It couldn't be a much tougher start to the year at home. Only Cardiff and Hull are above tomorrow's visitors Crystal Palace but it is a game we need to get something from if we have hopes of moving up the table.
So far it's been another up and down season. We haven't had any nightmare runs but there again we haven't had any good runs either. Just looking at the stats shows we have never won more than two successive league games and the worst run of defeats is just three. Three games is our longest unbeaten run while the worst run has been five games without a win and that came in November and December with four of the games draws.
So it's no surprise that we've hovered around the mid-table area for much of the season to date. We were down in 19th place after losing at Leicester in September but since the lowest we've been is 17th and the highest placing has been 10th.
|"We're so organised now" - captain Jason Shackell|
The win at Sheffield Wednesday on New Year's Day left us in 12th place but we go into tomorrow's game one place lower with our local rivals Blackburn having gone above us tonight with their draw at Wolves.
Mid table we may be but we do sit somewhat closer to the play off positions than we do to the relegation places. We are currently four points behind sixth place Watford but sit a comfortable eleven points above Sheffield Wednesday.
The manager and players have spoken of finding some consistency . If we could do that then we could push towards that top six but how likely is it that we can get there? It's often said you will probably need 76 points to get a play off place. If that's the case this season we will need another 40 points from 20 games which is a massive ask.
We are currently seven points below the 43 points we had at this stage in the 2008/09 season so we are going to have to get on a good run very soon if we do want to get anywhere near.
That's the target and captain Jason Shackell has seen an improvement in the team in recent weeks. "We're so organised now," he said. "Teams are finding it hard not only to score goals but to create chances against us, which is an amazing plus.
"Going forward we're still creating a lot of chances so maybe it's just about being a bit more ruthless in both boxes at the minute and make sure you turn those chances into goals and keep them out then hopefully we can pick up some more wins.
"Every team will say there have been games where they maybe should have got more out of them, but we have and to still be only four points off the play offs when we feel like we've been inconsistent and maybe could have and should have done better then it's a huge positive.
"If we can push on and keep performance levels high, hopefully we will be there or thereabouts."
Tomorrow's game looked like it could be the battle between the league's top two scorers but unfortunately Charlie Austin will again be missing with injury.
Those injuries have been piling up recently and both Ben Mee and Martin Paterson will be out again with Chris McCann still doubtful after picking up a hamstring injury at Hillsborough, an injury that forced him to miss the cup tie at Barnsley.
Unfortunately we are also without Brian Stock. Given that his first yellow card was mistaken identity I'm still at a loss to understand why we haven't appealed, but we haven't and that means he'll sit this one out serving a one match suspension.
Sean Dyche could opt for David Edgar again in a midfield role. If so we could line up: Lee Grant, Kieran Trippier, Michael Duff, Jason Shackell, Danny Lafferty, David Edgar, Dean Marney, Danny Ings, Ross Wallace, Keith Treacy, Sam Vokes. Subs from: Brian Jensen, Luke O'Neill, Kevin Long, Joseph Mills, Marvin Bartley, Junior Stanislas, Dane Richards, Alex MacDonald, Wes Fletcher.
Crystal Palace were beaten on the opening day of the season, losing at home to Watford. They followed that up with two away defeats at Bristol City and Middlesbrough and a tough, tough season looked likely.
Then it all changed. They won eleven and drew three of their next fourteen league games before losing at Leeds and a Boxing Day defeat at Cardiff is the only other occasion they've failed to pick up points.
They've done all that during a period when they lost manager Dougie Freedman. They had two different caretaker managers before Blackpool boss Ian Holloway took over. He's just carried things on but more recently the results haven't been quite as good.
Last time out in the league they beat Wolves at home but that brought an end to a run of five games without a win, albeit four of them were draws. It's left them in third place in the league.
Wilfried Zaha is the name on everyone's lips and whether he'll make a move to one of the big Premier League teams this month. He hasn't yet and is likely to line up against us in this game as is striker Glenn Murray who has now scored 22 league goals this season - not bad for a player who only found the net six times in 2011/12.
They do have some absentees. Joel Ward and Owen Garvan are both out injured and South African Kagisho Dikgacoi has gone to the African Cup of Nations. They can, however, add Manchester City's Alex Nimely to the squad after he signed on loan this week.
Nimely isn't expected to start and their likely line up us: 1. Julian Speroni, 4. Jonathan Parr, 27. Damien Delaney, 28. Peter Ramage, 21. Dean Moxey, 22. Stuart O'Keefe, 15. Mile Jedinak, 16. Wilfried Zaha, 30. Andre Moritz, 7. Yannick Bolasie, 17. Glenn Murray.
Last Time They Were Here
Last season's home game against Crystal Palace brought to an end a run of three successive defeats, the last of which had come against Sean Dyche's Watford, a game we lost 3-2 after leading 2-0.
It was a poor game with neither side offering too much with most of the talking points surrounding Palace's Wilfried Zaha.
For this game both Josh McQuoid and Charlie Austin were dropped with Danny Ings and Martin Paterson replacing them. For Ings it was a first start for Burnley after coming back from a knee injury.
Michael Duff, forced off at Watford, was fit but there was no place for Brian Easton who had endured a nightmare second half at Vicarage Road after replacing Duff.
|A 2nd minute penalty from Jay Rodriguez|
We were in front after just two minutes. Jonathan Parr for some reason turned towards his own goal and tried to play the ball to Anthony Gardner. The ball bounced off the defender and left Paterson clear.
Parr recovered to get his arm across Paterson but referee Dean Whitestone said no. His assistant stood, flag across his chest, the penalty was given and Jay Rodriguez scored. In truth it looked soft but we weren't complaining.
By half time little else had happened and we were probably just about deserving of the lead but the second half belonged to Zaha.
Just past the hour he went down alongside Kieran Trippier. If he was touched, and I'm sure he wasn't, he was already going down. Whitestone bought it and Darren Ambrose stepped up to equalise from the penalty spot.
Zaha didn't join his team mates to celebrate. He decided he'd be better employed gesturing at the Jimmy Mac Lower.
Almost immediately Stuart O'Keefe was very fortunate only to get a yellow card for a foul on Dean Marney but then there was uproar. Most of the crowd hadn't seen the off the ball incident; the referee hadn't either, but the assistant had.
Zaha had kicked out at David Edgar and got himself a straight red card. There were 18 minutes remaining but, despite having most of the ball, we never really threatened to win it and the game ended at 1-1.
The teams were;
Burnley: Lee Grant, Kieran Trippier, Michael Duff, David Edgar, Ben Mee, Dean Marney, Chris McCann, Ross Wallace (Charlie Austin 75), Jay Rodriguez (Josh McQuoid 45), Danny Ings, Martin Paterson (Junior Stanislas 88). Subs not used: Brian Jensen, Marvin Bartley.
Crystal Palace: Julian Speroni, Nathaniel Clyne, Jonathan Parr, Patrick McCarthy, Anthony Gardner, Darren Ambrose, Mile Jedinak, Wilfried Zaha, Glenn Murray, Stuart O'Keefe, Chris Martin (Dean Moxey 73). Subs not used: Lewis Price, Paul McShane, Owen Garvan, Jermaine Easter.
Previous Games against Crystal Palace
|Last 20 Years|
|Worth'tn Cup||h||2-2||5,889||Cooke, Payton(pen)|
|Worth'tn Cup||a||1-1||5,720||Cooke - lost on away goals|
|2003/04||Division 1||h||2-3||12,976||Blake, Roche|
|h||4-2||10,312||Carlisle, Alexander(pen), Thompson, Rodriguez|
|2012/13||Championship||a||3-4||20,863||McCann, Paterson, Austin|
Click HERE to see all previous results against Crystal Palace