Burnley 2 Foxes 1
Match Report by Graham Tracey
Our season effectively ended in Lancashire on Saturday afternoon with defeat to our Europa League chasing rivals Burnley. In warm conditions at last, it was a case of no jacket required, but also no passport required as 7th place surely now out of reach.
With the rollercoaster of the past 5 years, we are not used to the prospect of playing out a few end of season matches with little riding on them. However, what we are unfortunately well accustomed to this season is starting slowly and leaving ourselves with too a high a mountain to climb, as well as the difference between the often high quality of the goals we score and the softness of the goals we concede.
Puel had spoken of the cup-tie feel of this game, and there was a raucous atmosphere in our end at kick off. Unfortunately, within 8 minutes the decibel level was akin to a county championship game at Grace Road.
Pre-game cricket ground
On 5 minutes, our defence could not cover up the cracks of an out-of-sorts Wes Morgan mistake and Chris Wood applied the ‘law of the ex’ despite Schmeichel blocking his original strike. Shortly afterwards, centre half Long headed home from within the 6 yard box from a corner, with keeper and defenders AWOL. It was a goal so basic that it beggars belief that we concede so many without ever looking like scoring one at the other end.
It normally takes Burnley 3 weeks to score 2 goals but they had done it in 3 minutes. Needing to win, it looked mission impossible and it took us a while to pull up our socks. Credit must go to Hamza Choudry, who was not over-awed by making his full debut in the midst of this woeful start. He played maturely and in the interests of the team, sitting deep to allow others to bomb forward as the game went on, and also demonstrating a long throw ability.
With Burnley happy to invite and soak up pressure, we began to dominate. Unfortunately, our 3 best chances of the first half were all headers, not our strong suit without Slimani or Ulloa. Vardy nodded badly wide from Chilwell’s storming run and cross, and later straight at Pope, while Pope expertly fielded Mahrez’s running header which seemed certain to get us back in the game.
As well as his shot-stopping, Pope caught every ball into the box (of which Gray curled several of decent quality), spreading confidence through his ranks. Mahrez sent a free kick just wide with the last kick of the half to leave us despondent at the break.
Attacking our fans in the second half, we made a real go of it. Iheanacho came on for the ineffectual Okazaki and linked play up well. There was hunger from our players, especially Silva who played with the urgency of being cheated of 4 months of his career but could not influence the game as much as he desperately wanted and has the ability to do, and Mahrez, often coming deep to collect the ball, and clearly keen to give us something for next season, whether or not he is here.
Pope saved low from Vardy before the breakthrough came with 20 minutes left when the Vardy blasted home from Iheanacho’s though ball. Diabete came on for Gray and having a left-footer on the left wing made a difference as his crosses caused problems throughout. A low cross that agonisingly evaded Vardy was the closest, but the last action of the game also saw Vardy miss a heading chance from another cross in a great cameo by Diabete.
Match of the Day did not do justice to how dominant we were, nor did it show Barnes’ follow through on Schmeichel that led to us having to bring on Hamer. The yellow card was scant punishment as it prevented us from introducing Albrighton to add another source of delivery from right back, as Chilwell was doing on the left.
It was just not going to be our day, and I have since read that Vardy has now scored in 8 league defeats in a single season which is an unwanted record and a far cry from the “when Rush scores, Liverpool never lose” rule for years in the 80s.
The season has left regrets, for me mostly in the cups rather than the league. However, I believe the future can be successful – all goals count the same however good or bad they are, so we just need to start scoring some scruffy ones rather than conceding them.
CITY: Schmeichel 4 (Hamer 5), Simpson 4, Chilwell 7, Morgan 4, Macguire 5, Gray 7 (Diabete 7), Choudry 7, Silva 6, Mahrez 6, Vardy 5, Okazaki 4 (Iheanacho 7)
The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation