That’s it for the for the knockout competitions this season, as Sunderland went down 2-0 at Turf Moor in the FA Cup 3rd round replay.
To be honest, I don’t know what I was expecting from this one. We needed a game as quickly as possible to get the error-strewn nonsense of Saturday’s Stoke game out of our system. We didn’t need another one against Burnley, given the (first) awful and (second) lame performances against them in the last couple of weeks. That’s the team – as for the fans, we probably needed (and still do) a few weeks off, just to get our heads sorted out. With the magic having been knocked out (oops, bad choice of phrase) of the famous old trophy over recent seasons, it was always going to be a struggle to get a big away following for this one – but we managed 1,500 souls, which is bloody impressive, all things considered. Our bus, a natty little 33-seater, had functioning interior lights and comfy seats that carried us to Colne for the second time in 18 days for a brief stop and a chance to pick the team.
It was a damp and misty night, and Moyes tinkered with our set-up, for which you can hardly blame him, as we needed to try something a bit different.
Jones Papy Denayer
Manquillo Seb Honeyman Love PVA
We’d been shouting for the youngsters to be given a chance, so there was George Honeyman in answer to our pleas. The Honeyman-Love partnership gave rise to a brief discussion on whether they should set up a company producing high-class toiletries for hotels, or a gents’ outfitters, then we were off, kicking away from the visiting supporters.
Burnley wasted no time in showing what their plan was, with Vokes a target up front. Hendricks and Boyd were doing Burnley’s running from midfield, and the former gave us a bit of a scare as Vito took a couple of goes at stopping his shot. Without looking really threatening, we managed to blunt their attacks with some hard work from Love, Honeyman, and Seb. Vito did well to keep out efforts from Boyd and (Booooo)Barton before Love went a bit mad and splattered their former Mag and got himself booked, which was a worry. Another save from Boyd tipped the effort over the top for another Burnley corner and it looked like they might get the better of us, but we always managed to do enough to keep them out. We even had a shot of our own, but Januzaj’s effort, after some good approach work from the midfield and nice footwork from the Belgian, was blocked. We won a corner, and a free-kick from which Seb’s delivery – reminiscent of those beauts of a couple of seasons ago – found Borini’s head, but the home defence cleared. There were several occasions when there seemed to be acres of space where a Sunderland centre forward should be, but neither Borini or Januzaj seemed inclined to run inside into it – nor did we look like passing into it, mind.
Nearly half time, and just as we’d been discussing the positive parts of our display – Denayer’s anticipation, Honeyman’s work-rate being Gooch-like, that sort of thing, something told us that it could go badly wrong, and it did. We’d been trying to play the little triangles that you see good teams play, which we did on our left in our first 25 yards, but they didn’t move the ball away from the danger area and down the wing they came. In came the cross, and there was the head of Vokes at the front post to glance the header across Manonne and just inside the far post. 43 minutes, and that was a bugger. There were two added minutes to dwell on the simplicity of the goal, and to rue the ineffectiveness of our attempts to play the ball out of defence.
Half time had us discussing how the home side were allowing Januzaj in particular no space, despite his clever footwork, and why the bar was offering Benedictine at £2 a shot. Apparently the Burnley Miners’ Club sells more of the stuff than anywhere else in the UK, as Lancashire soldiers in WW1 took a liking to the stuff when keeping their heads down in France, and it’s been a staple part of the liquid diet in that part of the world ever since. Perhaps not in the away end, but at least it shows a bit of imagination.
No changes for the second half as we attacked the visitors’ end, and we were again slow to get into the game, relying on Papy to get in a vital challenge. There seemed to be loads of offside decisions against both teams, with ours given for coming back from offside and Burnley for aiming at our centre halves and hoping for a mistake. They were a goal to the good, we didn’t look like scoring, so they could afford to give it a try. Another shot from Boyd, this one a volley, brought a good save from Vito going low to his left, then the hour mark passed and Moyes decided it was time for a change.
On came Defoe to a roar from the visitors, and off went Love. We moved back to a flat back four with Denayer moving forward to the base of midfield, and while it took our little star about five minutes to actually get a foot to the ball, his presence unsettled the home defence a bit, and while they watched him there was a bit more space for Borini and Januzaj. Which we didn’t exploit enough to create chances, meaning that Pope in the home goal didn’t have a great deal to do. PVA pushed forward more as the game wore on, and almost got in a few crosses as well as interchanging passes with Januzaj to almost get the Belgian in (to the consternation of the two Belgian lads behind me).
With ten to go, Asoro got his chance in place of Borini – I’m not sure what’s wrong with Fabio this season, because he cares about what’s happening to us, and you can’t fault his effort. Perhaps he’s trying too hard and needs to relax a bit. Who knows? Anyway, Burnley, not to be outdone, brought on Andre Gray. Remember him? Aye, right, and he only went and added the second with a few minutes left. The Burnley fans sang “going down, going down, going down” so we sang “so are we, so are we, so are we” – some with more conviction than others. I know it’s not rocket science, and I know it’s only Burnley – no offence – but they showed how to close a game down, crowd us out of it, and play to their strengths. We don’t have enough strengths to play to – or not ones that Burnley hadn’t worked out, worked on, and prevented us from taking advantage of.
I missed how much added time there was, but we were into it when PVA got in a cross from the left and Honeyman couldn’t get much power onto his near-post header, meaning an easy save for Pope. We were even further into it when Barton (boo!) realised he’s bet on one more yellow card than had been dished out, and gave away a free in Seb territory. And got booked. Just like a couple of years back, Seb curled a beaut over the wall but Pope pulled off a cracking save to claw it out of his top right corner. In came the corner, off went the whistle, and our FA Cup dream (Ha!) was over for another season. Sadly, our Burnley nightmare still have another chapter to run.
Man of the Match? Well, not Vito, as despite some good saves, we’ve been spoilt by Pickford’s distribution, which just makes Vito’s look rubbish – and pointless when we’ve no Anichebe to take a battering. Honeyman will probably get my vote because he didn’t look out of his depth and could prove an important player – even if just to allow us to field eleven fit players.
Keep the Faith. Pah.
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