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Blues need to find answers; Stuttering show raises questions for Alex CHAMPIONSHIP: BURNLEY 1 BLUES 1.

Byline: By Colin Tattum

IF THE answer is 'It doesn't matter because they can score goals like that', what is the question?

How about 'Why do Blues bring everyone back at corners?'.

One of the most often asked queries at the various supporters' forums, usually among the first batch for some reason, is just that.

It seems to be a bug-bear with supporters that Blues don't leave at least one, maybe two - why not three? - players up field when defending their own penalty area from a flag kick.

Alex McLeish has his reasons (in brief: relative lack of height, a recent tendency of losing set-piece goals) and so did Steve Bruce before him. In fact, so have most managers in the country.

But it's something most supporters pick up on and although Blues continued with the usual policy at Turf Moor, it ironically yielded a precious equaliser.

A 76th-minute corner was cleared and, before you realised it - before Burnley realised it - Blues had swept down the other end and scored, through Cameron Jerome.

He won a second-ball challenge in the air and rolled away, Sebastian Larsson pinged it back into him, he turned it through the defence first-time, perfectly weighted, for James McFadden to stride onwards.

Brian Jensen took the sting out of McFadden's attempt but Jerome was at full pelt alongside and helped himself to the last touch as it bounced towards the goal line.

It's not the first time this season that Blues have broken down the pitch in this way. Think Bristol City, Cardiff City, Derby County, even in home games.

When they pass and move in such a manner, they are deadly.

Trouble is, and trouble was at Burnley, they do it in flashes.

Blues carry a menace all right but it has yet to be fully harnessed consistently and irrepressibly.

Jerome's goal was most welcome as it provided some substance from an unsatisfactory performance and kept in tact their unbeaten away record.

Results suggest Burnley are pretty formidable on their own patch but they don't have the same sort of quality as Blues.

What they do show is aggression, desire, they are persistent and not likely to go into a shell.

Blues found all those traits decidedly uncomfortable in the opening 45 minutes, when they let the game come to them rather than take it to their opponents and set the agenda.

A towering back-post header by Chris McCann put Burnley ahead - only the second goal all season Blues have conceded in a Championship first half - in the 25th minute, and Blues just didn't function with particular menace. The passing and concentration was skewed.

Martin Taylor, back in for Radhi Jaidi, made too many unforced dallying errors and Blues didn't get a grip on midfield.

In the second half, with Franck Queudrue making his first appearance of the season for the injured David Murphy, and acquitting himself well, Blues took a while to splutter into life.

McFadden came on for Kemy Agustien, to play wide right, and Larsson moved inside, and stepped up in demonic fashion to galvanise and hasten Blues.

When Jerome then entered the fray, for Garry O'Connor, Blues at last began to exert testing pressure and get bodies forward to threaten. The tempo was raised, as was the urgency because of the nature of the situation.

You had a feeling Blues would then go on and plunder a winner after scoring that fine equaliser on the counter-attack.

They might have done but Taylor mis-timed a free header from a Larsson corner with three minutes left.

Yet Burnley, injected with freshness by Robbie Blake and Chris Eagles, came on strong and in added time a tremendous aerial challenge by Stuart Parnaby stopped McCann scoring again at the far post, and Liam Ridge well stuck out his leg to intervene and thwart a cross that was about to be turned in.

It was far from convincing but Blues will happily pick up an away point when not fully firing as they are the sort of points that make a difference in the final reckoning.

Avoiding defeat can sometimes be as useful a habit as winning.

How They

RATED

BLUES (4-4-2)

MAIK TAYLOR 7

Sound and assured on a testing afternoon in difficult wet conditions.

PARNABY 7

Strong, committed and diligent, defended stoutly on the whole.

MURPHY 6

Beavered and battled away sturdily in spite of knee problem.

TAYLOR 5

Competitive but struggled for consistency and care of the ball was poor.

RIDGEWELL 6

Aggressive and headlong into it, had odd moments of concern.

LARSSON 7

Unwavering commitment, became more influential as game went on.

CARSLEY 5

Always diligent yet made a few mistakes and was not as tidy as usual.

AGUSTIEN 5

Provided fleeting moments but didn't have a big impact.

QUINCY 6

Cut loose on a few occasions and looked dangerous.

O'CONNOR 5

Fought a rugged battle with the centre-halves and needed support.

PHILLIPS 5

More involved as Blues improved and got forward more after break.

SUBSTITUTES:

QUEUDRUE (for Murphy, ht) spiky, decisive, game yet cool 7

MCFADDEN (for Agustien, 58) tricky, elusive 6 Jerome (for O'Connor, 68) added needed new dimension 7 NOT USED: Nafti, Doyle.

BURNLEY (4-4-2) Jensen, Duff, Kalvenes, Carlisle, Caldwell, Elliott, Gudjonsson, Alexander, Thompson (Eagles, 70), Paterson (Blake, 66), McCann. Not used: Penny, Rodriguez, van der Schaaf.

CROWD WATCH 6

Nice touch: 'Feed the Horse' chants.

ATTENDANCE: 13,809

REF WATCH 7

L Probert (Gloucs): Made no glaring errors.

THE MANAGER 6 Alex McLeish made tactical changes in the game and triggered response with substitutes.

GAME RATING 5 Not pretty and low on quality.

INJURY WATCH Murphy suffered knee injury.

WHO'S NEXT UP FOR

BLUES?

Crystal Palace (h) tomorrow, 7.45pm.

CAPTION(S):

PIERCING... Kevin Phillips splits the Burnley defence with an effort on goal. Pictures: Tim Easthope; HEADS UP Franck Queudrue beats Wade Elliott.; THE CHEEK Lee Carsley makes his presence felt with a challenge on Steve Thompson.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Oct 20, 2008
Words:990
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