Well, I saw very little tonight to suggest we can survive in the Premiership, but if by some economic miracle we can keep hold of the present squad, aka Newcastle, we should piss the Championship. The gulf in class is truly huge!
Mind you, I wasn't saying that after 20 minutes! In fact, Der Hammer's goal apart, I wasn't saying that at half time either. Our lead at the break was fortunate, with Burnley carving us apart down our left and with very little being offered by way of a reply from Ba, Cole and co. Had we been playing a Premiership side, we would have been two or three goals behind before Hitz's blitz of a goal. Green made a fabulous double save to prevent Burnley scoring and, far too often, Bridge and Reid look rank defensively.
Der Hammer's goal was a beauty and was fitting reward for a good performance. True the keeper might have done better but when you have a Grant at Upton Park, what can you expect? And the ball did swerve at the death, which is possibly an excuse for the strange flap at the ball instead of a firm hand pushing the shot up and over.
But that goal apart, what threat did we offer in the first 45? Hitz retained the ball well, Cole worked the flanks well, but a weak Burnley defence was not really seriously exposed in the first half. In fact, our defence, Tomkins apart, looked the weaker of the two. God only knows what Reid thought he was doing when he waited for the ball to bounce and then continued to retreat towards his own goal, instead of attacking the ball from the off. Burnley should have scored, and if repeated at the weekend, Liverpool will certainly take advantage. Reid also cocked up badly in the second half so, although he scored and made a brilliant clearance on the line, his overall performance was poor. Central defenders simply MUST NOT make the sorts of mistakes he makes. In fact, he is the Carlton Cole in our defence. If he doesn't have time to think, he is fine, but give him time to assess his options and he trips over his own brainwaves!
Second half, it was a different game. True Cole's first goal was laughable, but you should ignore Carlton's contribution and marvel instead at the lovely pass from Noble. If that pass was good, the next was even better, and this time Cole controlled the ball superbly and finished with aplomb. Whatever formation we play, we have to find a berth for Noble because his range of passing is far superior to Parker's, or anybody else in the team for that matter.
Goal four was well worked. The corner was delivered superbly by Hitz and Reid's run was clever. His glancing header was perfect too.
And that should have been that, but the self destruct button was again pressed with the incredible cock up that led to Burnley's goal. Bridge and Green were never good enough to play for England and this illustrated their failings perfectly. Embarrassing? Not 'alf!
There was still time for Freddie to get on the score sheet. Once again, a goal is likely to disguise an otherwise mediocre performance - he took the wrong option far too often over the 90 minutes - but it was good to see the kid score and it was a delightful finish. To be fair to the boy, we was working the flanks all night and his best position is probably down the middle on the shoulder of a big man.
So, how do you assess that overall? Great fun but worrying at the same time. If we play like that against Liverpool, we will be ripped apart. The problem remains the lack of shape. Time and again there was no protection offered to the back four by our midfield. We need somebody to sit and hold. Parker won't do it, so maybe we need Kovac, with Hitz, Parker and Noble making up the rest of the midfield and Cole with Ba up top, working the flanks. The team will lack width in midfield, but Bridge and Jacobsen get forward well so that might not be such a problem.
Player ratings: Green 6 (Great double save but what was he doing for the goal?); Jacobsen 6, Tomkins 8, Reid 5, Bridge 4; Hitz 7, Noble 8, Parker 6; Ba 5, Cole 7, Sears 5 Subs: Spector 6, Barrera 4, Piquionne 4