Games are fast running out as we approach the final hurdle of Season 2008/9 and every point is now vital if the Clarets are to realise their dreams and reach the play-offs. There are now just seven matches left to play, starting on Saturday with a long trip to sunny Devon to play Plymouth Argyle.
Setting the Scene
The Clarets after their 1-1 draw at Portman Road this week play the second of three consecutive away games against Plymouth at Home Park on Saturday and will be looking for three points with the Pilgrims struggling in 20th place and firmly in a relegation dogfight. Paul Sturrock`s team are just two points ahead of third-from-bottom club Nottingham Forest with the fans dispirited with both their manager and the Plymouth board. The home crowd could be our best asset if we can get the lead and they turn on the players and manager and start to boo. Plymouth have only won one of their last six home games suffering three defeats with two matches drawn. They have however gone three games undefeated at Home Park win a win against Watford and two creditable draws against high-flying Sheffield United and Reading so we will need to be on our guard.
Burnley dropped one place to 6th after Cardiff beat Watford 2-1 in the last minute at home in midweek and will be keen to keep in the play-offs spots and plough on with another tricky match against Derby County at Pride Park to follow after the International break.
The Clarets currently have 62 points, two points clear now of local rivals Preston just behind us in 7th spot. Reading in 3rd spot have a game in hand over the Clarets and already have five points more, so it looks like the race is on really for the 4th, 5th and 6th final play-offs spots with six teams looking like they have a chance from Swansea in 9th place on 57 points to Sheffield United in 4th on 63 points.
Steven Thompson we know will miss this match following his ankle injury after being stretchered- off in our last home game against Forest. Owen Coyle was relieved when the results of the scan indicated there were no broken bones and there is a chance that Thompson could be available to play at Pride Park. He of course missed the game against Ipswich in midweek and was replaced by Chris Eagles in the starting eleven with Jay Rodriguez named of the bench still awaiting his full debut.
Coyle has persistently named Martin Paterson in the team despite a number of lacklustre performances recently with the busy forward looking somewhat jaded and tired of late. He looks to be frustrated too and some would say petulant in front of goal when he misses. He had another poor game at Portman Road and was soon substituted after picking up a yellow-card. Paterson has not scored now in eight games and surely it is now time to rest the Northern Ireland International and give young Jay Rodriguez a chance to shine over a full 90 minutes. Paterson will not even be given a rest over the International break after being named in the Northern Ireland squad by Nigel Worthington with the likelihood of playing in their two World Cup qualifying games.
The decision though may be taken out of Coyle`s hands with the news that Paterson picked up a knock in the game against Ipswich. He suffered a slight tightening of his hamstring which was enough to prevent him from training on Thursday this week. It was also revealed that that was also one or two other minor knocks that need to be looked at although no names were mentioned.
If we assume Paterson either doesn`t make the eleven through injury or is rested anyway, I would select the following sixteen
Jensen, Williams, Carlisle, Caldwell, Kalvenes, Alexander, Eagles, McCann, Elliott, Blake, Rodriguez
Subs: Penny, Duff, Gudjonsson, McDonald, Paterson (if fit)
Plymouth Argyle Team News:
Plymouth have certainly gone for loans a big way this season, they have already reached the maximum of five loans they are allowed to name in a sixteen. Carl Fletcher from Palace, two Manchester United loans (Craig Cathcart and David Gray) plus two loans from Blackburn Rovers (Paul Gallagher and Alan Judge) could all feature tomorrow.
Central defender Mat Doumbe and striker Emile Mpenza will however both be ruled out with hamstring injuries.
It will be interesting to see if Welsh international striker Jermaine Easter impressed Luggy enough in the reserve game against Bristol City last Tuesday night to earn a place in the sixteen. He has not played for Argyle since September last year.Easter handed in a transfer request to Plymouth back in August 2008, citing ‘personal problems’ as his reason for wanting to leave. Following loans at Millwall and Colchester though he has since asked to be taken off the transfer list and decided to stay with Argyle and fight for a place. He has just recently also recovered from a medial ligament injury he picked up over Christmas.
Easter did score the opening goal against Bristol City Reserves in their 2-0 victory so could be back in contention.
The Pilgrims are also boosted by the return to fitness of right-back David McNamee who has not played in the first-team since suffering a fractured cheekbone in the 1-1 draw at Preston in early February. He came through unscathed and played a full 90 minutes in the reserve match in midweek.
Player to watch: Romain Larrieu
The Plymouth keeper has been a regular this season replacing Graham Stark who was dropped after the Norwich City away game back in September last year after Argyle had only managed to get one point from six games. We will have to hope he is kept busy this Saturday picking the ball out of the back of the net!
Burnley Team News:
Steve Thompson is sidelined with an ankle injury and news is awaited concerning Paterson who has picked up a tight hamstring and missed training on Thursday.
Player to watch: Robbie Blake
Blake is having his best season for the Clarets in my opinion and the magician is in dazzling form at the moment. He should be capable of running the Plymouth defence ragged and gawd help them if we get a free kick in Robbie Blake territory!
Last Time We Met
We were held at home by Plymouth this season in a disappointing 0-0 draw at the end of August last year.
The Clarets last season also suffered a 3-1 defeat at Home Park back in February 2008 with James O`Connor getting our goal.
Russell Booth (Nottinghamshire)
Depends which team turns up, but we should be capable of winning this game especially if we take the lead and the home fans verbally turn against their team and manager. I will go with 2-0 Clarets.
There will be an International break now and time for a number of our players to have a well earned rest and hopefully time too for Steven Thompson to recover fully from his ankle injury. Three of our players though have been selected for their International squads so we have to hope they come back uninjured and fully fit. Good luck though to Martin Paterson (Northern Ireland), Graham Alexander (Scotland) and Rhys Williams (Wales).
We will be back in action on Saturday 4th April when we will complete the third of our three consecutive away games with a trip to Pride Park to face Derby County (3pm Kick off)