The Clarets awful form of late continued with a 4-2 drubbing by Sheffield Wednesday at Turf Moor on Saturday.
A brace each from Tudgay and Clarke did the damage. McCann had managed to bring the score back to 1-1 after 53 minutes before Wednesday got three goals in quick succession. Chris Eagles on 82 minutes gave the score line some respectability but all Clarets fans by then, those that hadn`t left the ground, just knew that was a bit of consolation and nothing more.
It is the second time this season that the Owls have turned over the Clarets after the 4-1 defeat at Hillsborough on the opening day of the season and there is no doubting that Sheffield Wednesday are now fast becoming our bogey team at home. We have not defeated them now in six matches at Turf Moor.
The statistics now read played six, drawn 2 and lost 4 including that infamous 7-2 tonking towards the end of the 2002-3 season. That score-line of April 2003 would not have looked out of place on Saturday, such was Wednesday`s dominance. Indeed, it seemed that every time Wednesday went on the attack, they either scored, had a goal disallowed or hit the woodwork! Our defence was quite simply atrocious and if it hadn`t been for Brian Jensen, who was arguably the man of the match despite letting in four goals, a rugby score may well have been the outcome in favour of the Owls.
The Owls shocker also brought to an end our run of six games without defeat but let`s be honest the writing was on the wall for some time after our lacklustre performances in our previous two games against Coventry at home and Norwich away.
This could be the game that destroyed any hope of the Clarets reaching the play-offs and the main concern is that the team are now making far too many errors in the back four with the attack looking jaded and ineffective supported by a midfield who often seem clueless and tired. Having said that other games went kindly for us over the weekend and we are still in with a chance.
Burnley are now placed 9th on 52 points, two points behind 6th placed Bristol City. However the main concern is that four of the teams in the top 10 have now got games in hand over the Clarets but it is far too close to call at this stage with just six points separating 10th placed Ipswich and 4th placed Preston. Games though are running out for the Clarets and we need to somehow get on a good run in the remaining eleven games.
The awful performance on Saturday led to Coyle after the match saying that he would have to ring the changes for our next game this Tuesday night against Blackpool at Bloomfield Road. The trouble is what changes can we bring to the team, especially in the back four? This squad is now woefully too small and the club seem incapable of bringing in new faces via the loan system for whatever reason be that financial or player availability and willingness to come to Turf Moor.
The situation is made even more acute when you realise that in the 33 man squad, four are already out on loan, one is a long-term injury (loan Russell Anderson-cruciate ligament) and two are young guns who have yet to establish themselves in the Burnley team.
What are the alternatives in defence? The only other defenders in the squad are Christian Kalvenes who only plays at left back or Clarke Carlisle, who let`s face it has been dropped from the sixteen recently because he was making far too many errors himself!
Stephen Jordan was arguably the best defender on Saturday, so replacing him with Kalvenes doesn`t make sense. Jordan has played in the centre so that`s an option especially since Duff in particular but Caldwell also, had terrible games against the Owls. Rhys Williams had his worst game for the Clarets too at right back, but I can`t see how and why we should drop him after one bad performance. So Coyle can ring the changes but the alternatives don`t inspire me with much confidence and let`s be clear the fact we have been unable to bring in new faces in the January/loan windows could once more scupper our chances of reaching nirvana and spoil what has been an amazing season to date when you consider our cup runs and performance against top teams in the Championship.
With the benefit of hindsight it would be easy to criticise the gaffer for his team choice yesterday after he named the exact same sixteen that struggled badly against Norwich at Carrow Road a week earlier. Surely we should have rung the changes this Saturday with Pato looking jaded, Blake only firing on three cylinders and McCann having a shocker against Norwich.
For some reason though no changes were made and we therefore lined up as follows:
Jensen, Williams, Duff, Caldwell, Jordan, Alexander, Elliott, McCann, Blake, Paterson, Thompson
Subs: Penny, Gudjonsson, Eagles, McDonald, Rodriguez
Six Clarets were also sweating ahead of this game because they knew if they picked up a fifth yellow they would receive an automatic one-match ban and that match they would miss would be the high-profile FA Cup clash against Arsenal at the Emirates on Sunday 8th March. The problem for Duff, McDonald, Gudjonsson, Eagles, Paterson and Thompson would be they would have to all avoid the wrath of Andy D’Urso the referee for this game. The Essex official had refereed 29 games so far this season and dished out 49 yellow cards and 4 reds! In two games, six yellows were in his book!
The truth is though they only had to avoid a booking in this game as on 1st March the FA Amnesty on bookings would kick in.
I just wonder now if some of the players affected were scared by the possibility of a booking and were over-cautious throughout the game. Duff certainly had his worst game for some time and it didn`t work since he was eventually booked and will now miss the Arsenal match.
The back four in total though were terrible and only Duff was on a fifth yellow in defence. Of the others, Gudjonsson didn`t feature but Paterson and Thompson were both totally ineffectual so one wonders if they had their mind on Arsenal. Eagles was the only one of the six that seemed undeterred by the prospect of missing the Arsenal clash.
As the match got underway, it was the Clarets who were out of the blocks first. Paterson from a tight angle got in a powerful shot on eight minutes and then two minutes later finding himself clear got in another shot. This time though the shot was blocked and cleared away for a corner. Thompson should maybe have done better from the corner with his header from 12 yards sailing over the bar.
It was however the Owls who then took the lead with 18 minutes played. Tommy Spurr got in a through ball to Wednesday`s leading goal scorer, Marcus Tudgay. He made no mistake with his shot to put the Owls 1-0 up. With their tails now up, Tudgay almost made it 2-0 three minutes later but Jensen turned away his shot with Clarets fans claiming he was offside anyway.
Wednesday were now dominating the game. Clarke on 23 minutes came close to doubling their lead but he could only shoot straight at Jensen.
The Clarets seemed to have only one real chance of equalising during the first half and that would have been an own goal after an Owls defender deflected a low cross from McCann towards his own net on 23 minutes. Owls` keeper, Lee Grant though managed to get a glove to it and to clear the ball away for a corner.
A dangerous McCann low cross was almost turned into the goal by a Wednesday defender, only for Lee Grant to stretch out a glove and somehow claw the ball away for a corner.
1-0 though the score remained at half-time and you just sensed somehow that the bogey team would remain just that at the end of 90 minutes.
Neither manager made any changes for the start of the second half. I can`t remember the last time Owen Coyle made any changes for the start of the second half no matter how badly we have played in the first. Can anybody recall the last game he did?
Anyway, things didn`t look too bad at the start of the second with the Clarets looking the most likely to score next. A slip by Beevers in defence led to Thompson getting a chance with 52 minutes on the clock but again he fired over.
One minute later and the Clarets got their deserved equaliser from a Blake free kick. No the magician making his 200th League appearance didn`t score himself direct but swung over the ball for McCann to head home at the far post.
At this point the Clarets should now have made their dominance felt but somehow they let the Owls off the hook and allowed them on the break to expose our defensive weakness.
A sequence of bizarre schoolboy errors in the back four suddenly led to us being 4-1 down with the Clarets looking shell-shocked and Clarets fans already leaving the ground with ten minutes to play.
It was Clarke who first indicated that the writing could be on the wall after 60 minutes play. Weak defending allowed the Owls striker to get in a vicious volley from 12 yards out. Oh the relief when the ball hit the woodwork with Jensen stranded.
Coyle at last made some changes and on 64 minutes, Chris Eagles came on to replace Wade Elliott.
A corner to the Owls on 69 minutes though led to disaster for the Clarets. Jensen had saved a shot from Clarke turning the ball around the post. From the corner Tudgay on the edge of the box made no mistake to make the score 2-1 in favour of the visitors.
Before the Clarets had time to recover their composure it was 3-1, two minutes later.
Duff was woefully at fault, allowing Clarke to get the better of him and powerful shoot home past Jensen. The game looked now to be over for the Clarets, it was but more pain was still to come!
It was time for the Clarets though first to try and freshen things up and get back in this game. A double substitution saw Rodriguez and McDonald come on for Thompson and Williams after 72 minutes with Alexander now reverting back to right back.
The Clarets had their moments but each time they had one, it came to nothing and it just seemed like the Owls on the break went up and either scored or nearly scored with the hapless defence clueless what to do. This was certainly the case for Wednesday`s fourth goal with Rodriguez having an effort blocked on 82 minutes. Clarke on the break then whizzed towards goal from just inside our half and made no mistake with his shot to make it the second time this season that the Owls had got four goals against the Clarets.
A little bit of pride though was restored one minute late when on 83 minutes, Chris Eagles thumped in the ball from a free kick giving Grant no chance.
All Clarets fans knew this was more of a consolation that the start of a fight back but at least it was something to cheer about on a very bad day at the office.
The Owls thought they had a fifth goal too but thankfully that one was ruled offside and there was just one more chance for the Clarets to improve their goal difference in added time. A Rodriguez header though was saved on the line by Grant to even deny us that consolation.
Time to wipe out from our memories this truly awful performance but that will be difficult considering we play local rivals, Blackpool at Bloomfield Rd on Tuesday night followed by the big game at the Emirates against Arsenal in the FA Cup 5th Round clash on Sunday.
Not good times to be playing like plonkers and we will need to try something radical if we really are to ring the changes and start playing again like we know we can. I just wonder if Owen Coyle still thinks Bes Berisha and Remco van der Schaaf would not be ideal alternatives in this situation.
Burnley: Jensen, Williams (McDonald 73), Duff, Caldwell, Jordan, Alexander, Elliott (Eagles 64), McCann, Blake, Thompson (Rodriguez 73), Paterson.
Subs Not Used: Penny, Gudjonsson.
Booked: Jordan. Duff
Goals: McCann 53, Eagles 85.
Sheffield Wednesday: Grant, Buxton, Hinds, Beevers, Spurr, Gray (Jeffers 90), Potter, McAllister (O’Connor 90), Johnson (Small 87), Tudgay, Clarke.
Subs Not Used: Simek, Wood.
Goals: Tudgay 19, 69, Clarke 79, 82.
Ref: Andy D’Urso (Essex).
Owls, ‘Owlers and ‘Orrors
The Clarets awful form of late continued with a 4-2 drubbing by Sheffield Wednesday at Turf Moor on Saturday.