games especially in terms of bombing down the flanks and setting up chances. He could be key to pulling the Vale defence apart on Saturday.

Port Vale Team News:

The worst news for Vale fans is that they will be without their leading goal-scorer, Marc Richards. He has bagged ten goals in League 2 this season but was sent off in their 2-1 win against Burton on Monday. The 28 year old striker picked up a second yellow in the 62nd minute of the match.

Port vale are somewhat light on strikers and may have to consider using a midfielder up front or bringing in an emergency loan. The situation was made worse after striker Jake Speight returned to Bradford City following completion of a two-month loan spell at Vale Park

It could have been worse for the Valiants though, they could have been without their keeper, Stuart Tomlinson. He was sent off during the 5-0 defeat at Rotherham United on New Year`s Day. The 26-year-old was dismissed in the 32nd minute at 2-0 for bringing down Marcus Marshall outside the box.

The keeper would have received a three-match suspension but the Football Association agreed it was a case of wrongful dismissal after an appeal by the club. Tomlinson can therefore now face Burnley in the third round of the FA Cup on Saturday

Player to watch: Justin Richards

Vale have two strikers called Richards in their team. We know about their leading goal scorer, Marc who is suspended for this game but there is also Justin and he too is quite a handful in front of goal.

He has four league goals to his credit this season and hit a brace in their 3-1 Carling Cup win over QPR at Loftus Road back in August.

In June 2010 Richards agreed terms with Port Vale signing from Cheltenham where he had previously scored at a rate of about 1-in-3 games. The 30 year has been a bit of a journeyman since starting his professional career with West Brom in 1999 after coming through their youth system. His list of clubs also include Bristol Rovers, Colchester United (loan), Stevenage Borough, Woking, Peterborough, Grays Athletic (loan), Boston United (loan), Kidderminster Harriers and Oxford United (loan).

Team & Tactics

It is almost impossible to second-guess what Gray will do on Saturday with virtually a full squad to choose from. He will presumably be tempted to rest a few of our regulars and give some of the fringe players a chance to shine. I think that would be right tactic but just in case would suggest we have some heavyweights on the bench should we need them.

If Pato is fit, I would certainly select him up front and go 4-4-2 with Thompson also given another chance to start. We can then keep Iwelumo and Rodriguez on the bench should we need additional fire power later on.

Jensen must surely be given a run-out even if he has handed in a transfer request. Who knows what might happen under a new manager. Defence was woeful against Reading and apart from Mears; I would be tempted to ring the changes in the back four. Let`s try something different. Edgar was brought to this club as a centre back and yet he has very rarely played in that position so let`s start him there and give Bikey a run out. Duff and Carlisle were pretty ineffective against the Royals so both could find themselves on the bench or out of the eighteen completely. That leaves the left back spot. Brian Easton has looked very effective at times but recently seems to have panicked a few times in defence. He looks good going forward though and linking with the winger. Fox is now fully fit so I wouldn`t be surprised if we give him a start on Saturday.

The midfield selection could also be a dilemma for Gray. Does he go for experience or give some of the fringe players a chance? Graham Alexander might best be suited to missing this one out to concentrate on helping the gaffer but if both Grezza and Carlisle are out, we need a captain which suggests Wade Elliott will have to start. I would have Elliott on one flank and Wallace on the other resting Chris Eagles but holding him in reserve on the bench. In the centre of midfield, why not try McDonald in partnership with Cork (or Marney)?

So many options really but this eighteen would do it for me:

Jensen, Mears, Edgar, Bikey, Fox, Elliott, Cork, McDonald, Wallace, Thompson, Paterson

Subs: Grant, Easton, Duff (or Carlisle), Eagles, Marney. Iwelumo, Rodriguez (or Harvey)

Ref Watch:

Tyne & Wear referee Eddie Ilderton will be in control of this game. He has been a National List referee since 2002, after serving his time on the Northern Alliance and Northern League. His last game involving the Clarets was our fixture away to Sheffield United this season. He handed out four yellow cards in that one and in his 17 games in charge this season at Championship and lower league level he has handed out a total of 4 red cards and 37 yellows.

Match Prediction:

A` banana skin` defeat is unthinkable and it would be good for Stuart Gray to end his days as caretaker manager with a win assuming this is his last game. I think we will walk this one to be honest and will go for 4-0 Clarets (maybe even more)

Next Match

We return to league action on Saturday 15th January and by then we could have a new manager in place. League leaders, QPR are the visitors to Turf Moor so that could certainly be a baptism of fire for any new gaffer. Kick-Off 3pm.