Ginge to the rescue

Last updated : 10 September 2005 By Austin Greenwood
Wade Elliott - two goals in a man of the match performance
The news before the game was that both Wade Elliott and Frank Sinclair been deemed fit enough to start. What contrasting games the returning pair were to have. Elliott took the place of Garreth O’Connor, and Sinclair took over from Wayne Thomas in the centre of defence.

It was Elliott who started the scoring after only 2 minutes. He received a lay-off from Akinbiyi, some 25 yards out, and placed a lovely shot low into the bottom left hand corner of Alexander’s net. It was Elliott’s first goal for the Clarets and he hadn’t finished yet. However, any Claret who thought that goal would signal a rout in Burnley’s favour, would have been left disappointed.

The goal sparked Cardiff into life and Burnley spent the next 20 minutes on the back foot. The first scare came when Sinclair left a long ball for Coyne, who obviously hadn’t expected it and the ball fell to Jerome on the edge of the box. Fortunately he spooned the ball over the bar to the delight of the Jimmy Mac stand. The Bluebirds continued to probe and Jerome didn’t have to wait long for another opportunity. Again the Burnley centre backs failed to cope with a long ball and Jerome out-paced John McGreal to slot the ball past Danny Coyne. It was a fine finish from Jerome who was to cause Burnley problems all afternoon.

Cardiff’s next chance came shortly after the goal. This time on-loan Jason Koumas picked the ball up in the centre circle and was allowed to advance all the way into the box by a retreating Burnley defence. Fortunately Mike Duff had retreated so far that he was able to clear Koumas shot off the line with Coyne beaten. Cardiff were also proving effective from set-pieces and went close on several occasions, although there can be no doubt that they were being aided by some lapses in concentration by the Clarets.

It was somewhat against the run of play then that Burnley retook the lead on 23 minutes. A cross from John Harley evaded Gift Noel-Williams in the 6 yard box, but was met by an unmarked Elliott who put a superb volley into the top left hand corner. Elliott’s second goal seemed to rock Cardiff and Burnley were able to wrestle back control of the game.

Branch began to get some joy down the left hand side against a sluggish Rhys Weston and Micah Hyde was exerting himself on the midfield for the first time in the game. Noel-Williams was also starting to make a nuisance of himself and he was unlucky to see a couple of headers go wide. It was his strike partner though who could have sent the Clarets in to the dressing room 3-1 up. A floated ball into the box from Mike Duff found Akinbiyi completely unmarked, but he ballooned the ball high and wide after controlling the ball on his chest. It was a great chance for Ade, who didn’t seem to appreciate just how much time he had, as neither Loovens nor Purse took responsibility for marking him.

We were made to pay for that miss just a few minutes later, when Loovens rose unmarked to power a Jason Koumas corner into the Burnley net. That was the last action of the first half and the Burnley fans were left hoping Steve Cotterill was instilling some of the grit and organisation on display at half-time by the Royal Marines in the Burnley defence.

With the impressive unarmed combat display finished, the second half got underway quite brightly, with Elliott getting a couple of good crosses in to test the Cardiff back line. The last of these crosses was met by Branch, who saw his header loop just over the bar. That was as good as it got for most of the remainder of the half, as Cardiff again started to run the game and the Claret’s abandoned the neat football they’d played at times in the first half, in favour of the long hoof.

Where Micah Hyde had run the midfield for parts of the first half, it was Jason Koumas who looked the stand-out player in the second. His quick feet and set-pieces were causing Burnley all sorts of problems. Indeed, Burnley seemed completely unable to get anywhere near the set-pieces of Koumas and Kevin Cooper, with both Joe Ledley and Michael Ricketts putting headers over when they perhaps should have scored.

It came as no surprise then, when Cardiff took the lead for the first time in the game on 70 minutes. The in-form Jerome picked the ball up on the right of the box and knocked it past Frank Sinclair who stuck his leg out at the wrong time and sent Jerome sprawling. Howls of derision met the referee’s decision to point to the spot. Jerome definitely made the most of the challenge, but it was a fair decision. Darren Purse, one of a small band of penalty-taking centre halves, stepped up and confidently sent Coyne the wrong way.

At that point, with the Clarets offering so little, another defeat seemed inevitable. Cotterill reacted by bringing on John Spicer and Karl Bermingham for their home debuts, but the minutes ticked by with little sign of an equaliser. The Cardiff defence, which had matched Burnley’s for its incompetence in the first half, were coping comfortably in the second. That was how it continued until the 89th minute, when they switched off and allowed the smallest man on the pitch to sneak into the box and get his head on a nicely floated ball from substitute Spicer. It was James O’Connor’s first goal of the season and it was celebrated with genuine relief in the stands.

The goal spurred the Clarets on to a late charge and the remaining minutes were spent camped in the Cardiff half. Noel-Williams came the closest to snatching what would have been an undeserved victory, but he just failed to toe home a scramble in the Cardiff 6 yard box after Akinbiyi had crossed from the right.

The full-time whistle brought a relieved applause from the stands, but in truth it was a poor performance from the Clarets. Cardiff have some good players in Cooper, Koumas and Jerome, but they aren’t a “top-half” side. If the Clarets are to avoid a relegation struggle this season they need to win their home games, particularly against opposition like Cardiff.

The sponsors gave their man of the match to Jon Harley. He was certainly the pick of an otherwise ropey Burnley defence. Micah Hyde also played well in spells in midfield and Branch was more effective than normal on the left. For me though, Wade Elliott was the best Claret out there today. He has failed to impress in his opening games, but he turned in a much-improved performance today. Although perhaps he should try and take the full back on more, he did score two cracking goals and put in some very good crosses. It felt like we had some width again.

Onto Preston on Tuesday, what odds on Billy Davies, report in hand, concentrating on attacking set pieces in Monday’s training session?