The Clarets have a mountain to climb if they want to return to the Premier League via the automatic promotion route this season and their latest ascent challenge will be Watford at home this Saturday.
Burnley have struggled in recent games to make an impression and are rapidly becoming the draw kings of this division. They have not won now in five games if you include the Carling Cup defeat away to Villa and have lost one and drawn three of their last four matches in the League.
Too many points dropped at home and the inability to win on the road this season is now costing us dear with current League leaders, QPR 11 points and second-place Cardiff 10 points ahead of the Clarets in 9th place. Burnley on 23 points from 16 games are at least still within spitting distance of the play-offs places and are currently only one point behind sixth placed club, Coventry. The problem is we are just one of many clubs fighting for a top six place and in all honesty we have failed to take this league by storm as many had predicted during the summer following a season in the top flight. Scunthorpe in 16th position are only four points off the play-offs position and are just three points behind the Clarets. That focuses the mind and shows just how hard our promotion battle is going to be for the rest of the season. We are just as likely based on current form to go on a slump as we are to advance and start putting a run together especially with Christmas coming up and bearing in mind our traditional poor performance over the festive season. I hope we buck the trend this year or it will be season over for certain.
Next up is Watford who come to Turf Moor this Saturday. The Hornets are currently 13th just one point behind the Clarets and they have had mixed success on the road this season. They came storming out of the blocks with four away wins and one draw in their first five matches on the road. That sequence included a 6-1 drubbing of Millwall at The Den but they have since lost their last three away games to Portsmouth (3-2), Derby County (4-1) and Crystal Palace (3-2). Clarets fans will be hoping they don`t re-find their stinging potential this Saturday.
Burnley Team News:
We await news of Danny Fox and Martin Paterson who were both injured in the midweek game against Darlington at Turf Moor this week. Paterson picked up a thigh strain at the end of the first half and didn`t come out for the start of the second half being replaced by iwelumo. Danny Fox fell heavily during the second half and had to be stretchered off with a suspected ankle ligament injury. Both players are being assessed this week before deciding if they will feature on Saturday.
Andre Bikey has also been absent from the eighteen recently following a recurrence of the rib injury he picked up in the away game at Millwall a few weeks back .
Player to watch: Clarke Carlisle
Carlisle has been as solid as a rock in the back four in recent games and has also been effective with his head in front of goal. It will be interesting to see how he fares against his former club. Burnley manager Steve Cotterill bought Carlisle from Watford for a transfer fee of £200,000 in August 2007.
Watford Team News:
Clarets fans hopes that Watford`s leading goal scorer would be out injured for this clash have been dashed. Danny Graham hobbled off with an ankle injury in the 78th minute of Tuesday night`s 3-2 defeat by Crystal Palace, after scoring in the first half. Hornets` manager, Malky Mackay though has confirmed that the knock was not a serious one with the striker in full training this week and expected to feature on Saturday.
Player to watch: Danny Graham
Watford have two top players in the Npower Championship Top Scorers table, 19 year old striker, Marvin Sordell has six goals to his credit but the Hornets leading goal scorer is Danny Graham who has notched up seven goals in the league. Graham, now 25 joined Watford from Carlisle United on a free transfer in July 2009. A tribunal later decided that Watford should pay £200,000 in compensation to Carlisle which could rise to £500,000. The former Middlesbrough striker also had loan spells at Darlington, Derby, Leeds, Blackpool and Carlisle whilst at the Riverside.
Team & Tactics
I am making an assumption here that both Fox and Paterson will be sidelined. If that is the case, the obvious thing to do would be to bring in Brian Easton at left back and play our leading goalscorer, Chris iwelumo up front. I don`t expect Laws to try something different and go for a 4-4-2 formation but I still wish he would try it. I am sick and tired of seeing natural strikers like Pato and JayRod wasted out wide and I am also weary of seeing a lone striker getting to balls only to head into empty space with nobody supporting him.
Jack Cork looks to have cemented a place in the starting eleven in the holding midfield role after a convincing man of the match performance against Donny Rovers on Tuesday night. Grezza once more looks likely to be on the bench. Maybe it is time to consider a more fluid midfield with two strikers up front whilst doing away with the official holding midfield role. I would like to see Elliott back on the wing with Eagles on the opposite flank supported by Cork and Marney in the middle. Cork could drop back into a more defensive midfield role depending on how the match pans out.
That won`t happen though and I expect the following eighteen (or similar) to be selected:
Grant, Mears, Duff, Carlisle, Easton (or Fox if fit), Cork, Eagles, Elliott, Marney, Rodriguez, Iwelumo
Subs from: Jensen, Cort, Edgar, Alexander, Wallace, Thompson, Paterson (if fit), Bikey (if fit)
Staffordshire referee, Chris Sarginson is in charge of this one. He was appointed as a referee to the National League in 2008. Sarginson has handled eleven games this season at Championship level or below but has yet to show anybody a red card although he has dished out 38 yellow cards!
Nothing less than a win will do as we all know and a victory will be vital to restore confidence and get our promotion campaign back on track. Another draw is unthinkable and a defeat will be a disaster. The pressure will be on the Clarets after recent indifferent performances and a convincing win will be a great morale booster for manager, players and fans alike. 2-1 Clarets!
We play Coventry City in the Ricoh Arena on Saturday 20th November (Kick-Off 3pm). The Sky Blues are currently in the coveted last place of the play-offs spots so now would be an excellent time to get our first away win of the season on the board.