Date: 18th March 2011 at 6:19pm
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The Clarets will be hoping to put behind them recent disappointing performances at home and try and get their promotion dream back on track against Bristol City at Ashton Gate this Saturday.

The Preamble

Burnley have had a torrid time of late picking up just one point from their last two games both at home. It has somewhat dented their play-offs hopes but we are still in there fighting in 7th spot three points behind 6th placed Nottingham Forest with a game in hand. Every point is of course vital with just ten games now left to play and all Clarets fans will be hoping that the recent mysterious loss of form is just a blip and that we can return to winning ways in the West Country on Saturday.

Bristol City meanwhile have enjoyed good form of late winning four of their last six games although their home form is somewhat inconsistent with 3 wins and 3 defeats in their last six matches at Ashton Gate. They are currently mid-table in 14th spot on 47 points from 37 games so they are ten points adrift of the Clarets having played a game more. They had won four games on the bounce before being brought down to earth in their last match away to Norwich on Monday night losing that one 3-1. If the Robins have one weakness it is conceding early goals. They have let in five Championship goals this season in the first five minutes of matches which is more than any other team. Not only that if the Clarets can keep that trend going and then get another it is worth noting that the Robins have not won a game this season in which they have conceded more than one goal.

Bristol City Team News:

Manager Keith Millen has a few injury concerns ahead of this clash

Robins defender Liam Fontaine is a major doubt. He is suffering from an ankle injury and could face surgery next week whether he plays or not. That would rule him out for rest of season. Damion Stewart could deputise for him

Defender and captain, Louis Carey fractured his skull in the 2-0 home win against Scunthorpe at the end of February and faced being ruled out for up to six weeks. There is better news now though that he could return earlier than expected.

Two long-term casualties returned to training this week but it will be too soon for them to play against Burnley. Jon Stead is recovering from surgery to fix an ankle injury that involved shaving a substantial spur of bone from the area. Full-back Jamie McAllister (rib fracture) is also now training.

Midfielder, Cole Skuse (toe injury) is also sidelined

Player to watch: Nicky Maynard

Since recovering from a long-term pre-season knee injury and being restored to the first team, Maynard has netted three times in five games to propel the Robins clear of relegation trouble. The 24 year old striker will need containing on Saturday. He signed from Crewe penning a four-year deal in July 2008 for a fee of £2,250,000 to become their record signing. Since arriving at Ashton Gate he has scored at a rate of about one goal in every three games and has reportedly attracted recent interest from Premier League clubs, Liverpool and Wolves.

Burnley Team News:

Dean Marney was substituted with a knee injury towards the end of the first half in our last game at home to Coventry and faces a late fitness test.

Strikers, Charlie Austin (dislocated shoulder), Martin Paterson (thigh injury) and Steven Thompson (infected groin surgery) are all out of contention and it is still too early for midfielder, Chris McCann. McCann though is now back in full training and aiming to play in the reserves by the end of the month.

Player to watch: Jack Cork

Cork has been uncharacteristically off-form in the last two games and seems to be making more errors than normal. He is a key player for us and we need his form to return on Saturday and drive the engine room to the standard we know that he can. The classy on-loan midfielder from Chelsea is a handful for most Championship clubs providing he is at the top of his game.

Team & Tactics

It is crunch decision time now for Eddie Howe. He has remained basically loyal to virtually the same starting eleven and last eighteen for the last eight matches with changes mainly being made due to injury. It was fine when we were winning five of those last eight matches but the last two matches, both at home to first Millwall and then Coventry in midweek have been dire and we have managed to pick up just one point.

Too many players it seems have been firing on only one-cylinder recently so is it now time to wring the changes? You can judge for yourself what could happen this Saturday by reading recent quotes from the gaffer:

“It`s hard keeping everyone happy because we`ve got a competitive squad,” said Howe

“It`s not a big squad but it`s full of quality.

“We have players who are chomping at the bit to play, that`s what you`d want.

“There are players who have done very well for the side and have kept their place but we haven`t performed as a team in the last two games, so it`s up to me to have a look at it and decide the best team to pick for Bristol (City).”

Talking specifically about the disappointing 2-2 draw against Coventry in midweek, he said:

“I thought I`d be loyal to the players who had done so well.

“It was a case of trying to give them the opportunity to put Saturday right.

“Unfortunately we didn`t quite get the response we wanted so we`ll see what our options are.”

One player who could miss out is Dean Marney who is currently struggling with a knee injury. This could be the opportunity for Marvin Bartley to play after coming on from the bench and playing for the last 25 minutes on Tuesday night and generally acquitting himself well against the Sky Blues. Could Howe also be tempted to rest the out-of-form Chris Eagles and perhaps start Wade Elliott? Other questions remain in defence and the keeper debate has raged on this week.

Lee Grant`s form can at best be described as inconsistent. He was superb against Hull City at the KC Stadium recently but has looked pretty average in other games this month. Could Brian Jensen now be given a chance in goal? Rumours continue to suggest that the Beast may be carrying an injury but there is no official announcement to that effect and remarks by Howe this week suggest that Grant`s place in the team is secure at the moment. What about the back four? I think both Mears and Fox are doing enough at the moment, especially Fox who has shown significant improvement of late. The area of concern could be the centre of defence and it will be interesting to see if Howe takes any notice of the frustrated fans chants on Tuesday night for Bikey to return.

This match is certainly difficult to call then in terms of team selection but I would implement a couple of changes although keep the basic shape of the team the same. Assuming Marney is unfit to play how does this sound?

Grant, Mears, Bikey, Carlisle, Fox, Elliott, Cork, Bartley, Wallace, Rodriguez, Delfouneso.

Subs: Jensen, Duff, Easton, Alexander, Edgar, Eagles, Iwelumo

Ref Watch:

Tyne & Wear referee, Andy Haines is in charge of this one. Haines started refereeing in his native London in 1995 being promoted Class 3 to Class 1 in only three seasons. In 2000 he relocated to the North East and in 2003 was promoted to the National List of Assistant Referees after having successful seasons on the Wearside and Northern Leagues. After two seasons as a Panel referee he was promoted to the National List of Referees in 2007.

He has refereed just one game involving the Clarets this season and that was our 3-0 home win over Barnsley. In his 26 games in charge this season at Championship and lower league level he has handed out just 2 reds but 76 yellow cards.

Match Prediction:

They are all tough matches these days and Bristol City will be no exception. With just nine games left after Saturday and Burnley three points adrift of the play-offs with a game in hand, a victory at Ashton Gate could not come at a better time and would set-up an exciting run-in! Let`s march on…2-1 Clarets!

Next Match

We now have an International break and won`t be back in action until Saturday 2nd April when Ipswich Town will be the visitors to Turf Moor (Kick-Off 3pm)