The Clarets put in a great shift on Saturday defeating high-flying club, Norwich City 2-1 in an entertaining game at Turf Moor. The Canaries, newly promoted as Champions from League 1 last season started this match in second spot having not lost in their last eight league games. It also looked ominous for Burnley too before this game considering Norwich have the second-best away record in the Championship with 6 wins, 6 draws and only 2 defeats on the road all season. Well that now reads three defeats after a superb performance by Burnley especially in the first-half.
The win was crucial to stay within touching distance of the play-offs spots and although we only moved up one spot to tenth with 43 points, we are now six points behind sixth placed club, Leeds United with a game in hand. That would have been five points had Cardiff in 6th spot before their derby game against Swansea at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday not defeated their Welsh rivals 1-0 to move into third place.
The Clarets have a testing time coming up now with four games away on the trot including the FA Cup 5th round tie against West Ham which will now be played at the Boleyn Ground on Monday 21st February due to the game being televised live by ESPN. The crass decision to allow ESPN to broadcast this game live in midweek means we have had to change a second home game due to be played this month. We had a match at home against Middlesbrough scheduled to be played on the night of Tuesday 22nd but that has now been postponed due to the FA Cup game and will now be played in April (Tuesday 19th). We had already lost of course our home match against Coventry which would have been played on the Saturday of the FA Cup 5th round weekend.
This in effect means we won`t play at Turf Moor for a month until the Crystal Palace game on Saturday 5th March. In the League we now also face three tricky away games before that against Watford, Cardiff and local rivals, Preston. We have to hope we can pick up enough points from these games to keep in contention for promotion; otherwise the psychological effects could be devastating. All this just to keep a TV company happy! It`s not on and something should be done about it! Anyway, rant over back to Saturday`s game!
Eddie Howe made just one change to the starting eleven with Ross Wallace returning to the side. Wade Elliott was surprisingly dropped to the bench and there was to be no debut for new signing, Marvin Bartley. The midfielder signed from Bournemouth on January transfer deadline day had to also be content with bench-warming. New former Swindon striker, Charlie Austin though was in the starting eleven making his home debut for the Clarets after playing in midweek at the Keepmoat.
In summary then we lined up as follows:
Grant, Mears, Duff, Carlisle, Fox, Wallace, Cork, Marney, Eagles, Rodriguez, Austin
Subs: Jensen, Bikey, Alexander, Bartley, Elliott, Iwelumo, Thompson
The gaffer opted for a 4-4-2 formation with Rodriguez playing a more central striker`s role supporting Charlie Austin up front.
West Midlands referee, Phil Gibbs got the match underway on a rain-sodden day in Burnley.
There was an early shock for the Clarets in the first minute. Henri Lansbury looked likely to score but thankfully blazed his attempt over the bar. Burnley though began to look threatening with Chris Eagles supported by Tyrone Mears causing Paul Lambert`s men all sorts of problems down the flank.
A Mears cross on ten minutes found Jay Rodriguez but he could only put his header wide. Canaries` keeper, John Ruddy then had to get his finger tips to one of many crosses from Chris Eagles to deny Austin heading home. The Clarets were taking the game to Norwich and to be honest the Canaries looked nothing like a team chasing for automatic promotion.
On 30 minutes though, Burnley were reminded to keep Norwich in check after a deep cross from Leon Barnett found the head of Holt. The header though thankfully was not on target and Clarets fans could breathe a sigh of relief. That relief soon turned to joy after the Clarets took the lead following some worrying sustained pressure from the Canaries.
Wallace on the break stormed towards the half-way line before laying off the ball to Eagles. With the Norwich defence charging back in desperation, Eagles put in a well-timed pass to find Marney who had stormed through midfield into a scoring position. He unleashed a shot from 20 yards out and the ball sailed over the line into the the bottom corner of the net to put the Clarets 1-0 up. That was two goals in three games for the former Norwich loanee.
The Clarets well deserved to be leading at half-time and in my opinion that was the best 45 minutes I had seen the Clarets play all season and although Norwich did have their moments, especially in the last few minutes of the first half, we contained them well.
Paul Lambert though must have shaken them up during his half-time talk and they came out looking more determined. The Clarets were unable to get out of their own half for a time with the Canaries beginning to pile on the pressure. They nearly equalised just two minutes from the re-start. Grant had to save with his feet to deny Holt after Norwich`s leading goal scorer had been put clear by Wes Hoolahan. The angle was just too tight thankfully but Grant still deserved credit for saving well.
We looked to be under the cosh now and it was time to change things round on the hour mark. Charlie Austin, who had found chances limited, came off to be replaced by Wade Elliott in an attempt to bolster midfield and relieve the pressure. The change almost had an immediate effect. Elliott combined well with Rodriguez and Wallace to set-up a shot for Marney but this time he dragged his shot wide
The Clarets looked in better shape following the substitution and in the long run it would turn out to be effective but first we had to suffer a Norwich equaliser after 65 minutes. We looked to be soaking up the pressure but that finally collapsed when Hoolahan got over a cross that bounced towards Holt. He cleverly scissor-kicked the ball into the bottom corner of the net.
Norwich now looked to have the bit between their teeth and Clarets fans began to be haunted by fears of their impressive away form. Was this game now going to go the same way? Although Norwich now seemed to have most of the possession, the Clarets still looked threatening on the break as the game developed into a thrilling end-to-end spectacle for the neutral fans.
More changes were made by Howe with Chris Iwelumo coming on to replace Wallace after 72 minutes. Big Chris almost restored the lead following an Eagles cross but he could only put his header wide.
Grant then came to the rescue to deny Lappin from a direct free-kick after diving full length to save the danger.
Norwich substitute, Chris Martin also had two chances saved by Grant. The former Rams and Owls keeper first steered away a dangerous shot from Martin and then denied him again after forcing him wide to narrow the angle. Martin though still got in a shot but Grant dived at the ball to save well.
The game at this stage could have gone either way but thankfully with just nine minutes remaining the Clarets restored their lead in dramatic fashion. It had been a good week for Jay Rodriguez after being called up by Stuart Pearce to the England Under 21 squad and now he would add the icing on the cake by getting a goal that would prove to be the winner.
Danny Fox swung over a free kick past the far post and there was Jay Rod after timing his run to perfection in an ideal place to slide in to put the ball under Ruddy and into the back of the net to score his 7th league goal of the season. The Clarets home form had been maintained with an unbeaten run now of five games at Turf Moor and this was certainly a crucial win with three league games now coming up on the road. Well done lads! Onwards and Upwards!
Burnley: Grant, Mears, Duff, Carlisle, Fox, Cork, Marney, Wallace (Iwelumo 72), Eagles (Alexander 85), Rodriguez, Austin (Elliott 61)
Subs Not Used: Jensen, Bikey, Bartley, Thompson
Goals: Marney 33, Rodriguez 81
Booked: Yellow Card for Carlisle
Norwich: Ruddy, R Martin, Drury, Whitbread (Lappin 46), Barnett, Ward, Crofts, Lansbury (Wilbraham 71), Hoolahan, Holt, Jackson (C Martin 62)
Goal: Holt 65
Booked: Yellow Card for Drury
Subs Not Used: Steer, Tierney, Fox, Smith
Possession: 56% Burnley, 44% Norwich City
Ref: Phil Gibbs (West Midlands)
Good tactical game from Eddie Howe. His 4-4-2 starting eleven paid dividends and he had a plan B when Norwich started to press in second-half. The fact we had 56% of the possession in the end says a lot for Howe’s tactics-8/10
Paul Lambert didn’t get much stick from Clarets fans despite turning us down following Burnley’s attempt to bring him to Turf Moor as our new manager. One wonders if he might have regretted that decision after inflicting defeat on them and bringing their impressive run to an end. He looked clueless in the first half but must have instilled something into the Canaries at half time since they looked far more impressive in the second half-7/10