The Opposition View: Burnley
Clarets fan Ben redman answers my questions ahead of Saturday's trip to Lancashire.
After a struggle, Burnley have a hit a run of form all of a sudden. What changed? We're a real Jekyll and Hyde side this season - something maybe to be expected with such a young, raw and inexperienced playing and coaching staff.
It's hard to determine whether we've turned the corner this time or it's just another short purple patch of form that will lead us staring down the barrel of another losing streak.
Obviously, we're all hoping it's the former but I can't help but think we're one mistake away from a disaster. 75 minutes into our game at Hull a couple of weeks ago we were 2-0 down, looking at a fifth straight defeat and were dropping into the bottom three.
The players looked lost, everything on and off the pitch was flat and I was convinced this team wouldn't have the bottle for a relegation scrap. 15 minutes later we've won 3-2 from nowhere and we're all on top of the world. Football, eh!
It looks right now like that was a turning point (but as I say you never know with us!) Suddenly players and fans alike seem energised again and looking up rather than down. We then went and hammered Ipswich and battled for an excellent three points at West Ham last week so we're just a couple of wins off the playoffs in this mad league!
It's hard to say specifically what changed. We just found a spark from somewhere and hopefully we can keep this run going. It's frustrating because we're a club in a textbook 'transitional period' with new players and a new management team trying to re-establish us in a level us fans are so familiar with. Patience is key with this side I think, but not many have it in abundance in this business. Do you think Eddie Howe can still lead the Clarets to promotion? It's a tough one really because Eddie's had his hands tied with player sales in many fans' view. I honestly think that if he'd known the board would be this tight with him, he wouldn't have come in the first place.
He came to us in favour of other clubs in the Championship clearly because he thought he could have a good crack at getting back to the Premier League and it hasn't worked out like that at all.
It's pretty obvious the board made the decision to sell Danny Fox back in August, leaving us with one natural left full back of questionable quality.
A replacement still hasn't arrived and we've had to resort to playing on loan Ben Mee (a centre half by trade) out there. Keiran Trippier (another loanee) is our only right back as well, meaning we're an injury away from a crisis at full back - something that could catch up with us as the fixtures pile up.
That said, while our squad is thin, our first XI is a talented one. If our starting line up stayed fit I think we could finish top half; a good achievement considering all that's gone on.
Eddie Howe's definitely still the right man and needs to be given as much time as he needs. Believe it or not, reading our messageboards after a defeat some idiots want him sacked. "Too young" this, "too inexperienced" that, "if Brian Laws had lost that game...", etc. We all have knee-jerk reactions, but you could put Jose Mourinho in charge here and sections of supporters would still moan.
It's almost a poisoned chalice now - the Burnley job - as you've got a board cutting budgets at will and an unrealistically expectant fanbase because we had one season in the sun. It can't be easy for Howe.
Promotion might be out of the question for the time being given the 'selling' nature of the club and our mysteriously perilous finances despite our recent success, but as long as we're competitive in the top half I think most Burnley fans would be content given the size and wealth of a lot of clubs at this level now. What are the biggest strengths of your team and who are the key players? I think our biggest threat lies with the service of our wingers. Keith Treacy and Junior Stanislas will probably start on each flank, with Ross Wallace coming on as a sub, but all three are starting to show more consistently they can beat men and whip a cross in.
Treacy and Wallace have been scoring goals too and, while Stanislas drifts in and out of games, he's starting to hit a bit of form on a more consistent basis as well.
We've got Sam Vokes and Jay Rodriguez up front now meaning we're an aerial threat and they're both thriving on the service.
I'll pick out our skipper Chris McCann as our key player. A box to box midfielder, he's had rotten luck with injuries for the past couple of seasons and only managed a dozen or so games, but he's back now and after an indifferent start he's back to his best with three goals in his last two games.
He's probably as complete as midfielders get at this level as he's a presence in the middle of the park, tackles back, drives the side forward and pops up with a goal or two. Keep him fit and in form, we'll do well to keep him. What are the major weaknesses in your team that Pompey might exploit on Saturday? Definitely the defence. You go watching Burnley knowing we're going to have to score two to win the game; clean sheets are something of a rarity! I think we've kept something like two in thirty six so it's glaringly obvious where our problems lie.
We can defend well for 89 minutes and then suddenly someone will cock up and gift wrap a goal for the opposition. While we kept a shut out in our last home game and defended heroically at West Ham I'll be amazed if things change around so quickly defensively.
I think we're also guilty of spurning too many goal-scoring chances. Sorry to keep barking out stats but we've had the most shots off target of any club in the league by a distance. We've had a few games now where we should have been out of sight, missing chance after chance and gone on to draw or even lose the game.
Fingers crossed we address this and play a bit more efficiently when we're attacking because creating chances most definitely isn't the problem. Pompey have an atrocious record away from home, so you'll be expecting three points on Saturday, right? Well I'd hope so but we never seem to beat you at home. The last time was in 1982 (last one I promise). We're normally good at letting clubs break their ducks against us anyway so it's probably a bad thing for us you haven't won away yet!
Obviously, I'm hoping we can keep the winning run going but it's just a case of which Burnley side turns up. You've still got some dangerous players and nothing's a formality in this league - look at us winning at West Ham last week.
Our home form's not been the best this year either. I've done nine away games this season but this will be just my second home game so fingers crossed we'll produce. It's always a long way back to Shrewsbury after a loss! Predict the outcome of the match. Burnley 2-1 Portsmouth.
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