Bad end to a bad week

Last updated : 22 January 2006 By Tony Scholes
Gifton Noel-Williams - played up front in Ade Akinbiyi's absence
Ade Akinbiyi has been the main topic of conversation all week. It started with him collecting his fifth yellow card of the season at Cardiff, then it was all the speculation regarding a potential move to Sheffield United, and it ended with us wondering just how we would manage without him up front as he served his one match suspension.

The simple fact is, we didn’t manage very well at all, and it can be no surprise that this was the first time we hadn’t scored a goal in a home game all season. Frankly we never really looked like scoring from start till last and if Gifton Noel-Williams and Graham Branch are the alternatives then heaven help us if Ade does go.

Both these players came in from the side that had lost at Cardiff with Chris McCann making way to allow us to return to the 4-4-2 system that has hardly served us well all season.

Most Burnley fans I’d spoken to ahead of the game were far from confident of getting any sort of result and for many there was a real sense of anger over the Akinbiyi situation, particularly following the comments of chief executive Dave Edmundson on local radio.

Some way or another we needed to get off to a good start and we did have the first chance of the afternoon when Wade Elliott, as good as anyone on the pitch for Burnley, set up James O’Connor only for the Irish midfielder to put his shot wide.

If James O could have given us the lead then almost immediately Chris Sedgwick should have given Preston the lead as he got a chance on the left hand side of the box, his shot going over the top.

Preston didn’t have to wait too much longer though to take the lead, and like so many goals against us this season, it came from a set piece. This time it was a free kick on the right, it was touched to Graham Alexander who flicked it over the wall for Dave Nugent to hit home.

Good goal or bad defending? A bit of both I would suggest but we do seem to get caught unawares far too often at set pieces and it wasn’t the only time it happened in this game. Things could have got worse shortly afterwards but this time Nugent failed to finish with Brian Jensen having no problem dealing with his effort.

We needed to get back into the game and we did. We started to dominate the play and got control of the midfield area. But we were sadly lacking up front and the only time we tested Carlo Nash was with a shot from Micah Hyde which the keeper got down to his right to save.

I thought we were somewhat unfortunate to be going in at half time one down and Preston should certainly have gone in one down, one player down, after an awful challenge from Nugent on Jon Harley.

I really do not understand referees at all, this was surely a red card offence, but once again he failed to take the appropriate action. Nugent should not have been returning for the second half.

It was still eleven a side though in the second half but Preston did seem to be a man down. There was no sign of the midget in the suit in the dug out, and he wasn’t to turn up until close to the end of the game.

Wherever he was, he missed Preston spending much of the time on the back foot. Maybe this was of their own choosing, happy to hold on to a one goal lead, or maybe we pushed them back. We certainly got the ball into their box a lot and on a few occasions we went up for spot kicks.

From my vantage point it was difficult to tell on some of them but the push on John McGreal was clear. However, many in the Jimmy Mac Stand were adamant that the foul on Branchy was a bad one but again nothing was given. Gifton went down, but he’d been doing that for much of the afternoon so it was no surprise to see the referee wave play on.

Throughout all this though it was evident that we weren’t actually creating ourselves any real chances and despite all the play, and for a few minutes we even put them under a bit of pressure, Nash had a relatively quiet forty-five minutes.

With all the shouts for penalties however, one was bound to be given eventually and really we cannot have too many complaints although there is no doubt that Patrick Agyemang went down far too easily looking for it.

We shouldn’t have been surprised, Preston get a penalty against us almost every season, and this was a lot clearer than those awarded for the disgraceful cheating by Fuller in 2004 and the off the pitch non-incident in 2005.

But just like all the others, Alexander converted and the game was all over for the Clarets and a second successive league defeat, the fourth in five since we beat Stoke on Boxing Day to go fifth in the league.

Things have changed since that last win, and although we are still tenth, the play offs look a long way away now and our hopes of being there at the end of the season are fading fast. When we kicked off our last home game against Sheffield Wednesday hopes were high that we could do it as well as having another cup run, fortunes have changed very quickly for the Clarets.

Things got worse too after the game with manager Steve Cotterill hitting out at the current situation, and we are still left wondering whether Ade Akinbiyi will ever pull on a Burnley shirt again.

It certainly hasn’t been a good week and we need to get things sorted before we next play a week on Tuesday at Brighton. We can’t have another week like the last one, it has been a bad one for everyone involved with Burnley Football Club.

I suppose we could get ourselves a new name, call ourselves Burnley City and sign three new players, apparently it is that easy.

The teams were,

Burnley: Brian Jensen, Frank Sinclair, Wayne Thomas (Michael Duff 54), John McGreal, Jon Harley, Wade Elliott, Micah Hyde (John Spicer 84), James O’Connor, Garreth O’Connor (Danny Karbassiyoon 68), Gifton Noel-Williams, Graham Branch. Subs not used: Duane Courtney, Chris McCann.

Preston: Carlo Nash, Tyrone Mears, Youl Mawene, Claude Davis, Graham Alexander, Chris Sedgwick, Paul McKenna, Brian Stock (Chris Lucketti 45), Callum Davidson, Danny Dichio, Dave Nugent (Patrick Agyemang 73). Subs not used: Gavin Ward, Simon Whaley, Lewis Neal.

Referee: Paul Taylor (Herts).

Attendance: 17,220.