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PHOTOS: Nottingham Forest 2, Burnley 0

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SECOND-half syndrome struck again as the Clarets lost out at the City Ground.

Holding Forest at the break, a tight game was settled by two moments of class from Andy Reid, who provided both goals for Dexter Blackstock and Billy Sharp.

But, worryingly, it maintained a trend which has cost the Clarets far too many points this season.

The side have struggled to put together two consistent 45-minute displays within the same game – pertinently of late against Blackburn Rovers and in the win at Hull.

And if you based results on the second half alone, Burnley would have lost 12 times – twice from winning positions – while winning only five.

In their 21 league games to date, the side have lost 15 points via their performances in the second 45 minutes, gaining eight.

Whether it is a question of fitness or concentration, boss Sean Dyche is determined to put the issue to bed: “It’s hard to dominate 90 minutes at this level. We’ve changed a lot and the energy levels are important. There’s things the players are working on individually and collectively to improve fitness levels, because we want to deliver performances over 95-98 minutes, whatever it is.

“That’s a big side of it, mental and physical fitness, and we want to address that and get that to our levels of what we believe is important, and the players are working very hard at that.”

Burnley went from looking very comfortable at 0-0 at the break – having been the better side for 20 minutes or so before going in – to losing a game in which keeper Lee Grant again didn’t have a save of note to make.

Some of the blame must be levelled at the officials, who failed to see a blatant foul from Blackstock as he used Jason Shackell to climb and reach Reid’s deep cross shortly after the restart.

His header was textbook, guiding his effort into the top left, giving Grant no chance – but he either defied the laws of physics and world high jump record holder Javier Sotomayor should be very worried, or he climbed all over the Clarets skipper to aid his leap illegally.

Twenty minutes or so later Forest settled the issue as, on the break, Reid played a perfectly-weighted pass through to utilise the pace of Sharp, and he outran Michael Duff before finishing clinically.

Forest boss Sean O’Driscoll afterwards acknowledged the importance of the first goal in a game where there was little to choose between the sides, and Burnley were left to rue the chances they allowed to go begging in the first half in particular.

The first of those came as early as the second minute as Elliott Ward’s loose header presented Charlie Austin with an opening, but he slashed the ball high and wide from 18 yards out.

Forest had the territorial advantage early on – with a congested midfield area, with both sides playing three centrally and with wide players coming narrow, the full backs were important, and Dan Harding and Alan Hutton were on the front foot.

Lewis McGugan, brought into the side to negate the impact of Brian Stock, had Forest’s first strike from 25 yards as he cut onto his right foot and fired harmlessly over.

But Burnley began to get Kieran Trippier down the right-hand side, and began to have some joy. They won successive corners before Simon Gillett got in the way of a Chris McCann volley from Ross Wallace’s cross, which looked likely to trouble keeper Lee Camp.

Midway through the half, Martin Paterson adjusted his body well volleyed a Trippier cross against the outside of the post, but Forest retained a threat, and McGugan’s scuffed free kick was deflected wide, before, from a Reid corner, Hutton’s left-foot cross was headed wide of the far post by Blackstock.

As half-time approached, a delightful ball from Reid released Sharp down the left, and from his ball in, Blackstock headed tamely straight at Grant.

Within seconds, Marney threaded a glorious pass into McCann, who took a touch but pulled his shot across Camp and wide – a fabulous chance.

McCann’s next involvement was a fifth booked of the season for a late challenge on Henri Lansbury, forcing him out of Saturday’s visit of Watford.

Paterson then forced a save from Camp from a Wallace cross – the keeper getting lucky, pushing the ball out, rather than away from danger, and Harding was on hand to hack the loose ball clear.

Into the second half, you wondered how hard Burnley would pursue the win, or look to nick a goal while being content to keep things tight.

As it was, within seconds of the first change – Chris Cohen for Lansbury – Reid whipped in a ball from the left, and Blackstock rose to head in.

That changed the complexion of the game and the anxious atmosphere, but Burnley responded well, and Danny Lafferty’s quick feet enabled him to get to the by-line and pick out Austin, who cut onto his right foot and forced a save from Camp, with McCann poking the rebound wide.

Derby hero Sam Vokes was introduced just after the hour, on for Stock, but as Burnley chased the game, Forest’s pace in behind was apparent, and Duff was booked for a foul on Sharp, earning his fifth booking and a ban.

Vokes had a great sight of goal from a Wallace cross, but glanced his header just wide at the far post, before Junior Stanislas came on for Paterson.

However, with 15 minutes to go, Reid broke and pushed through a perfect pass to utilise the pace of Sharp, who got goalside of Duff and finished clinically across Grant.

That looked game over, and so it proved, the game petering out with no further incident of note.

That second goal means the Clarets have now conceded seven and scored seven in Dyche’s eight games in charge, winning three, drawing two and losing three – mid-table form.

Can Burnley turn that into a more concerted push for the top-six, starting against Dyche’s old club on Saturday?

• The Burnley Express has launched a FREE football app which is now available to download on iPhone and Android devices.

 

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