Worrying times

Last updated : 18 September 2005 By Tony Scholes
Michael Duff - good game on the right hand side
It was a game we should have won, but it was a game we lost, another pointless Saturday afternoon and the league table tells no lies, we are in the bottom three and that Plymouth side have now climbed out.

Yes it is early days but 20% of the season has now been played and we’ve won just once, our inability to collect points has been going on since January, and once behind yesterday you sensed there would be no way back despite having much of the play.

How did it all happen against a Plymouth side that looked ill equipped for League One football never mind the Championship?

It all started so brightly for a Burnley side that was unchanged from the one that drew at Deepdale with the same five on the bench, something of a disappointment to me that Kyle Lafferty was again the one to miss out, the one player I feel can come on and change things.

We had the ball in the net early in the game but Ade Akinbiyi was ruled offside, something I think needs to be worked on at Gawthorpe. The number of times our forwards were caught offside in wide positions was ridiculous and either the assistant was having a bad day (there was no suggestion of that) or there was some poor play from our forwards.

Wade Elliott was looking brighter in the early stages, helped by Michael Duff who was having his best game of the season. We were controlling the midfield and creating chances, but the Ade and Gifton were not at their best and both missed opportunities when they should have scored.

You just wondered when the goal was going to come we were so much on top but sadly it didn’t and incredibly, given just how bad they were, we allowed the home side to get themselves back into the game in the last fifteen minutes of the first half.

Danny Coyne was forced into a couple of saves and we were forced into defending a few free kicks, but the home side’s forward play was on a par with the rest of their football and they got nowhere.

Half time was 0-0 and you thought it might just be a matter of time before we won it, but less than thirty seconds into the second half the game all changed when we gifted them a goal. Burnley kicked off as well but Micah Hyde, in such good form this season, was the culprit and gave the ball away. Even then we had a chance to clear but it fell to the big useless lump Evans up front and he made no mistake.

We’d given ourselves a mountain to climb and we weren’t about to climb it despite dominating the rest of the game. Wade Elliott was forced off after a couple of challenges, both of which brought yellow cards from referee Stroud who was determined to keep up his average card count – and he did with seven of them.

For the second of those fouls this idiot in black pulled the game back to just over the half way line to award us a free kick at a time when Ade had got clear of the defence but when the bad foul came a couple of minutes later he went for the cards again but then decided against it because he had already book Djordjic – he bottled it.

At the same time Graham Branch, on for Elliott, was also bottling it as twice he had clear opportunities but chose not to shoot, the first of them was ridiculous and with a clear shot on goal strangely elected not to bother.

The frustration was growing in the crowd and the very first strains of “Cotterill Out” were heard as a goal looked more and more unlikely. Twice Jon Harley went through, twice he went down, and twice the referee accused him of diving.

Plymouth players were getting carded for fouls, our two were for a dive and a needless handball on the half way line (from Duff).

As the clock run down Harley put a free kick just wide and then Branchy got on the end of a right wing cross with a diving header that missed the post by inches. And just to rub it in, as the referee blew for time, a long range effort from Harley rocketed into the net.

But we need to ask ourselves some very serious questions as to how we lost this game. If Plymouth play that way for the rest of the season, make no mistake they will be relegated, they really are that bad. Not many sides will gift them three points as we did.

As for us, it is not panic time yet but certainly time to be concerned. There is a distinct lack of creativity in this side and we don’t change things when we are losing, we are a side that struggles to win games.

Dare I say it but the creativity disappeared the day Birmingham gave us the cheque for Robbie Blake and certainly away from home the record for itself speak since then – one solitary win at Coventry back in February.

I suspect the early season optimism is fading fast for most of us, and although I do believe we will be playing Championship football next season I think it is going to be a long hard tough season getting the points we need.

Michael Duff was my man of the match yesterday, closely followed by Danny Coyne who made two outstanding saves near the end. Other than that, only the two central defenders played anything like well enough. It has to get better than this.

The teams were,

Plymouth: Romain Larrieu, Mathias Kouo-Doumbe, Taribo West, Hasney Aljofree, Rufus Brevett (Anthony Barness 74), David Norris, Paul Wotton, Bojan Djordjic (Tony Capaldi 87), Matt Derbyshire (Nick Chadwick 71), Micky Evans, Scott Taylor. Subs not used: Akos Buzsaky, Bjarni Gudjonsson.

Burnley: Danny Coyne, Michael Duff, Keith Lowe, John McGreal, Jon Harley, Wade Elliott (Graham Branch 57), Micah Hyde, James O’Connor, John Spicer, Gifton Noel-Williams, Ade Akinbiyi. Subs not used: Brian Jensen, Duane Courtney, Chris McCann, Karl Bermingham.

Referee: Keith Stroud (Dorset).

Attendance: 11,829.