Burnley 1-1 Nottingham Forest: Referee Nigel Miller will get the blame but Burnley must look in house, writes Jamie Smith.
Burnley didn’t win. The fans and Sean Dyche blamed the referee. It’s become a familiar story in recent weeks and people are starting to tire of the excuses that are made time and time again for poor performance after poor performance.
It’s now just one win in 12 and we haven’t picked up three points at home since January 12th. Junior Stanislas was the matchwinner that day at home to Crystal Palace and he almost was again but for a Forest penalty in the last minute of injury time.
Lewis McGugan sent Lee Grant the wrong way from the spot to leave Clarets fans anxiously poring over the bottom half of the Championship table. Even with 51 points on the board in 13th spot with a handful of games left, we are far from safe and our form is currently as bad as anyone’s in the division. Rock bottom Bristol City at home on Saturday now looks massive – a win and we’re safe, a defeat and we’re in trouble.
The Clarets didn’t do enough to win the game and 1-1 was a fair result overall. Kevin Long tripping Henri Lansbury in the box was the end product of 25 minutes of increasing pressure after Burnley had taken the lead.
We’ve seen it time and time again – Burnley go in front and make no effort to extend the lead to make the game safe – and it costs us. Lansbury’s converted penalty was the last kick of the game and kept Forest’s promotion hopes alive. We’ve thrown away a remarkable 28 points from leading positions this season. We are 27 points behind league leaders Cardiff City.
After a tortuous first 15 minutes Forest started to dominate the match. McGugan and Andy Reid are two of the best ball players in the division and with Dyche selecting Sam Vokes and Charlie Austin in a 4-4-2 the Clarets were frequently overrun in midfield. Marvin Bartley, deputising for the injured Dean Marney, looked off the pace.
The Clarets could have had a penalty when Austin was pushed in the box by Gonzalo Jara as he chested the ball down but Miller wasn’t interested and that set off a period where every decision went against Burnley. Ross Wallace was booked for a fair challenge and it appeared to be one of those days.
Stanislas could have given the Clarets an undeserved lead after he scampered down the left channel, but his firm strike was turned away by Karl Darlow for a corner. Austin had Burnley’s only other serious effort of the first half and he blazed over from the corner of the box with Vokes screaming for a cross. It was to be Austin’s only sight of goal other than another speculative shot from 25 yards that didn’t test the goalkeeper as the 28-goal hitman foraged for scraps.
At the other end, Lee Grant was in top form to keep the Clarets on level terms. He tipped over Billy Sharp’s header and made two or three other good saves. Burnley must tie him down to a new contract as soon as possible.
The goal came with 68 minutes on the clock. Stanislas led a break down the middle of the pitch and played in Joseph Mills – on for the injured Ben Mee – on the overlap. The on loan full-back’s cross was half cleared but Stanislas had continued his run into the box and his shot beat Darlow via a deflection.
Burnley didn’t deserve the lead and did nothing to justify what would have been a first win in a month. Billy Davies replaced his strikers and threw on Radoslaw Majewski but with skipper Jason Shackell in excellent form, the Clarets repelled everything Forest threw at them. This was despite some hairy moments, including a superb goal-saving tackle at the back post from Mills, who also had a stunning effort from outside the box fly just over the bar in his impressive half-hour cameo.
But the equaliser still seemed inevitable. Miller was quick to point to the spot after Lansbury’s tumble and McGugan’s penalty – his seventh goal of the season – was well hit into the bottom corner. There wasn’t even time for the restart.
Dyche blamed the referee and stated he felt sorry for the fans, but his excuses are starting to grate. 4-4-2 with two wingers looks attacking on paper but there was effectively no supply to Vokes and Austin. Neither striker had a good chance all game and Stanislas – a player Dyche has bafflingly appeared unwilling to play – had our only two proper shots on target.
McCann and Bartley are willing runners but there’s a lack of quality on the ball in that pairing and Stanislas and Ross Wallace had to regularly come inside to hunt for possession. Austin’s link-up play was terrible all game – he barely completed a pass – and the striker has to take some of the blame for the penalty as he gave the ball away cheaply with men in support with seconds left to play.
Dyche didn’t use his final substitute ’til midway through injury time, throwing on David Edgar for Stanislas. It is strange he leaves Brian Stock – a player who seems tailor-made to bring on to help us see wins out – on the bench. It’s also worth pointing out we were still playing the minimum five added minutes when Forest scored due to the pointless Edgar switch adding on more time.
The tactics are virtually non-existent. Even attacking throw ins are worked back to the centre-backs and sometimes the goalkeeper to launch the ball down the field. With the way Dyche is setting up his side it’s little wonder we don’t look like winning games. We don’t play to our strengths. The ball goes long and aimless too early, even though Vokes and Austin clearly thrive on quality delivery into the box.
Dyche will get time to turn things around – and he should. But fans will want to see some improvement by the end of the season as this was a sixth home game in a row that wasn’t close to being good enough, though we almost scraped a win in what was a scrappy match.
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