PHOTOS: Leicester City 4, Burnley 0

Share this article

NATIONAL treasure Jonathan Agnew was interviewed on the pitch at the Walkers Stadium at half-time.

The cricket broadcaster, affectionately known as Aggers was asked about England’s Ashes triumph down under.

Pic by Jimmy Griffiths / Griffiths Photographers'Npower Championship Leicester City v Burnley 09-04-2011 'Delfouneso

Pic by Jimmy Griffiths / Griffiths Photographers'Npower Championship Leicester City v Burnley 09-04-2011 'Delfouneso

While regaling us with his joy at a first win in Australia in a generation, he added, after a subsequent one-day series defeat, loss to Ireland and World Cup quarter-final exit: “It seems a long time ago now.”

Burnley fans could empathise.

It seems almost as long since they last saw their side win at Hull.

In the following five weeks, the Clarets have gone from within seven points off an automatic promotion slot, with two games in hand, to 13 adrift, with one game in hand. And a play-off place is looking more distant by the week – seven points away, having played a game fewer than sixth place Leeds.

Pic by Jimmy Griffiths / Griffiths Photographers'Npower Championship Leicester City v Burnley 09-04-2011 'Eagles

Pic by Jimmy Griffiths / Griffiths Photographers'Npower Championship Leicester City v Burnley 09-04-2011 'Eagles

A run of four defeats in five games, including three on the spin, has come at the worst possible time.

Or has it?

While an instant return to the Premier League now looks nothing more than a pipe dream, this run of form is answering a few questions Eddie Howe is asking of his squad, and himself.

Howe has tried every combination of centre backs and forwards, without getting the balance right so far.

He had nine ever-presents from his first game at Scunthorpe in January until the defeat at Bristol three weeks ago, with the back five unchanged in that time.

But while the team was shipping goals, they were picking up results.

However, different personnel at the back hasn’t tightened things up, and the chances, never mind goals, have dried up at the other end.

Howe made four changes to face Ipswich last week, and didn’t get the response he wanted. Another four at Leicester made matters worse.

He said after something of a mauling: “You look at it and you think ‘we obviously didn’t get it right’.

“I would say we’d keep tweaking with it but we’ve obviously got to pick a team to try to get a win.

“I think once we get one win we’ll be fine.

“We’ve just lost our way slightly in the last few games.”

Slightly is generous. The team seem to have lost their identity completely.

There is none of the verve and virtuosity that these players are capable of – while there was a positivity in Howe’s team selection, with four forwards essentially, as well as Wade Elliott in a two-man central midfield – those players cannot perform without good service or a solid base.

Burnley went from a central midfield providing graft without craft against Ipswich, to being too lightweight in the tackle, and too open in their approach against Leicester.

In comparison, Sven Goran Eriksson’s Foxes look capable of reaching the play-offs, and if not, they will be a major title threat next term.

They moved the ball quickly and efficiently, had great fluidity of movement and a real attacking thrust provided by Richie Wellens and Andy King, supplying the bullets for a forward line that possessed intelligence, pace and power.

The Clarets had no answer, and Leicester ultimately toyed with their prey before killing it off.

Had City run out more comprehensive winners, there could have been no complaints.

Burnley, surprisingly, had more possession over the piece, and Eriksson – a class act with the media –almost damned with faint praise when he said: “We prefer to play against a playing team, not against a team who knocks it long all the time.”

But that possession counted for little when only two chances of note were created – a first-half effort from Nathan Delfouneso from 20 yards that was turned round the post by Chri Weale, and an injury time slice from the Aston Villa man when played in by Tyrone Mears. There was a real lack of conviction to Burnley’s play, and it was worrying how quickly heads appeared to drop once Leicester had a two-goal advantage.

There is clearly some spirit within this squad – we have seen it before with these players, and in this season alone they have rescued a divisional high 24 points from losing positions.

There was no fight on Saturday though, once Paul Gallagher slammed home a spot kick to make it 2-0 just after the restart.

In the first half, there was little to separate the sides. Burnley looked comfortable at the back, compact against a home side lacking natural width.

They initially looked a threat going forward, but this receded as the half wore on, and the City forwards began dropping deeper and switching positions.

The opener was a moment of class as Diomansy Kamara swapped passes with Yakubu, who cut inside and fed his fellow African, who drilled beyond the recalled Brian Jensen, inside the far corner.

And when Kamara was clipped by Andre Bikey six minutes after the break, Gallagher slammed the ball hard and low down the middle.

After that it was a case of how many.

Gallagher slapped in a 30-yarder under no pressure whatsoever, before on-loan Chelsea full back Patrick Van Aanholt curled in a delightful fourth, after a neat interchange with substitute Darius Vassell. Wellens hit the bar with an audacious effort shortly after, while Jensen denied former Blackburn forward – and Rovers fan – Gallagher a hat-trick that would have gone down very well where he grew up in Shadsworth.

You just wanted the whistle to blow, and maybe the end of the season can’t come soon enough –to get Chris McCann back in the side, Charlie Austin and Martin Paterson fit and ready and allow Howe to put his stamp on the squad.

While it remains mathematically possible to reach the play-offs, the fans will expect a big effort, but, realistically it will take a momentous effort now.