Ade's first goal is not enough

Kevin Ball - sent off by one of the Laws brothers
Sheffield United are one of three sides who have been in this division alongside in each of the six seasons since we won promotion, the other two are Preston and Watford, and as we prepare for our sixth game there in this period we are still looking for our first point.

Our last point at Bramall Lane was back in 1984, whilst there was still a cricket pitch on the touchline last time we won there on the opening day of the 1973/74 season, our first game back in the First Division having won promotion in the previous season.

This time around though it is played five, lost five, and worse still, the first two of those games were vital as we fought to get into the play offs starting with a last away game of the season in 2001.

We were just outside the top six when we played that game but two wins from our last two games (we still had to play Watford at home) would have seen us finish in 6th place and a play off semi-final against Bolton.

Glen Little and Paul Weller both missed out through injury and Stan Ternent brought in Brad Maylett down the right hand side, but he had a poor game as we failed to break down a home side that got back in numbers.

We needed an early goal and it should have come as keeper Frank Talia could only parry a shot from Kevin Ball straight to Gareth Taylor, but the former Blade missed the unguarded target from six yards out.

The home side finally got the goals, beating us 2-0, on a day when we were sadly let down by referee David Laws who scandalously sent off Kevin Ball whilst allowing Keith Curle to wander round kicking everything that moved.

The best excitement of the day we all missed unfortunately when Stan and Kevin Blackwell got to blows in the dressing room area at half time. Stan accused him of listening in at the dressing room door and would report it to the League, the Sheffield United backroom staff laughed.

A year later and with just a few games left we were chasing points to ensure we made it to the play offs. But the second half of that season was a disaster and no more so than at Sheffield United. Unsure which strikers to play, Stan went with all three in Moore, Taylor and Johnson and quite simply it didn’t work.

We lost 3-0, it could have been worse too as we turned in an horrendous performance. Only Kevin Ball, masterful in the centre of defence, turned in anything like an acceptable performance and I think most people’s lasting memory of the game will be the back pass from Paul Gascoigne that somehow didn’t cost us a goal.

Gazza has been in the news this week, in what was his second game for the Clarets he looked miles off the pace and was eventually substituted and replaced by Andy Payton.

A season later and we were on a downer when we got there, the game coming three days after our FA Cup knock out at Watford. If the 2001/02 performance was bad, then this was a whole lot worse and manager Ternent turned on his players at the end in no uncertain terms.

Robbie Blake - his goal counted for nothing
We’ve only scored three goals at Bramall Lane since winning promotion in 2000 and two of them came in this game, from Taylor and Blake, but this 4-2 defeat really was the result of an appalling performance.

We travelled with some hope in the autumn of 2003 with the home side not in the best of form. But we got there and Robbie Blake had been dropped to the bench with Glen Little not even in the squad, the replacements were the less than impressive Luke Chadwick and Gareth Farrelly.

It was a dreadful game that deserved to end 0-0, but we didn’t keep clean sheets and managed to give away the most ridiculous of goals after a mix up between Fred West and Brian Jensen left them with an open goal.

Played four, lost four, so it was now up to Steve Cotterill’s Burnley to try and break the run on a day when Ade Akinbiyi, back from suspension, got his first start in Burnley colours. And for half an hour it looked as though we might just break the bad run.

We were by far the better side as we took the game to the home side but a mistake at the other end by Jensen gave Sheffield United an unexpected and undeserved lead and we never fully recovered.

By the time Ade scored his first Burnley goal we had conceded another and were consigned to defeat number five, and that still leaves us this weekend looking for our first point there for almost 22 years.

That was a 0-0 draw in the John Bond season and a game that should never have been played because of a frozen pitch. We drew there 2-2 in a cup tie in 1993, with two goals from Adrian Heath, on a frozen pitch but this was far worse. Players couldn’t keep their feet and it was just a farce. My lasting memories of that game are of Tommy Hutchison playing in white trainers (this in the days when white football boots didn’t exist) and of Steve Kennedy making his debut for the Clarets. Who knows how good he could have been but for injury.

So it will still be memories of 1973 on Saturday morning as we make our way over to the steel city. Memories of the day we returned to the First Division, using Garry Glitter’s ‘Good to be Back’ as our anthem. Goals from Doug Collins and Martin Dobson won it for us that day. I’m not suggesting it is a long time to go without a win there but two days after that win Danny Coyne was born.

It is about time the Burnley supporters of today were able to enjoy something other than defeat there.