Date: 17th March 2008 at 3:40pm
Written by:

Burnley 1-3 Wolverhampton Wanderers.

By Martyn Robinson

ANOTHER woeful display from the Clarets. Another three points further back from the Play-Offs. Do we really deserve a shot at the Premiership?

Every time we are within striking distance of the top six, it’s the same old story. So making my way to Turf Moor on Saturday afternoon, I wasn’t expecting a win. But I expected a respectable performance, and it didn’t arrive. But I didn’t expect to be robbed of three goals in the fashion we were.

Two forgetable first half minutes saw the Clarets two down and facing an up hill battle. Seyi Olofinjana strook first, before a confidence drained Gabor Kiraly saw his powerful clearance cannon against former Blackburn defender Michael Gray to doubled the advantage. Sylvan Ebanks-Blake made it three, before Ade Akinbiyi grabbed a consolation.

Burnley manager Owen Coyle made two changes to the side that triumphed over Charlton Athletic on Tuesday evening, with Alan Mahon, who is clearly lacking in match fitness dropped out of the starting 11 and on to the bench, as Joey Gudjonsson, fresh from his two match ban took his place.

Andrew Cole missed out on the 16 altogether due to his re-occuring achilles problem, he was replaced by Ade Akinbiyi, who partnered Robbie Blake in attack, a partnership that from the start didn’t look like it had goals in it.

Burnley made the most promising of starts, with tricky winger Wade Elliott, being released by Graham Alexander, before seeing his cross met by Akinbiyi, who put his header just inches wide of Wayne Hennessey’s far post, a move which deserved a goal.

Against the run of play, Wolverhampton hit the Clarets, as a fantastic Ebanks-Blake split the clueless Burnley back four in half, with Stanislav Varga attempting to make a last ditch effort to block Ebanks-Blake’s ball to an open Olofinjana, but it wasn’t to be as the Nigerian midfielder cooly slotted past Kiraly.

Can it get any worse so early on? It can if Clarke Carlisle and Kiraly want to form their own circus show in the middle of a football match. Carlisle picked the ball up with bags of time on his hands, but decided to play the back pass to Kiraly, who then smashed the ball against an advancing Gray, who saw the ball roll accross the line to double Wolves’ lead and ultimately hand them the three points.

Northern Irish International stiker Kyle Lafferty saw his power packed volley blocked by a crowd of players in the Wolverhampton area, following Robbie Blake’s inch perfect corner.

Kevin Foley had clearly done his homework on Lafferty, reading the youngsters’ movements like a book. We all know Kyle’s move now. Pick up the ball on the left wing, go on a darting run, before finally cutting inside to have a shot on his favoured right foot. But Foley understood Lafferty, and stood off him every time to let him advance, before snatching the ball from his toes as he tried to switch on to his right.

Graham Alexander then saw his thunderous near post effort greatly saved by Hennessey just after half an hour, as Burnley took control of a game that they didn’t deserve to be two down in, with both teams just as bad as each other.

HALF-TIME: Burnley 0-2 Wolverhampton.

The talk at half time was, could Burnley get an early goal and really open the game up for a finale finish. There was an early goal but it was one that put an end to any thoughts of a Burnley fightback.

Ebanks-Blake continued to be his troublesome self, and following a neat move with Andy Keogh, he found himself with time and space inside the Burnley area, before he hit a weak daisy cutter, that was straight at Kiraly, but the Hungarian stopper flapped at the ball, and saw it go straight through his arms, as the former Manchester United striker ran to celebrate hsi goal with his team mates in front of the Clarets dugout.

The fans were urging Coyle to move Kyle Lafferty in to the middle to take a strikers role alongside Akinbiyi, instead of seeing him wasted and isolated on the left wing. And it wasn’t long until the gaffer saw sence and made the switch, which made instant impacts.

Aknbiyi got himself on the end of a Lafferty flick on, who started to look at home playing in his natural striking role. But Akinbiyi saw his quick turn and shot go wide of Welsh International Hennessey’s goal.

Lafferty deserved to have his name on the scoresheet just moments later, as his powerful drive from outside of the area flew agonisingly wide of the goal, when the ball looked destined to be nesstling in the top corner.

Akinbiyi finally scored the goal that had been coming for weeks to put the memories of close range misses against Stoke City and Watford behind him, but it wasn’t enough to help the Clarets rescue a point. Ade originally saw his header blocked on the line by Hennessey, but the rebound fell straight to his feet and he made no mistake of smashing the ball home into the roof of the net from four yards out.

The late fight from Burnley wasn’t enough and it was Mick McCarthey’s side who went home happier of the two sides, as the Clarets yet again miss their opportunity to break into the sacred top six, as it seems the words ‘we’re only a few points off sixth spot’, will never turn to ‘we’re a few points clear in the top six’.

Todmorden News Man of the Match: Kyle Lafferty.

BURNLEY: Kiraly, Alexander, Varga (Unsworth 71), Carlisle, Harley, Elliott, Gudjonsson (Mahon 56), James O’Connor, Lafferty, Akinbiyi, Blake (Randall 75).

Subs Not Used: Jensen, Spicer.

Goal: Akinbiyi 76.

WOLVERHAMPTON: Hennessey, Foley, Darren Ward, Collins, Elokobi, Olofinjana (Eastwood 86), Henry, Potter, Gray (Gibson 70), Ebanks-Blake (Kyle 83), Keogh.

Subs Not Used: Rob Edwards, Stack.

Goals: Olofinjana 14, Gray 16, Ebanks-Blake 56.

Att: 12,749

Ref: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire).

* NEXT Saturday is derby day at Deepdale, as Burnley take on Preston North End. So if you are one of the unlucky ones to miss out on a ticket for the game, then catch the match report on Vital Burnley and early next week.