Burnley 1 Blues 1 .. Ron's Match Report

By Richard Barker
Last updated : 19 October 2008

Chris McCann had put Burnley in front, but a second-half strike from substitute Cameron Jerome levelled things.

Narrow-minded bigots... It's a phrase often used when talking about Burnley, but after this trip, I can honestly say that the only narrow-minded bigots are those making such comments without getting to know the place.

I decided to make a bit of a weekend of Blues' trip to Turf Moor - you have to take these opportunities when they come along. On Friday evening I visited a lovely little wine bar for a few hours where the delightful Christophe (he'd moved to Burnley from Lyon for the job prospects) poured me several glasses of some fantastic reds from the Bordeaux region - the football team aren't the only super Clarets in Burnley! After this I frequented a top Burnley nightspot, Lava & Ignite, to throw some shapes. It's a two-room venue, with Lava playing chart music, and Ignite recently changing from an RnB type room to a Bollywood themed bar/dancefloor. Those who think that Burnley is all about the BNP should have seen the locals in here, embracing the culture and dancing joyously with their asian neighbours - some even wore bindis and saris to join in with the theme.

On Saturday morning I woke up in the Burnley Hilton, opened the curtains and looked out over the magnificent River Calder and into the distance to the South Pennine Moors and the spectacular Cliviger Gorge. I could barely tear my eyes away from the sight, but tear them away I did and it was straight down to Keirby Walk for a croissant (or three!) and a spot of "people watching" from my pavement table in a lovely little cosmopolitan street cafe. Sipping on my cappucino I watched the world go by, as locals and tourists alike laughed and joked in the beautiful autumnul sunshine.

Once I'd finished my late breakfast, I had an hour or so to kill before I had to head to Turf Moor for the game, so I wandered to Charter Walk - a state-of-the-art mall - and popped into world renowned chic-boutiques such as Currys, Boots and Next. I'm still not quite sure how I was able to drag myself away and into a taxi to the ground in which a pleasant fellow named Asif regaled me with stories of how wonderfully at home the locals had made him and his family since they moved there a generation ago.

As for the football, well, I barely saw any of it for remonstrating for much of the 90 minutes with a load of thugs from Birmingham who were singing "what a f*cking sh*thole!" - if only they'd seen what I'd seen...

Indeed, the ugliest thing about the whole weekend was the match itself - it was very, very poor. Blues' first-half performance was ineffectual and generally lacking in most areas. Burnley deservedly led at half-time and could have had more, as Blues' defending was awful at times. Having had Radhi Jaidi back in the team for three games, and then having to see Martin Taylor again just further illustrated the gulf between the two. Taylor started poorly and barely improved. His distribution was poor, he looked awkward in possession and generally unsure in everything he did. It was obvious that the rest of his team had very, very little confidence in him.

Equally as poor was David Murphy, who as I've said a few times this season, is really struggling defensively (and considering he's defender, that's a worry). If ever there's an indication that you're struggling, it's being taken off at half-time and replaced by a player who's barely kicked a ball in anger in 6 months or so, who the club can't even give away and who the club's owner described as "a pile of rubbish". In fairness to Franck Quedrue, he made some mistakes, but looked more solid defensively than Murphy and also added his clever distribution to the side.

So, with Murphy and Taylor playing as they did, plus Liam Ridgewell doing his usual - generally looking solid enough, but then making a hash of a clearance or taking the wrong choice - Blues were up against it first-half. Murphy's problems were caused by Wade Elliott down Burnley's right. Elliott's a decent winger, but you'd hope that the left-back of a promotion contender would be able to handle him better than Murphy did. Burnley's attacks down the right led to constant crosses to the far post (it's how McCann scored) and troubled Blues (especially with Maik Taylor being shackled to his line, as standard).

Another key reason for Blues' failings in the first half (indeed, for the first hour or so really) was a combination of the forwards picked and the system adopted. It was totally wrong. Kevin Phillips and Garry O'Connor were selected up front again, but Blues played a long ball game. Never did Quincy, Seb Larsson or Kemy Agustien get into the game as Blues looked to bypass the midfield. If that's the way you're going to play, Phillips and O'Connor as a front two doesn't work. Phillips, well, isn't going to do a lot in that system, whilst O'Connor isn't commanding enough in the air. He's not bad in the air, but Clarke Carlisle and Steven Caldwell are two centre halves in the Jaidi mould - they're excellent in the air, big, strong and do the basics well. Fans were moaning about O'Connor not winning enough in the air, and he probably didn't, but he didn't pick himself and he didn't dictate the system that Blues played, and he can't just grow four inches pre-match to enable himself to win more headers. He didn't have a good game, but the support and service that he and Phillips had was minimal.

Even more baffling, given that Blues played a long-ball game, was that Marcus Bent was not only not in the eleven, but not even on the bench. He's by far and away the best forward that Blues have when it comes to competing in the air and holding the ball up in that respect, so his exclusion really was bizarre, given the choice of tactic. Still, it seems that there's something going on there, as it's happened a lot lately, so perhaps we won't see much more of him. Strange, in my view.

So, all of this meant that Blues only really played for 20-30 minutes at the end of the game (after the introduction of James McFadden, shortly followed by Cameron Jerome). Blues then looked a threat and their goal came from a break with Jerome playing in McFadden who should have scored, but troubled Beast 'Brian' Jensen enough that his half-save was still heading goalwards. Jerome tried to let it go in, but sensibly realised that it was risky and defenders were getting back, so he made sure, similar to what David Nugent did for his one and only England goal in Andorra eighteen months ago. McFadden had a visible sulk about it, which was a shame. He's having a rough time with people "nicking" his goals at the moment, what with Barry Robson for Scotland too, but he could have looked a little more impressed with Blues equalising. Oh well.

Burnley had alread "done a Blues" and taken off all their forwards and sat back on their lead, only to get caught, so Blues could have really gone on and pushed for the win, but didn't do so enough. Both sides could have nicked winners, but neither really deserved it. As I say, you can't help thinking that had Blues really puched on in the last ten minutes, they could have won it.

So, that was that. It's one of those games that people will probably look at on paper and say "it's a decent point, Turf Moor's a tough place to go, Burnley have been doing well, etc, etc" but when you were there and witnessed Blues' non-performance for an hour, the questionable tactics and selection and then the last 20 minutes or so, you have to think, "surely we could have done better there??"

I'm wary of coming across as arrogant or anything like that, because we all know that this is a tough league, and you can't just win every game and you'll have to - quite often - settle for a point away from home. The issue remains though, even now, that there's a frustration about the fact that Blues just have not played very well this season, and you SUSPECT that there's a lot more to come. That seems to be the indication, but then again, maybe that's wrong. Maybe there is no more to come. Maybe this is Blues for this season, and this is what the next eight months will be like. If that's the case, Blues will get beaten more times that we'd like to think, and won't win as many games as we'd like to think, and the league position come mid-May may not be what people hope. If that's the case, with the players Blues have, it's a worry. However, if there is more to come, can we start seeing it soon, please? When our football's as beautiful as Burnley (the town, not the team), then we can rest easy.

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