Football League Division Two, 02/04/05, 3.00pm
In defence of Burnley
By David Nelson
Getting to games isn't too easy since we moved up to North Yorkshire. Two hundred miles from Hertfordshire is obstacle one, plus a disabled family member leaving reduced "free time" for trips to northern games. But the combination of a bright day (and it was impressively warm and sunny in Pennine Lancashire yesterday), Easter holidays from school for Flora, and a train that left from virtually outside our house and took us to within fifteen minutes' walk of Turf Moor, made the trip reasonably attractive for both of us.
The tannoy before the game was as deafening and unpleasant as anything you probably get down in Area these days, so waiting outside for the extra ten minutes it took us to gain entry turned out to be something of a godsend. But the disabled enclosure we were escorted into, thanks to an excellent approach from both the stewards and a highly sensible and courteous ticket man, meant a great view and just in front of the away fans too. For others that went, they'll understand that "just in front" means well in front, thanks to the curious ploy of putting almost all visitors from Hertfordshire as far back in the stand as possible. This distant view was perhaps an act of kindness in the first half though, so maybe the least said the better; from our disabled spaces close to the goal line, it was hard to form any positive perspective on the defensive chaos of the first goal. I blamed Cox, but then he blamed Lee; in truth, both have had better halves and were it not for the ceaseless work of Demerit in doing both his own work and covering for his centre-back partner, it might have been much worse. Goal two was not a great surprise: a spell of concerted pressure and we just couldn't hold out long enough. The shot from O'Connor was true if not overwhelmingly struck. Worth noting that BFC were able to pay a decent fee for him. The Clarets may have few players on their books yet by contrast seem to me to have a lot of money available from a number of recent and highly remunerative player sales.
At half-time, a local photographer asked me to point out "the new manager" from the group heading for the tunnel. Boothroyd, notebook tightly clutched, had his head angled slightly down but clearly set in determined mood, his own man and not appearing to be in the shadow of his well-tanned mentor Mr Burkinshaw. Incidentally, even though it is all Leeds United up here, I hadn't heard of AB before and no-one I've spoken to had either. At least I can confirm the authenticity of his local accent.
Second half and truth to tell, we were all over them. Neat passing, focused players, no little skill. Burnley may have sat back a bit thinking it was all over after forty-five minutes, but by the same token they really couldn't get the ball off us with any regularity and whilst our goal efforts seemed just a little weak, we made a decent fist of it and well done AB for his half-time talk to bring us some heart at least. Trouble was that whereas we had caved in under pressure from the home side, they too often had an extra defender there when we thought we had got through the lot of them. Dom Blizzard's goal was well-taken (though for all our efforts, it did take a long time to arrive) and yet what should have been a kitchen sink-throwing final fifteen minutes or so had the sting taken out of it by some careful (and slow) substitutions by Cotterill on the Burnley bench, and perhaps we just lost our way a little bit as well. The last goal was controversial, unnecessary and annoying, especially as we'd managed to handle most of Akinbiyi's awkwardness and strength up to that moment. Valois scoring was also unnecessary, but the locals think he's marvellous.
What to make of the new look WFC? The most noticeable was the annoy-the-opposition-at-throw-ins tactic (Dyer, Bouazza, whoever to jump up and down right in front of the thrower, until the referee, opposing bench and fans get fed up and it changes to Dyer, Bouazza, whoever to stand still in front of the thrower). If the second half passing and workrate is a result of the new man's first few days as well, then maybe, just maybe, it won't all end in tears this spring. But we'll need to get Heidar back I suspect, and we simply cannot allow a repetition of the first half defensive mistakes. For when all is said and done, Burnley have (now) scored just thirty-three league goals in forty games this season and we've let in four of those. By the same token, their defence has let in just thirty-two, which is why they're smiling and we're just anxiously enduring these final weeks, whatever AB says about having no doubts of our survival.