I woke up at 5:45 and after packing a bag and making a coffee to go, I made my bleary-eyed way to the station. I am lucky that the train station is only a ten minute walk from our house - meaning I can leave it fairly late before I have to head out. I say late, I left at 6:15 which is stll fairly early, collected my tickets and boarded the 6:34 out of Aldershot to London Waterloo. That early in the morning there was barely anyone on the train, and it was an easy, uneventful journey. I got to Waterloo and made my way to the underground. I had checked on an app on my phone for the best lines to get to St Pancras, which recommended the Northern Line to Leicester Square and to change for the Piccadilly Line. Unfortunately when I got there, with no real warning, the Northern Line was closed, and of course there is no phone signal under ground. Thankfully my few days working in London every so often covering for Westminster colleagues meant I knew I could get the Jubilee Line to Green Park to get on the Piccadilly Line there instead without too much delay. Local knowledge always comes in handy :)
I made it to St Pancras with plenty of time to get to train to Loughborough, a really quick service with only one stop beforehand - Leicester. I stumped up the 4 quid for wifi - always worth it as at those speeds you rarely get phone signal. I whiled away the hour and a bit with no problem and my dad met me at the station. We set off for Burnley at 9:45.
The roads weren't too bad - a few hold ups for roadworks but nothing too drastic. We made it into Burnley for just around 12:30 and headed over to the Cricket Club behind the away end. I had asked on Twitter for some advice from Clarets fans for where the best place for away fans to get a drink was. It always amazes me how friendly people are on Twitter, especially "rival" football fans. A few people recommended the Cricket Club and we headed there for a couple of pints. I had a chance to meet up with a long time Twitter friend, Nick - a Burnley fan. We had been talking on Twitter for a couple of years, and its always nice to have a real life "tweet up"! 3 pints of cider and some serious cheap food later (god love Northern prices!) and we headed round to the ground.
|The Cricket Club|
|Me and Nick in the Cricket Club|
The ground itself is very close to the town centre, almost in the middle of a housing estate. Its a very old-school stadium, with the outer perimeter wall and turnstiles and corrugated sheeting. Inside, we had half the stand behind the goal. Unfortunately the wrong side for us - we like to be top left of the goal but we had to settle for top right! The seats were wooden and if possible even WORSE than Leyton Orient!! Though there was a little more leg room.
After the injury to our goalkeeper Marek Stech against Brum we were all left wondering who would deputise. We were meant to be signing Wayne Hennesey, just on a one month loan, but he injured himself in a warm up for an international for Wales. Twitter rumours were rife, as always, with names of possible replacements. As it turned out, we had signed Sam Johnstone, a youngster from Man United, on a 3 month loan. A pretty much untried, untested keeper which was a little worrying, in my opinion anyway. "We've got the best keeper in the league!" our fans sang - I wasn't so sure.
The game itself was a fairly scrappy and largely uneventful affair. The first half was very forgettable with little incident to recall, apart from the glaring miss from Davis of an open goal about 3 yards out. He somehow managed to sky it over the crossbar. Overall we competed well and matched them, with few chances for either side. The only one additional minute of added time said it all - naff all had happened. Burnley did not look to be a good side, and certainly nothing to be afraid off.
Second half, and it couldn't be much worse, could it? Well again we competed well for up to 70 minutes, without really creating any clear cut chances. There were opportunities to shoot from range, but a lack of confidence seemed to be telling. Paddy Madden looked to be off his game, again a matter of confidence perhaps, and James Hayter certainly didnt look himself. The main blow was on 74 minutes when a cross-shot from a Burnley sub that should have been easily dealt with was pushed into our own net by the rookie keeper. And after that we fell apart. Burnley cut through our defence as if they were absent, and we lost all shape. Defensively we looked scrambled and shaky. In no small part due to the substitution of Tate, in my opinion. Johnstone in fairness pulled off some cracking saves, getting down well for a couple of shots and some good parries. It could have been a lot worse. But the sucker-punch came just a few minutes later as we failed to settled after the goal and from 2-0 there was just no coming back. Heads dropped and the game might as well have finished at 80 minutes for all we did in the final 10.
Oddly the tunnel was under the away end so the players - and Gary Johnson - had to walk over to our fans, applauding as usual. I don't think that would have been the case had the tunnel been along the side of the ground, or they certainly would only have made a fleeting appearance. Gary did not look happy, and rightly so. We didn't do the basic things and fell apart.
My dad drove me back to my parents through some torrential rain, which reflected the mood. Deflated and gutted - but not entirely defeated! No cause for panic so far, not from my view anyway. Gary has previously said to judge a side after 10 games. We are 18th in the league and I would be more than happy to finish there. Its a long old season and a couple of losses does not a season make. Onwards and upwards with Derby making the trip to Huish Park next.
I am missing the Sheffield Wednesday game as I am visiting family, so my next game is actually 40+ days away when we head up to Bolton. It seems like forever!
Until then, then!