Date: 17th April 2009 at 9:53am
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The Clarets second-string played a reserves game against Accrington Stanley last night and remained top of the league after winning 2-0. This was a home game officially but of course played on Accy’s ground!!

The news would not have been particularly earth shattering had it not been for the fact that gaffer, Owen Coyle played in this match and indeed scored one of the two goals with Kevin McDonald scoring the other.

Sky Sports thought Coyle playing was so novel they decided to attend the reserves game last night and cover the game live for a special bulletin on the Big League Weekend before the televised match on Monday night between Burnley and Sheffield United at Turf Moor.Sky Sports decided late in the day that they wanted to televise this Roses clash and the fixture was changed from this Saturday to the following Monday. In hindsight, this could help a number of players understood to be suffering from injuries giving them longer time to get fit for this important match between two sides hoping to finish in the top six.

The reasons we were told for Coyle getting a game last night was that our small squad was currently suffering a number of injuries with only 12 players currently fit enough to train.The gaffer therefore wanted to save his players for Monday when we play our crucial game against Sheffield United, a match we must win if we are to maintain our claim for a play-offs spot.

Our current effective squad is now one of the smallest in the Championship and was reduced to 19 with the departure of Ade Akinbiyi to US MLS side, Houston Dynamo. We do of course still have a number of players out on loan and could recall them in an emergency. Gabor Kiraly, Bes Berisha, Remco van der Schaaf, Steve Jones, Alan Mahon and Adam Kay are all out on loan at the moment. One other player, loan defender Russell Anderson is out injured with a long-term cruciate injury and looks unlikely to play this season.

If indeed our injury situation is as bad as it sounds, we could now be ruing our inability to bring in more new signings or loans during the New Year transfer windows, especially since we now enter the final countdown of the three remaining games of this season. Three games which could either see us reach the play-offs or see us fail at the final hurdle.

We shall have to hope though that the gaffer is playing a few mind games here, hoping to give Blades boss, Kevin Blackwell a false sense of security.

Coyle speaking about the injuries and his concerns said:

‘Thommo and Pato aren’t 100% fit.Thommo’s not been able to join in with the group yet, but hopefully in the next couple of days he’s able to do that.Pato’s had a scan that showed slight inflammation in the hamstring area, so that’s one we’ve got to be wary of. He certainly won’t train (on Thursday).We’ve got 12 fit players, so maybe it’s a blessing that the game’s not until Monday, and will give one or two a chance to get over their knocks.The skipper won’t train (on Thursday). He’s been struggling with a knock, but hopefully he’ll be okay.There are a number of concerns, but that’s part and parcel of this stage of the season.The ones that are fit train, the ones that aren’t don’t, that’s all we can do, so much so that my good self will turn out for the reserves tonight, and try and help out in terms of numbers.We’re all mucking in, we’re all playing our part.’

With Steven Thompson still suffering with an ankle ligament injury and Martin Paterson struggling with a persistent hamstring problem, our options in attack are rather limited with Jay Rodriguez now being given the limelight. Jay has done well having now played from the start in the last two games. Our limitations in attack though were brought home in the defeat against Cardiff at Ninian Park on Easter Monday when Coyle was forced to bring on an ’emergency striker’ in the shape of defender, Michael Duff.

Coyle is adamant though this will only be a one-off:

‘What happened on Monday was Duffo came on for the last four or five minutes because Jay (Rodriguez) had played two games in two days and we had no height up there, Thommo was injured, and that was the only reason for that.We were chasing the game, and he came very close with a header, but Michael is a centre back and that’s where he’ll stay’

Owen Coyle has an habit of scoring whenever he plays. He recently scored three goals (which included a brace) in the Masters competiton for Ireland and of course scored last night for the Reserves but if Clarets fans were wondering if we would ever see him play in a first team game, Coyle himself seems to have dashed hopes of that novelty and suggests maybe Wes Fletcher, currently training with the first team, might be close to being named in the sixteen after being given his first professional contract:

Coyle said:

‘I think you have to be registered earlier, but we’ve got better players, young Wes Fletcher from the youth team has done well, and has obviously been offered a year’s professional contract.’

We shall all have to hope that Coyle is over-egging the injury situation and that come Monday we can put out a strong team against the Blades in this must-win game.

Would the club ever forgive itself if we failed to reach the play-offs at this late stage because our small squad couldn’t provide enough cover for key injuries? More to the point would the fans?

Anyway here is a little treat..