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Lancashire Red: Damage Limitation

22 February 2014

What is it about Turf Moor? We’ve already been beaten here once this season, though ironically that was a much closer game despite fielding what amounted to a reserve side. It’s my most frequently visited away ground, with each experience generally more gruesome than the last. What is it the players find so intimidating about this place? It’s now over ten years since we last won here (and at a time I least expected us to in a play-off hangover campaign that disintegrated shortly afterwards), and with only one draw since then that places Turf Moor firmly in bogey ground territory.  For the visiting fans it’s not a pleasurable experience either, with some of the rudest and most vile locals to contend with over the years.

The fighting talk (We’ve got to believe) is all very well, but if it doesn’t translate into positive results then it doesn’t mean anything. We were well and truly found out today, and we paid for it big style.

Fixture
The Championship, Saturday 22 February 2014, KO 1500hrs
Burnley 3 – 1 Nottingham Forest
Venue

Turf Moor
Weather/Conditions
Swirling cool wind, but generally dry
Away fan experience
Today brought out a spectacular contrast in moods from the travelling fans who were nothing short of magnificent, especially when you consider what we had to endure on the pitch. One of the few plus points of Turf Moor (and believe me there are very few!) is the good acoustics enabling plenty of noise to be generated, which predictably there was when the game kicked off. All the usual stuff was there: my favourite here will always be ‘I wanna go home, Burnley’s a ****hole’, but a welcome new Jamie Paterson song a-la Simon & Garfunkel’s Mrs Robinson got a good airing today. By HT however, all that had been replaced by angry chants of ‘Billy, sort it out’, something I never thought I’d hear during the reign of King Billy, more of which later. But even that was dispensed with at the start of the second half as if a page had been turned and the slate wiped clean as the fans put on an awesome display of support for the beleaguered Forest side. Stirring stuff in the face of adversity.
Facilities
As bad as ever. As previously reported, the only thing that will ever improve the dark grim cavernous David Fishwick Stand is a bulldozer. Until that happens it will continue to be, as was today, splinters in backsides from decrepit wooden seating and disgusting pies. Even the pre-match venue for this fan, the cricket club, has declined sharply since my last visit, with a half-hour wait for very uninspiring food probably due to the cooker only capable of heating one dish at a time. The cheap beer is still welcome though, and yet again this was the only joy to be experienced at this godforsaken corner of Lancashire.
Programme

Dingle, sorry Claret & You – Not as good as it was three or four years ago, but still a decent read and with plenty of good stuff about selected Forest players. Interesting article about that most contentious of issues – standing – by broadcaster Danny Kelly and that odious celebrity Dingle Alistair Campbell.
The Match
By that time however, we’d had some kind of reward for our improved performance. Cox seems to have become less of a threat in recent weeks and seems to disappear from games with increasing regularity, but today he won a penalty after being felled by Duff with 10 to go. Probably the only way we were going to get on the score sheet today. Abdoun claimed the ball like he did against The Hammers, but this time the shot was parried, albeit back towards Abdoun who nodded in.  One of those days nothing could go right, but we had at least a consolation, but there was not enough in the tank for us to ever threaten to pull level, and having seen enough I was back in the car by the time the final whistle went, thus sparing myself running a gauntlet of vile Dingles fans, as often experienced here.
Thankfully the second half was much improved from Forest, backed by the loyal fans who must take significant credit for the revival. That’s probably being a bit extreme, since the realist in us knew the game was already dead as a contest, but we finally got our first shot on goal in the 47th minute and actually got within a whisker of scoring when Moussi was denied first by Heaton, then Lascelles by Trippier off the line. Better chances, yes, but with woeful defending at the other end Burnley could have been out of sight. Normally we see changes being made with at least 30 minutes to go. Today we waited till the 75th minute as Cox and Greening (complete with hopeful ‘Jesus’ chants from the fans) replaced Djebbour and the Mousse, and Hendo coming on nearly 10 minutes after that. Seemed like a statement of being resigned to defeat so we’ll just see the game out. The fans don’t pay to watch damage limitation.
As news seeped through during lunch of Reid’s non-inclusion (linked to Wednesday?), a sense of foreboding quickly set in, and so it proved. Without him there was no cohesion whatsoever. We had eleven players out on the pitch, sure, but there was nothing remotely resembling a team during the first half. The first warning came in the first minute when the ball was flashed narrowly wide of Darlow’s goal, but it went unheeded. By the 35th minute we were three down as The Dingles had systematically taken our defence to pieces with well-worked goals, somehow without going above second gear in a display reminiscent of our visit here three seasons ago in what turned out to be McClaren’s Last Stand. Scott Arfield must have thought it was his birthday as our defence backed off and he opened the scoring with a telling shot that squirmed under Darlow. Ten minutes later it got worse as we proved we can never deal with Kieran Trippier running at pace down the right. In goes the cross and the Vokes half of the Dingles’ goal machine is there to head home. Defence spread-eagled. And still we stood off, paying for it big style when Burnley got a third. They had denied us space and time on the ball to the same extent that we were dishing it out to them in spades. It was like the aforementioned McClaren debacle or, similarly Billy’s first trip here as Forest boss, with us being on the receiving end of a bunch of fives on both occasions. Needless to say Vokes had plenty of time to pick his spot before sliding the ball past Darlow. The Forest fans, immediately behind the goal were growing increasingly restless, but more worrying was how isolated King Billy looked in the dugout away to our right, especially when a water bottle came flying out of the dugout at Mach 2 and bouncing in the technical area. No rapport with the fans today as the ‘sort it out/we’re better than this’ chants rang around, and Forest were roundly booed off at HT. TBNTM commented whether we’d bounce back or succumb to a total rout, to which I responded I’d seen the latter happen twice here now.
Highlights
None, basically
Lowlights
The whole of the first half was a total and utter nightmare. Bang goes the unbeaten run and yet another miserable day to this most horrible of venues.
Hero
Probably the one who was missing and we certainly missed Reidy today.
Zero
This ought to have been Collins’ chance to step up to the breach as an able deputy and defender, but this wasn’t PNE we were playing now.  Otherwise several others could do with taking a long look in the mirror and assessing whether they were making the most of their own chances if the first half was anything to go by.    
Entertainment Value5/10: The passing neutral would have been impressed with the way Burnley took us apart with consummate ease. For the travelling fans it was nothing less than hideous.
5 – Relegation fodder
4 – Flirting with danger
3 – Mid-table
2 – Play-offs
1 – Automatic
Promotion Rating:
3 - There’s never a good time for an unbeaten run to end, though the ever-lengthening injury list has made it more likely over the last few days. We envisaged seven points from Leicester, Burnley and Wigan would put us in a great position, but on current form we’ll be lucky to get four, especially since Wigan seem to have hit form at the right time (I’ve warned my girlfriend that on current form – ours and theirs – she and her Latics-supporting family may have to make their own way home next week). Today was a great chance to close the gap on the automatic spots (even if that meant Derby climbing to 2nd place today) but we’ve allowed the opposite to happen, and those mooring ropes of the promotion boat are starting to loosen.  This has not been a good week as the injury list gets ever longer, but we’ve seen it coming …



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