Life of Riley
It was at Preston recently that the announcer referred to a game as the Uriah Rennie Show, and this eventually turned into the Mike Riley Show although thankfully none of his late nonsense altered the result of the game.
That had been decided by an early Derby goal and no matter how much possession we got, no matter how much pressure we tried to apply, we just couldn't get that breakthrough and the long wait for a league goal goes on as we fell to a second defeat in a week.
Steve Cotterill had made three changes ahead of the game. John McGreal returned in place of Frank Sinclair, the former captain not even making the bench, Joey Gudjonsson got his first start in place of Chris McCann whilst Kyle Lafferty was back in place of Gifton Noel-Williams who was packing ready for a move to Spain.
Kyle lined up on the left hand side of five in the midfield with Ade as the lone striker. This was always going to be a tough one, top of the league away from home. We needed to make a good start, get on the ball and not let Derby get at us. It all went wrong within four minutes.
Derby moved forward down their left and won a soft free kick given against Eric Djemba-Djemba. The ball was swung in and Steve Howard got round Michael Duff far too easily to stoop and head home at the far post.
A difficult task had just got a whole lot more difficult, but within a couple of minutes it really should have got easier but referee Mike Riley astonishingly didn't even yellow card former Claret Mo Camara. He clearly raised his hands into Joey Gudjonsson, there was no option, it had to be a red card. Riley will have to explain that, I certainly couldn't, but it is hard to take when I've seen what some of our players have been sent off for this season.
Still with eleven men, the home side could have had the game won in the next twenty minutes as we struggled to contain them. Mike Pollitt was forced into emergency action from a Gary Teale Cross, made another good save down by his left hand post, but was helpless as a Craig Fagan shot went across him and bounced to safety via the woodwork.
We somehow survived it all, and at least remained just one behind, and eventually we started to at least get some possession and some forward play ourselves, but the closest we came to troubling Derby was from a free kick. Gudjonsson has a reputation for being able to strike a ball, and he certainly struck this one from distance, but it was too close to goalkeeper Bywater who saved.
The closing stages of the first half saw little goal mouth action but with the Clarets continuing to come more and more into the game. Then just a couple of minutes before the interval we were forced into a change with Stephen Foster replacing an injured Wayne Thomas. At least it gave some of the travelling Burnley fans the opportunity to hurl abuse at the captain.
When the second half got underway, we lined up with Kyle up front alongside Ade in a more familiar looking 4-4-2 formation, and it was Burnley who got on the attack first with a cross from Wade that was met by Jimmy O at the far post, probably not the best candidate for getting in a good header and his effort was easily saved.
It had given us the momentum and it was one that Derby hardly halted for the rest of the game as we pushed forward looking for an equaliser, but the game burst to life as some little man on the touchline appeared to upset the referee.
Billy Davies had been up and down all night, was out of his technical area at every opportunity, never failing to have a word with the assistant referee when he went past. The fourth official didn't seem to have any problems with it but something that happened to catch Riley's attention and he sent him to the stands for the second time this year.
It seemed to spur the Clarets on and Foster got into good positions on two occasions, the first time he opted to play the ball in for Ade. It eventually reached Kyle but his shot was saved. When Foster got in again he just couldn't get the ball down and his shot went over.
Most of the play was being directed towards the Derby goal and at this stage we made our second change with fit again Alan Mahon coming on for the disappointing Elliott. He made an early impact too, getting booked almost immediately, the first Burnley player to get his name into Mr Riley's notebook.
Kyle had another couple of shots, again Bywater saved from him and a couple of minutes later he shot just wide of the keeper's left hand post with probably our best chance of the night. There were just six minutes left, could we get an equaliser? The answer was no as Mike Riley took over and stole the show.
With just six minutes to go he added Eric Djemba-Djemba's name to that of Mahon and two Derby players in his notebook. He then yellow carded Foster, and then Harley for good measure with the latter substituted immediately.
He hadn't finished, he then produced his yellow card for a fourth time in four minutes, and no we hadn't seen a foul worthy of a card, and this time Eric had to go. We'd just got started again and there was a kafuffle around our technical area and this time it was Cotterill ordered to the stands.
As the final whistle blew, all the talk was of Riley, he'd stolen the show, and I'm certain that if he saw a re-run of those last few minutes he would be totally embarrassed at his performance. Then again, he probably wouldn't. I do wonder thought what might have happened if he'd got his first decision correct and sent off Camara with around 84 minutes of the game still to play.
For the Clarets though it was ten league and cup games without a win, we haven't scored a league goal for 578 minutes and we've dropped even further in the table. There were some positives tonight against the league leaders, but we need goals and we need points and we need them soon.
The teams were;
Derby: Stephen Bywater, Marc Edworthy, Dean Leacock, Darren Moore, Mo Camara, Gary Teale (Morten Bisgaard 61), Matt Oakley, Stephen Pearson, David Jones, Craig Fagan, Steve Howard. Subs not used: Michael Johnson, Bob Malcolm, Arturo Lupoli, Mr Karren Brady.
Burnley: Mike Pollitt, Wayne Thomas (Stephen Foster 45), Michael Duff, John McGreal, Jon Harley (Chris McCann 88), Wade Elliott (Alan Mahon 70), Eric Djemba-Djemba, James O'Connor, Joey Gudjonsson, Kyle Lafferty, Ade Akinbiyi. Subs not used: Danny Coyne, Garreth O'Connor.
Referee: Mike Riley (Leeds).