Date: 3rd April 2011 at 2:31pm
Written by:

The wheels seem to have well and truly come off the Eddie Howe bandwagon at the moment following yet another dismal performance at home on Saturday. The 2-1 defeat against Ipswich left many Clarets fans feeling that our season was now over. It was also noticeable that the first rumblings of doubts regarding our new management team also began to surface with many questioning whether Howe and Tindall had enough experience to lead a Championship club with Premier League ambitions. Eddie Howe of course got off to a flying start since his appointment in January but following five wins in six league games we have now picked up just one point from the last four matches severely denting any hope of reaching the play-offs. The irony is with eight games still to play we do still have a chance but the reality is the way we are playing at the moment few, if any Clarets fans think we can reach them. The defeat against Ipswich means we are now 9th three points behind sixth placed club, Reading but they have played the same number of games as the Clarets.

An absolutely shocking performance in the first half against Ipswich completely trashed any notion that the two week international break had come at the right time for the lacklustre, underachieving Clarets and that we would now be refreshed and raring to go. Indeed we were actually worse than we were in our last game away to Bristol City and that is saying something!

Ipswich delivered a double whammy during a seven minute spell in the first half leaving the Clarets shell-shocked and in disarray with just 24 minutes played. Burnley simply had no answer and all that can be said is that we marginally better in the second half and even managed to get a goal back with Jay Rodriguez hitting a belter on 68 minutes. Let`s be honest though, we simply looked ‘good` in the second half because we were so terrible in the first half! In reality it was a poor performance all round with too many players again simply not at the races especially Chris Eagles who continues to worryingly underachieve. Earlier in the season we seemed to have the drive and resilience to come from behind even from 2-0 down but now you just sense we are flogging a dead horse!

Eddie Howe of course was forced into some changes for the start of this match but also decided to make some additional ones of his own following recent abject performances. Danny Fox was sitting out the first of his two match ban after picking up his tenth yellow card of the season at Ashton Gate in the previous game. Brian Easton therefore returned at left-back. Jack Cork too was absent after a scare in midweek saw the on loan Chelsea midfielder taken to hospital at half time during the England Under 21 friendly international against Iceland at Deepdale on Monday night. He was suffering from palpitations and a raised heart rate and was kept in overnight for observations before returning to Chelsea for medical assessment. It is still not clear what caused the problem although a virus could be involved but either way it was clear he would not be well enough to play for the Clarets against Ipswich.

With Cork absent, Howe elected to give Marvin Bartley his first full home debut after the former Bournemouth player impressed last time out in his full debut against Bristol City in the absence of Dean Marney.

Marney had been out with a knee injury but at least the international break had allowed him to fully recover and he too was named in the starting eleven; not only that but he led the team out as captain in the absence of both Graham Alexander and Clarke Carlisle. Howe had decided to drop vice captain Carlisle and give a full debut to new loan, Shane Duffy. The 19 year old highly-rated prospect was signed on loan from Everton and joined the Clarets in midweek after returning from Republic of Ireland under-21 duty in Portugal.

He was certainly thrown in the deep end then and lined up alongside Andre Bikey in the centre of defence.

On-loan Villa striker, Nathan Delfouneso also returned to the starting eleven partnering Jay Rodriguez up front.

In summary then we lined up as follows:

Jensen, Mears, Duffy, Bikey, Easton, Eagles, Bartley, Marney, Wallace, Delfouneso, Rodriguez

Subs: Jensen, Duff, Carlisle, Alexander, Edgar, Elliott, Iwelumo

Lincolnshire referee, Trevor Kettle got the game underway with Clarets fans eager to see if the unfamiliar Burnley line up could offer up anything new and positive compared to the shambolic last three performances.

Sadly it soon became evident that the answer to that looked likely to be no although at least we did have the first opportunity to score. Eagles and Marney linked well to set-up Wallace but the former Preston winger could only slice his right footed effort wide.

It was soon backs to the wall time though for the Clarets after going behind in Ipswich`s first meaningful foray into our half. The damage came from a Bullard corner. McAuley headed the ball back across the penalty area and there was Norris to thump the ball home with a left footed shot from 12 yards out.

Burnley had hardly recovered from that early setback when they almost found themselves 2-0 down just two minutes later. Bikey was harshly judges to have fouled Josh Carson and it was left to Bullard to whip over the free kick to find Scotland. Thankfully the former Swansea and Wigan striker could only put his effort over the bar but the writing was on the wall and it soon read ‘Burnley 0-2 Ipswich`.

A deft dummy from Norris allowed Jason Scotland in an onside position to pick out his Captain charging down the flank. Norris thumped over a cross and there was the much-talked-about Conor Wickham to head the ball down and over Lee Grant.

That was enough for Eddie Howe and it was time to try and inject some oomph into our lacklustre ineffective attack. Wallace was the sacrificial lamb making way for Big Chris Iwelumo after 37 minutes in an effort to bolster our options up front. It made no odds though and our attack remained lightweight with the Clarets going in 2-0 down at half-time.

The Burnley fans were now in a strange state of stunned silence, thinking but hardly daring to utter the one fact that was now burning inside us. We were now playing far worse than we ever did under Brian Laws! Everybody I spoke to was totally baffled by our sudden loss of form and why we were failing to click in virtually every department at the moment. Dare we utter the unspeakable? The horrible thought that Eddie Howe may be out of his depth? Some tried with subtle hints but you just sensed nobody wanted to admit these things just yet. Could Howe`s honeymoon with the fans be over? Has the marriage hit the buffers? Surely not, but there was the strong sense something was not right although everybody was comforting themselves with the hope that in the summer, Eddie Howe will get his own team together with the financial help from the Board. We do need this to happen, we are carrying too many passengers at the moment and it is time for a clear out!

That is for the future though could Howe now rescue the situation in hand, give ’em a rollicking in the dressing room and get them to come out fighting with some passion and belief?

Whatever he said partially seemed to work! At least we looked more determined to try and get back into this game. Looking and doing are two separate things though and most Clarets fans sensed it was a bridge to far even after managing to pull a goal back. Before that though, we had started brightly enough in the second-half to put Ipswich under some pressure. Easton got in a good cross to find Iwelumo. He headed down to Marney who unleashed a volley that had Lee-Barrett saving at full stretch. Another cross from Easton this time found Eagles who unleashed a low shot only to see the attempt blocked in front of goal. The Ipswich keeper then came to their rescue again this time saving an attempt by Delfouneso after being released by Iwelumo. His angled drive was on target but the Blues stopper was equal to it. This was undoubtedly the Clarets best spell of the game but it would be fruitless if we couldn`t reduce the arrears and quickly.

The game livened up for the Clarets when the lacklustre Eagles was finally replaced by Elliott on the wing after 67 minutes. One minute later and it was 2-1! Elliott was involved in the build up with the ball eventually being picked up by Marney. He found Jay Rodriguez bearing down on goal from 20 yards out. Letting rip with a right-footed thunderbolt, Jay Rod saw the ball fly into the bottom corner of the net to at last give the Clarets faithful something to cheer about. Could we now come back like we used to do in days gone by this season?

It was Ipswich though who then seemed to respond the more positively. Norris nearly got his brace after forcing Grant into a fine save pushing his shot over the bar.

Delfouneso though came close from an Elliott free-kick but he could only put his shot just wide at the near post as another chance to find that elusive equaliser went begging. We were now entering four minutes of added time and there was just chance for one last valiant effort from an Elliott corner. Well it would have been valiant had anyone of our players with the ball bobbling around in the danger area managed to get a foot on it!

These are grim days for Clarets fans at the moment and we certainly now have a mountain to climb if we are to avoid the ‘failure` of not reaching the play-offs. At least the mountain is still there though so I wouldn`t write us off just yet although we have to find a sudden and drastic improvement in form if we are to stand any chance of finishing in the top six now.

Match Stats

Burnley: Grant, Mears, Bikey, Duffy, Easton, Eagles (Elliott 67), Marney, Bartley (Alexander 75), Wallace (Iwelumo 37), Rodriguez, Delfouneso

Subs Not Used: Jensen, Duff, Carlisle, Edgar

Goal: Rodriguez 68

Booked: Yellow Cards for Wallace, Bikey, Delfouneso

Ipswich: Lee-Barrett, McAuley, Delaney, Carson (Dyer 79), Leadbitter, Edwards, Norris, Bullard, Kennedy, Wickham, Scotland (Drury 74)

Subs Not Used: Fulop, Peters, O’Dea, Healy, Civelli

Goals: Norris 17, Wickham 24

Booked: Yellow Cards for Wickham, McAuley, Norris, Lee-Barrett

Possession: 50% Burnley, 50% Ipswich Town (Source: BBC Sport)

Ref: Trevor Kettle (Lincolnshire)