2005/06 Review Part Five – Disastrous Run
The ‘Cotterill to Leicester' story was running and rumours were flying round that he wanted to go and had fallen out with chairman Barry Kilby. They were, as it happens, unfounded, but as we set off for the south coast could things really get any worse? Yes was the answer as we hit our worst form for eleven years to add to the run of poor results since Christmas.
On a cold night at the Withdean we took part, I am told, in a very poor game that ended goalless. Sadly for the Burnley fans there was no way of watching the game from a vantage point that was nothing short of a disgrace.
Steve Cotterill spoke out after the game, saying: “It has been reported that I've had a rift with the chairman but nothing could be further from the truth. He is a very, very nice man and I have all the time in the world for him.”
He added: “I have loved every minute I have had at Burnley and I don't see any reason not to enjoy more in the future. The Burnley fans need to know that I am happy working at their club and that has not changed.”
So with the manager's position resolved, and he and the chairman set to sort out a new deal we came up against Plymouth at home on the following Saturday.
The early signs were encouraging. Ricketts came close with a chance he superbly created for himself, then scored the only goal of the game after linking up well with Gifton Noel-Williams. It wasn't the best of performances, overall it was a very scrappy game, but we got three points and hopefully we had got through the bad patch. Unfortunately that was not the case.
Ricketts scored again, maybe we'd found ourselves a new goalscorer but then again maybe not, to give us a first half lead and even Long Ball Joe could hardly complain as his side came out for the second half a goal behind.
To be fair, Ipswich were better in the second half but the two goals they scored to win it both centred on Alan Lee, the striker turned into a thug by Ronnie Moore. He fouled Jon Harley to get the better of him to equalise and then went down under a challenge from Michael Duff that saw Deadman point to the spot.
It was an appalling decision from an appalling referee, even Joe agreed with that, and it certainly upset Wayne Thomas who stupidly got himself sent off for opening his mouth. We didn't deserve that defeat, we really didn't.
Wolves at home next and this really was a game we should not have lost. The visitors were inept but an early goal from Paul Ince, one that should have been prevented, was enough to give them all three points.
They hardly troubled us but at the other end of the pitch Ricketts and Noel-Williams turned in a performance of forward play that would not have looked good in non-league. It was nowhere near good enough from them, they might not have been given much service but you did get the impression they couldn't have benefited from it in any case.
So a defeat at Ipswich we hardly deserved, a defeat to Wolves that should have been avoided, but we can't say that about the next four games when we, how can I put this kindly – we hit rock bottom.
It was our first ever visit to the Ricoh, and I don't particularly like it – and it was certainly cold, incredibly cold, made worse by an awful performance from the Clarets. This was the day that Danny Karbassiyoon got a half decent run in the team, he was on before half time as a substitute. He didn't impress but it would have been virtually impossible to impress in that performance. Shocking – it really was shocking.
Three successive defeats and next up were league leaders Reading. No Ricketts, he was ill, and no Noel-Williams, he was injured, so we played 4-4-2 with defender Michael Duff up front with Kyle Lafferty, back from a loan spell at Darlington and getting his first start for us.
Sometimes bad runs come to an end when you least expect it, and we could have hardly expected it against Reading. We were right, behind to an early goal there was no way back and the 3-0 win hardly flattered the visitors.
It was back on the road and although I can never explain it, there are days when you just feel that you are going to win. It's a gut feeling and I had that when I set off for Pride Park, convinced we were going to get revenge for the cheating at the Turf back in August, and for the cup defeat in January.
So it came as something of a shock to me when, after a quiet start, we fell behind after 19 minutes. It was a bigger shock when the second went in ten minutes later and when they got a third just five minutes after that even I had given it up.
There was some bad defending, some outrageously bad goalkeeping, and although Derby didn't score again, they hardly needed to, it was another shocking performance, as bad as the one at Coventry two weeks earlier.
He was relaxed at the press conference and delighted to commit himself to the club, saying that this had been a much easier contract to sign than the first one. There was no mention of Leicester which by now was very much in the past and we'd got our manager.
We were preparing for the launch of Year of the Youth on the Thursday when news reached us that Manchester United full back Phil Bardsley had joined us on loan until the end of the season. And that there would be a second signing later in the day.
The second didn't materialise, it was to be Andy Gray, although it was nothing more than a short delay. At the Year of the Youth launch, talking about his busy day I asked Steve how many players had signed. “Just one,” he said, “Just one”, with a smile that suggested the second was not far behind.
It wasn't – and on Friday morning the club announced that Andy Gray had finally become a Claret, agreeing to come on loan to the end of the season with a three year deal to follow after agreeing a £750,000 transfer with Sunderland.
The new signings couldn't bring a change in fortune as we suffered successive defeat number six at the Windy City, where we have never lost a league game before. The performance was perhaps slightly better, but not much, and we lost to a goal scored by Paul Gallagher.
People were talking about relegation by now, I was convinced we wouldn't go down simply because with 43 points I thought at most we would need a couple more. But it was worrying and we had the Sky cameras coming for the home game against Norwich. Could we finally get a change in fortune.