Burnley slip up on path to the top

Wimbledon 0 Burnley 0
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The Independent Football

Cast in the role of expected victors, Burnley slipped up in south London as they failed to reclaim first place in the First Division and completed a pitiful performance without even a single shot on target.

The Clarets recorded six straight wins before they were thrashed 5-1 by Manchester City at the end of last month, and their confidence clearly has not recovered since. This was their third consecutive League game without a win, a run that started with another goalless draw, against Millwall at Christmas.

Yet this result went against type to some extent, as Burnley fans had seen 11 goals in their team's last two games, as they romped to victory in the FA Cup third round last Saturday against Canvey Island after being on the wrong end of that thrashing by City.

Despite that result against Kevin Keegan's men, one of the ironies of Burnley's current situation is that they find themselves in second place in the First Division without two of their first-choice defenders, Mitchell Thomas and Steve Davis. However, the Frenchman Arthur Gnohere has been a revelation, brought from Caen when Stan Ternent realised his two stalwarts would be out for a long time.

Not that those were the only injuries Ternent's team carried into this game. Gareth Taylor and Glen Little – 19 goals between them so far this season – were forced out after they picked up injuries in the victory over the Essex side.

That match featured three goals from Ian Moore, the former Tranmere striker's first hat-trick in professional football. But repeating that task here and getting Burnley back to the top of the division was a thankless task as he played virtually without support for the entire game.

Ternent opted for a defensive, five-man midfield, leaving Moore to forage alone. With leaders Manchester City not playing until today, the Clarets had a chance to reclaim top spot from their closest rivals.

There were no such possibilities for Wimbledon, who came into this match in the lower half of the table and on the back of a dour, goalless FA Cup draw against Middlesbrough on Tuesday. But Terry Burton's men – without their suspended goalkeeper, Kelvin Davis, or injured Swedish midfielder, Hakan Mild – made life very tough for their guests, and outplayed them. As Burton said: "We defended well but never looked like scoring."

If they are having difficulties in attack, the Dons are doing well at the back. They have not conceded a home goal in four matches but they also tried to take the initiative throughout, as Burnley failed either to impose themselves or prove their supposed superiority.

Both managers chose to blame the pitch in part for the poor football on offer. As Burton put it: "You would have difficulty walking on that, let alone playing football."

But for all the Dons' possession, with Michael Hughes at the centre of most of the action, and their ability to turn Burnley's defence, they only had a weak Neil Shipperley shot to show for the first half.

Ternent's first-half approach patently did not work. It gave the initiative to Wimbledon while robbing his own side of any adventure, so he replaced Paul Cook with Dimitri Papadopolous at half-time. After shooting wildly over from Moore's pass, the Greek Under-21 international was then taken off injured. It summed up the game.

With four men in midfield and two in attack after the break, Burnley played with a more positive attitude, but Ternent correctly caught the downbeat mood when he said: "It was an ugly match and not entertaining."

Wimbledon 0 Burnley 0

Attendance: 7,675

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