Successive defeats has left Burnley in the mire, writes Jamie Smith.
It’s funny how quickly things can change.
After beating Bristol City 3-1 at Turf Moor just ten days ago, there were hints at some positivity around the Club. But back-to-back 1-0 defeats at Blackpool and Leeds United have left us in 17th place, only three points clear of the drop.
Burnley could have gone ninth with a win at Blackpool on Saturday, such is the topsy-turvy nature of life in the Championship.
Manager Sean Dyche admitted in his post-game comments that the Clarets are “looking over our shoulders” and have to prepare for a “battle” in the remaining three matches.
Promoted Cardiff City are the visitors to Turf Moor in a televised match early on Saturday, with Malky Mackay’s side able to wrap up the Championship title with a win. The Clarets then travel to fellow scrappers Wolves before hosting Ipswich Town on the final day.
Two wins in the last 15 matches have left Burnley on the brink of falling into the third tier of English football after over a decade in the top two divisions.
Recent months have seen Burnley sleepwalk towards the drop and last night in the 1-0 loss to Leeds we couldn’t even manage a single shot on target.
Charlie Austin is out for the season and though we coped well without him in January, the 28-goal man’s heroics in front of goal will be missed. Sam Vokes has struggled for much of the campaign and Martin Paterson and Danny Ings cannot be relied upon for goals either.
The Clarets find themselves wondering where the points that will ensure survival will come from. Examining the fixture lists of the teams below us in the table makes painful viewing. Burnley are still highly likely to survive, but it could well come down to the last day.
Thank goodness for Lee Grant’s penalty save in the 3-1 win against the Robins at Turf Moor. It could have changed the course of that match and left us in even more danger had the penalty gone in to make the score 2-2.
Burnley should have enough about them to stay up, but there are serious questions about a lack of fight in this team. Leadership is also in short supply from the very top of the Club to on the pitch.
We’ve slipped into trouble so quickly that fans were even cheering Derby’s equaliser at Oakwell late last night. Barnsley dropped back to 23rd with that goal, four points adrift of Burnley.
Successive wins for Blackburn Rovers have eased them away from trouble and with a game in hand on those around them, it looks like Gary Bowyer will keep them up. Rovers have Watford and Millwall away before hosting Crystal Palace, with a trip to Birmingham City on the last day.
Wolverhampton Wanderers have also won four of their last six matches after looking doomed and have found some decent form at the right time, beating promotion hopefuls Hull City at home last night. Wolves travel to Brighton on the last day and have Charlton away at the weekend. Momentum is on their side.
Huddersfield Town are in serious trouble, lying 22nd in the table. They’ve only won one of their last five, but have picked up victories at Turf Moor and Elland Road this year. They host Millwall at the weekend before travelling to already relegated Bristol City and Barnsley at home on the last day. On paper, their fixtures all appear to be winnable.
Barnsley’s match against the Terriers seems likely to send at least one of the two Yorkshire sides into League One. The Tykes have to go to Nottingham Forest at the weekend before hosting Hull City. They could be gone before the final day.
Darren Ferguson’s Peterborough United looked doomed a few weeks ago but an incredible run of form has seen them climb out of the bottom three. They’re unbeaten in ten and even inflicted a rare defeat on Cardiff City last month. They should be safe, with a trip to safely mid-table Derby County up next.
Sheffield Wednesday are level on points with Burnley on 54 and they’ve won three of their last six to ease away from danger. A home game against already safe Ipswich Town offers them the chance to climb the league further on Saturday.
Assuming everyone with 55 points or more is already safe, Burnley are fighting with Sheffield Wednesday, Peterborough United, Barnsley, Huddersfield Town, Blackburn Rovers and Wolves to avoid the last two spaces in the drop zone.
Burnley’s form is the worst of the lot. The Championship has been chaotic this season and more shocks are likely before the end of the season. But the Clarets will be hoping the teams below them can’t collect the points they need to get to the 55 points that seems likely to mean safety and a place in next year’s Championship.
Will the Clarets stay up? Comment below.