Chance to close up gap goes begging
BLUE-EYED BOY’S BLACKBURN VIEW
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.”
KATERINA LEE’S CLARETS VIEW
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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