Chance to close up gap goes beg­ging

Accrington Observer - - SPORT -


GEN­ERAL con­cen­sus after my few days away in Eastern Europe was that “you didn’t miss much” as Rovers sur­ren­dered more vi­tal league points to Wi­gan and Fleet­wood.

I ac­cept that was the case at Wi­gan but was more than a lit­tle miffed hav­ing tai­lored my ar­range­ments to be back at our Bu­dapest apart­ment in time for the kick­off of the Fleet­wood game, to dis­cover that Sky had ky­boshed Rovers’ iFol­low cov­er­age on a rare oc­ca­sion I was set­tled down with wine and snacks, pre­pared to fork out a fiver for the priv­i­lege.

Per­son­ally I thought a draw at the JD or what­ever it’s called now was a per­fectly ac­cept­able out­come, par­tic­u­larly with ten men, but twice sur­ren­der­ing the lead to Fleet­wood showed a frail­ity which could cost us dear over the sea­son as a whole.

Those aber­ra­tions be­come even more of an ir­ri­ta­tion with the post­pone­ment of what looked a rou­tine home game – if in­deed such a thing ex­ists – against Wal­sall on Satur­day, not this time due to our own host of in­ter­na­tion­als be­ing sum­moned for duty but be­cause The Sad­dlers, cur­rently 15th in the ta­ble, ev­i­dently have their own co­terie of global stars.

That means Rovers are without a game this week­end – as are Shrews­bury, Wi­gan and Charl­ton above us – while the trio just be­low us and within a point or two, Rother­ham, Fleet­wood and Peter­bor­ough have the chance to leap-frog us or nar­row the gap while we at­tempt to con­vince our­selves that the games in hand will be our sal­va­tion.

With Wal­sall likely to be an­other mid­week re­arrange­ment due to our con­tin­ued FA Cup in­volve­ment, it prob­a­bly isn’t re­garded as an al­to­gether bad thing that we seem sure to be elim­i­nated from the Checkatrade Tro­phy.

I’d al­ways pre­fer us to progress in ev­ery tour­na­ment if it was up to me but an­other wishy-washy dis­play hand­i­capped by los­ing a man to a red card early at Spot­land de­spite field­ing a rea­son­ably ex­pe­ri­enced XI prob­a­bly saw us get what we de­serve after an in­dis­tin­guished cam­paign il­lu­mi­nated only by the goals of new Ewood hero Joe Nut­tall.

One can never be sure of the per­mu­ta­tions avail­able to Mow­bray in this dog’s din­ner of a tour­na­ment but you won­der what he could learn on a Novem­ber night in Rochdale with less than eleven hun­dred on about the like of Ward and Glad­win that he didn’t know al­ready.

I didn’t make the trip my­self but I was at Ley­land on Fri­day to see the Un­der-23’s give a scin­til­lat­ing dis­play to beat Wat­ford 6-1 and I can’t be the only one to be won­der­ing just what Ra­keem Harper and Sam Hart have done to merit se­lec­tion ahead of Lewis Travis and Jack Doyle in any com­pe­ti­tion.

Cer­tainly Hart was put out of his mis­ery at half­time on Satur­day against Bar­net but that was more down to a ridicu­lously un­nec­es­sary five-man de­fence abom­i­na­tion Mow­bray in­ex­pli­ca­bly chose to com­bat a side with three league wins all sea­son with.

Nei­ther did Harper show any­thing in those open­ing 45 min­utes to jus­tify the hy­per­bole spouted on the oc­ca­sion of his cap­ture although he wasn’t alone in his anonymity.

Thank­fully the switch to two strik­ers with the in­tro­duc­tion of the bustling, all-ac­tion Nut­tall had the de­sired ef­fect on the rest and Harper and a few of his col­leagues looked a lit­tle more ac­com­plished as the visi­tors were ground down.

The ever more im­pres­sive Dack im­me­di­ately looked hap­pier with an­other (more mo­bile) body other than Gra­ham to bounce ideas off and by the end you won­dered what on earth Mow­bray had been play­ing at mak­ing it such hard work for his team to start with.

The longer he looks that in­de­ci­sive and con­tin­ues with the daft con­ceit that he is clev­erly tai­lor­ing his se­lec­tions to counter dif­fer­ent op­po­si­tion the sil­lier he will look and the doubts about his lead­er­ship will per­sist.

The FA Cup draw ticked all the boxes for me: Home, lower league oppo, winnable, po­ten­tial progress, kick-off time un­likely to be messed around with for telly, an­other Satur­day af­ter­noon out with fam­ily and pals, pub – bingo!

It also con­tin­ues a re­mark­able se­quence of handy fix­tures for sup­port­ers. Be­tween the trip to Shrews­bury on 23rd Septem­ber and the visit to Peter­bor­ough on 9th De­cem­ber Rovers will have played 15 games, 14 of them within the old Lan­cashire county bound­aries with only the trip to Ox­ford be­yond – and the Wal­sall game might yet be shunted in some­where be­fore that.

So while we all be­moan a fal­low Satur­day – and I hate them with an ab­so­lute vengeance – it might give Mow­bray and his staff the op­por­tu­nity to think about re­cent per­for­mances and those who have un­der-per­formed, the other op­tions avail­able and fi­nally hit upon a for­mula and con­sis­tency of se­lec­tion and game­plan for the busy win­ter months to seize the ini­tia­tive and let other sides worry about us rather than the other way around.

There are plenty of points to be won for a team able and brave enough to do that, Rovers’ own his­tory tells you so, rather than spend the next six months ag­o­nis­ing about whether we can some­how stum­ble into the lot­tery of the play-offs.

Three out of ev­ery four play-off qual­i­fiers end up on the same set of fix­tures as the team that es­capes rel­e­ga­tion on goal dif­fer­ence, re­mem­ber.

Any man­ager worth his salt would still be look­ing at the ta­ble and say­ing: “This di­vi­sion is still here to be won.”


AND we just keep on go­ing.

No one can deny that we are start­ing to make rip­ples at the top half of the ta­ble.

If we keep go­ing the way we’re go­ing and those rip­ples could soon be waves.

It’s fair to say ab­so­lutely no one is catch­ing City this year, they look un­playable and un­be­liev­able.

Cor­rect me maybe if I’m wrong, but the rest above us (whom we are level on points with) could be there for the tak­ing.

Let’s re­mem­ber we made Chelsea look like school­boys on their own turf, what’s to say we can’t do it on ours?

It’s an ex­cit­ing time for any claret right now, be­cause it doesn’t even look like we’re go­ing to be rel­e­ga­tion fod­der or that any­one can even call or us that or a ‘yo-yo team’.

Ask any­one, I don’t think a sin­gle one of us would’ve said we’d have been top half of the ta­ble this sea­son, let alone level on points with Chelsea, Arse­nal etc.

We still have peo­ple re­fus­ing to ac­knowl­edge that’s it’s our hard work get­ting us where we are, not the fact ‘ev­ery­one be­low us is play­ing badly’.

Be­ing a Burn­ley fan has had its ups and downs through the years, but when we fly high, we re­ally do it well.

And this year can only be a cause for cel­e­bra­tion.

We de­serve ev­ery lit­tle thing we’ve got go­ing for us right now and we couldn’t be hap­pier about it.

Look­ing at Satur­day’s match, that old time thing where Dy­che didn’t make a sub­sti­tu­tion un­til re­ally late on and it never made a dif­fer­ence is long gone.

Now we have subs chang­ing the game, scor­ing last minute goals. We had Southamp­ton for the tak­ing and it showed.

This well oiled, well worked Burn­ley ma­chine is pos­si­bly go­ing to get to Europe and my God it’s a great feel­ing.

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